Asian Christian theology Hwa Yung

Book Summary: Mangoes or Bananas? by Hwa Yung

Mangoes or Bananas?: The Quest for an Authentic Asian Christian Theology by [Yung, Hwa]

Mangoes or Bananas?: The Quest for an Authentic Asian Christian Theology. By Hwa Yung. Oxford: Regnum Books International, 2014, 6372 locations, $8.69 Kindle edition.

It is undeniable that the Western Church has made great strides in bringing the Gospel to Asia within the past few hundred years. However, the Gospel is not the only thing we have brought to the Two-Thirds world. Along with advancements in technology and medicine, Western missionaries have also brought (some might say imposed) traditions and customs that are quite foreign to Asia. In doing so, Asian believers have historically struggled to understand how to live out their faith in Christ within their respective cultures. Hwa Yung, Bishop of the Methodist Church in Malaysia, deals with the growing “dissatisfaction with Western theology” among Asian Christians in his book Mangoes or Bananas? (Kindle location 209). Yung’s aim is not simply to inform Western believers about the issues Asian Christians are facing, but to encourage Asian Christians to devote themselves to developing biblical, contextualized theology for their specific contexts.

I would like to bring a few things to the readers’ attention before I go any further. The book is split up between 9 chapters: Introduction, Toward a Theology of Mission, Criteria for Missiological Theology (Parts 1 and 2), Asian Theologies up to World War Two, Ecumenical Theologies After World War Two, Conservative Asian Theologies After World War Two, Toward an Asian Christian Theology, and A Personal Journey (in the Second Edition only). Being that chapters 5-7 deal heavily with the works and influence of other Asian theologians, I will be commenting on Yung’s understanding of how their ideas have shaped Asian theology, rather than critiquing them directly. With that being said, Yung is a conservative evangelical so it will be apparent for readers to know where he stands in relation to the others. Finally, it will be difficult to understand a majority of the book without having a basic understanding of what Paul G. Hiebert calls “the flaw excluded middle” (Kindle location 1491). For Yung, any theology, whether it be Western or Asian, that does not address both ‘high religion’ and ‘folk religion’ is seriously lacking (Kindle location 245). Additionally, any theology that fails to speak to ‘signs and wonders’ of the Holy Spirit does not fully address the Asian Christian’s worldview (Kindle location 4634).

In Chapter 1, Yung takes the time to point out some of the main issues being faced by Asian Christians, issues that imported Western theology has either addressed improperly or neglected entirely. Yung claims that the differences between Asian and Western histories, as well as, worldviews are among some of the biggest hurdles to overcome. Additionally, Yung writes that Enlightenment thought, which has heavily influenced Western theology, “produce[s] a climate of skepticism that hampers the genuine expression of biblical faith (Kindle location 256).” Perhaps the most intriguing of the issues mentioned is that Western theology is viewed as ‘unengaged’—it has “emerged out of the academic and speculative tradition, rather than pastoral and missiological practice (Kindle location 337).” Yung uses these issues as a springboard for discussing the importance of contextual or ‘indigenous’ theology (Kindle location 425). Additionally, Yung emphasizes that a contextualized Asian theology will be birthed out of a proper understanding mission theology (Kindle location 652). Throughout the rest of the book, Yung keeps the theology of mission at the forefront of his mind, for which I applaud him.

Chapter 2 is essentially an analysis of what theology of mission is and is not, or better yet, what it should be in relation to developing Asian theology. Being that Yung is affiliated with the Lausanne Movement, it is no surprise that he takes a look at how it has helped shape our understanding of the mission of God. Yung also does a good job here of pointing out the good and bad that has arisen from a more ecumenical approach. For Yung, mission is “comprehensive,” not confined to evangelism or church planting, rather it includes “deliverance from diseases and demon powers, as well as sociopolitical action and justice in the world (Kindle location 1219).” He carries this discussion over into chapter 3, “Criteria for a Missiological Theology (Part 1).”

