Friday, February 24, 2012

Week 22

Praying Friends,

This has been a hard, but good week. If I could sum it up in one sentence, I would quote the old hymn: “Jesus, I am resting, resting in the joy of what Thou art; I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart.”

quai, quai, quai!
The first two days of camp, our English team mentioned during Bible study time that the kids were very emotionally draining this week. This class was exceptionally loud, even though they were obedient in class. Also, their inter-personal relationships were harsh. Cliques, quarrels, and ethnicity divided the class.

As I entered the room to teach English on Tuesday, the kids erupted with “Yinguan Ke! Yinguan Ke!” They were SO excited. -And they listened and learned so fast, that I finished early and had to think fast for more activities. What usually takes 40 minutes took about 20!

One girl who had a foreign mother drew every one’s attention right away. The other children ostracized her because of her ethnicity and poor personal habits. The children would actually go out of their way to avoid her or ignore her.  She seemed to soak up any love given her. Half way through the week, I decided to write her a note of encouragement. However, my Chinese is bu hao, so I asked a teacher to translate and write the note for me. When she got the note, her whole face lit up in a smile (the first one I had seen all week). Later, she wrote me a note back, which I got on Friday. She didn’t agree with the principles I had shared with her, but the seeds were planted. Pray that God would continue to show her His love.

On Wednesday, I woke up at 4:45 so that I could prepare for the test at the doctor’s office. At 8:00 I taught a class, but I had an empty schedule the rest of the day. My doctor’s appointment was at 1:30pm. The hardest part, actually, was enduring their attempts at trying to find a vein for the IV 9 times. Though the pain overwhelmed me, especially when they hit a nerve, I found myself quietly praying “Oh Jesus, I’m not strong enough for this. You have to be strong for me.” Of course, once the anesthesia kicked in, I don’t remember a thing; but upon waking up, my first thoughts were talking with Jesus. He sustained me throughout the whole day.

Thursday and Friday were extremely hard for me, as anesthesia always has a long affect on me. However, as I leaned on Jesus, He helped me through these days. To be honest, I don’t know how I made it through with a smile on my face, other than that Jesus took over. The other teachers, saved and unsaved alike, mentioned how watching me encouraged them. They saw God’s strength in me, and that is WELL worth the pain. Praise the Lord!

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

funny face!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Solitary Place

Everyone needs time-out on occasion. A time to reflect on life and get back in perspective. A time to bask in the sunlight and think about Jesus. A time to relax in quietness and read God's Word. Even Jesus went to the mountains to pray alone.

"And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed."   (Mark 1:35)
"And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God."    (Luke 6:12) 
 Living in Taiwan, an island, with people, people, people everywhere, I found it difficult to have this quiet place to get away. Our room is often loud, and there's usually someone there. The school has many rooms, but it is too stressful; I needed to get away. Parks are great (which is why everyone goes).

At last though, I found that the playground at the school works quite nicely. It is actually empty during lunch hour, and after school, when I'm ready to get out. Though it is close to the busy running track, there is enough trees to make it feel secluded. Thank you Lord!

I wanted to share my treasure with all of you, but it so hard to put the inviting feeling in the picture. You'll have to use your imagination, a little, to see the appreciation I have of one quiet place ALONE.

The deserted playground at noon.

A swing, both for exercise and enjoyment, and reflection and prayer.

This is the view of the sky. I love the heart-shaped leaves that have hung there for a  month. (Just for me!)

Blessed quiet place...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Week (2)1

Dear Praying Friends,

It is so nice to have children again! To hear their staccato recitations in class and their laughter in the halls. It was so… quiet before. We missed having kids!!!!

