Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Using Our Remaining Time

After my team teaches four or five weeks of camps at our school, we usually have what we call an “office week.” We are still required to be at our school during work hours, but we don’t have students.  Instead, we sit in the office and work on lessons or do various work projects, activities, and outings with the Taiwanese staff. It makes for a nice change in pace and some rest after several weeks with students. Recently during one of these weeks, our staff scheduled for us to drive out and visit some of the schools that sent their kids to our school for camp earlier in the semester. Since we usually only know our students for one week, it was so fun to see their faces again.

We got to hang out with them in the school library, and the noise got so loud that I had a hard time hearing their replies to my questions, they were so excited! One moment that struck me at the end of our visit was when my teammate, Sofia, told them that she was leaving Taiwan and going back to Mexico at the end of this semester. Several of the girls around her burst into tears, and poor Sofia was confused about whatever it was she could have done that made them cry! One of our teachers translated to her why they were crying, she did her best to comfort them with hugs and taking pictures with them. Sometimes it seems like we have such a limited time to interact with our students that is too short to mean much to them, but I was reminded that every moment we invest in them here does have a significant emotional impact in their lives.

Fae & Sofia
These months in Taiwan have gone by so fast, and there have always been more opportunities for people to meet or to talk to then there is time to follow up on. As our 2015-2016 school year comes to a close, many of us are left with hard decisions on how best to use the short time we have left. For some of us, this means traveling around the island in our free time for a final goodbye to various friends we have made. For others, visiting or hosting students and teachers they have worked with throughout the year. For me, it means taking time close to our home here to help with a local kid’s ministry that needs workers before leaving them for the summer and investing time hanging out with a few close coworkers and teammates. What I do know is that any time we choose to invest in others is not a waste.

~S. Fae Larson

Fae is from Minnesota. She has been with VOICE Missions in Taiwan since February 2011, and has worked at both the Yunlin and Chiayi team locations. Some of her favorite places to visit in Taiwan are in the mountains, such as Alishan national park. She enjoys, hiking, drawing, and Studio Ghibli films.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

From Taiwan to Thailand and Back Again

About a year ago, I hopped off a plane in Taipei, Taiwan, ready to tackle a year of teaching overseas. When I stepped foot off that plane, I wasn’t prepared for the crazy adventures that lay ahead. While there have been many frustrating and difficult things that have happened this year, I want to share one of my favorite memories from this year. Over Chinese New Year, when our school was on winter vacation, we had the opportunity to travel to Thailand with our sponsor, King Car.

Our time in Thailand was so refreshing. After spending months in the city and outlying townships of Taiwan, experiencing the mountains of Chiang Rai was incredible. The mountains are so big and covered in a sea of tea farms. We went from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai in a five hour long (semi-nauseating) drive through the windy mountain roads. It was good to have time to pull away from our teaching in Taiwan and briefly experience the teaching in Thailand.

Though the teaching itself didn’t differ much from my typical days of teaching in Taiwan, it did have a new element to it. Most of our students lived at the school and rarely saw their families. I felt like many of them lacked adequate love and support from family. My heart was burdened for my students and really made me want to return there some day.

I was assigned to teach the oldest highschoolers, which was daunting at first. But after a few days of teaching, I really grew to love my students. I was able to talk briefly with some of them about their situations at home and about their stories. There are so many hardships that those high schoolers are facing; it was overwhelming. Many of our students were much older- even in their mid-20s. It is very common for students to withdraw from school for a period of time to help support their siblings and parents. Since the school we taught met in the evening, many of our students held regular jobs during the day and went to high school at night. The idea of having to support my parents and siblings at such a young age is frightening for me; yet so many of my students willingly jump in to serve their families in this capacity. It’s so beautiful yet heart wrenching.

While we were in Thailand, I worked to try and break barriers and be able to love my students well. In our free time I would attempt to, although I can’t actually, play basketball with them. It was so much fun to be reminded that even though we don’t necessarily speak each other’s native language, we could still have a blast together. 

Overall our time in Thailand was well spent. I really wish that our time there could have been longer. I felt like I barely got to know my students, and it was over too quickly. I gained so much from my experience. I so wish to return to the beauty of Thailand, found not only in the mountains, but also the people. 

~Becky Bush

Becky is currently serving with VOICE Missions in Pingtung County, Taiwan. Her love of traveling and experiencing new cultures has led her all across the globe. A few of her favorite things are coffee with friends, a home cooked meal shared with friends and family, and hiking. She is looking forward to returning home after spending a year away and is waiting in anticipation of what’s to come.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Our Ministry is Everywhere!

It has definitely been an adventure being a foreigner in a foreign land. There aren’t very many foreigners here in Taiwan, so I guess we kind of stick out like a sore thumb. The students that come here to the CEI (Character English Institute) School for a week at a time all love to point out all the strange things about me. Inquires about my blue eyes, sharp nose, light brown hair and apparent gigantism have been the most discussed topics between myself and the students. The student’s mostly give me suspicious looks when I tell them that we don’t all look like myself in the US. The fact that we have many different cultures is a very strange concept to them.

One of the most rewarding things about teaching from week to week is seeing the students grasp a hold of the different aspects of God’s character that we are able to teach them throughout the week. I am reminded of a few instances where the kids have blown me away with the love that they can show for others. (I wish I could post a few of the pictures that I have been able to capture some of these moments, but the school that I am working at prohibits showing the faces of the students) I can think of one specific instance where a boy had a learning disorder and he wasn’t able to write some Chinese characters, but then a little girl came over and helped to guide his hand in writing the characters. Moments like these remind me why God loves his little children so much!

The love of God has been kind of a theme for me this year. How can God love us so much? It’s unbelievable if you really think about it! I think our ministry in a nutshell is simply us showing other people the love that God has given to us. It isn’t complicated. It can be shown in so many ways! I am used to being able to tell others of God’s love for them. But that is not nearly so easy when there is a language barrier there. So throughout this year God has been showing me different ways to be able to minister his love to the people I come in contact with.

Participating in a 5 and 10k race, respectively, with my co-workers was also a way God challenged me to minister. I had almost zero desire to because long distance running is as close as I’ve ever felt to torture. The challenge was great but we were able to complete the races as a team and it has a great way to build relationships with my fellow teachers.

I think that these months have been challenging for me. But in a good way! And I have learned many ways to be able to share the love of God to others that I hadn’t necessarily thought of before!

~Jake Carriger

Jake is 21 years old. Was born and raised in Michigan and after graduating from high-school moved to Chicago to work as a graphic designer for three years. He is now enjoying teaching English in Taiwan. Things that he likes to do include: Playing Guitar, Traveling, Volleyball, Snowboarding, and pretty much anything else that includes being active.