Thursday, December 31, 2015

Taiwan & America

Over the last three years I have been living abroad and what never ceases to amaze me are all of the differences I have grown accustomed to. I’m not just referring to the language, but also to the everyday mundane. However, while I have grown accustom to these things, they can still be fascinating for those who don’t live here. I will attempt to reveal to you some of those very differences as I begin to unfold my views on the differences between Taiwan and America.

At the starting gate is possibly the most obvious difference: language. Do not be deceived, I am not speaking of the obvious Chinese vs. English. Rather, I am speaking of the less obvious English vs. Simplified English. In Taiwan you are constantly at war with your native tongue. What I mean is that you are constantly having to “dumb down” your English in order to be understood. Therefore, in many situations you must shorten your sentences and use grammatically incorrect phrases. Often times you might find yourself using hand gestures or charades instead of actual words. But when words can be used, you usually will just end up saying the most important ones. For example, “Where is the bathroom?” turns into just “Bathroom!?”

Another difference that is common in Taiwanese culture is the fact that it is quite socially acceptable to talk about another person’s body weight at any given time. I distinctly remember one such occasion. I was seeing a Chinese teacher of mine after about a month and the first thing that she exclaimed as I walked through the door was, “Wow! It’s a long time! It seems like you have gained a little weight.” These are the moments where we end up being students of a culture so far removed from our own western mindset. A culture that is so fascinating on many levels.

Another interesting cultural difference in Taiwan is the infamous battle of cold vs. hot water. It turns out that, unlike our Western mind-set, Taiwanese people live by a well-known fact that warm or hot water are most suitable for a woman's body. So don't be alarmed when you are served boiling hot water in 100 degree weather in the middle of summer - it's all in the name of good health! 

Last but not least in coming to Taiwan, one thing you will quickly notice is your relationships with those around you is very key as to how far you can get with them. In other words: if I want to share about the most miraculous story of forgiveness and grace (the gospel) I must first establish a relationship with the person. I can stand on any street corner and declare that “God loves you!" but it will fall on deaf ears if I am not showing that love in my life and to those around me. Much of what we do in Taiwan is being observed by all of those around us, especially in areas where teams have been serving for 10 or more years. Consequently, our testimony and our message is the daily living out our faith. I have had many wonderful conversations about God with my friends, but it was after I had built trust with them and they were able to see that I care about them.
Pingtung Team
Taiwanese culture has many differences from American culture. No matter how inconvenient some of these differences may be, I know the Lord has taught me many things through them. In many ways, I believe it also opens up your worldview a bit and helps you to understand that God made each culture so unique and so special. Coming back to Taiwan a third year, I feel that we are the real students not the teachers. All of these cultural challenges do not come without their laughable moments. A well-seasoned Taiwan traveler will tell you to laugh at yourself. Otherwise you will continue to become frustrated without getting to know the people involved or their intentions.

Please continue to pray for God’s work in Taiwan, He is real and lives in us here. We hope to be a bright light in a dark world, sharing His message by learning and being willing to be wrong. I have seen that being in a foreign country is more of a culture shock to some than others, but the real key is to learn from our mistakes, and laugh at ourselves. Learning Chinese is no picnic, but God doesn't send those who are fully capable of doing His work, He sends those that He can work through and will live out His plan.

~Mary Corduan

Mary Corduan has lived in Taiwan for almost three years now. She previously served with VOICE Missions in Yuli on the east side of Island. A year and a half ago she took a short break in the States before coming back to Taiwan halfway through the year. At that time she was transferred to Pintung. This year she serves as a co-team leader for the Pingtung team, which is the most southern location we have in VOICE missions. Mary enjoys writing from time to time, as well as singing. She considers herself to be very blessed to serve with a team that also loves singing.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

God's Love

Ni hao (hello)

My name is Paul Anderson. I live on the small island of Kinmen. I teach in two Elementary schools, He-pu and Jinsha and I love it.

Sometimes I wonder what qualifies me to teach in such a wonderful place to such wonderful children (mostly wonderful :-P) And thinking about it, I often feel I am not qualified, that they deserve better than what I can give, that surely someone out there who has perfect grammar and wonderful ideas is just waiting to come teach and I am in the way. This way of thinking kept me from coming when I first heard about this amazing opportunity.

What I want to say is this: Never doubt what God calls you to do. God called me here to this place, I am not a perfect teacher, I mess up more often than I would like to admit, but God called me here. He did not call me here so I can impart perfect grammar and pronunciation to first graders (but if I could, hey that’s awesome :), He called me here to love them and to show them His love. That is the best teaching you can do, to truly love.

So if you feel called to come, but doubt it, don’t: come and show God’s love.

