YATES PRAYER MEMO
MARCH 24, 2012
(Last prayer memo October 16, 2011)
As I compared the date of the last prayer memo, I had a bit of a shock about how long it's been since we've written. Lots of things have happened in the mean time with us, as I'm sure it has for you.
Barbara returned to be with family members during the time of the funeral of her youngest brother, Luke in October. He died in his sleep. Barbara's Uncle Albert also passed away in late October, but she was not able to return home for that funeral.
Val and Jeff welcomed the birth of their son Garrett Isaiah Jones on February 19, 2012, born here in Taiwan. Val had a stable pregnancy and worked at the JumpStart kindergarten until near the time of the birth. Val is now on two months of maternity leave until mid April. Garrett is a healthy little boy, except for a bi-lateral cleft palate and lip. Thankfully, being born here in Taiwan, he has access to some of the best cranio-facial doctors in the world at the Sam Nordoff Cranio-Facial Center of the ChengGung Hospital to correct this problem, along with socialized medicine to pay for the costs for the minimum three surgeries he will need to correct the problem. The doctors have already begun the preparatory orthodontal treatment on his mouth to push back the extruded gum tissue to a more level position in preparation for the first surgery for closing the cleft lip scheduled for May 23 if all goes well and he has not been sick for two weeks prior to that date. He is eating normally with specially designed nipples and gaining weight for which we are all thankful. The second surgery is usually scheduled at about one year old to close the soft palate, then if all goes well, again at age 8 or 9 to graft a part of the hip bone into the palate for the hard palate correction. Pray for all the medical processes ahead and wisdom for all involved in his treatment. Pray for Val & Jeff as they adjust to the new parenting responsibilities. Jeff's parents have been visiting them in Taiwan for two weeks until next Tuesday March 27. Jeff also continues with his BA in Business through online classes, which he hopes to finish by the end of this year. That will be important to getting stable employment in Taiwan, as they now see God's provision for them is looking more like they should stay here longer term for Garrett's sake, among other things. Jeff may pursue MA level training at a university program here in Taiwan, with classes taught in English, or further online studies.
Natalie continues to search for full time employment (with medical benefits, which she does not currently have) while working part time at her old Wheaton Physical Plant job and one day a week babysitting twin boys of her former college professor. Doug will graduate from Wheaton with his MA in Biblical Exegesis in May. They are both considering applying for further education.
Jonathan will graduate in May from Wheaton with a dual major in International Relations and Geology, but will have a few summer internship credits to finish at a the Black Hills Science Station in South Dakota. He also needs to pass his Chinese language proficiency test (in simplified Chinese for the written portion, (the Mainland Chinese characters which he never studied in Taiwan which uses the traditional characters) :>( to get his International Relations major. He was able to visit Janine at Covenant College over President's Day weekend. He is working part time on campus at the sports center, part of the time supervising the rock climbing wall, which in the past two years he has really taken up as a hobby. He was out in Colorado and Utah visiting friends over spring break and got to do some sport climbing there. He is planning to do some international traveling with a college friend after Black Hills, then serve in a short term mission time in Cape Town, South Africa, hopefully returning to Taiwan in November-December with that same friend to live with us for a while.
Janine has adjusted quite well in all ways at Covenant College, outside Chattanooga TN. She has shown a wonderful discipline in healthy eating and regular exercise routines (her P.E. class teacher has helped in this a lot), maintains good grades and has some great friends that study the Bible together daily, pray and attend church together that she recently joined. She was recently formally accepted into the El. Ed. major (Covenant does screening over the freshman year), though she also really liked her Community Development class taught by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett, authors of When Helping Hurts. Janine was able to come home over Christmas break so we enjoyed seeing her growing maturity in family engagement and proactive helping. She got to play on the alumni basketball team against Karen's varsity basketball team, losing in a close 50-48 game that we went to Taichung to watch--that was fun. She will fly back to Taiwan in mid-May after swinging through Chicago for a weekend to join the graduation festivities for Jonathan and Doug at Wheaton.
Karen has done well in academics, sports and personal life in her junior year at Morrison Academy. Her varsity volleyball team won first place at the Far East Tournament in Japan in November and she was named to the all tournament team. Her basketball team placed third in the Far East basketball tournament in Japan in February. She won the free throw shooting contest among all the representative players from each team there, and made the all star team. Her choir group traveled to Manila for a Far East Choral Concert earlier this month, where she also got to see Barbara's sister, her Aunt Becca. She will leave next week March 29 for her High School mission trip to Japan to assist with tsunami relief work and some children's ministry work. She then gets a rest from all her sports and international trips after she returns April 5 until the year finishes June 2.
