Monday, November 22, 2010

Final Thoughts #2

Since arriving back in the States two weeks ago, I have done a lot of processing on my own, as well as through conversations with my brothers, and I am really sensing that the flame in my heart for L.A. and my community here has been reignited. For those of you who don't know, I happened upon an overseas position with OMF while I was in Taiwan. I inquired about the position and was seriously considering committing myself to a year; however, after learning more about all that goes into applying for the position and how far in advance I would have to make a commitment, I spent time checking my heart on the matter. I don't believe that there is a right or wrong in my decision to stay or go, but the more I am here and with my community, the more I believe that settling in here for a while is best. By "settling in," I mean that I want to move in a direction of finding a job, learning out to support myself better financially, learning my trade better (preferably whilst making money at the same time), and focusing on my community. I am always down for traveling here and there, but I'm reaching a place where I'm tired of putting off what I want to do here in L.A. I have never been so excited to work and better myself. That's a pretty good sign as far as I'm concerned.

While I am feeling the desire and the call to stay in L.A, I believe that the trip to Asia was extremely beneficial in that I made some great friends and got to broaden my perspective on our world, and life in general. I know that the contacts I made with OMF will come back around. I am still considering doing short-term video work for them here and there if there is opportunity for it, but I just have no desire to commit right now to something that wouldn't begin until almost a year from now, especially if I'm not even sure the job is something I'd actually want to do. I hope and pray that I will return to Taiwan and Hong Kong one day though. I'm very thankful to the Lord for allowing me to go on that journey, and for bringing me back safely. I am also extremely thankful for the friends, work, and ministry opportunities that He's given me here in the City of Angels (love this city by the way).

Alright, well, that's all the updates I have regarding my journey to Asia. Thank you all for reading. I hope you weren't too bored. As far as future blogging goes, I'm not going to promise anything. I tend to back off of blogging when I'm not traveling. My hope is that I will begin to write more often. We'll see...



Saturday, November 13, 2010

Final Thoughts #1

Doing missions overseas is no cake walk.

This is a concept of which I knew but had not seen. After spending a month in Asia visiting various missionaries, however, it became a reality. First let me say that I am not about to try to talk you out of missions (if you happen to be considering); rather, my hope is that you are more inspired to go into the field. I believe it is a common misconception amongst young Christians that to go overseas and do the Lord's work will be this awesome, romantic adventure where hundreds of people are saved day in and day out, and every day is "payday" as you get to see the results of the work the Lord is doing through you. Though I had heard that missions was not easy at all, I still maintained this romanticized view of it.

While in Asia, I met some amazing people -- some who had been around for 15+ years, and others who were just starting out in missions -- and none of them carried this mentality (especially the 15+ years people). In fact, some of them seemed pretty tired. They have seen and experienced a lot -- good and bad. They are on the front lines of the on-going spiritual battle that most of us in the American church tend to forget about with our comfortable lives. Some of these people have experienced (more than once) horrible illnesses, and others have lost loved ones. When I heard some of their stories, my first thought was, "Okay. Take note: Do not work in long term missions." My romantic view of seeing the world and doing Kingdom work broke down. "There is nothing fun about this," I thought to myself. However, as we spent more time with our new friends, and joined some of them in their work, I began to see how much joy and strength they had inside of them. Despite how tired they looked on the outside, you could sense the fire that raged inside of their hearts for the people to whom they were ministering. It was encouraging to see the missionaries who had been in Taiwan for over 15 years still pushing onward with such joy despite the difficulties. I was seeing all the encouragements of Paul on the subject of hardships being walked out.

Despite the point I'm trying to make with the subject of this entry, I want you to know that no matter how hard life gets whether your in missions or not, we have joy and strength and endurance in the Lord. Doing missions is most definitely a great adventure. I don't want you to think I am saying it's never enjoyable, and there is no fun involved whatsoever. But I share all of this because if you are considering going into long-term missions, please check your heart and your mind on the matter, and make sure you are doing it with the knowledge that the road ahead is quite bumpy. Sure, these missionaries are tired a lot of times, but they love what they do and their ability to move forward every day comes from the Lord. They live very raw, stripped down lives where they don't have the comforts of the "American Dream" to distract them from the fact that Jesus is our only hope in this life. As my wonderful brother, and pastor, David said last night, there is nothing evil necessarily about the American Dream, but when it becomes the bulls-eye of our life then we truly miss what Christ is calling us towards.

