SAMS and New Wineskins

Our family is back together in Ohio again after spending the first half of April on the road. Our first stop was All Saints REC IN Raleigh, where we were graciously hosted by Fr Ian MacGregor. He also took me on a visit to St Andrew’s mission about 90 minutes away in nearby Asheboro. From there, our family headed to Asheville for the SAMS retreat and 40th anniversary celebration at the Ridgecrest Conference Center and the ensuing New Wineskins for Global Mission conference.

We were blessed by the small group meetings at the SAMS retreat, where I benefited from the prayers and advice of Philip Mounstephen, the director of the Church Mission Society in the Church of England, and was able to give care and prayer to other missionaries in turn.

 

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Matt with CMS director Philip Mounstephen

The main prayer request I shared with the group was my concern to do a good job of learning Bahasa Indonesia, a language that will be critical to the success of my work in Bandung.

The very next day, Sora and I had a meeting with Singapore’s Bishop for the mission deaneries, the Rt. Rev. Kuan Kim Seng and the Dean of Indonesia, the Rev. Timothy Chong. It was an immediate answer to my prayers when Bp. Kuan told us that we would have at least a year to work on language learning. Praise God!

It was a pleasure to spend time with the Singapore clergy at New Wineskins. Bp. Rennis Ponniah also prayed for us and gave us the right hand of fellowship.

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From left: Assistant Bp. Kuan Kim Seng, Dean of Indonesia Timothy Chong, our family, and Bp. of Singapore Rennis Ponniah

The biggest news coming out of the New Wineskins conference is that we have a planned departure date now…and we have purchased one-way airplane tickets for us to arrive in Singapore on June 27. (From there, we’ll head to Bandung in early July.)

At New Wineskins, Sora and I enjoyed talks by Bp. Felix Orji of CANA West (ACNA) and by Bp. Rennis Ponniah of Singapore. It was also good to enjoy fellowship with other missionaries from SAMS, and to see friends from the REC and other Anglican churches.

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From left: Matt, Bishop of Singapore Rennis Ponniah, REC Presiding Bishop Royal Grote, Sora, Dean of Thailand Yee Ching Wah, and Dean of Indonesia Timothy Chong

On the last day of the New Wineskins conference, Sora and I participated in workshops with Stewart Wicker, the director of SAMS-USA, discussing how we were called to go to the Philippines and then to Indonesia.

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Sora on the panel for SAMS’ workshop entitled “Is God Sending Me?”

We were blessed by our time in NC, and we left feeling encouraged and eager to go to the mission field again soon. Thank you, SAMS, and especially Nita Dempsey, for arranging for our participation in these two conferences.

Radio Show

Thanks to my friendship with Pastor Vic Bernales, I was introduced this afternoon to Rev. Michael Hong, the owner and proprietor of Mango Radio, which broadcasts evangelical radio programs in Zamboanga and here in Davao City. Pastor Hong has a heart for bringing the gospel to Muslims here on the island of Mindanao by using radio. 

It was a fruitful discussion, and the result was that I will be starting a live one-hour radio show on June 1st. There will then be a four week break while our family is in Indonesia and Cambodia in June, and I will resume broadcasting after June 28. We hope to air the show at rush hour, but Mango is currently still trying to obtain a frequency for broadcasting in Davao. It will also be broadcast via the Internet. 

The show will be devoted to explaining Scripture, using history and the original languages and the Jewish background. I’ll be trying to make these things clear and accessible — something I have striven to do for many years in my high school classes. 

I need a name for the show. Any suggestions?

  
Above: Matt and Pr. Michael Hong in the Mango Radio studio.

Pray that the show will be a success and a blessing both to Filipino Christians and to those who do not yet own Christ as the world’s Lord. 

Sora in the Classroom

I should probably let Sora blog about this, but I can’t resist doing it myself. The last three weeks, in addition to some birthroom shifts and outreach to Isla Verde, she has taught a class on breastfeeding for the student midwives at the clinic. It’s a pretty thorough class from what I can tell: I’ve been next to her in the evenings while she puts all sorts of information about chemistry, physiology, and medical research on a Keynote slideshow for each class — or rather, while she begins to do so, for I usually fall asleep by midnight while she continues to burn the candle at both ends until the wee hours of the morning, trying to get her slides perfect, making herself more jet-lagged than I was even after actually flying on jets across the Pacific and back.

