Thursday, July 24, 2014

Completing the work in Taiwan

Reverberations Music
Fulfilling the prophecy

During our orientation in Pine Mountain, Ga, prior to departure for Taiwan, we received a visit from Dr. James Belote, the Area Director for East Asia. As we discussed our new assignment, he outlined my primary responsibility, which was as Music Promoter for the island of Taiwan.
As he was leaving, he casually mentioned that I might perhaps be spending some time teaching at the Baptist Seminary, and maybe working some at the Radio-TV studio there. At the time, neither of these two possibilities appealed to me, because I was focused on the music needs of the churches.
From previous posts, I think you can see that I did indeed spend time working in all three of these areas, and occasionally at the same time. During one of our terms there, the mission elected me as Mission Chairman, which was another task added to the ever-growing list of duties for which I was responsible.  However, God was gracious and gave me the strength, wisdom and endurance to complete all the tasks competently, while directing the YMCA Oratorio Choir, and leading a new mission effort to be constituted as a church. Of course, Nannette provided invaluable spiritual and emotional support, even during her busiest times. Without her I would not have accomplished very much.
The Reverberations (chorus) continued to perform in concert as well as recording music for broadcast through the programs initiated by the Baptist Mass Communication Center. One of the last concerts was held at a church in Keelung resulting in 21 professions of faith. The final concert was held in the Jung Shan Hall in Taipei. More than 20 young people gave their lives to Christ following this evangelistic effort. A link to the concert (as well as some more recent songs by the Reverberations) is provided.
After being the leader in three successful church starts, it seemed appropriate to us to consider the possibility of serving as a music missionary in some other country. So we asked our Area Director if there was a request for a music missionary outside of Taiwan. In the ensuing weeks, personnel requests from a number of different areas were shared with us. The one that seemed more suited to my abilities and experience was from Cali, Colombia, to work in the Communicaciones Bautistas Internationales (Communication center). It was with mixed emotions that Nannette and I pursued this request, and after several months, found ourselves saying goodby to friends and co-workers that we had known for years. We felt God's leading as we headed for the US, our furlough, and then language study (again) in Costa Rica.
The prophecy by Dr Belote had been fulfilled, and it was time to move on to the next assignment.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Missions--Stateside Assignments (formerly furloughs)

Most missionaries are expected to return to their home base from time to time for rest, renewal, replenishing, and to do "deputation." This means speaking in various churches or missions emphasis settings about missions in general and more specifically the kind of work we do "on the field." In addition, the goal is to challenge the churches to join in the mission effort by engaging in prayer and financial support. Another goal is to "call out the called" by presenting the needs overseas and inviting prospective candidates to respond to the call as God leads them.  Here we are doing "deputation" with children at a church.
Some whose sending agencies do not pay them a salary must raise their own support, thus making the "furlough" that much more important. For those appointed by the International Mission Board (formerly Foreign Mission Board) not only did we receive a salary while on the field, we were also supported while we were stateside, preparing to return to the field. By requesting permission from our Board, missionaries could spend part of their furlough doing further study at an approved theological institution  It had been my dream to pursue a doctorate at Southwestern Baptist Seminary, and so I requested a "study furlough" for our first stateside assignment. Since I had done post-graduate work at New Orleans Baptist Seminary prior to appointment, I assumed that some of the courses would transfer to Southwestern. 
Dr and Mrs. James C McKinney

Upon arriving in the US following our first four years on the field, we were privileged to live on the campus of Southwestern while doing graduate study there. Fortunately, during our first term we hosted Dr. James C. McKinney and family as they stopped over in Taiwan en route to Hong Kong where he taught at the Baptist College there.

Dean McKinney with Music Campers
While visiting in Taiwan, Dean McKinney participated in our Summer Music Camp.

Since I had received my Masters in Church Music from Southwestern, and had done graduate work at New Orleans Seminary, I was exempted from taking entrance exams, and began taking classes immediately. Being back in an academic setting was very stimulating to me.

