CETS First Trustee and Staff Retreat

Gathering in the Sunshine State at the Year's End

At the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, the board of trustees and all staff members of Covenant Evangelical Theological Seminary (CETS) held a retreat in Orlando, the heart of the Sunshine State of Florida.  During the conference, the vision, calling, and prospects of CETS ministry were reviewed and evaluated. Through face-to-face communication and sharing for the first time, the understanding and trust among coworkers were strengthened.  Orlando Chinese Evangelical Christian Church (OCECC) provided the location and facilities for this retreat free of charge.  The brothers and sisters of that church also provided bountiful treats for the seminary's staff and family so that we didn't just feel the Spring-like weather, but also the warmth of being in God's family where all the brothers love one another.

Except trustee member Dr. Enoch Wang, who was unable to attend on account of the northern airport being snowed in, all of the other trustee and staff members were able to arrive at Orlando as planned.  During the retreat, high-tech communication methods were used to broadcast the conference live to other coworkers of CETS in China and North American so that they were also able to participate in the air.  The whole retreat was conducted in an atmosphere of thanksgiving and praise, and the all participants deeply felt the grace and blessing of "the Lord's Providence from beginning to end" in this special season.

Vision, Calling, Prospects

The theme of this retreat was the Vision, Calling, and Prospects of the Theological Educations in Chinese churches.  On December 31, 2010, the members gathered together for dinner and then introduced themselves and shared their experiences in God's grace.  In the morning of January 1, 2011, Dr. Biao Chen , Vice-Chairman of CETS Trustee and senior pastor of OCECC,  played a video that he brought back from the third Lausanne congress. This thirty minute video looked back on two thousand years of church history from the mission perspective.  Afterwards, Rev. Peter Liu, Chaplain of CETS and Senior pastor of Jackson Chinese Church, delivered a sermon to exhort the co-workers, encouraging them to not be discouraged by difficult circumstances and not to put their hopes on any person's strength or resources, but to rely solely on our Savior, following the Lord Jesus who begins and accomplishes our faith with our whole hearts.

Rev. Biao Chen Rev. Peter Liu Dr. Hongjun Li

Finally, Dr. Hongjun Li, President of CETS and Ruling Elder of OCECC, shared the vision, calling, and prospects of theological education ministries in Chinese churches.  He reviewed the brief history of Chinese church and compared it with the two thousand church history, presenting the urgency and importance of orthodox Christian theology in the role of reforming the Chinese church on her walk in the truth.  He analyzed the advantages and shortcomings of the prevailing “fast-food style” theological training ministries in the Chinese churches, evaluated the challenges and difficulties to establish formal seminary level theological educations. Then he boldly presented some proposals and practical solutions towards these difficulties.  Finally, he introduced the newly established web-based theological education ministry of Covenant Evangelical Theological Seminary.  He shared the vision and confirmation of the starting of this ministry, and then presented the current situations and the strategies in short term, middle term, and long term developments.

In the afternoon, all leaders of CETS introduced the ministry of their department.  These leaders are all highly gifted workers of Christ.  They created complete and detailed working plans for each department according to the current situations of CETS, and future development direction and goals.  Mrs. Wang Jin Liu, Secretary of the Trustee and one of the founders of CETS, who used one year to build up a complete an online teaching platform from scratch, is now leading the Student Services Department. It’s hard to imagine that a gentle wife and mother would be able to stand as a warier to take the most difficult task and fight the toughest battle in this ministry field.

Jin Wang, Director of Student Services Department Xia Chen, Director of Comptroller Office Tony Guan, Director of IT Department

The Academic Department is temporarily coordinated by Dr. Hongjun Li. With the cooperation of all teachers and teaching assistants, the teaching plan was completed successfully in every semester.  Mrs. Xia Chen and Mrs. Helen Fan, comptroller and accountant of the Financial Department, established a complete budget plan and accounting system for current operation, and developed detailed financial policy for long-term development.  Dr. Xiaotao Guan, director of the IT Department, and Mr.  Zhaojun Li, technical expert in IT development are two giants in the team, not physically, but spiritually and skillfully. They are not only responsible for keeping the teaching and web platforms running smoothly, but also responsible for managing data, maintaining communications between departments, and developing high-tech grading and record keeping systems.  It truly is God's grace and blessings that CETS has such a wonderful group of co-workers who have vision, passion, calling, and gifts.

In the evening, Dr. Biao Chen led the group touring the Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM), a ministry partner of CETS, and visiting the Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) in Orlando.  In introducing these theological ministry organizations, Pastor Chen, on behalf of the Board of Trustees, encouraged the co-workers and gave many valuable suggestions for the ministry.

Knowing Names, Recognizing Faces, Understanding Hearts

CETS conducts all of its operations online. Before this retreat, all coworkers could only communicate through email and over the phone, and most of them had never met in person. Through the same vision and calling, though they were just acquaintances by names and voice, they were able to work with one heart and in one Spirit, and maintain trust to each other.  One of the goals of this retreat was to have an opportunity for all coworkers to meet face to face so that they could know each other more intimately. In the short period of interaction and sharing, they will be drawn even closer to each other to enhance team work in God's great love.

When the long-awaited day arrived and the co-workers meet together, they didn't need to introduce themselves because everyone had already recognized each other by their familiar voices.  The feeling of brotherly love arose right away as if they were old friends reuniting.  Through just over one day's worth of time, a busy day meeting in conferences, eating dinner at Dr. Li's house, and that night's testimony, the friendship deepened not only just among the co-workers but also in their families. All realized that this ministry was not limited to the responsibility of the coworkers. Their spouse and children are inseparable members of the integrated team, sharing equal responsibilities in supporting this ministry through prayers, financial offering, and family affaires. Through their honest sharing, they truly saw how God had gathered these families together to be one another's blessing and to complete the work He had entrusted to them.

Visiting IIIM Ministry

At the dawn of 2011, CETS's first trustee and staff retreat was concluded in praise and prayers.  Each attending returned to their home and church, with vision, calling, and commitment to serve the Lord through CETS, a ministry with full of challenge and difficulties, in the hope to create deep impact for the rising of Chinese churches, the fastest expanding frontier of the kingdom of God.