Thursday, July 30, 2009

Asking for money

For the past five and a half years, we've lived on full time support. Meaning, we haven't had an employer paying us to do the work we did in China, but have had family and those in the Church family provide us our living expenses. Living on support is a delicate way of life. Let's face it, it's just awkward to ask people for money. Despite all the good and valid reasons we have of choosing the lifestyle of living on support, in the end, it is still uncomfortable. We'd like to feel independent, and feel like we can spend the money that we "earned" with our sweat and blood.

Of course, if we were in the reverse situation of thinking of supporting those who are working in non profit sectors or ministry, it's a totally different story. We delight in helping others and would wish they wouldn't feel awkward asking us at all.

While I was in China, I was asked by a brother in the Lord to help him raise money for an effort to train other locals in ministry. I came back and it took me a long time to sit in front of the computer and ask people. Why? I guess I just felt like I was ready for a break from asking for money. Finally, I sent out some emails to some of our faithful financial supporters, and was overwhelmed by their generous response.

There are so many needs, so many wonderful people who are doing amazing work out in the field. And there are many who are willing to give. Sometimes all you have to do is ask.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Are you always looking forward to something?

I am. I'm one of those people who really need to learn to live in the moment because I am almost always looking forward to the next exciting thing/event/people/food.

Good news: we received our visa in the mail!! Unbelievable considering the long drawn out process (see previous post), and so very thankful to the Lord for giving us favor. We were hoping to receive it in time for us to return on our flight booked at August 10th. And since we received it way ahead of time, we got greedy and tried to change our flight to a few days earlier so we can get home. Few emails to the travel agent, few phone calls to the airlines, and we just kept running into walls, so finally we gave up.

But I'm bummed. Not that I'm not enjoying our time here in the U.S., but we are ready to start our new lives in Taiwan and six weeks is a long time to just "vacation" here in Colorado. I'm eager to get back to start job hunting, figure out a preschool for Hayden, and go furniture shopping for our new home.

I guess I need to just stay put for a couple more weeks and just live in the moment.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I don't need Jesus to be my "personal" Savior

I love to worship. One of the things I missed the most in our years in China is opportunities for great worship experiences. (Especially coming from Wheaton, where we were so privileged to have been led by extraordinary Christian artists and gifted worship leaders in amazing worship experiences.) But recently (well, actually for the past several years), I've started having to change the lyrics to many common praise/worship songs in my mind as we sing them. This morning at church, for example, we sang these lyrics,

"Amazing love, how can it be? That you my King would die for me."


"...altogether wonderful to me."


"I have come to say that You're my God."

I just have a hard time singing these kinds of praises because my King didn't die for ME, He died for US. He's not wonderful to ME, He's wonderful to US. And God is certainly not MY God, but OUR God. One of the gifts of having grown up in Chinese culture, and having lived in it for the past years, is that it has revealed the individualistic aspect of the Western version of Christianity. In the West, the gospel is that Jesus can become each individual person's "personal" Savior, and that one's faith is predominantly about one's "personal" relationship with Christ. It seems to me our faith cannot become isolated to an individual faith, it simply isn't practical. We all know we need community and each other to survive and thrive, why is it the faith community continues to encourage this individual focus?

I recently read in N.T. Wright's "Surprised by Hope", and in it he suggests that just as the Israelites misunderstood God, thinking He wanted to save Israel for the sake of Israel, instead God meant to save Israel in order to save the Gentiles; in the same way, today's Christians perhaps has misunderstood that Jesus isn't saving individuals for the sake of each person, but through us to bring in His Kingdom here on earth.

I think for some people, it is mind-blowing to feel the love that the God of the Universe would care and love and save little tiny me. But isn't it even more mind-blowing that He came to earth, died, and rose again, to save the entire world, and THEN, through us as a faith community, to participate in bringing in His Kingdom? I really don't need Jesus to be my "personal" Savior, I need Him to be the Savior of all, and I need Him to use me in the church, to serve in His Kingdom.

So if I could just change those lyrics...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Road to a Visa in Taiwan

When we decided to move to Taiwan, we needed to figure out a way for Jason and the kids, all of whom are U.S. citizens to legally reside in Taiwan. Now let me dispel a very common myth here: just because you are married to someone of another citizenship does NOT mean you can automatically legally stay in that country! It does, however, mean that you are qualified to apply for some sort of visa. Thus begins our road to applying for a residence visa for the family, enabling the U.S. citizens in our family to stay for at least one year with a fairly easy renewal process beyond that.

