2016 VBS Overview and Recap - Jeffery Yan

Hi everyone! This is Jeffery, and I want to first thank you for reading our updates and praying for us and our missions efforts while we were in Taiwan! Even with our daily preparation and effort, it is God who has been actively at work above all, sustaining us and renewing our strength, directing our thought and deed as we seek to be faithful and loving ambassadors representing His Name, and working powerfully in the hearts of those we minister to, removing their heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh, one that can receive the seed of the Gospel and grow and flourish. By prayer, we are all able to better recognize the ways in which God works and render Him the glory He is due, and entreat Him to work still more powerfully to His greater glory! So again, thank you for remembering us in your prayers :)

The following is a brief breakdown of how we spent our time in Taiwan:

Sat 7/23 -- Arrived at, settled into Taipei

Sun 7/24 -- Church; Free time; Dinner with Taipei HOC team

Mon 7/25 -- Prep for VBS

Tue-Fri 7/26-7/29 -- Taipei VBS

Sat 7/30 -- Day trip to Ruifang

Sun 7/31 -- Church; Tamsui

Mon 8/1 -- Travel to Hualien

Tue-Fri 8/2-8/5 -- Hualien VBS

Sat 8/6 -- Water-hiking in Hualien; Return to Taipei

Sun 8/7 -- Church; Free time; Return home!

Though these two weeks in Taiwan passed by so very quickly, reminding me yet again that our time in this life is short and exceedingly precious, God continued to demonstrate to us His faithfulness, by revealing to us more of His character and how we individually and corporately are to reflect it as His image-bearers. Throughout our time on this STM, we have especially seen God as sovereign, personal, and holy.

God as Sovereign

It seems most fitting to begin this sharing by recognizing how we've recognized God's sovereign goodness at work throughout our time in Taiwan. Others on the team may not share my sentiment, but in the days leading up to our arrival here, I felt unprepared in some measure both physically and spiritually for this STM, as I did for the other church events this whole summer (VBS, Fresno World Changers, Summer Retreat). All of these events seemed to arrive so suddenly, catching me by surprise at how fast the summer was progressing. And so it was the same with this trip, with both not feeling the reality of our imminent departure and not knowing much about how our VBS would be put together and run. Yet despite these impressions of unpreparedness, God's sovereignty was manifested in how countless factors contributed to what I would say was the best set of VBS camps we've run among the now three times we have travelled to Taiwan.

A couple of these factors include the timing of the trip and the volunteers from Taiwan who supported us. Since our Taiwan curriculum was based on that of the VBS we led back in the US, having led that VBS early in the summer was an immense help for leading in Taiwan, particularly in regards to already being familiar with the songs as well as the Bible stories for skits and teaching/discussion. It was also helpful that, of the Taipei volunteers who could only support us for one of the two weeks, those who had the best English ability helped with the first week rather than the second, helping us to teach better in Chinese the first week so that we were more practiced and prepared for the second. Furthermore, having Taipei volunteers dedicated for A/V and one who helped us much with skits allowed for smoother execution and presentation of both our VBS camps.

As image-bearers of God, we are created to reflect Him and His glory, or in this case, His sovereignty. As creatures though, we can only recognize that God alone is sovereign and humbly submit to His authority over all things. On this STM, recognizing His sovereignty looked in part like our time of personal devotions and group worship/sharing/prayer, a time to prepare our hearts for a day of ministry, before each day of our VBS camps. Having made a habit of this each morning for the duration of our trip, we cannot help but to recognize that this should be the pattern of our daily lives as well, for our call to ministry has not ended with he end of time in Taiwan—we should be just as faithful in our ambassadorship of Christ and stewardship of God's grace in our daily lives as we have strived to be these past two weeks.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. // Philippians 2:12-13

God as Personal

Short-term missions trips, by their very nature, require the missions team to work with the local church to support its ongoing ministry in the community. This year, we were privileged to work again with 台北基督之家 (Taipei Home of Christ) and 花蓮福音中心 (Hualien Gospel Center). A team, in order to cooperate with one from another church, must first itself be united and functioning smoothly. In this regard, we have been blessed these past few years with teams that have been diligent and servant-minded overall. This year, though, we had a significantly smaller team than previous years (11 vs 17-18), so each member of our team was more essential than they otherwise would have been, purely on a numbers basis. And, praise God, complaint about the responsibilities we each had (including ones we newly discovered we had) was absent, with everyone joyfully serving in each of their capacities. Since we conducted our afternoon activities in three rotations, with each of us assigned to a particular station, we rarely observed how the other stations fared and the exciting things they did, but had no need to worry since we could trust that they were being led faithfully!

