Drug Rehabilitation

We met a drug rehab worker in Taiwan during our mission trip last Spring. He had been transferred to Toronto for a six-months term, so we visited him to see how he’s getting along. His organization provides Christian spiritual therapy for people under bondage to substance abuse. They do not use any medication nor rely on self-will, but depend only on the power of Jesus’ gospel to rehabilitate the addicts.

Our friend told us that while the drugs of choice in Canada (ketamine or Special K, Ecstasy, Meth etc.) have less severe withdrawal symptoms than that in Taiwan (heroin), he found it more difficult to help the addicts here. Although the demographics of the users are similar (primarily Millennials, or Generation Y), the hurdles arise from:

1. Patients. This is an issue of their upbringing. I’m referring to fringe youth who live on the edge, not the whole generation collectively. In Taiwan these young adults have more respect for their elders, and more discipline. They will do what their teachers or counselors tell them. Not so in N. America, where fringe youth have little respect for authority and simply refuse to cooperate when they don’t like it. They won’t get up early to do devotions (part of the spiritual therapy), nor help in chores (to build self-discipline through responsibility), but know how to insist on their “rights”. In short, they have been spoiled and wasted their own lives. Our friend is not the one who teaches them the Bible nor their counselor, more like a house superintendent. He is already trying very hard to teach them some life skills like cooking or growing their own vegetable garden, but you can only do so much without cooperation.

2. Parents. Parents sometimes contribute to the problem. To help break the addiction, in Taiwan addicts are not allowed to leave the rehab facilities during the first few months, use their cell phone, or the computer except to do assignments. They also know they can’t go home until they are reformed, as the parents won’t take them back. Here, parents can come every weekend to take them out, where they could mix with the wrong crowd again and get access to drugs. Those who do this are just not helping.

3. Language. This obstacle is common with missionaries going to a foreign country. The workers are trained in Taiwan, and speak Mandarin plus some basic English. Most addicts here are Canadian-born Chinese, and speak English and Cantonese. Thus there is a language barrier, with the addicts sometimes rudely telling the workers to go back to Taiwan. In addition, the workers feel they are isolated with few people they can talk to in their mother tongue. Like missionaries, they feel lonely with little or no resources to help them.

4. Management. There may also be a lack of understanding between the workers and management. When the workers want to instill discipline among the addicts, the latter may complain to management that the teachers/counselors are too harsh. Instead of exercising “tough love”, management may feel that the teachers lack sufficient love to patiently work with the addicts, which make their work that much harder without proper support.

This reminds me of trying to counsel couples with marital problems when one spouse doesn’t want help, or working with troubled teens who came to see the pastor only when forced by the parents. We can help only those who recognize they have a problem and ask for help. Until then, there is little we can do for them if they won’t cooperate. A drug rehab worker’s job is much tougher, as they may also be dealing with criminal elements. If not for the love of Christ, you could not pay them enough to do what they did. More power to those who labor to restore dignity in people’s lives.

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Missionary Challenges

We spoke with our friends in Japan, who shared some challenges commonly faced by missionaries. They have been there for about a year, and as expected for most newcomers, the adjustment is a steep climb uphill.

First and foremost got to be the language barrier. We experienced a little of that ourselves when we went to Taiwan for our first mission trip. Although we are ethnic Chinese, we were born and raised in Hong Kong in the 1950s’, and spoke Cantonese, not Mandarin. So whenever we approach the local folks, they assumed by our looks that we speak fluent Mandarin, and would talk at such a speed (to them: normal, to us: way too fast) that we could hardly understand what they are saying! It’s only when we ask them in our broken Mandarin “Can you repeat that please?” that they realized they have to slow down.

Typically there are two routes to deal with this challenge. The hard way is to spend several years to acquire the language, so that they can function in the native tongue to evangelize, disciple, train leaders, and plant churches. This is tough depending on the complexity of the language, but opens more doors if you want to serve large segments of society, especially the working class. The other way, without knowing the language well, is for missionaries to feel more comfortable staying among English-speaking expatriates, and teach English as the means to do outreach. This takes less learning time, but limits their exposure to only those who want to learn English.

