First-World Problems

Early this week I watched a YouTube video my friend posted called “100 First World Problems”. As the title suggests, this video names 100 of the most common ‘problems’ experienced by people living in first world countries. As I watched it, I found it eye-opening and disheartening at the same time. Eye-opening in the sense of just how fortunate I am that these are the kinds of problems I have, and disheartening to think just how often we live in our little bubbles and become consumed in our ‘problems’, when in comparison to a large majority of our world, they aren’t problems at all.

After watching this video, every time myself, Erich, Niall, or Hannah (our housemates) complained about something, one of us would say “first world problem” and we’d regain a proper perspective on the situation. Well, I definitely think God has a sense of humor as we are in the process of learning things. Two days ago, as I was wrapping up a session at a shelter for teenage girls, my iPhone dropped out of my bag and onto the floor smashing the screen (here I might inject that this is the 2nd time this has happened to me). As I stared at it lying on the ground my immediate thought was, “Again?! You’ve got to be kidding me. I have the worst luck.” But, no more than 2 minutes past until I heard a little voice inside my head saying “first world problem”. Here I was, at a shelter for teenage girls who have suffered lives of abuse, abandonment, pain, and hurt, and I’m upset about my iPhone breaking. Unfortunate? Yes. A problem? I don’t think so.

 

Quotes: David Platt

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Dear Friends,

A while ago I finished reading the book “Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream“, by David Platt. It was an electrifying read, and a shock to my often-complacent system. I’d like to share with you some of the key quotes I highlighted.

“This is the picture of Jesus in the gospel. He is something—someone—worth losing everything for. And if we walk away from the Jesus of the gospel, we walk away from eternal riches. The cost of nondiscipleship is profoundly greater for us than the cost of discipleship. For when we abandon the trinkets of this world and respond to the radical invitation of Jesus, we discover the infinite treasure of knowing and experiencing him.”

“I am frightened by the reality that the church I lead can carry on most of our activities smoothly, efficiently, even successfully, never realizing that the Holy Spirit of God is virtually absent from the picture.”

“In every genre of biblical literature and every stage of biblical history, God is seen pouring out his grace on his people for the sake of his glory among all peoples.”

“When you think about it, the fact that we lack a clear understanding about what it means to make disciples is astounding. This is the last command we have from Jesus to his followers before he left the earth. It is the central mission that Christ gave to his church before going to heaven. Yet if you were to ask individual Christians what it means to make disciples, you would likely get jumbled thoughts, ambiguous answers, and probably even some blank stares.”

“This raises the bar in our own Christianity. In order to teach someone else how to pray, we need to know how to pray. In order to help someone else learn how to study the Bible, we need to be active in studying the Bible. But this is the beauty of making disciples. When we take responsibility for helping others grow in Christ, it automatically takes our own relationship with Christ to a new level.”

“if our lives do not reflect radical compassion for the poor, there is reason to wonder if Christ is really in us at all.”

“In the middle of a Christian culture asking, “How do I find God’s will for my life?” I bring good news. His will is not lost. With 1.4 million Bedouins in Algeria who have never even heard the gospel, it makes little sense for us to sit over here asking, “What do you want me to do, God?” The answer is clear. The will of God is for you and me to give our lives urgently and recklessly to making the gospel and the glory of God known among all peoples, particularly those who have never even heard of Jesus.”

“As Elisabeth Elliot points out, not even dying a martyr’s death is classified as extraordinary obedience when you are following a Savior who died on a cross. Suddenly a martyr’s death seems like normal obedience.”

How challenging! May our radical Christ-life change the world!
  Erich

 

What Exactly do we Eat Here?

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One of the many things we love about Taiwan is its culinary delights. Taiwan has a rich food culture, influenced by various provinces in China and also other surrounding Asian countries, which makes eating a bountiful adventure. We are often asked by family and friends what our diet looks like. Other than our staple, white rice, we enjoy a great variety of food. We thought it’d be fun to give you a picture introduction into meals we have recently consumed. Enjoy!

