Taiwan Prayer Letter
TPL 8.1 Spring 2006
The Linton Family
Kangaroos and Koalas (Part 2)
In our last prayer letter, we told you about the outreach concerts in October 2005 in Brisbane, Australia where there are at least 12,000 Taiwanese immigrants, but very few Christians. Of the 1300 people who attended the concerts, over half were not Christians. The first night I spoke on Romans 3:10-18 titled "What is Wrong with the World?". The following night I spoke on "What Tragedy Teaches You About Life" from Hebrews 9:27-28. The Taiwanese Christians in Brisbane have a particular heart for outreach. They were well- organized and the event was well-publicized. My preaching and Judy's story, songs, books and CDs served as tools for Christians to share the Gospel with their friends. So even now, half a year later, please keep praying for the continued follow-up of the concerts.
God also gave us opportunities to share with the youth group our "classic" talk on dating and marriage from a Biblical perspective. They were open and attentive. Please pray they will have the resolve to do what is right.
And on the following Tuesday, the older-couples group had a week-day picnic both for fellowship and a chance to invite people who would not quite feel as comfortable going to church. I spoke on the most important thing for their children - which was not to prepare them for their jobs and future, but even more, to prepare them for eternity.
There are a lot of other stories. I'll just share one more. We met with a non-Christian couple a few days following the concert, and you could tell that the event had left a deep impression on the wife. She began asking serious questions, both from Judy's book, and from things we had said at the concert. You could tell that she was filled with a concern for her soul; it seemed like the Holy Spirit was dealing with her. We thank God for that dinner and the opportunity for us personally to follow-up with someone who was impacted by the concert.
Well, you might have wondered why we lumped Kiwis in with Kangaroos and Koalas, since Kiwis are not found in Australia. That is because we took a stopover in Christchurch, New Zealand after our visit to Australia. For all of you who ever doubted: yes, New Zealand is beautiful, clean and pristine. The water out of the tap is better than any bottled water you have ever had. It is almost sweet. And they tell us that the trees are so happy with the soil and water there that they grow in fifty years the same height as what it would take 100 years in England.
It was the beginning of spring when we got there. And the vibrancy of the colors of the flowers and leaves just took our breath away! Every other place in the world just looked a little tawdry in comparison. And it made us realize that even New Zealand pales in comparison to the news heavens and new earth to come when Jesus comes back. If God did not give us new resurrection bodies that could handle it, we would probably die of a heart attack at the weight and beauty of the new creation. Anyway, back to NZ. There we visited a Chinese Christian Church made of ethnic Chinese immigrants from Taiwan, China, and also all over Southeast Asia. They had bought an old YMCA, renovated it, and made it into a church building. Additionally, two ladies in the church had a vision for outreach by starting a coffeehouse, as a tool for Christians to share the Gospel with their non-Christian friends. So Judy and I stopped by and gave an impromptu live performance.
We also visited the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) of Christchurch. One other goal of our trip, both in Australia and New Zealand was to meet up with local Biblically-sound churches to make connections in hopes of eventually recruiting missionaries to come work with us in Taiwan. One of the pastors at EPC, Ron Ellis, is a former missionary to Korea who had worked with my grandfather, Rev. Hugh M. Linton, in rural church planting in Korea. We stayed at his home and I stayed up late into the night asking questions and trying to learn as much as possible from the experience and advice of this missionary couple. As you know, the Korean church grew so much in the 20th century that they no longer need any missionaries there. Now the Koreans themselves send out missionaries. Almost any place in the world you go to (even places Americans cannot go) you will end up meeting Korean missionaries. We look for God to do the same thing to the Taiwanese church in this 21st Century. So I really prized the time, hearing stories about my grandfather, but also hearing the strategies and advice on what seemed to work well and what did not. Though Taiwan's situation is a little bit different, there were many things that could be adapted and we hope to put into effect in the upcoming years in Taiwan.
