Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Just One Week

The question that I’ve been asked the most while serving as an English teacher is: "Do the kids even learn any English in just one week?"

If you think about it, it’s hard enough for a child to learn a foreign language at school plus do well in their other studies now imagine how difficult it would be for them to learn something new in just five short days.

It’s not about how much English they learned, if they increased their skill, if they speak more fluently if they understand more etc. while all those things are great, and some children actually do show signs of improvement other students don’t and that’s okay. Other than teaching English we come here to show love. To give them the love that they may be lacking in their homes or the love that they have never received in their lives.

More than just a teacher we can be their friend, someone they look up to, someone they admire, someone they find love in, someone that listens to them, someone they feel safe with, someone to play games with them, someone who gives them attention or someone who cares for them.

Sometimes kids come into our school with terrible attitudes but after they see that there are people here who love them after only knowing them for a few days they leave the school with a change of heart. So even if our children forget the English they learned in these five days I know for sure that they will never forget the amazing teachers that showed them love and kindness.

As Christians, we are commanded to love others. Leviticus 19:18 (ESV) says, "love your neighbor as yourself" for this is the way they will see His love through us. My goal each time a new week comes around is to show and give these kids the love that Jesus has for us.

It makes my heart glad when Friday comes and I hear the children singing the English songs I’ve taught them or when they’re playing games and I hear them say, "Don’t give up!" a phrase from the English lesson "Determination" but it also makes me glad when I see a child that walked into the week with a grumpy attitude and ended the week with a happy heart because all he/she was missing was love. Maybe five days are too short for them to learn how to speak great English, but five days are not too short for them to receive love, kindness, and joy.

During one of the weeks of camp, we received a school that had quite a lot of disobedient kids, but one stood out the most to me. As each day came, I made it my purpose to go talk to him, ask how he was doing, and simply giving him a high-five each time he passed by. Little by little I started to notice how much his disobedient character was changing to one that enjoyed class, loved having conversations, and ultimately enjoyed that week at our camp so much that when he left he gave me a hug saying “Thank you, Teacher Julie. I will miss you.” This made me so so happy, knowing that he left our school not only new knowledge but also with a heart that received a lot of love by so many.

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." – John 13:34-35 (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.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

We Have Hope

The sun as it rose over Hualien City.
Time flies by. I have already been in Taiwan for over half a year and sometimes it still feels like I just got here. Living in Nantou has its struggles, but I've adjusted well. It is definitely interesting when you live in a town where Taiwanese is probably spoken more than Mandarin. I am also probably the only foreigner in town, but I've gotten used to the stares at this point.

But now even this "new normal" of living in Taiwan is no longer "normal." If you have been anywhere at all lately, you've heard of the virus. Honestly, I don't think there is a single person out there who hasn't heard of this coronavirus. COVID-19 has changed so much for a lot of people. Many people aren't allowed to leave their houses, except for necessities or the occasional walk. A lot of people can't work and those that are working are busier than ever. Many schools are closed and now online. Church has even gone online.

Taiwan's situation is better than most. People are still allowed to leave their homes. Though we have to wear masks and get our temperature taken every time we use public transportation, we can still travel. That isn't to stay that we aren't advised to keep traveling to a minimum. If anyone has a temperature over 37.5C they have to immediately self-quarantine themselves for fourteen days. The amount of masks that a person can purchase a week is limited to a certain amount. Also, which days you can buy masks depends on the last number of your ID. Overall, Taiwan is doing well. We have kept the number of cases down to a decently small amount, but they recently rose because of the Taiwanese people that came back from foreign countries.

The situation has changed my work life. In a normal scenario, a couple of classes of fourth-graders from schools all over the county would be traveling to us to stay for the week. Unfortunately, the virus has caused a lot of people to not want to travel far from home. It makes sense, but it also makes it hard for us. So, what are we doing now? We travel to one school a week and teach the kids in their classroom. It's been a refreshing experience. I love that I can meet kids from other classes and grades during the breaktimes in between classes. It is also exhausting. The drive to and from school every day means getting up earlier and getting home later on most days. I'm happy to be back at teaching though. We had a lot of office weeks as we tried to figure out what we were going to do during this pandemic. I missed my kids.

I've learned much from all of this craziness. There is a lot of fear in the world. People are stressed, worried, and anxious. They don't have hope. But we, as Christians, have hope. Why? Because we believe in the source of hope.

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” -Romans 15:13 (NLT)

For sure, we are also afraid. Some of us are maybe even terrified, but we can still act in spite of the fear. We know that God is in control of the situation. He is with us, even when we can't see or feel him. Because of that, we can have peace. More so, we know that he is good. He is perfect. What better hands could the world be in? 

God poured out his love for us. In him we have new life, peace, and hope. So in this fearful time, let's show that love, that peace, and that hope. Let's direct people's eyes and hearts back to God. Let's take the time to reach out. Send that text. Make that phone call. Show people that you care and that you are thinking of them. Show kindness. Be a blessing. Such small acts of love can make all the difference.

Once this situation resolves, I hope that people don't go back to "normal." I hope that we come through this changed. That we learn to appreciate the small things. That we are thankful for the time we have with our families and friends. That we learn to truly be a light in the world.
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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.

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.