We all need the Gospel

On Sunday at Taichung International Fellowship, Daniel and I had the opportunity to encourage the congregation, children’s volunteers, and a group of precious children.

At TIF, more and more young families are joining and bringing children with them. What a joy for us to get to do what with love – point families to Jesus.

I had the opportunity to lead a volunteer workshop and talk about creating a dynamic lesson and even addressed some classroom management. Then in the main service, I was able to share my heart and passion for why children’s ministry matters and what it should be. Children’s Ministry should always be a place where the gospel is taught and it was encouraging to see the volunteers and congregation respond. Daniel had the opportunity to teach a Sunday School class of K-3rd graders, again pointing them to the gospel. It was a joy to watch Daniel using his gifts and in his element.

Overall, we have seen God work over and over again. He has been faithful every step of the way. What a privilege to be a part of showing and sharing the Gospel in Taiwan. May we take what we have learned and continue to live the mission – as a community of believers, following Jesus, telling His story.

As I write this now, we are awaiting out first flight out of Taiwan. Please pray for us as we travel over the next 24 hours.

Mission Taiwan

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“I’m adopted.”

That’s how Todd began as he answered the question, “How do I become a Christian?”

Todd Blackhurst and his family have lived in Taichung, Taiwan since June of 2013. Whether is it at a young adult retreat, an ESL conversation class on one of the college campuses, a Bible study at a tax office, an English summer camp, or coffee or tea with people, Todd and his wife, Crista, seek to share the gospel with those they interact with each week.

Isn’t that what we are all called to do? We are, in fact, a community of believers, following Jesus, TELLING HIS STORY.

For many of people that Todd and Crista interact with, the cost to follow Jesus is high and the process is long. They may pray for years for one of their friends to come to faith in Christ.

Friends like one of the girls who came to the young adult retreat. She first met Todd 4 years ago. That’s 4 years of prayers. 4 years of questions. 4 years of wandering and feeling lost. Until on Tuesday night, God saved her. She prayed and asked God to adopt her!

Praise God! I spoke to her just a few days after her decision to follow Christ and heard a little more of her story. Coming from a broken home, feeling depressed and alone, she was just searching for what was true… and she finally found it! Because someone – many someones – were faithful to love her and speak truth to her over and over again.

There are many more stories just like hers.

Pray for Mission Taiwan and Taichung International Fellowship as they work in the city to show and share the love of Christ. Mission Taiwan is planning to plant 5 new gospel centered fellowships over the next five years. Only God can do it!

 

 

Power and Fear

Who has the power?

Taiwanese culture is one of power and fear. People are constantly looking for the god that has more power and trying to make offerings to gain access to that power or out of fear of something bad happening to them. Honestly, they are enslaved to fear. There are several levels of idol worship that happen in Taiwanese religion. One display of their religion happens at the neighborhood temples. Each houses a different god of varying degrees of power. People come to ask that particular god for help, paying money for good luck or for power to help with some situation in life. If they don’t get the answer they want, then they may go to another god who they think will have more power.

Power and Fear.

You can purchase fake money to burn to the temple god or present other offerings like fruits, chocolate, or flowers in order to get something in return.

Whenever I visit a temple, I feel such a great sadness. A sadness because I know the Most High God, the only True God. Not a God set on instilling fear into His followers, but One whose love casts out fear. One who has defeated our greatest enemy, sin and death, and then places His power within us by the Holy Spirit. This is our God.

Pray for the team as we continue to have opportunities to interact with our new friends that we met at the retreat and encourage local believers at Taichung International Fellowship. We also have a children’s ministry workshop this weekend and will have the opportunity to teach a group of K-3rd Graders.

God is at work here in Taiwan, and it is a privilege to be a part of it.

~ Tara Cruse

A Divine Appointment

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~ From Daniel Christie ~

Taiwan has been an amazing place to serve the Lord the past few days. I have seen God through all of the nature here, but I have also seen His work being done as we went to the Chinese New Year retreat. On the bus ride to the retreat center, I met many people. Yet, God had a plan for me to meet Artem. Artem is in his 30s, from Belarus, and just started going to TIF (Taichung International Fellowship). This was one of the first things he did with the church. We began talking about movies and how they show us important themes of life. From this, I got to know about him, his wife, and his child. We grew to be close friends very quickly. We were roomed together too (a clear display of God’s awesome plan). We grew in friendship, and God used me to be a good friend to him. I was able to listen to him about his struggles and offer advice that I had learned from the Bible. We went to the beach together, hiked together, talked a lot together, and even shopped together. It is awesome how building relationships with people can be done in so many ways. These interactions really reminded me that whatever we do, we do it for the glory of God. We have plans to hang out later in the week and hopefully much longer through Line (an app to communicate through). Through these interactions with Artem, I was able to understand fully what it meant in Acts 8:26-40 where God made a divine appointment for Phillip to meet someone. God had set up this time for me to be an encouragement to Artem–and for this trip to be nourishing to me in my journey with the Lord.

