Sunday, January 04, 2009

Dubai - Heaven On Earth?

The Dubai Short-Term Mission Team (DSTMT) has had a brief taste of the so-called 'Heaven On Earth" for two weeks. Is it really as glamorous as advertized? As my flight touched down at DXB, I immediately marveled at the lavishly designed skyscrapers, competing for the pitch-dark skyline. I noticed that the airport police does not carry any visible weapon or gun. I reasoned that everyone here is so rich that they want for nothing. The crime rate here must have been much much lower than that of L.A. However, on the very next day, I witnessed first-hand the rudeness of a local Arab quarreling over a minor traffic issue. My impression of Dubai as the 'Heaven On Earth' immediately changed. At any rate, I was glad to be in Dubai as a member of the DSTMT, bringing a message of hope and love in Jesus name to the hundreds of foreign Chinese laborers we came into contact. May they all find Jesus as their personal source of faith, hope, and love, especially during today's turbulent time of global financial tsunami.

Young Chinese Professionals in Dubai

These young professionals are only in their 20s, yet they have left China and come to Dubai for better job opportunities. All of them are well-educated college graduates in China, but they are now working in hotels or restaurants as waiters and waitresses. When we played games with them, they are all full of energy. That night, I had the chance to share my personal salvation testimony, and to remind them of the importance of caring for one another, rejoicing in the Lord always, and bonding with unity in Christ. I pray that my spiritual journey can be an encouragement to these young people as they grow up through life. We left the sand dune just a few minutes after mid-night. How I wish that their future will be filled with better opportunities than what they have now in Dubai. More importantly, I pray that they will all grow up spiritually to become stronger and more matured Christian leaders when they return to China some day.

These young people enjoyed singing Amy Sand's song, especially "有一天" (One Day). Here is the lyrics: (詞曲:盛曉玫One Day music/lyrics: Amy Sand)
有一天, 你若覺得失去勇氣,
有一天, 你若真的想放棄,
有一天, 你若感覺沒人愛你,
有一天, 好像走到谷底.

那一天, 你要振作你的心情,
那一天, 你要珍惜你自己,
那一天, 不要忘記有人愛你,
那一天, 不要輕易說放棄.

這個世界, 真有一位上帝,
祂愛你, 祂願意幫助你,
茫茫人海, 雖然寂寞,
這個世界, 真有一位上帝,
祂的雙手, 渴望緊緊擁抱你,
漫漫長夜, 陪你走過,
祂愛你, 伴你一生之久.

Celebrating 2009 New Year Eve in the Sand Dune

The foreign workers work long hours. During their break time, at around 8pm, we met them in the sand dune nearby their workplace. The sand dune location is not marked at all. I am sure I will get lost if I were to go there by myself. You got to have been there a good number of times before you can recognize where exactly it is located. Of course, Pastor Sze knows the way, just like a shepherd who knows his sheep. After walking through the sand for about ten minutes, we finally arrived at our destination in a trough area away from the windward side. There we were greeted by about 30 workers waiting for the program to start. That night, we led the praise time for about 30 minutes, then sister Agnes shared her personal testimony. In the cool of desert night, Paster Sze gave a message of hope right on the New Year Eve of 2009. Then we divided up into small groups to pray for one another. We not only prayed for the future of the foreign workers, but also for the future of their mother land China. May the testimonies of these Christian workers in Dubai shine forth as the light of the world wherever they go.

There's a Story Behind Each Face

Many Chinese workers lived in the apartment complex nearby the Dragon Mart. Here sister Lo opens her apartment home for gathering. I was told a good number of Chinese workers currently reside at this small apartment. I had a good chat with brother Li Chen, who came from northern China (he is seating by the door in the picture). He told me he accepted Christ about 3 years ago, and he works in the bathroom products business. But due to the economic turmoil in Dubai, he must now return to China. It was a joy listening to his stories about his witnessing to a non-believer friend and his personal testimonies about his overcoming the temptation of greed. Along with many other Chinese transient workers, Li lived at sister Lo's apartment which is full of bunked beds. Just a side note, when I entered her apartment, I met an Indian man who is typing at a computer to access the Internet. Then I realized that sister Lo is also running a home business servicing as an "Internet Bar". To make room for our gathering that night, all of the computer terminals have already been put aside by the walls. Praise God that sister Lo is willing to let Pastor Sze use her place for fellowship and outreach. The Dubai Short Term Mission Team (DSTMT) spent some one-on-one time with every single visitors. Initially, two DSTMT members chatted with one visitor. As more visitors arrived, we divided up into smaller groups. The small room of about 200 square feet was quickly filled with more than ten tenants who just returned from their work in the Dragon Mart. Then, Paster Sze shared some words of encouragement, and publicized about the upcoming baptism a few days later (Jan 2). Praise the Lord, several of sister Lo's tenants came and got baptized right on that day. The wonderful work of God continues in Dubai.