In terms of working with the other two churches, I thought we all did quite well; though we definitely had differences in our demeanor and approach, we increasingly learned to recognize the blessings that these differences were. Probably the most obvious difference between us and the team from Taipei is our tidiness/organization, which manifested itself on a number of levels. For example, while we are rather okay with loosely organized physical belongings across several rooms (if at all organized), they prefer having all belongings in their respective bags and then stowed away out-of-sight into cabinets in their respective rooms. Additionally, while we feel comfortable operating autonomously with "loose" guidelines as to what is expected of us, they prefer exact instructions and specifications for what they are to accomplish. And, when gathering for a team huddle when playing indoor capture-the-flag, we simply yelled a loud battle-cry, while they actually discussed their strategy (haha). But despite these differences in our temperaments, we were still able to cohesively work as a team, both in the first week in Taipei as well as our second week in Hualien, where we worked with a team from yet another church! Thus, we were quite able to see that we really are one Church and one Body in Christ—all saved by faith alone, through grace alone, by the death and resurrection of Christ alone, for the glory of God alone.

Our learning of how to better communicate and work together, in both within and between our individual teams, to joyously function as one Body with various members of different roles and responsibilities, translates to also learning more of how God too is personal and how He has chosen to share His joy with us by condescending to make Himself known to us. For God has always existed in perfect communion with Himself in three Persons, each joyously serving the other two Persons and being served, and we are now able to share in that joy by bearing His image in also first serving Him and our co-image-bearers before ourselves.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others as more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. // Philippians 2:3-4

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know the you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." // John 13:34-35

God as Holy

Throughout our time on this STM, like all the rest of our time in however we choose to utilize it, we recognized how pitiful our attempts at obedience to God's commands and perfect Law are, both when we forget Him and backslide and when we are most watchful and diligent; all our strivings at best appear as dirty rags in comparison to God's radiant and magnificent holiness and glory. One implication of God's holiness is that there is no one and nothing that is like Him in all His fullness. God is self-existing, omnipotent, omniscient, omni-present, and eternal. We are dependent on Him for life, powerless beyond whatever strength and influence we have been given, limited in knowledge and understanding, limited to one physical location, and limited to the present and to the span of our short lives. God is holy; we are not. All that we do cannot earn us salvation or favor with God.

Yet though we cannot merit salvation, we don't have to, for God is gracious and indeed made a way for us to be saved by punishing His Son as a substitute for us! Thus, we are always reminded of this Gospel and will continually need to reminded, to always look back to Christ's substitutionary work for us, to look now to His interceding work for us, and to look forward to His coming return and the renewal and restoration of all creation that will come with it. God as holy points us to this grand redemptive narrative that is outlined in Scripture and extends through all history.

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— // Philippians 3:7-9

Ultimately, I am confident that God used our time of ministry in Taiwan to advance His Kingdom—among our primary audience of elementary-school-aged children, but also in the larger community that we impacted composed of the other leaders, the church, the neighborhood, and more! But we as a team have through this trip experienced again the ministry of the Spirit in our own lives, in His revealing to us yet more and more of the glories of Calvary and how marvelous our God and Savior really is! All praise and glory be to God, then, for He indeed is worthy and He is always—yesterday, today, and forever—faithful!

The verses highlighted by our missions t-shirts this year put nicely our calling:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founded and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. // Hebrews 12:1-2


2016 Hualien VBS - Day 3 & 4 - Hector Benitez

Day 3 of VBS was good. In day 3, I saw God working in the kids by giving them ears to hear about his word. In day one of VBS, the kids were restless and would not concentrate when the speaker is talking about the message. But in day 3, they were better and they responded to some questions the speaker had asked. When we memorized verses, a lot of other kids could not memorize the English verses and a proficient English member from our group had watered down the words in the verse so that the non-English speakers could memorize it. The kids also grew closer to the leaders compared to day 1.