The kids this week are so sweet! Thanks, I think mostly, to their teacher. She seems to be a phenomenal teacher who works hard to make sure all her kids are learning and growing. Students in Taiwan have the same teacher for 3 to 5 years. This enables the teacher to really form the way the students think and act, to know them at a very personal level, and acts as a stabilizer to the children that are tossed around in broken homes. The kids respect their classmates; including the one labeled “trouble maker,” to whom they speak to in quiet reminding tones. It is like watching a large family’s kids interact with each other.
In general, the learning level of the children this week is higher even then the kids here at the county school. And their English! We were able to teach more difficult words and phrases. -Again due, to their teacher. With the high level of English and good behaviour, we often found ourselves with extra minutes at the end of class, so these kids really enjoyed good break times. In the emotions class, they knew all the usual words (happy, sad, angry, shy, etc) so I taught them the advanced words: excited, confused, bored, and lonely. They did very well. Also, in the weather class, I actually got to teach a sentence!!! The learned how to ask and respond to “What’s the weather like today?” And those are just the classes I taught. Other teachers added to their lessons as well.

One student this week was sent to Taiwan to learn Chinese, but is originally from Canada. His English, of course, was great. He really enjoyed interacting with English speaking teachers, as much as we enjoyed having a student who understood everything we said. He has been here long enough, that if the other students did not understand, he translated it for them. It was such a blessing!

One boy has an especially difficult home, and is often getting in trouble at school. Since he has the same name as my brother, I came up behind him, patted him on the back, and said, “Hello Mr. David.” At first, he shrank away saying “Wo bu je dao.” (I don’t know.) But, I knew he knew, so I continued, “Good job! You are a good listener!” (with hand motions). He smiled and said “Oh. Okay. Okay.” His teacher is doing a good job with him. He loves her. She spends her break times helping him with homework, as his parents are not able. This is the only reason he is as good at school as he is. It is neat to see the many good influencers in his life coming together to help him.

Our team has begun doing a Bible study on I & II Peter. Mainly, it is for our team to grow in love, teamwork and doctrine. We invited both our Chinese tutors to join us and any of the Chinese teachers. On Tuesday, Bunny, one of our Chinese tutors came to Bible study. I Peter is a tough book to come in on. She did not know much about Jesus, so we did a lot of explaining along the way. She did not have a Bible, so once again, I found myself giving away my Bible (a bilingual Chinese/English) and we showed her where to start reading. What a joy to share Jesus! Pray that Bunny will read John, and that God will open her eyes to her need of salvation, and that she will come back!

Please pray for me. Some health issues have come up which have necessitated doctor visits. The Chinese teachers here set me up to go to the doctor once a week for I’m not sure how long. It is nice that in Taiwan, I can see a specialist right away. Also, tests and visits are very inexpensive here compared to the US. Anyway, I would appreciate prayers for wisdom of the doctor, and strength for myself. I am still able to teach so far, but I am grateful that the other teachers have stepped forward to help as much as possible.

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

PS: Make sure to visit the "Thankful List" to see how God has blessed this week!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Pondering Forgiveness...

Forgive. How that word used to make me cringe. “Forgive them, forget it happened, and move on.” It’s like saying, “you’re just a punching bag; a door mat. If others run all over you, just accept it. That’s the way the authority chain works.” -At least, that’s what I heard.  Recently, I heard a sermon on forgiveness that made me re-think the whole idea.
In the first part of Luke 17, Jesus addresses the idea of offenses. He reminds His disciples that it is impossible to live life without being offended. (There is sin and pain in this world.) Jesus warned the offenders by saying it would be better for them to drown than to hurt one of God’s children. Then, Jesus warns the offended party to forgive and restore his brother.
In this instance, Jesus says, if they repent, forgive them. No questions asked. No stipulations. -Even if they hurt you again. Peter came to Jesus to ask Him what His intent was in this command. Is seven times the limit, and after that “let ‘em have it?” Matthew 18 gives the answer. Not seven times in a day, but seventy times seven; or, until you quit counting how much they’ve offended you. What? Their offense means nothing to God?
Jesus explained as He often did, with a story. Stop right now, and go read the story in Matthew 18:21-35.

