New Year’s Even 2016 In Taiwan

This morning (Saturday), I arrived home at 2 a.m., after leaving my US home at 5:30 yesterday (Thursday) morning (there is a significant time difference, so I wasn’t actually travelling over 40 hours, only about 24 hours). So this is a bit of jetlag writing, my apologies in advance…

Today I spent a good part of the afternoon and evening with two friends from two different cultures (he is from Southern US, she is Taiwanese/Canadian) travelling to and attending a wedding in Taipei. The wedding was a Canadian friend marrying the man she loves, who happens to be from New Zealand, and whom she met in Taiwan. There were people from at least seven cultures (the ones I know of are US, Canada, New Zealand, Malaysia, Taiwan, and South Africa, but I am sure there were more) attending the wedding and reception, and it was a joyous and joyful time. Lots of laughter, good stories, and fun times were had by all. Welcome to the life of an ex-pat/missionary… you know people from all over the world, and many cultures, and it is a wonderful experience
However, as jetlag was expected (and New Years travel is … not good in Taiwan), I came home early to celebrate the New Year with my kitties, GeGe and DiDi. As midnight approached, GeGe and I moved into the kitchen to watch the fireworks. I counted at least seven different shows going off, in the small part of Taichung I can see. But the fireworks started early today and have continued all day (and will continue much of the night, I am sure). When I first moved to Taiwan, I was surprised at how often I heard fireworks (during Ghost month they may start at 5 a.m. and go until 11 p.m.). But I have learned the seasons that are more likely to include fireworks, and when they happen in other times, I just assume it is “an auspicious day” and mostly ignore the noise.

Tomorrow I will eat black-eyed peas, which is a family tradition. Then I will attend a baby shower for a friend who moved away from Taiwan in July, but is back for a visit. She is Taiwanese, but has spent enough time in American culture to also be American. Her husband is from Hong Kong, but also has spent enough time in America to be more American than Chinese. And both have lived in Taiwan. So this baby will be a Third Culture Kid from birth… Xiao Wu has no choice, but it’s okay, because Ayi Sharon (Aunt Sharon) will help with adjustment (at least if I have my way…).

So, that is a brief window into life as a missionary living in Taiwan on New Year’s weekend. I hope you enjoy it, and I pray you have a blessed 2017! Happy New Year!

p.s. DiDi is currently sitting in front of the space heater I have going (since we have no central heat and it’s a balmy 68 degrees F in my house without the space heater) and he says Happy New Year! as do GeGe and I!

p.p.s. I am planning on posting more frequently in 2017, so if you don’t hear from me, please message me and nag me a bit…

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What do you do with a locked dining room?

Today was a normal workday (you know the type… a Skype call with a client, another with a person I am working with on a conference, and a two hour session with a client with LOTS going on (but things are improving), and quick trip to Carrefour followed by a trip the baking supply store).

I got home and was happy to see that my cleaning lady had been here, so the guest beds had been made (I had company last weekend, and had washed the sheets, but hadn’t made the beds yet), and the clean towels were folded and ready for use.  I changed into my house dress (aka a really comfortable, light weight dress that works well in hot, humid weather), and sat down to catch up on what had happened on the internet while I was working.

Then it was time for dinner.  I pulled out some leftovers to reheat, and some veggies to make a salad.  I put the leftovers on a plate and headed to the dining room, where the microwave resides, to reheat.  But, alas, the dining room door was locked. Who knew that the dining room door had a lock?  Or if there was a key?  So I searched for a key, but no luck.  Then I got a paper clip and tried to pick the lock, but no luck.  I tried every key I could find, but no luck.  So I texted my cleaning lady to see if she knew how to open the door.

Dining room door knob

And then, being the tech-savvy person I am, I posted on Facebook, asking my Taiwan friends for suggestions.  The suggestions were helpful, and interesting, but not a solution.  But I thought I’d share them with you (along with the reasons they didn’t work)…

  • Call the locksmith number outside your door (because all apartments come with a locksmith number posted outside and/or inside the door – but I don’t have the language to explain that my dining room door is locked, and I don’t know my actual address in Mandarin (in English it is “the pink apartment building” – all the local ex-pats know where that is)
  • Pick the lock – I tried with the tools at hand, but most of my tools were locked in the dining room, with the microwave, the laundry and the freezer…
  • Pop the hinges – they are on the inside of the room, I am outside
  • Drill the lock – the drill is in the room
  • Break the door down with a good shoulder hit – I have sunburn on my shoulder (ouch!) and the door is pretty solid
  • Saw through the handle part of the door and deal with the damage later – the tools are inside the room…
  • Use a credit card to open the door – wrong kind of lock… sigh…
  • Nail file and paper clip to pick the lock –wrong kind of lock… sigh…
  • One friend gave me the Chinese (in writing) to show the gate guard, so he could call the locksmith and explain the need, but before I needed to do that….