New Friends

I want to introduce you to some new friends of mine.

Rosemary is in the front row next to me. She is from Indonesia and comes from a Christian family. In the back row is Lily and Vera. One is from Taiwan and one is from Indonesia. Both have parents who are not yet believers.

That is something I am learning as I get to know my new friends: many of them have parents that are not believers. They are first generation Christians and their parents, if they know about their choice to be Christians, do not understand why they would choose to follow Jesus.

One friend shared with me how her mom worried that one day when she died, there would be no one to worship her. You see, ancestral worship is a big deal in the Taiwanese traditional religion and the mom fears that because her daughter is an only child there will be no one to worship her in death.

What a hope we have in Christ. We have no fear in death. Hallelujah!

Pray for my new friends. That those who are believers, would be a light to their families and would have strength to persevere despite opposition.

A Glimpse of Heaven

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Even though the team was tired from the journey (we traveled for 28 hours by car, plane, and van), we woke up early this morning to walk the few blocks to Taichung Baptist Church, one of the oldest and most established Mandarin congregations in Taichung, Taiwan.

It was worth the early wake up call.

What a privilege to worship alongside of believers who live in the midst of a culture foreign to my own and who speak a language different than my own. It was as if the Lord allowed us a glimpse into Heaven this morning. My mouth could not have echoed the words of the song in Chinese nor my brain fathom what the words even meant, BUT my heart swelled with worship to the One True God. The God of every nation, and tribe, and people, and language. This is our God. This is the God we have travelled far to worship and to proclaim. The pastor preached out of Ezekiel 36:24-30. A fellow teammate leaned over to me as the Pastor preached in Chinese and said, “I keep hearing English phrases in my spirit. I just heard ‘God cares for you.'” She was right. That our God would take out our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh, cleansing us from all unrighteousness, what a gracious gift!

What a day that will be when people from EVERY nation, tribe, people, and language gather together to declare “Worthy is the Lamb to receive glory and honor and power – FOREVER!”

Longing for Heaven: a fitting way to begin a week of pointing people to the only One who saves.

Revelation 7:9-10: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”

Prayer Requests:

  • Rest and strength as the team overcomes jetlag
  • The Discipleship Conference (January 27-29) with Taichung International Fellowship where we will be interacting with new believers and “not-yet” believers. Daniel and I will specifically be tasked with building relationships, having gospel conversations, leading small groups, and serving wherever else there is a need.
  • Pray for Taichung International Fellowship and Mission Taiwan our partners on this trip.

I am grateful to be a part of FBC Garland’s community of believers, following Jesus, telling His story.  ~Tara Cruse, Children’s Minister

Romania – Fall 2019 – Recap

Looking back through the last 12 days of ministry “on the ground” with our Romanian ministry partners, there are many wonderful “God moments” we experienced with them in service to our Lord Jesus Christ.  This post will seek to recap the major points and items to consider as we go forward with this mission partnership. (By the way…the words on the church steps in the picture to the left are from 2 Peter 1:5-7.)

 

