Hello, Taiwan, it’s nice to finally meet. This plane touching down, this is a year and a half of praying and dreaming. This is seven months of raising support and fighting fidgeting nerves. This is three months of dedication, self-sacrifice, self-discovery, and preparation.
But, oh, wait. I’ve been here once before, haven’t I? That’s right, I’ve lived here for nine years.
Well then, Taiwan, it’s a pleasure to be back.
I am as giddy as a man embarking on a first date. There’s a smile etched on my face and I’m confident stars dance in my eyes. Being back in Taiwan, I am overwhelmed by love for this nation. A team member asks me what I love so much about it, but there’s really no concrete answer. I love it all: from the people to its culture, from the maddening, gritty city streets to its sheer marble mountain walls to its fine, snow white beaches. It’s my childhood. It’s memories. It’s home.
We bathe in the city’s scents struggling to navigate our luggage through narrow, bustling streets just inches away from a visit to the hospital due to vehicles barreling down the already crowded roads. I relish every moment of it. Memories in the backroom of my heart emerge knocking dust from their shoulders. Oh, look, there’s a piece of my childhood! Hey, I understood what they said! I totally want to go back and buy some of that! Déjà vu like a freight train.
Outreach is vastly different then my preceding life in Taiwan, I discover this quickly enough. In a way it’s just a shadow of what I’ve experienced. There is no safe haven of an American home brimming with American food and culture. There is no air-conditioned room for one to escape to when the noise of the city becomes deafening.
There’s no plush bed to rest my weary body as night blankets the city. There is my team and I and the pulse of a muggy, clamoring city. Indeed, outreach is a different animal entirely.
Four days in, immersed in a liquid warm coffee shop, I groan internally, my mind wards off the relentless lure of sleep. What’s the point? My thoughts murmur. There is a man before me, he tells me one story, but his eyes speak another. One of loneliness and wandering, seeking a pinprick of light that will blossom and become something worth living for. He’s worth it. A subtle prod throbs at my heart. The conversation lulls for a brief moment. “What does your father do?” An open door to share Christ? Simplicity at its finest. “Well, he’s a pastor?” The man poses questioningly, “so you’re a Christian.” It’s not a question, but a pointed statement. I nod knowingly, “Yes.” Where does the conversation go from here? He picks up the rope and tosses me an end. “So what do Christians believe?” My heart fractures with a realization that I’ve subtly known but never explicitly faced. This man has never had an opportunity to hear about Christ. And it dawns on me. This is why I am here. He’s worth it to sacrifice a few hours of sleep for.
We take to the countryside; making our bed in a home so bizarre it would be difficult to paint a picture. Spiders spindle their webs as we shower below them. Fleas and mosquitos feast on my feet, lighting it up like a Christmas tree. A few days in, my knee blows out and that night I find myself fighting back tears and seething with the same question: What’s the point?
A few days later we do a kids ministry to a group of children coming from broken families. They are hilariously ecstatic. They engage in a game of “Duck, Duck, Goose” like it’s the finest thing they’ve ever had the privilege to partake in. They cling to us like monkeys as we leave. My heart swells when we say goodbye. A whisper prods at my heart. They’re worth it. They’re worth fighting through pain in my knee to demonstrate a glimpse of Christ’s vast love.
Days march on. Some days I find myself at wits end, dragging a bum leg around. Some days I’m on a couch dying with laughter with my YWAM family. Some days we’re traveling six hours just to minister to one group of children. Some days we’re traveling by subway, bus, train, and walking to make it to our next destination. Some days we’re dancing our hearts out with little children as they cling to us, grinning ear to ear. Some days I’m bent over a sink washing a seemingly endless line of dishes. Some days we’re eating the strangest foods in the midst of an Asian temple. Some days we’re interceding for God’s heart toward his children. Regardless the circumstance, he is faithful to remind me and to show me His love. He shows me in the tears in the women’s eyes. He shows me in the calculated interest to know more following a street performance. He shows me despite my ignorance. He shows me despite my impatience. He shows me along the damp, reeking streets with a backpack straining at my muscles. He shows me as I stand beneath the stabbing cold shower. He shows me through the sad eyes of a working class man. He shows me through the toothy grin of an elderly man. He shows me in the timid smile of a child. He shows me they’re worth it. He shows me their beauty. He shows me how he loves them. He gives me a taste, a sliver of the Kingdom. It makes the sweat and tears worth it; it makes the exhaustion and hours of preparation worth it. Because Jesus thought we were worth it. So why shouldn’t they be?