1. How did you first get involved with Friendship Presbyterian? My wife Grace was involved in the Mandarin section for several years before she and I met at seminary near Boston, MA in 2011. A year later, visiting Taiwan as a married couple, she brought us to the FPC English section, since I came from a Presbyterian background and spoke no Mandarin. We were here for just one service on that visit, but in the sermon Pastor Dennis preached that day, he happened to reference Stephen Um--the pastor of our church back in Boston! So right from the start, I have always felt at home at FPC. We visited again during our next trip in 2014, and then, upon moving to Taipei in the spring of 2015, we became regular attendees that summer and members in the fall.
2. What do you do Monday through Saturday? I work a part-time position as Community Group Coordinator here at Friendship. My main role is to shepherd, promote, and provide leadership-training for the church’s community groups, two of which I also lead. But I am also involved with welcoming newcomers, editing the church newsletter, leading “The Engine Room” (our monthly prayer group), website updates, membership classes, and providing general administrative support for our staff and elders.
3. What is something people might be surprised to know about you? Before I went to seminary, I spent many years as an actor in New York City. I performed whatever work was offered to me—comedy or drama, classical or contemporary, stage, film, or voice-over work. I performed in national tours of “Romeo and Juliet” and “Cyrano de Bergerac.” I also directed a production of Shakespeare’s “Othello.” I was in a crowd scene for a film with Al Pacino, but they left it out of the final cut. I had always enjoyed theater growing up. Before I came to Christ, it was where I communed with what I thought of as God.
4. What do you find most challenging about being a Christian today? Evangelism. There is a degree of hostility towards Christianity today, particularly in the West (or anywhere that Western values are present), which can make talking about Christ come across not as mere conversation, but oppression. I am still very hesitant to discuss my faith with my old theater friends back in New York. I used to be one of them, after all, and I remember well the standard view of Christians as narrow-minded hypocrites who used a set of primitive and unscientific beliefs to try to control people. Since the Lord opened my eyes, of course, I have come to see how all people can be narrow-minded, hypocritical, and control-seeking. And how they will justify such behavior on beliefs with no greater ultimate grounding than the belief that a man rose from the dead.
5. What is your favorite book of the Bible? Not an easy question, but I think I would have to say the Psalms. It is like reading the whole Bible in miniature. You touch on history, theology, poetry, suffering, joy, redemption. You can find the doctrine of grace right in Psalm 103:10: “[God] does not treat us as our sins deserve, nor repay us according to our iniquities.” The Psalms are also very helpful for boosting one’s prayer life. It is like reading someone’s prayer journal (often King David’s!). Not that our prayers need to be expressed as eloquently as a psalm, but that we can come before God with both our flaws and our praises. In psalm 108, David is so full of love for God that he says he will “awaken the dawn” (v.2). He does not ask God to bring the dawn, to dispel the darkness David finds himself in. Rather, he, David, will himself bring the dawn through his song of praise, so deep is his joy in God. And yet, in the very next psalm, #109, we see David asking God to make the children of his enemy into orphans (v.9). Not exactly the love for our enemies that Christ taught! But there it is, in the pages of Scripture, “breathed by God and profitable for teaching” (2 Timothy 3:16). It teaches us that God knows how we talk when we are upset. Praying to God is not about pasting a smile over our inner conflicts. It is talking to God as we are, warts and all. Sinners saved by grace.