Wednesday, November 25, 2015

When Words Fail

Three months ago I moved to Taiwan to become an English teacher. But as soon as I started teaching, all of my hopes for teaching were drastically changed. I promptly discovered that I would do very little actual teaching. This realization irritated my whole being. I wanted to teach and yet God wanted to teach me. 

There are days when I sit in the classroom and do nothing. There is a massive language barrier. When I try to speak Chinese, my tongue seems to be tied. In the practical sense, I have become useless. And I asked God, “why would You send me here? I do not teach and I cannot even speak to the people.” But even when I doubt, God is immensely faithful. Christ sent me back to 1 Corinthians 13. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” 

Often times, I have failed to truly notice the first two verses. Even if I could speak Chinese, if I did not love the people, I would be “a clanging cymbal”. And if I had the faith to move a mountain, but did not love, I would be absolutely nothing. I believe God has called me to Nantou Taiwan in order to learn to love. Although I teach very little and cannot speak in words to the people, I can love them. I can pour out everything I have to show that I care. Though words fail me, I have the unconditional love of Jesus Christ that will always remain consistent.

~Grace Lukachick

Grace Lukachick was born and raised in Louisiana. She is the forth born of ten children. Grace loves spending time in the kitchen and reading classic works of literature. In college, she studied English and received her Bachelor of Arts from Thomas Edison State College. Grace is currently living in Nantou Taiwan. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

12,967 Reasons

With an Irish name, Spanish last names, and now with a new Chinese name; I can’t say that I belong just to one nook of this Planet.

My name is Kevin and I was born in México.

The pride of my land runs fervently in my veins and I’m not just saying that, because I like to think that my country is where God overflowed His immense creativity, for all that my culture entails. But today is not the day for talking of the great Tenochtitlan; instead today is for expressing the feeling about my encounter with the old continent, Asia.

It was because of an immense grace and opportunity that I am here, 12,967 kilometers from home. A childhood dream come true, to know the old continent called “Asia”. To be more specific, living with a purpose on the Island of Formosa.

After three months living here, everything is upside-down. Like some cartoons talk about in a satirical form. Really, everything is different in a relative way, but very exciting at the same time. But nevertheless I’ve noticed that in the spiritual scope, people live under a “fear” regime. Their lives are based on making offerings to their gods because of the fear. Not by love and gratefulness.

This has broken many paradigms in my head with regard to how every human being doesn’t know that love (God) is the answer of everything, and also it is the question.
But what I have found truly beautiful here are people’s hearts. Despite their differences in belief and culture they are always disposed to help each other, to push themselves to succeed, and to transcend. I need to admit that this is something I envy and desire in my country.

Despite the difficulties of the language barrier that complicates the communication and despite my less-than-excellent English, I’ve found an amazing ease to know new people and build relationships, in unexpected ways and almost any place. But that’s not new for me, because I know that is a part of a grace with people that God has given me as a gift. What is new for me is the wit that I need to achieve for helping them to know Him in a suitable way, setting aside the spiritual shock, my earthling’s imperfections and human deficiencies; being that this is the principal objective.

The struggles day-by-day are difficult in the moment of missing everything, and when I talk of missing things, it’s real. The journey and the adventure continue, eight months left of anecdotes to count, lives to reach and places to conquer, connected every time with the eternal fountain.

Sometimes the time passes very slowly, sometimes very quickly, but it always passes avidly in the effort to move further.

I am twenty-four years old; I’m a marketer and publicist of profession, a singer and an artist from the heart (by passion). I do not know how long I will be breathing and I am not worried to know. What keeps me awake is the question, can I achieve the best expression of my existence in this Earth, to inspire others, to arrive at the end of my days knowing that I gave it all passionately and happy to get a smile from my Creator… or maybe two or three.

Now I’m here, with 12,967 reasons for being grateful, or maybe more. For being happy to be here at last achieving a long-awaited desire:
 “I will take You where they don’t sing to You, where they don’t listen to You, where they don’t see You, where they don’t feel You, where the crying is, where the shadows are… My Lord.” 

