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fullsizeoutput_381cA severe thunderstorm is sweeping past my adopted city of Houston, Texas. My Director of Operations and I exchanged a flurry of e-communications sharing our changing opinions of what to do. We were evaluating for over 24 hours what our decision should be on keeping operations going or to shut down our seminary for the safety of our students and staff.

Timing, forecasts, current computer models of the surging storm, and plenty of prayer are all ingredients necessary for a learned decision. We have students who travel long distances to make into classes and we want to notify them ASAP if they don’t have to risk a drive in this horrible weather.

The streets around the seminary are flooding quickly. The rains poured on our part of town so fast that the storm drains couldn’t keep up. Drivers are taking too many risks.

One car tried to pull out of the neighboring parking lot. When it got to the curb, all of us in our building kept saying, “Don’t do it! Go back! It’s too deep!” The water level reached the bottom of the car. Then, it rose up to the bottom of the door.

When the tires were almost totally immersed, it was too late. A full-size SUV went driving by. The wake hit the sedan and you could see the car lurch backwards. It was over for the car.

The hazard light went on, the headlights dimmed, and the driver waded out of his car and sloshed over to the sidewalk. We could all see the dejection on his face. Someone remarked quietly, “That was a nice car too.”

We have an emergency text message system for emergencies like this. We used it to let students know that the seminary was closed due to inclement weather. There wasn’t a single email of complaint.

Now, my whole team who was here for a full day’s work are going to staying until the water subsides enough to escape and scatter for home. Until then, they have gathered in the library and are watching a movie: The Incredibles.

I walked by and heard plenty of laughter.

As long as everyone is safe, we can deal with the closure, the make up day for classes, and the inconvenience of postponing important meetings. Everyone is safe. For that I am very grateful.

photo out of my office window with filters to remove as much reflection as possible

Unknown-2Summer marks the time when vacations, house-projects, hobby-advancements, and sleep-ins can finally be entertained. We all work hard for 9 months and need a break or at least a change of pace. Variety is the spice of life that rejuvenates our soul, right?

Nevertheless, I found a number of amazing souls that challenge that kind of schedule with mind-boggling productivity. They are the summer school students of DTS-Houston. Each one is pursuing their graduate degree with the strategy that deliberately includes summer-time classes into their agenda.

Are you impressed? They don’t let the infamous Houston heat slow them down. When the average person realizes that these budding scholars are not only in hot pursuit of their Masters degree, but they also otherwise occupied, they are taken-back. Often they have family obligations, many with careers where they must interweave their courses with their work schedule, some are intensely occupied with children and spouses, and all are actively volunteering in their churches.

My hat’s off to them. Each one is collectively on my mind as I pray for their academic and spiritual success. My work calls for a very active schedule to undergird the structure that makes their academic pursuits a possibility. It is my delight to do so. I love my job!Unknown-1

We have a world-class collection of faculty to pour their expertise into their lives. These are men and women who choose underpaid positions be they believe in the potential of these bright lights. Our faculty have my undying respect.

With purpose I will leave my office and mingle among the students during their breaks. A smile, a brief exchange, some laughter, occasional prayer, and plenty of conversation reminds me of the importance of my responsibilities. They are vital for them.

Well done DTS-Houston Summer Student Scholars. Keep on living by faith, engaging in the diligent work of your programs, and always remember there are many of us who are diligently praying you through your exercises.

photos by brucefong photography

IMG_3104The number 42 made me smile today. Today is the anniversary of my wife and my wedding day. We have been married for 42 years.

In all of that time, decades of years and nearly countless days, she never once considered divorce. Now, temper that with the unsurprising reality that murder was on the table many times. With chagrin I will admit that she was justifiably and understandably well within her rights to make that choice! We had tons of adventures that makes us smile more broadly today than we did when we began our journey together.