Breakfast

This is a typical Taiwanese breakfast- soupy rice and a spread of condiments that you add into the rice. Condiments range from egg to vinegar-soaked cucumbers to shredded pork, to different kinds of cold tofu. 

Lunch

The foods in this picture are some of our favorites. A spicy chicken dish from the Sichuan region of China, fried egg and tomato, and fried squid rings. 

Dinner

This was a dinner prepared by a woman in Kelley’s Chinese cell group. Check out the delicious looking fish!

Dinner

This was a restaurant that had a grill on your table, so you could order all the meat, vegetables, and seafood you wanted to grill yourself. So tasty!

Dinner

And, what do you think these little blurry creatures are? Yes, they are baby octopuses….heads and all. 🙂

Missionary Q&A

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Dear Friends,

We were recently asked to participate in a survey of 30 active missionaries for a “Missions and Mental Health” conference. After emailing the research team our answers it occurred to us that all of you might be interested in reading them as well. Our answers go a bit deeper into Taiwan’s church and cultural environment than our usual blog posts. 

Feel free to leave comments or questions for us to follow up on!

For the Glory of God,
Erich and Kelley Schindler

 

What are the two biggest challenges in the mission field where you serve?  How could they be approached?

  • Having to learn one of the most difficult languages on earth before becoming effective missionaries.
    This challenge can only be dealt with if one has adequate time, funding, and willpower to press on through years of daily language school with slow progress.

  • The working-class population is virtually unreached and has historically been resistant to the Gospel. One factor is that this population segment mainly speaks Taiwanese, which is more difficult to learn than Mandarin. Because of this, few missionaries even try learning Taiwanese. Also, there is a very tangible cultural divide between the white-collar, predominately Mandarin-speaking population, and the working class population, which makes it difficult for white-collar Taiwanese Christians to effectively share the Gospel with the working class.
    The Church could begin to meet this challenge by intentionally focusing on church-planting among the working class. But for this we would have to re-evaluate all of the current church-planting strategies that are effective among the Taiwanese educated class. At the same time there would have to be a real push for missionaries and Mandarin-speaking Taiwanese believers to associate more with the working-class, and make the study of Taiwanese a top priority.

What are two unique features (positive or negative) of your ministry?

  • We are taking advantage of the high cultural value placed on English education in Taiwan. Because everyone wants to improve their English, we have found that people are especially open to the Gospel if they encounter it in a bilingual setting. Over time we have adopted the ALPHA Course content, and have developed our own bilingual program built around each evening’s topic. We feel that this window of using English to share the Gospel will only be open for another 10-15 years, as the Taiwanese government is encouraging more quality English education in lower grade levels. Even now young Taiwanese people have a noticeably higher level of English than their parents’ generation.

What are two resources incoming missionaries need to be armed with (intangible/tangible) so they may serve well for their duration in your context?

  • The need to understand the nature and reality of spiritual warfare. In our experience, this is not something that is taught much in Western churches. But in Taiwan spiritual warfare is a daily reality, and shows itself in frequent sickness among missionaries, unexplainable spiritual dry spells, conflict with co-workers, and other forms. The sooner our new missionaries understand the plans and methods of the enemy, the sooner they can protect themselves through fellowship and prayer.

  • They need to be humble and submissive to their leaders. Especially in a collectivist (church) culture that often operates top-down, this is an important lesson for incoming Western missionaries to learn. If a Western missionary can’t shake off their individualism this can become an obstacle that will most likely prevent them from being effective for the Kingdom in the Taiwanese church context.

  • I would add the tangible resource of financial support to the list. Even though we welcome tentmaking missionaries, their time spent teaching English often hinders them from learning the language and integrating well into the culture.

What are some of the models of successful ministry work in your context; what do they have that has helped them?

  • The success of English  / Bilingual ministries rests on the high cultural value placed on English education.

