Monday, October 20, 2014

Tales from Taiwan: #final


Dear sisters,

How can one process a year and a half of life overseas into one post?  It isn't possible.  Nor is it possible for me to completely understand and express what God has done in my life in Taiwan.  Since that's not possible, I've chosen to share brief snippets throughout the year and a half as my final Tales from Taiwan post.  It's been a joy to share with you, readers around the world, what our King has been doing on one small island that's very near to my heart.  Thank you so much for the prayers, for the support, and kindness.  I'm one blessed girl!

So, here's glimpses of my time in Taiwan:

I learned that...

~ worshipping with fellow believers in another language is challenging and rewarding.  Sometimes the language barrier gets in the way, and yet, sometimes God breaks through that barrier and the fellowship you experience doesn't depend on words anymore.

~ chicken bowels don't taste good and they don't taste bad.  They're just kind of plain.  And slightly gross if I let myself think about it.  But I tried not to.

~ living abroad changes you, inside and out.  God uses it to mold you and conform you more like His Son and it's a terrifying and thrilling experience.  You're pushed out of your comfort zone (sometimes thrown out!) and suddenly you're experiencing things you never thought you'd ever know about.

~ hugs from village kids and orphans are simply the best kind of hugs around.

~  cultural differences really are...different.  I grew up learning about them, but wow, living in the midst of them is a totally different story!  I realized that it doesn't mean they are bad, but simply different and I must respect them.

~ getting lost on your first Sunday in a new city in a new country is nerve-wracking and good and crazy.  And totally used by God to remind you of your dependence on Him.

~ being a white foreign girl in a Taiwanese hospital is quite an experience (and I had many of those, unfortunately!).  Hearing your name called out - your Chinese name - and then raising your hand to indicate it's you is also quite an experience.  Especially when the guy tries to convince you it's not you he's calling, since he's expecting a Taiwanese girl.

~ teaching an English class during the time the Buddhists practice their temple drums is hard and a good reminder to pray for the lost.  Plus, it gets your voice some extra practice speaking as you strive to get your students to hear you over the loudness of the drums!

~ God is good.  All the time.  I saw that over and over again in Taiwan.  And I know without a doubt it's totally true.  He's good when a friend comes to know Him and He's good when I lay in a bed in the emergency room.  He's good when I struggle through the four tones of Mandarin and He's good when I have ten village boys listening intently to the Bible story.

He's good all the time, sisters!

謝 謝 你 (thank you) for your support!  I feel so privileged to have spent 1.5 years on this beautiful tropical island where the kids play hard and hug hard and ask questions like "Teacher, how do I pray?".  I love that I have 3,000+ kids across the ocean that I know and that I shared Christ with, in small ways or in big ways.  Now as I'm back in the States, I miss Taiwan and yes, I'm homesick, but I know this small island will never leave my heart, nor God's.  So I pray and trust and hope for a future trip...because you never know what He might be planning next!

For His work continuing in Taiwan,
Joanna

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Where I'm At: Victoria

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I realize it has been close to two years since I last wrote a “Where I’m At” post. To say that a lot has happened since then would be an understatement! I will share what I’m doing right now, and some major lessons God has taught me, and is still teaching me.

I have since graduated from high school, and I sit here writing this in my dorm at college. I am a freshman at a Christian liberal arts college. I’ve not even been here two months but it feels like home already. I love it here, and am so glad God paved a way for me to come!

It almost didn’t happen, and I really didn’t think I’d get to attend a Christian college. I remember back in March telling people it would take a miracle for me to be able to come to college here. Well, let me just tell you – God does still perform miracles! The ways He provided for me were awesome!

One of the major lessons I’ve learned in the past year is that money is like nothing before God. There is no amount too big. He is, after all, in charge of the universe, so why would I think He wouldn’t provide? Even though I know this, it’s still hard to trust at times. 

I’ve learned this lesson in two big ways this year. One was getting more than enough for my mission trip to Taiwan and Hong Kong. (You can read about that here) The other way was getting scholarships to be able to attend this college.

Another big lesson I’ve learned this year is that success cannot be measured or even seen. Success isn’t based upon the results. It is based upon following God’s will. I learned this while in Hong Kong. You see, when I went on the mission trip, I went expecting results. I wanted to lead a child to God. I wanted to see fruit. So when that didn’t happen, and it didn’t seem like I was making much of a difference, I became discouraged. I remember the night before we flew to Hong Kong, which was our final city. I was crying and telling myself that this trip had been a failure for me. That I was a failure.

