22 Aug 2013

Mission to Faith Hope Love Academy in Hualien, Taiwan

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Joel traveled to Taiwan this summer with a mission team to serve at Faith Hope Love Academy.

For years I have watched many of my church brothers and sisters go on short-term and long-term trips. I’ve heard the stories, seen the slideshow presentations, and wondered if I was called to go like they were. When I got an invitation to serve at a juvenile detention center on the east coast of Taiwan this year, I accepted – partly out of a desire to serve and obey Christ’s commands, and partly out of curiosity. Can people really make a difference in a week’s time? Is all the money and effort spent reaching out to people halfway around the world actually “worth it”?

Along with three other churches, I traveled to Guangfu, in Hualien County on the east coast of Taiwan. We were there to serve at the Faith Hope Love Academy, living, eating, and playing with about 35 boys who live at the school. The site definitely fulfilled my criteria as a location to serve: a needy population, Gospel content in our work, meeting genuine needs, and lodging that wasn’t too comfortable or too spartan.

Faith Hope Love is a pretty amazing place. Supported by the Taiwan Prison Ministry, all of the teachers and administrators are Christian, and the boys range in age from 9 to 18. Many of the children there have run away from home, been kicked out of school, sold drugs, or been to prison.  They have access to many musical instruments and spend much of their free time practicing and playing in bands. (We were able to have a praise session on the last day, singing Hillsong tunes that both they and our team knew.) They also have a renowned unicycle team that has won many awards in Taiwan competitions.

Faith Hope Love Youth Academy Unicycling

During the week I was there, our team of 27 people ran a pretty typical VBS schedule with the kids: classes in the morning on subjects like the Bible, English, music, and crafts, and free time or sports in the afternoon. I was impressed by the energy and enthusiasm of our team, and even the members who couldn’t speak Chinese were quickly forming relationships with the kids and bonding over games and horsing around. It was clear that the youth were hungry for attention and companions, and had a great time with us.

In addition, during the week a smaller team made trips to 3 prisons in the area to give presentations to the prisoners. It involved singing Christian songs, giving testimonies, and a brief message from one of our pastors.

Certainly, spending time with these kids, some of whom have little or no contact with their parents, was life-changing. Often I would be embarrassed to ask their back-stories, for fear of what sensitive issues I might run into, although they were always forthright in talking about their pasts. One high schooler’s mother and brother were killed in a landslide, and he had later spent time in prison before coming to Faith Hope Love. Another time, I told one of my middle-schoolers that we were traveling to Hualien Penitentiary to give a presentation, and he mentioned he’d visited his father there in the past.

Perhaps the most moving part of the trip for me was hearing testimonies from the teachers of the school, many of whom had past histories of drug use and imprisonment. One had given up a high-paying job to work at the school; another was also working toward a degree at Hualien Seminary at the same time. It is truly amazing to see the power of Christ to heal broken lives, a power that transcends cultures and languages.

I realized also that there is a lot of value in coming from a far-off place to bring the message of the Gospel. Yes, we can do outreach in our neighborhoods and nearby cities and towns, but there is a different kind of interaction that happens between people of different cultures and areas, something that surely the early Christians experienced and capitalized upon.

Perhaps an answer to my original question, was it “worth it”, may elude me forever. How can we know the efficacy of projects like this, or put a price-tag on even one person coming to know Christ? There can never be a statistical tally of how many people accepted Christ (or how many were pushed away) as a result of our efforts. As a result of this trip, my conclusion is two-fold: we must continually examine ourselves and our methods of evangelism for the greatest benefit of the kingdom, but we must also continually evangelize. There are so many questions and doubts that arise in the course of an examination of when, where, and how to evangelize. But the Great Commission leaves no room for delays and doubts; there is only to obey. If we believe that all authority has been given to Christ, it logically follows that we will seek to make disciples of all nations and teach them to obey Christ’s commands. And surely God will always be with us.

Mission team visiting Hualien Detention Center

Mission team visiting Hualien Detention Center

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