I am in a season of life where I'm processing through and considering whether or not to focus on media in missions. So all of these thoughts are at the forefront of my mind. My hope is that this entry helped to break down any misconceptions about working in missions, and that it was more encouraging than discouraging. Please feel free to comment, or ask questions and I can go into more detail on my thoughts. I feel that this entry was a bit scatter-brained, but then again I always feel that way about my posts because I feel that I am pretty scatter-brained on a daily basis. As I continue to process things from my trip, I will post more "Final Thoughts."



Saturday, November 6, 2010

Taiwan Update 3

My only excuse for not updating this blog in a more frequent manner is that internet has not been as easily accessible recently. To follow up on the previous post, our hike in Kaohsiung with David Ullstrom and the students was very enjoyable. Only two students and an English teacher showed so we had a small group, which was nice. We attended David's church that Sunday. The service was in Taiwanese and Mandarin, but Kenny translated for us. They had a guest speaker who was visiting with his family from China. He shared about the medical work he's been doing for AIDS patients in China. People with AIDS there are outcasts. They receive no love and acceptance from anyone, so it is great that this man and his family are working to fix that. What a great ministry. We wrapped up our time in Kaohsiung by hanging out with Sara and her sisters. They live in an apartment building with all the teachers and their families, and they threw a "Fall Festival" for the kids, so we helped pass out candy and play games.

Monday night was our last night in Tainan, so we went out for a hot pot dinner with our friends Li, Louis and Joan. Louis let me drive him there on his scooter, which is technically illegal since I don't have a license here, but he said the cops wouldn't really care in Tainan. I almost hit a parked car within the first 2 minutes, but after that I got the hang of it. Scooters are great! Elijah drove it back and about got in a wreck. Poor Louis almost died multiple times. Aside from that, we had a blast. Tuesday, we took the train north to Chai Yi where we stayed with an OMF affiliated youth mission. They needed a few Westerners to pass out flyers to the students who pass by on their way to the cram schools where they learn English (with normal school and cram school, students spend somewhere around 10 hours every day in school -- insane!). We didn't have to pass out flyers until 5pm so we had the entire day to do whatever we pleased. We rented scooters for 100NT (roughly $3 US), and drove them out into the countryside. It was the most fun I've had on the entire trip. I enjoyed every minute of it. Eventually we passed out flyers, and did our best to make it fun. I played guitar out in the street to attract attention while Kenny and Elijah kept score of who gave out the most. Elijah had the most success since he's white, blonde, and blue-eyed. We ate dinner with the head of the mission, Sean, who just happened to be from Columbus, OH. Elijah started to feel sick again so he went to bed early, and Kenny and I passed out more flyers after the kids got out of the cram school.

Now, we are in Taipei. Elijah and I are staying with the parents of Kenny's friend, Henry; and Kenny is staying with his father. Taipei has been a blast. We've had great food and met some really cool people who work with OMF here. We had a nice home-cooked dinner with Kenny's father's family. Henry and his parents have also been taking great care of us with food, and whatever else we need. They took us to a nice hot pot all-you-can-eat buffet, and we ate enough to hold us over for a couple days. I didn't feel too bad though because we went right after a 4-hour hike in Yangmingshan National Park. A couple days ago we visited the National Palace Museum which was okay, but definitely not as interesting to me as the Hong Kong Museum of History. That evening we joined up with our new OMF friends (Tim, Jennie, Miriam, Feli and Erene) and went to the Shilin Market, the largest night market in the world, and ate a ton of food that was not healthy for us at all. I felt sick.

Today we had lunch with Kenny's uncle, aunt and cousin. I had a really good time talking with them. They shared a lot about Christianity in Taiwan and China, and the work that ministries like OMF and ORTV (Overseas Radio and Television) are doing to reach people through ministry and English teaching. We spent the afternoon helping out with the Kids Club that Tim, Jennie, etc. run at a park. We ended up playing Four Square the entire time. I had a blast. The kids were hilarious. After that, we went to "snake alley" with Tim and Miriam. We went to a restaurant that served snake meat. They had massive pythons in cages at the front of the restaurant. Elijah and I shared a plate of snake meat. It was actually pretty good. Kenny and Miriam did the really weird stuff. They bought a variety of drinks that included snake blood, snake venom, snake semen (dead serious), snake gall bladder, and a couple others -- disgusting. We capped off the night with a trip to a comedy club. They had like six different comedians perform, and only two or three of them were actually decent. I don't think it was worth the price of admission but I had a good time with everybody.

