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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

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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.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 3.30.37 PMBuilding buildings is a grandiose task that will negate the energy of an army of very good men and women.  But, we need a new building.  This is not an option.  If we do not then we will severely limit our growth.

The one we have has been under repair for years. We repair that wall, fix that office, reconfigure the desks, spruce up the classrooms, upgrade the equipment, rearrange office space, et cetera.  The major items like HVAC, plumbing, electrical, windows, roof leaks and the like leave us shaking our heads.

However, it is not the maintenance that keeps us wondering.  Instead, it is the space.  Enrollment has been steadily growing in our extension campus for successive years.

More students mean more faculty and staff.  More personnel means more office space.  Square footage has been as creatively sliced and diced as much as possible.

Parking is a big deal.  We have 275 students and only 50 parking places.  The neighboring streets are lined with cars and students have to walk to class in the dark.

A serious graduate school needs a research library.  Our little library has tripled in size over the last three years and it has overflowed the room where the stacks cannot be spaced any closer together.  We converted a classroom for an auxiliary library space.

It was time to move.  Hours of meetings, real estate conferences, drawings and discussion ate up time and resources.  Money was raised, donors smiled, prayers were lifted up and God blessed.

The new building was chosen, papers were signed, demolition began and architects designed the space.  Soon the dust will clear and new walls, halls and spaces will be set up.

Parking will not be a problem in the foreseeable future.  The library is the centerpiece of our new digs.  Offices are grouped for growth.  Class rooms are designed with intention rather than adapted to whatever is available.

Our Communications Office produced an artist’s conception of the new configuration.  Everyone is excited about the future.  It is just around the corner.

This summer we hope to move into the new location for DTS-Houston.  Plans are shaping up for our move.  Everyone is talking about the excitement.

Soon we can concentrate on seminary education at the highest level.  The puzzle of what to do with what we have will be a historic dialogue.  All of the energy that poured into short-term fixes will now accelerate outstanding seminary education at the highest level.  Now, that is bodacious!

photo credit: DTS Communication Department

IMG_4312Excitement and trepidation mix together every year at this time of the year.  It is the beginning of a new school year.  No it is not grammar school or high school or even college.  For me it is graduate school.

I am a professor at one of the finest seminaries in the world, Dallas Theological Seminary.  Eons ago I graduated from this splendid institution.  Now I am privileged to be on the faculty.

This scenario is a God-only kind of story.  Some marvel at the miracle of crossing the Red Sea or the leper being cleansed or the raising of Lazarus as stunning miracles.  I understand those, however, God did a customized miracle just for me.

From a shy and uncertain background I was blessed with remarkable touches by God.  He brought me to this pinnacle of a career that still has me shaking my head.  He pushed me into leadership and frightened me into working hard to achieve academic standing just for a position like this.

In my youth I never would have thought that I would make a living speaking before crowds of people.  My struggles through hours of studying and writing never prepared me to see the letters Ph.D. after my name.  Throughout my years of education I read countless books, never thinking that one day a number of books would have my name on them as the author.

God is a miracle maker not of just great events but transforming unassuming, invisible, average people into useful tools for the building up of His Kingdom.  He smiles down on undeserving people and lifts them up.  The only credit for those generous moments is His glory.

My life refreshes itself every time a new academic year begins.  In my mind and soul I rehearse the position of privilege that He has given me to serve Him.  The student’s faces are all new but the story that each share is familiar.

God took very average people, forgave their sins and transformed them into channels where His grace could be spread to others.  In our classrooms these specially called men and women are preparing to serve the lives of others.  My treat is to teach them in the field of my professional expertise, Pastoral Ministries.

The first day of class, back to school, is filled with syllabus shock, deadline due dates and tons of reading.  They will be overwhelmed but it is my joy to not just teach but guide them through the requirements. It is back to school and I am humbled to be here and loving every minute of it.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_1966Saturday was a highlight day for my week. I suppose everyday that I rise and draw breath means that any day is a  blessing. My point however, is that this Saturday was a day that I was looking forward to with a great deal of anticipation.  This was the day that my first class that I have ever taught at Dallas Seminary were coming into our home for lunch.

