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The Graduate

7 Nov 2018

I will in no way compare myself to the main character in the movie I have titled this entry, but I will write you what life has been like going from a full-time student to a college graduate.

UGH I JUST WANT NORMAL

was a phrase Kate, my super cool sea-star who is also a doggie mum, recalled in a conversation she had with Sam, her hubby. The conclusion was, people like her and me (missionary kids, expats, creative people, CALLED BY JESUS, etc.) don’t need normal, don’t have normal, and cannot have normal.

I totally understand her complaint. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if my parents weren’t missionaries and pastors. I sometimes wonder what life would have been like if I only spoke one language. I sometimes wonder and then cringe because I cannot ever imagine a life where my universe is limited to one country, one culture, one language, one city, one friend group, one everything.

My world is so vast that I’m not used to the idea of “settling”. I will never be satisfied with a meaningless office job that pays “just enough” and find someone who is “just tolerable” and have a “kinda interesting” life. I know that there is so much to this universe and I am so willing to explore it. I’m not okay with staying at a place I grew up in. I’m ready to fly again.

God has told me 2018 is a year of pioneering for me. I’m ultimately excited about this word but also simply terrified of what is to come. I know where my destinies lie and I understand my dreams are safe in his hands.

Though I have faith that everything is going to be alright, I have basically been overwhelmed by the amount of information I had to sort through from July to October.

THE QUESTION

For one, I constantly had to deal with the question of “WHAT AM I GONNA DO AFTER I GRADUATE?”. Yes, my thoughts were in all caps. many anxiety inducing. such triggering. much ouch. Yes, very dodgy thoughts.

Honestly, I had no clue what I wanted to be doing around the months of July through August. I had extremely many options such as:

  1. stay in Taiwan and find a job
  2. go to Korea and find a job
  3. find a job else where
  4. go study more somewhere
  5. working holiday somewhere
  6. keep doing crafts, leave Taiwan every three months…

The list actually kept going forever, there was option 1a, 1b1, 1b2… I call it the luxury and the curse of a visa-less person who has never felt grounded to any place ever.

This brings me to the other question everyone has been dying to know the answer to. Every time they ask me, I have to explain for 30+ minutes, so here goes,

here is a breakdown of my visa situation:

  • I was born in Korea, thus I have a Korean passport
  • I have lived in Taiwan since I was six years old
  • From the age of six to eighteen, I was a dependent under appa’s missionary visa
  • Umma is also appa’s dependent, THE PAPA IS THE ONLY ONE WITH A CARD
  • By 2009(?), appa received a PARC (Permanent Alien Residency Card), he & umma doesn’t have to worry about visa in Taiwan, basically
  • Starting 2013, I lived with my own student visa from NTU
  • A student visa needs to be renewed every year
  • I’m not allowed to work legally unless I get a working permit from the school (I did for TA)
  • When I graduate, the NIA (National Immigration Agency) asks me if I will leave immediately or will stay six months (buffer period) to find work in Taiwan
  • Right now, as of November 2018, I am on this buffer period
  • My student visa / buffer period expires 31, December 2018
  • I have booked my outbound flight for 27, December 2018 (more on this later)
  • There is no way in this country I can automatically receive a PARC…
    • even though I have lived here 17ish years
    • even though my parents have a PARC
    • mainly because my parents are here on a missionary visa
      • if they were here on a business visa, then I could have gotten one easily
      • yes people, it’s all about money and taxes, they love that stuff
    • unless I was a certifiably disabled or mentally challenged child
    • unless I marry a Taiwanese

Now, you are an inch smarter about how Taiwan’s passport, residency, and visas work. Go spread the word about how bitter I am, please. Although I feel a little helpless about the situation, I have somehow organized my thoughts here (it’s a letter to a personified Taipei City, I’m quite proud of it).

SO I OFFICIALLY GOT MY DIPLOMA

on July 27th. I thought that meant I can stay in Taiwan until January 27—six months. It turns out, they count by whenever the semester ends, so it didn’t matter what day of the month I got my diploma. Cruel.

However, our bye-school day was a good one. Fanny and I watched one last film (The Graduate) at the library, took pictures at our favorite spots on campus, then got our diploma. Our unofficial ceremony felt like another confirmation that friendships are a delicate matter: they take time to build but also cannot be forced by non-reciprocal means. We talked about our traumatizing first day and just laughed till we lost it.

August

was another month of not-much-ness. I helped out with a couple of fringe festival performances. One of them was a mix-mash of flamenco, autobiographical story time, and avant-garde-esque theatre. The main performer was an older (by ten years) former NTU student from my same major. In one of her monologues, she introduced how she got a bachelor in English in Taiwan, got a masters in Chinese linguistics in Arizona, but ended up being a flamenco aficionado. That self-introduction was my favorite part of the show because I could just relate to it to the core—the pain, the awkwardness, the well-please-judge-me feeling, but just laughing on the inside because the conversation is totally déjà vu.

