Friday, July 24, 2015

An (almost) Twenty-something's Thoughts on Taiwan

Before you ask, this definitely isn't your typical 'come on a mission trip' sort of article. Message. Post. Something like that. Anyway, when I was asked to write about my year in Taiwan, I groaned. Then did the whole 'dance of rage' thing in my mind that you do when you're asked to come up front for show and tell­­ and you forgot to bring something that morning. Because I 'forgot to bring something'.

This past year wasn't all sparkly and amazing like I thought it was going to be, but then, that's jus what happens when one tries to be perfect at something when they've just learned how to do it. (I actually can't believe I forgot that, because my violin teacher told me every week­­ for all twelve years of lessons­­ that perfection isn't instant, and we won't ever stop making mistakes.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, being perfect. Or in this instance, learning that I can't. First of all, let me give you a bit of my background, or this might all be just really weird. (This is all really weird, who am I kidding Haha.)

Soooo....I'm from a pretty traditional family. I grew up reading and memorizing the Bible, (which was awesome, by the way) and my social life consisted of church, and Monday night orchestra practice. I'm home schooled, and have never set foot in a public school when classes are in session.

In a word, I have been sheltered from the world, and while I'm grateful for that sometimes...there are moments when I wish I was just a 'normal' teen­almost­twenty­something kid. At least then I'd have learned that we aren't born with social skills. (Haha!) And that's where I come from. Small town girl, with small town friends, and a very small town sort of social life.

At any rate, back to my topic here.

Last night, I was in the car with my (very loud) summer camp team, and my supervisor. It was pretty late, and I'd just spent the whole evening with the guy's team in Chiayi city. The car was too small for the decibel of sound emitting from the back seat, and it was too hot outside to open the windows. Over all the noise, my supervisor, Doris, asked me what the purpose of VOICE Missions is. I had to sit and think for a while about that, because I wasn't sure I knew what the purpose of VOICE is:

VOICE Mission's mission statement is: 'God is real. Live like it.' I sorta stopped for a moment when I remembered that, and realized there is a lot more behind those two simple phrases than I first thought. God calls each of us to something, somewhere. And not one of us is called to do the same thing in the same place at the same time. Therefore, when I came to Taiwan a year ago, I didn't come, called to do the same thing that my team leader was called to do here.

Some teachers here teach the classes during the week, and on the weekends, work in a local ministry. Others tutor children after­hours, and that is their specific work for God. Others hold weekly Bible studies for their team and their Taiwanese friends. Then, there's me.

I...haven't really been to church a lot here, simply because no matter what church I've gone to, I haven't really felt at home anywhere. I also haven't been part of any local ministries, and at first, I wondered why I never felt like God wanted me to. For most of the year, actually, I wondered what was wrong with me. When Doris asked me what purpose our coming to Taiwan was, it all started to fall into place.

Those that come to this little island are all at different stages of their relationship with God. Some come here, and they know how to communicate God's love to others­­that is their calling. Others come here called to reach out to the local community by serving in His name. Some, like me, come here, and...we're dumb, and think ourselves smart. We're inexperienced, and think we've seen the world from our little backyards. We're untried, and think we're strong enough to lead a battle.

If I could sum up this year, it would be that I discovered that I am very small, and He is pretty darn big. To become a worthy servant of God, being tried by fire ­­no matter how small a fire­­ is necessary. Once we walk into that fire, we always have a choice of what we can do. And so far as I know, there's only two choices in reality, but it often seems like there are many more.

Sort of like what John Bunyan said in Pilgrim's Progress, there's a place in our lives where there's a fork in the road we're traveling on, and we have to choose between the two. They both look straight when you first glance at them, and if you are in too much of a hurry, you stand the risk of starting down the wrong path. Because one path is always a little crooked. The purpose of my part within VOICE Missions is the following: My ministry has been teaching the kids each week, and outside of that, I've been working on my personal relationship with God. I can't say I was the star of my team­­ I was far from it ­­but, as I said before, perfection really shouldn't ever be our goal in life.

I've learned a lot of things this year. Some of them were not pleasant, and some of the things I've experienced seemed downright impossible. In the end though, I believe God has used this year to teach me to stand up for what I believe, to have empathy for others, and how to build a relationship with Him.

~Marissa Haley

I'm weird, I'm wacky. I love my God, and have been serving Him in Taiwan as an fourth grade English teacher this year. I'm obsessed with fashion, fall, film, food, and books. If you want to hear more of my ramblings, visit my blog .

Saturday, July 18, 2015

4th Grade Blessings!

In the fourth grade class, we have one student who gets upset the second half of class almost every week. However, he would leave the class room happy. This week was a little different... He still got upset, but after class he was still upset. I used to think it was that he just doesn't like English class. I'm starting to think it's something else, but I am not sure what.