Again, Yung takes the time to stress how vital contextualized theology is. Specifically, he provides definitions for things such as evangelism and pastoral ministry from a missiological perspective (Kindle location 1443). Western readers may disagree with his conclusions, especially in terms of the role ‘signs and wonders’ play in ministry, but they cannot deny that the issues addressed are questions that non-Westerners have. Being that I now live in Asia, I found Yung’s conclusions to ring very true. I especially liked the following statement: “For, if our worldviews miss out on some dimension of reality, we will fail to bring the gospel to bear that aspect of reality (Kindle Location 1524).” Western Christians can learn a lot from Yung in this regard; we not only need to contextualize our theology, but we need to also consider the blind spots our own worldviews may have to reality. Thankfully, Yung states, the Holy Spirit can be trusted to lead people in the way of truth despite our mistakes (location 1717). Chapter 4 (Part 2) deals heavily with the hot-button issues of pluralism and inclusivism. Yung argues that these are not really Asian notions, although aspects do exist in some Asian religions. Instead, He argues that pluralism and relativism came out of liberal-Western thought (Kindle location 2261). Furthermore, Yung explains that the majority of world religions are actually exclusivist in many of their claims.

Suffice it to say, Yung finds many problems with Western liberalism, but to be clear, he is not anti-West. In fact, readers will find many places throughout the book where Yung celebrates all that the Western Church has done for the Asian Church. (Kindle location 4472). However, he stresses the idea that Asian Christians should be mindful and vigilant as they theologize for themselves, being careful not to make some of the same mistakes the Church in the West has made. In chapters 5-7, Yung is not simply looking at some prominent Asian theologians in recent history, he is demonstrating the ripples that Western liberalism and dualistic thinking have created in Asian theology. This idea is best summed up at the end of chapter 7: “Underneath the Asian ‘clothes’ and ‘colors’ that have been given to these theologies, we have found layers and layers of Enlightenment and dualistic thought. It appears that mature examples of a truly contextual Asian theology have yet to emerge (Kindle location 4094).” In chapter 8, Yung proposes some key ideas to consider if the Asian Church want to see a change in this trend.

Yung likens chapter 8, “Toward an Asian Theology,” to the drawing together of threads. All of the issues have been presented; it is now time to present some solutions. I personally believe this is where Yung’s writing really shines, as it is exceedingly practical and contextual for Asian readers, and helpful for Western missionaries. First, Yung list off some of the ‘literary genres’ Asian theologians should devote themselves to addressing; they include: biblical exegesis, apologetics, systematic theology, ancestral practices, ‘healing, exorcism, and the miraculous,’ Christian leadership patterns, ethics, personal ethics, and a theology of social engagement. While Yung commends the Church in Asian for its good grasp of evangelism and pastoral care, he argues that much more can be done to help Asian Christians “come to a deeper grasp of the message of the Bible in its totality (Kindle location 4191).”

Yung also mentions some of his concerns for contextualization in Asian theology, one of which may not sit well with more conservative believers. Yung argues for more ‘dialogue with Asian religions’ to show respect, effectively communicate the Gospel across cultures, and cooperate with those working towards social change (Kindle location 4398). While I agree with Yung’s reasons for dialogue, I did feel uncomfortable with his position on “salvation of those who do not have explicit faith in Christ (Kindle location 4407),” but perhaps this is because of my conservative background. I think herein lies one of the reasons Yung wrote the book. It is easy for me as a Western missionary to simply teach what I have been taught without contextualizing or considering that I may be wrong. So, although some discomfort may arise for Western readers from what Yung says, it is not because Yung is unorthodox, rather some issues Western minds have never really tackled. It here that the Asian Church can be of significant help (Kindle location 4218).

Since chapter 9 is more autobiographical and in Yung’s own words “repetitious,” I will conclude with his postscript which explains the title of the book itself. However, I encourage readers to interact with Chapter 9 as it helps paint a picture of how Yung has had to wrestle with many, if not all, of the issues presented in the book.

