Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fun Facts About Taiwan

- meals consist of some kind of rice, noodles, pork or chicken (and of course, tofu!)
- veggies are always well cooked or fried
- they eat very little fruit, except in juice or smoothies
- common breakfast cereal resembles oatmeal
- all snacks are called "cookies" (in English), including Cheetos
- bread is usually either sweet or salty
- in general, food here in Taiwan seems very sweet compared to the US
- deserts are extremely sweet and very small

General Living:
- vehicle of choice is a scooter, called a moped
- food stands and some restaurants are closed between 11am and 3pm
- they love to stay up late
- they don't wear shoes in the house; they wear slippers
- the main focus of life is religion and achievement
- people burn their money as a religious ceremony
- fireworks go off randomly at night

- go to school from 8am to 5pm or later
- wearing house slippers to school is an offense
- disputes are resolved with "paper, scissors, stone"
- naps are required at school until 8th grade

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Another Office Week

 This week was another office week without children. We were supposed to do a lot of decorating, but some other more important issues came up and "stole" our leader. So, what to do?

After completing my assigned lesson plans for our Christmas schedule, I got a little bored. So, I found myself in God's Word a lot more. It was so special just to spend much-needed down time with God, my Bible, (and yes, my camera). Here is a sneak view of what was eating up the rest of my free time:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thankful for Love

As I sat down to write a prayer letter this week, I couldn't help but be overwhelmed with gratefulness to God. He's been so good to me this year and every year. Yet, how many times have I forgotten Him or doubted His goodness?  He is so precious indeed!

This morning, I awoke with hymns and verses about the awesomeness of God running through my head. I felt like I had a personal invitation into the throne room of God. (Of course, we always can approach God boldly, but this was different, this was special.) So, I rolled over, opened my locker and grabbed my Bible. Where to start?  Lately, God’s had me reading a Psalm and Proverb a day, a chapter in Leviticus, and a chapter in Mark.  At first I thought it rather random, but the Lord began to put the pieces together for me.

Starting in Leviticus, I began reading in chapter 17. For the last few days, God has been telling His people laws on cleanliness and sacrifices.

It amazes me that people actually lived and were able to do anything right according to those laws. I don’t think I would last a day without messing up somewhere!  Then again, the whole point was that they would be separate from the other people around them. 

This chapter in particular was on blood. Blood is life. Therefore, God commands His people not to eat it or drink it. Anyone who killed an animal and shed its blood was unclean.

Yet the priests did it every day. It was their “job.” (And Jesus became unclean for me, shedding His blood so I could have redemption.)

Flipping to Psalms, I read chapter 78. The chapter started with an exhortation to share God’s work and Word with the next generation, and then expounded on the unfaithfulness of His people. God did so much for them, and yet they forgot Him.

All those rules, all those sacrifices, and they still somehow forgot about God… hmm.

Proverbs 19 (I had the wrong day, but oh well, God knew.) had a few verses that seemed to jump out at me, and I underlined key words. “He that keepeth the commandment keepeth His own soul…” and “The fear of the Lord tendeth to life: and he that hath it shall abide satisfied…”

But, the Israelites kept all those commandments and somehow were still not satisfied. They must have missed the point.

I was beginning to see, and was excited about the chapter in Mark that I was yet to read. Chapter 14 is where Jesus spends time in the garden with His disciples. He tells them that they will run, and that Peter will deny Him three times.

Peter was a Jew. He had trained personally with Jesus for three years. What happened? He surely knew God’s commands.

Then it struck me like a lightening bolt.

The Lord gave one law “Thou shalt love the Lord with all your heart…” However, He knew how easy it would be to get distracted, to desire to be satisfied from the allures of the world, so He gave more laws to the people. These were merely guidelines to keep them looking and living for Him. The whole point is that they were to be working so hard loving Him by doing ________ that that WAS their life. They didn’t have time for anything else. Others, looking on, say, “wow. They must really love their God.”