~Paul Anderson

Paul Anderson, born in Pittsberg Texas, is the 8th of 10 children. He is 23 years old and has loved his time serving in Taiwan. Kinmen is the third location he has taught in, spending his first year in Yunlin, and then for another year in Taitung.

Friday, December 18, 2015


The word I chose to describe this moment of my life:

NUMINOUS (adj.) Describing an experience that makes you fearful yet fascinated, awed yet attracted- the powerful, personal experience of being overwhelmed and inspired.
I believe that - in some point of life - a decisive moment knocks on the door, the one where we can choose either to continue with whatever you are doing, or to take the adventure to “The Unknown Land”.

Today, I’m writing this blog from Kinmen, Taiwan while living the experience of a lifetime. My purpose in this country is the same as it is in my own: to love, to serve, to witness, to enjoy, to share, to give, to teach, to learn… in an effort to become a “Global Citizen” who can understand the world from a holistic perspective of what people call culture - and at the same time - trying to understand the cosmovision that God wants me to have about the world, people, and love. Maybe it’s too soon for me to make a statement about Taiwanese Culture, I have only been here for 3-4 months, but I will share some of my impressions:

I have a deep desire to understand the paradox of different perspectives of God in other cultures, there was a man who gave me a good example of how God’s love changed him:
“Before Jesus, I was living afraid of the ‘god’ that I was worshiping; I was living like this just to protect me from horrible situations/punishments.  Can you imagine how joyful I am now that I know that I worship a God that actually loves me and wants the best for me?  I would do everything for this God, I would do everything for Jesus” 
-A Christian Taiwanese citizen at the bus stop.    

I have a burden in my heart, I want people to live the freedom that Jesus gave us on the cross, that God’s love is unlimited and unconditional and living as a child of God is life-changing.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11

Me as a Teacher in Public and Private Taiwanese Schools

Professional co-working with another culture is fascinating - you never know what to expect, but you have to be ready for everything - even if communication or cultural differences could sometimes be a barrier. The Taiwanese co-teachers are always willing and happy to have all types of cultural exchanges so we all can do our best for the kids.

They are crazy about having foreign teachers and I’m so glad that I have connected with my students in a way where language is not a barrier anymore. We have what they call, a “Quiz for you quiz for me” - we teach each other. I teach them English and they teach me something in Chinese and the following week we do a fun quiz to see who’s learning faster. This activity is fascinating as they have built a strong confidence where they know that every mistake is a chance to learn the right way. And of course they have laughed at my “weird Chinese.”

Connections are powerful, I can tell the difference when kids know they are loved no matter what they do. Paul is one of my 4th Grade students at Kaishiuan Elementary School. He has autism and reacts to everything with anger. I had the chance to talk to him and explain how loved he is, that he is smart and that he is such a good student. Then we all said loudly, “WE LOVE YOU PAUL”... that was the last time I saw him having an anger attack against other students.

There’s a word in Spanish called cotidianidad. Sometimes people can be so involved in their daily lives that maybe they don't realize extraordinary things happening in their lives. I believe God works in the middle of the ordinary so it can be extraordinary. In regular life activities, let’s be sensitive to his voice, and let’s let his light shine through us.I may have limited strength and limited days, but I have unlimited resources to enable me to carry out all that God has assigned me to do.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
Ephesians 1:18-19

~Zabdi Montiel

Zabdi Montiel Fuentes is 24 years old and from Veracruz, México. She attended UANL where she earned a Bachelor's Degree of Science in Communications. In Mexico, she is a Project Manager of Social Programs. Her time in Taiwan is giving her new cultural experience in education and lifestyle which is teaching her how this country conducts their public politics and legislation. This knowledge has led her to integrate new perspectives that can improve Social Projects in Mexico. She believes that having a cosmovision enriched by different cultures is the key to transform a society. She likes music and photography and enjoys having a cup of coffee with good friends.

Monday, December 7, 2015


A while back, I was talking to a childhood best friend and I was telling her about all of my struggles since being here in Taiwan. I was totally discouraged after a rough day and was fishing for someone to rectify my mood. Something she said to me has been stuck in my head since she said it. She told me that being in Taiwan is a selfless act. I began to look over my life and I realized I was always taking from people. All too often I let my selfish desires consume me. I’m finally getting to give back for the first time in my life. And what an incredible blessing it is to just try each day to be selfless. (EMPHASIS on the word ‘try’ because as humans you know how carnal we can be some days.) The fact is life doesn’t go how we plan. One day you might just get a crazy calling to go overseas and teach English. Which in my case, that’s exactly what happened. And knowing all too well I need to obey God’s call, I’m here in Taiwan.

