Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Afraid to Love

Fear is almost unavoidable. Everyone faces it in his or her own way. We face small fears, like the foods we may have to eat while living in Taiwan. We face more significant fears, like what will happen to our futures if we make a wrong decision. Whether dealing with small or great fears, one thing is for sure: fear is a killjoy. It robs you of your peace. It rips apart everything that you hold dear. It makes you question everything that you believe to be right. It will even make you question the One who is always right.   

The Bible says that we are God's sheep and that we are called to follow the Good Shepherd. Often, though, when He takes us to a pasture, we have to make sure that it is the right pasture. We have to see whether or not the grass is really green and good. We have to pray to the Shepherd and question whether or not He brought us to the right location. What if there is danger? What if things go wrong? Surely we would be in the wrong place if that happened. But do we trust that the Shepherd really is good? Do we believe that every good and perfect gift is from above? Do we believe that He said don't worry about tomorrow, but listen to my voice and follow me. Do we believe that He loves us? Do we really love Him?
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
1 John 4:18 
Because there is no fear in love, we cannot love God and be afraid of Him at the same time. We must believe that He loves us and will protect us, and we must choose to follow Him. We must stop trying to plan our lives all out to the tee. Jesus never said get comfortable in this life or find happiness. He said fight, deny yourself, and follow Him wherever He may take you. Ministry is not about the location or even what you are doing, it's about following the Good Shepherd and listening to His voice. We must fix our eyes on Him and look to the hope of His calling on our lives. 

All glory and praise be unto God. It will never be about me or the work that I can do for Him. Praise His holy name. Praise the God who leads and loves. 


~David Lukachick

David Lukachick, born in Louisiana, loves southern cooking and amazing coffee. This is his second year teaching English in Taiwan. He is so grateful for the Lord’s leading in his life. The Lord is constantly bringing him to a place to only trust in the Lord. 

This Little Light in The Darkness

As I sit here on this bus, I am suddenly aware of the darkness that surrounds me and I am reminded of my presence here. I’m not speaking of the physical darkness – it’s only 8:30am here. But the emotional darkness, the mental darkness, the deep, heavy, spiritual darkness. That all-consuming, suffocating, blinding darkness that affects and infects the faces I see on a daily basis. 

As I sit here next to the woman muttering and moaning to the beads she clutches in her fingertips, I feel that saddening, suffocating darkness. And in this darkness, I realize my purpose here. I have the sword to cut through this darkness. I have been given the power to pray to my God, THE God, to wash over this darkness. And I smile to myself knowing my weak and feeble prayers to a strong and almighty God are enough to overcome her mutterings that bring darkness to this bus and are powerful enough to cover her with grace and love. 

From the saddened and confused faces I pass on the street everyday to the looks of anger and pain I see staring back at me in the classroom. From the friend who has heard God but doesn’t know God, to the friend who knows God but is overwhelmed with the forces of this world. From the coworkers I work with everyday who carry on like life is nothing but an event to live till it’s over, to those I choose to spend my free time with who just get overwhelmed with it all from time to time. Darkness. But this darkness doesn’t have to be my darkness. 

My candle is very small! A tea light, really. But even a tea light still shines, sometimes if only quietly unnoticed in the background. It may not light a room but it still serves a purpose in adding beauty to the area in which it has been placed. I am a tea light. I am the small flame God chose to add to this island. It’s not much and at times has me feeling so inadequate, like how could I possibly be enough? I fail SO much and half the time I’m not even sure I’m doing it right. But I don’t have to be enough because He is enough through me! And He’s not going anywhere! So the darkness can try to surround this magical little island but it will not prevail. Because this little tea light of mine? I’m gonna let it shine!
“You are the light of the world...Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.” 
Matthew 5:14a, 16

Sarah-Jane Cruz is a first year TESOL teacher with VOICE Missions serving on the beautiful island of Kinmen just off the coast of China. Before coming to Taiwan, Sarah-Jane earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Georgia and went on to serve in the US Peace Corps in Ecuador as a Community Health volunteer. She currently teaches 1st - 9th grades across two different islands in Kinmen County. She is particularly skilled at the art of synchronized hopscotch and underwater basket-weaving. When she is not in the classroom, Sarah-Jane likes to spend her time exploring and photographing the beautiful beaches, tunnels, towers, mountains, and historical military sites that Kinmen has to offer, SCUBA dive, or hang out and share a meal with friends.

