Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Keep Fighting the Good Fight

There was confusion, negativity, and a flow of unending questions. This was how I felt and acted during my days in college. I was struggling with anxiety, and within that was the fear of making mistakes. It is like a virus that messes with the heart and mind. With a mindset to avoid mistakes, I pushed myself to be perfect in everything I do which resulted in stress and depression. The feeling of uneasiness in the heart and the negativity in the mind made me want to give up. Little did I know that all this was going to turn around during my time in Taiwan.

I’m Wesley Chang, 22 years old, I graduated May 2015 from Iowa State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Technology Manufacturing. After graduating, I had a one year gap before I would be going into graduate school. I decided that I would not waste time and would find something meaningful to do. There were only two options, either get a job or go traveling. So I ended up choosing to travel. But the question was, where? With research, thinking, and talking with parents, I found out about VOICE Missions in Taiwan.

Wesley with other members of the '15-'16 VOICE Missions team.
I then decided to apply. To my surprise, the doors kept opening towards serving in Taiwan. Upon arriving in Taiwan, I was excited and nervous. I had traveled to Taiwan before and I was happy to be back, but on the other hand I was nervous because it was my first time without my parents. To fast forward, I arrived at my designated location with my team. Monday came around and kids arrived. The first week was all about observing and learning. Then the next Monday came and that was when my fears struck me.

Teaching was foreign to me; I never had any teaching experience before. I was worried and afraid to make mistakes which led to discouragement whenever mistakes were pointed out. I felt hopeless and had the urge to give up but something in my mind kept telling me, “You came this far and now you want to give up?” With so many thoughts and so much stress on my mind, I was led to prayer and the Scripture, feeling it was the only way.

Through this experience, God taught me the importance of faith and the will of never giving up.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” 
~Proverbs 3:5

There is no need to be afraid because there is nothing in this world that is impossible for Him.

“But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." 
~Matthew 18:26

I feel that life is like one huge obstacle with different levels. Each level has its own difficulty which can end in the urge to give up. But we need to be reminded that there is always hope. Jesus is hope. God is in control of all things. So never give up, always push forward, and keep fighting the good fight.

~Wesley Chang

Wesley, from Illinois, is currently serving with VOICE Mission on the Yunlin team. His hobbies include hanging out with friends, table tennis, bass guitar, music, and travel. He enjoys talking with his students about growing up in America. Being an American born Taiwanese, he hopes to learn more about his own culture during his time in Taiwan.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What God is Doing in One Orphanage

It had been a month since I had seen my kids at the orphanage. I enjoyed my Chinese New Year break but I sure was ready to see my little friends!

Allen* (name changed) ran over and jumped in my arms. I grinned and asked if he had missed my friends and I who usually come every week. He nodded seriously and said "It feels like a year since I've seen you!"

I suppose to a third grader, one month certainly could feel like a year. Allen's little statement warmed my heart. God is surely working in this place and in these kids' lives.

My first time meeting this mischievous, energetic fireball of a boy was back in January 2014. I fell instantly in love. Allen has grown so much these past few years. Sure, physically he's a lot taller as a third grader than he was as a first grader. But he's also grown in so many more ways than just that.

Our first English class at his orphanage...oh my. The kids went wild and it was obvious they weren't used to classroom behavior or discipline. Especially Allen. He behaved the worst of all ten kids. It became apparent that his attitude and behavior issues stemmed from his rough past. So in that first class, Allen got angry about something and hid in a cabinet. He refused to come out for quite a while.

But we just kept on being faithful, week after week. God kept pouring His love for these kids into my life and the lives of my friends. We kept praying. Slowly our class changed for the better. The kids learned that we care about them so much that we are willing to lovingly set boundaries and a few class rules.

After awhile, we started seeing small improvements in these orphans' lives. Sure, the other week they did bring rollerblades to class and got a little crazy, but they are learning. I often laugh and say our class shouldn't be called "English class" but "Love, Patience, Discipline and Grace class" because that's what God is really having us teach and exemplify for these kids.