The humid hot days of Taipei ensued. There would be days I would be very motivated to research into my future. Other days, I’d sleep in and hang out with friends in the afternoon. I still tutored English twice a week. Some days, I’d do crafts and update my scrapbook—basically a very extended summer break.

my first job-quitting ordeal (but not really a job)

After collaborating with Totes & Tees for Fashion Revolution and a weekend art festival in June, we decided to keep working on projects. Even though I wanted to work with this small company, my days after December 2018 had no concrete plans and being a small company, they couldn’t provide me with a visa. I didn’t find it practical to be flying in and out of Taiwan every three months. I knew I had to get out and live elsewhere even though my lazy, comfort seeking side truly wanted to never leave. We agreed I would collaborate with them till I left.

However, something about this collaboration never felt right for me. Part of my dissatisfaction definitely stemmed from my own blindspot and stubbornness. Looking back, I feel pretty stupid saying yes to a collaboration with someone I didn’t know too well. I may have miscommunicated some ideas but there were also some red flags from them every other meeting. I won’t dig into the details because they are a rising company and our dis/connection had many personal intricacies. I’m here to say every collaboration/work relationship has two sides and we both probably messed it up somewhere along the line. I’m not proud of the way I ended things but also proud of myself of cutting ties that has been feeding me unnecessary anxiety. I’ll just end this chapter by saying it was a complex issue.

CURRENT DIRECTIONS

This is the information you have been dying to know. I am a story teller and I am unapologetic about making you read a lot of details along the way. However, typing up a six months summary was a tough one, I promise I’ll make it monthly now.

After quitting things, saying no, banging heads, laugh crying, and aging a year. I listed out the things I love and want to do:

First off, I love making things. I know that I can do this anywhere if I put my mind to it.

Second, I love theatre. I love taking part in productions even if it’s a hardcore manual laboring crew job. After rewriting my resume recently, I realized I have taken part in at least one production every year for the last ten years. I cannot go a month without listening to Hamilton, Wicked, or The Fantasticks and my friends know how badly I want to watch all the broadway shows (yes, all).

Third, I want to work in an NGO or set up an NGO myself. In many of my updates, I have written about my heart for the Roma people in Hungary and how I see myself setting up creative jobs for them. However, after working with a fashion related social enterprise, I realized I still have much to learn and this isn’t something I can rush into within a few months.

Four, I love traveling and now I have a great reason to just go out and all around. The funding is a little tricky though.

This list reminded me that my life goals haven’t changed too much over the last few years. It also reminded me of a conversation I had with my friend Elim—God is all about giving us many and more. He never forces us to chose between great dreams but gives us permission to open his gifts step by step. I’m called to be a birdfish.

“Be A BirdFish”—meaning, when asked “if you could be a bird or a fish what would you be?” You’d normally chose one and answer. But God will give you the answer “be both!”. Then you’d proceed to comment: “but that’s silly!” You’d laugh and find out God is silly sometimes and loves you so much that he will give you more and most. This anecdote/concept was shared by Pastor Jon at our church a while ago.

So yes, I’m finally choosing just one thing, for now. That one thing requires a long application process.

ACTUAL CURRENT DIRECTIONS

I looked for theatre jobs in New York and London; searched for job openings from ethical fashion companies I love; researched more on how and what I can do. After more research, I found out that theatre jobs usually don’t give out working permits or visas. Then down this rabbit hole, I found that Korea has working holiday agreements with many countries, UK was one of them. Then it all clicked. I’ve always wanted to live in London or New York. I love the cultural scene in London, especially their theatre productions.

The official website for working holiday had extremely difficult wordings in Korean. I asked umma and appa and they both went… well, that’s legal Korean. This also lead me into another rabbit hole of researching for tips and guidelines on Naver Cafes (it’s a Korean thing) and I’m proud to say the iota of Koreanness in me has paid off.

To sum it all up, I have to apply for a governmental sponsorship around mid-January. Then the government will announce the results around March. With that sponsorship, I will proceed to apply for a Youth Mobility Scheme visa (aka working holiday visa) with the UK embassy. If everything goes swimmingly, I will be in the UK by early summer of 2019.

Every document has to be processed in Korea so I booked a round trip ticket—departing Taiwan 27 of December and the return ticket is valid for 3 months. It also happens I have picked the most hectic months in Asia: Christmas, New Year, Lunar New Year… (Valentines Day?). It also made sense for me to stay in Korea for a while just to test out how I’ll live alone somewhere foreign. I also wouldn’t have to worry about visa problems while I’m there; I can actually work legally for the first time in my life without worrying about permits and jazz.

My first step into getting government sponsorship and YMS visa is to take a certified English test aka TOEFL or IELTS. I’ll be taking the IELTS at the end of November. Everyone keeps saying it will be ridiculously easy for me, but I personally just hate taking tests. I’m just not the best test taker. My English may be like-native but tests seem to be testing another crazy dimension called test taking. So after finishing up this update, I will go on a hardcore study mode.

I know I’m leaving soon-ish…

A lot of things are still unsettled. It’s hard for me to believe that I MAY BE IN LONDON soon. I’m all jitters but also 15% fear—the rest is a mix of trusting and holding onto hope while steadily acting upon plans.

As my flight date approaches, I ask you to be gentle with me. I will get time to say goodbye to you personally if you just shoot me a message. But please also know I cannot clone myself and I have already said no to so many little things to keep myself very sane. And please don’t freak out if we miss each other, “forever is made of nows” and long time shall be soon.