Yet, just as I do so many times, they got tired of the duties because they quit truly loving the Lord. True love obligates. In leaving off the first command, the others were empty bondage.  They were not satisfied, so they began to look other places. Surely there was more to life than seeking to please God…
And so, I found myself, with Peter. I’ve been raised in a godly home. I’ve been given all the tools. Yet, how many times do I forget God and leave Him because it is all emptiness. It becomes an embarrassment to share about Christ.  Sometimes, I even deny Him in certain areas of my life.

Why is it that am I not satisfied????

I forgot THE commandment. Lord, I love you! Help me to seek You more; -with ALL my heart, my soul, and my strength, so that I am IN LOVE with you. May I be so passionately in love with You, that it changes my life and the lives of those around me. Don’t let me lose sight of the purpose of the Christian life.

True Love

This week has been filled with amazing things. I can’t even begin to tell you of all of the workings of my Jesus, because some of them “have not yet been released” to the public. However, I can say, I am thankful.
Through all the trials, tests, and tumults of life, God has always been faithful.  He has brought me out of the miry clay and set my feet on a rock.  He has given me supportive family and friends. He has loved me with an everlasting love.  He has entrusted me with His work here in Taiwan.
What more can I say?

Thank You Jesus!!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

Trust and Teaching

"If they trust you, they want to hear what you have to say." 

-Lan Ci-

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Camp Week 8

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dear Praying Friends

            I can still hear the children shouting “YES!!!” as the bell rang san ke (beginning of class). Usually the kids groan at the sound of the bell.  This group was something else. They actually loved the classes and wanted to go.  -And they didn’t like English class so much, which is something we will have to fix. It is fun being their favorite class.
The weather has finally turned cooler, so the kids are all bundled in their sweaters and jackets.  Windows and doors are closed, and you can smell the children’s hard exercise at recess. The teachers are drinking hot tea and cocoa, and Christmas music is heard in a few places. Boy, do I LOVE this time of year. Though, I do miss the snow.
This class tore my heart a different way.  It was one of those classes that you wished you could teach all year and see them grow and change.  They weren’t overly friendly with the teachers, but if we offered a hug, they would run into our arms and melt. I particularly remember Thursday night, when we sang goodnight to the kids, we went around to give them hugs. One boy was under his covers just laying quietly, but when I motioned “do you want a hug?” he literally sprang out of bed and into my hug.  One of the girls, when I gave her a hug, held on for dear life.  Another time, I saw a girl by herself in the hall and walked over to give her a squeeze. She didn’t hug back; she just beamed as if she had just been given gold. 
It was so precious to see these children respond to the love of Christ. He loves children and wants them to come to Him.
At the end of the week, we do a “presentation” class, to review what we’ve learned and encourage the children to take home the good character they have learned here.  The Lord gave me the idea of a puzzle. Everything in life is a piece of the puzzle that makes who we are. Some things are hard, but they are important parts as well. I read a poem (with a translator) and had each of the kids put a piece onto a puzzle in front of class. When they were all through, the puzzle was not finished because their lives are not finished.  The Taiwanese teacher who was translating cried, and some of the children did as well. God’s lessons are always best.

Please pray for the English and Chinese teachers here, as there are a lot of changes that may be difficult.

Praise the Lord, I got a day of rest (Wednesday).
Praise the Lord for His promises and faithfulness.
Praise the Lord we got exercise on a “mountain” bike ride this weekend.

Happy in the Service of the King,
Barbara J. Sutton

A Place of Refuge

"In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence; 
and His children shall have a place of refuge."
Proverbs 14:26

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bury My Heart

Praise the Lord! He gave me a clear day to take panoramic pictures of Douliou. Of course, they aren't great, because I wasn't up that high. Here is the 360 view of the town from the top of the CEI building.

Even though I am pretty familiar with the town now, it surprised and saddened me to see a Buddhist Temple in almost every direction I pointed my camera. I have been told that Yunlin County is the poorest county because they are the darkest county spiritually. They have great, thriving businesses, but they literally burn up their money for their god. It is sad to hear fireworks go off on the weekends, knowing that they are celebrating the gods. At times, the wind blows right, and our room fills with the smoke of the burning money at the temple.  Sometimes, we will hear them moving their god from one location to another. It is a solemn parade with drums and a bagpipe-ish sounding instrument. All the men wear grim looks and sometimes wail a sad sounding song. This town is so dark, but not out of reach. Many of our friends are open to the gospel and want to hear about a living God who loves them and died FOR them.

