Thursday, January 19, 2012

Practicing the Focus

While in Taijhong, I got to practice the manual focus on my camera. It takes a little bit to understand how to work it when the lens is built in the camera. Thanks to the principal of the elementary school giving me permission, I got to practice on some beautiful landscape. Working the focus on my camera reminded me how easy it is to "get out of focus" in my Christian life. It is easy to leave a "blurry" picture of Christ when I act to quickly, give an inaccurate or irritating picture when I focus on the wrong thing, or accept my "close enough" relationship with Christ instead of only shooting for the best.

The perfect weather allowed for the clear reflection on the water.

My personal favorite.

A friend asked me to photograph the yellow flower, so, here it is.

Abstract shots are more difficult for me.

That's as close as this camera likes to get.

"He is a Rock, His work is perfect; all His ways are judgement. A God of truth and without iniquity, Just and Right is He."

Week 13

Dear Praying Friends,

What an amazing week! God opened up a few witnessing doors, and I got privileged to meet some very cool kids. But enough with the promos. Let’s just get to the point.

Last Sunday, after church, we packed up to head for Taijhong. The trip took a couple of hours, but at last, we arrived after dark. The principal’s assistant met us, drove us past the school, and then took us on to our rooms. This school took such good care of us! We stayed in the guest teacher facilities on a college campus, but it felt like a very nice hotel. Just a step in our room, and I took a deep breath.

Ah!

Time to relax. I so needed that break. Thank You Lord!

Teacher Jo: Responsibility with the Red Hen
The three day camp felt a lot like teaching Character First when I was an intern in Oklahoma City. We went into the classroom and used object lessons, stories, songs, and activities to teach character. CEI made sure we always had a translator in the room, so we were able to do some more in-depth teaching. When we are at the CEI campus, we have to teach from a book. Here though, there was no book, so we reinforced the character that the Chinese teachers taught, with simple English words and phrases.

For example, one of the concepts that the children learn is “positive thinking.” This is kind of like, “attitude is everything, so think happy thoughts.” In Chinese class, they learn how to identify and deal with their emotions. So, we taught the English for emotions, and asked the kids what they can do to change “negative” emotions. (They are allowed to answer in Chinese.) And they learn to say “Positive Think-ing” in English.
Listening Carefully

Teaching in the school is a little different tone than at CEI campus. The children were still “in school” and so they behaved very well. We had to make sure to watch the time for the class periods, as we couldn’t teach over time.  There were other classes in process too, so we had to be considerate. All in all though, I enjoyed the time immensely.

Tuesday evening, the rest of the teachers went into town for dinner, but I had food in my room and wanted to go to sleep. The principal offered to drive me back (instead of taking a bus) if I hung out and took pictures for a few minutes more. Of course I said yes! Their school campus is beautifully landscaped, so I had hoped to have time to take pictures. As he drove me to the college, he asked if HTC was a religious foundation. I said that they are not, but I am a Christian. Though it was only one sentence, I felt encouraged. All we did was teach at a school all day, and they notice that we are different.

Wednesday, I wore a cross necklace. In the states, if you wear a cross necklace, many times people assume you are Catholic. However, here, a cross is a symbol of a Christian. One of the children noticed the necklace and asked “ShanDi?” (the name for the One True God).  “Yes,” I answered. “I follow ShanDi.”  The child looked impressed and walked off. They usually know who God is, but think that He is only for the Westerner. Pray that the seeds planted will grow.

On the train with (some) of the CEI team
Riding the train home, I was very surprised to have an older man offer me his seat. Though the Taiwanese are very accommodating, in travel it is every man for himself. When I thanked him,  e explained himself. As he started to speak, I told him I know very little Chinese. He nodded, slowed down his sentances, and used simpler terms, waiting for me to understand. He explained that he was a Christian. -He followed ShanDi. I smiled. I understood.  Showing Him the cross on my necklace, I said, “Wo ye.” (Me too.)  I follow ShanDi too. He continued to speak, sharing his testimony and speaking truth and life to me, even though I couldn’t understand it all. Then, before leaving the train, he reminded me, “Yesu ai ni.”  To which I replied, “Yesu ai ni ye.” (Jesus loves you too.) Thanks for the encouragement once again Lord.

It was a great three days!

Then yesterday, we had emergency fire training in Chiayi. It reminded me of the homeschool field trips we took in grade school. I’ll take a work day like that anytime! I even got to handle the water hose and “hose down” the grounds outside the school, because I was assigned to that group in a fire. Yes!!! So fun. Their safety measures are a little different, and take some getting used to.  I opted out of rappelling off the second floor with no helmet and only an upper body harness. It just didn’t make sense to me to do that unless I actually needed to.  

