Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Learning Gratitude for our Talents

A cartoon Fae copied and painted for a Taiwanese friend, Hui Ming, to use for a history lesson she was teaching at an after school program for disadvantaged children.

During my time teaching in Taiwan, one delightful aspect has been having the opportunity to use creativity and art to connect with my students. “A picture is worth a thousand  words” is a saying for a reason, and even when I lack common language to communicate with the Chinese and Taiwanese speakers around me colors, drawing, and pictures can do the talking for me.

As a young girl, I listened to stories of mission work in different countries, or of historically well-known figures such as Gladys Aylward. I wanted to go out and be part of something beyond my own country, but I had the impression that the only people who could really do this were people who had advanced degrees and skills, such as pastors, Doctors, translators, and so on. Coming to Taiwan has changed this perspective. Our volunteers come to Taiwan with a broad range of skills and interests, and I have seen God use those diverse skills and interests to help the volunteers connect with and love our students and Taiwanese friends. I have also experienced the benefits that having people with widely different talents and personalities together on our teams. Each teacher is able to bring their unique perspective and abilities to strengthen the team, and also help to cover and support each other in areas of weakness.

My old view of who God would or wouldn’t use in missions used to add to my sense of discontent with my own personality. I looked down on my creative talents as useless and stupid when compared to the intellectual and academic achievements that I struggled to find success in. Now, I am finding these lies fading away as I learn to be grateful for the daily opportunities I have to use art with the children. My “useless” talents – the ones I disregarded as impractical and worthless – are my strength and opportunity to give.

One of Fae’s lessons on the chalkboard after a class on prepositions.

Fae standing with Ken, a child who regularly comes to the Joy House Children’s ministry, by a mural I painted for their activity center. The leaves on the tree are made up of hand-prints from the children who have come to play games, do crafts, and hear Bible stories at Joy House each Saturday in Chiayi county.

Children from Joy House standing by pictures Fae drew while telling the Nativity story during Christmas last year.

~S. Fae Larson

Fae is from Minnesota. She has been with VOICE Missions in Taiwan since February, 2011, and has worked at both the Yunlin and Chiayi team locations. Some of her favorite places to visit in Taiwan are in the mountains, such as Alishan national park. She enjoys, hiking, drawing, and Studio Ghibli films.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

"Did I Not Tell You?"

“Then Jesus said: Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” John 11:40
The context of this passage highlights the "confirmation of a promise" to Marta despite death having taken her brother (Lazarus). Jesus Christ is our resurrection: physically, emotionally and spiritually. In Him there are no limits, nor impossibilities, however our disbelief can limit us from seeing the glory of God in our lives.
Everything that God offers us is presented in the form of a promise: Salvation, the Holy Spirit and each blessing is a promise sent by Him in the specified time we need it. However, to receive His promises we must believe in Him, and believe far above logical circumstances.
If we consider the lives of Esther, Joseph and Daniel, each one of them was taken to an unknown place against their own will, depriving them of their freedom, making them into slaves to a certain degree, being under various trials, even putting their lives at risk of death. Nevertheless, despite every unfavorable situation for them, through it all they decided to believe with all their hearts that they would see the glory of God; and so it was.
Sometimes we might tend to think that stories as relevant as the ones we read in the Bible no longer exist, but the fact is that the same God of the Bible from back in the day still remains faithful to His promises. Fulfilling His word as a true Gentleman, willing to guide our destiny. But what do we need in order to see the transcendental glory of God in our lives?
Personally, I could think that my calling to Asia does not compare to the impact that George Muller or Elisabeth Elliot and other heroes of faith had in their times. You see, it’s easy to compare and accept the term "impossible" by believing that we don’t have much to offer. However, our view of God is what matters and according to Romans 12: 6 each one was called “according to the grace given to each of us” That measure of faith placed in each one of us, according to our identity and purpose in Him. This does not mean that God has favoritism. He is righteous. The question that I have been asking myself lately is: how am I using that measure of faith? The truth is that the responsibility for activating the measure of faith is mine as much as it is yours, giving steps of action on a daily basis.

When I heard about VOICE in 2009, I knew it was an opportunity worth considering. I saw great eternal value in it. Since that day it was there planted in my mind, but I had responsibilities in Mexico and USA making it impossible for me to apply. Finally this year it was confirmed that the time had come to undertake this great journey.

It’s challenging to summarize everything I have seen over the past two months. However, I want to emphasize a very important point, which is and will be my goal during my year of service here in Taiwan.

