Monday, March 7, 2022

Worthy Experiences in Taiwan

Many are the plans in the mind of a man but it is God’s plan that will stand. I believe that a person may plan his or her own journey and God will direct his or her steps. In August 2020, I was supposed to depart for Taiwan to study Chinese language and culture. Throughout the pandemic, many countries including Taiwan put place in new requirements for entry and travel restrictions could change very quickly. I was informed that non-degree students were allowed to depart for Taiwan in September 2021, but I chose to depart in November and joined the winter class.


I felt so blessed that I was offered to stay at the Initiatives of Change (IofC) guest room during my stay in Taiwan. My heart feels overwhelmed with their warm love, care and support. From the moment of my arrival to this time, I was treated like I was a part of their family. Apart from my study, I could stay connected with the IofC family in Taiwan and joined some of their activities; such as bazaar, youth meetings, and outreach to a community centre. The IofC friends in Taiwan have also been great support for me to learn Chinese language and culture. I enjoy studying together with the students at the office and having meals together. I feel like this is my home!

I believe that everything happens under God’s plan. Things happen for a reason, even if that reason is unknown to me at the time. I lost my beloved dad in January. Like every other morning I didn’t check messages on my mobile phone right after waking up. I missed many messages and calls and it looked like a bomb of notifications had exploded.

Now, I am trying my best to be kind to my heart, it has been broken and will take time to heal. It might take some time before I am fully recovered. I felt so grateful that I had spent ten-wonderful months with my father before departing to Taiwan, not knowing that it was going to be my last remaining moments to spend time with him. I am also grateful with the healing that took place in the relationship with my dad. We forgave one another and that really restored my love for him and is one of the reasons I can feel more peaceful now while I am away. With God’s grace and support from family and friends, I could live my life peacefully. I thank God for giving me a dad who loved and cared for me. The greatest gift my father gave me was that he trusted me. I am deeply broken-hearted without my dad, but I know that I don’t lose God’s love and neither does he. His work is finished and he can finally rest in the Lord’s love. 

Life goes on even during hardships. It’s never easy to cope with the death of a loved one, especially while I am far away from my family and have had to deal with my mid-term exams. I learned to remain peaceful in every situation. As a scholarship recipient, I must obtain scores of 80% and above, every month. With great support and help from the IofC friends, I have passed the exams well and have made lots of friends to practice my Chinese language with, on a daily basis. When everyone around is chatting in their native tongue, it has made it so easy to get involved and spend every day surrounded by it. It was such a delight to be accompanied by this loving team. My heartfelt thanks to the IofC team in Taiwan; Oufang, Shoufeng, Shufen, Flora, Yuting, Weichun, Jennifer, Albert, Coco and other friends, whom I can’t mention all of.

I was also glad to invite my classmates to the IofC office where they got a chance to interact with IofC friends. We also practiced speaking Chinese language with some students while the students practiced speaking English.

With these recent life challenges, I chose to step outside of my normal routines to take a self-care break and figure out my next steps. God’s timing is always perfect. After 7 exams in a week, I attended a youth camp organized by Hsiao Yun, from the EQ association, which is also a part of the IofC network. I have attended several youth camps and each camp is unique and inspiring in its own way. The sessions were well-designed and included physical, social and leisure sessions. My favourite part of the camp was when we connected our personal reflections to the wider world. It has also been great to reconnect with a friend whom I hadn’t talked with in years! We met during the Asia Pacific Youth Conference (APYC) in Japan, in 2012. It was great to mingle with new friends as well as practice speaking Chinese with the participants.

After the camp, I stayed for two nights with Hsiao Yun’s family and I had wonderful time with her parents Renjou and Grace Liu. I was also joined by another Indonesian friend Ami, who also attended the camp and is currently studying in Taipei. I felt glad to visit their home again after my first visit to Taiwan in 2017, during the Asia Pacific Regional Gathering (APRG). I have benefited greatly from their wisdom, especially concerning my family life.

It has been a worthy experience staying in Taiwan. Learning the Chinese language will not only benefit me, but also my community. As a global family, each of us plays a role to bring love, care and fellowship no matter where we are. Everyone has their own role in the society and this could benefit the wider world. We should understand our own rights, roles and responsibilities.

I will continue my journey in Taiwan up until June, and pray that God’s divine strength keeps me all the days of my life. I keep trust in God’s plan with all of my heart, and lean not on my own understanding, but believe that God will make my paths straight.


Yofrina Octika Gultom 谷幽蘭