My cleaning lady responded that she would come by tomorrow.  I asked what she would do, and she said she would go out on the balcony and climb through the window.  Facepalm!  Why didn’t I think of that?!??!

Balcony Window

So I went out to the balcony, realized the window could be opened (thankfully it is 11 floors up, so I shouldn’t have to worry about burglars), and I could climb through and open the door from the inside!

 

Problem solved!

 

(Welcome to living in a foreign culture!)

 

Categories: A Day In The Life..., Life In Taiwan, Other Things You Might Find Interesting | 2 Comments

What Counseling in the Missionary World Looks Like….

A literal explanation requires a thousand words, therefore…

Sharon at Work May 2016 Cropped

This office is on a school campus, and used to be an ESL classroom.  When I moved into the office, it looked like a classroom, so I decided to change that up a bit by painting it (thanks to my then-intern Ryan, it turned out pretty good).  Over time, I have added a few things to make it more… me:

  • Artwork – most of it is use-able in therapy, but the piece on the wall behind me also has some meaningful history – I bought it from a friend leaving the island at the end of this school year. Her parents bought it 30+ years ago when they were missionaries in Taiwan.  When she came to Taiwan as a missionary, she brought this with her, and now it is part of my life,
  • Gifts from a variety of cultures, including Taiwan, China, Thailand, Philippines and Korea (the figurines in the photo are from a Taiwan, and a friend gave them to me as she was leaving),
  • Things that represent me – I have developed an addiction to green tea, both hot (notice the tea set behind me) and iced (note the large glass on the cabinet next to me) – Just to clarify, it’s an addiction, not a problem ;-),
  • And things to make the room comfortable to those who walk through door, like that incredibly comfortable chair in which I am sitting.

One of the things I love about my office, and my work, and my life, is that I frequently get to see God at work.  I have lost track of the number of times I have had insight into a client’s issues when I really shouldn’t have.  Or I have asked just the right question, or have given just the right comment, without knowing where the words came from.  It is such a comfort to me to know that I am not doing this work on my own, but have the great Counselor as my partner.

Some of you may have seen this photo on Facebook, along with comments from the person who took it.  With her permission, I am sharing the photo and her comments.

I have to brag on this lady a bit. This is Sharon, my friend and counselor. She helps so many people in the Taichung community as well as people from other parts of Taiwan and even other countries. She loves God and loves people, and she has a heart for giving to others. She has great insight into the care and counsel that missionaries need on the field. Sharon has been a God-send to me during the past three years. I love her and will miss her so much when I leave Taiwan…but I’ll probably be setting up counseling sessions over video chat! Thank you for everything, Sharon.”

It is not easy for me to share her comments, because I know that most of the work is not mine, but her’s and God’s.  But it does give a further picture of what counseling in the missionary world looks like…

Categories: A Day In The Life..., Life In Taiwan, Mission Business, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Do I Travel Too Much?

Friday at lunch is my time to meet with one of my mentees.  I’ve actually known her since she was in 4th grade (when she yelled at me for not wearing a helmet while riding my scooter) and she is now a junior in high school.  We’ve missed a few weeks, due to busy schedules on both our parts.  We went on a mission trip together (with 16 other people) over Spring Break (but didn’t have much one-on-one time), then she went on a track trip and a soccer trip.  So when we finally had a time to catch up with each other she filled me in on her trips, then we talked about summer travel plans.

Somewhere along the way, the conversation wandered to Narita Airport, in Tokyo.  We talked about the food available when one is on layover there (because food is always part of my travel), and it went something like this…

Mentee: It’s pretty much McDonald’s or bad pizza.

Me: There is a Japanese food place.

Mentee: Really?  Where?

Me: You know the origami store?

Mentee: By the kids play area?

Me: I think it’s by the Wi-Fi area…

Mentee: With all the big couches?

Me: Yeah.  The play area is past that, isn’t it?

Mentee: Uh huh.

Me: The Japanese place is there, or maybe it is by the play area.

We then devolved into laughter because, really, who knows an airport in another country that well?

I guess when one grows up travelling between continents every summer (or nearly every summer), and travels on sports trips a couple of times a year, one does get to know a variety of airports.   And when one travels to other countries for both business and pleasure, one also gets to know a variety of airports.  So I guess, when I think about it, it does make sense, but it still makes me laugh!