So often, when I read the story of the Unjust Servant, I find myself comparing my sins to that of my offender. “Well, God hasn’t really had to forgive me of near as much as him…” Get real. That’s not the point. The point is value.
Forgiveness at its simplest is love. Not the world’s wishy-washy kind of love. No. A real love. The kind that came from heaven and died, knowing He would be rejected by the very people whom He wished to help.
A Stradivarius violin is not only rare, but it is priceless. -Well, at least worth way more than I could ever afford. No amount of dust, broken strings, or dent is going to bring it into my price range. It is still considered valuable. All it needs is a little TLC, polish, new strings, and maybe a little fixing, and it is good as new.
Jesus Christ put the price-tag on every human being; and it is WAY out of our range. The blood of the Innocent, Perfect, Son of God. The “dirt” and sin doesn’t change the price. With God’s love, they are good as new, and stand before Him blameless, just as you and I.       
            That is what forgiveness is about. Forget comparing their faults to yours, or keeping track (up to 490) how many times you are offended. Romans 8 says, “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again.” Jesus died for that person (not you). Their value hasn’t changed. Therfore, I must forgive. But it can't come from within me. I can forgive as Jesus loves them through me.
            Now when I think "forgive," I can smile instead of cringe

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Winter Vacation Stories

Hiking through the Gorge with the crew. clockwise from bottom left: Bob (me), Bex, Sanna, Liesl, Yana

Dear Praying Friends,

Vacation was spiritually refreshing. Getting away from work, especially, made it physically a break as well. When you live at work, it can be difficult to de-stress. I thought I would share a few stories of God’s interventions with you all.

Chinese New Year’s Eve, Susanna and I were invited to stay with Yellow, one of our co-workers. Her family generously opened their home to us, and provided food so abundantly we couldn’t have possibly eaten more! Yellow’s family was very sweet, and her grandmother commanded us to come again. -We will.
Anyway, I was very tired with a cold, so I retired early, at about 8. I chided myself. Here I had an opportunity to reach out and get to know one of my co-workers, and I wasn’t physically well enough to do so. Sometimes I get so frustrated! Then, the Holy Spirit reproved me. “Barbara, your flesh may be weak, but your spirit is ready. You are more useful to me on your knees than speaking with your mouth right now.” Ouch. -I prayed until I fell asleep.
In the morning, Susanna shared their conversation with me. God had heard my prayers, and had blessed their words. Over and over, Susanna had been able to share her belief in one Most High God, His commands, and His love. Yellow asked how to start reading the Bible that she had, and Susanna told her that some read a Proverb a day. (That may seem a strange way to start someone in the Bible, but old proverbs are very important and respected wisdom here.) It was a good reminder that sometimes, you can be more effective on your knees than your feet.
            While we were in Taipei, Susanna and I did our best to see the sights without wearing ourselves out too much. There were several malls, one of which is a giant ball. We thought we would enjoy walking more than taking a bus, so we tried to get there on our own. However, the roads in Taipei are not typical gridline city streets, and we quickly got frustrated. We could see the mall but couldn’t access it. So, we ended up going to Taipei 101 instead. Wandering around the food court, who should we run into? Another TESOL team! If we had made it to the other mall, we would have missed such good fellowship with them. God is so amazing.

            Flying to Taipei from Hong Kong, I had high hopes of sleep. -Vacations can be so tiring sometimes, because your body actually allows itself to relax. I smiled to the lady in the seat next to me; then prepared to get comfortable. She looks over at me. “You look very young.” I smiled again. “I get that a lot.” Her reply: “What are you doing here?” “I’m an English teacher.” “Really? You look like junior high.” “That’s what everyone tells me.” From there, my new friend made small talk, for her English was quite good.
            The airline came through to serve us lunch. (something that hardly ever happens Stateside on an hour flight.) I thanked the flight attendant, and then bowed my head in prayer. My seatmate watches, and says, “I see that you are a…” she didn’t know the right word, so she made the Catholic prayer sign. I answered, “A Christian? I am not catholic, but yes. I follow Shan Di. The Most High God.”  (That name is significant to them.)  She asked a few questions. She was not really open to the gospel, but she was curious. The conversation ended with her commenting on “Though we are different and come from different cultures, I think that we agree on the importance of love.” Yes indeed! The love of Jesus, however, is so vastly different than any other type of love you see on earth. As we prepared to leave, I thought how God must have arranged a divine appointment for me to meet this lady. Hopefully, the seeds planted will eventually bear fruit. Pray that God would bring other Christians across her path to share the love of God with her.

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

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Lions, Bears, and Five Smooth Stones

It's the middle of the night. I lay quietly on my bed, but my mind is a whir of activity. Technically, work starts tomorrow, but my mind is already planning, making lists, thinking through problems, and replaying mistakes. Tears slowly trace their way down my cheeks. There is so much to do, and I feel completely unequipped or capable to complete everything. So many times, I feel like I'm told I can't do it, that I don't measure up, or that once again, I failed. But didn't God call me to this?  I KNOW that God is faithful to help me do His will.

However, I think it is most often in the middle of the night that God shows me the greatest truths. 

A quiet voice speaks in my heart's ear: "Barbara, have you read the story of David and Goliath?" 

Of course I have, but not recently; and how does one answer God?

David, youngest of 7 boys, kept his father's sheep. When his older brothers joined King Saul in war against the Philistines, David's father sent him to check on his brothers and bear news of the battle. It was a simple assignment, and David was a faithful servant. However, David received a lot of abuse for his obedience.

Arriving on the battlefield, David found it empty. After seeing the defiance of Goliath, David was astonished at the fear of God's people.  Who were they afraid of? God is bigger than any giant. He volunteered to fight the giant; for would not God protect His own name?

Eliab, David's brother, questioned the authenticity of David's assignment and accused him of pride and mischief.
Saul told David that he was too young for battle.
Saul tried to change David to make him "fit" for battle with his own armor.
Goliath mocked David's choice of weapons and his faith.

Nevertheless, it was David who slew the giant. It was David who saved the nation of Israel. And it was David who became king a few years later.

I feel I can very much relate to David. Commanded by God to do or go, and questioned, mocked, and discouraged by others. Yet David stood on God's faithfulness and the tools (gifts) God had given him. 

David was Experienced: He had killed both a lion and a bear single-handedly.
David was Equipped: He brought his sling and five stones in his pouch.
David was Empowered: He was secure in His position with God, and knew God was on his side.

Once again the Lord softly whispered in my ear: "What are your lions, bears, and smooth stones, Barbara? I have given all you need. I chose you, gave you experience, equipped you, and empowered you. Why are you listening to lies?" 

Now the tears were freely flowing down my cheeks. I CAN, indeed, do all things through Christ who strengthens me!

What are your lions, bears, and stones?  I would love to hear them! 

Travel Scenery Part 2

Home sweet home! It feels so good to be back! Vacation is great for a short while, but I am so glad it doesn't last forever. Here are a few more of my favorite shots...

Some sort of abstract metal art that looked VERY cool. Taipei, Taiwan

The Living Mall- a mall inside a ball. Taipei, Taiwan

Noah's Ark Science Museum, Hong Kong

Fishing boats reminded me of Christ's commission. Stanley, Hong Kong

And, this composition just looked great, but I don't know what the significance of the building is. Stanley, Hong Kong

Overlooking Hong Kong Island(s). The Peak, Hong Kong

More stories later. We had some great fellowship, and I got to witness on the plane.... 
Until next time,

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Travel Scenery 1

 So, we are mid-travel, mid-vacation, and I am snapping as fast as I can. God has given me some great opportunities for pictures, for which I am very grateful. We have been either busy or without internet or power, so I haven't had much chance to edit pictures. However, I have a few favorites... as usual.

Fields of flowers, just for the beauty of it, in Taijhong? Taiwan.

 Lanterns hung in the trees, Taipei, Taiwan

 The 2nd tallest building in the world. 101 Tower, Taipei, Taiwan

 Taroko Gorge, Hualien, Taiwan

Taroko Gorge, Hualien, Taiwan

And, as you can see, this isn't even a start on pictures from Hong Kong. More later...