I am humbled and so thankful to the Lord for this opportunity to write to all of you as your upcoming Senior Pastor. The Lord has been so gracious and good to us through His provision and through His leading. It may be of interest to some of you how we got here, so I would like to share with you a bit of my family’s journey and its connection to Friendship.
Before I begin, though, I would like to take a moment to thank Pastor Dennis and Kay. In the short two years that I have gotten to know Pastor Dennis, it was apparent that he was a man who really cared about God’s kingdom and who really cared about people. He was always willing to get to know people and connect people. I remember during our very first conversation, he asked one question that showed his heart: “What can we do for you?” It may seem like a generic question, but Pastor Dennis kept our conversation in mind and began connecting me to different people. I was so blessed by how he was constantly trying to bring people together. Kay, on the other hand, has been such a quiet yet strong source of continual support and encouragement. I was so thankful for her encouragement to me early on.
Dennis and Kay, you will be missed! We will remember the years of dedication, hard work, service, love, sacrifice, endurance, patience, and grace that you showed to the many people that came through the doors of Friendship. Your gospel-centered heart for the church and for the city will be a legacy that will endure on.
Having been in China (as missionaries) for a number of years on a student visa, we came to Taiwan searching for a new way to enter China. We had heard that my wife, Polly, would be able to get her dental license in Taiwan and that it would be transferrable to the mainland. So, we came with the mindset that God would provide a way for us to go back to China. Needless to say, we were not planning on staying in Taiwan. So, with that in mind, we wanted to find a church that would provide us with opportunities to meet people who we can fellowship with and who we can build partnerships with for the sake of missions. After visiting a few churches, we found Friendship.
Friendship has been such a wonderful church because of the people that we had a chance to meet. It is unlike many other churches in that it is so transient in nature which provides us with the opportunity to meet a ton of people from all over the world. We have come to love and really appreciate the nature of Friendship because it gives us a taste of what God is doing in the world and it also gives us an opportunity to receive people and then send them back out into the world for God’s kingdom. And we were just the same. We were only going to be here for a few years and were planning on heading back to Beijing.
That all changed when Polly began to have thoughts about possibly staying in Taiwan. It was not a sign from heaven, nor was it an easy decision. My heart was set on going back to China and so was Polly’s. But the conversation was started. So, we decided to begin praying about possibly staying (even though in my own heart, I was 99% sure we were heading back to China) and we spent almost half a year praying about this topic.
It was such a difficult decision and there was no clear answer to our prayers. Why was it so difficult? Because we had thought all along ever since we were younger (for Polly, since high-school, and for me, since 2004) that we would be missionaries in China. We thought this was our calling! Calling is such a packed word in the Christian world, especially for those in ministry, because the idea is, once you are called to the ministry, that’s it! This is what you will be doing for life.
But there were two lessons that I learned through this. First, I learned that a calling is not necessarily a life-long calling. It can be a calling only for a certain period of time. Just because I felt called to China, it did not necessarily mean that God had only China in mind for me. He could change my direction at any moment. So, there may be times when I am called to a certain task, and it may be hard and difficult, or it may be fun and exciting. But either way, it could be for only a limited amount of time. A calling to a specific place or task can be changed.
Second, I learned that I just needed to be faithful in whatever God has called me to. The interesting thing is that even a calling can become an idol when I hold on to the calling so dearly that I am not so willing to let it go, even if it is God who is changing my direction. In essence, I may feel like I am doing something for the Lord, but in actuality, in my heart, I am going against what the Lord has for me. I am not called to a “calling” per se. I am called to follow Jesus wherever He leads.
So, after praying and struggling with this decision for nearly half a year, we decided to stay in Taiwan. Again, there was no clear answer. But as we sought God, it became more apparent through the practical, logical decisions we made that we should stay in Taiwan. Of course, by that time, a few people had already come up to me asking if I had considered the Senior Pastor position. My answer was typically, “No, I am 99% sure that we are heading back to China.”
After making the decision to stay in Taiwan, though, I had to consider what God would have me do here. I took another two months to pray about what our next steps were. At the time, I was considering five or so different options. I was thinking about possibly planting a church or assisting the church planters that I had gotten to know. I considered starting a new campus ministry apart from church, or perhaps joining a Mandarin-language church and ministering there. Or maybe I would dedicate my time to teaching at seminaries in China and Taiwan.
After praying for two months, I decided to apply for the Senior Pastor position at Friendship because of the many friendships we made there, because of the ministry opportunities there, but especially because I wanted to work closely with or within a church context (previously, I was more involved with ministries outside the church context).
I was seeking the Lord’s leading when I applied to the Senior Pastor position. I had no idea what the result would be, and if things did not work out, it would be a clear sign that I could move on to considering other opportunities. But I am so thankful that in March of 2018, Friendship welcomed me into this new role which will begin on September 1st.
I praise God for all the twists and turns that He takes us through because, ultimately, I believe that He is in control and working for His glory and our good. I look forward to spending many years with all those that come through the doors of Friendship. I look forward to spending time with you!
For His glory and His kingdom,