Just weeks after our wedding ceremony we packed up our pickup truck and drove to Dallas, Texas. Good ol’ Herman, our pickup truck, didn’t even have air conditioning. My wonderful wife melted in the Texas heat but stuck with me.

Then, we packed up our possessions and moved to our first ministry post in Portland, OR. God blessed us with our three wonderful children. Many lifelong friendships began in the city of Roses.

We crated what belongings we could and moved to Aberdeen, Scotland. Our little family had a ball in the United Kingdom. Each of the children picked up a lilting Scottish Brogue. Wonderful blessings and amazing International friends packed in Highland memories for life.

Then, it was back to Portland for season. That was followed by over a decade of sacrificial ministry in Michigan. God then led us to San Francisco, CA for more amazing service. His perfect and divinely ordered journey returned us to Texas, this time in the amazing city of Houston.

My bride has been by my side through it all: blizzards, tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, and humidity. We have clung on to the best Christians in the world. Together we weathered human storms with His grace. I never would have survived without her.

She is my love, my confidant, my greatest fan, and most patient advisor. Happy Anniversary, My Love! May our Mighty and Merciful God generously grant us many more years of being in His service together. Joy!

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When Christianity does something right, there is not a lot of coverage. Do something wrong and it is all over the place. There is no shortage of slams and “there they go again” opinions.

This picture is one of the right things done. These are seminary leaders who are higher education leaders in Houston. Several different seminaries are represented. Their doctrinal beliefs have distinctive differences.

Nevertheless, we meet annually to build our friendships and cheer each other on in the name of our common Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We don’t argue theology, we don’t water down our beliefs or convictions. Instead, we eat Texas BBQ and deepen our friendships. That’s allowed.

Advancing our conversation and camaraderie, precludes what is too easily done. We have dispensed with throwing critical stones. It is tough to slander a friend.

Perhaps our quiet and enjoyable fellowship will help our churches and future leaders to engage in the most important of Christian virtues: love. That option is certainly much more invigorating and edifying than other options. Antagonism is left behind. Judgmental attitudes do not get any fuel out of our time together.

Maybe this kind of seminary engagement will not only bring our participants personal satisfaction but also stir the pot of Christians showing the way to be civil, edifying, and compassionate toward one another.

Who knew that Texas BBQ could be the emissary of the Gospel of Jesus. This is good news. Again the Savior shows us how powerful his redeeming work is.

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The birth of a new idea is like the spark that sits in a handful of some kind of fire starter. You see the possibility. You’re shivering in the cold. The temperatures are dropping and you crave the warmth that a fire promises.

Carefully, you cradle the ember and coax it with gentle steady blowing. Slowly tendrils of smoke rise. The spark grows brighter.

Hope for a real fire to warm chilling bones emerges. Your anxious body begins to relax. Small strokes of heat from the newly born fire lick your face. Eagerly, you place the crackling fire into the waiting pile of sticks and gathered wood.

Not long ago an idea for the church came to us at DTS-Houston like a spark that promised a fire. Concerned believers gathered to address a problem. Chinese churches in the USA are facing a major crisis. Up to half of the pastors of Chinese language churches in America have pastors closing in on retirement. Who will fill those pulpits?

But, it’s not just the coming hole of pastoral roles that is looming on the horizon. There is also a vast number of amazing church members with a deep hunger for the Word of God. Every pastor loves having a large portion of these spiritually mature and growing saints in their congregations.

Several conversations ensued about both of these streams of people. Beyond merely a cavalcade of words. real action resulted from these meetings. Most notably, money was donated and scholarships were funded. Parameters for qualifications were designed. It was time to get the word out.

Here at DTS-Houston, pastors from a number of Houston area Chinese churches came. From as far away as College Station and Austin they arrived. After a sumptuous meal we prayed, introduced ourselves, and listened to an amazing presentation of scholarship opportunities for new students.

