Thursday, April 27, 2017

To Go or Not Go?

Should I go or not?  It was getting later in the day and I was running behind schedule.  By the time I would arrive at the village, I’d have an hour or less to spend with the kids.  I weighed my options.  Should I put it off until another week?  Then I remembered the muffins I had baked.  They wouldn’t stay fresh until next week.  So I quickly packed my bags and, praying, set off for the village. 

As I came to one house where five of my kids live, I called out hello and heard happy voices screaming my name coming from inside the house.  Smiling, I was glad I had come, no matter how brief this visit might be.

This time I didn’t have a Bible story or craft picked out.  I had run out of time, so I only had some small games, a frisbee and blueberry muffins.  On the way over, I prayed that God would continue His work in the hearts of my kiddos here.  I wasn’t sure what that would look like but I know God can do amazing things.

We started out playing Uno.  Two new little boys crept closer and closer until they were sitting right next to me.  I was probably the first white girl they had ever seen in their aboriginal village.  After they got comfortable with me, they joined the game, smiling happily. 

As we were playing, I paused.  The sight before me isn’t something that’s always been common in this village.  I first visited back in Easter 2013 and I’ve seen God do so much in the lives of the kids here.  Seven village boys, ages 4 to 15, sat in a circle with me.  Instead of the fighting that is quite common here, they were smiling and helping each other learn how to play the game.  As I handed out the snack, they smiled and said thank you in English.  We went on to play another game before a fourth grader announced he needed to get home.  As I took them home, one of my seventh graders looked over at me and with a smile, asked me if I believed in Jesus.  I grinned and said “Yes!”

After saying goodbye to all the kids, I headed home, my heart full.  I may not preach a sermon to the village kids but God’s Spirit can reveal truth and work on hearts.  The seeds that past and current VOICE volunteers have been planting in the village are starting to take root and grow.  God is on the move in Taiwan!

Joanna Suich has been serving with VOICE Missions since February 2013.  She has a heart for all things involving missions, orphans, aboriginal kids and adventures.  Joanna first served on the Taitung team and now has been serving on the Hualien team the past three years.  God has placed Hualien in her heart and it's home now.  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.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Wait, you're spending 11 months where?

"Wait, you're spending 11 months where?"

Last summer, I got this reaction a lot when I would try to explain what I was going to do with the next eleven months of my life. Traveling almost eight thousand miles to a place I had never even heard of to teach English. Yes, it does sound insane even to this adventure addict knucklehead. 

When I got off the plane, I felt like I had walked into another dimension. Everything was so different, so beautiful, and so scary. I didn't know the language or customs, so I walked around like a rigid board, terrified I was going to say or do something offensive to the Taiwanese. However, a couple of days later, I knew for real that taking this gap year would be one of the most rewarding and incredible experiences of my life. 

The tropical rainforests, delicious food, and warm, friendly people have made Taiwan seem like a second home. Every other week it seems like I’m being invited to someone’s home to share a meal or participate in a new holiday. However, the thing that has definitely made this year the best is the children I get to work with. When I enter the schools each morning, I am bombarded by their smiles, hugs, and high-fives. Even the shy ones will dash up to yell “good morning” as they rush off to breakfast. They bring that joy to class with an attitude pumped for English games and the time passes so fast I can hardly believe the week has flown by, let alone another day. 

Outside of class time, we match up for races, basketball and cards. Over all the action, they always attempt to teach me a rainbow of words. Since we cannot really speak each other's language, we communicate using broken English, lyrical Chinese, lots of hand gestures and body movement. Half the time, we don’t quite get the point across, but that is where the universal language of silly smiles and laughter comes into good use. They've taught me many lessons - the most important is that the zone outside your comfort zone is the most fun place to be. Hopefully, we'll both learn more from each other in the remaining months!

Reese Austin is from North Carolina. The oldest of seven, an aspiring teacher, and a southern belle at heart, she loves children of all ages. In her spare time, she enjoys water-sports, photography, hiking, and ENOing. Her vision for the future is to help bring an end to global human trafficking and continue to spread the message of God's love.