My delight in taking pictures turned quickly to saddness, compassion, and prayer. Lord, bury my heart on the mission field. Keep me constantly aware of the state of souls around me, that I may be Your beacon of light to the lost. 

Douliou sits at the feet of these beautiful mountains.

Appartments. There is a temple on the other side, but you can't see it.

Directly on the other side of the highway. -See the temple?

A few blocks away, another temple. On the mountainside is a giant Buddha looking down on the town. 
(This is considered to give Douliou favor, but I think it puts a curse on the area.)

 In front of the school. In the distance there is another temple.

A block away is another temple. 
We walk past that one every time we go to the market or the grocery store.

"For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!"
Romans 10:13-15

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Camp Week 7

Sunday, November 06, 2011
Dear Praying Friends,

            I apologize for the lateness of this prayer update. We have had a very full weekend.
            Thank you all for your many emails of encouragement! I am glad that you read the newsletter and that it is a blessing to you. God’s work is refreshing to hear. I am sorry that I do not reply to them very fast. I am extremely busy, but I am extremely grateful for the notes! 

The Friday afternoon before the kids come, we always have a meeting to “introduce” us to the kids. It helps us deal with them and their issues more specifically if we know where they are coming from. This week, the kids were coming from very difficult backgrounds. One girl’s mom had committed suicide the week before. Two kid’s dads were in prison. One girl’s mom was depressed.  One boy’s dad abuses him. Several students were from single parent homes, and a few had been rejected by their parents. Our hearts went out to them, and we knew they would need more love this week. 
When they arrived on Monday, they seemed to sense the love here at CEI. Usually, kids will not really warm up to the teachers until Tuesday afternoon, but these students played with us and gave us hugs right away. It is a joy to see that they found this a “safe” place.
We find that most students can read and write English, but do not understand or speak it well, so it was a surprise to find that these students were exactly the opposite. They could barely read and write, but if we vocalized the sentence, then they knew.  Simple English like “how are you?” and colors and numbers were okay, but they really struggled with “where are you from?” “where do you want to go?”.  Although they were a talkative group, they were not terribly naughty. All in all, we really enjoyed this week.
God showed me something this week. It struck me that though I personally cannot reach every child, between all our team, we are able to reach every child that comes. These teachers really pursue these children. Not all of them are easy to love. They do not all seek attention. We must “chase” after them, reach out to them, “force” them to respond through love. It is quite a picture of Christ’s love.
One girl in particular who came this week had a very distant attitude. She was attentive in class and obedient to the teachers, but she always seemed off in her own world. Though she carried herself well, like an adult almost, she never seemed to relax. I felt for her. These children need time to be children. So, I decided I would pursue her. When I saw her off by herself, I would go be with her, even if we didn’t talk. I rubbed her back. I complimented her hair or her clothes (things she can understand).  I gave her hugs, even if she felt like a stick.
After a while, I began to wonder if it was working, if she would ever relax.
Then, Thursday night, we go in to sing the children a good night song. This little girl gets a huge glow on her face. “TEACHER BOB!”  She reached out with her hand to give me a high five, and hung on for dear life. I was so glad when their Chinese teacher gave permission for them to give us hugs.
God’s love truly makes a difference. So many of these children change in just one week. What a blessing it is to be on the front lines. To watch God work. To love and be loved. To share these stories of God’s power and grace with you all. Ah! It is amazing. Thank you Lord!

Thank you all for the prayers! We really feel them here on the field. It is such a spiritual battle. Satan does all he can to break up the work that is going on here. Your prayers release God’s power to work here. Thank you for being faithful!

Happy in the Service of the King,
Barbara J. Sutton

PS: Sorry about the lack of pictures. I will try to remedy that later. I can't seem to find them right now. : /