Categories: A Day In The Life..., Life In Taiwan, Mission Business, Travel | Leave a comment

A Slice of Life: Attending Graduation (ish)

This morning, at 2 a.m., my alarm went off, so I could get up and watch my nephew and his wife graduate from university.  Thankfully, their school provided a live stream of the commencement, and I got to see them walk across the stage and receive their diplomas.  (Unfortunately, the camera didn’t pan to their adorable daughter. 😦 )  I did miss the celebratory feast afterwards, and the hugs, and all the stories that get told at family gatherings.  But I was able to participate in a minor way, and that is a blessing.

Thanks to technology, missionaries no longer have to miss all of the important events in the lives of our families back home.  We may not be able to engage fully in the experience, and not all of the events can be streamed, but we can live vicariously through the images on the internet.

When my sister first moved to the mission field (20+ years ago), I was working a high paying job, and was able to talk with her, via phone, once a month or so, and pay the outrageous fees for those calls.  Now, I can Skype with family and friends for free, whenever we can find mutually acceptable times in our cross-time-zone lives.  Letters used to take weeks to travel from home to the field, and further weeks for the reply to travel from the field back home.  Now we send emails and only have to wait until the other side of the conversation wakes up and checks messages.  And with the communication apps (this week, I used Line, WhatsApp, WeChat, Hangouts, Viber and Facebook Messenger), we have instant communication anywhere in the world.

But we still can’t share our day-to-day lives the way we would if we lived in the same town, state, province, country or continent.  And our worldviews change in different ways, because our life experiences are happening in different cultures, with different perspectives, which affect how we view things.  So friendships change over time, and conversations don’t happen in the same way.  And, sometimes, we grieve for those changes, while celebrating the remaining friendships.  But, in the end, it is most definitely worth the losses, because there is great joy in seeing how God is working through the lives around me.  I wouldn’t trade it for all the money in the world!

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Kitchen Therapy: A Market Recipe

[Kitchen Therapy: one way I decompress when life gets stressful.  Usually it involves lots of very precise chopping, with everything cut to the same size or cookedness (meaning it will all cook to perfection at the same time).]

Starting in mid-December, my life started getting more stressful than usual (travelling, family illness, more travelling, planning a mission trip while travelling, and trying to keep up with clients while dealing with the above), and it really didn’t stop until… well, it sort of stopped at the end of last week, but this is the end of the school year/beginning of transition time, so my guess is it won’t actually stop until some time in June. 

Living in an expat community means that the end of the school year is a time when people leave.  Either they graduate from high school and move on to the next stage of life, or the breadwinner got a transfer/promotion and the end of the school year is a good time to go, or furlough comes up, or…  In any case, June is a time when many people leave.  And as they leave, there is grieving (both for those leaving and those staying), there is anxiety (what will the next stage of life be like or how will things be with so-and-so gone),  relationship problems triggered by the transitions, or a whole variety of other issues.  So I usually keep pretty busy during this time of year, and don’t always take care of myself (for those of you who know me, I know this comes as a great surprise, or not).

About two weeks ago, I realized I didn’t even want to do Kitchen Therapy , which was not a good sign.  So I started doing a few things to alleviate some of my stress, and it has helped enough that tonight I actually felt like cooking.

So, I went to the market and wandered around.  I checked out the meat stand and the fish monger, I looked the vegetable stand and the fruit stand, and then I bought a few things, knowing I had a few other things at home. And then I came home and cooked, and it was lovely!  Not my usual chop-until-the-stress-is-gone Kitchen Therapy, but it worked just the same.

In case you are wondering, here is the recipe (sort of)…

Buy a nice fish steak (at the SiChangLi afternoon market, go in on the left side, to the back, by the vegetable vendor, that fish monger always has good seafood). Something meaty and thick (they will usually make a recommendation as to what is fresh and good).  Wash it, just to be careful, and then sprinkle with salt and pepper (I used a Cajun spice combination, but cayenne, black pepper or white pepper will also work).  Grill a few minutes on each side until the fish is cooked.

Meanwhile, melt some butter and add lemon juice and chopped fresh dill to taste.  Or take room temperature butter and mix in dill and lemon zest, let set for about 30 minutes (you will want to prepare this butter mixture before cooking the fish, so the flavors meld).

Plate the cooked fish and pour the melted butter mixture over the steak (or place a dollop of butter mixture on the steak and watch it melt).

Serve with a fresh saladDill Lemon Butter Fish Steak or the veggie of your choice, and some nice bread (you can use the bread to sop up the extra butter sauce).  Enjoy!

I didn’t plate this very nicely, because I didn’t realize I was going to share, but this gives you an idea of what it looks like.  And if you have cats, they will enjoy any leftovers you might have….

