Monday, May 31, 2021

Serving In The Midst Of A Pandemic

 The pandemic was definitely a scary thing for the world when it first started, people lived in fear and didn’t even want to go outside, but not if you lived in Taiwan. The spread of COVID-19 was very well managed here in Taiwan in fact there was only a two-week lockdown compared to the rest of the countries. 


A lot of people asked me if I wanted to go home and if I was safe living in Asia. The truth is I have never felt safer, specially living in Hualien. Our daily life did change a bit by wearing our mask every minute and constantly washing our hands. Teaching whilst wearing a mask was definitely hard in the beginning, it was even harder in the super-hot days but if it meant keeping the students safe, others safe and my own self safe then I was willing to do it.


I was a bit worried because I didn’t know if the students were going to abide by the mask wearing rules but to my dismay each and every one of them had such good discipline, if they forgot to wear it, after a kind reminder they would quickly put their mask back on. The sad thing about the masks is that I couldn’t see the children’s faces and they couldn’t see mine which would make it difficult for us to remember each other, but whenever we had our last day and it was time for pictures I would take my mask off and it was so so sweet to hear their gasps and little whispers of “oh look at teacher Julie!” “she took her mask off! wowww look at her face!” I do hope these two very common phrases meant something good hahah.


Sadly enough good times come to an end, recently Taiwan has been faced with a large COVID spread around the island. Aside from the spread, Taiwan is also currently facing a drought. I encourage you to pray for Taiwan, all the people living here, the students and all our teachers. 


Though our camps have been cancelled for a few weeks I eagerly await the day we can see the students again even if it means I have to wear a mask during the scorching heat ;)


Juliana (also called Julie) Pinilla is nineteen years old. Growing up in New York City and in a family with six siblings, she has loved taking care and teaching her younger brother and sisters. Her dream was to one day become a teacher and now she is pursuing that dream by teaching English in Hualien, Taiwan.Julie enjoys taking photos while traveling to new places in Taiwan and trying new delicious treats everywhere she goes. You can find her either journaling or reading a book inside a coffee shop or spending time with the friends she has made while living here. She hopes to show the love of Christ through her actions and words to everyone she meets.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Still The One In Our Hearts

 Cherry, former Hualien CEI Chinese coworker messaged me informing me that a few students I taught English and character two years ago in Hualien CEI would like to send me a greeting video. The CEI was at their school to teach character and English. I was very delighted and I was really curious about this.  "Will I be able to recognize their faces again after two years?", I was wondering. In meantime I was excited and  told Cherry to feel free to send me the video as soon as she could. In fact, I was expecting a video of two or three kids with beautiful smiles waving and saying to me something like "Hello teacher Yar. I'm Ian, Amy or Ivy or Jason, ... or whatever". But it wasn't the case at all. Instead, I received a video of a group of aboriginal kids, ten precisely, singing a song for me. It wasn't an aboriginal song though:). Even if I would have loved it to be one. I love Taiwan aboriginal songs. I even learned one by heart when I was still serving in Hualien a couple of years ago. 

What was so special about these kids singing a song for me in a video then? Everything. Everything was special about that. Despite the fact that they've grown up a lot within two years, I could still remember many faces among the group of kids. What a grace, because those faces we face every camp week change accordingly !  And in two years I can't even count how many Taiwan's kids faces I had the opportunity to meet. It was special because they still remember me and were willing to send me a video, special because they still have the sense of gratitude, a character quality they learned at the CEI two years ago; it was special because they didn't sing to me just any kind of song. The song they chose to sing for me was a special song, a very significant one. A song they learned at the CEI two years ago. It's a farewell song of love and gratitude that the CEI teachers always sing to the kids every Friday to show them how much we love them, how we care about them and how we will be missing them. And seeing those kids singing back that farewell song to me as song of retrouivaille is really touching.

 I can suddenly realize how much impact our teachings, our care, our love sharing have on the lives of all the kids we have a chance to spend time with, whether at our CEI or at their school. For me that changes everything. Because we might often think we only spend five days with them. But when days, weeks, months, or even years later, we have a chance to see them again or hear from them or see them out of the school environment, and then see that they can still remember us and even call us by our name, we suddenly realize how important those five days were to them: a lifetime experience that they might never forget, because they have a chance to come to the Character and English Institute only once in their whole educational life. This is the amazing impact Jesus has been and is still having on Taiwan's children life through Voice Missions for many years.  And what a joy to be back into this beautiful adventure! " Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (Matt. 19:14).

because of privacy we will not post the video

Eyes always fixed on Jesus!


Yarmonth Drissou (Yar) is 37 and is from Togo. He is married and is a happy dad of a seventeen month old girl. In his hometown, Yar used to be French and English language teacher in both elementary and junior high school for 5 years before responding to God's call upon his life by quitting teaching and moving to Switzerland for a three year Bible college program. He is a professional graduate with a Bachelor of Theology and is hoping to pursue his postgraduate studies for a Master of Theology, Bible minister and a writer fond of poetry and philosophy. “Eurêka” and “Le procès de Tromal”, “Les leurres de Syviera” are his published books so far. After his Bachelor degree in Switzerland, Yar was waiting for the 2017 fall semester to make it to Dallas Theological Seminary when God opened VOICE Missions' door for him in Taiwan. He served here a year in 2017 and returned in February 2019 for a semester, and now is here again for a longer-term mission. 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

My First Chinese New Year

My first Chinese New Year was an extremely enjoyable and joyous experience, it was all thanks to the love and kindness of my coworker Kelly and her wonderful family who invited me to their home that night. But to do this wonderful night any justice, we must start at the beginning!

“Andy! Andy! Andy!” My coworker said a couple days before we left campus to enjoy winter break. After chasing me down she asked if I wanted to join her and her family for Chinese New Year. I accepted the very kind invitation and agreed to meet up at the school at 5 o’clock. The funny thing was, I did not have the slightest clue what Chinese New Year was or any of the customs associated with the holiday. My natural response as not to look uncultured was to look up and watch every youtube video on planet earth about the subject. The only thing that stuck with me was 恭喜發財, which is pronounced Gōngxǐ fācái, but yet again my uncultured side was unaware that when you say this you’re most likely giving a red envelope (which is usually filled with money) to someone. I had to learn that the hard way as we were in our weekly meeting and I was eager to show off my new Chinese phrase., As our meeting concluded, I said my fancy new phrase, to which there were 6 open palms waiting for a red envelope in return; I said “Oh!” and then we proceeded to laugh for quite a bit of time. 

The day finally arrived, and at 5 o’clock  my coworker picked me up and we headed to her house. I was instantly greeted with warm smiles and a delicious smell coming from the kitchen. I hung out with her family, had a giant meal and shared many good moments such as playing with the kids, watching Kung Fu Panda, and trying pig stomach for the first time. 

It was an incredible time, I didn't even want to leave. I learned an amazing lesson that love and kindness transcends any language or cultural barrier. I could not have spent a better Chinese New Year.


Andres Pinilla is an eighteen year old young man who came all the way from New York City to teach English in Nantou, Taiwan. He enjoys exercising, trying new foods and playing sports. When its a teaching week he also enjoys playing soccer and basketball with the students. He grew up in a family of six kids which includes five sisters and one brother! He has enjoyed caring for animals ever since he was little and continues to do so in Shuilli ( his school town) by caring for two dogs named Jie Jie and Mei Mei. His favorite Taiwanese food has got to be dumplings, he says he eats them at least once every two weeks! He hopes to learn Chinese while being here and grow in many other areas in his life with the help of those around him.