If you have read this much, I know you care. Thank you, my angels. Thank you.

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The Last (for now) Days of Being a Student

29 Oct 2018

Honestly though, my last semester in uni wasn’t very studious. I had one course called Sixteenth Century English Literature in which the professor basically mocked all forms of religion and pointed out all the sexy details in Shakespeare’s sonnets. For the final exam, which was three essays long, I wrote one very indignant essay about why I needed more women in literature and how all of the supposedly feminist writers in the sixteenth century were full of *$#% (but in a literary chic way). I got an A.

To top off the not-student like behavior, I TA-ed for my advisor’s Freshmen English class. I survived a semester before and couldn’t be prouder of myself for the job I was doing. It was mostly writing emails to students, making photocopies now and then, and sending reminders to the professor. The most excruciating part probably was correcting their essays’ grammar and spelling. My friend said “Why bother? They probably won’t read them,” to which I retorted “CUZ I LIKE BEING RIGHT!” On the anonymous end-of-the-term survey, I’ve received many confessions of love to which I awww-ed and laughed. But most of them genuinely thanked me for the effort I put into emailing them, asking them questions, and drumroll correcting their grammar.

But why bother reading about my boring school life when you can read about what I have been doing not in school! Here is what went down in my life from April – June 2018.

  • The Diary of Anne Frank

The best way to cure jet lag is to go straight into tech week the following week. I have experienced many ailments from traveling and found jet lag from Europe to Asia is quite the worst. Fortunately, I signed myself up to run the lights for the Butterfly Effect Theatre’s production of The Diary of Anne Frank. This was our second run but this play just doesn’t get old. Fun fact about this play: this show’s original Broadway cast had young Natalie Portman playing Anne. The Diary has been adapted into many plays but this version doesn’t deify Anne into a hero figure but truthfully illustrates the inner drama of a teenage girl and the struggles of seven people living in a cramped up space. Honest to God, I cry almost every curtain call.

During the production, I read many young people don’t believe that the Holocaust happened—this information killed me a little. It’s absurd that someone wouldn’t believe in a historical event with monuments and memorial sites all over the world with many primary sources and survivors who are still alive to tell their stories. Don’t even get me started on how good some great works of fiction are based on WWII, like The Reader, Everything is Illuminated, and The Fiddler on the Roof… Also, there was a group of high school students in Taiwan that dressed up as Nazi soldiers and marched around the school for an event. Ignorance is not bliss, naïve is not cute—history is there for us to reflect and learn. I somehow took these news very personally, maybe because I grew up listening to the same Bible stories as the Jews, maybe because I cannot stand uneducated people, probably a combination of both.

A representative from Israeli cultural office was invited to open the show (we had free falafels, hummus, and pita during the last run of the show but not this time, insert whimpering). The weekend swooshed by. I was just thankful I could be a part of a show that spoke a story that some started to neglect.

That was the last time I worked with this theatre company because 1. they did have one last show August but I was helping another show the exact same time 2. rent issues with the theatre space 3. the artistic director got a new job in Vienna. He moved early September and he basically sold everything from costumes to lighting equipments. It was a hectic process to watch a theatre company that I truly felt at home turn into a goodbye yard sale. I learned a lot about running low budget shows, programming with too-old consoles, but most of all I made connections with people I know I will meet again in this tiny theatre world.

  • Fashion Revolution Taipei

April was a month where I went crazy juggling all about. I collaborated with Totes & Tees, a small social enterprise that focuses on ethical and zero-waste fashion. I have been following this small company for a while through a mutual friend and was really interested in what they did. The owner was also going to be one of the hosts for Fashion Revolution 2018 in Taipei. The idea was to have a runway showcasing up-cycled items handmade by many different designers. I was to crochet a beanie from a no-longer-used piece of fabric. Sadly, I couldn’t participate on the actual day because I went on a family trip to…

  • Rome & Paris

To say this was a family trip would be a misleading statement. My parents were there to lead the seminars they have been running for 10+ years. As I mentioned in Update 3.0, their heart is for the Chinese speaking people all over the world. The Asians basically took over a whole hotel on the outskirts of Rome to host Fathers’ School and Mothers’ School simultaneously. This meant, there needed to be a baby sitting club. Slowly raise your hands if you’re a pastor kid you basically did everything that was assumed of you! (Did I volunteer? Did I chose to be their child? We’ll never know) No, I’m not being bitter, I just simply love poking fun at my stereotype. Besides, I was asked nicely to participate in taking care of the children—a member from the Taiwan side of the team had activities prepared for them, I just had to support. I said “WHY NOT? I JUST DID THIS A MONTH AGO!”

But, this crowd was tough. It wasn’t like calming down super rowdy Hungarian-Romani children nor was it like being dragged around by crazy bubbly Filipino kids. These were well-educated, cellphone-hogging Chinese-looking kids who preferred classily sitting on chairs, not the floor, chattering away in Italian. Of course, they were all embedded in their Chinese-ness from their parents, so they still understood most of what we were trying to do. However, whenever the head teacher asked them to do something extremely “Asian”, my TCK heart ached, feeling all the “well, they are NOT going to relate to that at all….”