(After writing this, I realized that I haven’t posted in over a year… maybe the stress has been going on longer than I realized…)

 

Categories: A Day In The Life..., Life In Taiwan, Mission Business, Other Things You Might Find Interesting, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Going to the Beach for Spring Break

On Aril 2nd, a team of 20 will leave Taiwan, heading for Boracay.  Normally, this would be the start of a story about a holiday on a beautiful tropical island, with sunning and swimming on a white sandy beach.  But this story is a little different….

 

The island of Boracay is the historical home of the Ati people, an indigenous, Negrito tribe.  Over the years, this tribe has had seen their traditional land taken over by hotels and tourist venues, and they have been, literally, moved to the back of the room in school.  A few years ago, a group of people (First Love International) recognized that the Ati children were not advancing in school, and they decided to open a school specifically for the Ati children.  And Malay Agape Sunbeam Academy (MASA Ati School) came into being.  During the last four years, Morrison has sent a team down each year to help in the construction and expansion of MASA, and this year will be no different. Sixteen students (four seniors, twelve juniors) and four adults are members of this year’s team.

 

We expect to spend time doing construction on the expansion of the school, holding a Vacation Bible School (VBS), helping organize the office and library, taking some kids for medical help, doing sports ministry and helping at feeding sites in various Ati villages.  We’ll also do a Beach Reach on Boracay’s tourist beaches on one of the busiest days of the year for the tourist trade – that means we’ll do skits, and then explain the gospel to anyone who stops to watch and listen.

 

All of this in eight days of sharing God’s love, helping people who need to know God loves them in practical and concrete (pun intended) ways, and having some fun along the way.

 

If you would like to help out this part of my ministry financially, please go to https://onemissionsociety.org/give/SharonHearn.  If you would like to receive updates and prayer requests, please email me at shearn@onemissionsociety.org. And please feel free to do both!

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How My Senses Tell Me I Am Home

About a month ago, I returned from nearly six weeks of travelling around the US.  I took a trip with my parents, driving somewhat over 5,000 miles, seeing family and friends.  On a Thursday morning, we got up around 3 a.m., so I could catch my first flight “home”.  I arrived at my apartment shortly after 12:30 a.m. Sunday – three flights, two layovers, a bus ride, a taxi ride and a scooter ride later.  “Home” is in quotation marks because I have found it is a hard word to define.  There is “home” where my family and friends reside. There is “home” where I live at any given time.  And there is “home” where I feel like I am comfortable in my own skin.  How do I know I am “home” in Taiwan?  Well, my senses tell me so…

Kinetic:  As I was waiting for the bus from the airport to Taichung, I realized it was after 10:30 at night and I was dripping with sweat.  That would be because it was 88 degrees and 70% humidity.  Welcome to re-acclimation.

Sight: On the bus ride to Taichung (which lasts anywhere between 1.5 and 2 hours, depending on the driver and the traffic), I took a nap or two.  In between naps, I woke up and looked out the window to see how far we had come.  The temple on the side of the freeway, all lit up for the night, let me know how far south we were – Big Buddha is one of my landmarks.

Smell: When I got to Taichung, I took a taxi from the bus stop to school to pick up my scooter.  The driver had the windows all rolled down, so we could get fresh air. The first smell I was aware of was the meat they cook at night markets, then the smell of rain in the offing.  On the down side, this morning I was following a garbage truck… note to self, don’t do that on a scooter, it’s a bit overwhelming!

Sound: As I rode my scooter home from school, I heard fireworks going off – and it had nothing to do with the 4th of July!

Taste: This morning, I picked up my first tea.  Green tea. No sugar. Small ice.  (Only a small addiction, really!)  As I left the tea stand, I took my first sip.  Ahhhh!  The taste of tannins on the back of my tongue was heavenly!

So, while my family and friends are at various places around the world, and the longing to be with them draws me away from Taiwan, my senses tell me I have come home again.  Thank you, Lord, for bringing me to a place I can love!!

Categories: A Day In The Life..., Life In Taiwan | Leave a comment

A Mission Trip to Boracay

Over Spring Break in April, I was able to be part of a high school mission team that went to Boracay, Phillipines.  Here are some of the notes we sent out while on that trip:

Day One: We made it!!!

Sixteen people left Taichung on a bus at 6:30 this morning, heading to the airport.  At the airport we picked up another two, and headed to Manila, where we picked up our nineteenth team member.

The layover was pretty short in Manila, given that we had to clear immigration, get luggage, clear customs and change terminals, in Manila traffic, so we weren’t certain we’d make our connection.  Thankfully, at the Taiwan airport, we were able to get boarding passes for both flights, and check our luggage through to the final airport.  When we arrived in Manila, we got through immigration quickly, our luggage came out quickly, and customs directed us to take our luggage back to be transferred to our next flight, so we didn’t have to carry it with us.  And, the ministry we are working, First Love International, had arranged for someone to be at the terminal we arrived at, with transportation.  And they had also arranged to have another person at the second terminal, smoothing the way, so when we arrived, they were ready for us, and got us through the process with time to spare.

