Ashes of the Past

“What once was beautiful–
Enthroned in light–
Has withered into ash.
Now bliss is blight.”

130323 0102 TP Assembly-001The Taiwan CI (Children’s Institute) ministry reached its height back in 2001. The Taipei seminar was filled to capacity: 450 children, with even more turned away at the door, it was almost more than the teachers could handle. As an interpreter that week, I personally had a blast, especially once I discovered that my team leader and I had the largest small group.

Two teachers. Twenty-seven children. Ultimate bragging rights!

Little did I know that not only was it the biggest team that week, there would never again be a team of that size. From that point onward, the CIs in Taiwan entered a slow but steady decline, until finally, twelve years later, they hit the low point at the 2013 Hualien seminar.

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Twenty-three teachers. Twenty-seven children. How times have changed.

For the past fifteen years, I have been involved with the Taiwanese CIs in practically every way possible. I first participated as a child, progressed to passing out materials, interpreting, teaching, and telling stories, and eventually became the director in 2007. As my responsibilities have grown, so has this once-thriving ministry withered. Despite doing my best to lead the ragged remainders, it gets rather discouraging.

“Why am I STILL doing this?” I ask myself. “Others have moved on with their lives – isn’t there something more important for me to do?”

Then guilt comes along. “Is it MY fault that the CIs have come to this? I should just give up; face it, the glory days of CI are over.”

The Israelites returning from captivity in Babylon faced a similar situation when rebuilding the temple, a legendary structure from the glorious reign of King Solomon. Upon the completion of the foundation, those who remembered the original structure burst into tears. The barely-begun temple clearly could never compare to the original. Why even bother continuing?

In the midst of their despair, God comforted them with these words, which in turn comfort me as I continue to serve in the CIs.

“Does anyone remember how glorious this temple used to be? Now it looks like nothing. But cheer up! Because I, the Lord All-Powerful, will be here to help you with the work, just as I promised your ancestors when I brought them out of Egypt. Don’t worry. My Spirit is right here with you.” (Haggai 2:3-5, CEV)

Although it would be too complicated to detail how this year’s seminars went, suffice it to say that God WAS still with us, and He still helped us to finish the work, just like He did back in 2001. You want to know more? You’ll have to ask me to find out, or better yet, join the CI some time as a teacher.

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