By Ricky Poon
On January 23, 2021, the fourth annual INSTE Taiwan graduation ceremony was held at the mother church of Open Bible’s Grace Ministries in the Daxi District of Taoyuan City. Grace Ministries is the name given to our group of Open Bible churches in Taiwan. It grew out of the Taiwan Pentecostal and Charismatic Movement of the 1970s and 1980s.
The Daxi church was founded in 1988 by five Christian elders from three Tayal tribal families. It provided a place where yuan zhu min (原住民) (original inhabitant) Christians in an urban setting can gather to worship and serve. In December of 2015, Grace Ministries and Open Bible Churches joined in affiliated fellowship because we share a similar global vision. It was through this association that INSTE Chinese became a key component of Grace Ministries’ Discipleship Training School.
At this special graduation, 27 students in Taiwan and 10 students in Shanghai received a Certificate of Christian Ministry. Several factors made this graduation distinct. Because of the pandemic it had to be held virtually. Just a few days before the ceremony, the public health authorities in Taoyuan City ordered strict limits on social gatherings. As a result, only the students from the Daxi church were able to attend in person. Thankfully, many others were able to participate as well because the event was livestreamed over Facebook. Grace Ministries provided English interpretation for the entire event. You may view this event at http://bit.ly/INSTEceremony
When we decided to hold the graduation online, missionary Mike Lumbard, the director of the School of Global Leadership in Trinidad, and I explored the idea of inviting Open Bible Churches in Trinidad to participate. I had connections with Trinidad since I had accompanied former missionary Dr. Don Bryan to Trinidad on several occasions with the hope of introducing INSTE to Chinese Christians there.
(Left) Long Gang Church Graduates
Rev. Benjamin Agard, the National Director for Trinidad Open Bible Churches and Rev. Cecil Quamina, Director of Missions and senior pastor of the First Church of the Open Bible in San Fernando, Trinidad, sent video congratulations to our graduates. The Gates Praise worship ministry provided special music for the event, which included a video of “Hope of Nations” with Chinese captions. The common theme from Trinidad was that they would welcome Chinese missionaries. The Chinese nicknamed Trinidad and Tobago “Te Duo 特多,” which literally means “great abundance.”
On my most recent trip to Trinidad, I connected with Pastor Mark Chen, the pastor of one of only two Chinese congregations in Trinidad at that time. As it turned out, Pastor Chen’s wife provided the translation of Rev. Agard’s greeting for the ceremony. I reconnected with Pastor Chen and gave him introductory material on INSTE Chinese to consider using. The first question Pastor Chen asked was “Do you have INSTE Chinese online?” This is now a priority of the INSTE Chinese ministry.
INSTE graduates in Shanghai hold a special place in our hearts because we know the commitment and sacrifice that were required under their circumstances. They have a missionary mindset to reach those in the rural areas, to the ethnic minorities and beyond, with the Gospel.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose”(Romans 8:28, ESV)
The natural reaction to all that transpired would be, “You can’t plan this stuff!” It is another proof of the Lord’s faithfulness.
About the Author
Ricky Poon is a member of the Board of Directors of Inste Global Bible College (IGBC) and IGBC’s Assistant Dean of Chinese Ministries. He also served as a member of the University of Oregon President’s Diversity Advisory Community Council.