Taiwan 2017 MBCLA - I'm Back!
We're back in LA! Thank you all for your prayer support. Thank you in partnering with us in the Gospel. Thank you for everything! So many opportunities would not have happened without prayer from all of you, so thank you!
So thank you everyone for reading my long updates, where I've already given everyone an idea of what we do there.
Here's what happened in the last week / random occurrences / random thoughts:
After the first fellowship night occurred, it made talking about our faith much easier. I've been telling that people it's much easier to just randomly spark conversations about faith because a) Taiwanese people know they have to be polite to another culture, and this is just considered another "cultural difference" to randomly start talking about it haha (they don't know!!) and b) they now know why we live the way we live. Many of them mentioned that we are definitely very kind and loving towards them.
First, praise God for fellowship night. Many students were touched by the testimonies that were shared, and obviously loved singing the worship songs and seeing us "perform". They also noticed how much "heart" we put into singing the songs, as well as being accommodating to them by speaking in Chinese the whole night (you can imagine I was quite confused the whole time). Many of them actually marked "interested in Christianity" because they felt touched by the testimonies, so the Holy Spirit definitely used our testimony givers to touch people's hearts. Granted there were a few who also marked "accepted Christ", but we followed up and they mentioned that they marked it because they were so touched by the testimonies. Pray that people would know the true gospel and accept the truth of Jesus being their savior, rather than just based on fleeting emotions.
Praise God for M for her interest in Christianity. She's the one who shared about breaking up with her boyfriend of 4 years because she didn't feel appreciated by him. I had a conversation with her during our camp dinner, and she definitely shared so much more about her background. This includes her father losing all their money due to debt in a small business, and her mother abandoning her and her brother after she gave her father custody when she couldn't take care of them anymore. She shared so much hurt in her heart, about how trusting people is very difficult, and how almost nothing can really prove that someone really loves her fully.
I shared about Christ's unconditional love, how as humans, we could not love without getting appreciation back, but God loves us so much even when we reject him every day. She doesn't see how that's possible that God would love us unconditionally, after all her experiences, but it definitely made her interested when she thought about how us humans really can't comprehend this kind of love. I really appreciate M because she's a grad student amongst high school graduates, and you can tell that she's had more life experience, and has thought about the purpose of her life more than the other younger students have. Please pray that the Holy Spirit give her the desire to seek out God and see how Christ loves her so unconditionally in the Gospel.
Throughout my time at the university, my appetite really wasn't that great. That basically meant I couldn't finish any meals on my own, which meant I always had to find a buddy to share a meal with! Of course no boys would share with me because they would finish the whole thing, but I could always trust in B (a girl no doubt ahah) to share with me! B's English is probably the worst of out of all of them, but after a conversation about her worry of bad roommates and them ruining her college experience, we've become good friends. Of course language is always an issue, but we both make efforts to understand each other. The way I would describe her is a cute and simple girl, where she prefers things to be uncomplicated, and to be around people who are fun. It was harder to have deeper conversations with her because of a) language, b) she just graduated high school, so age, and c) our personalities are a bit different in that way.
However, after fellowship night #2, she was so touched by one of the testimonies that she marked "accepted Christ", which I knew needed some following up on. She mentioned that it was because she felt so touched by the testimony that she felt compelled to check that box, even though she didn't understand what it meant. At least it opened up the opportunity for me to encourage and pray for her about learning more about Christ through the church potentially. Pray that she would also learn the Gospel and see in her heart how much she needs Christ, so that she can accept Christ as her savior.
E*** and P****
Looking back, during my small group discussions, I am genuinely surprised by the depth of answers E and P gave. Those were answers I wanted, but I knew that when I was their age, I did not think like that. When we talked about the purpose of our lives, E mentioned that he wanted to focus on social justice and achieve his goals, and help people along way (at first it was achieve his goals, then help people, so my partner and I made the joke "so goals first, people second huh?"). P loves astronomy, so he wanted to help create tools for people to understand the world better. Such great answers from people who just graduated from high school huh??!
During the discussions, I admit my questions are pretty hard, such as when I ask them to provide lots of examples to why they said something as their answer. For example, I asked "Why do you choose that as the most important? Is there something that happened in your life that made you choose that one?" This really makes them dig deeper and share more about their lives, which is definitely opposite of Asian culture ahha. But I wanted to ask them so that I could tailor the Gospel to what would really speak most to their hearts. But I am so grateful for these two that they had so much courage to share about their lives, their thoughts, and philosophies, and even welcomed me challenging them. They even challenged me a few times when I encouraged them to speak more words of encouragement, that its probably a lot more rare in Asian countries, and that's not how they show love. I agreed that it was a good point, but some people (probably a lot fewer in Asian countries) may receive love in this way, so it's just another skill in their toolset.