Because the seminar lasted three out of the five days we were at Rome, we only had enough time to look around the Vatican and trot around to sneak peek here and there. One of the free days was taken over by a tour set up by the local church. They took us around historical sites that were related to the early underground churches and Apostle Paul. We visited way too many cathedrals that all of them started to look the same. The most memorable place was the underground tunnels where the early Christians escaped to and hid from the Romans. Going to a Christian school, we would always play Underground Church when we had class sleepovers—even though it was just a game, the danger felt extremely real. But as I stood in the tunnel, I could actually really imagine how real their fear must have been. I was in awe of the way these early Christians kept their faith even in the dark, cold underground.

After eating one too many cones of gelato and faking one too many Italian conversations in Spanish, we arrived in Paris. They were only going to host Fathers’ School so umma and I had plenty of free time. However, being the only linguistically competent person in the group (but honestly, my French is basically nonexistent), I had to take everyone around the city. I was annoyed at having no time to myself and just my parents but thankfully, appa had three days free and the crowd let us be for two of those days.

Paris’ reputation really proceeds itself, it’s a bit dirty, there are more rude strangers than nice people, and they really hate you if you ask “parlez-vous anglais?”. Despite all the negative stereotypes, I took my little tour group all around the places I’ve researched in advance. I was also allowed to go off on my own when I wore them all out by 5 p.m. I’m proud to say I’ve actually hit all the touristy places I wanted to visit with and without the group. We even visited Versailles kudos to the fact umma is so internet-savvy that she actually researched. She was very intent on visiting a few places like Château de Versailles, the top of the Eiffel, and the Louvre—her excuse always being “I’m never coming here ever again!”

silliness @ The Louvre

After two-ish weeks of venturing around Western Europe, we emptied out the 99 cents cheese blocks at the local Carrefour market, squished it into our luggage, and sat on a long plane ride. Umma commented that I seem to be the “vacation type”, she couldn’t understand how I could still be so chipper being gone from home so long. Although her observations were accurate, I wouldn’t have wanted to stay longer unless I started taking French classes or something—the language barrier was devastating.

  • Sharon McGill Memorial Service

My dorm mother passed away from cancer last fall. Her favorite drink at Starbucks, toffee nut latte, just came round again. I received the news via McGill dormie Facebook group while I scrolled through my phone during class, bad idea. My commute back home that day seemed five times longer than usual. Halfway through my walk home from the bus stop, I ran into umma. She asked if I wanted to go to Costco with them, then asked why I don’t look so well. I honestly had no clue how to break the news. Appa’s car rolled around to pick us up for Costco, I said Sharon died, we cried a little and had a moment of silence. I always thought about how umma and Sharon, appa and Terry are the same age. My mums and dads. They are some of the most important people of my life and one of them was gone.

I’d like to think I had enough time to process through this situation. Then I’d realize that not all valleys in life are empty holes. You don’t just get over it. You live with their memories. Some days will pain you more than others but they’re there to remind you that you are that much alive. You can still feel. As cheesy as I’m starting to sound, this is something I have been needing to remind myself lately.

After what seemed like too long, the day of Sharon’s memorial service came. I hopped on the familiar bus from Taipei to Taichung. Visiting high school wasn’t a big deal but I’ve never thought I’d visit because my dorm mum passed away. The auditorium was filled. Dorm kids had priority seats. Terry gave a bear hug to everyone who made it. The whole thing began with Terry mumbling to the mic “Alright, let’s get this over with,” to which I definitely chuckled. I didn’t even bother holding back my laughter or tears or both as they came and went throughout the service. At the end, I could just feel this was a closure that everyone who knew Sharon deserved. I cannot describe what kid of feeling that was. The feeling of home? Feeling of clear certainty. Maybe everyone’s love for Sharon somehow became a tangible atmosphere. I must say it almost felt like a wedding.

During the reception, there was a photo time where Terry was huddled around 30-something out of 120-something of his dorm children. Later on he said that was the highlight of his day. He also said no one was allowed to leave the dorms before midnight, to which most of us complied to. Most of the dorm kids that showed up all graduated around ’02 or ’03 so I was just a little bit very intimidated, mostly because I forgot the fact that we were all bound by the similar experiences of studying in Morrison while living in a dorm with the same dorm parents. It was a good evening to be a McGill Dormie.

  • Bye Hair Day

I have been notorious for the way I treat my hair. If you know the song “Grace Kelly” by Mika, well, in the chorus, he is singing about my hair circa 2013-2015. Then I stopped. I hated the way my hair felt dry and crinkly, I wanted my normal long hair back. I also remembered I’ve always wanted to donate my hair to a cancer foundation. It was just something I wanted to cross off my bucket list. So I’ve been growing my hair out ever since—it took way longer than I thought. Throughout my hair growth, two significant people in my life died from cancer. It felt like I had way more reason to donate now.