The degree of influence and impact that we can be for our authorities

Because of how consistent and courageous Daniel, Esther and Joseph’s faith was, they were crowned of glory by God, giving them the wisdom to become people of great influence before their authorities. In obedience to their living God they transformed perspectives & customs of an entire government entity, leaving a transcendental legacy for their generations. It only took one willing vessel and one great God to performed miracles; being more challenged by this truth, I strive for the same goal. It is my greatest desire to be God’s delight and through Him generate an eternal impact in this beautiful culture, making God and my authorities successful with the performance of my job. I’m not saying I’m perfect, but I recognize that through my weaknesses I can give honor to my God. 
From the first day that I stood before my school (Sian An), the entire team of staff welcomed me as if I had known them my entire life! To my surprise, in my first talk with Director Chen Wei-Shin, he was already offering me to stay for three years as a teacher and even cover my expenses if I wanted to get higher education courses. While trying to process everything I was hearing in my talk with him and other teachers, I thought to myself: is this normal in Taiwan? Not even knowing the performance of my work, they are offering me all this? For a moment I thought it was all a dream!
I'm currently about to start my third month of work and the staffs’ willingness to listen to any suggestion of mine captivates me greatly! They have practically given me the freedom to teach my students what I want; I can’t find logic or common sense as to how it can be possible that in such a short time there is such a great level of confidence towards me in a government school. And there, once again, in the middle of my internal dialogue Jesus reminds me, “Leslie, did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
I myself am convinced that this is not about what I can achieve in my own strength; I recognize that only by His grace have I been crowned with His favors and mercy. Therefore "the more that is given, more is demanded."
When God’s power stands in the gap, the opposition from the enemy is inevitable. Honestly it does not surprise me no matter what struggle that might emerge. I understand the perspective and the goal of spiritual struggle. Just like an airplane needs headwind to take off and fly, believers need to go through several trials to mature in faith and develop unbreakable confidence, knowing that the God of the impossible is in control of everything.
Growing in understanding of the Taiwanese culture and creating relationships with the local people is essential and it is valuable to me. I believe all those lives that God has placed in my life, especially the ones of my students, are worth more than any opposition that arises. My heart is willing to see His glory in any circumstance, even if things "do not seem favorable.” Nothing happens without having been designed by Him with an eternal purpose. As I rest on this promise, this has helped me to stay focused on the goal and also removed stress, because certainly in the midst of every trial the motivations of the heart are purified. My God transforms my heart to the heart of a servant, a servant who is available to whatever His master asks of him.
Being a teacher in Sian An has been an intimate experience with the Spirit of God. He’s my absolute counselor and while I look for creative ways to use wisely the position of influence that He is entrusting me (in a culture that I still do not know much about), my God gives me constant examples as to how I should be a teacher. I’m in the process of identifying the needs and strengths of each student.

Inside the classroom it’s my goal to create a safe environment for them, knowing that it is okay to make mistakes in class. I am the first to have imperfections. English is not my first language; I make and confront my mistakes in front of them. This has been the key to decreasing the timidity of many of my students, making the learning process more meaningful and fun as we all grow together in knowledge.  

It is my greatest hope for their leadership to increase as autonomous individuals and grow by asking questions when they do not know or understand something. I have been told that in their culture they find it difficult to express their doubts due to fear or shyness.

Every day with my little ones is very unique; I have discovered slowly when they are not in the mood to cooperate in class or when they are emotionally sensitive. I have only one year to be at their side, loving them, and guiding them. Every smile, hug, angry face, sad face or even rude attitude, is worth it because I rest on the promise that any challenge and effort will yield abundant fruit in the hearts of these children. Perhaps I might not get to see the fruit take place, and although uncertainty sometimes comes to my heart, I feel His Spirit challenging me when He whispers, “Did I not tell you Leslie? ....”

...They deserve the best of me and beyond just being their teacher; I pray that my life is a reflection of the glory of God in their lives. 

My Co-teachers: Grace, Ling & Jimmy have been the key for me to adjust to the education system in Taiwan, equipping me to be efficient according to school needs, and also assisting me how to communicate with my colleagues at the school. The homeroom teachers have also been helping me to get more connected with my students. I am so blessed to have people like them, that are so passionate about contributing to the education of the children of the Sian An School.
I’m fascinated by the fact that God brought me here for this specific time in history. I couldn’t be more grateful to be laboring alongside such an incredible team and to belong in such a loving and caring local Church that God has made me part here in Kinmen.
Above all, I honor Jesus for making me part of His heart for Taiwan, and to my Family I am deeply grateful for His unconditional love & support. 