Today I met the other “midhusbands” for coffee. We talked about the idea of Christian vocation. I mentioned that for me, a major reason to become a missionary was to be a good steward of the talents and gifts of my wife. It has been fun to watch her dive into this new teaching opportunity. And while I admit to teasing her as she discovers some of the pitfalls of the classroom that I have figured out over the last decade (students’ oral reports taking twice as long as you think they will; how hard to make the exam, etc.), she appears to be quite good at it. The exam was today, and now she has to deal with my bête noir: grading.

When we were in Ohio, Sora taught a single apprentice (midwives are sort of like Sith Lords that way). That’s about all you can do while running a homebirth practice in North America. But because we are here, she had 24 Christian student midwives learning from her.

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Academician as a Missionary Calling

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Above: Matt’s Epic Literature class at Faith Academy taking a quiz.

Do you know what percentage of the children of Christians enter full-time Christian service as missionaries, pastors, and other similar callings? One in two hundred, or 0.5%. Yet among the children of missionaries, that figure soars to 3 out of every 10, 30%. And of those 3, two of them will eventually go back to serve on the overseas mission field in some capacity themselves, and 17% will be long term missionaries. (Numbers from Raising Resilient MKs) I have ten classes a week to talk about the Bible, God, and literature with 40 of these young men and women. Probably 10 or 15 of these kids will be teaching others the things I teach them about Jesus this year. Like Sora with her student missionary-midwives, God has put me in a place of greater leverage than I had in Cincinnati.

When I was 12 years old and in the public schools (a miserable experience I would never wish on my kids), my mother taught me Latin at home. It was determinative for my future life, though I resisted and grumbled about it at the time. (“Do those Latin flashcards, or you’ll have no dessert tonight!” Yes, Mom was a tough cookie.) My pre-teen perspective was that I took a full slate of classes at school just like everyone else, so why should my summer vacation be ruined by having to learn Latin? But the lesson I subliminally learned was that my mother loved me and that she thought a knowledge of Latin was a precious enough possession that it was worth imparting to me despite my grumbling. That was the takeaway for me: teaching someone difficult concepts and ideas was a way of loving them. This love-language doesn’t work for everyone, and sometimes it isn’t understood until years later, but when it clicks, it is a beautiful thing.

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Above: Naomi sharing the love with Hosanna via Ørberg’s Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata.

A lot of missionary activity here in the Philippines is geared toward conversions. My ministry is not. I am not, for instance, running a youth camp designed to bring kids to a crisis so that they make a decision for Christ. Instead, I am using my knowledge of languages (Greek, Latin, Hebrew) and ancient sources to give already committed Christians a deeper grounding and better reasons for what they already believe. And ironically, that makes my ministry a fairly rare one in a city that has a lot of crusades and revival meetings. It is easy to find preachers here who will “convert” you or get you ready for the Rapture. It is harder to find someone who knows enough Greek and has read enough scholarship to tell you, say, what N.T. Wright and David Daube say about the Sadducees and “neither angel nor spirit”, so that you can understand Acts 23:7-9 and teach it to others. I am not aiming to make converts; I want to make teachers, as Paul says:

… what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:2 ESV)

This is a ministry that targets a smaller audience (“faithful men”, not unbelievers) and takes more time with them. One of the first questions my Latin students asked was, “How long will you be here?” They wanted to be sure that we are in it for the long haul before committing to a long-term course of study. It takes time to learn an ancient language, or to cover the history of the early church, or to survey the Jewish background of the New Testament. Deep academic instruction is not a “one-and-done” ministry.

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A little light reading on Jewish background and Hebrew Bible.

The depth of serious instruction gives me the chance to build the same sort of teacher-student-parent triangular relationships that I had as a teacher in Cincinnati. A teacher doesn’t just affect kids; through kids, he also touches parents. (How many MHA parents heard from their kids over dinner, “Guess what outrageous thing Mr. Colvin said today?”) Parents trust teachers with their kids. If you’re a faithful and excellent teacher, you will win favor and the hearts of parents. Many of our senders in Ohio have that relationship with me, and they are sponsoring our presence here in Davao City because they want me to form that sort of relationship with others.