Have I mentioned that God has His fingerprints all over this?  And that your prayers are really appreciated?  Because both are true!

Once we got to Caticlan, on the second flight (a lovely little prop plane), we met up with Clod, and caught the ferry to Boracay.  YAY!!!

We got settled in our rooms, and then went to the beach to watch the sunset.  After a wonderful dinner, we had a little time as a team, went over expectations for our time here, and prepared for tomorrow’s work.

We are all tired from the long day, but excited to get to work!

Day Two: Wow!  Today was a full day! 

We started off with a great breakfast of pancakes, eggs and bacon.  For lunch we had Chicken Adobe with rice.  Our afternoon snack was fresh baked coconut bread. And dinner was spaghetti with meat sauce, salad, garlic bread and mango!

Oh, you probably want to know about the work too…

After that wonderful breakfast, we took the ferry over to Panay and started helping with the construction of (hopefully) four new classrooms for the Ati School.  They currently have first through third grades, but when the new school year starts in June, they hope to have first through sixth grades. But first they need the classrooms, the approvals and the inspections.  All before the first of June.  Aiyo!  Yes, they would appreciate your prayers that things fall in place!

So today we helped out by moving hollow bricks, sifting sand, mixing concrete, plastering walls, and cutting and twisting wire.   A praise that we had no major injuries, just some blisters and little owies!

After lunch, we took a break and went down to the Stream, where the Ati kids go to play in the water.  It is low season right now, so the wide and deep area is not so wide and not so deep, but we had fun getting wet, jumping in the water and swinging into the water.  It was a nice break after the heavy work of the morning.

Then we split into two groups and went to feeding sites, after the yummy coconut bread.  One group went to Soong and the other stayed at Carla, the village where we are doing construction.  Both teams led the kids at the sites in singing, played games, told a Bible study (complete with actors), and provided some basic first aid care.  To say our teams enjoyed the time with the kids would be an understatement.  There was bubble blowing, hair braiding, balloon sword attacks, and lots of running and laughter.

Of course, plans change… That’s one reason flexibility is so important on these trips.  Like the team thinking we were doing construction after lunch, but going to the Stream instead.  Or the team getting ready to leave a feeding site, and an elderly man and his wife show up, because he heard we were doing first aid and he had a sore spot on his food (the team did a great job taking care of him).  Both times we went with the flow, and it worked out well.  The students on our team have been great at adapting as needed, you should be proud of them!

Day Three: Flexibility.

That really does describe today, starting at the Malay Agape Sunbeam Academy (the school we are helping expand).  The team spent time today mixing concrete, passing concrete in a bucket brigade (including up a flight of stairs), mixing cement, building a hollow brick wall (and helping fill in the hollow parts), shoveling, moving wheel barrows, and other very physical work.  Almost everyone had a hand at almost everything, as we kept rotating positions so no one would get too tired.  It was great!

After lunch, we thought we’d be doing more construction, but the resources we needed weren’t available for the next bit of work we could do, so we had to go back to the Stream again today.

When we left there, we expected to go to two new (to us) feeding sites, but when one group arrived, we found that the church had a change of plans, and weren’t able to do the feeding.  So we regrouped and decided to split into different groups and do a feeding, at the available site, and a sports ministry at the other site.  The kids quickly separated into teams and figured out who would do what.  Again, being the flexible young people they are, there were even a couple who volunteered to go either way, so we could have enough people on both teams to do what needed to be done.  They are great!

The guys on the sports team played three-on-three, while the girls played volleyball.  They also did some singing, as the worship team at the church was practicing for church tomorrow.

The feeding site team led songs and told the story of David being selected King, by including some of the local kids in a skit.  Then they made balloon crowns for all of the kids who were there.  While the kids were getting crowns and getting food, a couple of the team members set up a first aid station and helped with mostly small hurts, but one boy had a couple of nasty sores that they cleaned up and then bandaged.

Tonight, after dinner, we had Team Time, and then started preparing for tomorrow.  We know there will be a skit, song and testimony at church, but we are also preparing for a possible second skit later in the day and possible feeding site program.  The team is really starting to know how to prepare to be flexible, as well as demonstrating flexibility now!

Day Four:  Today was the best day of this trip, so far….

We started off the morning at a worship service at Malay Gospel Church, one of the churches on Panay that works with First Love International in their sports ministry and feeding ministry.  After introductions, part of the team sang the Revelation Song, then part of the team did the Mask skit (with Kelly giving the explanation), and Allen gave his testimony.  Then, Pastor Peter gave a message on God’s Saving Grace.  It was warm in the church (although they plugged in a couple of fans to help cool us off), but it was a wonderful time.  And they provided a snack for us after service – Pancit, Sticky Rice and some Rice Cakes.

