1. How did you first get involved with Friendship Presbyterian? I had spent the majority of my life living in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, and I wanted to try something considerably different. While helping out with a local Christian conference during the winter of 2010, I struck up a conversation with Sam Huang, who shared how he was moving to Taipei to teach English. I was immediately intrigued, and the idea was planted firmly in my mind. I wrapped up grad school in the fall of 2011 and wrote a lengthy email to my parents detailing my plans to move to Taipei. Their response was understandably perplexed but supportive. I booked my flight for the end of August. The first week was a whirlwind. I landed at Taoyuan, crashed at my Grandmother's apartment in Xindian, woke up and interviewed at the Korean Elementary School (with Sam Huang's help--and, yes, he still teaches there!), and starting teaching the very next day. It was within the first month after I had arrived when I decided things had settled down enough to check out churches. A friend who was on staff with InterVarsity and had grown up in Taipei shared a short list of churches that he recommended, and on that list was FPC.
My first visit to FPC was on October 2, 2011. It was the second church I visited that day. I had caught the tail-end of the 11:00am service and Pastor Dennis had just finished preaching. I believe that in those days, Jerry Chiao, Bebe Liu, Monica Hsiao, Justin Chien, and, I believe, Lucy Chuang were helping out with the worship/praise team. I am not completely sure what compelled me to make the choice to continue coming to FPC. I think it was some combination of Pastor Dennis mentioning C.S. Lewis or Tim Keller in his sermon, seeing other attendees around my age (25, at the time), and a balanced worship song selection that led me to commit.
At the end of the service that first day, I did not feel comfortable introducing myself with the microphone, but, oddly enough, I felt comfortable enough to introduce myself to Jerry in the following manner: "Hi, my name is James. I'm 25. This is my first time here--can you introduce me to some people?"
Following that awkward introduction, I plopped myself into a Community Group, shared post-service lunch meals, jammed along with the worship/praise team, and the rest was history.
2. What do you do Monday through Saturday? I work as a Professional Service Engineer for a software startup called ScienceLogic, which is based out of Reston, Virginia. I started working there in January 2015. I typically work remotely from home at odd hours of the day and night, mixed with spurts of travel to countries around the Asia-Pacific region. If I am not working, I am typically sweeping (a relaxing habit/what I do when I procrastinate), playing pick-up Ultimate Frisbee (pick-up occurs Monday nights at San Chong and Sunday afternoons at Datong High School, with an informal training session Wednesday nights!), taste-testing my wife Monica's cooking, baking, and/or fermentation creations, or fiddling with the guitar.
3. What is something people might be surprised to know about you? I have a twin. My twin brother's name is Jason and he lives in Chicago. He is engaged and, hopefully, will be visiting Taipei within the next couple years. We did not get along when we were younger, but we are all right now! He is really into badminton and does quite a bit of coaching. He is always looking for a friendly challenge when he visits.
4. What do you find most challenging about being a Christian today? That is a really interesting question. I think for me it would have to be bringing discernment and wisdom to the work of being salt and light to the community around me. I am also not quite sure on the “how” aspect of evangelizing, or reaching out, or proselytizing to my friends, family, and the community around.
I know it will look different from person to person. I am also aware of what is not effective and, frankly, what drives people away from God or the Christian church (partially from personal experience). At the end of the day (or the beginning of the day), I know I must rest in the finished work of Christ, and from there take a step of faith and prayerfully learn from the outcome. The hard part is to not be afraid of rejection, disapproval, or not being liked. Yeah. That is definitely the hard part.
5. What is one of your favorite books of the Bible? I would have to say the Gospel of Mark. The reason for this is a bit strange because the content of the book is a very close secondary reason to the primary reason. Hear me out. I went to a very small university located in the west suburbs of Chicago, whereas many of my closet friends in high-school went to the University of Illinois Chicago or Urbana-Champaign. There were times when I wished I had applied to the aforementioned schools. It was a big change going from Friday night high-school youth groups to being on a small campus while my friends were hours away.
In any case, nearby was Wheaton College. My former youth pastor was meeting with students for an inductive Bible study and he invited me to join. I made the short drive over every week and had an amazing time. There were questions aplenty, scribbled notes, highlighted words, times of sharing and prayer, and, overall, it was a very rich time of fellowship. It was incredibly memorable and made a lasting impression of what Bible study could be like (at least, for the life of a college student).
Looking back, that time was a gift and a sign of God's goodness and promises. I didn't know that being in the word could be so engaging and fun at the same time.