It feels like I have traveled back in time.

When I was a child back in Korea, we didn’t have cell phones or the internet or other conveniences we have now, but it was a time of innocence & simple pleasures that can only come from scarcity.  I can still remember.  My father once brought a package of OREO cookies from overseas.  That bag lasted us a long time because my mother would give us just one OREO cookie at a time & only on special days.  She kept the OREOs in her special cabinet with her other valuables.  Whenever those cabinet doors opened, I knew that it was going to be a special day.

I still love OREOs.

Taichung is the 3rd largest city in Taiwan so comparably it’s pretty modern, especially in the downtown area.  Currently they are constructing a subway system which I’m hoping they will complete by next year so we have time to enjoy its convenience.  But once you move out of the urban area, everything becomes more like what I was familiar with a long time ago… a time when things were better in different ways.   Doing missions in Taiwan has challenges, but there are pluses as well.  I was reminded of that this week.

Living in Florida before we came to Taiwan, my family got used to celebrating Christmas without snow.  This holiday season, we are trying to get used to yet another change because most of Taiwan does not celebrate Christmas.  There are some Christmas decorations in larger stores, but it’s not everywhere.  There is no 25 Days of Christmas on TV.  No Christmas music everywhere you go.  Christmas Day isn’t a holiday for the Taiwanese.  The children said it doesn’t feel like Christmas is next week.

The Taiwanese celebrate holidays on the weekend before of even after if that holiday falls on a weekday.  The churches were having their Christmas programs on the 20th (Saturday before Christmas).  Since things were already so different, Jeanette & I decided to break our family tradition of waiting until Christmas Day to open presents.  We opened them on Saturday.  We were very thankful that they were just as excited about opening their small gifts as they were when opening much bigger ones in the past.  They were just as excited about receiving as they were about giving.  They joyfully helped wrap gifts for their teachers.  They also helped Jeanette bake Christmas goodies which we gave to some neighbors.

For the family, the gifts were smaller.  We told the children to think about what the receiver would really like but spend only about $100 NT ($30 NT = $1 U.S.).  Knowing my “sweet tooth”, they got me one of my favorite candies, Werther’s.  I think seeing me go through those candies brought them more joy.

I think many mistakenly believe that doing missions is all about giving gifts.  Therefore they will pour out their resources on something physical & concrete.  But what is physical is always transient, not to mention it loses its appeal over time, no matter how grand that gift may be.  Doing missions is about revealing the Giver & why He has given.  You do not need a lot to achieve that, except willingness to love & lay yourself down.  I’ve seen too many gifts tossed to the side & forgotten, no matter how expensive they may be.  Furthermore, effective missions teaches the recipients to give & share CHRIST who has given them the most important gift of all.  It is only then that love, peace & joy of the Lord can be possessed & enjoyed by everyone involved.

For a few days now, our girls have been playing their music boxes over & over again.  “Jack and Jill” has went up the hill too many times to count, but you know it is music to our ears, and I get that OREOs feeling…