Tonight was a our last night with Kenny because he is going to Taichung to visit his other uncle's church, and we are staying to go to the ORTV church and check out the ministry. I'm hoping I can make some good connections with that ministry. Anyway, it's so late here, and I'm quite tired. I just had to update while I had internet for an extended period.

I can't believe this trip is almost over. Sad day. Pray that the Lord will grant us wisdom and guide us as we go back to the States. I'll eventually write a post that explains more about what the Lord's been doing with me on this trip. But for now, goodnight.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Taiwan Update 2

My opinion on Taiwan has yet to waver, as we are fully enjoying our time here still. This country and it's people are absolutely beautiful. I like just walking around the NCKU campus by where we're staying and just soaking it up -- the students heading to and from classes, and others packing out the recreational areas; the beautiful architecture and landscaping; the countless rows of scooters and motorcycles parked in the lots. We hardly ever eat at the same place twice because there are so many great options, especially in Tainan City. Our friends Li, Louis, Joan and Grace all make sure we get the best of the best. We've also had a few amazing meals at Kenny's grandmothers' apartment. You have to love a good home-cooked meal.

On Sunday, we attended the service at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (where we are staying). It was all in mandarin, and we didn't really have a translator until the end. The best moment of the service was at the very end of one of the hymns when, in the second of complete silence after the final note rang out, an old woman behind us released a very loud burp. The timing was amazing! Elijah and I did our best to suppress our laughter -- it wasn't easy. After the service, we joined in on the community potluck. We met a girl named Rae (not sure about he spelling), who was of Asian ethnicity but was from Oregon. She is teaching English in a nearby town, and attends Good Shepherd regularly. I found out she went to Wheaton College, and we had an immediate connection since Chaz and another friend of mine, Justin, went there. She knew who both of them were though she didn't know them. We enjoyed talking about our Christian college experiences.

Anyawy, we are currently in Kaohsiung, which is a little further south than Tainan City. We are staying with an OMF missionary couple, David and Ruth Ullstrom. They have been great hosts. We're so thankful for them. Most of our time in Kaohsiung is being spent observing the ministry that's being done within the OMF community here. We've attended a prayer meeting each morning at the Ullstroms' church, as well as two other bible studies connected with another church in the area. I met a girl named Ansy at the first bible study (she also attended the second one), who was from Cardiff, Wales. We got to talking after I mentioned that I worked in media and was seeking the Lord's guidance on whether to focus on media missions this next year or stay in L.A. She mentioned that she did some video work herself, and that she knew of a media job opening within OMF. They've apparently been looking to fill it for a while now, and so, of course, I immediately emailed the contact she gave me to find out more. I've already exchanged a couple emails with OMF and it's only been two days. It seems like an awesome opportunity for me, but I don't want to get into the details of it right now. Please just pray that the Lord would give me wisdom as I weigh all my options. I'll be meeting with OMF when I get back to L.A.

While I'm in Kaohsiung, I am also visiting a good college friend of mine, Sara Hatcher. It's so great to see her. She is in her third year of teaching at Morrison Academy (a great school by the way), and working with His Hands orphanage. She cooked me and the guys dinner last night, and then took us to His Hands. We sat around for over an hour, and held/played with babies. That was one of my favorite experiences on the trip so far. I am looking forward to visiting with Sara more this weekend. Always good to catch up with old college pals.

Tomorrow, we are helping the Ullstroms' church take a group of university students on a hike in the hills. I'm not sure of all the details, but I know we'll be doing some ministry with them, and after the hike, everyone will have dinner back at the church. The guys and I are looking forward to it. We've all been craving more ministry opportunities.


Wisdom and guidance for all three of us: Kenny and I are both seeking the Lord on whether or not to seek out long-term jobs with salaries and do ministry on the side, or to commit to full-time ministry for at least the next year (we have opportunities for both); and Elijah has to get his schedule of classes together as he prepares to return to Shelton State in January to study Civil Engineering.

More OMF workers in Kaohsiung: David has been sharing a lot about the work that OMF is doing in Taiwan, and has mentioned more than once the need for more missionaries in the south. They are lacking in strength in comparison to the north.

Thanks, Everybody!



Saturday, October 23, 2010

Taiwan Update 1

Okay, so there's a lot to cover since my last update, but I'm going to do my best to keep it as succinct as possible.