Last night, while Susanna took her voice lesson, I hung out with Katrina. We had a grand time discussing music, teaching, photography, and work. I found it easy to talk to her, as we have very similar preferences and hobbies. There is one area we don’t agree, and that is religion. As we finished talking, she told me that she appreciated my respect for her religion, for all the other Christians she has met have fed her a guilt trip or told her she was a failure without Christ. Wow. She didn’t seem open, so I didn’t want to turn her off. Pray that she will meet other Christians who treat her with love, and that God will turn her heart toward Himself.
Taijhong Camp 2011

This has been a great week. Today marks the beginning of Chinese New Year winter break, and I’m looking forward to that!  Time with the teachers, then vacation in Hong Kong, pictures of Taroko gorge, and many fun activities planned. I will try to keep you all updated as much as I can; otherwise, I’m out on recess for 3 weeks!!!

A Fellow Servant of Christ,
Barbara Sutton

Monday, January 16, 2012

"Miserably" at Peace part 1


When where God puts you makes you miserable…

Just as anyone should before making a major decision, I pray about God’s certain will concerning my mission trips. I remember being told once that though the opportunity may be amazing, “if it’s not where God wants you, you’ll be miserable.” So, I wait for God’s peace on where to go. Sometimes, it’s just a certainty in the pit of my stomach, or a settled mind, or just a “sure feeling,” and sometimes, God just brings the circumstances about so that there is no other choice.

Coming to Taiwan, I had that feeling in the pit of my stomach that I was going. My mind was screaming that it had to be a mistake. -I didn’t want to come. It reasoned that God wouldn’t call me to a place without turning my heart there. My mind thought out alternative choices if Taiwan “didn’t work out,” but frankly, I knew. I was going.

Why did I fight it so much? I don’t know. I didn’t want to go to Taiwan, but I knew that if that’s where God wanted me, I wouldn’t “be happy” anywhere else. He would get me there whether I liked it or not. So, I resigned myself to the fact that I would be teaching English to a bunch of Chinese children and prayed for God to change my heart.

-And He seemed to. Slowly, slowly, God gave me an excitement for the trip, wisdom in packing, and a smile on my face. People asked me if I was still planning on going to Mexico some day, as Taiwan and Mexico are not close to the same, and I had to answer carefully. God still has my heart on the Mexican people, but I know that if He calls else-where, I cannot ignore it. The Taiwanese need Jesus too.

Yes, it’s hard to go. No, it’s not what I had in mind.

But then, when was I ever able to comprehend God’s mind? Since when did He start “explaining” His will to me?


"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."  Isaiah 55:8-9

Finally the day came to board the plane and fly. Off to another adventure. I was excited now, but trying hard not to form any expectations of what was coming. Every trip I have made to date I have learned something, but what would I learn here? Would I enjoy it? Would I go home just as excited as when I left?  -I really didn’t know.

I met one of my team-mates on the plane. What a joy it was to get to know her on the plane over. She bubbled over with excitement and her smile reached everyone she met. Her testimony of how God brought her over had both intrigue and tragedy, confusion and humor, reminded me of Romans 8:28. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  We bonded quickly.

Meeting my team leader, I felt overwhelmed at God’s goodness. What a great team He had put me on! Our ideas for ministry, and our team goals, as well as our personal goals melded so well, one would think we had been chosen specifically to work together.

 -And who’s to say we weren’t?-

When we pray together, it’s as if the whole world stops so that we can approach the throne of grace uninterrupted. A couple hours of prayer and praise flies by as only fifteen minutes. Though it is impossible to see all the results of prayer this side of heaven, some of them already seem to be answered. This is what a team is all about!

Yet, something was wrong. I felt miserable. I knew this was where God called. He wanted me here, and that is so obvious. If God wanted me here, wasn’t everything supposed to go smoothly? Doesn’t it mean I should be happy? Won’t God then work out all things perfectly?

Very obviously not!

I felt like a fish out of water, like a child in a huge crowd of people five times my size. A different language, a different culture, a different learning style, different foods; just to name a few! It didn’t seem to matter what I did, I couldn’t keep up with the schedule of where I was to be when. I started out excited to teach, but quickly noticed a huge language barrier and lost heart. I easily got lost in town, partly due to the fact that everything is written in Chinese, and partly due to just feeling lost. It began to feel like I looked through a cloud at everything, like I wasn’t really part of it, but just there. Even with all the ways God had taught me and prepared me for life, I was totally unprepared for THIS.

Quickly sensing discouragement, it didn’t help when my team mates began to point out these and other discrepancies in my life. They did it in complete love, in God’s perfect timing; but it felt overwhelming to me. It seemed that my “best” did not even enter the scale of “capable.” I saw in them the many character qualities I was missing, but could not understand why I couldn’t “get it together.” It’s not like I’ve never been in a foreign country before!  This is not how it is supposed to be. I’m obeying God. I’m here.

