Taiwan Mission Trip 2016: One of the Biggest Things I Learned

It’s been a little over a month since I returned from a 20 day mission trip to Taiwan. I’ve been meaning to write about my trip, but it’s taken a bit to process and decide what exactly I want to write…and what God wants me to write, of course. Mission trips will almost always have a huge impact on your life, so take the time to process things you learned, emotions that were felt, the different experiences you had, and the people you were surrounded by. Then, write those things down. Even if you aren’t a writer or don’t particularly enjoy it, you will look back in hard times and see things that God did in and through you because of that trip.

So, let’s start at the beginning of the story. My church sent out three different mission trips this summer. One of my best friends, Jabez, decided that he was going to go to Taiwan to help with a sports and English camp. A few times he threw the idea out to me that I should go, but things kept hindering me from going. I had already committed to being a leader on a middle school trip with my youth group and Taiwan was really far away. I got homesick when I lived an hour away from home all last summer…how could I possibly deal with being in Taiwan for three weeks without my family or the comforts of home? I began to pray about it and I decided that the trip wasn’t for me. I didn’t listen to where God was leading me. I was telling myself what I thought I wanted God to say. It wasn’t until I was having dinner with Jabez and my mom when God tugged at my heart. So, God lead me to take the leap of faith and go to Taiwan. I knew I could raise the $2,400 that I needed, but that wasn’t the biggest obstacle. I knew that if something didn’t change in me, I was going to get homesick and be afraid to fully experience all that Taiwan had to offer. For the next two months, I prayed literally every single day that God would prepare my heart for the trip and that I would not be homesick at all. I prayed that He would help me to take leaps of faith even when I was advised against it. It was a struggle, but I knew that God would take care of things.

One of my best friends, Katie, decided to join us on the mission trip and that was awesome! She and I had done a lot of travelling together in the past and we even got baptized together, so I knew that by her being there with me, I would be a little bit more comfortable. So, I prayed and prayed that God would open my heart to new things and new experiences and that He would help change my heart and the hearts of those around me. Y’all, I prayed a lot…a lot more than I had for anything in the past. As I prepared to go on this trip, I could tell that God was already doing work in me.

So, we left for Taiwan and flew over 9,000 miles to get there. The 10 hour flight from San Francisco to Tokyo was really cramped and not ideal at all, but we survived. Our group connected well, so that helped make travel easy.

Side note: In the Tokyo airport, I met Tim Tebow?! If y’all don’t know me, one thing you should know is that I’m a die-hard Florida Gators fan and have loved Tim Tebow since he played for the Gators. God totally blew my mind when I was walking in the terminal in Japan and Tim Tebow was walking towards me.

A couple of days later, camp began and it was incredible! We had family groups (#TeamLimeGreen) and that was so impactful. Jabez and I were two of the leaders in our family group. We immensely enjoyed the times we got to spend with our campers. We got to see them grow and experience God in new ways. We had conversations with them that were impactful and insightful. We learned about the backgrounds of our campers. Some of them lived at an orphanage a few hours away. It was amazing to see that joy that some of those orphans had despite the fact that they lived in an orphanage. It was incredible.

It was, also, really cool to talk to campers who didn’t live at the orphanage. They had lots of struggles of their own. In Taiwan, Christianity is considered the “Westerner’s religion” so a lot of parents don’t want their children to become Christians. They would prefer to stick to the traditions of burning money, food, and incense to their ancestors that can do absolutely nothing for them than let their children be loved by a God that actually knows their name. One girl in particular named Ranee was incredible! She is a Christian, but her mother does not approve. Ranee was sharing some of her struggles with me and it was mind-blowing how much pressure is put on Taiwanese students. If they do not get certain scores on certain tests, they will not have a good path in their life. It’s really sad to see the stress they have on their shoulders. Jabez and I grew really close with Ranee and it was extremely hard to say goodbye. Then, she decided that she would come on our adventures a week later when camp was over. So, camp ended and Ranee arrived to go explore the island with us. We were driving through the mountains and she had a heartbreaking conversation with her mother. Her mother did not like that she was with a group of missionaries, so she forbid her to see us ever again once we left the island. It was heartbreaking to say the least. Ranee was hurting and we were hurting knowing that she was dealing the disappointment and displeasure of her mother. Jabez, Katie, Rick (the leader of our team), and I all encouraged her to stand strong and not give up.

Even now, we still keep in touch with Ranee. I got a message from her a couple of weeks ago. She said that her mother was going to allow her to come to America to visit us and tour some colleges! How amazing is that? Her mother, who had previously told her she would never see us again, was agreeing to let her travel over 9,000 miles to see us! If that isn’t a work of God, I don’t know what is.

This was just one of the stories where God worked in an amazing way! One of the biggest things I took away from this trip was the power of prayer. Prayer is incredibly important and powerful. I’m convinced that it was God who didn’t let me get homesick (I didn’t even want to come back home after 3 weeks). I’m convinced that it was God who softened the heart of Ranee’s mother to allow her to visit America. I’m convinced that it was God who kept us safe in a foreign land.

When I was initially praying about whether or not I should go on this trip, I thought that God was telling me not to go. I thought I was listening to Him. I was wrong. I was listening to the fears that had me convinced that playing it safe would be better for me. I wasn’t listening to God. Then, God used two of the people that I trust to speak to me and to tell me that I should go. God isn’t going to always speak to you through His word, He’s not always going to give you the answers you want, and He’s not always going to take you to a comfortable place. In fact, He promises that we won’t be comfortable. That’s all okay. At the end of the day, God is God and His plans truly are what is best for our lives, whether we realize or agree or not.

Guys, prayer is so much more powerful than we think. I experienced it first hand and found it to be 100% life changing. I encourage you to set aside time each day to pray. For me, on my drive to work, instead of playing music, I use that time to pray. For you, it might look differently, but I encourage you to invest in a solid prayer time. It will change your life in so many different ways!