After food and fellowship, we changed clothes and climbed in a bus for an hour ride up the mountain, to Malindog Ati village.  Today was not only Palm Sunday, but, in the Philippines, it was also Manny Pacquiao’s fight day, which means the whole nation stops and watches the fight – no traffic, no one on the streets, everyone is in front of a TV.  So, we took a hike up the mountain from the village and had lunch at a waterfall.

After lunch (and some water play), we headed back down to the village for a basketball game and some play time with the village kids.  The game was short, but pretty physical, and we had some minor injuries.  Final score 19-16, unfortunately our boys were not on top.  The most amazing thing was that, except for the young kids, everyone in the village was watching the game.  Most of the houses in the village are constructed of light wood or bamboo, on stilts.  However, in the middle of the village is a concrete court, complete with concrete backstops.  This village loves basketball!

After the game, we did a feeding, with songs, a skit and a first aid station.  The people of the village are incredibly friendly, helpful and giving.  After the feeding, they gave each of us a coconut with a straw. When we finished drinking the coconut milk, one of the men took a machete and cut the coconut in half, after slicing off a piece of the shell to use as a spoon, so we could eat the meat.  Most of us enjoyed that experience…

On the bus ride back to the ferry, the team was emotionally energized and physically tired.  We made it back in time for a late dinner and Team Time. At team time, we decided to start half an hour later tomorrow, so we can all catch up with ourselves.  Two days of hard labor, followed by climbing a mountain, with little downtime, means it is greater wisdom to take an extra bit of rest, to ensure we are strong throughout the week.

p.s. Manny won, in case you haven’t already heard.

Day Five: Today was a big construction day.

Part of the team plastered a wall, with nary a break the whole time – other team members brought them water so they could continue their work.  On the second floor, the main structure of a wall between classes was completed.  The team also moved large amounts of sand from the road, up a trail to the school – about 150-200 meters, on a steep angle – partly on their shoulders, where it was too steep for a wheel barrow, then into the wheel barrow for the final ascent.  And through all this hard work, not a word of complaint from anyone.

Throughout the day, the kids in the village came to play and help.  They spent part of their time riding down the trail in the wheelbarrows, then helped push the wheelbarrows back up.  It was a great opportunity for the team to build relationships with some of the Ati kids.

After lunch, it started to rain a little, but not enough to hinder our work.  However, on the ferry ride back to Boracay, it started really coming down.  One person commented that they weren’t certain if we were moving forward or if we had turned around, because the rain made it hard to see.

The plan had been to take a sunset sail this evening, but the rain put a stop to that plan.  So, being the flexible team we are, the kids took some down time, then interviewed Dan Beaver, to learn more about how he became a missionary, and what it has been like for him living and working in the Philippines.

After dinner, we went out for milkshakes, courtesy of one of the zones.  Another zone provided bandannas the first work day, which has been a blessing in keeping sweat out of our eyes.  The third zone baked cookies before heading down here, which provided a snack along the way and at our first Team Time.  Today they also gave each of us a personalized bookmark.  In addition to these encouraging acts, the team has hung envelopes, and are writing encouraging notes to each other throughout the week.  It is an amazing team!

Day Six: Another day, another change in plans.  Our motto: We ARE flexible!

We arrived at the school this morning and started filling sacks with sand, filling sacks with gravel, and generally getting ready to mix and pour concrete.  The goal: finish the floor of the first floor classroom, then an early afternoon feeding the the upper Ati village, followed by sports and children’s ministry on the beach on Boracay.

The first part went as planned, we got the sand and gravel measured, and the mixer started up (earlier in the week, we were mixing by hand, because the mixer was being fixed, but it was working today).  We set up a buck brigade, and boy did we move concrete!  As fast as they could mix it, we put it into buckets and passed them down the line, until they were dumped on the new floor.  One of the local workers then smoothed it out, while the empty bucket was passed back down another line, to be refilled and start over again.  Periodically, we would rotate positions, so no one got overly tired.  It was a thing of beauty to see the team at work.  We got about half the floor poured, and it was time to break for lunch.

As we took our lunch break, the rain started, just a little.  Then a lot.  Then a downpour, the kind you only get in the tropics.  Buckets, in minutes.  Some of the local kids had been hanging around and playing with team members, so, when the rain got heavy, they joined us in the class room we use as a break room.  Different team members entertained them with balloons and bubbles, and some leftovers from lunch.

As time passed, the rain didn’t let up, so the engineer heading up construction decided we weren’t going to be able to pour more concrete.  And we found out the feedings were cancelled, due to rain.  So we made the call to come back to Boracay, in hopes we could do the sports ministry.