June 16th was the date. My friend also wanted to join in. We found Little Princess Trust, an organization that gives out free wigs to young girls who have lost their hair due to illnesses. Their guidelines said they love receiving longer hair because they’re more popular. After some measuring I decided to get a buzz cut so that I could maximize the length of hair I could donate. Besides, I’ve been wanting to have crazy buzzed hair after a couple of years of freakishly long hair. Fickle me, I know.

My hair stylist washed my hair way thoroughly, dried it for what seemed like an hour, tied it up into sections, and snip, it was in a plastic bag. My buzz cut buddy and I couldn’t stop rubbing our heads the following few days.

But my oh my, I did not know that a head of hair was keeping me warm all this time. I was constantly dealing with extremely cold overhead AC on buses and I eventually caught a really bad cough for three plus weeks. I now never leave my house without a hat of some sort.

My hair has become so short that I have been tracking my days with hair length. My best friend, Fanny keeps saying it’s like watching a little infant grow every week. I told her to stop being so overly dramatic.

  • oh dear, this is getting real long

Instead of asking how someone’s day was, Sharon would ask us three things: 1. what was the low point of your day? 2. high point? 3. what have you learned today? or what do you think Jesus is teaching you today?

So to boil down my April to June into a few pointers, it sucked that I got really sick for almost a month, but I loved getting to travel and do a lot lot lot of things. I’m learning that well-done goodbyes are possible. Currently, I’m learning to do just that—slowly closing up gaps responsibly, honestly, and kindly. God is also teaching me that I’m allowed to chose and do what I love (but more on that next update).

Thank you for catching up on my life, I promise the next post will be just as long.

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(HNGRY2018) Update 3.0

9 Apr 2018

Dear Kings and Queens,

My third mission trip to Hungary has come to a close. I’ve been back in Taipei for a few days, jet lag has been defeated. It’s a Monday morning—starting this week, I will be juggling my life as a student, TA, English tutor, theatre technician, and crafting enthusiast. I may have overcommitted myself to too many different activities this week, but I’ve already had a few days to reflect on what has happened and feel at peace to be a busy bee once again.

Thank you for covering me and our SUPER HUNGARY TEAM the past week. The ten-day mission trip was filled with God’s goodness just blowing over Tiszavasvari. Although the purpose of this trip wasn’t to discover the potentials of creating an empowerment platform that I have mentioned in my first letter, I knew that God had the remote control and it was just on pause.

The focus of this trip was for me to lavish my love onto the children: the next generation that will rise up to bring Hungary back to God. It was a joy seeing how much the little ones I’ve met four years ago have grown taller than me (what do they eat?!?!) Now that they were icky teenagers, they didn’t want much to do with me but still smiled, waved, and still wore bracelets we made the first time I came. I believe that God will use them greatly.

My biggest wow moment happened during the last day of crafts. We were going to print our hands on the big canvas as the tree leaves. I expected chaos—I was very wrong. The children were very capable of coming in neat groups to dip their hands into the paint and to print them on the canvas. They didn’t have a paint fight, they didn’t run around the arena creating graffitis.

I was reminded of how God is so capable of using our group of “teachers” as vessels to touch their hearts. God told me that in His Kingdom, there is no chaos and disorder. The children were giving me a glimpse of heaven through the things we have been teaching them. There wasn’t a moment where I couldn’t see the spirit flowing in and through the smelly gym where we danced, sang, and crafted. I have witnessed His unfailing goodness by leading the children to us and opening up their hearts. God reminded me of completely surrendering my heart and simply loving on the children.

One very different element of this trip was our lodgings, we stayed at a five-star hotel. At first I felt weird and out of place. Never in my many mission trips have I stayed in a hotel. But I began to understand the mission department’s heart for us. Just because we’re serving doesn’t mean we have to suffer in mediocre conditions where we sleep in sleeping bags on church floors and use toilets that are constantly clogging. The comfort gave me quality sleep and nourishment for each new day of ministry.

Another luxury we were blessed with this time was the army of translators. We had ten-plus translators distributed among our whole team. Each home visitation small groups had one, the children ministry was assigned three (quick note on home visitation team: While we were doing children’s ministry, these small teams went to visit houses in the village that requested prayers to the local pastors. They didn’t randomly barge into homes. Some of their testimonies are crazy but they are not my stories to tell). Three translators were a luxury—we only had one in the past. I was touched to hear every time they thanked us for serving their country’s poorest of poor. As we worshipped together every morning before heading out to our locations, we became one big family without nationalities.

We hosted a Easter carnival, using a whole arena to create activity booths. We had crazy long soul trains by the end of our final dance. I was spontaneously called to “do lights” on a moment’s notice. All they had were on-off switches —which was a relief and a disappointment. In the end, Sarah the stage manager of the day told me that I “turned the lights on and off at all the right times. SO GOOD!”

One word that I kept receiving throughout this trip was “catching the wind”—God is already blowing his glory over his children, all we have to do is to ride upon it. I have realized that coming to this trip was me trying to catch the gust of wind that God has placed to help me see a little better into my future after my college days—whether it would be attending BSSSM, doing more crafts in Taipei, trying to stay in Korea for at least a bit, studying in Europe, or finding a job only God knows where. I have been seeing 11:11 (in Hebrew, 11 is a number of transition) way too many times these past few days and I am excited for the season of transition that God is about to bring me into.