This quote from Elisabeth Elliot has been my inspiration and confirmation to what I'm doing here.
"This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering may I make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, May I learn God's way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness. "
During this season of my life, “Who Shall I fear?” By Chris Tomlin has become my theme song. 

Leslie Quijano Yepez  (萊思禮)  is from Monterrey, Mexico. Currently Kinmen, Taiwan is her new home. Being a Youth Worker throughout the years, Leslie has loved every culture Jesus has made her part of, working alongside the educational department and sharing the Gospel.  For this school year, her main purpose is to cultivate transcendental relationships with her precious students from 3 Kindergarten to 6 grade, as well as to serve with her local Church. She specializes in Holistic wellness and immensely enjoys music. Learning to sing in Chinese has become a good resource for her to understand the language better.    

Monday, October 12, 2015

A Change in Plans

L O V E is the secret of life that only God can give you (1 John 4:16). Before coming to Taiwan, I was studying Architecture at the university and working as an English Teacher at a preschool in Mexico.  Everything was “perfect” for me during that year just learning new things that I enjoy doing in the University, teaching amazing kids, serving God in Church with my boyfriend, helping in ministries with my parents and enjoying everything that I had. 

But after a year, the preschool payment was 4 months delayed and I needed to pay my tuition so I had to drop out of school because I couldn’t pay what I owed to the university. At first I did not understand why God allowed for me to stop studying because it’s very important to have a career support yourself in your daily life. After praying and asking God for his perfect plans and what He wanted me to do during this time that I would not be studying, He filled my heart with love and a joyfulness to keep serving Him and sharing his love with others. Now I had more time to be more involved in ministries at church and with my family. God was teaching me how to serve Him not just because I had to but out of L O V E that He has given to each one of us. And I understood that I was spending more time with things that are “necessary” in this world and will not last than in things that will last in the kingdom of God. 

Three months later, one midnight I just couldn’t sleep and I had a verse from  Matthew 19:29 in my mind: 
"And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, shall receive many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life."
I didn’t understand why I was thinking about this verse. While meditating on this verse, I got my phone to check the time because it was really late, and when I turned it on I saw a message from Cristina Guerra inviting me to teach English in Taiwan. 

At first I couldn’t believe that I was invited to teach in Taiwan because it had been one of my prayer requests that I had been praying about for two years. I was still meditating and talking to God about this invitation when my mom came into my room and told me that she had the “Oceans” Hillsong in her mind and felt that God was calling me out to the oceans. And that’s when I knew that God was calling me to come and teach in Taiwan, so I applied with a lot of faith, trusting in God’s perfect plan for me. I didn’t sign a one year contract at the Preschool, even when I wasn’t a 100% sure that I was coming to Taiwan.  

God had everything under control even when I thought that everything was wrong He showed me how GREAT is His unconditional L O V E for me. And now that I am serving God in Taiwan through God’s PERFECT L O V E I can share His L O V E to the students and people around me.  

~Maria Mojica

Maria Fernanda Mojica Reyes, is 20 years old, from Texas and Mexico, her father is American and mother is Mexican. She loves the LORD with all of her heart, soul, mind and strength, loves children, enjoys teaching, loves her family, and loves making new friends. This is her first year in Taiwan and she has really enjoyed working for King Car on the Yuli team in Hualien Township. She has also really enjoyed teaching all her lovely students. 

Monday, October 5, 2015


It'd been ten weeks since Joanna (one of my teammates) and I had last seen Kelson. Despite the hot and sticky summer day, we continued to walk around the small Taiwanese village trying to find him. We even stopped by his house, but he was not home. As we began to pray again that we would be able to see him, we suddenly saw three boy-like figures coming up over a hill in the distance. "Could one of them be him?!" I thought as I strained my eyes to see who it was. Suddenly one of the figures began running straight towards us for a big hug. Sure enough, it was him!