Qualified students who are accepted at DTS-Houston could apply for several scholarships. If they are preparing for pastoral ministry or desiring to increase their knowledge of Bible and Theology then we have a path for them. As well, if someone knows that God has not called to professional ministry but they are eager to advance their knowledge and skills for lay ministry, then was also have a path for them.

Our prayer is that the pool of generous resources that has been given for DTS students can find a great match with eager students to impact the local church for God’s glory. The gathering of key pastors in the greater Houston area was wonderful.

IMG_0007[1]On August 22, Wednesday from 430PM to 630PM at Houston’s First Baptist Church there will be a Meet the Author gathering in the Fellowship Hall. Many of us who have had the privilege of putting words to paper will look forward to shaking hands, meeting you, signing books, and having some fabulous fellowship. If you are close by, then I hope to see you there.

photo by bruce w. fong photography

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photo by BWFong

Our morning stroll abruptly stopped. The brisk cool air was heating up fast. Houston is like that.

In our minds the destination was paramount. Add some steps to our day and then head home before the temperatures got into the bake-range. Houstonians survive the summer that way.

This moment was different. We could add a few minutes to our new-day stroll for this purpose. “Cute” is an easy choice to prolong our walk, even on a day when temperatures threatened to soar into the record books.

A ring-tailed lemur was catching its morning rays. It must be still be “ok” temperature-wise since he has a permanent fur coat and we humans were created with a water-cooling system for such days as this. I much prefer the “dress-for-it” option than the “one-clothing-fits-all-weather” designation.

The lemur big eyes met ours. There was no fear indicated on its end. We were just filled with curiosity on our end. What a fascinating creature the Creator formed in this special animal. Better than a picture or video, seeing one of these special animals face to face makes me appreciate the wonder of creation.

It spied some of its fellow lemurs. There was some chatter going back and forth among them. Maybe they were talking about the humans who paused in front of their paddock.

Do lemurs have a sense of humor? Ha! I chuckled thinking that they may be telling jokes about the Homo sapiens. Maybe “cute” or “wonder” never made it into the lemur conversation.

The sun shifted as it kept climbing to its apex for the day. Uncomfortable heat drenched my bare arms and legs. It was time to head home.

Our visit to our zoo was coming to an end. The lemurs comical look was our finale. Smiles lingered with thoughts of these comical creatures in uncomfortable fur coats on another hot Houston day.

photo by bruce w. fong photography

FullSizeRender-2This was going to be a particularly difficult day.  Pressures at work, a long line of demands had been queuing up for months, responsibilities were pushing the limits of our sanity.  My bride and I were comparing notes and it was going to be a tough day to start the work week.

On top of our regular routine we have a major trip coming up in a matter of weeks.  Details of overseas travel are horrendous!  We had to find time to invest in that preparation.

Departure times and dates are already getting tangled in our scheduling.  Today we would have to make sure we made those adjustments.  Double booking ourselves is an inconvenience for everyone and could easily undermine our efforts to be effective at all of our responsibilities.

We both heaved a deep sigh of dismay, loaded up our car with our bags for our day and drove off into the dark morning for our long commute.  My thoughts were lost in our need to get over the financial hump of needed changes, travel expenses and time investments.  If I could I needed to think about relieving my bride of the pressure she was feeling.

Now, we discussed possible drastic changes in our circumstances.  What dramatic changes could we live with if that meant the relief of life pressures?  There were no easy answers.

Then, we rounded the arching on ramp to the Interstate freeway.  The Houston eastern skies were waiting to cut short the threatening discouragement.  In front of us the Creator was putting on a show.

Clouds burst out of the east, pointing to the west.  Behind those finger shaped clouds were the indescribable colors of the divine palate, splashing reds, oranges and yellows in balanced effect.  Blue skies in the background were pushing the loud colors , pressing the daylight splendor.

We both smiled at the interruption to our concerns.  The God of all gods was breaking into our worrisome souls.  It was sensational sunrise.