Anyways, this time after class I noticed he was still upset after class and stayed in the room. Everyone left the classroom except him and I. I stayed off to the side by the computer, since the school has told me I can use it at breaks. I stayed over to the side to see what he does for a few minutes, So, after a few minutes he stood up and threw his school book, a book of a shelf, and one of the chairs. Then, he sat on the floor and continued crying. So, I sat down next him and was able to calm him down, simply by sitting next to him and rubbing his back. Then, we sat by the computer together and went to google translate! I tried to ask him why he is upset. He wouldn't tell me anything... So, I decided to tell him how I feel. He is the only student at this school that is truly excited to see me. He looks for me at every break to walk around with me, always has the biggest smile when he comes to see me, and things like that. So, I told him that when I see him every week, he makes me smile. This made a HUGE difference in his behavior. He went from sad and angry to extremely happy!

Then, just minutes later was the next class followed by lunch. At lunch and right before I left he gave me a big hug. It was truly a blessing to be a part of this situation. It was amazing to be a help to this kid when no one else wanted to help him. Lastly, I am not certain, but I think a big part of the situation is some things at home. I don't know specifics, but I have been told that almost all the students at the schools we teach at have really bad family situations. I think that day it was just a combination of something at home as well as not having a good school day. Again, I am not certain, but it's a thought.

This is the first time she was willing to even look at me outside of in class! Before, she would try to hide when she saw me during the breaks. This time, she wanted to find me so that she can sit by me, try to talk with me, and play with me during the breaks. It may have taken until the second semester, but I am very happy that she is now interacting with me!

~Hayley Osbourne

Hayley just completed her first year of working with VOICE Missions in the public schools of Nantou county, she is planning on returning for a second year with the 2015-16 VOICE Missions Team.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

"You can't teach what you don't know, and you can't lead where you don't go..."

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Rev. 7:9-10

We never exactly felt a specific “call” to full time missions. We just got married and said here we are Lord, send us. We heard about a need and got down on our knees and said, “Lord do you want us there? We will go.”

Men everywhere are longing to give their lives to something greater. For years my Dad has prayed that his children would give their lives to reach others with the Gospel of Christ and accomplish more than he has in his lifetime.

For the past 10 months we’ve watched the moon rise and the sun set, before most of the world wakes
up. We have waded in the cold waters of the Pacific ocean, explored waterfalls in Taiwan clear and pure enough to drink, and awakened to the soft sound of rain while buried under blankets in our tiny bedroom on the 6th floor of our apartment building. We’ve been startled by earthquakes and our room swaying like a hammock, we just sat together silent and held our breaths until it passed.

We’ve stood on clear Autumn nights in Chicago, coats and gloves on, hot apple cider in hand, and watched the last Fall leaf fall to the ground, signaling the beginning of Winter.

We’ve sampled baked goods across the Kentucky river, and savored rhubarb pie and the best coffee from a little town at the foot of the Ozarks. We’ve waded through snow up to our waist while on a hike deep in the woods, faced coyotes too close for comfort, and listened to the birds sing and geckos croak at dawn and dusk.

We’ve ridden double decker buses in Hong Kong and eaten guavas and gourd apples from Malaysia and Thailand, and pineapples cakes from Singapore. Yesterday we enjoyed a warm breeze, the occasional smells of stinky tofu and oyster pancakes, pan fried buns, and watched a few villagers loading up their wagons with rice and fish for neighboring villages. The orchids are in full bloom everywhere now and the grass here grows free.

We’ve seen a night sky full of stars and played with barefoot aboriginal children in their traditional dress, feathers around their head, beads around their neck, their eyes sparkling. We have done hand-motions to try to buy some “chicken” and snorted like a pig to ask if that is pork rice at the market. Mooed like a cow. You get the picture.

We’ve spoken and sang and prayed with people in camps and conferences and churches and schools all over the world. But we believe there is more for us. And we are surrendering to it afresh today. We are lifting up our eyes and looking at the fields. The harvest is plentiful and the workers are few. Lord, make us a family that bears Your name-a mighty reaper of souls. And thrust us out into the dark places of the earth where Jesus is not known or loved or celebrated!

Today we are celebrating 2 years and 7 months together. We are sitting at our dining room table, around us grow rows of rice fields growing as far as the horizon stretches, our hearts are full and we can only choke back tears at feeling so blessed to work together for the King of Kings. We plan on doing this all our life. Never ready settling down anywhere, just letting the Lord carry us wherever in the world He needs a witness. (Along with the 10 or 15 kids He blesses us with along the way) This world is not our home, we’re just a passin’ through. This is why we have left our families in Mexico and the United States. Why did we come here but to lay down our lives for the church of Christ. He died and rose from the dead so that these people could know mercy and forgiveness as we have. We are here because we love the Savior.

My Dad always said that the greatest adventure is serving Jesus. He was right. You’re not a fool to give what you cannot keep in order to gain what you cannot lose.

“Most men are not satisfied with the output of their lives. Most men look at their lives as they get older and say, ‘I’ve not done enough with my life, I’ve not done enough for the Lord.’ Nothing can wholly satisfy the life of Christ within his followers except the adoption of Christ’s mission towards the world He came to redeem. Fame and pleasures and riches are but husks and ashes in contrast with the boundless and abiding joy of working with God in the fulfillment of His mission.”
-J. Campbell White

~Cristina Guerra

Cristina and her husband Gerardo work with VOICE Missions in the English villages and schools of Pingtung County.