Powerless. Until…

“We have no power from God unless we live in the persuasion that we have none of our own.” 
~John Owen

It is the beginning of a new year, and at the same time, the close to the end of one school semester. A chance for a fresh start to improvement, yet time is running out to continue making a direct impact during the year we are given in Taiwan. Maybe you have been like me and have set some goals or resolutions before. I have even said that I would make such and such changes for the better and would try really hard. It would probably last several days, weeks, or months and then my old ways would revive. This is the case when I rely on myself to try to do what is good. 

Since coming back to Taiwan, this year especially, God has been teaching me how unattainable it is to do anything, including what I know He wants me to achieve, in my own strength. That is, anything apart from Him. Here are some examples: I was in another location the previous year; in moving to Pingtung, there are definitely more temples around and it felt more spiritually dark here by comparison. It drew me closer to God as I understood how incredibly small I am without Him. I would have a hard day teaching, or make some mistake and feel I just got beat up by something beyond me. Discouragements came easily because I was too focused on doing what is good without having Christ live through me. Also, not being a part of the ministries that I did the prior year made me undergo a sense of unproductiveness in missions. But in reality, my ministry has just changed forms. For this semester, it has shifted less from children hungry for love and attention to co-workers and the locals to see needs that reflect a greater need for Jesus. In response to this, God has shown me my need for His transforming power in my life and to better myself in various skills so I could be a more effective light and testimony. All this has been personally a very growing experience. 

We come to Taiwan with hopes of serving and making some impact, but it all has to start from within everyday so we could do the impossible: love like Jesus can love. Second Peter 1:5-8 says, “And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It takes hard work and discipline on our part, but He is the only One capable of making the transformation including lasting results and with that, He has promised to make us fruitful. Let us go into the next year and semester with the hope that nothing is impossible through Christ. 

~ Angela Hsu

Angela Hsu is from Mississippi. She was raised in Taiwan until she was seven years old and has also spent some time living in New Zealand. This is her second year to be volunteering as an English teacher back in her native country. She is currently teaching in Pingtung with King Car, while her previous location was in Hualien with CEI (Character, English Institute). Her team is super awesome, and she is looking forward to seeing how God will work in the following semester. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Go Ye Into All the Basketball Courts

As I was playing basketball with my friends one day, I asked them why I have never seen any foreigners coming here to play with them; I was always the only non-Taiwanese person there. Their answer made me realize why God brought me to be here among them. 

There are twenty courts inside this dome in Kaohsiung, which is the second largest city in Taiwan. This place is always full of people playing and there is no place for you to sit down since the space outside the courts is full of parked motorcycles. This is the first place where I can block someone in a game and they just laugh at how this 6.5 foot guy blocked them when shooting the ball, instead of getting mad at me. There are few days when I don’t have people coming to take a picture with me, they ask me to put my hand on their heads and stand up as tall as I can, it’s crazy! So fun! 

I play on two local teams, although I had to find my own uniform in the USA since my American size, XL, is a 4XL in Taiwanese measurements and no sports store sells that. My friend Dirk says that when he told them about me coming to the team, they decided to sign up for a big competition, and I have felt the pressure to play well ever since! 

The reason, they told me, that you won’t see any foreigners playing basketball with us here is because “they are always in the bars with the Taiwanese girls. But you like to come and play with us, you talk to everyone in here, you are different.” What my friends said to me that day was God’s way of saying, “I want you on the courts with them.”

There have been amazing conversations during and after our games about why I believe God is real, how God healed me from asthma when I was a kid which now enables me to play sports, why I am not afraid of dying, why I love my wife and son, why we want more kids, why we traveled this far to be volunteers, and through these and many more conversation topics I have been able to tell them about His love.