  • The most successful church-plants in Taiwan are ones that connect with existing Taiwanese cultural values, such as community (family feel in cell groups, frequent meals together, visitation of family members part of the regular cell group life), use of current media (video interviews interspersed in the sermons, skits during the service), practicality (preaching heavily application-focused instead of on more abstract doctrine), flexibility (lots of impromptu meetings instead of scheduled ones; the willingness to change course on something that isn’t working), etc…

Identify any one other aspect of your missions experiences that stands out to you that wasn’t addressed in the previous questions.

It’s really important to serve on a team of people who are your friends at the same time. Investing in relationship with co-workers is key for effective ministry later.

Finally, as cliché as it might sound, we have always felt we are being served by the Taiwanese church much more than we are serving it. It’s a true joy to serve our Lord in a cross-cultural context, and the lessons learned are invaluable!

A Day in the Life of Erich and Kelley

Often our blog posts are centered on recent ministry events or language learning. And, while both are those things are important, this time we wanted our blog post to be a little more personable. So, we thought we write about what a day in our life looks like, giving you a window into our world here in Taiwan.

Yesterday, Monday, marked the beginning of a new and busy week, just like everywhere else around the world. Since our weekends are typically very full, Monday is more of our Sabbath day, although we are often still quite busy! After coffee and breakfast at home, our morning was spent writing reports for Chinese class and reviewing characters. This is typical of most mornings, not just Mondays 🙂 We left on our bicycles for class around 11:40p.m., quickly realizing as we stepped outside that summer is fast approaching (we were both quite sweaty after only a 10 min ride!) We made a quick stop at our language school’s cafeteria to pick up lunch (which we eat everyday during the two 10-min break periods of class). Yesterday’s lunch was from the vegetarian buffet. For $1.20 one can get rice (the healthy purple colored rice!) and their choice of 4 different vegetables or fruit. It is then packed tightly into a paper lunch box, which we then take to class. Our class begins at 12:00p.m. and goes until 3p.m. By the end of the 3hrs., our heads often hurt from all the Chinese!

After class a quick stop was made by the local grocery store to pick up a few items for dinner and to make a dessert for that evening’s English cell group, which is held in our apartment. So, after returning home, Kelley quickly got busy in the kitchen and within a couple hours had made a few dozen Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (all baked in an oven about a foot high and wide, with no mixer!) and prepared an Indonesian dish for dinner called “Rin Dong”. This dish contains potatoes, carrots, snap peas, onions, all stewed in a special Indonesian sauce then eaten over rice. Yum! While Kelley was cooking, Erich was busy studying, and listening to a seminary lecture.

Our cell group begins at 7p.m. on Monday nights, but between the afternoon and 6:40p.m. we learned that over half our group was either sick or unable to come. So, we met with the 3 who came, but rather than following our typical schedule, we enjoyed an evening of fellowship, brainstorming ideas for when several new people arrive this summer to join us in ministry, and munching on cookies.

Around 9:30p.m. our house was once again empty (our house guest is traveling the island this week!), and we used the time to call the States and talk with some family. The later hours of the evening quickly passed by and before we knew it, it was mid-night, way past our usual bed time!

So, that’s what our yesterday was like. Hope it helps give you a better picture of life here!

Revival is Coming

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For the past few months we have been praying a lot for Revival in Taiwan. Although we have no idea when the Lord will pour out His Spirit upon Taiwan, we do see glimpses of Revival coming. Here are a few:

  • At a public, secular, Christmas program performed in the National Theater, we watched in amazement as the audience was led in singing “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing”, and “Joy to the World” (in English, but with Chinese subtitles), whose lyrics clearly proclaim the Gospel message.
    If even non-believers are proclaiming God’s truth, then revival can not be so far off! 
  • Our Chinese teacher, who is a devout Buddhist woman, recently told us a story of a Christian friend who felt compelled by our God to start a center to provide care for comatose patients. The friend had no money, but heard God telling him how to begin during his prayer time. This made a big impression on our teacher, who said she was “hao gan dong” (very moved or touched).
    When Christians become known for the good they do in society, then we figure revival must be on its way! 
  • Truth Church’s Sunday evening service is specifically geared toward the youth. Each week hundreds of Taiwanese youth, many of whom are not believers yet, come together to celebrate our Lord and pray for each other’s needs.
    When the Gospel takes hold of the youth of a nation in this powerful way, then revival must be coming soon! 
  • During our recent home assignment last November we visited a Taiwanese church in Chicago. There we learned of the church’s youth group going to the local mall each Friday night to pray for people. We were completely amazed to hear that the most fearless prayer warriors were a few teenage girls, who would walk up to complete strangers, and with a smile, offer to pray for them on the spot.
    If more of our churches were led by the Spirit in this way, might not revival come to America as well?