Don’t get me wrong, I really love it. Quite honestly I have totally fallen in love with the people, the culture, and the country as a whole. But sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in the difficulties and struggles. I get frustrated with the language barrier and get discouraged by limitations. But I remember that the God who created the whole universe with exact precision calls me His child. So here is what I’ve concluded: If He can create an entire universe that literally nobody can even half understand, and He did it in less than six days, I doubt He can be limited by something as silly as a language barrier, especially since He Himself created language diversity. Honestly, when I break it down in my head, it seems so goofy that I even doubt Him sometimes.

We are called of Christ to reach out and love a hurting world. Every single person reading this, this is our ultimate purpose in life. It doesn’t matter where you are, your age, your gender, your conditions – nobody gets a pass. As elementary as it is, somehow we keep missing it.

Hualian Team
We in Taiwan have an especially unique opportunity to do His will. Every week we get to be surrounded by children that are so hungry to feel loved. It’s the small things we do that make them perceive us in special ways. Playing games with the children, singing familiar English songs with them, telling them just how important they are. These are just small ways we can show love to them. And you know what? It’s those small things that make a great impact. Years from now they may not remember your name, but they’ll remember how you made them feel.

Being American is also an advantage we have. When we go out in public, most people are automatically prone to watching us. That’s why it’s so important that we are so careful how we portray ourselves in the community. I always have to ask myself if I’m portraying the love of God through how I act and what I wear and say. Because no matter what I do, my ultimate desire is to please God, not man, and it’s those things that speak volumes.

For those in Taiwan, I want to share something with you that a friend sent to me, and I want you to think about it and let it convict you, because it’s so true.
“You have so much love in your heart for the Children and people there, they really need you there more than you need to be there. Be a light! You have 8 more months and when it’s over you would have done something more daring and selfless than a lot of people will do in their lives. Be a blessing friend, the world needs you.”
I love you all, I feel so blessed that I get to do this journey with you all. I think you’re all awesome and I’m so encouraged when I’m reading your posts and blogs about what God is doing. I’ll pray for you, you pray for me, we’re all a part of God’s body. Let’s be the hands of Christ by reaching out and sharing His love and compassion to Taiwan. *Jia you!

~Hannah Rountree

Hannah Rountree is a 19 year old homeschool graduate from Rountree homeschool serving with VOICE Missions on the Hualien team. This is her first time traveling to Taiwan and she loves playing with the kids and learning more about the culture every day.

*Editor Note: Jia you (加油) is a Chinese word of encouragement. Literally meaning "Add Oil" it is the equivalent of saying 'all the best' or 'good luck'.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Live & Learn

Being in Taiwan has taught me many things. I’ve learned how to speak Chinese, I’ve learned how to teach English, I’ve learned how to cut dragon fruit and eat lychee, I’ve learned to be flexible when the computer is broken and I can’t use the PowerPoint I prepared, and I’ve learned many other things.But the best way for me to learn is hands on. I’m a kinesthetic learner, so when I actually do what I’m learning, I retain it longer and understand it better. I think this is why God often uses analogies with me. When you can’t do something, likening it to something you already understand is the second best thing.

When I first came to Taiwan, I was lonely. I missed my family, I missed my friends, and I missed my culture. Everything and everyone was new, I longed for news from home. People back home knew this new journey wouldn’t necessarily be easy and would write from time to time. As the years passed, I gained more friends here, deepened relationships with people here, and heard less and less from the people back home. I’d still get news from my family (so I knew what was going on) but news directly from the other people themselves was scarce.

Seeking to change this situation, I started writing emails to my closer friends, hoping I’d hear back from them. At first a few of them would reply, but as time wore on, I stopped hearing from them even when I was writing to them. I was in the middle of writing to my best friend one day, hoping against hope that she’d reply this time when I wondered if this is how God feels with us sometimes. We wake up, we read our Bible, we seek for His wisdom in decision making, but that’s about it. I know it’s very easy for me to slip into this pattern.

God loves His children. He seeks a relationship with us. And a relationship is two ways. I love and miss my friends back home, this is what drives me in continuing to communicate with them. But I also want to hear from them. Even though my family keeps me updated and I know what’s happening in my friend’s lives, I still want to hear from my friends themselves. God also wants to hear from His children. Yes, He knows everything about us, but He still wants a relationship with us. That doesn’t mean just us hearing from Him (though that is important). That means that it is okay to talk to Him about what’s going on in our lives. He wants us to talk to Him. 

Being in Taiwan has taught me many things. I’ve learned how to communicate more clearly, I’ve learned the importance of letting people know you’re thinking of them, I’ve learned that I need to be talking to God and not just hearing from Him, and I’m continuing to learn many other things.

~Gabrielle Martin

Originally from Chicago, Gabrielle Martin, is currently serving on the Taichung team in central Taiwan. She graduated from Thomas Edison State College with a B.A. in Liberal Studies, enjoys writing and photography and has a blog that can be found at This is her 4th year serving with VOICE Missions in Taiwan.