Southeastern serves university students in Taiwan

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Southeastern professors Walter Strickland, special advisor to the president for diversity and instructor of theology, and Benjamin Quinn, instructor of theology and history of ideas, led five Southeastern students on a weeklong mission trip to Taipei, Taiwan.

The students participated on the trip to support the International Mission Board’s (IMB) ministry efforts in Taiwan.

This was Strickland’s first and Quinn’s second trip to Taiwan with SEBTS. Strickland sees the trip as a way to fulfill the Great Commission. “As an individual it shapes me to be a person who is Great Commission oriented,” he said.

Quinn said, “Much of Taiwan has never heard the story of Jesus. It is a place where we can go and share the Gospel without having to look over our shoulder. This provides a huge opportunity to go and make disciples of all nations while encouraging personal formation for us and students.”

Taipei is a large city in Taiwan, but is not large compared to other major Eastern cities such as Beijing or Hong Kong. With a population of approximately eight million people, the city has about 800,000 college and university students. This is in comparison to the 150,000 college and university students in the Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina area.

“In Taiwan, only two percent of the population is Christian but the people are very open to the Gospel,” Quinn said.

The team experienced the culture of Taiwan by tasting unique foods popular in the region such as eggs boiled in tea, squid on a stick and bing, a dessert made with condensed milk, crushed ice and fruit.

Rob Riley, a 2003 graduate from Southeastern with a Master of Divinity in International Church Planting, his wife Pam and their three children, are a dedicated IMB missionary family serving this student population.

Riley has served in Taiwan for five years, for a total of seven years in East Asia. He is one of the College at Southeastern’s partners for the Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies degree program where students spend a semester abroad in a strategic ministry location.

“I think Rob Riley is one of the best missionaries we have,” Quinn said. “He has a strategic focus towards college and university students. This is an area dense with students and at the surface does not look too different from a western city. However, when you interact with the people they have a very different worldview, and you know you are in a very different place.”

Jenny Citarelli, a College at Southeastern student, said, “Out of the three missionary families I met in Taiwan, all three of them worked for the IMB and two of them studied at SEBTS. For one of the first times I witnessed the real people and places much of our focus and money is directed towards. I have never been so proud of my school and denomination. God is doing great things in and through them both, and I’m so grateful to be a part of it.”

Quinn believes that good missionaries are marked by focusing on their callings when circumstances are challenging and the culture is difficult. They love people and have a genuine desire to learn the best way to serve.

As part of his ministry, Riley teaches classes on college campuses including English as a Second Language (ESL), a life skills class, an American civilization class and a “The Cosby Show” class. “The Cosby Show” class has seen the most “conversion fruit.”

The team visited classrooms and performed a formal, dramatized presentation of the Gospel to 350 students. Ninety percent of the viewers had never heard the full story of Jesus. Then they would break up into small groups to discuss the story of creation, fall, redemption and restoration in Christ Jesus. The Southeastern students met with the Taiwanese students outside of the classroom for coffee or other activities.

Citarelli said, “One of the lessons God taught me is the importance of being humble and dependent upon Him to save. During my time in Taiwan, I experienced the joy and hope found in totally relying upon Him instead of my own strength or even the strengths of the members on the team.”

Quinn enjoyed jamming with a local Taiwanese musician to popular American hits such as “Sweet Home Alabama.” He used this as an opportunity to ask him about Jesus and share the Gospel.

“This area requires a lot of patience. It typically takes nine to 10 months of conversation before the students ask good questions because the way they view the world is drastically different,” Quinn added. “One way to connect with the people was by being very personal at a heart level first and then the head level second. It was helpful to begin by sharing our own story of personal brokenness and the healing that Christ offers.”

Strickland shared that he would highly recommend going on an international mission trip because it will help someone to fully understand the heart of Southeastern Seminary as a Great Commission seminary.

“The trip made me into a more mature and missional disciple of Christ by reaffirming my desire to serve overseas one day,” Citarelli said. “It gave me a better understanding and passion for the current ministry work I do in North Carolina.”

To view photos from this trip, please click here.

To learn more about international mission trip opportunities at Southeastern, please visit The Lewis A. Drummond Center for Great Commissions Studies website.

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