Yung brings his book to a close by comparing the differences between a banana and a mango. He explains that while Asians love bananas, they are “of uncertain origins (Kindle location 4483).” The mango, however, is uniquely Asian— “the sweet, succulent flesh of the mango is prized much more highly (Kindle Location 4488).” In relation to theology, Yung believes that a majority of Asian theology is like the banana. It looks yellow on the outside, but on the inside, it is white. In other words, Asian theology is just Western theology dressed up to look Asian. Yung says we need more mangoes, or Asian theology that is Asian through and through. He says this is crucial if Asian Christians are to develop a “clearer sense of self-identity” and to heal from any divisions caused by the impositions of those ‘without’ (Kindle location 4504).

As an American Christian living in Thailand, Mangoes or Bananas? is one of the most helpful and insightful books I have read since moving overseas. It opened my eyes not only to the issues my Asian brothers and sisters in Christ are facing, it also taught me how my own culture has influenced the Church in Asia today. Being that this book is more academic in nature, I know that it will not appeal to everyone. However, I think this should be required reading for seminary students regardless of what continent they are serving. The Western Church needs to become much more acquainted with the plight of the Eastern Church. Yung’s book is a great place to start!

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Monday Motivation – September 9, 2019

News

Expanding the Digital Footprint of Our Churches

Still trying to figure out how to use social media to the glory of God? You’re not alone, friend. Here is a helpful article from Ed Stetzer that I think will help us all as we head into this work week (source: Christianity Today).

Benny Hinn Renounces the Prosperity Gospel?

This video clip has been making the rounds on the internet this past week. If it is truly sincere, then this is something to celebrate! If it turns out to be just “talk,” then Christians everywhere need to become more and more vigilant. I do pray that Benny would come to know and embrace the Gospel of our Lord, Jesus Christ (source: YouTube).

Sanders: My Administration Would Feature Population Control In Climate Fight

There is much I could say about Senator Sander’s remarks, but I’ll just say this: the rhetoric he uses in this video is beyond troubling to me (source: the Washington Free Beacon).

Does a Remote Worker Need to Put in 40 Hours?

As someone who works odd hours with strange schedules, I struggle with this issue a lot. I am glad to hear some Christian voices starting to address these questions because tons of my friends work or have worked remotely in the past. Let me know if you have any suggestions or advice on this topic as I am curious to hear other people’s opinions (source: the Gospel Coalition).


There are 3.1 billion unreached people on the planet even though experts estimate that the church has 3,000 times the financial resources and 9,000 times the man power to finish the great commission.
#TheSend

Posted by The Send on Thursday, September 5, 2019

 

Note: This post is not an affirmation of The Send movement, rather it is a reminder that the Church has little excuse for not going to the unreached.


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Monday Motivation – September 2, 2019

News

Desegregation Plan: Eliminate All Gifted Programs in New York (source: New York Times)

A friend of mine shared this New York Times article on Facebook recently. It is somewhat of a long read, but I think it is an important read, especially for teachers and those serving in youth ministry. Here’s an excerpt:

As the city has tried for decades to improve its underperforming schools, it has long relied on accelerated academic offerings and screened schools, including the specialized high schools, to entice white families to stay in public schools. But at the same time, white, Asian and middle-class families have sometimes exacerbated segregation by avoiding neighborhood schools, and instead choosing gifted programs or other selective schools. In gentrifying neighborhoods, some white parents have rallied for more gifted classes, which has in some cases led to segregated classrooms within diverse schools.

Bible Translator Butchered to Death in Cameroon, Wife’s Arm Chopped Off (source: Christian Reporter)

“Bible translator Angus Abraham Fung was among seven people said to have been killed during an attack carried out by suspected Fulani herdsmen sometime during the early hours of Sunday morning in the town of Wum, according to Efi Tembon, who leads a ministry called Oasis Network for Community Transformation.”