While my position teaching MKs at Faith Academy Mindanao was semi-miraculously lined up within 24 hours of deciding to become a full-time missionary, it isn’t the only ministry I’m engaged in here. I have also been blessed by our friends Pastor Vic and Cathy Bernales. Even before we arrived, they welcomed us with open arms. They have sought out opportunities for me to teach Filipino students. I have filled the pulpit for Pr. Vic when he was away. He invited me to teach church history and Jewish background of the NT in his Reformed Institute of Ministry. He and Cathy are the organizers of the homeschooling coop here in Davao City, and they advertised my Latin class and introduced me to other families who wanted to have their kids learn. They have also embraced with enthusiasm the idea that I should start a Greek class, and are spreading word about it to their friends and acquaintances in other churches. Their own older children, Yuri and Ysha, have been students in all my Latin and RIM classes. More than anyone else here in Davao City, they have been the enablers of my ministry here, seeking out opportunities for me to teach, and connecting me with Filipino homeschooling families and adult learners.

I’m about to start the second academic quarter at Faith Academy tomorrow. When I get home, I’ll have Latin class in our dining room. Then it’s off to church to teach NT Jewish Background from 6:30 to 9:00. (Yes, Tuesday is loaded!) Thank you to our senders, and to the parents of my students, for entrusting me with this ministry.

Latin for Homeschoolers in Davao City

We are in the Philippines because of Sora’s vocation as a midwife, but I have long realized that I need to be teaching in order to be happy. I am a classicist, the son of two classicists, and the brother of a classicist. Teaching Greek and Latin languages and literature is the family trade. It is very fulfilling and satisfying for me when I can do it. When we first considered becoming missionaries, I told Sora that I was willing to do it if I had a place to teach.

Faith Academy was the first “place to teach” that I found, but God clearly also has other plans in bringing me here. This Tuesday, a small crowd of Filipino homeschoolers crowded into our kitchen, where I had installed a whiteboard. I distributed copies of Hans Ørberg’s marvelous textbook, Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata, and we began. These homeschooled students are very bright and they ask great questions. For any former students reading: Yes, there was homework the first day. And yes, there will be a quiz at the second meeting. The flashcards for the class are available at Quizlet.com. I will take the students as far as I can in the time we are here. I hope that that will mean reading Ovid or Vergil together eventually. Certainly we will be able to do some of the Vulgate. We’ll look at medieval manuscripts and inscriptions, too.

This is an exciting development in our life here in Davao. It gives us a way to cultivate relationships and share resources with the local homeschooling community. It takes us further out of the American missionary “bubble” so that we can more fully manifest the unity of the body of Christ with our Filipino brothers and sisters. I’m doing my best to explain Latin grammar by comparison both with English and with Bisaya.

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Leverage

As we have traveled around the country raising support, we have deliberately put Sora’s ministry front-and-center at every church we’ve visited. There are many reasons for that: midwives are rarer than teachers on the mission field; Sora’s calling preceded and in many ways generated Matt’s calling; and midwifery is the reason we’re going to Davao City, and not somewhere else; and Sora has already been to the Philippines and practiced midwifery at the birth center during her short-term trips in 2009 and 2010, so she has lots of stories that help churches here in the US understand the impact of midwifery in the developing world.

I, on the other hand, have not been to Faith Academy yet. So my testimony about its impact has to be second-hand. Since I’m about to join the faculty, I get emails that are sent to the school’s email list from parents of past students. Two such parents, translators with Wycliffe, gave me permission to share their message:

Dear FAM administrators, teachers and volunteers,

We thank the Lord for you.  We are grateful for your love for God, missions and children, and your skills and training.

The existence of Faith Academy Mindanao made it possible for us to live in Davao and do our work ((New Testament translation for one of the SE Asian languages).  Our son attended FAM for 9 years (1994-2003) and our daughter attended for 12 years (1994-2006).  Now you are continuing to keep missions projects going for a whole new batch of families, as well as reaching an international business community.

May the Lord give you wisdom, creativity, ideas, physical strength, and joy in being here.

With much appreciation,
(Names)

I have often said that one of the reasons we’re going as missionaries is to leverage our gifts in the service of Christ. Yes, Sora’s work as a midwife has been a blessing to many families here in Cincinnati, but it will be a blessing to many more in Davao and beyond. Yes, my work as a high school teacher and Bible teacher has been well-received here in Cincinnati. But it will be even more valuable in Davao.

And there is another way in which this multiplying effect will be at work – one that we have already seen during our deputation time. As we’ve visited churches (all over three REC dioceses and many ACNA parishes as well), it has struck me that as missionaries, we can be a blessing to many more churches here in the USA – churches with whom we would not have any contact or much relationship if we were not going abroad.

Faith Academy Mindanao

Faith Academy Mindanao