Day 4 of VBS was even better than day 3. Half of the kids in my small group had memorized all 4 verses from the VBS. They all participated during small groups and were eager to respond the questions and they were not afraid to get the wrong answer.  They had given out all the energy they had during worship and they were not afraid to go up on stage to dance with the leaders.  All the kids had participated in games, and the older kids became friendlier with the younger kids.

After this VBS, God has taught me that I am completely worthless without Him. In day 1, I had no control over the kids at all, only because of Him I was able to work and not completely fail. He had also given me a merciful heart and I was taught to be patient, like how God is patient with us sinners. I was glad to come to Taiwan because it was great serving and I had a lot of fun serving at the VBS and bonding with the kids. If I can, I will definitely come back again and serve at Taiwan once more.

2016 Hualien VBS - Day 2 - Jennie Zhang

Though we wake up tired every morning, we are constantly reminded what a blessing it is for us to have the opportunity to minister to the Hualien kids. We begin the days with the daily bible journaling, sharing, and praying, helping us prepare for the day spiritually as we are reminded and renewed in the knowledge of God’s mercy, greatness, and love for us. We end our morning meetings around 8:00 AM, eating Taiwanese rice balls and drinking soybean milk. The kids begin to show up 8:30 AM, rushing in with excited expressions and asking us to play with them. Seeing these kids ready and elated for a new day of VBS also energizes us as we prepare to spend another day with them, teaching them about the Gospel and showing God’s glory and love for them as we interact with them.

Our VBS started with the normal small groups, and my group (Group 1) was excited to have 2 new girls join our small 4-kids group. The new girls were very quiet, but partially because they already know someone in our group, and partially because our Taiwanese helper had a very friendly aura, the kids were able to quickly adapt in our group as we played name games and “Never have I Ever” tofamiliarize the new kids and help them interact with our original group. Next was worship. Though there were a handful of rowdy kids at the front, the majority of the kids were very well behaved and eager to sing and dance. After an exciting worship session, we watched Day 2’s skit- Nicodemus and Jesus.

The skit was hilarious (the dirty vs. clean underwear) but also very straightforward in delivering the message that Jesus knows our sinful selves and that we need a Savior. The kids loved it, and thus as we broke off into small groups later to discuss the skit, they all remembered what happened in the skit very well.

Next we worked on English and memorizing the bible verses in both English and Chinese. Compared to the Taipei kids, the Hualien kids had a lot of trouble pronouncing the English words, yet it was encouraging to see them give their best in memorizing (or for English, enunciating) the verse in both languages, repeating the verse many times without giving up or complaint. Their positive and undying attitude gave us fresh strength to keep on ministering to these responsive kids, which was quickly rewarded through their active participation in recounting the Gospel backbone (God, sin, Jesus, response) with me.

After a fulfilling lunch and nap time, I worked with Tiffany at the science station, which for today, was buoyancy boats. The labs went well for all the groups, as they engrossed themselves in making their unique foil boats, actively competed with each other to get the most coins on their boats, and helped the teachers clean up afterwards.

Unfortunately, as many teachers didn’t get much sleep last night, we did not give our best for these children in the afternoon. As a result, one of my prayer requests would be to pray that we will manage our time well and sleep more so we can be more energized in the afternoon.

Overall, this day was very smooth, and it was encouraging to see the kids grow in so many ways, spiritually and with each other. We continue to pray, hoping to see more fruits in the last two days to come.

2016 Hualien VBS - Day 1 - Waveley Qiu

Praise the Lord for another opportunity to serve and minister to children that He so dearly loves! 

Today was the first day of the Hualien VBS! In the morning we spent some time in quiet devotion and prayer. We then prayed together, specifically for strength and wisdom to lead the children well, continued well being, and for the weather (it seems to rain here everytime we go outside and the rain is supposedly acidic in Taiwan). 

Because the children who attended the Taipei VBS would arrive at church extremely early, when 8:30 (registration) rolled around and there wasn't a single child in the sanctuary, we were a little bit worried. Thankfully, kids began to show up around 9:00! 

