Monday, March 28, 2016

Making an Impact

Core Bible Study Group
For a while now I have felt insecure about whether or not I am really making a difference in this world. As time passes the thoughts only grew until it plagued my mind.  I considered how I have been a Christian for twenty years and I have yet to lead someone in the sinner’s prayer. I remember when I was younger thinking if I can just at least lead one person to Christ then I will come out even in the last days. (I realize this is wrong thinking. Keep in mind, I said I was young.) And do not get me wrong, I have been there as others lead a person in the sinner’s prayer, but I have never been the instigator. I even had a little girl in my Sunday class ask me directly but my co-teacher swooped in and led her in the prayer. This fact used to really get me down and burden my heart; I felt useless as a Christian. I felt I was failing to do the one thing God called me to do: to go into the world and make disciples, that is. 
A teacher from my first year

Then I realized the verse does not say or mean that I need to go into the world and lead others in the sinner’s prayer. Instead I am to go into the world and share the gospel. The gospel is simply this… that there is a God, He cares about and loves each person deeply, and wants them to pursue a personal relationship with Him. Because in Him and Him only can we feel fulfilled. Often times this does not mean that I get to see them come to Christ. My job is to go into the fields planting seeds of encouragement and love watching and praying as they grow and blossom into something beautiful. This is not because of me and my working or persuasion but because I serve a God who changes hearts. Quite often because of our own stubborn pride it is a little at a time. I have no power to persuade others to repentance, only Christ at work in the hearts of men and women can persuade them. I am, however, to obey God’s call on my heart. I am to stir up the ones around me through encouragement. Encouraging them to love and show love through good works. As said in Hebrews 10:23-25: 

 “Let us hold fast the confessions of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

It is not always non-believers that need some stirring. Often times it is people that have accepted Christ but due to lack of encouragement and support they begin to fall away. Let’s face it: we all need a little encouragement sometimes. That is why coming back this year to Taiwan has been such a rewarding experience. I have been able to see the work that Christ has been doing in the hearts of my friends, teachers and students in the two years I have been absent. It overwhelms and fills my heart to see my teachers exclaim how happy and encouraged they are by this, and that even though they have yet to see that what is making them happy is the love and grace of God working in their lives. 

When preparing to write this blog I have been thinking and meditating on what I should say or what Christ would have me share and it’s this… God does not need qualified Christians to win others to Christ. He needs obedient Christians whose hearts are humbled before Him. I know I am useless to persuade others but I do have the choice to obey. And I have been amazed at the opportunities that God has laid at my door and my job is always simple because Christ has done the real work. Often times I just need to state the truth or share the joy, love, and grace that comes from God dwelling in my heart. 
5th Grade students
To give you an example, when we first arrived here in Yuli I reconnected with my local church and we established an English Bible study where we are going through a series based on the book “This Was Your Life” by Jamie Lash. The first semester we had some people come but only a few. So after last week our core English Bible study members met together and I just felt God urging me to take the time to pray for our Bible study this semester and to think of people we could invite and just to pray for them. Then just today I was sitting in the office and a young man that works at my school walked up to me and asked hey do you have any kind of English program at your church or something in the evenings my friends and I could attend? All I had to do is say when and where. 
Yuli church youth group
Another lady I know from two years ago messaged me on Facebook and just wanted me to confirm that we had this English Bible study. She already knew when and where it was and what we were studying! I mean I can in no way claim I had anything to do with any of these people wanting to come. All I can say is PRAISE THE LORD because He hears our prayers and knows our hearts. God cannot use a Christian heart that is proud. Instead we must purpose to keep our hearts humble before Him and watch and pray and you will be flabbergasted as to how God can use you.  Allow me to encourage and stir you on. Hold fast to the faith God has given you! Come before God with a humble heart and allow Him to change you. In the mean time watch and pray, encourage and love on the ones around you. You may be the only Christ likeness they see, make sure you are representing Him well.

~Elise Glenn

Elise is a teacher serving with VOICE Missions in five different public elementary schools in Yuli, Taiwan. This is her second non-consecutive year teaching in the beautiful city of Yuli.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Ordinary to Extraordinary

A few weeks ago the Nantou team had a reunion with the government’s supervisors, to see how the program was going so far and to change or improve any details. I was nervous that the English teachers might complain that the only thing that I was doing was playing instead of teaching (which is what most of the English teachers ask me to do). But it didn’t happen.