God has definitely been answering my dreams this season.One of my many dreams is to travel. The Rest & Recreation & Reflection (I like to add my own third R) for the Hungary trip took place in Vienna, another new city that God has blessed me to explore. I love marking stars on Google Maps to all the places I have been; it’s still pretty empty but I know that it will light up like a Christmas tree pretty soon. God reaffirmed me of how it’s always more and most.

In other exciting news, I’ll be traveling again very soon. Dad’s biggest dream is to reach all the Chinese speaking people in the world. If you don’t know by now, where there is land, there is Chinese speaking people. Fathers School, a seminar program translated from Korean and fully managed by my dad, has now reached over most of the continents. This time he will be kickstarting in Rome and Paris; mum will also be joining to minister at Rome with Mothers School.

Finding out that mum didn’t need to serve at Paris, I asked her “but whatcha gonna do all by yourself?” and she replied “I dunno, wanna come with?”. I agreed within a heartbeat. But my dad said I had to figure out if I could be excused from my responsibilities, I received permission within a few hours. I’m very grateful that our family can finally go on a trip outside of Taiwan and Korea and I doubt that it will happen much after I graduate. Please pray over my parents as they empower to the mums and dads of Rome and Paris. I will be helping out in some other ways with a mini children’s finance learning camp. I pray that God can show me and teach me through tons of exploring around the cities. Gotta go cram some Italian and French.

Thanks for taking your time to read this update. Please do feel free to ask me any questions! I know your prayers and love are always covering me.

In His Love,

Amie

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Updates

(HNGRY2018) Update 2.0

31 Mar 2018

Dear Whichever Continent You Are On You Are Amazing,

It is day two of children’s ministry of our Hungary mission trip. Jet lag is a joke when
you play with hyperactive children for half a day. There has not been a night I crave sleep
as soon as we return to our lodgings. However, today is an exception so that I can write
you a few things I’m thankful for.

oneeeeee—we predicted there would be at least 600 children showing up. That
was most definitely a crazy overestimation but a very good one. I was just so ready for
bombardment of children but felt so reassured seeing that there was a reasonable
amount of children so we could fully and truly love on them.

twoooooo—the weather here is wonderful. I thought I would freeze knowing that
Taiwan and Hungary had immensely different temperatures but I’m really enjoying the
pre-spring chill of Eastern Europe.

threeeeee—I just see God in little and big things. I see Him giving me random
pictures and I just draw them out even if they don’t make sense. I re-realize the pure truth
in the saying “it is better to give than to receive”.

I apologize for the very brief and general update. Meanwhile, enjoy the picture of
the sunset I’ve just watched a few hours ago. Other photos show crafts time, face painting
time for children during village outdoor crusades, the little humans that I get to lead and
the seasoned humans that I have the privilege to work with.

Cannot wait to tell you more in detail what’s God is doing soon.

Love,
Amie

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(HNGRY2018) Update 1.0

24 Mar 2018*

Dear Lovely Warriors in Christ,

It is T-3 days till our team flies to Hungary. The last time I wrote you, I was conjuring up all my courage to tell my story and to raise funds. So here are some praise reports —

one, I have raised MORE THAN ENOUGH funds a week before the deadline. The overflow will go to my “future dream funds”. Thank you to those who have supported me financially;

two, my job of the trip will be children’s ministry. I am leading the crafts section. The most daunting part of this task is conjuring up something that will be doable with 600 children. Thank God for Pinterest and the team for being totally creative with ideas;

three, this is not as related to the trip but has a lot to do with my dream plans. A few days ago, I’ve been asked to be a part of TOTES & TEES’ events for Fashion Revolution and Upcycle Wednesday. TOTES & TEES is one of the few social enterprises in Taiwan that focuses on fair fashion, ethical trades, and design thinking. The founder, a friend of a friend, asked me if I would be interested in making beanies for them out of fabric yarn (cutting up t-shirts and unused fabric into strips to make yarn). I said OF COURSE. This will be an ongoing project for me to learn more about my crochet teaching abilities and to explore the realm of sustainable clothing;

four, I actually need to skip one class in order to go on this trip. That one class happened to be kind of an important one where the students have to peer review each other’s papers. Thankfully, my friend, being the TA figured out a way for me to make up for it. I call her “Your TA Highness” now.

It’s been few crazy months just preparing and following the steps that God has traced out for me. I’m just excited and happy to be going back “home”.

Now, photo show time!

This is our children’s ministry team (minus the teddy bears and the little girl). The whole missions team is actually composed of 80+ people. The non-children’s ministry teams will be doing home visitations throughout the Roma village.

The Hungarian pastoral team came to visit Taiwan before Lunar New Year. Each of the small groups within the missions team had a meal with them. We took them to a Tea restaurant. Catching up with them after two years got me even more excited for this trip.

Elim, my partner in creative crimes, and I hosted a mini crochet class fundraiser. We were supposed to have seven people show up but in the end, there was only one. But we still achieved our little goal of hosting a class together. I also got my ONE STUDENT really hooked on crocheting.