Some days I would like to push it more and quickly see “fruit on the trees,” but inside I ask the Holy Spirit for guidance, to wait for His move in their hearts before my move, meanwhile I’ll keep praying for them, spending time with them, and taking funny pictures with my hand on their heads while they laugh.

As we were driving to a game the other night, one of my friends saw a group of Mormons standing on the corner of an intersection holding a sign that said, “Free English Classes.” He turned to me and said, “Do you see them? They only teach 5 minutes of English class, and 55 minutes of their Mormon religion class. I don’t like that. They try to be friends with me just so I can be like them. That is not honest.”

Gerardo and his wife Cristina
He is right. I pray with hope that this second year in Taiwan God will allow me to see the fruit of all those great conversations I have had with my friends in the basketball team about my Savior. I pray that the Holy Spirit convicts their hearts and gives them the desire to find this sweet love that can redeem their lives.

I want to see the fruit, I don’t want to go back home without seeing at least one of my basketball friends turning to Jesus. I am not here just to wholeheartedly teach in the schools of Taiwan, but to use every second of every hour of every day as a messenger of truth and Eternal life with whoever I meet.

~Gerardo Guerra

Gerardo (or Jerry, easier for Taiwanese people or those who can’t roll their R’s) is the leader of the amazing team in Pingtung. He is the author of the Spanish book “Mas que Saliva” Jerry is in Taiwan for his second year, along with his beautiful wife, Cristina, and their newborn son, Sawyer. They love to try new scary foods with a big smile every time! You can find their blog at: crelevante.com

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Two Words

Almost five years ago, I first arrived in Taiwan in answer to God’s call in my heart to give my life in service to Him. At that time, I knew I should obey and that nothing should get in the way of my commitment to serve and obey. Unfortunately, when I arrived, I brought myself with me and it was the beginning of a very long journey of self-improvement in which even now I am still traveling. Two things have been on the forefront of my mind since my arrival in 2010: love of others over self, and God’s mercy to get us past our many mistakes.

Both love and mercy are words that Christians use on a regular basis and they can begin to seem overused. Through my college years the deeply-important Biblical meanings of love and mercy have been weakened of their impact on me, but as I have been learning a second-language over the past few years, and really looking at the meanings and uses of words, I feel God revealing their true definitions and practical applications.

In the beginning, I was focused on loving myself and looking out for myself. Yes, I was committed to serving God, but sadly this had only been a surface choice with the true reason being that I wanted to make my family proud of me. It took some hard hits and tough lessons to get it through my thick skull that God didn’t want me to be here living for myself, but to be here to live fully surrendered to Him and as such, to be a vessel through which He could share His love to others. As I try to think of a better way to describe this, I recognize that God is still working in my life in this area and although I may have slightly improved, even to the point of going out of my way to act kindhearted sometimes, there is still a lot of work to be done in this area of loving my neighbors, loving the brethren, and loving God, but I won’t stop moving forward.

Yunlin VOICE Missions Team
As for the part of mercy, I have been learning that not only do we enjoy each new day under the mercy of God (Lamentations 3:22-23), but we ourselves must be merciful to others, not just those who are good to us, but to those who are bad to us, (Luke 6:32-36). As I have been learning to be merciful to others two things have become apparent to me. First, that our interaction with children as teachers is a great opportunity for us to show mercy without expecting anything in return and even though sometimes they may seem lost in their own little selfish worlds, they recognize God’s love and are blessed and influenced by it. Secondly, as I have been confronted with many opportunities to be merciful towards others for either obvious or perceived offenses, I realized that it is best to approach being wronged from a position of mercy as more-often-than-not I am totally misunderstanding circumstances and in danger of being the one doing the harm and then in need of receiving forgiveness.

God has used the past few years of my time in teaching English in Taiwan to teach me really deeply-important facts about life and Christian ministry. May God bless us and may we continue to be eager as both teachers and as students.

~Tim Piotrowicz

Tim was born in the small town of La Porte, Indiana, raised in the small town of Los Alamos, New Mexico, and lives in the small town of Douliu, Taiwan, working in ministry as a teacher, tutor, and writer. He greatly enjoys studying psychology, writing poetry, and practically engaging in evangelism and counseling.