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.

Noah’s Ark (2 of 2)

Noah's ark 2

(Continued from yesterday)

4. What language did Noah speak then?
Gen 11:1 Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words.
• Gen 11:6-7 The LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.”

The Bible did not say. We only know that the whole earth used the same language until the tower of Babel. When man became proud and want to be independent of God, He confused their language so they will not understand each other. Presumably the first language is close to Middle Eastern languages derived from it, but we just can’t be sure.

5. How did man change skin color?
Some feel simplistically that Shem was brown-skinned, Ham was dark-skinned, and Japheth was fair-skinned. But skin color is actually determined by the amount of the pigment melanin in the skin, which in turn is controlled by genes. Genes come in pairs of pairs. Let’s use the letters A, a, B, b to code the genes that produce melanin, with capital letters A, B representing dominant genes (dark color), and small letters a, b recessive genes (light color). A person carrying AABB genes (all dominant) will have very dark skin, while a person carrying aabb genes (all recessive) will have very light skin.

During reproduction one pair is contributed by each parent. If a person with AABB mates with a person with aabb and they produce a child, their offspring would have AaBb genes for medium or brown skin. If two people with AaBb genes got married and reproduced, their children’s genes could have different A, a, B, b combinations for a range of skin colors. So although all people came from Noah’s three sons, they could have a wide diversity of skin colors.

Noah’s Ark (1 of 2)

Noah's ark 7

Q. The children in my Sunday School class (grade 3 and 4) asked a few interesting questions during our lessons on Noah’s ark. Is there something you can suggest:
1. Did fish go into the Noah’s ark?
2. How did Noah know what is clean and what is unclean animals?
3. What did lions eat in Noah’s ark? Did they eat meat then?
4. What language did they speak at that time?
5. If all people came from Shem, Ham and Japheth, how did we change skin color?

A. These are interesting questions indeed, typically asked by children:

1. Did fish go into the Ark?
Gen 6:7 The LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.”
• Gen 6:20 Of the birds after their kind, and of the animals after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive.
• Gen 7:14 they and every beast after its kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth after its kind, and every bird after its kind, all sorts of birds.
• Gen 7:21 All flesh that moved on the earth perished, birds and cattle and beasts and every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth, and all mankind;
• Gen 7:23 Thus He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky, and they were blotted out from the earth; and only Noah was left, together with those that were with him in the ark.

My answer is “NO”. God told Noah He will blot out man, animals, beasts (wild), cattle (tame), creeping or swarming things (reptiles and insects), and birds, and asked him to bring two of every kind into the ark to preserve them. Fish was not mentioned as they can survive the Flood.

2. How did Noah know what’s clean versus unclean?
Gen 7:2 You shall take with you of every clean animal by sevens, a male and his female; and of the animals that are not clean two, a male and his female;
• Gen 7:8-9 Of clean animals and animals that are not clean and birds and everything that creeps on the ground, there went into the ark to Noah by twos, male and female, as God had commanded Noah.

The rules distinguishing between clean from unclean animals, aquatic life, birds, insects were not given until later in Leviticus 11. So how did Noah know? I believe a clue can be found in:
Gen 4:4 Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering;
Cain and Abel offered sacrifice way before Moses, so we can infer that God must have told man what animals and birds were clean and suitable for sacrifice.

3. Did lions eat meat in the Ark?
Gen 1:30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so.
• Gen 6:20-21 Of the birds after their kind, and of the animals after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive. As for you, take for yourself some of all food which is edible, and gather it to yourself; and it shall be for food for you and for them.”
• Gen 9:3 Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant.

No, they did not. Man and lions and all other carnivores ate green plant for food when they were first created. Noah was told to take some of all food which is edible i.e. green plants into the Ark for food for himself and for them i.e. animals and birds. The restriction to a vegetarian diet for man was lifted only after the Flood. Presumably that applied to carnivores at the same time.

(To be continued)

War on the Bible

bible under attack 1

Recently I received a WhatsApp message from which I quote the following:
“Covert war on changing the Bible now becomes overt. The NIV was published by Zondervan but is now owned by Harper Collins, who also publishes the Satanic Bible and The Joy of Gay Sex. The NIV and ESV has now removed 64,575 words from the Bible including Jehovah, Calvary, Holy Ghost and omnipotent, to name but a few … The NIV and ESV has also now removed 45 complete verses. … Try and find these scriptures in NIV and ESV on your computer, phone or device right now if you are in doubt: Mt 17:21, 18:11, 23:14; Mk 7:16, 9:44, 9:46; Lk 17:36, 23:17; Jn 5:4; Acts 8:37 … you will not believe your eyes. …”
The message then went on other subjects such as the rapture, the mark of the beast etc., warning Christians to be vigilant.

I myself use the NASB most of the time, but supplements it with the NIV, ESV, and NKJV as the need arises. I do not like any publisher distributing books that corrupt society, but I also believe the message’s author, in criticizing the NIV and the ESV above, is over-reacting in his/her assertions.

I know the progressive attempts in revising Bible versions to make it more politically correct, such as the use of gender-inclusive language, and the downplaying of certain doctrines to make it more palatable to those who find the truth “offensive” e.g. hell, prohibition on homosexuality. When translators select language according to their own theological biases, they are no longer translating but interpreting. That is not being true to Scripture, and not acceptable.

However, language does evolve with usage and changes over time. The KJV, for example, was very modern 500 years ago, but with the passage of time became archaic and hard to understand. This necessitates fresh translations into the language of the common people, so that the reader can understand God’s word in his native tongue and cultural setting. This is not only acceptable but in fact needed if we want people to follow what the Bible teaches.

The NIV and ESV have their flaws, but not in the manner described. When the message said “64,575 words have been removed from the Bible”, I assume it was comparing both versions the KJV, which “KJV only” supporters hold to be the only reliable translation. But the examples cited are really using different words to translate the Hebrew or Greek words into English:
• Jehovah = LORD
• Calvary = The Skull
• Holy Ghost = Holy Spirit
• Omnipotent = Almighty
These are not really removal as such, but substitution. 64,575 words is a lot, representing 8.2% of the 788,258 words in the KJV. Could it be using fewer words to translate more concisely, and dropping old words no longer used in current English? Without a complete list we cannot tell, so a sweeping statement like this leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

“The NIV and ESV has removed 45 complete verses.” I tried looking them up on my online Bible as suggested. Indeed they are not there, but each has a footnote explaining why. For example, Mt 17:21’s note says “Some manuscripts include here words similar to Mk 9:29.” In other words, these words are dropped because they are in some manuscripts but not in the one on which the translation is based. This is not censorship, but consistency to the manuscript.

For that matter, the sample verses removed from but footnoted in the NIV and ESV, are quoted below from the NASB:

Mt 17:21 But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.
• Mt 18:11 For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.
• Mt 23:14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.
• Mk 7:16 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.
• Mk 9:44 where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.
• Mk 9:46 where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.
• Lk 17:36 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left.
• Lk 23:17 Now he was obliged to release to them at the feast one prisoner.
• Jn 5:4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.
• Acts 8:37 And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

Am I concerned about left-wing liberal translations watering down the Bible? Most definitely yes. But I am just as concerned about ultra-right-wing proponents finding offence when they are not called for. Hope we can discern and know the difference.