One of the many advantages for me to study at Southwestern was the opportunity to meet and learn from Dr. T.W. Hunt, professor of music missions.

Dr T.W. Hunt
His passion for using music in the missions enterprise was not only inspiring for me, but informational as well. He knew so many music missionaries and shared so much information with me that I was able to "hit the ground running" in making preparations for doing research for my dissertation.

So, in the fall of 1974, I began a journey toward my DMA, a journey that would take more than fourteen years to complete.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Nannette's ministry to families

While Milton was busily engaged in the music culture of Taiwan, Nannette pondered what her ministry would be when our children became more independent, and eventually leave the island for college in the US. She did not have to ponder long, for God began opening doors for her. As our two MK's studied at the Taipei American School, Nannette often visited the campus, befriending some of the teachers and becoming acquainted with the school and its objectives. On one of our stateside assignments, she enrolled in the Social Work program of study at Southwestern Baptist Seminary.
She focused on Family Counseling, later graduating from the Seminary and completing the requirements for certification as a social worker in Texas
This training opened up many opportunities to minister to the expat and Chinese communities.
She was encouraged to run for the TAS school board, and was elected, much to the consternation of some missionaries associated with Morrison School system. When TAS was seeking a new high school principal, she was involved in the selection process. Later, Taipei International Church set up a ministry to the expat community called "Gateway." Later, a counseling center was established in connection with Gateway, a non-profit ministry for the expatriate community. It was named appropriately "Community Services Center" and Nannette was approved as one of the first counselors.
In addition to her ministry in the expat community, doors opened up for her within the missionary community as well. Because of her training and skills in counseling, she was often asked to travel to other Asian countries to assist with the needs of missionaries there. She was also called upon as a Bible teacher and speaker in Taiwan and in other Asian settings.

Although she was told she was not the first choice by our Administrator, she was asked to assume the position of Coordinator of the Language Orientation Center for our Baptist Mission. To her credit, she worked under some unique pressures from within our own mission. The Center actually had three locations, one each in Taipei, Taichung and in Kaohsiung, and was charged with the responsibility for preparing new missionaries to minister in Mandarin, Taiwanese and Hakka languages.
The main center was in Taipei, where we were living at the time, but the branches in the other cities demanded attention also, so Nannette frequently traveled down-island to deal with some of the unique challenges each center faced. Though separated by distance, she still had the full responsibility for teachers and curriculum for each location, a fact that some of the missionaries tended to forget or ignore. She also was responsible to the Mission Administrator, who in turn was subject to the Area Director and ultimately the International Mission Board. When guidelines were handed down from the Board through the Area Director and the Administrator, it was Nannette's responsibility to see that they were adhered to, much to the dismay and disagreement by some of our missionaries, old and new alike.
It did not help that the Assistant Director (who was Chinese) understood that she had earlier been promised the position of Director. However, our Administrator preferred to work with missionary personnel, thus creating friction between the Director and Assistant from the beginning. Also, another missionary had aspirations to assume the position but was not chosen adding to the intrigue associated with LOC It was to Nannette's credit that she was able to handle the pressures from the IMB as well as from within our Taiwan Baptist Missionary community, while assisting her husband with a new church start and assisting with counseling at the Community Services Center. She would credit her faith in God and the strength and wisdom that the Holy Spirit supplied that sustained her during her three year tenure at LOC.

Finally, the pressures began to take their toll, and she decided that it was time to relinquish her role as Director. She will never get the credit she deserves for guiding LOC through some very productive but challenging times, but her husband and others know the outstanding leadership she provided during those times, and many new missionaries received excellent training in language and culture due to her perseverance and skills as a leader.
When we were asked to assume responsibility for a new work in the gated community known as Long Shan Lin, located on the outskirts of Taipei, we moved there to begin the last phase of our ministry in Taiwan. But that story is reserved for the next post. Stay tuned!!!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Taiwan: Opportunities for Teaching