Easter Outreach in New York City
How old is your church? There is a church in Elmhurst (Queens), New York that will be celebrating its 275th anniversary this year. It is older than the United States of America! Originally started by the Dutch Reformed Church, it now has three services: English, Taiwanese and Mandarin. This Newtown Reformed Church asked us to go this Easter to do the same thing we had done in Brisbane, Australia last fall. So that weekend, we performed two nights of outreach concerts and two Sunday services. We also squeezed in a visit to our old haunts in Manhattan where Judy and I first met (how romantic!).
Judy performed songs from her two albums, "One." and "You Are My Most Beloved", but she also added quite a few new songs. Many are old hymns that Judy has given new life to with new melodies and arrangements. We pray that God will give us a chance (perhaps our next furlough?) for Judy to record another album with all of these new songs. If you want to hear them, the Newtown website has the Saturday night concert available for download if you have Windows Media Viewers. In the special event section, download the 4/15/06 video or you can just listen to the audio of the whole concert, including Judy's testimony (English - with some Taiwanese translation): http://www.rcnewtown.org/Web_Design/avpage.htm
I'm not sure on the sound and image quality, since the website downloads are usually in a more compressed format. Hopefully one of these days you will be able to hear Judy live in concert, or she'll finally get a chance to record a third album. I preached a different Gospel message each night, the first on "Christ's Death and Your Life" from Isaiah 53 and the second showing the difference between Buddha's answer to the problem of suffering and Jesus' answer from 2 Corinthians 4:13-18. Again please pray for the follow-up that the Newtown church will do. Some youth in the church have become Christians but their parents are not yet believers. We were thrilled to see some of these parents come to the concerts though they don't attend church. Please pray especially for the Christian children trying to share the Gospel with their non-Christian parents.
There were a few perks in going to New York City to do a concert. The first is food. In Elmhurst where the church is located, there are more people from more places in the world than anywhere else in the world. And you can tell by the restaurants: authentic cuisine and fresh ingredients you would not be able to find in your local grocery store! One of the elders from the church made sure to take us to the best places. We ate so well: Chinese buffets that carried fusion cuisines from ethnic Chinese communities all over Southeast Asia, Taiwanese food, Malaysian curry, Korean barbecue, even a real Irish Pub! Everything tasted so good. And then Judy and I, on our excursion to Manhattan enjoyed the best Italian near Columbia University, our favorite restaurant from college and graduate school days. In New York, you walk a lot because there are so many things to see on each block. We ended up walking down Broadway from 116th St. to 80th St. almost two miles! And we hardly noticed it. On 80th street is Zabars, a wonderful gourmet grocery and delicatessen. It has the best coffee for only 6 dollars a pounds. (So of course I bought five pounds of different kinds and brought it back in my suitcase.) I don't mind the smell of coffee in my bags. I did refrain from bringing Korean Kimchee in my bag , though.
We are currently in Alabama. We are returning to Taiwan in June, but our time in the U.S. has been good for us. The children especially have enjoyed grass and space to play on instead of having to go up to the roof of our apartment building in Taipei where there is concrete and tar. It makes a difference when you just walk out your door instead of having to walk out onto very crowded streets to get to a park. And we were so happy that the girls actually got to experience a snow fall during our time in the U.S., something they have never before seen in their lifetime (except for on television). We also put up birdseed and hummingbird feeders outside two of our windows. The girls already know the names of some of the visitors: the house finch, cardinal, titmouse, brown thrasher, mockingbird, etc. As part of a homeschool project for our oldest, Faith (6), Judy had Faith write and illustrate a children's book about the experience of putting up the birdfeeder and the type of birds that have come. The book is titled "Chirp, Chirp." Charis (4) likes pretending she is mowing the lawn. She uses a small plastic toy shopping cart to which she added a pretend battery and oil container after having watched her dad change the battery and the oil on his lawnmower. Faith and Ashlyn quickly picked up on the game and each had to have her own "lawn mower". Ashlyn (2) is still a little afraid of the neighborhood dogs but she is getting more bold. She is also very fond of single-handedly killing any spiders that make it into the house -- no fear there! All the girls help with mom's garden, especially picking the snowpeas of which we have quite a crop this Spring. The girls have also been blessed to get to spend some time with their grandmother, great grandmothers and see their great-great grandmother.