The two of us will also be in charge of prophetic arts throughout the trip. I enjoy working with this girl a lot. You can check her out here https://www.facebook.com/Groovetpe.

The 600 children crafts we’ll be doing will be done on a BIG SHEET OF FABRIC. I thought we would have to go over-budget when I realized my friend and I had kept the gargantuan piece of backdrop from our graduation production. With her blessing, I took it, trimmed it, sewed off the edges and ironed it.

This shows the process of creating fabric yarn and it’s beginning stages of crocheting. Can’t wait to share with you the final product of crafts at Hungary and also for TOTES & TEES’ Fashion Revolution.

aaaand lastly, since I keep mentioning our large craft, this is the idea we’re going for. Please believe with me as we calm down many rowdy kids. We definitely need prayers for our health and good synergy with the translators.

I will try to update you again real soon. Thanks for your prayers and support.

Love,

Amie Ko

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(HNGRY2018) Support Letter

4 Jan 2018

Dear You,

I want to share with you a big dream that God has placed in my heart. It has been a process and it is still just a little more than a dream and an idea. Please know that you receive this letter because I trust that you are willing to rejoice and believe with me through this journey that God is leading me into. You have made a handprint on my life and it would be my joy and honor if you could be a part of my crazy dream.

For this story to start, I would have to go back a bit. I loved to craft since I was little. My mum always had a tabletop covered with papers, glue, scissors, and paint. I would join her and we would create a little something for our home. I’ve never stopped crafting and art-ing around. It was my go-to activity for my free hours or school projects. I cannot imagine a world where I don’t craft.

Fast forward to high school. Having the bulk of my education in an International Christian school made me aware of many injustices around the world. There was also a special class called Missions exclusive to Juniors. I signed up and decided that I wanted to go to Japan—our team was going to be working with missionaries who were ministering at the spot of the big tsunami that happened 2011. Although I boldly signed up for the trip, it was also the most costly out of all the teams. Mum being the practical worrier complained and contacted all her ex-YWAM friends. Dad being the warrior dreamer cheered me on and called all of his contacts, too. I, on my part, crocheted beanies and weaved bracelets to sell to my friends and neighbors.

As I fundraised the crafting way, one of my friends, told me about this “super cool” NGO that helps women in Uganda by teaching them how to crochet. Then, these hand-crafted and signed apparels are sold all around the world. The best part? The money goes directly to the makers. This way, these women secure a job with a steady income that allows her to support her family. It wasn’t a I-will-feed-you organization but a let-creativity-empower-you movement. I was touched to hear about this wonderful organization and always remembered it in a corner of my heart.

Another fast forward to university days. I stayed in Taiwan while most of my friends headed off to study all around the globe. It was a bitter summer with some growing up to do. After a few months of searching to rid me of misery, I found a home at Bread of Life International, a church where I could be myself. After high school, I thought my mission trip days were over until I signed up for a trip to Hungary—our ministry involved building connections with a Roma community in Hungary. (Quick culture lesson: Gypsy is a racial slur, Roma or Romani is the proper word.) The Romas have been outcasts throughout history and are still segregated from the rest of Europe. I worked mostly with the children—playing games, teaching them Bible stories, and doing crafts. The way their eyes lit up every time they colored on paper, listened to a story, or won a game made my heart melt. I felt deep within that this community of brokenness would be soon redeemed by these children.

Here, is also where I meet my big brother, Danny. He works at the missions department of Bread of Life and pokes me every time there is an upcoming trip to Hungary. The second one took place two years after the first trip. Between this period, the Romani churches in Hungary has been seeing supernatural miracles one after the other. There was a Lazarus miracle of a baby coming back to life; a garden being filled with peppers, potatoes and tomatoes only a few days after being planted; and the government finally agreed to pave safe roads in the villages. The Roma communities have gone through many changes and I couldn’t wait to witness it.

The job descriptions for the second trip was very similar to the first one, however, Danny assigned me an extra task. He knew about my love for crafting and my little online shop, Koko’s Krafterie. He said he had an idea for me to develop—he wondered if I could start a little something by teaching crafts to the community in Hungary and have these products get sold in Taiwan (or anywhere for that matter) and have the money be a funding for them. My mind blew. I heard of organizations like this by for me to actually start one? What if this isn’t really my dream and I’m just piggybacking? Danny reassured me there was no need for me to decide right away and the second trip could just be a brainstorming session. With that comfort, we arrived to find a couple hundred children rushing into hug us. This time, we had more time to interact with the local pastors during meal times and home visitations. We even sat down to ask them if the crafting thing would ever be possible, they nodded a yes. It was a week of satisfying exhaustion and by the end I knew deep inside that I had to say yes to Danny’s wild plan.

It has been a year and a half since I’ve decided on a yes. There has not yet been much of a followback with me being a full-time student with two majors but I have been praying and researching whenever possible. Now, this will be my third time going and I am excited to say that I will get an opportunity to ask more questions to the local leaders about material research and to just build connections with them. To be honest, I feel overwhelmed with uncertainty but the Holy Spirit silences those lies and fears. I’ve also realized that God approves of things I love to do and has given me the freedom to be a crazy pioneer.