Upon our arrival in Taiwan, it became evident that some of our missionaries and co-workers were  unclear as to what my role was to be. Before we left the US, our area director Dr Belote, had indicated that some of my responsibilities could include assisting churches with their music needs, teaching some classes at the Baptist Seminary, and working at times at Baptist Radio-TV Studio. So, Seminary staff expected me to spend my time there, the Radio TV ministry director wanted me to be there full-time, and of course those working with the churches were preparing for me to use my gifts and talents in that area of ministry. As it turned out, during our years in Taiwan, I did indeed work in all three areas, often during the same time period.
Pictures of Nannette and I in a village near Chaiyi. We used an autoharp to sing with the children. Missionary Bob Greene had invited us to accompany him to the village where he ministered.

To be truthful, I felt called to work directly with the churches, and focused my attention on their needs. Of course, I began working with the Studio while I was studying language, but at the same time, I responded to requests to assist with training for those directing the church's choirs. While I had expected to be able to share my vocal talent in the worship of various churches, I was surprised that I was never invited to do so. When I asked why, a pastor informed me that they preferred the music of the choir, since no one person's voice would stand out, tempting one to be prideful. I innocently asked "Then why do you only have one person to preach?" No answer was given in response. But when I was asked to preach in some of the churches, I did take advantage of the opportunity to establish good relationships with the pastors. And, at times Nannette and I were asked to sing for weddings.

After several  years on the field, I was formally invited by the Chairman of the Music Department at the Seminary to come direct the Seminary Choir. It proved to be a real challenge, since rehearsal time was after the last class period and prior to the evening meal, and every student was required to participate.. We had 45 minutes twice each week to prepare music for a Christmas program. Some of my most memorable experiences came from directing this group. From the first rehearsal to the final performance, it seemed each of the students was intent on giving their best effort for the Lord and for their school.
Due to their diligence, the group was able to achieve a high level of success, singing some of the choral classics as well as indigenous Chinese hymns, and a few compositions by Dr Chang, Music School Chairman. Below are some photos of the Seminary Music Building, and the Seminary Choir in rehearsal and singing for the Baptist Convention.

Later, I was asked by Dr Chang to teach a few courses in Church Music, taxing my language ability. The time came for Dr Chang to go to the US to pursue his doctorate. Imagine my surprise when I was invited to serve as Chairman of the Music School during his absence. What a responsibility! But Father demonstrated His love and mercy so that the school survived the intervening months until Dr. Chang returned with his diploma in hand. We all rejoiced, and I continued teaching part-time at the Seminary and directing the Seminary Choir.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Taiwan: The Music Ministry Grows

As the churches in Taiwan grew, so did the opportunity for ministry through music. Chinese TV channels increased from two to three, Pirated recordings of music were available at almost every corner. Chinese believers living abroad provided  yet more music resources for local musicians. One of the Christian organizations in Taiwan that had a tremendous influence on the music used in churches was Overseas Radio and Television. Doris Braugham and Lee Haggerty combined to form a powerful evangelistic team that used music to penetrate virtually every area on the island with the gospel. Doris is an excellent musician, utilizing her skills as a choral expert and  trumpet player to train and develop local musicians, as well as performing herself with various music groups.

They utilized a small musical ensemble called "Heavenly Melody" that communicat,ed the good news of salvation through evangelistic concerts, recordings as well as radio and television appearances.
I had heard of this group prior to our arrival in Taiwan through Benjamin Kuo, music director for the Ren Ai Baptist Church in Taipei, who was in the US on a study leave. Their musical style was unique, and very popular among the younger generation of church musicians. In addition to concerts around the island the Heavenly Melody singers traveled throughout Asia, Europe and the US. In the early stages of our own Reverberations development, their choral publications proved to be valuable resources for our young group, as the music was upbeat and readily received by believers and non-believers alike.
For more information on this wonderful organization, visit their website at ORTV