This is such a tragic story, but I find peace in knowing that Angus is now in the presence of his Savior. Be in prayer for his wife, Eveline, as she mourns the loss of her husband and recovers in the hospital.

Patterson Denies Claims in Former Student’s Lawsuit (source: Baptist Press)

Here is the latest development I have heard for those of you who have been following this story: “Neither the seminary nor Patterson disputed the rapes but did dispute numerous allegations in the suit involving the student’s interactions with Patterson and other seminary staff. Patterson’s court response stated that he “was not a cause, the cause, the sole cause, a proximate cause, the sole proximate cause, or a contributing cause of any injuries or damages claimed by Roe.”

Surgeon is Hailed as a Hero for Completing Seven Operations Without a Break Before Falling Asleep on the Floor (source: Daily Mail)

“Dr. Dai said it was his responsibility to give patients treatment as soon as possible to help them recover. He added that his goal was to further improve his surgical skills and make his operations textbook examples for his peers.”

Kudos to this guy!

6 years later, Hannah Truelove’s Murder Remains Unsolved (source: 11 Alive News)

This story is very close to me because I knew Hannah; she was on my bus in middle school and we went to the same high school together. I pray that God would bring justice to this situation and answers for her family.


Attention Parents:


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Monday Motivation – August 26, 2019

Monday Motivation consists of links to articles, books, podcasts and/or music I am enjoying at the moment. I hope that they bless you as you begin your work week.

News

Thai boy rescued from cave recounts harrowing ordeal one year later: ‘God answered me’

Here is a short quote from Adun, the only Christian among the 13 boys: “Help came from God during the hardest time,” Adun said. “I very intently prayed, and God answered me with His help. It was me and God together facing that situation, and I am thankful to Him for helping me get out of the cave.” (source: Fox News)

How the Shortage of Young Men in Churches Affects Marriage

Editor at the Gospel Coalition, Joe Carter, examines the recent data coming out of the Institute for Family Studies. What do you think? Did you meet your spouse in the church? (source: the Gospel Coalition)

Facebook’s AI team maps the whole population of Africa

I thought that these maps were fascinating. I am curious to see how missions agencies and NGOs will use this information in the days to come. (source: Tech Crunch)

Greg Laurie: Johnny Cash Sometimes Heard Holy Spirit Say, ‘I Still Love You’

American evangelist, Greg Laurie, takes a look at the faith of the Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash. I believe he has also written a book about Johnny Cash’s relationship with Lord. Be sure to check it out! (source: Charisma News)

Mexican pastor shot and killed after Sunday church service

On a much more serious note, be praying about this situation in Mexico. May God strengthen the families and congregation directly affected by this tragedy. Lord, come soon. (source: Christian Post)

Planned Parenthood Refuses Title X Funding in Response to Trump Administration Restrictions

“Prior to its withdrawal, Planned Parenthood was receiving $60 million of the $286 million allocated annually through Title X. The organization will continue to receive roughly $500 million in annual Medicaid reimbursements from the federal government.” (source: National Review)


Watch the animated film “The Pilgrim’s Progress” for Free (2 days only)

Here is the trailer!


 

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Monday Motivation – August 19th, 2019

Monday Motivation will consist of links to articles, books, podcasts and/or music I am enjoying at the moment. I hope that they bless you as you begin your work week.

News

Americans Spend More Money on Pet Halloween Costumes Than Reaching Lost: Missions Expert

Andrew Scott, president of OM USA, addresses some of the problems and issues surrounding mission work among the unreached, as well as, strongly urging for a mass sending movement of Christians to work in these places.

What Do You Do If Most of Your Church Members Do Not Live In the Community?

In this article, Thom S. Rainer answers a frequently asked question about how church geography and demographics interact with one another. Does your church reflect the demographics of the community in which it is located or does it stand out as being very different?

