In our Spotlight sections, you’ll get better acquainted with ministries or members of our church in the hope that how God is working in their lives will encourage and strengthen you! This week you’re introduced to Dan Lim and his family, our local missionaries working to reach international students in the LA area!
TL: Can you tell us about yourself and your family?
DL: Sure. My name is Dan. I was born and raised in Malaysia. I’m a huge geek. I’m married to St. Jess the Longsuffering, and we have a 17 month old little rascal named Theophilus Jeremiah. We live in Gardena, where we enjoy the proximity to some pretty good food (Sorry Torrance!).
TL: How did you and Jess meet?
DL: Long story. Ask Jess. J The short version is that we met on a Christian community site (think Christian proto-form Facebook) while I was in the UK and Jess was in Boston. We started talking, and discovered that our core foundations, namely, the things we believed about God and His plans for the world, were the same. The fact that we both like exploring new cultures and are gastronomically adventurous was and is a plus. We kept talking, and we’re still talking, so that worked out. We had some adventures and misadventures when we ran into international bureaucracy, but thankfully it worked out, even if my eye still twitches at the mention of embassies and passports.
TL: You have a British accent, how does a Malaysian end up with a British accent?
DL: I was paid to go to Britain, kind of. I come from a relatively poor family. I pretty much followed scholarships, first to Canada, then to the UK. Canada lightened my already light Malaysian accent (we mostly spoke English at home), and while in the UK, I hung out with a bunch of people from Oxfordshire and London. Within a couple of years, I’d picked up the accent without realizing it. Now, my British accent is getting mixed up with the Californian accent, and I keep having to mentally translate between British modes of speech and American phraseology. The upshot of it is that I talk weird. Some people would say that’s because I am weird. No argument there.
TL: You work for ISI. Can you please explain what is ISI and what you do there?
DL: ISI stands for International Students, Inc. It is an organization that focuses on sharing the love of Christ with international students. There are currently almost 1 million international students from all over the world in the US, and about 65,000 of them are in the Greater LA area. 60% of them come from the 10/40 Window. 30% come from restricted access nations. Most of them have never met a follower of Christ before, let alone heard the Good News of the Kingdom of God. They come to America as strangers and sojourners, and we welcome them. We befriend them, help them to settle in and integrate into their new lives in the US. We try, as best we can, to love them and to show them the One who loves them more than we ever could.
My specific role in all this is as a mobilizer, which is really a fancy way of saying that I work with local churches to help them build, train and establish teams of people who will work with international students.
TL: What is the 10/40 window?
DL: The 10/40 Window refers to the countries in an imaginary rectangle, covering North Africa, the Middle East and Asia approximately between 10 degrees south and 40 degrees north latitude. This window encompasses most of the least reached peoples in the world, including most of the world’s Buddhist, Muslim and Hindu populations. 95% of the more than 4 billion people who live in the 10/40 Window are considered unevangelized. The Window also covers 48 of the world’s 51 restricted access nations. Just in case you missed it, 60% of our international students come from 10/40 Window nations.
TL: What is the goal of this ministry?
DL: The ultimate goal is to see God glorified as the nations give Him the glory that He deserves. Think about the demographic of the students described above, where they come from and where they are going. These are the future community and business leaders, lawmakers, academics of their countries and communities. What would it mean for them to return after encountering the Living God?
They know the local language, the cultural nuances, and the sociopolitical situation better than any outsider. They are not considered “other” by their families, friends and home community. They are respected because of their academic qualifications and poised to become leaders among their peers. They can reach their people groups more effectively than any foreign missionary. The goal of missions (and this ministry) is to show forth the blessings of the Gospel of the Kingdom to all nations. I can think of no better group of people who make that happen.
TL: What are some of the specific ways ISI reaches out to international students?
DL: ISI’s methodology tends to be highly relational. We befriend students, love on them, and help them as much as we can. We tend to avoid aggressive outreach, since many students have been “warned” about Christians before they come to America. An aggressive approach generally makes students run away. After all, would you take kindly to a stranger telling you that your worldview is wrong and that you will be eternally condemned because of it? We therefore seek to serve the students. We do airport pick-ups, furniture giveaways, walking tours, discussion groups (like Talk Time), cafés, conversational English groups, beach hangouts, fun cultural events and activities (which vary by location), cultural celebrations, and food. Lots of food.
Of course, whenever opportunities arise to speak of Jesus, and to share the blessings of His Lordship in our lives we take them. More often than not, the students are the ones asking, “So, why are you being so kind to me?” That’s a great opening to talk about us loving others because of the One who first loved us. Of course, there are Bible studies going on as well. The M:28 initiative has been great for getting students digging into the Bible themselves while developing skills to really examine and exposit Scripture.
TL: How can LCC partner with you in this ministry?
DL: Prayer, participation and financial partnership. I’m always looking for those who are willing to do any or all of those three. People from Lighthouse are already partnering with me in all three aspects, and I am so thankful for them. Y’all rock, but we could always use more people.