When we arrived in Taiwan, there was a dearth of music for church choirs. Some students and others who were studying abroad sent back a few anthems or cantatas, but their use was often confined to one or more churches. Through the efforts of musicians such as Benjamin Kuo, some music publications were made available to the public, and sung by local church choirs.
As the Reverberations grew in popularity, many choir directors began asking for copies of the music they performed. I began corresponding with the publishers, requesting permission to use their music to provide more choral literature for the Chinese churches. Most were very co-operative, and either granted gratis permission, or only charged a small fee. However, the most difficult publisher to deal with proved to be our own SBC Church Music Department. To be honest, it was not because they were not willing to work with us, but because they were limited in their ability to grant copyright permission because of an agreement with the Foreign Mission Board to work exclusively with their publisher in Hong Kong, Baptist Press.
There were many obstacles to working with Baptist Press in Hong Kong, and some were impossible to overcome. Baptist Press had a high standard for publishing music, and seemed unaware of the flourishing market in Taiwan for good choral music at a reasonable cost. Music published by HK Baptist Press was expensive due to their high quality standards, and thus not very marketable in Taiwan. For that reason, we used mostly music from other publishers.
Local church musicians took advantage of training opportunities to hone their conducting skills in addition to learning more about how to begin and maintain children's choirs. Nannette was very active in the training of these musicians.

Nannette also  saw the need for children's music and published a collection entitled "When Children Sing" (孩歌唱) complete with a cassette tape of the songs. She worked with our own Mass Comm Center to produce the cassette, using a small instrumental ensemble, including an autoharp, with two adult singers.
A picture of the recording appears below.

Due to the increasing number of churches and the growing demand for music appropriate to the abilities and desires of the local choral groups, I felt that Baptists in Taiwan needed a center that would help to supply at least some of the music needs. With the approval and support of the Taiwan Baptist Mission, the Baptist Church Music Center was formed, and office space was provided in the Mission's office building.
Soon, music was being supplied by the Center for the choral ensembles in churches across the island. Several collections of music popularized by the Reverberations were also published, all with the copyright permission obtained by the original publishers. Below are some of the cassette tapes that accompanied these publications.

  It was very gratifying to see many young people come to know the Lord through the ministry of these publications and recordings, as well as the evangelistic concerts by the Reverberations.

Promise of the day from God's word.

Ecclesiastes 11

1 Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Taiwan: Return to the field

Following approval from Richmond, we made arrangements to return to Taiwan as soon as possible. We were able to keep the house where we had been living, and were assigned a new car as well. So our "homecoming" was very joyful and gratifying. Of course, we returned to language study (Two full years plus were required by the mission.) The Reverberations had been rehearsing some during my hiatus, and our reunion was very encouraging.
It is difficult for me to recount accurately the sequence of events over the next few years, so I will simply summarize.
Some of the pictures I will share have already been posted on Facebook, but they are a part of the story, so I will post a few here.
Some early pics of the Reverberations. (Many members are now married with grandchildren!)
One of our first performances at the Baptist Seminary: (no uniforms)
First Performance on TV Chen Jia Mei (Esther) accompanist.  

Frank Liu, guitar
Famous Trio
Lyou Interview

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Taiwan: Return to the US--Faith put to the test.

Following my "heart attack", I spent several weeks in the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital in Taipei. The doctors had monitored my heart from the time I was brought in, and had determined the location of the damaged quadrant. After some time, I was transferred to the Baptist Camp at Lingtou (next door to Calvary Baptist Church,) to recuperate. Living at the Camp was truly a blessing. The air was fresh, and much cooler than down in the city. Our cook came periodically to prepare our meals, but mostly Nannette took care of us, and I for one enjoyed her home cooking.
Our children enjoyed living there, but missed their friends. However, when the time for Baseball came around, our son Phil was enrolled in the T ball league. I had begun to do some walking exercises, and was able to attend some of his practices and games. But it was Nannette who made it possible for him to participate.
It is important to make note of the following information in order to fully appreciate what transpired in the US
 After moving to the Camp, I had been walking every day, extending the distance until it was almost two miles. I felt great, but was kept on a tight leash, just in case. One day as I was praying, it seemed the Lord asked me what I really desired of Him. I replied "to be healed." The response was simply "It is done." Naturally, I was elated, and shared this with Nannette and we were very encouraged.