So every week when my friends and I go to teach, we pray and ask God to work in ways we could never do or imagine.

Are our kids now little angels? No way. But God is faithful and little by little, He is changing and molding them. In the process, He's doing the same for me.

So when Allen says it feels like a year since he last saw us, I smile and know - God is working

~Joanna Suich

Joanna, serving with VOICE Missions on the Hualien team, has a heart for all things involving missions, orphans, aboriginal kids and adventures.  After 1.5 years serving on the Taitung and Hualien teams, Joanna went back to the US for a year, thinking perhaps God was leading elsewhere. But when she returned for a three week trip to visit students and friends in May 2015, God used one orphan boy to call her back to Hualien and she's so glad He did! Hualien is home now and she's in her second year of service there. If you're looking for Joanna, check the local village or orphanage, and you'll probably find her there, playing, tutoring and sharing Christ's love and truth.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

God is Our Home

I remember clearly the first devotional that Fae, Kristina, Rebeccah and I had as a team. First week of orientation we gathered together to pray for the upcoming year, plans, and relationships that we wanted to develop through this period of time. During praying and discussion, these were the words that shocked my heart, mind, and life from that day until now… God is our Home.

Hello, my name is Sofia and for those who don’t know me, I’m 18 years old and am from Monterrey, México.

I finished High School when I was 16 years old. I had the option to start college in Monterrey right after that or to leave Mexico and live in America for 6 months to learn English. I chose the second option. I went to America and lived in Hampshire, Illinois for three months and in Indianapolis, Indiana for three months. Now I’m in Taiwan.

I have traveled to several different places in America before, such as Florida, Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma and traveled to different countries in different continents such as Colombia, Mexico and Asia. The reason why I’m telling you all of this is not to show off all the places that I have been before (because I know that probably most of you have been in more countries than me). My reason is to use myself as an example of someone who has been far away from “home” several times. I have been traveling and living by myself since sixteen, yet I had never completely understood what “home” is really about.
This February all the Voice Missions volunteers needed to plan a trip to leave Taiwan for a short time in order to renew the entry date for our visas. I planned on going to Japan with my brother and friend who are teaching with me in Taiwan. My older sister and her friend came from Mexico to meet us there.

Planning the trip was already mentally stressful, but being in Japan was even more over the top. Between finding our way in the Tokyo subway, discussing with everyone which places to go or not go to, the extreme cold, walking long distances, and so on, I experience mental and physical stress like I never had before.

On our last day in Japan my heart felt something that it hadn't felt before. I was longing to go back to Taiwan, to go home. It was a feeling that took some time to identify. I didn’t understand why my heart was longing to go back if some of my closest friends and family were there with me, especially my sister who I hadn’t seen for 6 months. I thought I was wrong for having those feelings. I asked myself why over and over again. It didn’t make any sense to me if they were there. I felt as if I was betraying my family and myself.

I realized that what my heart was longing for it wasn’t Taiwan itself. Of course I love Taiwan but it wasn’t that. It was God. It was Home. My heart was longing for comfort and a safe place. That day was the first day in my life when I, myself, experienced “God is our Home”.

When my plane from Japan arrived in Taiwan, I felt full of peace, and it was one of the best feelings that I had ever had. It wasn’t because I was finally back in Taiwan. It was God. My heart was longing for Him.

I remember my brother saying something that impacted my heart at that moment. He said, “Sofia, I don’t know why, it’s weird, but I feel like as if I’m back home now, and here is not Monterrey, it’s Taiwan.”  When I heard those words it made me smile and I answer to him, “Yes, I know exactly how you're feeling”

For me “Home” was a house that I have back in Monterrey, a place where I could return if something bad happened to me while I was traveling and exploring around the world.