One day in Hong Kong, I was looking again at the schedule. There was a lesson on the last day that we would teach entitled “Success/God’s Will.” I’d seen it before on the schedule in other cities, and had even taught a lesson on success. But this time I saw the words with new eyes – I saw the words together, connected. And it became clear to me suddenly. Success was following God’s will! As simple as that! I felt freed of the burden I had been carrying that made me believe I had to change the kids. I quickly began to connect this concept to other areas of my life, too. I saw that I would not be a failure if I went to a local community college. If I tried my best to get in elsewhere, and was led to go there, then it was good. If it was God’s will, then I would, in fact, be successful by going there.

There is a great passage in Isaiah that illustrates clearly what God taught me. Just because I couldn’t see the fruit, doesn’t mean there wasn’t any. God’s Word changes people, even if I cannot see it. God never fails. As Isaiah 55:8-11 says:

““For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

I have been learning recently about following God. I have realized how important it is to do what He says, even if it’s not what I want. I don’t need to know the future, or even necessarily the next step. I just need to follow the Holy Spirit.

At this time in my life I think a lot about what I want to do with my life. About my ideal future. However, I know God could change my plans drastically. Or He could say yes but take me down a different road to get to where I’m going. 

Right now, there are multiple possibilities I am considering concerning my future. I am interested in Music Therapy; songwriting; teaching music in a third world country; teaching music to physically or mentally disabled people (related to Music Therapy); and getting my doctorate and teaching music at a Christian college. I will probably have to narrow that down, or I may get to do all of them! I really don’t know for sure. I feel like the direction God has been leading me in is using music to help others. But only He knows the specifics. I’m realizing that’s okay, though. I need to just follow Him one step at a time. I don’t have to see the bigger picture to know that doing that is true success!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Changing seasons

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Seasons can change so gradually, with changes almost being imperceptible.  Sometimes, the changes are quick with temperatures dropping quickly and leading us to run back inside because we need a jacket on. Here in California, we experienced a very dry spring and summer, and yesterday, I felt the first chill in the air that showed me that the fall season has come. While the changes in our surroundings isn’t as drastic as in any other areas in the United States, I enjoy the autumn time because the leaves start changing color and I like the crunching feeling when I step over them while walking around. The seasons, in a way, reflect the impermanence of things in this earth.

It has been a crazy year, and the past few months have been so filled and busy that I do have to hit pause at times and remind my heart to be joyful and to enjoy each season as it comes. Recently, both my grandmothers were diagnosed with some health issues and the past few weeks, both of them were rushed to the hospital for serious health problems. I faced some struggles in terms of a long-term immigration concern that was finally answered, but not in the way I had hoped for.  
In addition to that, I was in a job situation where I was overjoyed as I was able to openly share the Gospel in my classroom.  I could interact with the parents and build friendships with them. However, with God’s providence and direction, I was led away from that workplace and I find myself back in school and in a work environment that is just as welcoming, but is a non-Christian environment. It was disheartening because the job offer was unexpected and the realization that I wouldn’t be able to work because of some legalities that turned up was very sad.  

I entertained thoughts and feelings like, “But I really wanted to work there” and asked questions like, “Shouldn’t I be happy?” I felt so melodramatic, but I knew I had to keep my focus on Christ. In retrospect, it is a great reminder that God is the author of our individual stories and He holds all things in His hands. 

Oswald Chambers elaborates on it with a recent devotional I read, “We must continually keep our soul open to the fact of God’s creative purpose, and never confuse or cloud it with our own intentions. If we do, God will have to force our intentions. If we do, God will have to force our intentions aside no matter how much it may hurt. A missionary is created for the purpose of being God’s servant, one in whom God is glorified. Once we realize that it is through the salvation of Jesus Christ that we are made perfectly fit for the purpose of God, we will understand why Jesus Christ is so strict and relentless in His demands.”


It was not a pleasant experience, and there was pain involved, as with any meaningful thing in life. God taught me so much about His purpose, His reasons and His ways all alongside holding my heart during the process. It is with this truth that I can rejoice, because my Savior and Redeemer truly is my refuge in any season and He is gracious enough to reveal His purpose to me, in minute human doses while loving and disciplining me in the process.


But I said, “I have labored in vain;


    I have spent my strength for nothing at all.

Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand,

    and my reward is with my God.”


And now the Lord says—


    he who formed me in the womb to be his servant

to bring Jacob back to him

    and gather Israel to himself,

for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord

    and my God has been my strength—


Isaiah 49:4-5