Okay, it’s time to get desperate. “LORD!” I felt like demanding. “What’s going on here?” But I knew the problem was me, not God, not my team, not even the foreign country. My friends were telling me to get over myself, but I didn’t know what to “get over.” It seemed my prayers were a waste of time, because I didn’t know what sin was keeping me from God so I couldn’t correct it and mend our communication.

So, what does a Christian do when God seems silent?

As silly as it sounds, a Christian just keeps doing the basics. Reading the Bible, applying what I read, praying, and seeking God’s face.

Really?

Yes.

You see, there is someone in the Bible who had this same issue. I had nearly forgotten. His name was Job. Even though he was upright and clean before God, he had a very hard time. Job’s friends accused him of hypocrisy because it seemed God had turned against him. They claimed what many think today. “If you are doing God’s will, you will be blessed; so, if you are miserable, you must be out of God’s will.”

However, this is NOT the case. Yes, God promises to bless those that obey His principles. Yes, God says that all will work for good. The question is, what is good? Who defines it? Me? Now that would be heresy, as it would put me on the same level as God. Of course, He defines good, for He can see the greater picture.

-That all things come together to glorify the Father.-

In Isaiah, God states that He can bring light out of darkness, treasure out of evil, and creates good and bad. He can turn any circumstance into the perfect picture of His grace. And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” Isaiah 45:3,7

In Job’s case, God didn’t turn against Job. Satan did. Satan dug in with “both hands” so to speak, stripping him of his cattle, killing his children, and taking his health. Did Job do wrong to deserve this? Was he in the wrong place? Did he step out of God’s will? I don’t think so, for in the beginning, even God calls Job upright and without evil.

So, forget the lie that if you are where you should be you will be happy. God’s plans are so much bigger than that! Don’t put him in a box! For sure, make sure you are clean in God’s eyes, but don’t beat yourself up. If God shuts a door in your ministry, He will show you where to go.

Really, it’s quite silly to try to out-guess God to know what He’s thinking. So let Him be God. Serve where He has you. Endure hardness as a good soldier. Trust His perfect plan.


“Then Job answered the LORD, and said, I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:1-6


To be continued…

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Need Here in Taiwan

To those of you who are artistic, here is a way you can help the ministry here in Taiwan.  Everyone else, this just lets you know what's up.

The last email told you about the classrooms that we are painting. One of the rooms tells the story of Noah and how he obeyed. However, this camp does not want the story to look like a Bible story. They want the pictures to look like a "normal" story book. (We are also trying to keep it as historically accurate as possible, especially where the boat is concerned.)  With these specifications, finding pictures on the internet, or copying coloring books is out. That being said, if you would like to help, I would love to have the following 10 scenes drawn. If you want to draw one, that would be fantastic!

1. God tells Noah to build a boat.
2. Noah obeys. (and builds a boat)
3. Other people make fun of Noah.
4. Many animals come.
5. Noah, his family, and the animals get on the boat.
6. God shut the door on the boat.
7. It rains for a long time. The flood covers all the earth.
8. It stops raining. Noah sends a dove to check the land.
9. Everyone leaves the ark.
10. Noah thanks God.

Here's the details:
We will be painting it, so we just need outlines.
Because it has to be sent by scanning or taking a picture, it needs to have dark lines.
The size I need is about 24 in square. (so photo files need to be large)
If you're good at computer art, I'm game for that!
No words please!
If you send your name with the file (preferably not on the drawing itself) we will give you credit for your work.
Please try to keep the pictures historically and biblically correct, but keep the people's dress present day. (their request)
It needs to be completed and sent to me by April 28th.
Comment on this post to let me know you're sending it, and which scene you're drawing.

Thanks so much folks! I really appreciate your help on this!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Office Week Business Update

Happy New Year!!!

Well, I would would write you a camp update, but we are done with camps until next semester. We do have a short 2 1/2 day character training in a school, so more on that when it comes. These weeks in the office are filled with re-writing and re-vamping curriculum, painting new classrooms, Bible study, team time, and of course, lots of meetings. Though we are busy all the time, it's a little less exciting than school children. However, I will try to at least give you an idea of what's up:

PAINTING PROJECTS:
Next semester, we begin double camps, which means we use some classrooms that were previously not used. These "new" classrooms need decorated. Us English teachers were given the assignment. We put our heads together, and...
One room is the music room. Sanna is in-charge of the details. It already has some whimsical notes, so we kept to that theme. She added some giant sheets of music with some favorite songs, in English and Chinese.
Another room, in which Jo was given charge, is depicting character. She has worked very hard to depict in cartoon style, the story of the Red Hen. There are many scenes, and lots of work, so it will take time, but it will be great!
The last room, which ended up being mine, shows history. We had chosen the story of the Flood to put in there, so all I had to do is figure out how to display it. This room is also special, with an interactive part on the wall where the kids can play with the animals. The wall will be painted with magnetic paint, so the pieces will stick on the wall. the story is in 10 scenes, framing the interactive circle.