Dayton Shooter’s Scrawls Reveals He Fantasized ‘Hunting’ for Humans

In light of the recent events in America, I think it is important to remember that there is always a underlying spiritual battle going on. It begs the question: do American pastors know how to identify and respond to demonic oppression? Do we still believe it exists?

Eugene Bach Talks About Their New Pill-Sized Hologram Bible!

Check out this Missions Pulse podcast clip! It sounds crazy, but I sincerely hope it’s not for the sake of the persecuted church.


This Young Man’s Poem

 

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Let’s all strive to be more aware of those around us this week. They might be going through something more difficult than we even realize.


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Anselm's Proslogion Summary

Every Christian Should Read: Anselm’s “Proslogion”

Introduction to Anselm

Although Italian born, Anselm is most notably remembered for being the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 to 1109 (Wikipedia, “Anselm of Canterbury”). Anselm was a theologian and philosopher who was heavily influenced by Augustine in his theology and style, with most of his writings being in the form of dialogue (The Westminster Dictionary of Church History, 28; class notes, 32). Anselm is often cited as being the father of Scholasticism, as well as, “the originator for the ontological argument for the existence of God (www.britannica.com, “Saint Anselm of Canterbury”).” While he may have died over 900 years ago, his writings, especially in regard to “soteriology and Christology…continue to stimulate theologians” today (WDCH, 28).

Introduction to the Document

Written between 1077-1078, Anselm’s Proslogion (read online) is considered to be one of his greatest works (Wikipedia, “Anselm of Canterbury). Proslogion, meaning “a speech made to another,” reads as a prayer from Anselm to God (94). In this extended discourse, Anselm aims to prove the existence of God with the argument that God is that “than which nothing greater can be thought (100).” Anselm is specifically addressing the foolishness in saying “there is no God (Psalm 14:1).” He claims that even an atheist can imagine a being “that which nothing greater can be thought,” including the existence of said being. The argument found in Proslogion has come to be known as the ontological argument for God’s existence (WDCH, 27).

Summary

  1. Prologue
    1. Understanding the purpose and title
  2. Anselm’s Argument for God (Chapters 1-5)
  3. The Nature of this God (Chapters 6-23)
    1. Reconciling seeming contradictions about His nature
    2. Embracing God’s transcendence and eternality
    3. Understanding the oneness of the Godhead
  4. The Blessings of Believing in this God (Chapters 24-26)

In his Prologue, Anselm explains that the Proslogion was not something that came easily for him to write. In fact, he almost gave up on the project to prove God’s existence with an argument “that needed nothing but itself alone for proof (93).” However, one day the argument materialized “in the very clash of his thoughts (93).” He decided to write his thoughts down in a prayer-like, contemplative format that expressed the struggle in trying to comprehend God’s existence and nature. While the document had other titles (“A pattern for meditation on the rational basis of faith” and “Faith seeking understanding”), Anselm settled on Proslogion after being “encouraged by a number of people” to put his name to the work (93-94).

Anselm begins (Chapter 1) by calling on divine help that he might think rightly about the God whose existence he is setting out to prove (97). Anselm prays that the Lord might make Himself known, in order that, he might better understand who God is. For Anselm, belief precedes understanding; furthermore, he states, “unless I believe, I shall not understand (99).” In chapter 2, Anselm explains what exactly it is that he believes about God. He believes that God is “than which nothing greater can be thought (99).” Anselm also believes that the things that exist in both the understanding and reality are greater than those that exist only in one’s understanding. Therefore, according to Anselm, God (as defined above) must necessarily exist in reality, not just one’s understanding (100). Anselm claims that it would be foolish, “stupid” even, to deny God’s existence because “it is so evident to the rational mind (101).” Anselm praises God for His illumination, so that even if he wanted to stop believing, he cannot deny that he now understands that God exists (101). And this God does not simply exist, He exists as “the greatest of all beings, who alone exists through himself and made all other things from nothing (102).” To Anselm, God is more than just good; He is supremely good. Specifically, God is “whatever it is better to be than not to be (102).”

