It was January 12, 2016, and I was having a rotten day. I’d just gotten an email from my best friend in the world and she was having a hard time. Back home, friends were getting sick, breaking up, moving away, and everything seemed hard. As for me, I’d been in Taiwan for about a month and I’d just gotten over 4 days of an awful fever. I was discouraged, my heart felt heavy, and the last thing I wanted to do was ministry.
As a team we split into two groups to do ministry at The Rock, a cafe ministry we were working with. We alternated days and it was my teams day to go help people practice English and talk to them about the Gospel. It was a slow evening and as people trickled in, one of our local friends started teaching us some Chinese explaining how confusing Chinese characters are and how to combine them to make numbers and some of the origins of the numbers. It was interesting and made me forget that I didn’t really want to be there.
As the evening progressed, this friend had to leave and we were left talking amongst ourselves. That is when James came in the door, walked straight to our table, and pulled up a chair. He was holding slips of paper, which he handed out to those of us who were at the table. On the papers were simple sentences, teaching us how to say and pronounce sentences like “I like to eat bread.” or “I don’t like eggs.” James spent at least a half hour with us, teaching us how to pronounce the words, which tone we should use, and how our mouths should be positioned to get the right sound. As he explained, we learned a little more about James. James is a retired elementary teacher (which explains his patience with us westerners and our horrible pronunciation!) and has two daughters who are 23 and 30. He’s been retired for 10 years, and he wants to learn more English, but he’s worried he’s too old to learn. After spending a while practicing my Chinese and his English, we parted ways. I left the Rock encouraged and uplifted.
I never saw James at the Rock again, but the life lesson he taught me has stuck (The Chinese lesson, not so much). James taught me about hospitality and intentionality. James, we realized, had been sitting in the Rock as we learned about Chinese characters and asked questions about how to order food and use numbers. He went home, typed and printed out sentences, and came back to give them to us, knowing that he was about to invest a chunk of time teaching us pronunciation.
This night was a turning point for me in my outreach. This was the start of a week where I really listened as God spoke into my identity and took me deeper into who He is and who I am in Him. This was the point where God said to me, “Ya know, kid, I love you and I love them. You need to love them like I do. Put down all the things and just follow my heart.” I think, going into my outreach I expected all good days. I don’t know why, because I’ve been on other trips and they’re not all good days, just life in general isn’t all good days. God is showing me that what matters is my heart attitude on those days that aren’t so good and we grow in that as we continue on our walk with Him. Some days, though, He’ll send a James along to help.