Saying yes to this trip would sound completely irrational to a normal person. I hear the world telling me things like: you should save money for years after university; what do you mean you don’t know what you’re going to do after university; you should just start small and get an office job; just go teach English—the list is pretty dull and long. The fact is, I know what I want to do after university, it’s just not an answer that I could explain to an Uber driver within five minutes.

Thank you for reading this far into this long letter, I promise I’m almost done. Writing this letter has taken a lot of vulnerability for me and I hope you can be a part of my dream building through a few practical acts.

First is through prayer. Please pray that God will connect me with the right resources and help me ask the right questions to the leaders in Hungary. Not only will I be searching for inspirations, but also be a part of the children’s ministry. We are expecting around 500 children and we just ask for the Holy Spirit to rain down on them as we play games, dance, and craft.

The second way is to just bombard me with connections. If you know anyone who works in NGOs like Krochet Kids International or any other empowerment type organizations, please hook me up. I need to be educated in every which way.

Lastly, is through financial support. This trip will cost 59,000NTD (2,000USD) which includes plane tickets, and the food and lodging while I’m there. The first installment of 36,200NTD is due January 17th, the rest is due February 28th. The trip will take place March 27th – April 6th. If there is anything I learned from being a missionary/pastor’s kid, is that God is always good and he is not afraid to ravish his love on me.

Finally, I want to appreciate you for taking time to chomp through this long letter and simply being a part of my life. I covet your prayers as I go on this trip and a season of transition.

With love,

Amie

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Trip #1 to Hungary

When I first heard the word Hungary I thought–oooh, Europe. But through the mission trip introduction I found out about the injustices inflicted upon the Roma people. The Romas are more known as Gypsies but I also found out that Gypsy is a derogatory term (like nigger for Black people). It hit me–pop culture has got it all wrong, romanticizing the “bohemian gypsy” style and making it a trend while ignoring the dark undertones.

Our team consisted of 8 people. Out of the 8, Ivana and I were in charge of the children’s ministry. We were going to have a productively fun time with the Roma children–or so I expected. With the conglomeration of experiences of rowdy uncontrollable kids in Manila, extremely shy kids in Japan, and wannabe rebellious preteens from tutoring, I figured that I could handle almost any kids in this world.

As we prepared, I have received blessings after blessings about angel armies and miracles. To say that I was excited was an undetstatement. I was ready but also very expectant–the switch for my adaptability skill was already cranked on to the highest notch.

Ivana and I planned for four days of lessons total. We had games, dances, music, English vocabs, crafts, drawing time, and story time–we thought we were loaded. We used up most of our ideas by the first day. According to our very tentative and flexible schedule, we were supposed to have children’s ministry in the evening while our team leader, Pastor Chang was preaching to a bigger crowd. Bigger crowd meant more kids to “babysit”.

But no, people were flooding in from the very first morning sessions and kids were running around the halls screaming and crying. Ivana and I had no choice but to gather up the wild monkeys and play games with them throughout the whole day.

The biggest difference between the Roma kids and the other kids I have worked with was that I could not speak their language. They also had very different concepts of hand signals and body language so I couldn’t even tell them to line up by motioning. I later found out that they actually didn’t really have the concept of lining up–the Taiwanese side of me laughed.

Even though communicating was excruciatingly difficult, the need for every child in a developing community seemed to be the same. They just needed a little attention: a hug, a squeeze in the hand, a gold star sticker, or just a high five.

It’s interesting to see how I go to a mission trip so willing to give but forget the fact that I am to receive beyond imagination. Whenever I work with children, God reminds me again and again of what a childlike heart is. He also reveals to me the differences between childlike and childish. Childlike means seeing the world with wide eyes, unconditionally seeking the greater fun, believing that you are worthy of a hug, and longing for exciting adventures even though you played hard till you were laughing on the floor silly the day before.

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The origins of my love for traveling and everything else

Attending an international Christian school from middle school meant that I grew up in an environment with a special set of worldviews. I’ve learned that the world is a small place and little actions can make a change.

We had Christmas projects each year to raise funds for causes like children in Uganda or orphanages in Taiwan. I remember having endlessly many bake sales and garage sales. The most hilarious fund raising I remember was where a few of my classmates pledged to go bald if people donated a certain amount by a certain time. They had a head shaving ceremony.

The swim team had an annual service trip to the Philippines to go help out at the children’s home while training in the sizzling sun of Manila. I was on the swim team the last two years of high school. I signed up for the Manila trip without much hesitation. The first year I was there, we dug out the foundation and mixed the cement to lay out the foundation for the future school building. The very next year, we saw a four story school building at the very same place. The local children could finally have proper schooling. My heart was full from seeing how much the place and the children grew within a year.

It would take me another 500 words to describe all the other miracles that I have seen and experienced throughout my trips. This is all to say that going on mission trips have somehow become a lifestyle.

However, being a missionary kid does not automatically make me a missionary, that has to be understood. Mission trips at the moment is still just a way for me to grow and learn more about the world that God so loves. Every trip is a growth spurt and answers to questions that God has been preparing for me to discover.

So even after high school and during my first year of university, I found my spiritual family in Bread of Life International. Guess what? They also had mission trips–to Hungary.