Since returning to Taiwan, I have noticed that everything seems to be timed. The little green man who tells you when to cross the street has a timer below him telling you how many seconds you have to get across. The red light also has a timer beside it so you know exactly how long it will take to turn green. Some of the bus stops have L.E.D. signs telling you how many minutes until your bus will arrive. We don’t like to wait, and if we know how long a red light will take, it may make the waiting easier.
As we drove up the steep road above the high rises of Taipei, we left all these timers behind us. We were headed to a retreat center where I was leading a retreat for lay leaders of Taipei churches. As we entered the grounds, I began to breathe easier. I looked forward to a slower pace and time and space to meet God and each other. A lot of what I do is lead conferences and retreats for pastors and other church leaders that are not packed so full that we don’t have time to be quiet and listen for God’s still, small voice.
I remember when I was serving as the moderator of a city aboriginal church. The elders had to decide whether to call their evangelist as their new pastor. I invited them to my house on the seminary campus. Since all three elders work late, the meeting couldn’t begin until 9:00 p.m. I had prepared some snacks for us to eat as we talked. They brought lots of delicious tropical fruits to share. After about 15 minutes of small talk, I was ready to get to our agenda. I wasn’t used to beginning a meeting at 9:00 p.m. I asked each elder to share their thoughts about their evangelist and to say whether they wanted to call him as their pastor. They replied, “We’ve just arrived. Let’s eat some fruit and then we get down to business.”
I quickly realized that I was focused on the task at hand while they were first focused on relationships. People are more important than tasks. I realized that I was on Western time and knew it was late. They were on aboriginal time, which always makes time for others.
I let go of my agenda and enjoyed the sweet persimmons and the juicy water pears. They told me stories about their families and home villages. We laughed together.
After 10:00 p.m., I sensed they were ready to talk about calling a pastor. We prayed together, and each elder shared his/her opinion. They came to a unanimous decision, without a vote, that they wanted Apay to become their pastor.
I’ve thought a lot about that experience in the busy and full days of living in a big city. Folks are in a hurry, and it is easy to forget why we are here. But I am deeply grateful for my aboriginal friends who remind me to slow down and enjoy the moments of grace that are always right before us.
Wishing you those moments.
In gratitude for your support,