Taichung is pretty hot. Heat is one thing that continues to be a challenge for my family. We do have one working air conditioner in our bedroom, so on unbearably hot nights the 5 of us sleep together in our bedroom. Somehow Jeanette & I have come to believe that as missionaries we must suffer. There is no question that biblically there is value in suffering, that is suffering for the gospel, but not suffering for the sake of suffering. One pivotal lesson that I have learned from veteran missionaries is that serving the Lord on the mission field is about perseverance & longevity because more often than not it will take a lifetime to change something of worth, something that will resonate God’s glory in human hearts. But in order for us to give our whole lives here effectively, we must run this race more wisely.
I think that is what God was thinking as well because in 2-3 weeks, our new workers coordinator will be getting us an air conditioner for our living room from an OMF family who is moving away. She kindly offered to try to obtain another one for our girls’ room too, which we declined because we spend most of our time in the living room anyway, but her empathy brought much needed comfort. I think oftentimes all of us just want others to come along side of us & simply understand what we are going through. People may say that the opposite of love is hatred or I have even heard others say the opposite of love is fear, but the antithesis of love is really apathy. Whether in hatred or fear, there is a degree of emotional connection, but in apathy, there is none. Of course, just saying the right words is not enough. What is more important is the heart behind those words. It is when our hearts are right that our words have power to comfort, heal & save.
Our friend’s comforting words were a powerful reminder of what we are called to do here in Taiwan. Yes, we must master the language, but no matter how well we might speak it, if there is no empathy & understanding of Taiwanese culture, worldviews, struggles & even spiritual bondages, our efforts will be irrelevant & powerless.
Isn’t this the reason for Jesus’ incarnation? To be where we are, and to understand our struggle with sin? Hebrews 4:15 explains, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” He understands our frustration, our anxiety, discouragement, depression, hurts & our loneliness. The fact that Jesus understands our struggles is a tremendous comfort & our hope! Because He knows, He knows exactly how to help us. This is the message that we must get across to our Taiwanese brothers & sisters that Jesus knows exactly what they are facing & He alone is able & willing to help.
Last Sunday after church, we went to a nearby noodle shop for lunch. We had a very pleasant opportunity to talk to the owner who is an elderly lady. She even brought out extra side dishes for us to try. It was evident that she wanted to understand us & encourage us. She mainly spoke in Taiwanese being older, but there was no mistake in understanding her kindness toward us. Although we are still foreigners struggling to make a life here in Taiwan, last Sunday, we felt much more at home moved by her empathic heart that spoke a volume.
It is never what you say that’s important. We are so adamant about saying all the right words, but what’s more important is how you say them. And more important than what we do for others is why we do them. If we want to move hearts, we must learn the language of the heart.