Friday, July 3, 2015

Tales from Taiwan #3 week trip

Dear sisters,

Sometimes you never know exactly where the Lord will lead you next.  When I flew home from Taiwan back in the end of July 2014, after having served there 1.5 years, I wasn’t sure what God had in store next.  I really, really missed my kiddos, friends, and co-workers from the island but thought perhaps He was guiding me to start on a new adventure.  In January 2015, He brought an amazing opportunity to work with a Christian movie called Beyond the Mask (if you haven't seen it yet, you're missing out, so make sure you get to see it!).  I still wasn't sure where God was calling me next and spent a lot of time praying about it.  In May, God led a friend and I to travel back to Taiwan for a three week mission trip.  Here’s some of the amazing ways He worked during our time:

~ One day we went to visit some Buddhist friends at their house.  We first met this sweet family back in February 2013, back when my Chinese was limited to “thank you” and “hello”.  I remember our initial meeting being marked by lots of gestures and smiles, trying to communicate as best we could.  The father is a bike repair man and owns a bike shop, so we would go and get our bicycles fixed there.  Then, over two years later, we went to visit our friends and ended up chatting in Chinese (with some hand gestures still!) for over two hours.  We gave our friends a card that said “Jesus loves you and we do too!” and pray that God will use this small seed in their lives and hearts.  It’s pretty incredible looking back and seeing how God guided us to this family and how we’ve become friends.  Every time we enter their place, we see the idols set up to worship their gods and that serves as a poignant reminder of why I came back to Taiwan – to share about the one true God, Jesus Christ, and His story of love and redemption.

~ It was a dreary, rainy day but my friend and I decided to take a train to a nearby village anyway, praying we would find our students out and about as usual.  Instead, we didn’t see any of the kids we knew and started getting discouraged.  As we walked the streets of this village, my friend and I began praying that God would work and show us why He brought us out in the rain.  We decided to stop by the school, even though it was after hours and most likely closed.  The place seemed deserted but we saw a lady leaving and quickly asked her if anyone else was there.  She said there was another teacher still inside and so we hurried in, hoping and praying.  As we began talking, we found out that this lady was the exact teacher we would need to talk to about coming to visit our students!  She excitedly invited us to return the following day so that we could see our students.  As we left that day, I couldn’t help but marvel at God and His goodness in planning to have the exact person we needed to be the one who just “happened” to stay late that day!

~ I wasn’t sure if our former students at the Buddhist home would recognize us.  After all, they were younger and it had been almost a year since we had seen them.  I needn’t have worried.  As soon as Alan* (name changed) saw us, he broke into a run and leaped into my arms.  Alan had the reputation of being the naughtiest in class and always getting into the most trouble during our lesson!  As we began class for that day, I sat next to him, trying to keep him focused and paying attention.  He leaned his arm on my knee as he participated in class and when he lifted it to raise his hand, I noticed a dark spot on my capris but thought nothing of it.  Alan’s arm came on my knee again and again, I noticed another dark stain.  Pretty soon I had three stains on my khaki capris.  Finally it dawned on me – he was bleeding!  

Turns out, Alan’s arm had a wound on it that had started bleeding again.  As I rummaged in my purse for a band-aid, I couldn’t help but smile.  Here I was, in a Buddhist orphanage, getting a band-aid for the naughty kid in class who had just bled all over me – and I was loving it!  I was a bit startled by this realization until I realized why: I was loving it because greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world (1 John 4:1-6, esp. 4).  I realized that no matter if things are going bad or good, that I still have joy because of Jesus.  And He keeps filling me up with His love and that’s why it’s able to flow out of me and into the lives of these precious, neglected children (see 1 John 4:7-14, John 13:34-35, 1 Thess. 3:11-13, among others).

Then I realized something else: I’d let Alan bleed on my capris every week if I can have the privilege of being there with him and sharing Christ’s love in a place where He isn’t known.  After all, getting stained clothes is a rather small price to pay for this privilege of sharing about my Lord!

That’s why I’m going back to Taiwan in August to serve another year.  I think my family already knew that God was calling me back – everyone knew except for me!  God used Alan and others to tug on my heart and respond to His calling to minister again on the island.  I’m looking forward to all that our great God is gonna do in the coming months in Taiwan, because He's so faithful and good.

For His work in Taiwan,

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Summer Ramblings

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So, the Bloom! ladies kinda disappeared for a few weeks.  Sorry about that, dear Sisters!  Semesters ending, some traveling, and some big news kept us extremely busy and on our toes (and thus off the computer).  We're back now, happily.  And looking forward to telling you all what God has been doing in our lives and in the world.  We've got some exciting news, so stay tuned in the coming weeks!  In the meantime, here's some fun ramblings for you:

~ I (Joanna) just returned after a three week mission trip to Taiwan.  As many of you know, I spent 1.5 years serving on the island and wrote my final Tales from Taiwan update in October, not knowing what God had in mind in the coming months.  Turns out, He led me and a friend to go back for three weeks and minister and visit our students in schools, villages, and orphanages.  Later this week I'll be sharing more about my trip and how God worked in some amazing ways!

~ Also, the new Christian film Beyond the Mask did so well back in April with its limited release that it made it three weeks with normal theatrical week-long runs all across the US.  God is good!  The runs are winding down now, with just a few cities left, but be sure to check it out if you haven't had the pleasure of seeing Beyond the Mask yet.  It's totally worth it, as I shared here.  If your city isn't showing it and you're interested in having it play in your area for a special one night event, you can find out more info here on how you can bring this Christ honoring action adventure to your community - for free!  I highly recommend Beyond the Mask - it shows the Gospel and story of redemption so clearly and beautifully without sounding preachy or in your face as some Christian films tend to be.  Plus, it's a super fun and on-the-edge-of-your-seat kind of movie!

~ Big news with the amazing Set Apart Girl Magazine - it's now available in print!  Check out more details here for the print version, as well as the online one.  This is such a valuable resource with so much encouragement and inspiration for young women as we walk with Jesus.  I encourage each of you to check out the magazine and prepare yourself - you're gonna be refreshed and uplifted!

~ It's already July!  Where is the time going?  If your summer is flying by and you haven't gotten to spend some time serving and loving others as much as you would like, be sure to check out this article for some ideas to get you started!

Praying that you'll be encouraged and refreshed in Jesus this week, girls!

In His love,

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Friday Footprints

Are you looking for ways to get more involved with what God is doing internationally? Here are a few links:

Joshua Project

This is a great resource that I discovered while preparing for a speech on the importance of global missions. With this website, you can find out about people groups worldwide who are still unreached by the Gospel. It was definitely eye-opening to me to discover just how many people have not heard the truth about Jesus. Many do not even have the Bible in their own language! One great resource on their website gives you the opportunity to sign up to receive emails with the unreached people group of the day to pray for. This is a great way to be consistently involved in global missions.

Operation Mobilization

This website also provides ways to get more involved in spreading God's love to others around the world. You can pray, give, get more information, and even apply to go on a mission trip with OM! They have many short-term mission opportunities, from Austria to Chile to the Arabian Peninsula!

Praying you'll be open to God's calling,
Megan, Joanna, Krista, Emily, & Victoria