July 8, 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"If God exists, then nothing else matters.
If God doesn't exist, nothing matters"
For me, a difficult and emotional year in which I feel I have aged considerably. Prof Fann Wunshain (research collaborator, mentor and friend), despite our prayers and the belief of others that God would save and heal him, died after a 12 year battle with cancer in September without us seeing any evidence of a conversion. For months leading up to his death, he was not willing to see me or anyone else. On the day, he died I felt the urge to go to Taipei -- on the way I dropped by home to find my wife really upset as Youen had fell and was bleeding. I arrived in Taipei but was unable to find Fann -- he was at hospital and not at home.

Emotionally, I have been up and down with rapid mood swings. Sometimes I recognize his working and kindness in little things and sometimes doubting if our beliefs are true and if I truly believe. The other night I woke up at 4AM feeling OK. Suddenly it seemed a dark cloud came over me and my emotions changed from happy to a deep sadness in about 10 seconds. Five minutes later the cloud left and my emotions returned to normal.

Clearly I am miss Prof Fann -- as I do experiments, prepare memorial lectures and help close his laboratory. We worked together for 10 years, publishing almost 20 papers together. When faced with a problem -- in research or academic life in Taiwan, my first thought is: "I need to discuss with Prof Fann, He'll know what to do." Then I remember "Fann is dead." A couple of weeks ago Prof Hsu at IAMS shared with me a Scripture from Isaiah 8#19 "Should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?". She encouraged me to seek God's advice for research and academic questions.

Family has been a bright spot in the past year. We moved into our own rowhouse in February. Xiuman is very happy to have a place where she can plant some flowers. Recently, she has become much more excited about the things of God and seeking to serve God, praying for other people and making friends with women with small children and inviting them to church. Our relationship has in many ways improved of the past year. Although Aien's tests place her in the lower middle of her class, she is excelling in Drama. A five minute film university students made staring her was one fo the films chosen to represent Taiwan at an international film festival. She also won her schools Chinese speech competition for a talk she gave entitled: "My most unforgettable moment..." Youen (almost 4) is very active and will enter the government kindergarten in September. Lien (1.5) is also a joy -- enjoying his food.

There is much to reflect on and pray about as I look towards the future: both long and short term. Long Term: Many years ago, I believe God called me to work as a teacher/researcher in a cross-cultural setting to share his word. While this has advantages relative to the familiar "19th century missionary approach" -- i.e. visa, point of contact with locals, modeling of Christian life, not a burden on local church -- there is the challenge of balance. Beginning in fall 2007, and intensifying in this spring of this year, it seems that work pressures are crowding out other aspects of life. It seems that my Christian life is currently out of balance as work pressures continue to mount. In Taiwan, I do not need my work to get a visa -- should I still be doing this work?

Tentatively, I am saving money as I hope to come home to Canada for a Sabbatical year in 2010 summer. How should my time be spent in this year? Do we return to Taiwan after that time? In 2003, I could see 3 reasons God would have me move to Taiwan: (1) work w/Prof Fann, (2) my wife's spiritual condition, (3) relationship of Xiuman with her family and (4) outreach to Xiuman's family. We lived in Taoyuan and worked at Yuan Ze University as this is close enough to Taipei to work with Prof Fann and close enough to allow us to go back her hometown weekly (she did not want to live too close to her family) if she desired. Now, Prof Fann is dead and his students have almost all graduated so my responsibilities there are finished. Xiuman's spiritual condition has improved (especially in the past year) as well as her relationship with her family (she is willing to visit once/month). Unfortunately my ideas for direct outreach to her family are not acceptable to Xiuman, so I feel discouraged in this area. In short, I see little reason (other than have a job) for staying at my current location in the long term.

Current Issue: Direction of my university research is a source of stress. Prof Fann is no longer here and his lab is closing. In the past God gave me the idea of "trying to help others do research" rather than trying to set up a complicated lab by myself. Seems many exciting possibilities to work with others in either areas of a) single molecule spectroscopy in biology, b) organic molecules for solar cells, or c) in artificial intelligence. Recently have started to work with a Christian Professor at Qing Hua University in the second area.

Current Issue: Direct ministry. Two evangelistic Bible studies that I had been leading ended in the last few months: one at a local church in Wugu that had been helping with for at least 5 years and the other for graduate students at YZU. I am asking God what he wants me to do in the coming year. There has been some confirmation from others as God as I have preached and led small group studies for young Christians. (Before felt my area of ministry was more discipleship then evangelism.) Current commitments for the coming year: 1) helping with a course at the university: "Introduction to Christianity", 2) monthly English Bible study for High School students near the local high school in collaboration with 2 churches, and 3) quarterly preaching engagements at a local Pentecostal church. I think I need to spend more time 1:1 with people. Do we restart an evangelical Bible Study at YZU and if so, for who?

Prayer: Xiuman (my wife), Xiuman's family for salvation, my spiritual life and direction,

All for now,