The second hurdle is culture. Some ethnic groups are by nature more friendly and open to foreigners. Others, such as the Japanese, are more reserved towards strangers. They are polite, but not warm in welcoming aliens in their midst. In fact, the more eager the missionaries are in getting to know their neighbors, the more guarded the neighbors become, assuming there must be some ulterior motives in the missionaries’ friendliness. One more factor peculiar to Asian missionaries. During WW II the Japanese fought against the Chinese and the Koreans, and some have not put this animosity behind them, which adds another barrier.

A third obstacle is isolation and loneliness. Unless your ministry is reaching out to foreigners who emigrate to your country, cross-cultural ministry means leaving your family and friends to move overseas for the sake of the gospel. That means cutting ties with relatives, friends, home church, classmates etc. Even though technology made it so much easier to maintain contact now, the fact remains that most of your support network is gone, and you feel like walking on a tightrope without a safety net. You love to have your buddy there to talk things over when you are encountering difficulties, but you can’t. To be sure, you can still Skype or WhatsApp with them, but they can’t be there physically like when you were still in your hometown. It’s just not the same anymore. Loneliness and sometimes helplessness sets in, even depression. You got to build a network of friends and advisors to de-stress and bounce off ideas, otherwise you and your ministry would suffer, sometimes irrevocably.

The fourth is children, especially teenagers. Every missionary with children is concerned with how they will be educated, how well they adjust. For themselves, they already counted the cost when they responded to God’s call to go to the mission field. They know about spiritual warfare, culture shock, getting out of the comfort zone etc., and are prepared to pay the price. But the children? They did not choose to sever ties with their friends. The decision was made for them. Some adjust well, others not so well. The parents are prepared to suffer for the cause of Christ, but it hurts to see their children in pain when they can’t adapt to the new environment.

These are just a few of the challenges faced by missionaries going overseas. I hope we can learn to appreciate and support them more. Some go abroad right out of bible school or seminary. Others have had successful careers before giving up everything to follow where Christ leads them. Pray for them. Don’t assume because they are outside the four walls of your church they are less important. They are fighting on the front lines for the Lord, to extend His Kingdom. Support them in whatever way you can. They are worth it.

Mission Trips

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One of the things we encourage Christians to do to widen their horizon and learn about God’s work worldwide is to take a mission trip and experience it for themselves. For some, it’s an eye-opening and heart-opening experience that they will not learn even if they have been Christians for years, had they stayed within the confines of their own church. For others, it changed the direction of their life mission such that they become outward instead of inward focused. At the very least, many become more supportive of missions, both in terms of prayer and finances.

Yet some remain hesitant, feeling that they are not gifted evangelistically, nor are they bible teachers, so what could they offer? This is a common misunderstanding about the nature of mission trips, about what they can give as opposed to what they can learn from such an experience. True, if you know how to share the gospel and can nurture young believers, that would be a great contribution toward a mission team. However, what the participant receive from the trip is just as important. We expect team members to be learners, not experts who are there to solve all the problems their hosts are facing. Expertise is good, but not essential to the success of the endeavor.

Mark 4 26-27 a

In the Parable of the seed:
* Mk 4:26-29 And He was saying, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

All the man did was to cast seeds and put in the sickle, presumably watering in between. But how the crop grows, he did not know. It grew by itself. Similarly our job is to sow and harvest, we don’t need to know everything. God grows the harvest naturally.

1 Corinthians 3 7-9

Within the Church:
* 1 Co 3:6-9 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Some sow, some nurture, but God causes the growth. What each individual member does is not the most important thing. What’s important is that we are God’s fellow workers, and God will cause the growth. So don’t get too hung up about your particular ministry. As all of us do our part, the work will get done collectively.

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Let me conclude by quoting Neil Maxwell, “God does not begin by asking us about our ability, but only about our availability, and if we then prove our dependability, He will increase our capability.” Are you available? If you are, He is able. Prove yourself dependable. He will make you capable.

Satan’s Schemes

As we visited mission fields in three continents, we noticed that while the missionaries worked very hard to advance God’s kingdom, Satan worked just as hard to tear their work down.