Elijah and I wrapped up our last few days in Hong Kong with a trip to Lamma Island, a couple trips to Mong Kok, a random trip way out to the middle of nowhere, and then we attended another service at The Vine. Lamma Island was one of my favorite moments of our time in Hong Kong. We took the ferry out to it, and then spent a few hours just walking around and taking photos. It was nice to be somewhere away from the masses. It was a lot of walking and my feet and knees were killing me but it was very peaceful. I was also glad we got to attend The Vine one more time. We sat with our new English friends, James and Alexa. I hope to visit them again someday. They are wonderful people.

Flash forward -- We are now in Taiwan. We are based in Tainan City, which is in the southern part of the island. Kenny is staying with his grandmother, and Elijah and I are staying in a mens dormitory owned by the aforementioned grandmother's church. The living conditions are not quite as nice as they were in Hong Kong, but the cost of living is much cheaper here and, so far, I've really enjoyed the people. The weather is pretty rough due to typhoons. It's actually kind of nice to have rain for once. Living in L.A, I don't really miss the humidity, but every now and then I kind of miss the rain. In Taiwan, they have a long period of typhoons, but once they're done, they have 2-3 months of no rain which is kind of nice. I wish I could combine that weather schedule with the dry heat of L.A.

We've had the opportunity meet quite a few wonderful people. Elijah and I have gotten to know two of the guys in the dorm well -- Li and Louis. Li has kind of become our point man for living here since we are not staying with Kenny. He has done a great job of showing us around, and we eat breakfast with him every morning. He's a funny guy. He's getting better, but he's been quite nervous around us as he speaks in English. Today, Louis took us to lunch, and then showed us around their campus. Their school is called National Cheng Kung University. It's quite nice.

The most fun I've had so far since being in Taiwan was over the last couple days. Kenny's friend Joan and a couple of her friends took us up to Taichung, which is in between Taipei and Tainan along the west coast of the island. We stayed at Joan's alma mater, Tunghai Univeristy. The night we got there, we walked around the night markets and ate new, interesting foods, and then drove to a lookout point to look at the skyline of Taichung. The next day (yesterday), we drove 2 hours into the mountains to a hot springs resort. I forget the name, but it was really nice (only cost 7 or 8 USD!). Kenny, Elijah and I all bought speedos because people don't wear board shorts to the springs. I never thought I would ever wear a speedo, let alone buy one, but I did. If you haven't seen the pictures on my Facebook page yet, check them out. You should get a good laugh. I know we did. After a few hours at the hot springs, we drove out to a flower farm. Our time there didn't last long because it began to rain, but it was nice nonetheless. We took Kenny to the high speed rail station in Taichung after that because he's spending the weekend in Taipei, and then the rest of us drove back to Tainan.

That's all for now. I'll post more of my thoughts later. To sum Taiwan up so far though, it's a great place -- great people, great food, great prices, great sites, etc. We'll see if that assessment stands after my time here is done ;)

Until next time!


Friday, October 15, 2010

Hong Kong Update 3 -- some random thoughts, etc.

This update is going to be a bit helter-skelter as I don't feel like typing up a long, well-composed post.

A couple things that I have noticed about Hong Kong:

1. The people here are as plugged in, if not more than the States. Everywhere I go, most everybody is talking, playing, emailing, etc. on their phone, iPod, iPad, etc.; and I've seen a lot of people with their headphones in. Being from the U.S. -- specifically L.A. -- this sort of thing is not uncommon, but I feel as if it's just more common here.

2. Another thing that is common in the States is print advertisement; and in L.A., most of our ads are film, tv, fashion, etc. Here, in Hong Kong, I have been bombarded by fashion ads -- posters, massive billboards, small billboards, electronic marquees, massive LCD screens, TV, magazines, and the list goes on. As a result, most people here dress pretty fashionable.

3. Everyone smokes.

(I think the first three points could be summed up by saying that Hong Kong is a more intense version of Los Angeles)

4. Also, you don't drive a car here unless you're wealthy and can afford a BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar, Bentley, Ferrari, Porshe, etc.


Two days left in Hong Kong. Kenny is already in Taiwan. Elijah and I head there to meet up with him on Monday. Hong Kong has been fun, but I'm ready for some Taiwan. Not to mention, money's getting tight, and it's hard to have fun in Hong Kong when you don't have much money to spend.

I think I could live and work here...maybe not. I don't know. Hong Kong is cool and now I have contacts. We shall see. We still have a lot of trip to go, and a lot of people to meet.

Song of the trip so far for me (can't get it out of my head) -- "Forever Reign" off the latest Hillsong Live album.

Until next time!