Trisha has been working very hard in Chinese 1st grade (every day 1/2 day, except Tuesday whole day), mostly with Barbara's help in the afternoons and occasionally a tutor we located through Christ's College. The homework load is difficult at times for Barbara to handle in terms of the vocabulary required to understand and complete the material, and even for me as the back-up consultant :>). Trisha still has a good attitude about it most days, so we keep moving her forward in this direction. She just had her 7th birthday party last weekend when Karen was home from Taichung for the weekend. Barbara made her a Barbie princess cake. Trisha has also joined Daisy Girl Scouts on Thursday afternoons at Bethany School.
Nathan was not adjusting well to Chinese kindergarten, so we decided not to let him continue this semester, and home school him in English instead. Many days I've been working with him on reading and writing before I leave for seminary in the morning. He continues to spend much of his free time playing Wii games and online Mario games, though he will gladly play table games with anyone who is willing.
Barbara has continued to sell baked good to Bethany staff and students on Thursday afternoons to raise support for Karen's Far East sports trips. She will do less of that now as the weather heats up. We both started meeting with another married couple 2xs/mo to go through the Sacred Marriage video and book since last November. We have both benefited from that study and more intentional focus on marriage issues. I turned 50 at the end of last year, so the realities of the brevity of energetic and healthy life are more significant as I consider how to redeem the time God gives me.
MINISTRY NEWS at China Reformed Theological Seminary
I finished up the fall semester classes and got to work right away on my grades in Critiquing Psychology and Luke-Acts, so that felt good to have those done quickly for once. As usual my new classes in Psalms and Marriage Counseling took some time to rework the material and the assignments before the semester started Feb 20. We are already into the semester about 4 weeks along and the pace is not too intense since I've taught them both before. However, I'm working with a recently revised counseling theology model that I'm trying to apply to the practicalities of the marriage counseling process. Very helpful in working through a revision in material have been John Piper's When I Don't Desire God and G.K. Beale's New Testament Biblical Theology, one of the first of its kind to treat a broad range of theological subjects from the perspective of the coming of the "last days," the eschaton, already-not yet new creational reign of Christ and believers. I haven't had time to read Beale's entire 1000 page book, but enjoying the mental stimulation of sampling it and considering counseling implications.
Recently I've been concerned about an issue I call "portability" in popular biblical counseling training models. Some in Chinese biblical counseling ministry are exporting the system modeled after the Westminster Theological Seminary (Phila) MA level curriculum, translating course material into Chinese and teaching a similar content in Taiwan and China. This involves a system of students taking 12 or more courses to get the full exposure to the material. While this may be of help as long as the "exporter" is available to keep teaching, and students have the money, time and energy to take so many courses, the system is not portable enough to really generate a biblical counseling movement among the average church leaders and mature Christians. Even my own Counseling Theology class taught over the past 11 years has been difficult for students to grasp with the development of a fairly complex diagram of theological concepts. Recently I've been re-reading Roland Allen's books on The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, and Missionary Methods: St. Paul's or Ours? and been struck by the portability of the Gospel message and the relatively rapid transfer of leadership to the local leaders in the New Testament church. With that in mind, I have recently reminded our FCC staff that we need to move toward biblical counseling training simplicity, centered around an integrated Gospel core that reveals a counseling theology, a counseling method and also serves apologetic purposes in evaluating psychology. If we can't communicate the message of biblical counseling in simple form, we risk fragmenting the Gospel message into topical chunks, producing methodolatry and potentially misleading trainees. Similar to a process of formatting a disc or hard drive and creating a file system to store documents, I want biblical counseling students to get the formatted structure of the Gospel message quickly, while also seeing that the categories of the Gospel structure themes offer us a lifetime, even an eternity of detail to study and enjoy. To that end I have been emphasizing a level of training that can give the big picture quickly, inviting hunger/thirst to taste and savor the biblical details as time for growth and study are invested. See recent counseling & ministry documents posted at www.friendsofcrts.org under missionaries, my name, ministry, for examples of my meaning ("Basic Counseling theology illustration," "Basic Gospel themes for counseling" and an article that took me several months to research and about 2 weeks to write, soon to be published in the seminary bulletin in Chinese, " Counselor qualifications to evaluate the role of psychology" patterned after the way God and his servants interact with the world). If you look at all three documents, you will see the integrating core themes that serve multiple purposes in the counseling and world-view criticism process. To