October 7, 2007

Dear Brothers, Sisters, Friends:

I just received a letter from a good friend -- Mashu. It reminds me and challenges me to be more faithful in keeping you up-to-date with my concerns. Another school year has started again -- hard to believe that we have already finished 3 weeks of classes. The family is quite well -- Charity Grace (Aien) is now in Grade 3 at the local school. She is continuing to sing in a choir and has started piano lessons. Johann (Youen) is now 2 years old and is very active. Although it seems he is often getting sick -- his demeanor is very positive. Xiuman is pregnant and, Lord willing, our 3rd child will be born in February ( a 2nd boy -- to the disappointment of Aien who was hoping for a little sister)

Summer's trip to North America with Aien although short was refreshing. Aien enjoyed a week at Camp Cherith in Walterton Ontario, while I spent 1 week doing collaborative research at University of Western Ontario. A 2nd week was spent driving to and spending time in South Carolina with my sister Janette's family. A 3rd week was spent with my mother as she spent considerable effort in teaching Aien phonetics and reading.

The two investigative Bible studies (Monday at Wugu and Friday at my home) are continuing. On the one hand, the members of the study in Wugu (a working class district) have been faithful in attending for ~3 years now -- although none have made a decision to follow Christ. On the other hand, with a new year the graduate students study has some new faces and has lost a few old faces. Ryan, who near the end of the year, made a decision to follow Christ has just started his compulsory military service (about 1.5 years). Ronan, who had accepted Christ and was baptized the previous year, will finish his service in a few weeks. Pray for both young men -- the first that he might find a Christian friend to support him in the military and the second for his integration into church life when he returns home.

This integration of students whose hearts are touched at university into local churches has proven in the past to be a particularly vexing problem. In the village where Yuan Ze University is located, there are 11 churches (include some groups that one might not consider to be Christian) with a total attendance of ~1,000. Compared to the population (over 100,000 people and ~20,000 university students), the Christian penetration is clearly not significant. In the past, the local churches have told us that they are not prepared to welcome students--I had requested prayer in this matter. Last year we saw God beginning to answer your prayers with a couple of local churches -- one a new church plant -- hosting a student program. (We encourage students attending "Introduction to Christianity" courses at the University to spend a day at church. The church is requested to hold an activity of interest to students.) Praise God, this year 2 churches are very actively involved having set clear goals and assigning people to campus ministry. This semester, Xiuman is again involved in helping with "New Testament Introduction" -- the course at Yuan Ze University. All the students in her section are non-Christians. My involvement in this course is more limited -- I am taking care of Johanne for the 2 hours.

Last year at this time we were involved in changing churches -- from one close to our house to a new church that is a little farther away but close to the university. We are now praying about formal membership in this church. The pastor is a new pastor having had a successful career in Optical-Electronics, he felt God calling him to resign his position and focus is full attention on church planting. (This is one of the 2 churches that include student ministry as one of their focuses.)

I have been thinking about a question. We often consider promotions to be good, but are they? Are promotions necessary a gift from God to give him greater glory? Can they not be a trap from Satan to make us too busy? That was my first reaction when I was told that I was being given the position of the Head of Student Recruitment, with instructions to concentrate on International Students. In the last year four teachers involved in Christianity course have all received promotions.

Myself I feel very, very busy this semester -- even without the additional management responsibilities I accepted a week ago. I am teaching 5 courses in the areas of Scientific Communication and Computer programming for a total of 10 hours/week. As there was some difficulty finding a TA, so I was until last week, also looking after a laboratory. Research is also an important part of my job. The last months have seen both answers to prayer and frustrations. The key answer to prayer is that now I have 2 graduate students -- both are excellent -- 1 undergraduate and another person who is working part-time as they apply to graduate school. The main frustration has been trying to spend my research budget -- there is much bureaucracy that seems designed more to frustrate rather than facilitate research. It takes a few months to assemble quotations required by the university for a purchase, my quotation next spent 5 months in the university Queue. Finally, just last week the university has approved the purchases and now we need to wait about 4 months for delivery. Surprisingly to me, they are spending about 10% more than what I was quoted by the companies. I am now trying to write a report about what I have accomplished in the project (not much...) and apply for funds for next year--difficult. I again thank and praise God for preserving the life of Professor Fann who I work under at IAMS and who gives me a lot of support in my research. Please continue to pray for his health.

Another happy point is a personal sense of accomplishment -- I have completed reading and studying the Bible in Chinese!

May God bless and keep you,

Jonathon White (http://www.xiaotu.ca)

PS. One other long term prayer request. I am praying about the possibility of returning to Canada for maybe 1 year in 2011.

PSS. The picture of Aien and Youen is taken in front of the water reservoir about 50 meters from our appartment. There are thousands of these small reservoirs scattered around Taoyuan county where we live. They are used by farmers to hold water for their crops.