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IMG_0836We all share a common experience during election season. How many political groups have my phone number? A number of those irritating calls have those toll-free numbers. The area code gives them away.

Sure, we were taught by our moms to be polite at all times. Politeness and manners wear thin after the rat-ta-tat force of words that stream from the mouth of a volunteer don’t give us room to breathe let alone give a thoughtful response.

Within seconds they have dumped a well-design load of words into our ears. It was just a prelude for them to ask for a financial donation. Yes, they specify an amount. Any hesitation on our part is met with a lesser amount. Of course the desperate need for our hard-earned dollars is vital to the cause.

This midterm election surprised me. The “other” party called and asked me for a donation. They were polite but just as forceful. I was also polite in my refusal and I asked them to remove my name and number from their list.

I did try to lay my telephone receiver down on my desk while I carried on with my work. Their constant barrage of words and salesmanship went on for several minutes before I heard them ask, “Are you there? Hello! Hello!” They hung up. I felt a little guilty.

Enough is enough. No more annoyance. No more guilt.

I went out with my bride as soon as our schedule allowed and we voted EARLY. It was amazing. After that the relentless political ads were no longer troubling. Further, the phone calls started to fall away.

Never doubt my resolve. I love my country and put up with the political wrangling. Yes, I even donated to the candidate of my choosing. But, voting, that is a privilege of great price. Those who fought and died so that I could have my voice heard, I am forever grateful. If we could only put a lid on the political ads, calls and bickering.

photo by bruce w. fong photography

Houston Chinese Pastors.jpg

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

My google maps gave me a snap shot of where I needed to drive. It was an unfamiliar part of town to me. But, that’s not unusual since I’ve only lived in San Francisco for a year.

Nevertheless, the adventure of seeing and old friend, meeting new ones and joining in a discussion of high interest to me was all very scintillating. It wasn’t easy to protect this time. There are a lot of very good demands on my schedule, it’s just a matter of finding the right balance to get them done.

My drive to this meeting gave me a chance to think. Over the past year there have been a number of outbursts of racial tension in the Bay Area that have caught my attention. They were in different part so town, reflected a varying set of circumstances but all were a result of friction between the Black African-American and Chinese communities.

One episode was the fatal beating of an older man by two older teens. It occurred in broad daylight on a busy street. For a while it dominated the news and was the buzz of talk shows.

In another episode an elderly woman was mugged as she was walking home after a long day at work. There was no physical contest between the assailant and the victim. It was just a brutal act of robbery and domination.

Also, during broad daylight a “tricked-out” car pulled up to a stop light. The driver his passenger gestured threateningly to the driver next to them. It was racially charged. Discretion by the accosted driver took over, he rolled his window up and ignored the juvenile antics and let the green light launch the angry lowlife to drive off laughing, leaving scratch and feeling like they did something worthy of life.

Like any big city there is crime here. Hatred, greed, selfishness, laziness, inferiority, ignorance and sin is at the root of many acts of crime. But, it doesn’t have to be the winner.

I sat around a table with nine others who want to make a difference in this city. Together we shared our experiences, dreams and hopes to make our diversity a positive for the people of San Francisco. In the name of our one Lord and one Savior, Jesus Christ, we want to reach out in love, mercy and hope. We believe.

photo credit: google image

Heading for church was exciting. Anticipation of what we could expect was on the forefront of our minds. Afterall, it was Easter.

For months we anticipated this day. It is a high point in the Christian calendar. Every aspect of our service was planned, rehearsed and creatively orchestrated.

OK, it was a modest adjustment from our normal weekly service. We put our lives into our ministry every week. However, because Easter is special and our guests arrive in increasing numbers we ramp up our normal strides that strain towards excellence.

Normally a casual church, our team arrived with a step-up in our dress. T-shirts, jeans, sweatshirts and tennis shoes were replaced by collared shirts, neckties, dresses and suits. Wow, everyone looked great!

Guests had arrived early. It was fun to greet them, welcome them and honestly tell them how much we enjoyed having them at our service.

I watched from the back of the auditorium as people arrive on any given Sunday. As people come in I do drive-by prayer. It is a purposeful prayer that I pray on behalf of those who enter.

Sure, I may no clue as to what is going on their lives. But, who couldn’t use directed prayers in their lives? Besides, God knows and I’m just linking with Him.

Sunday, I was ecstatic. People were arriving early. Now that is NEWS worth announcing!

That kind of crowd dynamic was generating a lot of enthusiasm. I’m not anxious about people’s tardy habits. It is a reality that can be adjusted modestly but, this is a modus operandi that has the momentum favoring the masses. Yes, this is a matter of bending with the wind rather than trying to stand against it.

But, on Sunday, Easter Sunday, it was different. People were coming in early, bringing family and guests with them. Parking is always a challenge for us so that was surely a motivation for many who were filing in and filling up seats.

In our second service I walked forward to take me seat and it was the only one left in the first row. Normally, there are plenty of seats in the first two rows. Today they were ALL filled. How great is that?

Worship was outstanding. Baptisms were thrilling. Fellowship was fantastic. Reunions were stunning. Laughter was boisterous. Prayers were effective. Several were born again. Church was just great!

photo credit: brucefong photography