* 2 Co 2:11 so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.
* Eph 6:11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.

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One of the schemes he used very effectively is to spread strife, to divide and conquer:
* Prov 6:14 Who with perversity in his heart continually devises evil, Who spreads strife.
* Prov 6:19 A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.
* Prov 16:28 A perverse man spreads strife, And a slanderer separates intimate friends.

There is a Chinese proverb (鹬蚌相争,渔翁得利) which tells a story about a clam sunning himself on the beach. A sandpiper comes along, sees the open clam and a big meal waiting, tries to pick her fleshy dinner. The clam quickly closes his shell to protect himself, with the sandpiper’s beak caught in between. Neither side wants to give in, until a fisherman comes along, sees them engaged in a bitter tussle, and easily captures both of them. The moral of the parable? When two parties fight, a third-party benefits.

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The devil utters lies to sow discord among brothers, separating even intimate friends. When brothers and sisters fight among themselves, Satan can just fold his arms and watch the church fall apart. She will waste her time and energy arguing over trivial issues, while important matters like evangelism, making disciples and loving one another get ignored.

house divided 7

The Lord Himself taught:
* Mk 3:25 If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. (Mt 12:25, Lk 11:17)

Yet Christians everywhere fall into Satan’s trap. Be warned. Watch and pray:
* Jn 13:35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Man Proposes, God Disposes

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I shared our mission trips with brothers and sisters at our church retreat over the long weekend. Here is the first of several bible teaching portions of our sharing. Hope they will be helpful to you.

2nd journey

Scripture
* Acts 16:6-9 They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
* Acts 16:13-14 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled. A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.

Macedonia call 2

Observations
Paul and his companions were on their second missionary journey. They wanted to preach in Phrygia and Galatia (modern Central Turkey), but the Holy spirit forbade them. They then turned north-west to Mysia and Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit that either. So they went west to the coast of the Aegean Sea to Troas, where Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia (modern Greece) calling to help. From a human standpoint it seems that Paul’s mission trip was a failure, as whatever he proposed to do God over-ruled. But Paul was flexible and always followed where the Spirit led.

Paul had his strategy. He knew the best time (Sabbath day) and the place (place of prayer) to meet his prospects. But God has His plan and surprises. In the vision a man of Macedonia appealed for help, but the first convert in Europe was a woman, and the second missionary journey was a great success as the gospel made a breakthrough from Asia into Europe.

Lydia Philippi 1

Lessons
1. Man proposes, God disposes. So be flexible. You may think you have the perfect plan, but we know only so little. Do your due diligence but leave room for God to change your direction anytime. He knows best.
2. In your service to God, there will always be frustrations and setbacks, some from the enemy, some from the Lord Himself because He knew better. But a setback is a set-up for a come-back:
* 1 Pet 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you;
* 1 Jn 3:13 Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.

3. Always follow the leading of the Spirit:
* Rom 8:14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
* Ga 5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.

The Biggest Family in the World – Mully’s Children’s Family

Last Sunday we got a treat in our worship service. The Mully Children’s Family (MCF) from Kenya was taking a cross-Canada bus tour and presented in our church. The founder, Charles Mulli, had a poverty-stricken childhood, abandoned by his parents, and lived on the street between the age of 6 and 16. Then another street kid led him to Christ, and his life was changed. He worked hard, slowly turning his life around and building up his business from one taxi, then a fleet, then a bus company, then adding a transport company, a real estate and security company, and finally an insurance company.

But in 1986 his car was stolen by a gang of street kids, which led to an inner conflict between hanging onto what he had, and giving everything up to assist the street children. After 3 years of struggle between the world’s and God’s call, he finally surrendered to God and started MCF, adopting first 3 children, then five, taking them into his home and treating them like his own children. That was 27 years ago. Through this period he and his wife had taken over 10,000 children under their wings. Some had “graduated” and started family of their own, but currently over 2,000 still live with them, getting a proper education and making a contribution instead of ending up broken and a drag to society.

