By Merla Gogel, SEND Canada — Tina, born into a Buddhist home in Taiwan, learned early in life to worship the family idols and pray to her ancestors. But at the end of her first year of junior high, Tina faced a crisis. She was told that her grades were not good enough, so she would not be allowed to enter the second year. This was humiliating! Tina cried and cried; at the end of each day, she wondered how she would face the next.
Tina was so ashamed that she wanted to commit suicide. But at this very low point, Tina remembered what a Christian classmate told her: “Jesus loves you!” Tina did not think that was possible, but if there really was a God who loved her, she wanted to know him. Tina decided to set aside her thoughts of suicide and begin studying the Bible.
Tina came to believe that her classmate was right — Jesus did love her. In her last year of junior high, Tina was baptized. Though her parents initially were very displeased, eventually both of them also believed and were baptized.
What if they heard about Jesus?
Tina was able to continue her studies and even went on to university. After she graduated, God provided a job that included travel to Japan. Tina learned that more than 25,000 Japanese commit suicide every year. She thought back to the time when she had wanted to end her life, and she wondered — if those people had heard about Jesus and had a totally different life like she had experienced, would they still have prematurely ended their lives?
She thought back to the time when she had wanted to end her life, and she wondered — if those people had heard about Jesus and had a totally different life like she had experienced, would they still have prematurely ended their lives?
Tina began praying that the Japanese would know of Christ’s love. God took those prayers and began putting on Tina’s heart a burden for the Japanese. Eventually, she decided to enroll in seminary to prepare for ministry.
While in seminary, Tina met SEND missionary Scott Powell, who arranged a vision trip to Japan for her. On that trip, Tina observed that many of SEND’s missionaries taught English. Since Tina did not have a good grasp of the language, she decided that SEND was not the organization for her. However, she fasted and prayed and saw that God was indeed leading her to SEND. She became the first Taiwanese to join the organization!
In her first term, Tina spent a significant amount of time talking to Japanese Christians, with the goal of understanding what they think about Christianity and why they come to Christ. Through these conversations, Tina discerned how to conduct outreach. God also gave Tina opportunities to share Christ with the unbelieving family members of these followers, and the father of one of them was baptized last year!
Ministry in the face of tragedy
During Tina’s second term, a devastating earthquake and tsunami hit the Tohoku Region of Japan. Tina and her pastor immediately began making trips to provide relief assistance to the victims. She later became one of the first SEND missionaries to move to the Tohoku area, which afforded her the opportunity to minister on a deeper level to people with whom she had established relationships during her earlier visits.
While on home service in Taiwan, Tina found out she had cancer. Tina prayed for God to heal her, so she could continue ministering in Tohoku. She had surgery but miraculously never required any further treatment!
Tina helped to start a food bank for earthquake and tsunami victims, even though she was told by some people that such a ministry would not work because it is “not the Japanese way.” Eventually the church she worked with saw the benefits of the food bank and started a nonprofit organization to continue this ministry of engaging the victims of the disaster.
Now Tina is involved in a house church ministry where she disciples the leaders, and from this house church she hopes to be part of starting another one.
Her gifts for God’s glory
Tina notes that, while SEND’s membership is largely comprised of North American missionaries, her experience has shown her that SEND respects missionaries of all nationalities. SEND has accepted her gifts and given her freedom to be involved in the ministries that God has provided. After the tsunami, Tina understood why God led her to SEND – to be a part of forging the ministry in the disaster area. Tina is filled with gratitude to the SEND Japan family for helping her not only to survive in Japan, but also helping her to thrive in ministry.
Serving on a multicultural team has not been without its challenges. For instance, because so many of her co-laborers speak English, Tina sometimes struggles at meetings or conferences to understand everything. Before joining SEND, she prayed about this foreseeable challenge. God promised to help her with her concern; Tina testifies that he is keeping his promise!
Dave and Eileen Barkman lead the team in the Tohoku area, which includes workers from Taiwan, Hong Kong, the U.S. and Japan. They appreciate that the different nationalities on the team bring diverse ministry perspectives and unique strengths. A Japanese lady recently told Eileen that Tina’s testimony helped her see that, even though she is Buddhist, it is possible to become a follower of Jesus.
Tina praises God for his calling on her life and for the ministry that he has given her. It is Tina’s heart to see more Taiwanese believers, as well as believers from other Asian countries, join SEND and become part of the global movement of Jesus followers making disciples among the unreached. Join Tina in praying that God would raise up many more Asians to become cross-cultural ambassadors for Christ.
More Better Together stories
- Four strengths of multicultural ministry teams: Many people associate ethnicity with religion — to be X is to believe Y. Multicultural teams contradict this notion by their very existence.
- ‘Vital instruments’ in new faith: Four Latin American interns passionately share their faith in Thailand, and two young women decide to follow Jesus!
- Missionary, know thyself: Multicultural teams work together more smoothly when each member understands their own culture. These questions can help.
- The best kind of breakdown: More time at the mechanic means more opportunities to share the love of Christ.
- Unity prayer for multicultural teams: Five ways to pray for the kind of oneness that attracts the unreached to Jesus.
- Check out the resources on SEND’s Better Together page.