In one of our small group discussions, P mentioned that he would help people only if he was all good on the finances side, and only if he had extra, so that he could get a "good feeling" and "sense of achievement" when he helped people. I challenged him (and the rest of the group) on the idea of money, that it is not really money we seek, but we seek being comfortable in knowing that everything will be alright when we have enough money, and we can have whatever we want to make ourselves happy. I asked him if doing good and helping people was only meant for when we were comfortable. I also asked him that if he was only doing good to get the "good feeling", is it really good? Obviously this is when the language barrier started coming in and there were lots of confusion, but it seemed as though in the end, both E and P understood my question. It seemed like E was also interested in the question, but wasn't sure how to answer. P tried to answer, but the language barrier was making it difficult for him to respond how he really wanted to.
I approached him as we were going to lunch afterwards, apologizing about how I challenged him, but I only did it because I knew he cared about thinking deeply about these kinds of things. He mentioned it was hard because he wasn't sure he could give an answer in English, but M tried to help him out. I shared with him that as a person believing in Christ, I already have satisfaction and joy in my heart, and that I help people because I ALREADY have it, not because I'm trying to get it from helping people. I also shared that God has promised to work for our good (Romans 8:28). Because of that, no matter what happens in this life, I know that God is taking care of me and has planned out my life, so I can be free from trying to mold my life from whatever I do and into making me happy, since I already have joy in my life. He then asked a very interesting question-- "How can I do good without satisfaction in my heart?" Which I was a little taken aback by, but M said "You can't ask her that-- she already has it! She believes in it." It was very interesting to me that P was already thinking of how you can have pure intentions of helping people when you didn't already have joy and satisfaction in your heart. In later conversations, he mentioned that he was interested in Christianity because of how friendly, kind, and caring we were. Pray that he would see how we all have God-shaped holes in our hearts, where it is impossible to have pure intentions for doing good in this world without already being fulfilled by Christ.
For E, I'm really sad that I didn't get to follow up with him. After his comment about his purpose in life about meeting his goals first, I remembered to mention in my testimony that no matter how many goals I had set in my life and achieved, none of them have given me any joy and satisfaction, and have only left me feeling empty and unhappy about how my achievements didn't make me more happy. However, he marked that he was interested in Christianity after fellowship night #2, so please pray for him for the Holy Spirit to work in him to seek out Christ and the gospel.
Even though this was an English camp, I would say the language barrier was still pretty difficult. This university was definitely considered a place where the English was pretty good already too! However, there were only 2 of us on the team who couldn't speak Mandarin. As a student, wouldn't you prefer to get to know a US team member who would speak your native language? During free time, they definitely did not use English, and neither did my teammates, so it made it more difficult for me to keep up with jokes, stories, and instructions that were told. My teammates often forgot that I didn't speak Mandarin, so basically I just had a confused face all the time, and it got tiring asking people to translate for me when it just seemed like a burden to them to try to translate for me. I think if it was something like most people on my team not knowing the language, it would be a different story. To be honest, in the middle of the trip, after I posted my last updated, I started to feel Satan's lies that I was worthless and unnecessary on this trip, that I couldn't be effective at all on this trip. However, that is definitely not true. But to be honest, I would probably go back if my Mandarin got better....which I definitely plan to do! It definitely makes for building relationships a lot easier. I know God can use anyone, which is why I still encourage people to go, and you definitely won't NOT be effective if you only spoke English. However, I personally want to make it easier to be effective in Taiwan and connect with the students better.
So that's a wrap! Those are the few stories I wanted to share, and I had a lot of fun times with the students, including my wingman skills coming into play for the boys (lol), going on late night runs for fried chicken skin, going to the night market, KTV-ing, jamming at jam sessions in a tiny dorm room, and teaching the kids the meaning of the words "I'm down", "extra", and "salty."
God was so good on this trip. Dealing with feeling unworthy and unneeded because of my lack of Mandarin skills, and our constant feeling of tiredness due to about 5 hours of sleep every night (or less), only God could have made anything happen on this missions trip. God continually sustained us old people despite the humidity and lack of sleep. God provided all the opportunities, and despite any failures we had to connect to our students or to be a good example, the students still saw God through our actions and through the camp. Praise God for being sovereign and gracious. Please continue to pray for followup and for the seeds that were planted to be growing. Pray for Professor L (the Christian professor who headed the camp because he has such a huge heart for the students) that he continue in God's work at the university, especially since he has such a huge pull in the department and the university.
Thank you to the helpers (including yes, the hilarious TH boys) for always being so accommodating, and helping us with anything and everything, including fixing our ACs and setting up WiFi hotspots for us. Thank you Professor L for all your hard work in making this camp possible, and always for getting us breakfast every single day. Again, thank you ALL for your prayers! To God be all the glory.