An hour or so into the VBS, however, we realized (particularly Jess/Betina/Tasha's small group) that our numbers were off. We were supposed to have fifty children in total but most of the five small groups were missing children -- one group had more kids missing than kids that had showed up! We were later informed that the significant decrease (from 50 expected kids to 33 present kids) in numbers could have been attributed to the fact that the church did not ask for a deposit during registration. As a result, the parents that signed their children up, or the kids that had originally wanted to come, were able to change their mind without consequence on their end. We were all definitely shocked at our unexpected numbers but the ordeal was solemn reminder that even having a single kid at VBS is a work of grace.Though the flock wasn't as big as anticipated, God has still brought His precious lost lambs here for us to love, serve, and share Christ with them. At the end of the day, we were informed that more children should be joining us tomorrow -- our Gospel presentation day! 

After icebreakers and welcome/rules/whywearehere presentations, worship began! Perhaps it is the culture difference, but it was amazing to see pretty much every child sing and dance to "Sumberged" and "新的事". In Taipei, particularly on the first day, there would be quite a few children who were unwilling to dance and seem "undignified" (though everything was forgotten during Sharks and Minnows).

The nearly one-to-one ratio for some groups was a nice, though unexpected, change of pace (reminiscent of our VBS-es back at home haha). Today's skit was about Zacchaeus and his infamous sycamore tree. In small groups, Group 5 (Jeffery/Waveley/Rita's group) discussed the concept and issue of sin in humanity as a whole as well as in our individual lives. We demonstrated how God, someone whose dignity and glory infinitely exceeds the most powerful rulers' dignity and glory (or "地位") can not tolerate even the "smallest" sin and why the punishment for sin is so severe (Romans 3:23). We seemed to have cleared up some misconceptions and were able to discuss some difficult theological questions as well (i.e. Why did God put the Tree in the Garden of Eden in the first place? Free will vs. Sovereignty of God? Short answer: we're not sure but God is good, all-knowing, and all-powerful). 

During the English rotation, we went over the VBS's central verse ("Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts. And see if there be any grievous way in me. Lead me in the way everlasting" Psalm 139:23-24). It is our hope and prayer that this week, the children will take this verse to heart -- that they would meet and love Jesus and open up their hearts to the Lord for searching, testing, and leading!

2016 Taipei VBS - Day 3 + 4 - David Kou

Friday was the last day of our VBS at Taipei Home of Christ. It is amazing to see God's hand moving and progressing His work and will. The kids have truly started to open up to us and I hope through us they can see God working in us and also feel God's love for them.

In the morning we woke up at 5:30 am as usual so that we can catch the 5:45 bus and get to church by 6:30. Though it has definitely been a challenge, I feel a lot of joy when walking along the streets of Taiwan early in the morning knowing that we have another busy day of loving to do.

When we got to church Aaron showed up! We were all very happy to see that he made it alive and didn't get lost around the airport.

The kids started showing up at 8:30 am and so we split off into small groups. From the first day my group had a couple of extremely uncooperative boys in the group. But through patience prayer and lots and lots of love, they made so much improvement that it was hard to believe. They actually wanted to memorize the bible verses and not only in Chinese but in English too!

Another fiasco that happened in my group was that we had to choose which song we were going to dance to for the parent performance in the afternoon. Sadly the night before a lot of the teachers on the other teams already took the songs that my kids really liked, so we were left with some of the more unpopular ones.

Of course at first the kids were unwilling and frustrated with what choices we were left with, but again to my surprise one of the older kids stepped up and started comforting the younger ones saying it isn't all bad and this song is really fun too! Which made the other kids start thinking that it maybe isn't so bad so they agreed and ended up practicing really hard.

After small groups we all came together for large group worship. And as usual it was loud, energized, and wonderful. I always admire kids worshipping because they are so pure hearted and they are truly singing to God.

After worship Alice shared this really touching story that brought tears to a couple of our team members faces and asked if any of the kids wanted to let Jesus come into their hearts accepting Him as their Lord and Savior. I was truly touched that two of the kids in my group who never heard about Jesus before this camp decided to make the best decision of their lives. I was also comforted and encouraged knowing that the things we are doing for God actually are having an impact on the kids lives.

The rest of the day was just classes, games, and the parent performance. I am very grateful for the past week where we got to see kids who made me feel like they were the spawn of the devil himself turn into these wonderful and God loving children.

Though it was short and maybe it was the last time I saw some of these kids. I know that their souls and lives are all in God's hand. So I have no fear because I know that God will be there for them.