Unfortunately, the rain kept coming, so we all got cleaned up, and the kids headed out to various adventures, mostly related to food and shopping.  They came back before dinner and practiced some skits for the Beach Reach on Thursday, then we had dinner.  After Team Time, they practiced again – they are getting very creative!

Now we are all settling in for a early evening, as we are starting early tomorrow to make up the lost time today.

The most amazing part of today is how great these teenagers have been when faced with changes and challenges.  Not a grumpy face or whiny voice, not even a complaint.  Just an attitude of “okay, we aren’t doing it the way we planned, let’s figure out how to do it the new way instead”.  It feels a little like a repeat, but this team is great!

Day Seven: It was a long day, but oh so successful!

Today was our last day on construction, and we really wanted to finish the floor in the first floor classroom, so we headed out early. We arrived at 8:45 in the morning and got started moving buckets of concrete by bucket brigade.  Yesterday, I was impressed with how much the team completed.  Today, by 11:45, we had finished the floor – working even faster than yesterday!

After lunch, we went to a community center and put on a sports clinic for some of the Ati children.  Our team split up into six teams, each teaching a skill in either basketball or volleyball.  Since not all of our team are athletes, it was really good to see them all actively involved in teaching these children the skills needed to play ball, and enjoying it!

After the clinic, our girls played some Ati boys in basketball.  Although the boys played well, the girls had several inches on them, and ended up winning.  Then our boys played the First Love team – it was back and forth, up and down the court, and great fun to watch, and our boys ended up ahead at the finish.  Then they played the second team for First Love and won that game also.

In case we hadn’t done enough for the day, we came back to Boracay, and hit the beach for some beach ministry with some local kids.  They played soccer, and had some team competition that included throwing bean bags, running in diving flippers, shooting water guns, spinning hula hoops and lots of laughter.

We closed out the day with Team Time, talking about things we want to continue to pray about, then broke into small groups to share testimonies and pray together.  Then the kids practiced skits again for the Beach Reach tomorrow afternoon.

So, a busy day, a fulfilling day.  And, once again, I can only say this team is amazing.

Day Eight: Today dawned bright and sunny, for the first time in almost a week.  And it just so happened that today is the day we were scheduled to go snorkeling, so it was a lovely trip.

After lunch, we all took a couple of hours of down time (translate that to shopping for most of us), and then started the Beach Reach.

I think it is safe to say that almost all of us were anxious when we reached the first stopping point and set up the portable sound system.  The team performed two skits – Ameno and Knocking and, after each skit, one of the performers explained the skit. The first skit is about Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, the second is about temptation to turn to things other than Christ for our identity. Although the crowd was small, we had opportunities to talk to a few people, and one team member left her Bible with a new believer.

At the second stop, the team performed Imitation and Mask. Imitation is about trying to make Christ fit our mold, when we should be fitting His.  Mask is about Christ’s death breaking the power of Satan.  We had a larger crowd, and more opportunity to share the Gospel bracelets (which, by the way, are made by the Ati people).

Finally, at the third stop, we performed on a sand bar, just after the sun set, when all the crowds were turning around to head back to the strip.  We started off with Mask again, which drew a lot of attention. Then the team performed Everything, which is about the temptations that take us from Christ, and how His death allows us to triumph over sin.  This was the biggest crowd of the day, and several team members had a chance to talk to onlookers, and some prayed with them also.

After the last of the onlookers were gone, we headed back down the beach to a Mongolian BBQ restaurant, where we had our “Last Supper”.  Then we came back to Vista House  and had our last Team Time.  It was a reflection of what we have been doing, and how it has affected us, as well as a look forward to when we get home.  Then we took down the Encouragement Envelopes and passed them around, so each of us has the notes that have been written all week.

One of the best parts of Team Time was when several team members talked about how much they value the relationships that have been built this week and the opportunity to get to know each other better.  They also talked about all of the ministries in which we were involved, and had several different highlights, as well as suggestions on things we can do differently next year.

Day Nine – Home Again

5 a.m. is an early hour for breakfast, especially on Spring Break.  But the whole team was up, packed and ready to go at 5 this morning.  We ate breakfast and were almost ready to walk out the door when a downpour started.   So we took some time to say goodbye to the people we have been working with and who have been supporting us – they provided the resources there in Boracay/Panay that we needed to be able to do the work we did, made all our arrangements, got us where we were supposed to be, fed us wonderful and delicious food, and helped us rest and recover from the work we were doing – they are great!

After about 15 minutes, the rain let up and we headed out to catch a boat to the airport.  With the delay, we were running late to check in, and they were making the last call to check in as we walked in to the airport.  The good news is that the six people who were going to take a later flight were able to get on the earlier flight, so we flew together all the way home.

