Monday, September 5, 2016

Where I'm At: Joanna

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A year ago I wrote that I was preparing to move back to Taiwan.  This summer 2015 I came back to the States for the summer and will be heading back to Taiwan shortly.  So much has happened since last year and it's hard to take it all in sometimes.  This time I thought perhaps I could share some snapshots of the past year to give you an idea of where I've been and where God currently has me.

~ learning to find my identity in Christ and not in what others say about me.  I think I would've said, "Sure, my identity is in Christ!" but until this past year, that wasn't as real to me as it is now.  I've learned that just because someone may say something about me, doesn't mean it's true.  I've learned to look upward instead and realize that all that matters is who I am in Christ - loved, forgiven, redeemed, beloved.

~ holding the hands of orphans and praying they will know Jesus.  This is one of my most prayed prayers - for my little orphans who don't know the light and love of Jesus yet.  I'm still planting many seeds and praying for God to bring some "rain" along for those seeds.

~ being creative in class when I have bronchitis and completely lost my voice.  Thanks to several friends who came to my rescue and gave me some creative ideas on how to teach small group classes to students when I had absolutely no voice to speak.  What a week that was and how many times I saw God show up!

~ church in another language can be a challenge but is also rewarding.  Joining a church of believers who speak Mandarin has been something that is often tough, not only because of the language barrier but also because of the cultural differences.  I'm learning that easy isn't always good and that sometimes, hard is doubly rewarding.  The fellowship, encouragement and growth I've received from this sweet congregation has been amazing.

~ walking alongside teenage boys and encouraging them.  I still laugh about this one.  Never did I ever imagine myself ministering to teenage boys!  But God plopped this opportunity in my lap and I've loved seeing Him work in these boys' lives.  I'm growing in ways of how to encourage them and be an example and a witness.  Plus, they keep me on my toes and laughing every week with their crazy antics and ridiculous faces.  Gotta love it.

So that's a bit of what life looks like for me now.  God is good and so faithful!

In His love,

Friday, August 26, 2016

Friday Footprints

Looking for some good links this weekend?  Here you go!

How should we respond to national grief?
It seems like more and more tragedies have been on the news recently.  This question - how should we respond to national grief? was posted last month on The Rebelution and I think it's worth joining in the discussion.  How do we approach this how Jesus would?

Agape International Missions - Cambodia
Back in February I (Joanna) had the privilege of meeting some folks at Agape International Missions (AIM) in Cambodia.  It was so inspiring to hear stories of God's faithfulness in their ministry as they work to rescue girls and women from sex-trafficking.  They have a lot of resources on their website, including service opportunities, ways to help (like getting your church or organization to order clothing or other items that rescued women make) and much more.  AIM's heart for the brokenhearted in Cambodia is a beautiful thing to see and I pray you'll get involved in some way too!

May you experience His love and truth this weekend!

In Christ,
Joanna, Megan, Krista, Emily & Victoria

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Where I'm At: Victoria

In ten days I will begin classes at college, and my Junior year of college will be under way. It is crazy to think that I am already halfway through college, and that I will be an upperclassman on campus. I am looking forward to seeing my friends, and meeting the freshmen.

This summer I worked as a server at a Japanese Hibachi Grill and Sushi Bar. It was an experience I am grateful for. You see, it looked as though this might be another summer where I couldn’t find a job (as happened last summer). I had applied at some Christian Summer Camps, but none of those worked out. I had a couple interviews in my hometown, but yet again no offers came. Then somebody at my church told me to apply at this Japanese restaurant. So I walked in, spoke to the owner, and started the next day! I had never been a server (though when I was younger I entertained dreams of becoming one!). I learned a lot on the job and was sometimes overwhelmed when there were quite a few customers, and only me as the server. But I learned that even in the craziness, I eventually got through it. I’d have to say my multitasking skills probably grew a lot, as well as my confidence in dealing with strangers. Because it was such a small staff, I got to spend lots of time around my coworkers, and was thus surrounded by different languages every day (Vietnamese and Spanish). My coworkers were in many ways the best part of the job, and I will miss them.

I learned in serving that there are three kinds of customers – the demanding, rude ones (I hardly ever had to deal with these thankfully), the indifferent ones (most people), and the really sweet, sincere ones that actually see you as a person (the ones every server lives for). I think it would be great if everybody had experience as a server. You learn a lot about people. You learn patience (hopefully), and realize how important it is to treat those who help you with respect (when you’re not treated with that very respect). You learn to read people better, and appreciate kindness and genuine smiles. You learn to appreciate wonderful coworkers and bosses. These were things that I learned. I also learned once again about God's provision. Looking back, I can just laugh at how little faith I had that God would provide a job for me. The day I left college for summer break, the lady at the mail office told me that God would provide for me, when I told her I didn’t know what I was doing for the summer. Sure enough, He did!

In addition to working, I also got to play keyboard and sing at my church, helping out a worship team whose leader left partway through the summer. My pastor and his wife each told me in their own ways that it looked like God did have a purpose in me being home for the summer. Yes, looking back I can see this. I can see that spending time with my family (and Joanna for part of the summer!), being with my church through a difficult time, and helping out at an understaffed restaurant that desperately needed me as a server were some cool things God had in store for me during a time I thought would be useless. He always knew there were things He had planned.

As I look forward to this new year, I know it will in many ways not meet my expectations (my imagined futures rarely do). But in many ways it will exceed my dreams. It is just important to believe God always has purpose in what He does.

Also important to believe is in God's beautiful, individual love for each of us. This summer I have come to realize the importance of believing this. Sometimes it is hard for me, but there's a verse that I have found helpful, that says it is true. 1 John 4:16 (NASB) says, "We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him."