Mt 25:40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

Mulli gave back to the Lord who multiplied his ministry far more abundantly beyond all that he asked or thought (Eph 3:20). What about us? Are we willing to respond to His call?

Bribes – To Pay or Not to Pay? (2 of 2)

bribe 5

(Continued from yesterday)

However, the Bible seems to condone giving a gift to expedite matters, as well as to smooth potentially disastrous situations:
Prov 17:8 A bribe is a charm in the sight of its owner; wherever he turns, he prospers.
• Prov 21:4 A gift in secret subdues anger, and a bribe in the bosom, strong wrath.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the Hebrew word “shachad” is translated both as bribes/bribery and, depending on the context, as gift/reward/present. And often the case is NOT that we slip some money to the officer in charge to grease the palm, but that the officer asks for money in return for:
• doing what he’s supposed to do as part of his job e.g. issuing your license on time, or
• not carrying out some threat e.g. finding some imaginary problem with your passport and denying you entry into his country, which could jeopardize your whole short or even long-term mission.
In essence, they are extorting you. Do you give in to their blackmail?

Before you brush these scenarios off as unrealistic or few and far in-between, let me assure you that they happen often enough to business travelers and missionaries alike. The former may have no qualms about paying and writing it off as a business expense, but what about the latter who tries to follow the Bible faithfully? What is the right thing to do? This is where the current debate lies. To give or not to give?

Those who feel that it is OK to give noted that none of the wrong motivations of giving bribes apply here. There is no trying to do something illegal e.g. smuggling in prohibited goods through paying a customs officer to turn a blind eye, or perverting justice by paying off a corrupt judge. The victim is just trying to do what is required e.g. getting a license, through proper means. The problem is with the greedy official, not the victim.

Furthermore, they pointed out that there is actually no direct Scripture that condemns giving in to such a request. Some see it as equivalent to giving a tip for services rendered. It is not mandatory, but if you tip you get faster service. Others see it as similar to giving gifts to smooth relationships. Vendors give gifts to buyers routinely as part of the cost of doing business. So long as they get the desired results and no one gets hurt, it’s OK.

But do the ends justify the means? I do not think so. First, while the fault lies primarily with the officer asking for a bribe, to comply with his demand is to participate in his wrongdoing, to become his accomplice. If there’s no giving there can be no taking a bribe. It takes two to tango. Secondly, even though there is no direct Scripture forbidding giving bribes, the nature of the transaction is that it is “under the table” because it is illegal and unethical. We should not do something in secret which we would not do in public.

I believe the tip or gift analogy do not fit. A tip is a reward for good service after it is rendered, not a demand prior to the job being done. Giving gifts is permissible in the Bible, both to establish a relationship and to appease wrath. Jacob gave a gift to Esau (Gen 33:11), Abigail gave to David (1 Sam 25:27) etc. But like a tip, giving gifts is voluntary, not coerced in a threat. So while tips and gifts are reasonable, giving bribes is not.

Even if the bribes were lawful, which they aren’t, they would not be appropriate:
1 Co 6:12 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.
• 1 Co 10:23 All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.

Paying bribes are “profitable” only in the sense of eliminating unnecessary waiting time, but they could also be the first step down a slippery slope. If your work requires you to deal with certain officers regularly and you paid a bribe the first time, they’ll expect payment subsequently. You will be “mastered” by the illicit arrangement. Bribes also do not edify anyone, not even the recipients, because God sees their hearts as corrupt. Would a bribe testimony bring glory to God? Most certainly not! On the contrary, if we state our Christian stand boldly and politely, God is honored and we may even gain an opportunity to share the gospel.

What if it’s some issue critical to your mission like entering the country? While difficult, there are still options. Some played dumb and ignored the hint for a bribe. Others responded courteously but firmly, noting the officer’s name or badge number and asking to speak to the supervisor, which does not always work as the supervisor may be just as corrupt. Your mission may be stalled or delayed, but if you are representing God, then I would do things God’s way rather than take it into my own hands. That’s my humble opinion.

In your specific case, if I violated the traffic code I would pay the fine rather than a lesser amount to the policeman. That’s my short answer after a long-winded elaboration. Hope that helps.