  • The Future
    It can safely and confidently be said that the mission partnership is as strong as ever, with a commitment by the Romanians to remain in partnership with us for many reasons – encouragement, vision stretching, expansion of ministry (through mission teams), and knowledge that a body of believers halfway around the world cares about them and is praying for them.
  • Growing Pains
    Over the past 10 years in mission partnership together, we have seen the church network in the North grow from one church to seven.  And we have seen the partnership in the South expand from one to three churches.  This growth has created unique challenges for the Borugas (Florin & Sabin) – space for churches to meet, enhancements to ministry and the additional resources needed for expansion, leadership transitions, and tension between traditional and contemporary models of ministry.
  • Leadership Needs
    With the addition of new churches, there is the need for new Pastoral leadership and other church leaders to support these Pastors and share the ministry.  Our Fall mission trip each year is aimed directly at this need – to come alongside the Borugas to teach, equip, and encourage new leaders.  (For 2020, we are exploring the possibility of a 2-day leadership retreat embedded within the Fall mission trip to Romania.) God is graciously providing young, spiritually qualified, teachable men to help fill these roles…but they require training, coaching, and encouragement.
  • Expanded Reach
    It was encouraging to learn of the reach of village churches and the Borugas’ leadership beyond their local regions, even to other countries.  As noted in a prior post, Pastor Yonell in the South is finding opportunities for ministry in Austria and Germany.  Florin Boruga is the Missions Director (focused primarily on new church starts) for the Northern Region of the Romanian Baptist Convention. And, as noted earlier, Sabin Boruga (soon to earn his PhD) is being offered speaking engagements around the country and in Ukraine, in addition to being the Youth Ministry Director for the Northern Region of the Romanian Baptist Convention.
  • Stamina and Discernment
    Reading the items above, you probably have already concluded that there is only so much a few people can do on their own.  The Borugas (and Pastor Alin in the South) are very excited about the present and future possibilities for new believers, making disciples, and planting new churches.  But their own health (physical and spiritual) is at stake.  They are aware of their personal limits, but require our prayer and encouragement to stay strong and usable in the Lord’s Army.  In addition, many ministry ideas are being considered in the days ahead.  They need wisdom and discernment to ensure “a good idea” is “God’s idea” for them and the churches they lead.
  • Advance in Making Disciples
    What an encouragement to see that the emphasis on making disciples is now taking hold in the North and South, with small groups being launched as a strategy for helping believers grow in their Christian faith.  Architectural limitations prevent the use of a Sunday School model like ours, but the concepts and principles are being applied in small groups which meet at the church and in homes – both in the main cities and the smaller villages.  These groups are also being used to identify and train potential ministry leaders.
  • Full Lifespan Ministry
    God has called us to minister with people across the lifespan – from birth through senior adulthood.  This is happening in all the churches we partner with in Romania.  Preschool ministries are in place including ministry with new parents; children’s ministries exist in a variety of ways; teenagers are being taught God’s Word and led to live out their faith; and adults are being challenged to grow AND serve the Lord and His church.

One of our cherished hymns of the Christian faith captures the essence of what we are observing in Romania:
“Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, let the earth hear His voice. Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, let the people rejoice.  O come to the Father through Jesus the Son; and give Him the glory…great things He hath done!”

Romania – Fall 2019 – Day 11

On the Road Again

Our hearts were full of joy and encouragement from our time with our Romanian partners as we loaded the van and headed for the Bucharest Airport.

Meet the Village Network Churches & Pastors

This is probably a good time to update readers of this blog on the status of each of the churches in the village church network started by the Borugas (Florin & Sabin) back in 2004.  Below is a table showing key information on each of the six churches in the network (besides the “home” church – Betania Baptist).

Church Name      & Location Pastor Year Established Notes
Archita Baptist Church
(are-kee’-tah)
Pastor Ovidiu
(oh-vid-e-you)

2007 ·   Poorest & most remote church (20 km from Sighisoara)

·   No new construction since inception

·   Active bread ministry

Hope Baptist Church

Danes
(dah’-nesh)

Pastor Bebe       (bay-bay)

2005 ·   Church expanded in 2017 to double capacity

·   Active bread ministry

·   Active afterschool ministry

·   Indoor plumbing, restroom, & laundry

·   Most modern village

Heitur Baptist Church
(hi-ture’)
Pastor Relu
(ray-loo)

2005 ·   Active bread ministry

 

Bethel Baptist Church

Laslea
(lahz-lay’-ah)

Pastor Sabin
(sah-beeen)

2008 ·   Teams from FBCG helped with construction

·   Active bread ministry

·   Active afterschool ministry

·   Indoor plumbing, restroom, & laundry

Saes Baptist Church
(shy’-esh)
Pastor Nicu
(knee-koo)

2004 ·   First church in the village network

·   Closest to Sighisoara (5 km)

·   Active bread ministry

·   Active afterschool ministry

·   Indoor plumbing & restrooms

Vinatori Baptist Church
(van-ah-tore’-ee)
Pastor Roland
(row-land)
2018 ·   Newest church in the village network

·   Very fruitful children’s ministry (120-130 active)

·   Plumbing for indoor bathrooms, but lacking fixtures (funds on hand)

For tomorrow:
We are up early – 4:30 am – to catch an early flight through London back to Dallas after a wonderful mission experience in Romania.

 

Romania – Fall 2019 – Day 10

Gathering With Nearby Pastors & Church Leaders

Our partnership with the Borugas in and around Sighisoara is by no means the only Gospel ministry in the area.  This morning we gathered with 15 Pastors and Pastors-in-training to pray, share ministry stories, and encourage one another in the work of the Lord.  It was a wonderful demonstration of oneness in Christ, including men from Germany (now living in Romania), Romanians, and Roma (gypsy) leaders.