Asking the Lord of the Harvest to Send out More Workers
This Spring, I have been spending considerable time in recruiting, talking to people who potentially might consider coming out to Taiwan to serve with us. This is one of our greatest needs and prayer requests. We have held off on starting new projects and opening up new areas for lack of workers. (You may remember the article in the last prayer letter about surveying two countryside areas in desperate need of churches.) We need coworkers to help with our three existing church plants as they work towards becoming self-supporting churches. These three are Mandarin and English-speaking. We also need to begin a whole new work in planting Taiwanese language churches and Hakka language churches. I need teams for each of these language groups, church planters who will focus on one language to master and work among its people. The Hakka and Taiwanese speakers have a much lower percentage of Christians, hovering around perhaps 1 percent, compared to the Mandarin speakers, which may be 3 to 5 percent.
This summer we will be hosting three college students on a short term mission team as well as one seminary student intern from Reformed Seminary in Orlando, Florida, who will spend the entire summer with us. I will be training him to become a missionary and he will be considering whether God is calling him to Taiwan once he finishes seminary. Please pray for us to put to the best use the people God sends to work with us this summer.
Judy and I will also be in Atlanta the first week of May at a week- long event sponsored by Mission to the World (the missions board for PCA, our denomination). Though we will continue with our current missions board, Taiwan Church Planting Partners, we also hope to form a connection with Mission to the World so they will begin sending out church-planters to Taiwan to work with us.
And finally, I have been looking at perhaps recruiting some semi- retired pastors or former missionaries to Taiwan to return to help for a few years.
Many emails, phone conversations and meetings have been spent towards these goals. Please pray that God will give fruit to these labors, that is, an increase in laborers themselves.
Another objective of our time in the U.S. has been to report back to our supporting churches. This we have quite enjoyed, renewing old friendships and seeing how the churches have grown in the three years that we have been away. We are also trying to raise more financial support. This is not something we are very good at doing. So please pray that God will raise up people and churches to become long-term partners, contributing to our monthly budget needs. (Last year our support level averaged $2500/month.) God always has provide for our needs, but we seek to build up a more regular support base. As is often the case of missionaries on the field, over time, some supporters will drop away for various reasons, and the missionary's time in the U.S. always needs to be spent filling up the gaps that have developed.
That is just the way God designed the mission field. Your home churches give you support so that you can bring the Gospel free of charge to people on the mission field. The missionary offers his message freely to non-believers, just as the Gospel itself is a proclamation of the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not of yourself, it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no man can boast." Ephesians 2:8-9
And as the churches on the mission field grow, they will support their own pastors. And they in turn will send out missionaries to other areas, just as the Korean churches are doing now. We thank all of you who, by your sacrificial giving, are already enabling us to preach the Gospel free of charge to the people of Taiwan.
Judy: please put us on your calendar and pray for our return to Taiwan on June 6. The flight is 21 hours, not counting the 3 hours of driving time to and from the airport. After several months of wonderful weather in Alabama, we will be returning to Taiwan at its peak summer heat months. The humidity in Taiwan is simply overwhelming, hindering sleep and overall health. Please pray for our physical, mental, emotional adjustment. Please pray for the children, as occasionally, one would express slight reluctance at returning to Taiwan; they've really enjoyed Alabama.
Thanks again to all of you. In Christ, The LINTONS
Support address: Make out check to "Taiwan Church Planting
Partners", mark "for Lintons" on the memo line, and mail to:
Taiwan Church Planting Partners
If you have any questions, please call: 215.568.3120