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
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
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.