please pray that we are able to finish, and that the kids will see the character depicted as well as just "neat" stories.
CURRICULUM:
Since we got here, we have not had a good chance to work on curriculum. We just taught what was developed last year. However, each of us has seen a need for relating the English we are teaching to the character they are already learning in Chinese. Also, we have considered adding some emphasis on the children's unchangeables, (which we call special gifts) but that may not be doable. There are 5 qualities taught here: attention, respect, responsibility, honesty, and gratefulness; along with two concepts: self-confidence and positive thinking. The idea is to back-up the character with our English. For example, when we teach emotions, we can refer back to their class on positive thinking. When we teach about the rules in the classroom, we can back-up the ideas of attention and respect.

please pray that God will give us wisdom, creativity, LOTS OF IDEAS, and knowledge of the necessary Chinese to teach this way.

*please note, their term "positive thinking" is more equivalent to "optimism" but it all depends on who teaches it.

Today, we got a surprise visit from Mr. HT. It was good to see our boss (we call Joyce our boss, but she is really our supervisor). It was also good to have an excuse to clean the office. We had fun making a new year's blessing poster with his help, and practicing Chinese calligraphy. Mr. HT is not a believer, but he is close. We continue to pray that he will see that Jesus is not just a good way, but the only way.

please pray for Mr. HT's salvation. (as well as the rest of our Chinese teacher team)

Thank you all for your faithfulness in prayer and for your encouraging notes. I know I do not get back to all of you individually, but I DO appreciate the notes! 

A fellow-servant,
Barbara

Friday, January 6, 2012

People and Pictures


I had just set up the tripod, and was concentrating on composing the "perfect" shot, when over my shoulder I hear giggling. Turning around, I see some nervous young girls intently watching me. Apparently, they had never seen a foreigner before. I said "hello" and waved while they giggled back. After adjusting the tripod again, I took a few more shots; and noticed they were right behind me trying to see in the screen. I showed the three girls how I was composing the shots, and then the pictures I had taken. Really, I'm not sure if they were interested in the pictures; I think they just were curious about me, but it's okay. It made me remember that people are so much more important and I shouldn't let pictures get in the way of making relationships.




(Yes, this is a real dog sitting in a real pot of flowers. Thanks to the zoom on my camera, I could take this shot from about one hundred yards away on my way back to school.)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

"I love you!"

 Sometimes, God gives amazing reminders of His love... and this week I got one.  Susanna and I were walking home from the store. As we walked past the fruit stand, I casually mentioned how nice it would be to have some pomegranates.  Glancing over my shoulder as we walked past, I saw a pile of, guess what? Pomegranates. I picked some up and we continued on home. 

Thank you Jesus. I gottcha! Thank you so much! I love you too.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Get a LIFE!

I love it when I read my Bible and God hits me over the head with something. It never ceases to amaze me how fresh and living the Bible can be, even if I read the same passage for a week at a time. For the last few weeks, I've been reading 1 John 1 at least every day. Though it is tempting to just close my eyes, quote the chapter, and move on, the Lord has reminded me several times to slow down and think about what I'm reading.

Opening my Bible to the familiar passage last night, my eyes about popped out of my head when God pointed to the phrase at the end of verse one:

"...the Word of life..."

Oh yeah. How did I miss this before? Here I was struggling so many days to read my Bible, memorize verses, listen to God through meditation, and so forth, and what's my excuse? "Life is just so busy these days." So pathetic when God has given
"...the Word of life..."

Life on earth is just a blink in eternity, which is really what this is all about. My job on earth is to glorify God, which will be continued through all eternity. What exactly does that mean? It means actively sharing about God's work in my life, telling others the wonderful gospel of Christ, and living a life that seeks to conform to Christ's image. 

Some people laugh or get uncomfortable talking about spiritual things, but the fact is, life is all about the spirit-world. It is a struggle, I admit, to think on spiritual things, to live constantly on earth but be thinking of heaven, to remember what life is truly all about. I suppose that's why God gave us

"...the Word of life..."

to teach us what life is really all about and to guide us which way to go. So, I have decided I need to put my life back in perspective. -God's perspective.- I don't want to starve my spirit of refreshing truth and growth. I want to practice well for an eternity of praising God. And, I say to you,

Get a LIFE!

"And He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth fruit in his season, his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." (Psalm 1:3)