Days after the reunion, all of the teachers thanked me for playing with the kids, for listening to them. and for being more than a teacher, a friend. All of them told me the same thing, that because of me, the kids were more excited to learn English because they wanted to be able to communicate with me. And that most of the students started to learn English by themselves through music, books, and movies. I was touched, because I didn’t do anything extraordinary. I just played with them and made them laugh, things completely ordinary. But one day God talked to me and said: sometimes we only have to do ordinary things because He will put the extraordinary into those things.

That’s why I’m not worried anymore about if I’m doing simple things or not, because I have faith that God will turn them into extraordinary things for His kingdom.

~Deidre Lemus

Deidre was born in Mexico. She is currently serving with VOICE Missions in Nantou, and because of that she is now learning her fifth language: Chinese. If you give her any kind of delicious food or candy, you will gain her love for ever! And if are in trouble she will be there to help but if she can’t help, she will do anything to just make you smile.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Never Judge People by their Pasts

I grew up receiving abuse and hurts by adults in my life. Not many people were patient with me or gave me time to let me improve in different areas of my life. I received lots of verbal abuse and always got bullied by kids in school because of my loss of hearing. During my teen years, I felt I was the only one going through struggles and there was no one else who was having a hard time or being abused by others. I didn’t understand why God allowed this to happen to me and didn’t believe He really cares for me.

God used the boys from the FHL (Faith Hope Love)* home to help me grasp the deeper reason of why He allowed the past hurts and abuses. If I had not gone through all the pain and hurts, I would never understand what the boys have gone through or done. Others say bad things about us and don’t give us a chance to build patience, confidence in ourselves, and most importantly, unconditional love. Yes, we have made wrong choices, been abused, or encountered other situations, but it doesn’t give you the right to judge us by our past. God still loves us and cares for us no matter what we have done. That is called grace and unconditional love.

I am grateful for boys who help me get a glimpse of God’s picture. They always will be special in my heart, I will always look forward to spending time with them, I will always try to encourage them in their difficult times, and I will always love them no matter what.

~Korielle Smith

Korielle is serving with VOICE Missions in Hualien City, Taiwan. Teaching in Taiwan for the past six months has opened her eyes to see how big and awesome God’s grace is. She loves teaching and playing with her students. She also loves to spend time exploring Hualien city, play sports with FHL boys at the boys’ home, and learning Chinese.

*Editor's Note: The Faith Hope Love Home is a home for troubled teen boys. For the past few years the Hualian VOICE Missions team has been very involved in ministering at this home. 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Overcoming My Fears in the Country of Fear

I have been living in Taiwan for six months and one of the things that I have noticed is how fearful people here are, they are afraid of their gods and of getting sick, so the whole time they are trying to protect themselves.

At the beginning, I didn’t realize how much spiritual warfare my team and I would face. Our team leader told us that here it is so easy to be afraid. We have different fears, but it’s so easy to be fearful.

For me, some of my fears are: What if I wasn’t accepted by my students, teachers, and teammates? What if I am not enough? Maybe I won’t be good enough to be a good English teacher. Maybe I am not mature enough to be here for 11 months. Or I am not smart enough to learn Chinese. Or I won’t be wanted because of my race.

Not all my fears where in my imagination, actually. Chinese is a very difficult language to learn. Kids here have more freedom than in my country; talking about classroom management and respect. People here have a special love for white people. English is not my native tongue, and it’s my first time on a trip this long.

But what can you do when fears are becoming stronger? When you question yourself “was coming here was the right decision?” I think you have two options, either you let your fears cripple you or you give your fears to God and decide to trust Him. Trust the call He gave you to come here.

Fear has helped me to become closer to God because every moment I feel how incapable I am. I need Him in order to teach, to speak, to embrace my time here, and to show others God’s love with my actions more than my words since they can’t understand them. It’s a constant exercise.

After this time, I have become braver than when I just came. I’m not ashamed of my skin color. I had never been, that’s how God created me, but I have noticed that when I am with white people, they are the attraction and not me. When I start to feel insecure about if I would be “accepted or not” I decide to stop that thought and be myself. When they get to know me, the skin color is something that doesn’t matter anymore. I’m less afraid to speak the few words or sentences that I have learned in Chinese. Teaching has been complicated and tiring, but it has also been wonderful to be with some kids that have so much love for me and that actually are eager to learn. Living with 5 teammates has been hard, but I have learned more about forgiveness, tolerance, set boundaries, and many other things that I used to struggle with.

Life is not perfect but being fearful is a decision. I decided to not be afraid because my Father has told me: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” When I remember how incapable I am it’s a reminder of the Power of my God

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ, the, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

~Itza Oropeza

Itza is currently serving with VOICE Missions on the Nantou team. Itza is from Mexico City and has been a kindergarten teacher for the last seven years. She loves traveling, chocolates, and tacos!