Visiting Two New Village Churches

Meet Dorian (pictured above with Florin Boruga). He was in the the morning meeting and has started a church in his home in Valchid (val-keed), a village of about 1,000 which is 45% Roma and 55% Romanians.  He and his wife felt a call to ministry back in Germany, where they lived for 9 years, to start a church.  They had a second house in Valchid, and that is where the new church was planted.  Presently 30-40 people meet in their home for worship each week (Sunday morning, Sunday night, & Wednesday night…sound familiar).  He has started an addition to the home which can be used for a children’s camp space. Because of the need for expansion, they are praying for a new church building (to be built on land which was already donated).

Last year, you were introduced to Vinatori (van-ah-tore-ee), the latest church in the Sighisoara village church network.  They have an amazing ministry which connects with 50% of the children in this part of the village (about 1,000 people). Getting to this afternoon’s children’s meeting was no simple task.  Recent rain had turned the streets into a muddy quagmire requiring mud boots & 4-wheel drive vehicles.  The mud and rain did not hinder the kids from coming, however.  Over 120 children and early teens packed the church for the weekly worship, Bible stories, sandwich, and love from God expressed through these Christian believers.  It reminded me of the worship rallies at VBS back at our church (but in Romanian).  Church leader Sorin showed us the progress made on water hookups (aided by funds from FBC members last year) and an addition which will be space for camp, showers, and toilets (with plumbing already “roughed in”).  Some of the water hookup work has been delayed due to the road and creek wall construction (see photos above). What a bright light for Jesus in a dark village.  Every other week, a Christian sister from another ministry shares with the girls about sexual abuse, teenage pregnancy, prostitution, and human trafficking – all of which are very prevalent in this village and area.  I was reminded of and thankful for the safeguards we have in place for our ministry with minors through Ministry Safe.

Last Night of Worship & Teaching

For our last night of worship and teaching, we gathered at Betania Baptist – the home base for the village network of churches.  It was a time of warm fellowship (“when we meet, we eat”), lively worship, and Bible teaching by Richard and Doug.  As we greeted people at the door on their way out afterwards, we were shown Romanian love and hospitality, inviting us to return again.

For Tomorrow:
We hit the road for Bucharest, five hours to the south, where we will spend the night and then catch an early flight on Saturday back to Dallas.

Romania – Fall 2019 – Day 9

Home Visits in the Village of Laslea (lahz-lay-ah)

A busy day of ministry began with walking 1-2 miles along dirt roads to visit members and prospects of Bethel Baptist in Laslea.  This village’s population is approximately 90% Roma (gypsy). Accompanied by Sabin Boruga, we visited Juan (pictured above), encouraging him in his faith since he was now (at age 75) limited in his mobility and unable to walk to church as often as he once did.  It was a delightful visit, including prayer for him as he witnesses to neighbors and family members.  He then insisted that he accompany us to visit a Christian brother and neighbor who was suffering with depression due to a leg amputation and other health issues (he refused a picture). We visited, shared words of encouragement from the Word, and prayed with this brother also.

The Bethel Baptist (Laslea) Afterschool Program

After our home visits, we returned to Bethel Baptist and got an update on the afterschool program begun there in 2018.  The government requires afterschool programs to have running water, indoor bathrooms, and clothes washers.  These were installed last year, including some assistance from FBCG and other churches in the U.S.  The program has a limit of 50 students from the village, giving priority to poorest.  They are fed a good meal, helped with homework, and taught a Bible lesson each day.  The program operates 5 days a week during the school year.  What a wonderful, creative way to share the Gospel with children and their families.

Worship and a Special Surprise

Tonight’s second session of Bible study and preaching began with a fellowship meal in the same basement space that houses the afterschool program.  Then we moved upstairs to the sanctuary for rousing music, featuring four different music groups.  I continue to be amazed at the accordion and how it operates.  Then, just before Richard began his preaching on Christian Service, the congregation surprised him with a serenade of Happy Birthday (Romanian style).  Today was Richard’s 81st birthday.  He was visibly moved by their show of love and hospitality.  What a beautiful display of the boundless reaches of Christian fellowship – across 6,000 miles but sharing oneness in Christ.

By the way…the certificate shown in the pictures above includes the names of those who worked to complete the church building in Laslea back in 2011.  For those of you at FBCG, look closely and you will probably recognize some names.

For tomorrow:
We are off to two villages (Danes and Vanatorii) for ministry during the day and then back to Betania Baptist in Sighisoara for the concluding night of fellowship, worship, preaching and teaching of God’s Word.