Anselm now turns to address some of the questions that arise from defining God in this way. For example, Anselm claims that it is better to be able to perceive things than not, so God must be percipient. But, Anselm asks how is this possible if God is not a body, for “only corporeal things can perceive (102).” He concludes that God, being spirit (which is better), perceives things in the most supreme sense. It is a perception that is not limited by the body’s senses (102). Additionally, Anselm says that God’s omnipotence does not mean that God has the power to do anything. He cites that God cannot lie because that would not be the better thing to do. Rather, God’s omnipotence means He “does nothing through weakness, and nothing has power over [Him] (103).” Weakness, as defined by Anselm here, means the power to do something one should not do. In other words, mankind’s ability to do these things does not demonstrate power, it demonstrates weakness.

If there is no weakness in God how then, Anselm asks, does one reconcile God’s mercy and impassibility? Anselm argues that from man’s perspective it only seems that God is merciful in the human sense, meaning God feels compassion and sorrow in His heart. In reality, mankind is simply experiencing the effect of God’s mercy, not that God is actually “afflicted with any feeling of compassion for sorrow (104).” Applying this knowledge of God’s mercy, Anselm goes on to explain how it is that God can show mercy to both the good and the wicked while remaining just. Anselm claims that God’s goodness is “incomprehensible;” furthermore, God acts of goodness do not always make sense to the human mind (104). While God is justified in punishing the wicked, Anselm concedes that it is better that God would both punish and spare the wicked. God’s sparing of the wicked can make the wicked good, and according to Anselm, is, therefore, just in doing so (106). In fact, God is “in keeping with [His] goodness” by sparing the wicked not according to their merits (106). In regard to God’s mercy, Anselm concludes that whatever God wills is just; on the other hand, whatever He does not will is not just. There is no inconsistency between God’s mercy and justice in Anselm’s eyes (107).

Anselm moves on to point out more about the uniqueness of the God “than which nothing greater can be thought.” Anselm lists that God exists independent of anything else (107), is “unbounded and eternal (108),” and can be found by those who seek Him, although only in part (108-110). In response, Anslem prays, “Truly it is more than any creature can understand (109).” Upon considering these things, Anselm revises his initial statement, declaring that God is actually “something greater than can be thought (109).”

Following this assertion, Anselm explains briefly some of the effects that man’s sin has had on the pursuit of understanding God. He explains that “the senses of [his] soul have been stiffened, dulled, and obstructed” because of sin (110). So, even though (in some indescribable way) God can be sensed by the soul, Anselm says God remains somewhat hidden (110). It is at this time (Chapter 18) that Anselm calls upon the Lord for help once again, in order that, he might reach Him and understand Him (111). Anselm comes to Him pondering the things that God is: life, wisdom, truth, goodness, happiness, eternity, and every true good (111). He makes it clear that while God is many things, He is not the sum or composition of all these things. In the words of Anselm: “[God is] not a plurality… [He is] in fact unity itself (111).” Anselm claims this unity also applies to God’s eternity. That is to say that God’s eternality is not split up between “yesterday, today, and tomorrow,” instead, the eternal God exists “outside time altogether (112).” While there are other eternal beings that exist, Anselm says that their eternity cannot be equated with God’s, for He possesses both eternity past and eternity future. In fact, God’s eternity “contains even the very ages of time (113).” This ultimately leads Anselm to conclude that God alone is who He is (113).

Anselm continues his thoughts on God’s unity and goodness by examining them in light of the Trinity. Anselm argues that whatever one person of the Godhead is, so is the Godhead altogether (114). To summarize, the Word (the Son) is true as the Father is true, and the Spirit which proceeds from them both is nothing less than what They are (113-114).  For Anselm, this “supremely simple unity” within the Trinity is the “one necessary thing, in which is all good (114).”

