Tuesday, November 26, 2013


We met more than a quarter century ago in an ecumenical meeting, and liked each other soon after.  Like most of his friends, we called him Bob who likes to stay anonymous.  Bob once said that if any one turned out to be anything special, it’d be a work of the Holy Spirit.  We share the belief that God called and turned the ordinary into someone special.

Bob was a pastor in the Bay area for almost 30 years before being called to be a faculty member of a seminary.  Now he faces his ‘second’ retirement by the end of the current semester.  As the news became public, I could sense that at least his students began to miss him already.

We traveled together quite a bit to several meetings internationally, tried building the dialogue/communication between the denominations as well as the inter-faith communities.  We shared the hotel rooms and ate in the so called Asian hotdog stand often in the past that he even picked up the menu interestingly.

What we shared essentially the most is how the sermons we delivered.  While I believe that a preacher should put one's heart into the sermons, Bob pointed out that he often invested his life in his sermons as if he is preaching his final sermon.  As I joked with him asking how many “final” sermons has he preached, “As many as the Lord allows,” Bob said.

Besides sharing “heart-felt” and “life-threatening” in our sermons, we also share an important friend we call him Jilo who is a retired church Elder and a semi-retired businessman.  What Jilo has done for us is beyond comprehension and we simply treat him as a God-Send-Angel.

When the last time we said prayers together, we had done that in our mother tongues and yet we shared the harmony deeply. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sign 看板 カンバン

According the latest figure, the Christians that include Catholic, Protestant, Mormons, and non-denominational Christians make up a total of 4.5% of the population of Taiwan.

A question I often ask myself, my friends and students is –

“Would Taiwan be better of if the Christian population in Taiwan is up from 4.5% to 45%?”

Here were some of the answers -

“I don’t know…” 

“You pastors would be easy to find a church to work with, like  a piece of cake.”    

“You are from the States and you should know better; say from the south side of Chicago and many areas in the City of Detroit; or even some parts of the DC. Would you say they are better of with ‘Christians’ everywhere?”

In USA, it’s around 73% of polled Americans identifying themselves as Christian in 2012. This is down from 86% in 1990; and slightly lower than 78.6% in 2001.  It is still the majority.  Are we better of then?

When we were in Taiwan from Sep 2011 through Jan 2013, I was occasionally invited to preach in the churches of Tainan, Kaohsiung and Pintung Presbyteries. 

There was a church in a high rising building of a city.  According the building code, anyone over the tenth floor is not allowed to have a sign (看板 カンバン) or even a Cross as a church symbol hanging out the window saying something like Welcome to the Taiwanese Presbyterian Church of Washington.

I asked the pastor about it. 
Here was his answer: “Our members are the signs, and our Deacons and Elders are the signs.  We are the signs of the church!”

What a sign of courage!

Look at the earliest Christians: a few against the world of Roman Empire.

There were no signs, nor 看板, or カンバン.

There were just Faith, Hope and Love. 

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