the anniversary effect

It still feels like summer.

 

I’m walking down Marine at Balboa Island, savoring new flavors with old friends. Frozen bananas with other confused postgrads.

It is October, but it still feels like summer.

A new season, but still tinged with things of the past. The air is light and brisk, filled with small talks and old inside jokes.

Spirits are merry and things feel almost “just right”,
when all of the sudden, a small party of pigeons flies out of nowhere and swooshes right in front of our party of friends.

I freeze in my steps.
The muscles in my body clench, and my heart races, as if trying to outrun danger.

Time glitches, and for that moment, 2 seconds become 2 minutes, 2 minutes become 8,261 miles, and now, the pigeons are already long gone.

What.

“Hey catch up, dude! We’re gonna check out this shop!”

My head snaps back to the present, and I realize that I am alone,
standing in the middle of the sidewalk.

It still feels like summer.

We are standing outside the shop, the small talk and inside jokes continue, but all I can think about are pigeons.

I thought things like this only happened in movies.

“I need to go.”
Take my mind off things.

I get to my friend’s apartment. It’s been almost a year since the last time I stayed the night here. I turn on Netflix and pick my poison – Stranger Things Season 2, which, while we’re on the topic of trauma victims, couldn’t have been more fitting.

Episode 3 or 4 finishes – I’m all Netflix-drunk now and headed for the bathroom. My friend is already asleep so I sneak out with toothbrush in hand.

I open the bathroom door, turn on the lights, and it happens again.

I freeze.

My momentum dies completely, like a car running through caltrops. My left hand tenses up, my heart races to outrun danger, and two seconds feels like two minutes, because the earth just stopped spinning.

It’s only two seconds,
but time is glitching and I’m sucked deep into a memory I’ve thought a lot about, but not in a long time,
when I was staring down at the same white sink bowl, but it was filled with a pool of my own blood,
draining dark red from a finger I almost cut off by accident,
draining colors from my vision and looking at my fading reflection before everything got quiet and dark,
and i wake up next to a car escorting me to the hospital.

Another second passes,
and memory becomes feelings instead of visuals,
and the feeling of the times was sickening to the point where I wanted to cut myself again and create another little “accident”,
because I was alive but life was draining and draining away from me
and everything in life had lost its colors,
except maybe dark red.

Another second passes,
and the sink is empty now. My finger is still attached.

Time resumes at its ordinary tempo,
but now I am brushing my teeth
very, very slowly.

I thought that stuff like this only happens in movies, but now I’m not so sure, so I google away and find some theories and best guesses, which is basically all what the study of psychology is anyways. I have my own suspicions, which PsychologyToday – and even Teen Vogue – more or less confirms, so I decide, “Okay, maybe this is a thing.”

It just might make sense.

It just might make sense of why earlier today, I was hanging out with friends when a flock of pigeons glitched me back in time –

and all of the sudden, I’m thinking about street vendors, and honking tuk tuks,
walking the busy streets of Bangkok, tasting familiar flavors with new friends,
the air is thick with humidity, small talk, and future inside jokes,
and a new friend grasps onto my arm when pigeons fly by because she has a paralyzing fear of birds.

Another second passed,
and the memory became emotion instead of visuals, and the feeling of the times was sickening to the point where
I wanted to throw up from street food poisoning and an abusive relationship I felt trapped in,
and my will to live was draining and draining away from me,
like dark red funneling into a whirlpool down a white sink bowl.

Another second passed,
and my friends are telling me to catch up,
but I cannot because for the rest of the day, my mind is stuck in a memory, thinking about pigeons.

It just might make some sense of why,
it’s already October but it still feels like summer.

I’m brushing my teeth slowly and thinking about how pigeons, bathroom sink bowls, and a character in Stranger Things I can very loosely relate to all acted as triggers within a span of the last 24 hours, and I think I get it now.