In terms of participation, Spectrum, Lighthouse’s international student ministry (ISM), is the flagship ministry of its kind in this area. Eufemio and the team are doing an incredible job befriending students and sharing their lives with them. There have been so many wonderful stories that have come out of Spectrum’s ministry. I recommend that whoever reads this go and find someone who serves with Spectrum and ask what God has been doing in the ministry. You’ll be amazed, encouraged and inspired!
TL: How can people get involved with Spectrum??
DL: Come talk to me or Eufemio. Visit Talk Time. Host a BBQ, offer to take students grocery shopping, have a movie night. Commit to pray for us and join our prayer team. We also have a Friendship Partner program, where you are paired up with an international student for an intentional friendship for a semester or more. If there are enough people, we can run a training session to get you up to speed. Basically, if you want to be involved, there are a myriad of ways to do so. Just ask. Alternatively, talk to any of the Spectrum team (there are quite a few of us). Spectrum is Lighthouse’s ministry. It is under the authority and oversight of the Elders, just like every other ministry at LCC. ISI supports Spectrum by providing resources, training, the benefit of ISI’s collective experience, and access to the ISI network of over 500 ministries nationwide.
TL: Please share how you’ve seen God’s hand in your ministry.
DL: There is way too much to share here. Have a look at my blog, Local Nations, at http://localnations.wordpress.com/, or send me a Facebook Friend request and ask to be added to my Facebook group. There are stories galore. Better yet, let’s hang out, and I can tell you the stories in person!
TL: As an ISI missionary, you rely on financial support either through regular monthly contributions or one time gifts. For those interested in supporting you and your ministry, what do they need to do?
Thank you for asking this! We are still looking for people who will partner with us financially. The easiest way is to give online via our handy-dandy, ultra-modern website at: http://www.isionline.org/Donate/DanielLim.aspx Right now, LCC supports a large chunk of our budget, so it would be great to get more individual/family supporters so that LCC can redirect some of those funds to other missionaries or needs.
TL: How can LCC pray for you?
DL: There are so many things! Pray that above all else, the glory of God would be foremost in my heart and mind. It is far too easy to let “the ministry” become more than it should be, and there is always the danger of letting what we do for God become part of our core identity. Oswald Chambers, in his excellent devotional My Utmost for His Highest writes, “The greatest competitor of true devotion to Jesus is the service we do for Him.” It is scary how easy it is to let the things we do become the thing we are. Pray also that amidst everything that is happening, I would maintain a godly discontent with the status quo, that I would be dissatisfied with just maintaining what is going on, rather that I would continually, as William Carey once preached, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” I want to see the Gospel go out into the unreached places in the world. I want to see God being glorified where He is not yet worshiped. I long to see the transformation of communities and nations as peoples turn to Christ and live out the reality that He and His way is better than anything the world could ever hope to offer. Yet, it is far too easy to get swamped with the business of the day to day and lose sight of the grand vision of God that we see throughout Biblical history and beyond.
Pray also for my family, that God’s hand of protection would be upon us, binding us together tightly in His grace, power and love. Pray that I will grow (a lot) as a husband and a father.
Pray for the ministry in which God has given me the privilege of participation. Pray that Spectrum would not only grow in number, but in depth of friendship. Pray that God would bring those students He has predestined to be His very own from before the foundation of the world. Pray that we would be good and wise stewards of the relationships He has entrusted to us.
TL: What do you like best about being a missionary and why?
DL: That’s a tough one. There are so many great things about doing what I’m doing. I think the greatest privilege and blessing is that I get a front row seat to see the Holy Spirit mess with people. I get to see, first hand, how God reaches down, touches hearts, and transforms lives. Some students come with a negative, sometimes hostile view of God, but as they are embraced by the loving Kingdom community, I get to see their hearts begin to soften. In some cases, I get to watch the miracle of the dead coming to life as eternal souls are transferred from the kingdom of death to God’s Kingdom of life. Some students then go on to become mature believers, bringing the blessing of the Kingdom of God to their friends, family and community. It really doesn’t get better than that.
TL: What do you like least about being a missionary and why?
DL: The hardest thing for me is to say farewell to students who have been with us for a while, and who have just begun to show interest in spiritual things. This is especially so if they are returning to a context where it is difficult to get plugged into a local Christian community (if one even exists where they go). If only they were here for another month, another year, who knows what God would do. However, in these cases, I have to recognize if God has predestined someone to be His child from before the foundation of the world, then they will be His, no matter what. There is nowhere on this earth and beyond that is outside the reach of His mighty arm. He will build His church, and not even the gates of hell will stand against it. I trust that.
TL: Rumor has it that you enjoy the stinky asian fruit durian, is this true?
DL: Yeah, I’ll confirm that. I didn’t eat durian for years growing up. Traumatic frozen worm experience. Ask me about it some time. At one point I figured it was kind of silly to be avoiding durian and started eating it again. It was just as good as I remembered. It’s an acquired taste, but well worth the effort. I also like natto, stinky tofu, belacan (Malaysian fermented prawn paste), spicy foods, and meat. Anyone want to do lunch?