The paperwork we needed were as follows:
1) application form (easy)
2) two pictures (easy)
3) our marriage certificate, which needed to be a NOTARIZED copy, TRANSLATED into Chinese, and AUTHENTICATED by the Taiwan embassy in jurisdiction of Colorado where we were married. (which was in Kansas City)
4) the children's birth certificate, same deal, NOTARIZED, TRANSLATED, and AUTHENTICATED in the area where they were born. This presented complications for us because our daughter Lizzy was born in Los Angeles, and Hayden was born in Beijing, China. This meant we needed to send the appropriate paperwork to the Los Angeles office for Lizzy's BC, which was not too bad, but Hayden's BC needed to be notarized in Beijing, and then taken to a Cross Straight Council in Taiwan, to be authenticated.
5) Jason's criminal record. This proved to be stressful as in order to apply for a clean bill of criminal record from the FBI, we needed for Jason to get fingerprinted. At this time, (April 09) we were living in Tianjin, and the U.S. embassy in Beijing would not help us get fingerprints. So, I went out to the local grocery store and bought ourselves a black inkpad (not as easy as you'd think because in China, the stamp/chop colors that made anything official was of course RED). Jason spent an entire afternoon trying to get all ten of his fingers rolled in prints, his two thumbs, and two sets of four fingers. It was SUCH a shot in the dark when we mailed that fingerprint card in because we clearly had NO IDEA what we were doing. Off it went in the mail to FBI and three weeks later, we received a clean criminal record for Jason. Whew! This of course, also had to be AUTHENTICATED by the Taiwan embassy in the area jurisdiction of the FBI, which was in Washington D.C.
6) Household Registration - going into the household registration office in Taiwan to add Jason's official Chinese name and to add him into MY registration, which required us to have #3, authenticated marriage certificate.
7) Health examinations for Jason and Lizzy (Hayden is fortunately exempt because it is only for children 6 and under). This was another trying day as we found out they needed to test their stool samples, and no, we could not take it home and wait until my six year old (and husband) were ready to do their business, it had to be RIGHT THERE in the clinic. Lizzy had already gone that very morning so I knew the chances of her producing some samples were slim. I timidly approach the kind nurse at the counter, "Excuse me, miss, what if my daughter can't go?" "Don't worry, we can give her an enema." For those who might not know what an enema is: it involves inserting a bulb syringe up the opening through which one's stool is produced, and administering a liquid medicine through the syringe, which will result in the desire in most people to "do their business". Okay, you can imagine it was a difficult morning, but Lizzy was amazing and even got her blood taken without putting up too much of a fuss.

Six months later, mail sent back and forth between China and Washington DC, and Colorado, and Los Angeles, and Kansas City, and trip to Beijing and Taiwan and finally back in the U.S. We finally have all our documents ready to send it in. The processing time is one month, but we paid extra 50% to have it expedited. I prayed really hard at the Fed Ex office when I sent it in, because if something was wrong with the application, I might just go insane.

Will keep people posted when we get that hard-earned visa in our passports.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Missing China

I'm a bit emotional at the moment as I have just written our last newsletter (for those who are interested in how we tag team as a couple, I write the newsletters, and Jason edits, puts up pictures, formats, and sends them out), to be sent out soon. Oh boy, it's just an end of an era, to think we had been living/serving in China for five and a half years. I honestly don't think we have even begun to process it, things have been too crazy busy! I miss different things about China at different times. Right now, our ayi is on my heart. Just try to imagine being a part of a family, she made lunch for us every day for three years, taking care of Hayden from birth (she was the only non parent that Hayden allowed to hold him when he was a baby), and then having them leave your country and go where you cannot go. As much as we miss her (and her delicious food), I'm worried about how she's dealing with losing us.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pilot Post

I'm so excited to start this new blog. I had been managing another blog that was mainly for the purpose of posting pictures of the kids. Then I decided pictures are a lot easier to upload on facebook than on blogger so I kinda stopped blogging. Besides, the title of that one is "Brandt kids in Tianjin", and we're not living in Tianjin anymore. Time for a fresh "beginning". Family/friends, I really hope this will be an effective way of keeping in touch with all of you. We've lived in many places and alongside the joys of getting to know the people on our globetrotting adventures comes the pain of leaving and the holes you leave in our hearts. Thank God for internet! Keep in touch, friends!