~K. Valencia

Kevin Abraham Valencia López is a  Marketer and Publisher from Monterrey, México. His passion is music and he plays the bass and sings in “Mas por Amor”, a Worship Band. His goal is make a change in the social consciousness for a better world, with God’s love as the flag. Now, he is teaching English in Taiwan for one year, living the dream in Asia.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Let the Children Come to Me

For the past two years, I have had the privilege of working in a small village on Saturdays.  I go to the village with a local missionary couple. We play with the kids and tell them Bible stories.  The story of this village ministry is quite amazing.  We have seen so many seemingly impossible things happen, such as not being able to find a building to rent no matter how hard we looked, but the week we needed it God suddenly provided the perfect place.

We started out just sitting on the temple steps, and playing with whatever kids came.  Some weeks there were only two or three kids, other weeks we could have up to ten.  After we had a building (which we named the “Joy House”), the number of kids that came increased to around fifteen.  For a while the number of kids stayed between ten and fifteen, except for special occasions (like Christmas). But then Jill, a Taiwanese Christian, started tutoring kids at two o’clock.  Suddenly we had at least twenty kids every week.

A few weeks ago, the 4th grade kids from the village came to the camp I teach in.  Some of them already went to Joy House, and were excited to have me as their teacher.  The following Saturday we had several new kids come to the Joy House because they had gone to camp.  It has definitely been God who has brought the children to the Joy House.  From five kids, to thirty-five.  It was something we, the few adults that go to the village, could never accomplish.  Only God could bring those kids. He loves them, and values them, so it is my duty to bring the children to Him, and it is your privilege to pray for the children He loves.

~Kristina Joy Dzimianski

Kristina Joy is teaching in Taiwan for her third year.  She is part of the Chiayi team, in the southwest part of Taiwan.  She teaches English in the Character English Institute (a five-day camp).

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Our Good Father

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:9-11)

Imagine, if you will, a child. This little girl clutches a torn, ragged teddy bear in her arms. Her father looks down on her with a loving smile. “Give me the bear, honey,” he says. “You found it in a pile of garbage; it’s so dirty and yucky. I have something much nicer for you instead”.  The little girl looks up at her daddy with eyes brimming with tears. “But I love it, Daddy!” she cries. “It’s mine! I want to keep it!”

She really is convinced that she loves and adores that dirty bear, you see. To her, this ragged toy is everything. In her tiny mind, she can’t possibly imagine anything that she’d like more.  Her daddy must be mistaken. She knows he loves her and he must really think he has something nicer, but HE doesn’t see how much she loves this toy and how she can’t live without it.

What she doesn’t know is that her daddy does see how much she loves that bear. He’d sighed when he saw her find it; his heart cringing when he saw it’s filthy condition. He knew that bear had bugs or fleas, or worse.  He also knows that his little girl has a soft heart and can easily become attached to material things. He knows what she doesn’t; that he can see her wants and needs and knows them so much better than she does. She may think she really wants that dirty toy, but it’s not a suitable toy for her and will bring a lot of frustration and trouble into her life.

He’d rushed to the store to pick out a beautiful, soft teddy bear that is just the kind she’d love; huggable and perfect. He has with him, just behind his back. He wants nothing more to give it to her; to see her face light up with joy and happiness at his gift. But first, she has to let go of the other toy. She has to trust that her daddy knows best, and would never break a promise or lie to her. He wants to give her good things. But right now, as she stands there clutching her poor little toy with her eyes full of tears, it’s clear that deep down, she doesn’t believe that he has something better in store for her.

Does any of this sound familiar? A little too much, right?

I’ve recently come to realize that my perception of God shapes my actions and my attitudes a lot more than I realize. Yes, I know that God is my Father. Yes, I know that He loves me. Yes, I know that He has a plan for me and wants the best for my life, and that He never makes a mistake. But deep down, do my actions reflect that? Sadly, no!

I can think of no example better than right before I came to Taiwan. I’d always been incredibly adamant that I’d never go to Taiwan and teach English; I wasn’t really interested in living in Asia and besides, I hated teaching. So when God started preparing my heart to move on from my comfort zone and make a big change, I was excited. I didn’t know what He had in store, but I figured it would be something cool, like, maybe a new job. Imagine my shock and surprise when I heard the Lord clearly calling me to do the impossible and be a teacher! In Taiwan!!!

It was the funniest thing. I knew this was what God wanted me to do. I didn’t doubt His leading and direction for one second; it was so obvious to me. But even as I packed up my life and prepared to leave everything I knew and move to a new country, I feared.

