Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Book

Every Monday at 9 am I stand at the gates and wait for the children to arrive at the school. As I see the buses pulling up, I wave at the kids, I see all their smiling faces and their hands waving back at me. Mondays are always busy days since the kids are receiving lessons and getting instructed on what will be going on the rest of the week. Some days go by faster than others yet there are always moments where my relationship with each student grows, whether it's by playing a game with them, playing a sport, trying to talk to them, taking selfies with them or just holding their hand. 

When Thursday comes around the kids know that it is their second to last day here, they start giving me sad faces or bringing me their workbooks to sign. When one student sees that I am signing a book he or she quickly runs to get their book so that I can sign it as well and then a whole chain of students want me and the other teachers to sign their books.

This whole book signing process has made me feel really special. I was amazed at how many kids wanted my name to be on their book, how many kids wanted to hug me or give me high fives and how many wanted to take a selfie with me. I started to think of ways that I too can make them feel special. Then bam it hit me; I can have my own book where the kids can write their names so that I can remember them. 

Even though it will be very hard to remember each and every one of the kids that come to our school it’s still great seeing their smiles when I ask them to sign my book. Seeing them make sure that all the other kids have put their names on my book makes me so happy because I can see that these children are caring and want everyone else to join in on the fun.

Not only will I remember how many kids I’ve taught so far but I can also pray for each name that has been written in my book. Such young lives can one day leave a big impact on this world. I can only pray that one day they come to know Christ where they will really know what it’s like feel special and that they were created in their own special way for special reasons. 

"Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving." -Colossians 4:2 (ESV)

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Juliana (also called Julie) Pinilla is eighteen years old. From New York City, she just graduated from high school and is currently taking a gap year by serving in Taiwan. Growing up in a family with six siblings and being the third oldest, she has loved taking care and teaching her younger siblings. Her dream was to one day become a teacher and now she is pursuing that dream by teaching English in Hualien, Taiwan. You can find her either journaling by the beach or spending time with Brownie, the school dog. She hopes to show the love of Christ through her actions and words to everyone she meets.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Love Speaks Louder than Words

"I love you." Or "我愛你." Such simple words, but they convey so much.

With each week comes a new group of kids. These kids come from all kinds of different backgrounds. Some live with their grandparents. Some only have one parent, while others have both parents. Then there are those who have neither. Some have disabilities. Whether it is something that you can see or something hidden from the naked eye, it can still have just as important of an impact.

In essence, I have no clue as to how they've been raised up to this point. I don't know what their home life is like. I don't know their stories. I don't know anything but a few facts about each of them. That tells me nothing about what the person is actually like. It doesn't tell me what they value. It doesn't tell me what their personality is like.

Each kid is different. Sure, they can look exactly alike. I've had a set or two of identical twins. But as you start to get to know them, as people and not just names and some facts on a piece of paper, you will start to see how different they are. Every kid has different interests. Some kids are quiet and shy. Some kids are loud and energetic. Each of them were designed by God in an unique and special way. Not one kid is like another.

While kids are different, there are certain things that all kids need no matter what. First and foremost, love. Each and every kid needs love, but love means nothing if it is only spoken. It is not believable if it is only said. Love has to be shown. Love is a verb. And just like any other verb, it requires action.

Because love is an action, it is something that can be shown without necessarily having to communicate or know the language. So being in a foreign country should never stop anyone from showing love. No matter where you are, you can always show love.

That is something that I've been learning to do with the kids I teach. I'm still working on it. I think it's something that I'll always be learning. In what ways can I best express love? I try to think of that when I spend any amount of time with the kids. Time is short and every moment is precious.

This doesn't just apply to kids. This applies to everyone. The people you work with. Your neighbors. Your friends. Your family. This applies to every single person.

You'll be surprised to see how well the love that you give is received. So what if there's a language barrier? They can see that you love them through your actions. Actions speak louder than words ever could. Just don't be afraid of showing love to those around you.

"We love because he first loved us." -1 John 4:19 (NIV)

Let's take these words to heart. We could all use a little more love in our lives. 

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Gabriela (better known as Gabi) Dixon joined VOICE Missions in August 2019. Being a military brat, she has spent her whole life moving around the U.S. Her love for traveling has now grown to an international level since she went on her first missions trip to Ecuador in May 2018. It also made her realize just how passionate she is about kids and missions. Now that she lives in Nantou, she hopes to be a light to her coworkers and each and every one of the kids she meets. When she is not working or pursuing her major in history, you can find her having adventures with friends or doing some of her own creative/inspirational writing or just singing her heart out.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Saying "See You Later"!




After being in Taiwan for almost 6 years now, God has led me to continue to pursue my degree in social work. I've seen the great need for believers to step in and help children especially. That being said, my next step is to move to the US to study. It was really hard to tell this news to my kids at the orphanages where I've been volunteering for years. There were many reactions. There was the wide-eyed stare, the gasp, the red-rimmed eyes, the fierce hug, the "why do you have to study in America?!" and the quiet acknowledgment. As I have been slowly saying my "See you laters" to so many dear friends and students alike, there have been a few things I've been reminded of:

- For the ones who know Christ as I do, we will definitely meet in heaven (and I definitely plan on seeing them again soon before that!). There is so much comfort in this and encouragement, too, to know that even if we are thousands of miles apart, God is still active in our lives no matter where we are.

- The local church will continue to reach out and minister to those lost, sick, hurting or in need of a friend. I've been a member of my church since Christmas 2013 and I've seen their faithfulness in ministry as well as discipleship. I am confident that God will continue working through them and the other local churches who hunger and thirst after Jesus.

- For those who don't yet know Jesus, I can continue to pray and invest in their lives from afar (one of the reasons I'm grateful for technology!). Even though I will be absent, God can send others along to plant seeds and water the ones already sown. He is God of the harvest and He is the one who causes the growth.

- Sometimes God has us in a certain season of life and sometimes He calls us to a new season. It doesn't mean that one season is better than another but simply the next step of this journey of life with Him. My next step will involve navigating reverse culture with a friend who is also moving with me. It'll also involve doing hard things, whether big or small, like finding a good, solid group of believers to find fellowship with or figuring out how to order Subway in English.

While it's extremely hard and sad to leave this beautiful place that I call home, I can leave with the assurance that God will continue to water and grow those seeds that I and many other English teachers have planted. One day we will see more of the fruit of that harvest and what a joyful day that'll be!

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Joanna Suich has been serving with VOICE Missions since February 2013.  As a child, she attempted to dig her way to China, but only made it two feet in before her mom called her to dinner. Although Joanna never made it to China, God did bring her nearby to the island of Taiwan. She has a heart for all things involving missions, juvenile delinquents and adventures. God has placed Hualien in her heart and it's been home for quite awhile. She is currently majoring in social work.  If you're looking for Joanna, check the local village or orphanage and you'll probably find her there - playing, tutoring and sharing Christ's love and truth.