Not long after graduating from college, I left the country. One of my spiritual experiences during college had been a missions trip to Taiwan. I did this right after my freshmen year of college ended before going home for the summer, the only summer I did go home during college. Those ten days or so in that country opened my eyes to an incredible opportunity of attending language school, teaching English, and being part of a ministry solely based on relationships with people.
The thought of moving to Taiwan after college never left me, despite the fact I explored other options and jobs for my post-graduation life. Then the team leader of that missions trip and her husband (he had also gone on the same missions trip to Taiwan I did) moved out to Taiwan after they finished college to start up a ministry that would let college grads come out for a year, teach English, study Chinese, and be involved in ministry in the specific area of Ximending. They left a year before I graduated. These two people were also very good friends of mine and knew how I felt about Taiwan and definitely contributed to the relational pull I began to feel in that direction. Every chapel service that mentioned what they were doing during their first year out there made me feel things I couldn’t explain and I would just start crying. I wanted to be there. I needed to be there.
Why did I move to Taiwan? This is the answer I still tell people today: I came here on a missions trip during college. While I was here, God put a love for Taiwan in my heart that has never left. That is why I came to Taiwan.
Almost instantly upon arriving in Taiwan, I knew I was home. It didn’t take long. I was washing dishes behind the bar during a Friday Night Coffee House, the event that characterized the ministry before much else had been developed. While I washed cups and spoons, I soaked in all the faces and the voices that filled the 2nd floor of that building. And one word filled my heart and mind: home.
Since coming home, I’ve been living a life that many might consider lucky and exciting. I started out as a foreigner, living legally through a work visa and an English teaching job in another country and studying Mandarin Chinese, one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. I’ve also been surrounded by a strong community of friends from the very beginning, never being deprived of native English speakers or a “little America” outlet. Life certainly has been an adventure, and I wouldn’t trade my life for the world.
It is in this context of home that I began to release falsity and accept truth, give up pride and depend on people, face embarrassment and then immediately find comfort in friends, say what I mean and mean what I say, give up my anger and learn to forgive.
I didn’t need a suitcase to pack everything away in anymore. I just needed an open mind and an open heart. I needed love from the people who knew and cared about me, and I needed to trust these people. I needed free conversation where I knew I wasn’t judged. And I found all of this and more when I came to Taiwan.
So I knew I was safe. I didn’t need to defend myself or argue to establish my capacity for independent thought. I could just be. And this was very significant for what happened next.
When you’re on a ministry team, you pray together. You sing worship songs together. You go to church together. You plan things together. You, such as our case, plant churches together and run things…together. You get the idea. Any funny spiritual ideas come out into the open super quick, because the spiritual process is so key to who we are as people, and we were now processing spiritual ideas TOGETHER.
It became immediately obvious who was more into miracles and who wasn’t. I was handed a book by Bill Johnson called When Heaven Invades Earth during my first year in this country as required reading we were doing…together. I didn’t really know what to think of all of it. So I just read the book. And prayed. And watched CRAZY things happen around me.
Then one day I had a fever and was experiencing terrible stomach problems and didn’t feel good at all. I went to the doctor and got the word acute gastritis.Then I got medicine.
The next morning before I left for work, a couple friends shared that they felt really led to pray for me. I allowed them to lay their hands on my stomach and pray.
Another friend showed me where I could get congee for lunch. About an hour later at work, I went to the bathroom. It was like everything had passed through me because it was all gone.
That night, I had a beer and the next day ate sushi for dinner, two things I would not have dared consume if I was still having stomach problems. I was pretty much in shock for two days.
That was the first “crazy” thing to happen to me. At the time, I felt like there could have been multiple explanations for it: it was just a matter of time after I started taking the medicine and the timing simply lined up. That congee really did its job. I decided, however, after talking to loved ones and through encouragement from friends, to just accept it. So that’s what I did.
(Around this same time I was only half accepting the even crazier things that would happen to people around me. Fevers dropping, legs and backs being healed. It was all crazy.)
Life continued. My spiritual paradigm was constantly being shifted, especially living and doing ministry in the East, where spirituality is literally taken for granted. Praying, in any form, is common practice, and temples or some sort of shrine are set up on every street corner. The spiritual landscape is completely different here, and as I discovered and experienced this more and more, I became more open, allowed for more exceptions, and considered theology more of an educational tool than something to be used in evangelism.
As life continued, so did the ministry I am a part of here, and things were rapidly changing AND growing. We had gone from a weekly Friday night gathering that to running a coffee shop that served as the location for a weekly church service every Sunday night, among other multiple ministry functions. People were getting baptized. New costumers were becoming new friends and community members. Testimonies were being shared.
Lives were being changed; and when lives are changing, spiritual priorities naturally fall into place, right? Despite all the questions that still remain, just keep loving the people. Changed lives are the real miracles that happen everyday, all around us. These are the miracles we should all be seeking.
And I still believe this to be true, which at last brings me to the final part of my story, the miracle.