He was starting the day off with a splendid artistic masterpiece.  In massive swathes of colorful strokes that were changing by the minute, we could only watch as He finished up the waking of a new day.  No words but just splendor.

We got the message.  What did we really have to worry about if He was in charge?  Now, we had a day to look forward to instead of dreading.

photo credit: yvonne fong photography

 

IMG_1390Our realtor was our guide to our newly adopted megacity of Houston, TX.  We had no idea where to live or what to look for in local construction.  A vague budget was in our minds.

She showed us a house with all of the basic room necessities and good curb appeal.  Some of our wants were also on the list.  Most importantly the price was within our target range.

Yet, a price range for a couple like us that was devastated in the housing market crash didn’t have much to put down for a new home.  I looked at the construction issues with the very used home and figured out that the next decade of our life would be saving up to make major repairs on this fixer-upper.

Houston is famous for its heat.  Good windows are a must to fight the blistering temperatures in the summer months.  Keeping our air conditioning system happy was important.

IMG_1396The windows would eventually have to be replaced.  We had that in mind when we made on offer for the house.  Now, it was time to sign a contract and replace the windows with new ones.

Old windows are being torn out.  New well-insulated and excellent guaranteed windows are going in.  The installers are doing a superb job.

Half the windows are now done.  I can see clearly now!  The old broken seals and fogged up windows are going away.

The new glass is clean, clear and firmly mounted with strong heat resistant materials and block out unbearable temperatures. When the fogged up windows of our home make it impossible to enjoy the views it is sad.  The whole house feels ugly.

FullSizeRender-1Now, the improvement has given us a lift.  Looking outside is fun again.  Watching clouds float by and the daylight turn into night is enjoyable.

When we open the windows to let the cool winter breezes flow inside, the windows slide easily.  We don’t have to grunt and tug to get old corroded windows to scrape painfully across worn out tracks.  Figure tip control of well-made locks and well-lubricated tracks bring a great enjoyment to our home like few other purchases could.

Cost? Yes, it must be one of the most expensive home repair options that an owner must face.  We counted the cost, prayed over the options and even took on additional income jobs just for this very reason.  Then, God gave us His favor in an unexpected way.  He is good, all of the time!

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

 

FullSizeRenderEach time God moved me from one ministry to the next I made the same petition through prayer.  I asked God to give me a love for the city and direct my steps to encourage others and impact the lives of people. Now, He has had me here in Houston for three years.

Our prayer was the same.  When my bride and I drove in from the West, we asked God to give us a love for the city.  As time has progressed we are falling in love with Houston more and more.

Each day as I began my hectic schedule I pray again that He would direct my steps to encourage others and impact the lives of people in this fastest growing city in the USA.  Over 2,000 people move here every week.  The prosperity of the state and the flourishing business climate of Houston attract thousands.

Some of the largest churches in the nation are here in Houston.  They span denominational lines as well.  When attendance exceeds 2,000 we all stand amazed!

Now, each morning my bride and I make our commute into work.  On one of the off ramps we are often greeted with a great view of the Houston skyline.  It reminds us to pray for and love this city where so many people reside.

In the greater metropolitan area 6 million people call this city their home.  Truly this massive population  represents a great field that is white and ready for harvest.  The Gospel is not just a fad for people who concentrate on talking, this is a place where the Good News is shared and lived out.

As the sunrise lights up the city, I rehearse my duties.  People fill up my calendar.  Students, colleagues, visitors and guests are spaced apart from each other’s appointments so that I can give them the attention that their interests deserve.

His brush strokes are colorized, better than the real buildings of colorless concrete and dull building materials.  It is as if the Creator is blessing the city with a touch of His creative hand that man cannot come close to matching on his own.  That contrast is fine by me.

A new beauty is ready to bloom in our city.  When the Father decides to bless our city with a special touch of His gracious hand, Houston will forever be changed.  Lives will take a new eternal course and the new life in their hearts will spread to family, friends and colleagues all because of love.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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