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Joanna

I am back in Taiwan! This beautiful island and its beautiful, precious people, especially the aboriginal kids, have stolen my heart. So I am back for a year. I didn’t think I was coming back, but God tugged on my heart and called me here for a year. So here I am, excited for all that God has already done in these two weeks and knowing that He has so much more in store for this year. He is so faithful!

These two weeks have not necessarily been easy. I have found myself leaning closer and closer into my Savior, as we are in the midst of spiritual warfare. Taiwan, yes, is beautiful, but also a country filled with temples and idol worship. Followers of Jesus are rare here. Evil is present and you can feel it. And yet, I know that Jesus is stronger and more powerful than the darkness here!

Sometimes He uses my students to show how good He is…

The other day I left the cafeteria early because I was feeling faint and needed something to eat. After lunch, a tough, naughty boy named Mike came up to me and tugged on my sleeve. His dark eyes searched mine.  He asked me in Chinese if my stomach hurt, because he saw me leave the cafe early.

Mike’s face was contorted in pain, as if he might have a heart attack if my stomach hurt. Instead of the toughness and brashness he usually portrayed to others, I saw a sweet little heart concerned for me.

I will always remember that.

And I know that in that moment, I caught a glimpse of God’s heart for me, too.

Precious.

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she was Jenny

Her expression scared and unsure, she glanced around the classroom.  I stood off to the side, watching her for a minute.  We were told that Jenny has a severe phobia of people and we would need to make sure she was doing okay.  During the week, I made it my special goal to pray for her and encourage her however I could.  On breaktimes I would go talk to Jenny and try to get her to open up but to no avail.

One day I handed her a jump rope and encouraged her to use it – only to have her stand there expressionless for minutes and then put it away.  But I kept at it.  I gave her high fives, smiled big, said her name, made eye contact, encouraged her, patted her shoulder, and prayed.

As each day passed, I saw no outward signs that anything I was doing or saying was having an impact at all.  She would not say more than one word to me at a time, nor ever smile.

Friday came and I patted her shoulder and told her goodbye.  Later that afternoon, I opened up the mailbox to find a note from Jenny!

Shocked, I asked one of my Taiwanese friends to translate it for me:  “Teacher Joanna, thank you for teaching me English.”  I was thrilled.  A girl with a severe phobia like Jenny’s has a very hard time connecting with other  people and would never write them a note.  It was truly a miracle!

Then one of my teachers excitedly handed me another note…from Jenny!  I was super excited.  I opened it up and read:

“Teacher Joanna, I love you!”

I marveled.  I had thought nothing was happening.  Most people would call Jenny a hopeless case.  But God had put her on my heart and so I followed His leading.  The fact that she wrote not only one note, but two is proof – God is pulling her out of her shell and helping her connect with others.  How thrilled I am to see that He was working so beautifully in little Jenny’s life!

God is good!

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Continuing to count the blessings God gives me, whether big or small…

1166. palm trees

1167. friends who welcome me, feed me, love me

1168. meeting a missionary who has been here in Taiwan for 24 years

1169. dumplings

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1170. listening to worship songs

1171. actually understanding some of the Mandarin I hear

1172. big smiles on my students’ faces

1173. the ocean!

1174. a thank you note from my students

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1175. seeing village kids share what Easter is all about

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Hello, friends!

It has been awhile since I have written here on Definitely Joanna.  I have lots of good excuses, too!  *grins*  But really, God has been doing so much, that I have been very busy following in His footsteps and going where He sends.

And He sent me here, to the island of Taiwan.

taiwan_map

I’ve been here three months now.  And I have not even written once!  Oops.  So that is changing, starting now (and if you are still reading, please drop me a comment and let me know!).

The other week, I looked over ten-year-old Paric’s shoulder to see what he was drawing during family class.  I expected funny drawings with cute, smiling faces (because he is always so sweet and smiling), but instead I was met with angry expressions and tears on his page.  Kneeling down next to him, I looked into his face and asked why he drew his family this way.

I wasn’t prepared for his answer in Mandarin – because his mama is always angry and hitting his sister, which makes her cry.

The thing is, there wasn’t anything I could say to Paric in his language that would make it all better.  I wish I could change the expressions that he drew.  I want to make them all hugging and smiling.  But I can’t.

Jesus is the only one I know who can bring true peace and healing in a life.  Not me.

Jesus.

That precious name!  That is why I am here!  I am really excited to see what He will do in the coming months!

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I’m joining my dear friend Megan in looking back at 2011…
 
What did you do in 2011 that you’ve never done before?
  • was a bridesmaid
  • rode a real fire truck
  • worked in a commercial size kitchen at ALERT…doing things like cracking 400 eggs in a day (aka normal stuff)
  • taught in a Christian school
  • ate snickerdoodles cookies (I’m serious!)
  • milked a goat
  • dodged two knives falling from above
Did anyone close to you get hitched?
 
Yes!  Jennnifer married Nathan and I was utterly honored by being apart of their love story and being a bridesmaid.  It was a beautiful, delightful, God-centered time.
 
What’s your biggest achievement this year?
  • Keeping my eyes on Jesus in the midst an emergency.
  • Earning the Congressional Silver Medal. 
  • Loving others no matter what.
  • Working a farm job over the summer.
  • Tutoring a Mexican lady in English.
Biggest failure?
 
Not being bolder in my faith.
 
Did you suffer illness or injury?
 
I sorta laughed at this one.  Does physical therapy for my leg for several months count?  And several severe sicknesses involving 102 temps?  And nailing my head on wood (pun not intended), getting a concussion, and PCS (post-concussion syndrome)?  And being in anaphylactic shock and having a life-threatening allergy that doctors are stunned over?  If so, then yes, I suffered illness and injury.  I’m so thankful God is the Great Physician! 
 
Whose behavior merited celebration?
 
My family (love and support during my PCS and allergy problems and for reading food labels).  JenniferMegan.  Marie.  Abbey.  Rachel.  Chelsea.  Ruth.  My church.
 
What songs will remind you of 2011?
 
~ Blessings
~ Moonrise
~ Let It Be Said of Us
~ O Church Arise
 
What were the best books you read? 
  • Trevor’s Song by T.A. Beam
  • Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand
  • The Princess and the Kiss by Jennie Bishop
  • Hearts of Fire by Voice of the Martyrs
  • Unplanned by Abby Johnson
  • A Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent
  • The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun and Paul Hattaway
What was a valuable lesson you’ve learned?
  •  when there’s a problem, trial, or emergency, the tendency is to look at that – the problem.  However, instead of focusing on the problem, what I should be focusing on Jesus!

What is one thing you’re going to work on in the new year?

Definitely being bolder in my faith!

Lord, thank You for 2011 – for all that You accomplished in me and through me.  It was a privilege to let You shine through me.  And while there were tears throughout the year, there was also laughter.  And no matter what I felt, it was always with You.  I love You.

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Let the cross be our glory and the Lord be our song!
By mercy made holy, by the Spirit made strong.
 Till the likeness of Jesus be through us made known. 

Let it be said of us, we were marked by forgiveness;
We were known by our love and delighted in mercy;
We were ruled by His peace, heeding unity’s call,
Joined as one body that Christ would be seen by all.

  

Let it be said of us that the Lord was our passion,
That with gladness we bore every cross we were given;
 
That we fought the good fight, and we finished the course;
Knowing within us the power of the risen Lord.
 
~ Let It Be Said of Us by Steve Fry

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