It’s about that time of the year.

now you see Him, now you don’t

the way that God works is mysterious.  and strange.  and hidden.  i don’t think many of us understand it most of the time so a lot of times, we don’t see it.  other times, our eyes are just not tuned to the spiritual work of God so we seldom notice Him.  our eyes are tuned to see other things that we deem as “important”, such as our facebook profiles, our reputations, the number of stars at the restaurant we’re eating at, our annual salaries, the college we go to, our gpa’s, etc.  i’m not saying that these things aren’t “important” or “good” but it is often these things that blind us from the work of the Lord.  in fact, God usually has to take these things away from us [often forcibly] in order to get our attention.

over the past two weeks, God sent me on a mission trip with 15-ish other crazy taiwanese dumplings to the city of Hualien in Taiwan, our homeland.  objective of the mission: none other than to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.  in a land where over 90% of its people don’t know Christ.  we must go.  the call is urgent.  the people need Christ.  mission accepted.  Jesus, I am in!

but how?!  how do we proclaim Your name to these kids and their families?  of course we could always go to their homes and shout “JESUS CHRIST” in their faces, but that might not work.  can’t take that too literally.  we need some sort of.. “vehicle”.  something that will allow us to reach their hearts.  we must first tend to their physical hunger, in order to reach the needs of their spiritual hunger.  what do the people want/need?  english.  many of the families want their children to learn some english.  so we’ll give that to them!  and at the same time, we give them Christ.  more of showing than giving, but yeah.  and so for two weeks, we taught english to around 85 kids at the donghong church, hoping and praying to God that these precious kids would come to Christ.  that was our mission trip.  the end.

a lot of people would conclude their reevaluations of a mission trip abruptly, like such^.  “oh, the mission trip was good and stuff, we had a lot of fun.  kinda tiring.  but like, it was good”.  hearing that makes me sad.  not only does it make me feel like you don’t wanna talk to me, but it also shows that you were unaware of all the work that God has been doing.  “seriously?!  nothing to share all??  there has to be at least one testimony…?  okay fine :(”

in my opinion, there should be tons and tons of testimonies to share on each individual mission trip. [btw, testimonies aren’t limited to just stories of salvation; they can be about anything that the Lord has been doing in your life].  why?  because God is always working.  to reiterate, the way that God works is mysterious and hidden.  if you can’t think of anything that God has been doing on your past mission trip, search harder.  over the past mission trip in hualien, i think God has really helped me shed my “worldly glasses” [as i like to call them] and open my eyes to see His marvelous works.  it was as if i was blind to a whole separate dimension and God just revealed the 3D world to me.  was blind, but now, i see.  it’s mindblowing.  eye-opening.  i can now see the invisible and mighty working hand of God, molding hearts, transforming lives, and even moving typhoons.  i can’t see all of it but i am so certain that His hand is there; i just know it.  there’s evidence everywhere!!