I feared about how I would react to the language and the culture. I’d never stepped foot outside of North America. I was, I admit, pretty adamantly pro-America. I liked our culture, our conveniences, our way of life. I was afraid that I’d be like a fish out of water. I might spend every waking moment being completely uncomfortable. I feared.

I feared my position as a team leader. I’d always disliked being in leadership positions; I’d always preferred to be a follower and let someone else handle the hard stuff. I accepted that God had led those in authority over me to put me in a position of responsibility in Taiwan, and I knew that with God by my side, I would never be alone. But still, I feared. I feared that that God’s way of teaching me leadership would be the hard way; that I would destroy relationships and make irreparable mistakes. I feared.

But most of all, I feared I would hate teaching. I fully accepted that this was the job that God had given me, and I was willing to accept it. But still, I was afraid that despite being within God’s will, I would be miserable. That every day would be a struggle. That following God’s plan was going to be possibly the hardest and most difficult experience of my life.

I feared.

Don’t you see? I claimed that God was my Father…that He was righteous, and had a plan for my life. But I didn’t believe that He was good. I “asked for bread”; accepting His call to come to Taiwan and trusting that it was His plan for me, I fully expected Him to give me a rock. While I believed that His will for me to come to Taiwan was “right”, I didn’t believe that it was good.

My whole life, I’ve let my perception of God as this stern, all-knowing King dictate how I respond to situations. People would say, “Fully surrender your life to Christ! He is SO worth it!”. But deep down, I didn’t believe that. I only had my twisted view of life, and what I thought I was capable of, and what I enjoyed, and thought that God couldn’t possibly have anything better and that fully surrendering myself to His will would result in a lot of sacrifice, discomfort and unhappiness.

Just like the little girl who didn't trust that her daddy had something better than the poor pitiful thing she loved, I didn’t initially think that God really knew what He was doing when He called me to Taiwan. But He did…He knew me and my wants and needs far, far better than I did, and I have been constantly amazed and astounded by His love and goodness every single day.

I had feared adjusting to a new culture in Taiwan…but God is GOOD. I ended up feeling almost immediately at home; something I could have never anticipated. Taiwan feels like the childhood state of California that I grew up in, and coming here felt so familiar and so RIGHT. I love the culture now… I’m so thankful to have been able to adapt quickly. And I even have a small knack for learning Chinese.

I’d feared the mantle of leadership… but God is GOOD. He provided me with teammates who were exactly His special gift to me. Being in the position of leader gave me the the opportunity to learn and grow as a person, and I discovered that I was capable of far more than I ever realized. My confidence has grown by leaps and bounds… when I went home last summer, people kept commenting on how self-assured and confident I looked. If you knew what a timid person I can be, you’d understand why that is a big deal.

And the thing I’d feared the most, teaching… God is SO GOOD! I’m not a bad teacher! I actually really enjoy my job, and how I can express my creativity by putting together lessons that delight and inspire. I get to love on and be loved by my students, and I feel so fulfilled in the work that I do. Every day is a fun, fun day.

I had worried and resisted and fought God’s leading to come to Taiwan for years, because my puny human brain couldn’t possibly comprehend that it was exactly what I needed. But God knew. My time here in Taiwan has been happy; so happy. I’ve been moved to tears multiple times as I stand in awe at the perfectness of God’s plan for me. I didn’t know that moving to Taiwan would be one of the best things that had ever happened to me. But God knew. He was faithful!

God doesn’t give snakes to His children. He delights in giving us things that are far, far better than our human understanding can comprehend. That doesn’t mean that things are always easy or that we always catch on right away. But even as we sit and cry and fret over the potential loss of our broken futures, hopes and dreams, I guarantee that God has something far better in store for us. He did for me. He will for you, too.

He’s our Good Father, after all!

I've seen many searching for answers far and wide
But I know we're all searching for answers only you provide 
Because you know just what we need before we say a word

You're a Good, Good Father
It's who you are, It's who you are,
It's who you are and I'm loved by you
It's who I am, It's who I am, It's who I am
Good, Good Father (Housefires)

~Elisabeth Corduan

Elisabeth Corduan is in her second year serving as a volunteer English teacher at the Character and English Institute in Taitung, Taiwan. She has been blessed to have been able to travel all over Taiwan, and is slowly but surely getting stamps from different Asian countries in her passport. Her favorite place to visit so far has been Tokyo, Japan. She loves traveling, singing and curling up with a good book!