Finally, Anselm reflects on just how great this supremely good God is (114). Anselm asks if things such as created life, salvation, and “wisdom in the knowledge of created things” are truly good things, how good then must the God who created these things be (114). Furthermore, how many blessings await those who love this God (115)? Anslem states that whatever good thing one’s soul earnestly desires that is what God shall grant him in Heaven (115-116). It will be so great that the believer’s “whole heart, mind, and soul will be too small” to contain his joy (116). Anslem concludes his prayer by saying if he cannot fully understand the greatness of God in this life, he looks forward to understanding Him fully in the life to come, when he “[enters] into the joy of [the] Lord (117).”

Significance of the Document

Anselm’s Proslogion is a significant document for the Church in several ways. First, it is a study in how to approach theology from a place of humility. Anselm’s format of a conversation with God serves as a reminder that theology, or the act thereof, is an act of worship. As Anselm said, the person who desires to understand God must believe in Him first. Second, the Proslogion is foundational to understanding an ontological argument for God’s existence. By appealing to the mind, Anselm demonstrates that a belief in God is actually far more rational than a belief that God does not exist. Third, Christians can learn much about God’s nature and attributes from reading this document. By presenting questions and subsequent answers, Anselm helps walk believers through the difficult concepts that arise from studying God’s nature. Finally, Proslogion is also a beautiful reminder of the glory that is to come for believers. Anselm’s work is an example of how important it is for theology to be practical and pastoral. Proslogion has stood the test of time because it stirs both the mind and the heart.

The Father who saves fathers

The Father who saves fathers

I have hesitated for a long time about talking about this publicly, but last year I spoke to my biological father for the first time ever. It actually happened while I was reading my Bible. I heard my phone buzz and saw that I had a message from someone on Facebook. When I saw the name…I froze. I realized it was someone with my biological father’s name. But could it really be him?

I clicked on the notification and read the first line of his message to me. I knew instantly it had to be him because he was talking about things no stranger would know about me. He said a lot of things in the message, but ultimately, he said he wanted to have a relationship with me if I was interested.

It is important for you as readers to understand that I am 25 years old. My parents divorced before I was born. I had never spoken to this man. I only kind of knew what my father looked like from pictures that were taken before I was born. And all I ever heard about him was that he was a very nice man, but he had somewhat of a tumultuous past. I had also been told that he had been in and out of prison over the years. In other words, it was hard to know what to think, let alone how to move forward with my day.

My world had been turned upside down. My initial reaction was that I wanted to tell my wife. But it took me all day to muster up the courage and find the words to tell her. In fact, I ended up blurting it all out right before my wife had to go to work. It felt good for me, but my poor wife had to work for several hours with that bouncing around in her mind. My wife is so good to me, by the way. It just needs to be said again.

After praying to the Lord and talking with my wife, I decided that I would respond to his message. I wanted to at least keep the lines of communication open. Obviously, it is very difficult to start a relationship with someone who lives on the other side of the world, but it was my hope that we could at least get to know one another to some degree.

Over the next few days we would message off and on. And that is when I heard the glorious news that he had become a Christian while in prison. In fact, now he is an evangelist to those with similar backgrounds.

It was at this moment I was reminded again of the greatness of God. Not only did He change my life, he changed my father’s. Not only did He become the Father I needed, He became the Father he needed. Over the years, people have often asked me if I wished I had grown up with a dad or if I would change anything about the past. I wouldn’t change anything because everything that I have experienced led to this wonderful revelation:

God alone has the power to redeem.

He is not limited by our mistakes, failures, or weaknesses. He isn’t indifferent towards our pain or circumstances. He is not slow to move or respond. He does everything in His perfect timing. And there isn’t a single person who is beyond His reach.

God is a loving Father who saves–not only scrawny, 13 year old boys, but also the fathers they have never met.

Glory be to God the Father of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!