We had only one free Saturday before the semester ended.  This was that day.  When only one day would fit into our schedule then, the conclusion was obvious.  My bride and I marked it on our calendar and I announced the date in class.

Naturally, there were conflicts. Two students had Saturday classes and had to miss the gathering. Two more had to work and couldn’t adjust their hours. Several others had ministry obligations and could not come.  Nevertheless, we were going to have a ball with those who could make it.

The day before our gathering I had a day off.  I worked to get the house ready.  Hospitality is fun yet it does require some tidying up around the old homestead.  My bride was at work so I had the chores listed for my day-off and it was time to work like a Buc-ee Beaver, a Texas Buc-ee Beaver.

Most of the chores were easy.  I washed the dishes and put things away that were occupying the counter space in the kitchen.  Next, the Living Room needed to have some attention.  Finally, the common areas needed some TLC.

Friday afternoon I drove over to the China Cottage Restaurant.  Mary, the owner, was there.  She invited me to sit with her while she finished some paperwork.  Then, she smile, “What may I do for you?”

I laughed when she asked if I was dining alone.  “No,” I returned her smile, “I am having some very special guests over to our home tomorrow for dinner.  What would you suggest I serve?”

“Oh, this will be important to select some wonderful items from our menu,” Mary glowed.

“OK,” I joined in on the anticipation, “Let’s have a variety of beef, chicken, pork and seafood.”

“Very good,” Mary chimed in.

“I was thinking of your delicious chicken chow mein.  Then, everyone likes your sweet and sour pork tenderloin.  We need some vegetables, so how about an order of your green beans with beef?”  my suggestions had come from thoughtful preparations.

“Come back tomorrow at 11.15AM and it will be ready, ” Mary assured me. This was going to be a fantastic gathering.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography



 Dallas was our destination.  It was the first of undoubtedly many road trips to our Headquarters for one of the finest theological educations that is possible.  Our Houston campus is growing and we need to keep the lines of communication and prayer between our two cities as wide open as possible.

The weather was very hot.  We didn’t eat much on our journey.  But, the liquids kept our whistles wet. 

Some snacks kept our tummies happy.  Some times it was salty other times it was sweet.  But, always it was modest.  Hot weather has a tendency to do that to the human body.

But, our minds were focused on saving our appetites for a pleasant dinner.  After a day of meetings and introductions, the sun set low enough for us to lay out our plans for dinner.  We check on-line and decided to give a local eatery a chance.

We were the only ones who were there.  It is a small establishment with limited parking.  But, we felt excited to see what the local city buzz was about this place.

First, we ordered our ala carte entrees.  My bride’s choice was scallops.  I chose duck.  Together we selected their Brussel sprouts as a shared side dish.

Pleasant conversation took over and time passed quickly.  Our meal showed up with a kind of aroma that makes a modest day of eating shockingly ready for deep satisfaction.  The sprouts looked wonderful. 

But, we all turned our attention My Bride’s dish.  Her scallops made me second guess my choice.  It’s a good thing that she always shares her dinner with me.

When we both took a bite of that savory scallop, we released our “umm good!” at the same time.  They were fresh, sweet, tender and flavored to gratify the palate.

But, I was not to be disappointed.  My duck was succulent, tender and full of flavor.  The combination of vegetables that blanketed my meal was delicious.  The sauce was not too overwhelming and the preparation in the kitchen had removed all of the tough parts of the duck meat. 

 Do you see the blueberries that were used to bring just the right amount of fruit sweetness to this dish?  It has to be one of the most memorable duck dishes that I have had in recent days.  If you’re ever in the neighborhood, stop in and give Urbano Cafe in Dallas a try; it was delicious and delightful.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography