Friday, August 22, 2008

Conference pics

July 18, 2008: Rock My Dream

Rock My Dream: a perfect example of Taiwan’s attempt to use English to be cool! The conference we helped at was in a fairly large church an hour train ride from Taipei. The train ride was a bit hilarious. We didn’t have assigned seats so some of the group had to stand for a while. Brian was feeling a little silly and kept joking around really loud and hanging off the handrails. I think most of the train thought he was pretty funny although we reminded him that he’s representing all African-Americans to these Taiwanese people! One of the guys was laughing so hard; Ai-Hua told us he was on his phone explaining to a friend how crazy this guy was!

We stayed on the floor at the church the first night crammed into a room. They put Brian in a room that was literally on the roof; you had to walk on the roof to get there! After a cockroach attack, he crammed into the room too. We all woke up a little sick the next morning and soon my throat was crazy red and swollen! The church was really kind and let us sleep in and even brought us throat drops!

As we walked in the first session, we were attacked by the most energetic, crazy peppy girl I have ever met! She was so excited to use her English. “My name is Kevin, I’m female Kevin though, not the male name.” She made us laugh so much. Her eyes would be huge as she would talk to us about random things using her textbook English.

This conference has been running for 17 years. There are about 70 middle schoolers and 70 high school and college students that help out. They go all out with this thing. The theme, ‘Rock My Dream’, really never made sense to me, but they had big fancy signs and gave us all T-Shirts. At the main sessions they would pretend like they were filming a TV show or something and had big cut out boxed that looked like video cameras. The worship team seriously rocked out and had trendy costumes the first night.

We had been invited to this conference by Cherie (shofar lady as we affectionately called) that we had met during our time with the aborigines in Lalashan. The pastor of the conference wasn’t too sure that he could host four Americans, but he changed his mind after seeing the article that was written about Pastor Alvin and us running the conference in Lalashan. The article mentioned that I was a dancer and that Brian was related to Michael Redd, the Olympic basketball player. The picture was of me showing some of the kids a dance.

We spent most of the conference confused about what we were supposed to do. We just smiled and talked to kids. They were thrilled to practice their English. We helped played some games, and again had no idea what was going on. They made Brian (or ‘Brain’ as they had accidentally printed on his name badge) participate in a game where they saw who could throw a shoe the farthest. We each had a chance to give a twenty-minute talk to the large group. I talked about how I was like a sheep: that I had gone astray (Is. 53:6), My Shepherd had found me (Mt 18:11-13), that I follow him and know his voice (Jn 10:27) and one of my favorite verses: “He tends his flock like a shepherd; gathers the lambs in his arms 
and carries them close to his heart” –Is 40:11. Adriana and Brian really wowed the crowd and delivered the perfect message that the students needed to hear.

The pastors were really thankful that we had come. We got to set an example of putting faith into action and just love people. We encouraged them to make a difference in their middle & high schools and colleges. They really got the vision we were hoping to share of starting local and moving east to China and beyond. The pastors were touched as we prayed for them before we went.

That wrapped up our time of service in Taiwan. And we were exhausted. We had given it all to the people we worked with. I had made a lot of friends and learned a lot about Taiwan. I learned more Chinese in my short time in Taiwan than the whole time I was in China because I was surrounded by and living with the people. I’m really going to miss these people.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Basketball Tourney & some extras


We feel like all along this journey God has been giving us little presents. Showing us that he really knows us and the things that we love. For example, I missed the pandas at the zoo in Beijing, so I get to see the baby pandas in Sichuan. Or He knows I love to dance, so there have been several amazing opportunities to have a blast dancing away. Prime example: the past couple days Brian was asked to play in a basketball tournament with one of the aborigine churches! This tournament was intense. There were 60 teams from across Taiwan. We were thrilled to be invited. We stayed on a campus in Yilan in the dorms and hung out with the kids and just got to be a light. It will be weird going back to the States where I won’t have people yelling at me ‘hello hello’ all the time and trying to practice their English. We were kinda famous at this place!

Being at National Yilin University made me really miss OSU. It was fun to walk around campus and label things mirror lake, the oval, and RPAC. We had a good time praying for Ohio State and thinking a little about next year. It’s hard to believe it’s my last year. It will be over so soon. I still don’t have much clarity about what happens after graduation. I feel like I have a hundred options set before me…I see this long hallway full of doors. I know in time the right door will be open and it will be made clear to me.

After the tournament we spent the night in Taipei. It reminds me a lot of Hong Kong or NYC, but has it’s own Taiwanese features. We walked around a busy part of town and ate and shopped a bit. We all decided to get our haircut and went to a nice salon. It was really funny to watch them freak out about what to do with Brian’s hair! I don’t know why I ever thought it would be a good idea to get a hair cut when I cannot speak the language. I was kind of horrified as she cut me some thick bangs! Well, there is just nothing I can do. My friends laugh that I’ve been FOBified. FOB is a term we use for native Chinese people.

We leave tonight to help run another youth group an hour south of Taipei for a couple days, then we will be back for a few before I leave. Wow, time has flown by!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My time in the Clouds of Lalashan


I never thought I would be in the clouds, blowing a shofar with aborigines on the top of a mountain. I never thought I’d be living in a cockroach-infested house, falling asleep to ants crawling on my bed, and fixing a squatting toilet. I never thought I’d become a human jungle gym and feel famous as people asked to take pictures of me and touched my Caucasian protruding nose. Or leading worship for several pastors of different tribes; admitting to them I’ve never sang for people before. Or learning a hip hop Christian dance in a tiny Taiwanese church. Or hiking to see Taiwan’s largest tree and drinking fresh water from the stream. Or joining these native people in an amazing mountain top experience with the glory of God. These are just a few of the moments of the past five days that made me stop and wonder…what in the world am I doing!

We took a six-hour bus Sunday to Taoyuen in the center of Taiwan. It was interesting to pass by the many rice fields between heavily populated areas. The reality of how crazy this trip was started when we scrambled in the city to find the aborigines that had come to pick us up. We frantically jumped in the church van in a busy traffic area and started our two hour journey up the mountain. It quickly became dark and we kept making random stops to pick up and drop off people. This experience would have been almost frightening if it wasn’t so obvious through these people’s love that they are my brothers and sisters.

When I woke up the first morning after fighting the cockroaches, a chorus of snoring, and a variety of handy man fix ups in the house we were given to live in, I screamed when I walked out the door and saw where we were. We had climbed the winding mountain at night and I really had no idea what the place was like. Twelve feet out our front door and you would be off a cliff. It is honestly one of the most amazing scenes I’ve ever experienced. The mountains truly take your breath away. I don’t know how to describe them without sounding cliché. You couldn’t see anything beyond the mountains. The clouds were hovering at the top. You could see tiny villages and farming areas on some of the mountains across the way.

You couldn’t help but worship as you looked out at God’s creation:
“Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
Your justice like the great deep.” –Psalm 36

It’s really rare to get an experience to work with the Aborigines. A traveling pastor that Priscilla had ministered with around Europe with had put together this conference and invited us to help. For five days we had several meetings a day at two of the Taiya tribes churches. Pastor Alvin would do a few sessions mixed with breaks. We were always organizing our sessions on the fly. Basically our whole trip we had no idea where we would be or what we would be doing the next minute. We were asked to lead worship for the pastors one afternoon. Priscilla plays piano well, and Adriana had the drums. Ai-Hua sings in Chinese, but she couldn’t really hold the melody. I was left to try to lead the tune of the song, MC and figure out with Priscilla frantically what to do next after a song ended. I started by explaining I had never done this before. They were really great and I think they we blessed by our time of worship and prayer.

Everything is different when you have to work with a translator. I would say about half of a sentence and then pause while it was translated. Everything literally took twice as long. Talking that slowly often made me lose track of what I was saying. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for Priscilla. She basically had to translate everything. We would sit really close to her during a service while she repeated everything.

Some of the youth groups we worked with were really amazing. Western culture and worship music has traveled all the way to these Taiwanese mountains. The group would sing songs and dance. Like usual, going into a service we had no idea what would do. We would introduce ourselves one by one and then sing: “Jesus Loves the Little Children…all the children of the world…[picture it]…Red (Adriana) and Yellow (Priscilla) Black (Brian) and White (me) they are precious in his sight…Jesus loves the little children of the world. After a few games we would randomly chose one of us to give a testimony or talk. You had to be prepared at all times to speak…Priscilla is ruthless! She is a great leader!

It was really fun to eat with the people and experience their culture. It feels like everywhere I go and meet with fellow believers is like a family reunion. We have a lot to talk about and a lot of laughter. It’s amazing how complete strangers from literally the other side of the world can feel so comfortable with each other. Some of us stayed up just talking and laughing under the stars. I made some stupid comments that made for quick inside jokes that I don’t think I’ll ever live down.

The conference was really amazing. It was great to bring together aborigines from different tribes and see people changed. It was a miraculous time unlike I’ve been a part of before. God’s presence really met us. It was made clear that we were to enter the kingdom like little children. We danced and jumped around and the kids prayed for the adults.

The last day we drove to the Lalashan Forest Reserve and then hiked to see Taiwan’s largest tree. It’s over 2,000 years old, has been struck by lightning and is still going strong. The water coming from the mountain stream was so refreshing. I never thought I would drink water from a fountain in Asia let alone straight from the source, but it was the most delicious water I’ve ever tasted.

We then met people from various aborigine churches at the peak of another mountain for a special 08.08.08 ceremony. I cannot believe this van stuffed with 16 people could make it up the side of this mountain. Seriously inches away from a cliff. When we first made it to the top you couldn’t see much, because the clouds were surrounding. We spent most of the time praying for Israel. We danced and sang and blew the shofar for victory!

This was one of the weirdest things I’ve done in my life; God’s really taken me on an adventure. Amidst everything, I still just take things step by step. I told God, ‘where you go I’ll go,’ and I wouldn’t take it back for anything.

Kaohsiung with the team