“God is Love.” 1 John 4:16
As I traveled to Taipei to pick up the focus mission trip from the airport, I was blessed with the opportunity to meet up with a priest friend for dinner. During our conversation he told me that he had recently been talking to a very faithful Taiwanese Catholic who has been very active in her faith for many years but one day in their conversation she asked him, “what does the bible mean when it says ‘God is Love?’” She continued to share that she has always heard that sentence but never given it much thought because she never has understood what “love” really means anyway. Hearing that story really rocked me because I think many of us “know” what it means when we say that “God is Love” but as I thought about those 3 words (4 characters in Chinese 😊) I couldn’t help but ask myself what that truly means in my life and do I truly know in my heart what that kind of radical love is?
The following morning, I arrived at the airport at 5:30am where I was able to welcome two Focus missionaries, one Jesuit priest, and eleven college students to our little island home. For four days we served at the Philosophy café within the Triangle of Mercy
working on the restoration of the old church with the help of our friend Raphael. We scraped paint, tore down ceiling tiles, and tried lots of fun traditional Taiwanese lunch boxes. Later on in the first week, we were able to partake in a summer camp where each group of missionaries lead a sports activity in the morning followed by crafts/ cooking activities with the elementary children!
The following week we were also blessed with the opportunity to use some of our alms money at a night market to buy small gifts for a group of children we would later visit at an orphanage.
In all of these events I was so blessed by the witness of these missionaries who while they spoke no Chinese were able to form relationships and show love to all those we encountered. At one point during the elementary camp as I looked around at the screaming children climbing on the missionaries and giggling at their attempts to speak Mandarin, I was reminded of that conversation with my priest friend and what it means for God to be Love and I began to see how that Truth was becoming a theme for me in my time with this mission group.
For the last couple months, we have been advertising two events which were held during the time of the focus trip- one being an “evangelization night” where we invited non-Christians to our home to hear testimonies from some of the college students and learn about Jesus! The second event was a “missions’ night” for Christians. I think the evangelization night was my favorite event because after the event was over, we announced that we would begin Adoration and we invited all the participants to stay and join us and I could feel the Lord’s delight when all of the participants stayed and simply
sat in His presence for an hour.
I think about my time here in Taiwan and how so often in my weakness I am frustrated by my inability to share the Gospel with our brothers and sisters here but I think if the Lord brought me all the way across the world so that those three people could simply be in His presence for that one hour then I would be satisfied in that blessing from the Lord. However, He in His goodness continues to bless our mission here in Taiwan; for the second event, we welcomed nearly 20 Catholics to our home for a night of praise and worship with testimony sharing.
During that time Fr. Nathan, the missionary Chaplain with Focus, shared with everyone a call to missions. He shared two concrete, simple ways to answer our baptismal commission as Christians and bear witness to the Gospel: our actions and words. The next day, during our desert day (an extended time of prayer in nature) as I was praying about this call to missions and reflecting on the past couple of weeks, I felt the Lord remind me of all the ways
that through the actions and words of these missionaries and all those we served how I had encountered His radical love.
When I walked into the airport to meet our new friends and saw my brother, Colter, along with my other fellow Nebraskans and was greeted by so many excited hugs and laughter, I encountered that Love.
As we traveled back to WuShuLin and I was able to begin conversing with so many beautiful missionary hearts and share with them about the mission here in Asia, I encountered that Love in a renewed zeal for the need for the gospel in Taiwan.
For two weeks we prayed, celebrated Mass, drank bubble tea, sang Karaoke, and we encountered a God that is Love together.
I think that the Truth of God’s identity as Love is the heart of what commissions us to mission. He who dwells inside of us, around us, and in our encounters with others is the Love that we give and we receive.
It makes me think about John Paul II’s Mission of the Redeemer when he says, “Cooperating in missionary activity means not just giving but also receiving. All the particular churches, both young and old, are called to give and to receive in the context of the universal mission, and none should be closed to the needs of others. The Council states: “By virtue of… catholicity, the individual parts bring their own gifts to the other parts and to the whole Church, in some way that the whole and individual parts grow greater through the mutual communication of all and their united efforts towards fullness in unity… Between the different parts of the Church there are bonds of intimate communion with regards to spiritual riches, apostolic workers and temporal assistance.”
It has been an honor for me to receive the love of these missionaries as I am reminded of this call that has been engraved into our very being and to witness how the unity of our universal Church is dependent on the Love who is our God manifested through the Church’s mission.
I want to thank all of you who have been praying for us and our time with the focus team. Your prayers have been such a blessing in these past couple weeks and I know the Lord was providing in so many ways – at one point a typhoon was on its way to Taiwan and last minuet made a 90 degree turn and missed the island! I trust that many of the blessings of this trip come from the fruit of your dedicated prayers so know that we are praying for you and as always it is a blessing to serve along side of you in this mission.
Check out the link below to watch a super awesome video about the mission trip that one of the Focus students put together 🙂