Pastor Moses is right: Revival is coming! Please pray for more harvesters to join our ripe fields. If the Lord is leading you or someone you know to join us here in Taiwan, we would recommend you read through this website’s content, and also check out www.crossing7.com/taiwan, our recruitment website.

 

Missionary Multiplication

A week ago Sunday was a very special day. On that day we celebrated as our good friend, Chloe, was prayed over and commissioned to the mission field as part of a team going to Sichuan, China for one year for missionary work.  Why was this an extra special event for us? Because during our time in Taiwan the Lord has brought Chloe “full-circle”. By “full-circle” I mean that a little over 3 years when I met Chloe she was a non-believer who came into the church simply to improve her English at our 3E Ministry. She and I began meeting weekly together as I offered to help her learn English. Our time together led to conversations about deeper, spiritual matters and Chloe’s reasons for coming to church started to change.

In the Fall of 2008 she joined our then newly restructured 3E class, which focused more heavily on preaching the Gospel. During that season the Holy Spirit moved greatly in her life she gave her heart to Jesus. In early February of 2009 she was baptized.  Throughout last year she became very active in a Chinese cell group and also served as a co-worker for our English outreach. During the Fall of 2009 she started thinking and praying about going to the Chinese Mainland for a year of missionary service. After counseling and prayer, she was approved by our church and trained to go. In less than three weeks she’ll depart for China as a missionary herself. God is so good. To Him be all the Glory!

 

This post was written by Kelley

**Chloe is the one in the middle, wearing the green colored jacket**

 

Chloe's commissioning service

Life in Taiwan

Rest. A much needed activity for everyone, but one that so often is neglected. Our lives are busy. Every day we have appointments, classes, and people to care for. On top of that the city we live in has a population of 7 million people who all speak a different language than our mother tongue, so most days it is hard to “feel” completely relaxed or rested. But, this past week we escaped from our normal lives and responsibilities and headed to the most southern part of Taiwan. Why? To rest. Yes, for 5 days we saw new sights of Taiwan, smelled new smells, some good and some not so nice, heard the waves crashing against the rocks, and tasted the sweet flavor of pure rest and relaxation, just the two of us. It has been wonderful, and greatly needed. Our bodies and spirits have been re-charged and re-energized and are now ready for the busyness of the next few months that will lead into our home assignment this Winter.

We often get asked from people back in the States just what it’s like being a foreigner in a country where your skin and features are profoundly different from the vast majority of the people and where every day you hear people saying in your direction “Wai guo ren!”, which translates “Foreign person!”. What’s it like to not be able to get around using English, and where the food, leisure activities, and way of life are so different from what we were used to. A few words that come to mind to describe what it’s like are: challenging, frustrating, humorous, nerve-wracking, adventurous, and unpredictable. Each day is uniquely its own and provides us with numerous situations that make us laugh and keep us humble. But, to put it in basic terms: it is something we wouldn’t trade for the world.

Two days ago, as we were riding a bus from one city back to the place of our place of lodging several little boys got on and immediately began staring at us. They smiled and whispered among themselves, seemingly very excited that two “Wai guo ren” were on their bus. We waved and then began speaking with them in Chinese. They immediately left their seats and came and sat next to us. Erich chatted with the little men for a while before they had to get off. They asked many questions about what America is like and soaked up every minute to chat with us. As they left, we both looked at each other and smiled, both knowing how precious times like that are and both so thankful to God for giving us the chance to serve Him here!Peaceful OceanErich and Kel