Well, sort of.  At Manila, Karen left us to complete her gap year, working with Kids International Ministry.

Then we headed to the international terminal and checked in for the Taipei flight.  We made it to the gate with an hour to spare, so the team had a chance to explore the airport and pick up a few snacks.

The flight to Taipei was uneventful (many of us slept at least part of the way), we had no problems with customs, and all our bags made it.  To have made the entire trip with no travel glitches is pretty amazing.  Normally there is a lost bag, a visa/passport issue, a missed connection, or some other problem, but God has gone before us every step of this trip, so not a single problem!

But then we had to say Goodbye to more of our team.  Jonie, Natalie and Kelly headed to their homes in Taipei.  And Angela and Stephanie took HSR to their homes in Kaohsuing.  Then the remaining 13 of us:  Vicky, Allen, Caitlyn, Kakeng, Geovanny, Chloe, Jessica, Nathan, Pauline, Josephine, Jacob, and Curtis were with me on the bus to Taichung.

I was, once again, impressed with our team because, as we rode the bus to Taichung, the students on the bus began giving positive feedback to each other.  As we approached the school, they joined together in a final prayer, to close out the trip.  There was a slight detour as we got off the freeway, but we made it  back to school before 6 p.m.

We all know that we could not have made this trip, nor been as successful as we were, without your help, support and prayers.  I know I speak for the team when I say THANK YOU!!!

Post Script:  After the trip, the kids decided we should do a shoe drive, and send all the shoes we could gather down to the Ati kids (since they were all playing basketball in flip flops or bare foot).  We also decided to collect some school supplies to help start the new 4th, 5th and 6th grades off right.  The plan was to let people know we were collecting gently used athletic shoes, and collect them in my office.  We ended up getting over 300 pairs of new shoes from a school parent who has a connection at a shoe company, plus another 300 or more pairs of gently used shoes.  And three microscopes (with slides), three overhead projectors (with spare bulbs and transparencies), library books, workbooks, pencils, pens, paper, and more were also donated for the classrooms.  After school ended here in late May, we shipped 10 boxes, and expect to send a few more.

All in all, an amazing experience!  Thanks again for all your support!

Categories: Mission Business, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Travels of Sharon

Note: Mea culpa!  And my apologies for the delay in posting.  Life has been busy of late, and I let the blog drop in priority.  So this week I’ll be making up for it by posting some things I wrote a while ago, and then bringing you up to date, starting with this post about my travels last year…

 

2013 has been a year of going places for me, which seems like an odd thing for a person raised Highly Mobile to say.  Looking at my history, as I was growing up there was a lot of moving around, but it was usually in year timeframes, not days or weeks.  So, to review my 2013…

January – I managed to stay in Taiwan, specifically Taichung, except for a weekend to Hualien to visit my sister and her family

February – a trip to Thailand over Chinese New Year to see some workers from that large country to the west of me

March – two weeks in the States to see Mom & Dad and do a late Christmas celebration.  While I was there, I got word that my apartment move I thought was at the end of April was, in fact, at the beginning of April.  So in the 8 hours I was back in Taichung, before going on a 3-day retreat, through the help of friends I found an apartment, signed a lease, and arranged for movers to come the following Monday.  Then I left for the three-day retreat.   While I was on the retreat, the packing process was started by another friend.  After the retreat, I worked one day, then had a two hour packing party (five wonderful friends who, between them, have over 100 moves in their adult lives) on Sunday afternoon.  Monday the movers showed up and got me moved (thanks to the two friends who volunteered to help facilitate that!).  Three days later I left for …

April – Okinawa, Japan, with the High School Mission Team and Track Team – 10 days there before heading home to start “normal” life again.

May – a short trip to the beaches at the south end of the island for the Senior Trip, just before graduation

June – a quick, unexpected trip to the States to support Mom and Dad while Mom had back surgery (and Dad had his pacemaker battery replaced, unscheduled).

July – on the return from the States, I got to stop by Korea for 16 hours, and I took that opportunity to see one of “my” kids, who is going to university there (and eat some good food!)

August – Stayed in Taiwan, and Taichung, the whole month

September – other than a weekend trip to Hualien, in Taichung the whole month

October – Back to the States to see supporters

November – I finished the trip in early November, then spent Thanksgiving at the beach in southern Taiwan, and left for Tacloban, Phillipines

December – spent a week in the Phillipines doing relief work, then went to Hualien for Christmas

So, my 2013 was a year of travel… I wonder what 2014 will bring… God only knows (literally)!

(Well, now that it is July 2014, I know a few things… )

Categories: A Day In The Life..., Mission Business, Travel, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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