We are full in our first winter season in Taiwan.  Before we came, we underestimated its cold, trying to understand it by the average temperatures reported.  It’s nothing compared to Chicago or Seoul, but because most of the homes here do not have insulation or heat, it does feel a lot colder.  In fact, it often feels colder inside our home than outside.  Of course, cold tile floors and wooden sofa don’t help.

On the other hand, we are surprised by how warm the Taiwanese people are.  When we began our journey toward Taiwan, we prayed about many things.  We asked the Lord that we will be servants to the people of Taiwan, and that we will be loving neighbors to them.  We also prayed that we will lay everything down to lead them to Christ.  It never dawned on me that we will also be at the receiving end.  That’s arrogance for you.  I really had to repent of my unrealized pride.

The truth is God has been using the people whom we were sent to minister to guide & help us.  First, I have to mention our language teachers.  Not only do they teach us language, but they teach us how to manage daily tasks like which bus to take, how to fill out forms, where to go to buy what we need, translate letters, etc.  We also have friendly & helpful vendors.  To build relationships, we use the same vendors around our neighborhood.  We found a few we try to visit more often.  There’s a noodle shop, lunch place, tea shop, bread shop, vegetable market.  Our ability to communicate is limited but they know us a bit now and always greet us with a warm smile.  There’s much more that gets exchanged than the goods and money involved.  And there are also our church friends.  Without them, we would’ve felt so alone here in Taiwan.  We are truly grateful especially for our small group families.  The best word to describe them is again “warmth”.  They don’t have to open their hearts to us, but they do.  We could only thank the Lord for His graciousness in bringing good people to our missionary endeavors.

Now that we are actually on the mission field for the long term, God has been teaching us many new things about missions.  It may be that they were always there, just that I was too blind to notice them before.  Pride has a way of doing that.

One of the major lessons I learned is that missions has to be built upon genuine relationship, which I have expressed many time before, but what I didn’t realize before is that genuine relationship has to be a two way streak.  That is to say that there has to be both giving & receiving.  We often believe that in our missions or service to God that we are the only ones who are sacrificing or giving up something for those we are ministering to.  Sometimes this is what we expect, but in such human dynamics, genuine relationship cannot develop because we will feel that the other person owes us something for our sacrifice or worse the other person will feel indebted to us.  Such lopsidedness cannot blossom into something healthy where one feels that he or she has given more, it’s the same idea as in marriage or family or even deep friendship.

The truth in missions is that we the missionaries are not the only ones who are sacrificing & taking risks.  Whenever a person opens his heart to the gospel, he is making a decision that will alter life as he knows it.  He may face rejection, alienation or even danger.  Following Christ is not an easy decision for many people here who may be torn between what they have decided and what their family and background expects.  It’s possible that the main problem with modern Christianity is that we have made the decision to follow Christ too light.  My point is that risks are also taken by those we are reaching out to.

But what is so amazing is that when we both take risks & make a life changing decision to share & receive Christ as our Savior & Lord, a beautiful camaraderie forms where we can trust, pray for each other, and rejoice in the Lord together.  That’s what we are after!  Not “Come & see what we have done for these people!”

We are not content with just making converts & performing baptisms.  We desire brothers & sisters in Christ with whom we can enter Christ’s kingdom together triumphantly!  This very thought brings warmth to our hearts…

*Pictures from church Christmas dinner & fellowship