Work on the Knees

All work begins with the words of prayer. God already knew our needs even before we ask Him. Indeed, He loves to hear our prayer. Even Christ Himself listens carefully to our petition so that He can intercede on our behalf. Right after our worship on the Lord's Day (which is on Friday in Dubai), Pastor Sze called for a prayer circle to petition on behalf of a sister (facing out in the picture on right) whose husband is still not a Christian yet. We all kneeled down and prayed fervently for his salvation. There were tears streaming down from her face. And we all look forward to hearing from our sister the good results of our prayer some day.

First Experience of a Home Church in Dubai

On the second last day of our trip, Pastor Sze requested two Dubai Short Term Mission Team (DSTMT) members, with 1 brother and 1 sister, to join him and visit a male worker camp in the suburb. He told us that the dormitory room we planned to visit is not big enough to fit the entire DSTMT team. So, he left it to our own discretion. Except for two members who had to stay behind to plan for the next day, the rest of us (2 brothers and 4 sisters) were able to sign on. Upon our arrival after an hour's drive, I immediately sensed tension in the air at the gate of the compound (see picture). Seeing a few police cars parked outside the gate, Pastor Sze cautioned that we probably shouldn't stay for too long. (We later found out that there had been some incidents within the compound earlier that day caused by some racial disturbance between the Chinese and Indian workers.) At any rate, Pastor Sze led us to a small dormitory room (about 10 feet by 20 feet) occupied by a Christian brother. Within 5 minutes, about 15 brothers showed up. Then, sister Jane shared her testimony to encourage them, and we all sang a few songs, including "有一位神" (There is One God). Then Pastor Sze's shared a brief message about peace. It was such a cozy meeting with no room to spare; everyone was jam-packed shoulder-to-shoulder just like those home churches in China. I sensed God's presence in that little room with His protective arms over-shadowing His sheep. Since it is not proper to bring so many visitors (especially females) into a male worker compound, we did not stay for too long. Right before we departed, we sang for them their most favorite song "我今天為你祝福" (Today I Bless Thee). Its lyrics speak from our hearts: "我今天為你祝福,耶和華必天天看顧, 你在家,在外,你出你入,耶和華必一路保護, 你當除去恐懼的心,因為這不是從神來, 靠著耶穌永不搖動,我們一生蒙了大福。" Trying not to cause any unnecessary trouble to our Christian brothers, we left quietly from the back side. During this quick 30 minutes visit, I witnessed first-hand the harshness faced by our brothers in the dormitory. And I felt really blessed being able to worship freely and comfortably back in the U.S.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

A Fortress in the Desert

For two weeks, the Dubai STMT (DSTMT) stayed in this comfortable two-storey house, hosted by a Singapore brother Samuel who has a vision for the gospel and a heart to outreach to the people in Afghanistan and in Dubai. His wife Ling is a wonderful cook. Here in this spiritual fortress in the desert, the DSTMT was fed healthily every morning before we departed for each spiritual battle. In the evening, after we returned from a long day of work, we were always treated with surprises and surprises of delicious dinner. I thank God for their faithful service. May God continue to bless their ministry in Dubai. Interestingly enough, a Moslem mosque is nearby this house. Every morning, the mosque's loudspeakers broadcast its chanting of Islamic prayer call at about 5am and at 7am. God does have a sense of humor; He utilized these chanting calls to keep our work schedule on time. We never needed an alarm clock to wake up.

An Evening of God's Working in Dubai

Under the cover of the night, the remaining 6 Dubai Short-Term Mission Team (DSTMT) members (Janet Suen, Stanley, Janet Lau, Vicky, Wei-Wei, and Victor) held our last rally at the designated worship center which is located about 1 hour's drive away from our residence. Upon our arrival, a crowd of more than 170 foreign Chinese workers had already gathered, eagerly waiting. There the DSTMT praised God with them together and offered our personal testimonies of thanksgiving. Actually, this rally was also a special evening celebrating the 2 year anniversary of the Dubai Ministry started by Pastor Sze and his co-workers. When Pastor Sze asked if there were any born-again Christians who wanted to be baptized, about 25 to 30 people raised their hands (as seen in the picture). Within 30 minutes, all of them (with a couple sisters) were baptized right on the spot. I thank God for the moving of the Holy Spirit. And I could clearly see the genuine smile on their faces. Though the future of these foreign workers may be uncertain, I am confident that they are all in the good care of God's loving hands, guiding them through every single step of their way. Personally, I had never witnessed such an unreserved response to the call for baptism by so many Christians all at the same time. For those Christians who have been contemplating about baptism for over ten or twenty years, perhaps this may prompt them to act more quickly to get baptized.