try to expand our vision to train biblical counselors at an initial level, I developed a new counseling certificate program for the Family Counseling Center, patterned in structure after the NANC counseling certificate process in the US, but with our own content to account for the revised counseling theology I've been working on that can provide a big picture view in a brief period of time. Combining a structure of 30 hours of seminar attendance, reading, video role plays for counseling observation, 50 hours of counseling case study experience, and final exams, we hope to see this pilot program develop in the major cities of Taipei in the north and KaoHsiung in the south to see how the seminar is received. We will be offering Monday (Taipei) and Saturday( KaoHsiung) seminars about once every 4 weeks or so for the next three months to provide the seminar portion of the training. I will join in teaching 1/3 of the seminars with two other FCC staff, but the staff will manage most of the written evaluation process for the certificate. We are going to attempt to offer the program free of charge, on an offering basis only, as we have done for the past several years for all our bi-annual seminars. We have observed that we can reach 3 times more people and get about the same support for FCC through this method. The FCC also hosted Steph Hubach for a mini-seminar (with translation) on Special Needs ministries when she came to visit us here last November 2011. This fall we plan to host a seminar on dealing with homosexuality in the church, a growing topic of concern among social conservatives in Taiwan who see the Ministry of Education moving to normalize it in the school sex ed. curriculum, and the liberal Taiwan Presbyterian Church twisting Scripture to embrace it as God-approved behavior. We will invite a seminary professor from Taichung to present his research results critiquing the Taiwan Presbyterian Church published views compared with Bible teaching.
About a month ago I was asked to teach another class at a house church system in southern China, so I will be leaving next Tuesday March 27-April 1 to teach an intensive counseling theology class (8 hrs/day for 4 days). Obviously the revisions to the material noted above will be used for this class. Please pray for organization to pull my notes together and write some new stuff before I leave, determine course assignments and reading, protection from gov't security, safety in travel, health, strength and speaking voice (8 hrs of class/day), anointing of the Spirit to speak the Word boldly, clarity in the Spirit's leading about how to present the material, and good receptivity in the students, many of whom are full-time ministry co-workers. The process of assembling my material/notes for this class has been stressful but hopefully will be good for a future outline for a possible book writing project I'm envisioning on the subject.
We have had some rather large changes in what we anticipated for CRTS faculty plans for the year. One OT faculty member seemed like last October he would be leaving us in January, but due to changes in his plans he is still with us full time for the foreseeable future, which is good for us. The board just approved a new faculty member to come from the US to teach theology last September, but in December, he contacted me and resigned from the call to take a new ministry position overseeing the new Divine Hope Reformed Seminary in the Illinois State prison system, starting at Danville IL. This was a disappointment to us, but good for Danville prison!
After an eight month delay due to uncertainty about who was responsible to complete ATA material, and 7 months delay due to my busyness with other things since returning last summer to the US, and building remodeling issues after I returned, the initial Asian Theological Association accreditation application I wrote October 2011 has been updated, approved by the School Development Committee and forwarded to the Chairman of the Board and the President of CRTS for final approval. Hopefully that means we are just one small step away from sending our initial application to ATA and moving toward the accreditation team on-site visit later this year, after MUCH work in preparation. That project will take up a good portion of my discretionary time in the remainder of this year until that process is completed. All the new reports need to be prepared in English (input meetings from various constituencies: students, alumni, faculty, board, supporters) and some back translation of Chinese material (academic catalog, course descriptions, policies, etc) will need to be done so the evaluating team can see everything they need to look at. Pray for this process to go forward for the benefit of all involved so that our overall program can improve through the insights of other theological educators.
I've been out preaching in a few local churches over the past 6 months. I also taught for the initial 4 weeks (1x/wk/2hr each) at the local Christian Drug rehab co-workers training on marriage counseling from Feb 23-March 15. Other FCC staff will finish teaching the 21 week class. I was also asked to represent CRTS at one lecture of the annual Stephen Tong Lectures over the first weekend of March, attended by about 2500 people. I led the welcome, prayer time and the announcements (in Chinese of course). I also had two premarital counseling couples (CRTS students) in Nov-Dec 2011 and participated in the weddings of both couples over the Christmas holiday break. Another student's wife passed away from cancer, and many of us traveled to her home town in southern Taiwan for that funeral.
Pray for the Lord's sustaining grace to continue to be faithful to him in all the work he has put before us.