So, we are up to the summer 1999, and I was on my way to Taiwan for a few months to help two churches in Hsinchu with a summer English camp.
Before I left, my Chinese professor at DBU told me about an opportunity to be an exchange student for the 1999-2000 school year at a university in the north part of Taiwan.
After talking to my parents and much prayer, I decided this was a wonderful opportunity and should study in Taiwan.
Below is a story ("Unseen Tremors") I wrote several years ago about the situation.
I called my friend’s number again, hoping this time she would pick up and not one of her parents [because they don't speak English]. After a few rings the phone was answered, “Wei?”
“Yes.” What a relief, it was her!
“Ellen, I can’t do it.” I wailed into the receiver, not even giving her a hello or how are you. The tears began to fall as I continued, “I just can’t do it. I want to go home at the end of the summer. It’s too much trouble—I have to fight for so much—visas, course numbers, a place to live. Plus, I miss my ministry and friends at school; I long for the comforts of home, the familiar-ness of America.” I continued to rattle off my complaints and worries to one of the only people who could understand me on this little island I now found myself living on. And all Ellen could reply was, “we just have to pray and trust God—isn’t that what you have taught me?”
How had I wound up sitting in a perfect stranger’s apartment on the other side of the world, calling a girl I had been discipling for almost a year to tell her I had just about lost my faith in the God that I was teaching her all about?
That night as I wrote in my journal I pleaded for God to show me who He was all over again. “Maybe I need to re-experience the size of my God—maybe I have no idea how big my God really is,” I scribbled into my journal before going to bed.
I continued to question my faith all summer; sending many emails across the ocean to my mother about how I had no clue as to what would happen to me in August, and about how much I just wanted to go home to something simpler and familiar and trusted. For the summer, I was living with a pastor and his wife in Taiwan, teaching a children’s English program at their church. Then beginning in August, I was to move to another city in Taiwan as an exchange student.
However, from where I was sitting, it looked like no real details had been worked out at the college. I still didn’t know how I was going to get my resident’s visa, where I was going to live, what classes I was going to take, and how I was going to pay for it all if my scholarships and financial aid were not approved for overseas study. Some of these are probably the same issues college students around the world worry about, but I was experiencing them over nine thousand miles from home, in a foreign country where the norms had changed, and in a unfamiliar language. To me, I was having the largest crisis of my life. I felt lost, abandoned, lonely, and afraid of the unknown.
In late July, I called Ellen, to tell her that I had decided to change my plane ticket from August of the current year to June of the next year. I confided in her that it was my way of showing God that I completely trusted Him to provide everything I needed for the coming year—when the summer ended, I would still be on the island. It was a gigantic step of faith for me.
Come August, I moved into the dorm of the university where I was to study. I cried as I said good-bye to the pastor’s wife, a stranger who had become a good friend—I was again entering a completely foreign world; this time with even less English speakers. My friend Ellen had already gone back to the States to study at our American university, so I was totally alone except for my three new Chinese-speaking roommates.
Since classes at the university had not started yet, I decided to tackle the book of Isaiah. I was fascinated by how God demonstrated His power in the Old Testament; I longed for that type of power in my life too. I began to pray for God to move mountains—He said He could in Isaiah.
By September, everything was coming together. My American university had approved all my scholarships and loans to carry over to my studying abroad, and the Taiwanese university had located a wonderful Chinese teacher. I was beginning to get used to my wooden bed, and my three roommates were reduced to only two. Things were still strange at times and new experiences abounded, but I no longer felt like it was the end of the world.
And then it happened—God demonstrated his power in the middle of the night on September 21, 1999!
“What’s happening?” I asked the night. Much to my surprise, one of my roommates responded, thankfully in English, “Earthquake!”
As I climbed out of bed onto the still trembling floor, I was relieved because I knew what was happening. The three of us stared out the dorm window into the darkness. As the earth below us shook again and girls in the other rooms screamed, I hate to admit it, but I chuckled. I stood watching the building across from us shake, and I thought, “God can really do it! He has the power to shake the mountains!” I was amused and thrilled with delight as I experienced firsthand His power over nature and over what I thought were sure foundations.
The next day almost every girl in the dorm went home—again, I was all alone. I was left with my English newspapers, a flashlight, and a battery operated radio. I spent the rest of the week searching the papers for pictures and stories about the biggest earthquake to hit Taiwan in a hundred years and listening to the English radio station as the death toll climbed.
We were without electricity and running water for many days. One evening I sat in the darkness doing nothing. I felt God probing my heart. He asked, “Amanda, how come when I shake the physical mountains of this world you can be amused and not terrified?”
“That’s easy Lord, because I trust You, the One who created them.”
Aftershocks continued to shake the island for several weeks. Every tremor I felt brought a smile to my face. I now pray that when unseen tremors hit the other areas of my life, my faith will be like it was on that night: not fear, but rather amusement because I know the One who is in control of all the universe.
"For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake,
but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you,
and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,"
says the Lord who has compassion on you.”
(Isaiah 54:10, NAS)
So, I lived in Taiwan for a year--from 1999 to 2000. It was an incredible, life-changing event. I learned so much Chinese, thanks to my roommates, other friends at the university, and of course an awesome teacher. I learned about being alone but not being lonely. I tried lots of weird foods. I learned about trusting God (something I am ALWAYS learning). I learned to be flexible and "go with the flow."
Through the Holy Sprit, God changed my personality, changed my desires, changed my attitudes, even changed my taste buds and comfort zones; essentially He just changed ME! And, they were all wonderful, wonderful changes that I now celebrate and couldn't imagine life without!!
I love that He allows us to be different--that we don't have to stay the same. He is such an awesome God!! I love that He has compassion for us and cares about the details of our lives!! He is such an awesome God!!
The next part of the story will talk about my move back the States to finish my BA and get my MA.
All pictures in this post were taken from 1999-2000--which I scanned and added to my very first website started back in 1999.