When I realized my lack of knowledge about what “Home” really is I found out a few things:
The definition of “Home” based off Wikipedia says: “The place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.”
I don’t know about you but I found something missing in this definition.

I realized that Monterrey wasn’t my home, my house or even my family. God is my home.

Home is a safe place. Home is where you go when you have nowhere else to go. When you find yourself in trouble and you turn right away to the person that you know for sure will console you. Home is the permanent understanding that it is our relationship with God that provides this for us. Since that day, I’ve been praying for everyone to find their homes. I’ve been praying for people who travel as a hobby, travel for work, are missionaries or anyone who is far away from their first “Home” to find their true home. Their safe place. That no matter where they find themselves in the world, where they are at in life, to make of any place a home.  To prepare our hearts for Him to live within us.

 “Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.”
2 Chronicles 7:15-16

“I have indeed built you an exalted house, a place for you to dwell in forever"
1 Kings 8:13 

~ Sofía Valencia

Elisa Sofía Valencia López was born in Mexico, and is currently serving with VOICE Missions in Chiayi County, Taiwan. She is passionate about learning languages, so she is excited about the chance she has to learn Chinese while in Taiwan before starting her degree in Linguistics. She is addicted to spicy candy, is enjoying her experience of interacting with her students here, and can’t wait to see what adventure God will lead her on next.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Trusting God

I am learning and growing in an area I sometimes may not realize still needs attention.  Living in a country where the spiritual warfare is constantly surrounding us and is impossible to avoid, this lesson comes up multiple times in different ways. Satan loves to test us in the areas we think we are good enough at.  We are never good enough to not need God.  We need to trust His plan because we are to not good enough to figure life out alone.

Some things are easier said than done. As Christians, we're always told to trust God with our lives.  It's easy to say, "I trust God to lead me in the challenges in my life." But, do we really do it? Looking back, there's no doubt God has been leading my life and still is. But, is there trust in His plan being what is right for me?

This is a lesson I thought was finished; however, I'm beginning to think this lesson will never be finished.  This isn't the first time I’ve been learning this lesson... This was definitely a situation that helped me grow in trusting Him and taught others a priceless lesson: Recently, I was placed in a situation that has shown me how God is still teaching me to trust Him. In this situation, I kept doing what looked like the right thing for me to do, when God was asking me to step back and trust Him to work it out.  The right thing for me to do was nothing and I couldn't see how that was possible. I was doubting if God really knew ALL the details when He knows more than I do, or if the outcome would be the best one. These both came down to trusting God. God forced me to step back.  When my trust was completely placed in God, it was amazing to see what He did.  He allowed a miraculous solution to happen only when my trust was fully in Him.

To give a brief summary of the above mentioned situation, I was teaching at a school that was giving me challenges that were above my ability to control.  I began seeking help and advice, when God was already telling me He is the solution I needed to the challenge I was facing.  God was testing to see if I would allow the control to come from Him and not me. When my trust was placed in Him, there was a huge change in that school.  We went from not being able to teach anything in a lesson to now being able to complete a lesson and still having extra time. The timing has been a blessing too. I was able to teach them about the true meaning of Easter and I was able to see that many of them truly understood for the first time. They would tell me they have heard about it before but they didn't understand it. This time, they really understood it. Trusting God in being able to work through the challenges in my life has been an obstacle, yet I’m still learning and growing.

Lastly, not only was I needing to trust God more, but my students learned something well.  At the beginning, they just thought "She's just another teacher." When I allowed God to work in the situation, (which involved skipping one day of school) this helped the students realize the value and importance of having me there as a foreign teacher.  God not only taught me something through this, but also the students I'm teaching.

~ Hayley Osborne

Hayley, currently serving with VOICE Missions on the Nantou team, is from Florida. This is her second year in Taiwan. Some of her favorite activities include swimming and playing the piano. She enjoys learning from as well as teaching the students at her schools. She hopes that in the future she will either be able to become a teacher or military translator, translating English and Chinese.