Earlier that spring, Kelson had arrived at our week-long Character and English Institute with a completely different attitude. During classes he always made his presence known with disruptive behavior, despite his smaller stature. He would rarely smile and would always walk around with a tough facade on, especially towards his classmates. He was the type of student who would walk by other classmates’ desks and kick their chairs or “just so happen to” forcefully bump into his classmates when he would walk past them. It was very obvious that he grew up in a rough environment. That week I had to continually run to Christ for strength and patience with Kelson during my classes, especially during small group classes. Small group classes meant that I was the only teacher present during that entire class period. I prayed that Christ would give me His love for the kids when mine ran out. About halfway through the week I suddenly began to see his behavior in a different perspective. At first I saw him as a disruptive and obnoxious little boy who liked to make trouble for everyone, including the teachers. However, I suddenly saw him as a little boy who was starving for attention and love. Instead of just disciplining him for his disruptive behavior, I began to use those opportunities to talk with him. I wanted to try to figure out what was triggering him to act out with such unpleasant behavior. I realized that students like Kelson need to know that someone loves them, cares for them, and is cheering them on in life. After a little love and attention he began to not only focus more in class, but also began to open up more during break time and play with other students. Of course he still had his share of being sent to the office for one-on-one talks throughout the week. However, by Friday when it was time for him to go home he was in tears after he gave all of us teachers hugs goodbye. He even made a cute card thanking me for teaching him and spending time with him. In just a few days his attitude had already begun to change for the better. I learned that week to never underestimate how our words, actions, and reactions can affect others for a day or even a lifetime.

Because of such a breakthrough in his attitude during that week of classes, he is one of many students who holds a special place in my heart. That specific summer day in June, Joanna and I had decided to take a train and a taxi to his small, rough mountain village. We wanted to try and follow-up with him and a few other students. At first we were not sure how he would act since it had been ten weeks since he had come to our school. During those ten weeks we had not had any contact with him. As we saw him and his two cousins come up over a hill in the distance, we began to mentally prepare ourselves in case he reverted back to his “tough” attitude and decided to blatantly ignore us. However, part of us still held on to the hope that during that week at our school he had changed for the better. As soon as he saw us, his face beamed with joy and he ran as fast as his legs would carry him into Joanna and my arms for a big hug (which he most likely rarely gets at home). After telling him that we came there to see him and his other classmates, he seemed ecstatic that we had come just for that reason. He was excited to use a few English phrases that he remembered from school and we asked him if he remembered his Character 1, 2, 3 (something that is taught at our school). It was pretty obvious that that afternoon he totally soaked up the love and attention we gave him. It was as if he were a dry sponge that was just dipped in a bucket of water. He kept telling us how happy he was that we came and kept chatting with us non-stop, despite the language barrier. That visit to the village taught me to never judge students by their outward “mask”. Sometimes the students who act the toughest are actually some of the sweetest and most vulnerable kids. I believe that showing them unconditional love and giving them someone they can trust is one of the best gifts you can give them.

This past weekend I was reminded again to never underestimate the impact we can have on others around us, even in a short amount of time. Joanna and I made another trip to Kelson’s village. Some of our former students are reaching the pre-teen stage where they act “too-cool” to acknowledge us in front of other classmates, even though it is obvious they are happy we came to see them. Kelson is growing up in a village that has a rougher lifestyle and it has been a year and a half since the first breakthrough in his behavior and attitude. I was not sure what reaction to expect from him, if we even found him, but I was hoping for the best. As we arrived at his village, I prayed for two specific things. I prayed that we would not only be able to see Kelson, but that his attitude would not have slipped back into his old behavior. It was so encouraging to be greeted with a big smile and a hug even though it has been a while. He seems to be doing well, despite his environment, and even smiled big for a picture! This is something he does not always do.

Someone once said that the students who we get the most annoyed by are the ones who need our love and care the most. Many times their behavior may seem rude, loud, or even ugly on the outside. However, these are the students who are often hurting and crying out for love, attention, and acceptance. He goes on to say that they respond in positive ways as a result of us being willing to get on their level, really listening to them, genuinely loving them, and encouraging them. When we allow the love of Christ to shine through us, it can really change a person. I believe that this is what happened with Kelson. I am still praying that one day he will personally experience Christ’s love, acceptance, and forgiveness for himself. His village is about forty-five minutes away by train and taxi, so I plan to continue visiting Kelson throughout this upcoming year. I can’t wait to see all that Christ will continue doing in this village boy’s heart!

Caroline Rodgers is a twenty-two year old who fell in love with Taiwan over eight years ago. The beautiful east coast city of Hualien has become her Taiwanese home and she looks forward to teaching around seventy new fourth-grade students on a weekly basis. Caroline strives to share the light and love of Christ with those around her, especially her students. She can often be found wherever her former students are, which means hanging out in local villages, volunteering at local children’s homes, attending local elementary school “sports days”, or surprising them during lunch break by showing up at their public schools. When not spending time with students, she enjoys studying Chinese and spending time with friends.