The medical records from the hospital were forwarded to our Board's Medical Consultant, who then shared them with a medical conference on heart problems among younger men. (At that time, I qualified.) Pursuant to their evaluation, I was requested to return to the US, to have a special test (catheterization) to determine more accurately what damage had been done, and what surgery would be needed to correct the problems. When the word came from Richmond that I was to return to the US for tests and possible surgery, I was disappointed and confused. Had I not asked for and received a promise for healing? Then how was I to interpret this development? But the Lord was in total control and I need not have worried. According to FMB (Foreign Mission Board) policy, I was to return home on a medical furlough.. I had wanted to stay the full four years so I could take a study furlough and pursue a doctorate at Southwestern Seminary. Fortunately, I had made this formal request through our mission, so there was a record of it. But this would negate any such plans, so we trusted the Lord and prepared to return to the US.

Our Business Manager, Harry Raley, arranged our trip back stateside, and  included several stops along the way. The first was an overnight stop in Tokyo. After a nights sleep, we went down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. When our meal was over, on our way out of the restaurant we encountered an elderly Japanese businessman, who seemed to be taken with our daughter Emily, who was about five years old at the time. She had blond hair and was Very Cute. As we entered the elevator, the man got on with us, and was still on the elevator when we got off on our floor. Upon entering our room, our daughter Emily showed us several bills that appeared to be some Japanese currency. When we asked here where she got them, she said that nice man in the elevator gave it to her. As it turned out, it was two bills, $20,00 yen each. We were flabbergasted to say the least. I hurried back down to the restaurant to return the money, but the man was gone. No one seemed to know him and assured us that everything was okay. I did not know it at the time, but the money would be just enough to cover the cost of Emily's pre-school in the US.
Our second stop was in Honolulu for several days. Apparently all were concerned that the trip would be too stressful for me, and so the stops would give me time to recover. The days in Hawaii were very pleasant indeed and we each got nice tans.
We arrived in the US, refreshed and ready for whatever the Lord had in mind for us. Southwestern Seminary allowed us to stay in one of the missionary houses on campus, and Emily enrolled in the Pre-school program at Gambrell St Baptist Church. Soon, we contacted the medical facility in Dallas where my catheterization was to be administered. I arrived at the appointed time, and finally was able to see the doctor. After a brief stress test on the treadmill, the doctor sat me down and gave me the facts. "We will do the catheterization as scheduled because your mission requested it. But I can assure you that you did not have a heart attack."  The procedure was done, and after a short time, I went back for the final word. According to the doctor, there was not even a scar anywhere, which would have been the case had I really had a heart attack.
No one was more jubilant than I as I returned to our apartment to share the good news with Nannette, a genuine answer to prayer. Then I called and talked to Dr. Fowler, our medical consultant, to give him the news. He then transferred me to Dr. Winston Crawley for further consultation. When I shared the news with him he was very positive, and remarked that with this evaluation, our medical furlough status could be changed to a brief medical leave. He added that we could return immediately to Taiwan and then I could continue my plans to return after four years to take a study furlough.
What a whirlwind trip, and a real boost to our faith. God had provided everything we needed and answered all our prayers. The missionary couple who lived next door remarked how my countenance had changed with that news, from a gloomy and sad appearance to one of sheer joy.
So, we made our plans to return to Taiwan to resume our ministry there. Sadly, because Emily had to leave the preschool program at Gambrell St, it was closed due to lack of students. Otherwise, it had been a remarkable and inspiring spiritual  journey.
The following verse is our testimony to the faithfulness of our Lord. Believe Him and He will make a way for you.


Jeremiah 29:10:    …I will visit you and perform my good word toward you and cause you to return to this place, for I know the thoughts I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.