  1. changed hearts and changed lives – hearing from last year’s missionaries, there were supposedly only around three local TA’s.  very small youth fellowship.  this year, there were over fifteen.  i know that still doesn’t sound very impressive but the amount of growth that their ministry has gone through over the past year cannot be underestimated.  some of the TA’s have only been attending this church for six months!  and hearing from their stories, they went through dramatic change in just that short amount of time.  some of them were [i quote] “mean”, “scary” and “gangster”and yet, i didn’t see any of that.  i saw a loving and mature christian with a good heart.  it’s hard to believe that they went through so much change in six months.  and there was the hand of Yahweh.
  2. numbers don’t matter – on saturdays, the donghong church has a youth fellowship that welcomes anyone from middle school to college who wishes to commune with other believers and God.  this is similar to the “Friday Night Fellowship” that we do at East Valley, except with maybe less than a third of the people.  i’m pretty sure our EV team made up almost half of their attendance that day.  we could all fit within the first row of pews.  and somehow, i was still blown away.  not because of their attendance, but their passion.  their numbers were so few, yet their spirits were so strong.  when they played games, they were so excited and enthusiastic; when they fellowshipped, they were overflowing with joy; and when they sang…   wow.  i still don’t understand how they sang so loudly with so few people.  it wasn’t so much the skill of their singing [though they are good], but more of the heart behind it.  when they worshipped God, you could really tell that they were worshipping God.  they were passionate, bold, and unashamed.  it was so beautiful.  i couldn’t even understand the words to the songs [they sang in Chinese] and i still wanted to cry!  and there was the hand of Yahweh.
  3.  fruit – during our trip, we also spent our afternoons and nights visiting the families of the children who attended our english bible camp.  our goal was to be salt and light to their households, make a lasting [good] impression on both the kids and the parents, and ultimately, invite them to become church members at donghong.  most of our visitations were very successful; the families were mostly open to the idea of allowing their children to participate in church activities.  a couple of families even told us they would send their children to sunday school every week!  the sunday right after our team left hualien, there were already new kids.  and there was the hand of Yahweh.
  4.  coincidence?  i think not – God?  i think so.  july19th was our second and final day of english bible camp; we were already packed up and ready to leave hualien that afternoon.  we traveled by train and 2-3 hours later, we were back at the Taipei Main Station.  we all passed through the gate and showed our tickets.  well, all except one.  one of our team members somehow lost his ticket, causing us to wait for 5-10 minutes as he searched his bags and pockets.  thankfully, our team captain had a receipt of all the tickets so we didn’t have to abandon him but as we were about to leave, another group of 10+ asians speaking english passed by us.  i didn’t know who they were but they randomly stopped to ask me if we were a mission team.  it turns out that they were also a mission team from irvine, ca [not too far from us] sent to hualien for a mission trip for two weeks and they came back on the same train as us.  whoa!!  what the crazy.  now that i think about it, if our team member hadn’t lost his ticket, we probably wouldn’t have ever bumped into them.  fast forward 3 days.  me, my brother, and another church friend [J] were flying back to LAX; i kept trying to see if there was anybody on the plane that i knew.  but no dice.  as we were passing through immigration, J was telling us about the person who was sitting next to her; he was a caucasian male who was a missionary that was sent to taipei to learn chinese and spread the gospel.  and he just so happened to end up in the seat next to J and wanted to share with her.  whoa!!!  what the crazy.  if that wasn’t enough to swallow, it turns out that there was in fact somebody that i knew on the plane: my old small group leader that i met at a church winter retreat two years ago!  he also was sent on a mission to taiwan to spread the gospel with a team of 14-ish people.  WHOA. WHAT THE CRAZY.  what is going on.  from these different observations, i think i finally began to realize that God truly is working in Taiwan.  through this trip, i’ve learn to pray some prettyy bold and extreme prayers, one of them being the salvation of the entire city of hualien.  i prayed that hualien would become a beacon of light for the rest of Taiwan and soon, the whole country would know Jesus.  and throughout the course of these seemingly disconnected events, i think God was trying to tell me that He really was there.  right there in Taiwan.  doing His work.  doing His thang.  He gave me this assurance that..   that He was, in fact, answering my prayer.  of course, Taiwan won’t become christian overnight but i could see that God was doing His work.  werk it.  and from that moment on, i felt more at peace.  coincidence?  i think not.  God?  i think so.  and there was the hand of Yahweh.
  5. go away and never come back – i really don’t know about this one but i’d like to think that the typhoon was His doing.  originally, there was supposed to a severe typhoon hitting hualien on the first weekend but the typhoon shifted direction and went up north to Taipei.  had the storm hit us, we would have had to cancel one day of english bible camp, and that, in my opinion, would have made a big difference.  but instead, there was no storm, only a light drizzle.  and there was the hand of Yahweh?

these are only a few of the dozens of things that showed God’s work; i assure you that there are many many more.  there is a certain Jana Alayra song [woot] that goes “come and see what God has done, all the wonders under the sun..”;  we sang this many times during singspiration in those two weeks.  every time we sing it,  i am reminded of all these things..  the changed lives, the new church members, the “coincidences”, everything.  and it always blows my mind to think about it.  God’s fingerprints really are everywhere, we just have to open our eyes to see them.  perhaps it isn’t because these things are hidden, but more so the fact that we are blind, that we fail to acknowledge God.  perhaps we rely too much on the eyeballs of our face, rather than the eyeballs of our hearts.  next time you go on a mission trip, pray to God that you would be able to see things beyond a worldly perspective and i assure you that your trip will become so much more meaningful.  and bring it back home with you, too!  don’t just leave your spiritual glasses in the mission field.  don’t forget that you are always on a mission, whether you’re in taiwan, or back at home.

as i have learned to appreciate the invisible, yet awe-inspiring works of God, i have also consequently learned to worship that same God on an even deeper and more profound level than ever before.

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”  – C. S. Lewis