Meet Angela

This is part four of a four part series in which we want to connect you with the Aroma cafe staff that we’ve been working with over the summer. The reason we’re writing these blogs is because we want you, our family, to know who a little about who we’re working with here on the ground. It’s our hope that this will enable you to be more effective in prayer for the ministry we’re doing here! Thank you!

Justin and I have known Angela about as long as we’ve lived in Taipei. It’s was really fun and encouraging getting to know her even more this summer and I’m so excited to share her story with you!

One day after school, Angela went to her friend’s church for an event they were having. At this event, they were also having a meal. What middle schooler is going to turn down free food?!

Well, by the time they got there, the meal was done and the food was gone. Even still, the pastor’s wife bought them some food and offered to let them stay and hang out at the church. After some time, Angela started going to the church quite frequently to study and do homework after school.

Like many kids in middle school, Angela would sometimes disagree and fight with her parents. After one particular incident, Angela left her home and headed to the church. She was hoping to talk with the pastor’s wife, but she wasn’t there. Instead, Angela ended up spending time with her classmate’s mother. They spent time chatting, and she even taught Angela a worship song!

Angela told me it was in middle school that she started believing in God, but she laughed when she told me,

“But I didn’t know Him well.”

Like many Taiwanese high school students, Angela was BUSY! She didn’t have much time outside of school to explore her new faith, and she didn’t attend church.

When Angela started college, she needed a job. She had applied to a few places, but either didn’t hear back or the place didn’t have any openings at the time. One day when Angela was in Ximen, she found Aroma. She started chatting with the baristas a bit and decided to ask the manager (our friend, Miki, at the time!) if she could work there. She interviewed with Miki and was offered the job in about a week. Talk about perfect timing!

After a few months of working in the coffee shop, Angela started coming to church on Sundays. In 2014, she was baptized and dove head first into learning everything she could about what it means to be a Christian. She studied the Bible, joined small groups, and even joined the worship team (if you haven’t heard her sing yet, you should)!

Angela kept working in the cafe and remained a part of Aroma church until this summer when she moved to California.

Angela is currently doing a one year program at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. Going to BSSM was a difficult decision for Angela. Her parents weren’t totally on board, and didn’t understand why she wanted to leave Taiwan. Her parents aren’t Christians, and it was very hard to explain to them the reasons for her decision, but despite that, Angela kept her eyes on God and followed where He led. Even though they don’t fully get it, they love their daughter and her parents accept her decision.

I’m so excited to see what God does in and through Angela this year, and to see what He has next for her! If you think about it, please say a prayer for Angela right now:

  • Pray that she falls more and more in love with God during her time at Bethel.
  • Pray that she adjusts well to American culture and life in California.
  • Pray that she hears clearly from God on what’s next.
  • Pray for her family who are not Christians yet, and pray for their relationship to stay strong.

Angela is raising support for her rent and living expenses while in California; if you’d like to contribute, you can learn more here.

Miss the first three? Read part three here.

Hope (Counting Our Blessings)

The last six months our church has read through the Old Testament together. I’ve taken note of how often God reminds the Israelites of what He’s done for them and recently I’ve been encouraged to take a look at how God has blessed me and my family. God’s past faithfulness motivates my hope for the future. Thank the Lord for Jesus. In order to look back I want to count the blessings I’ve seen in our Aroma community the last eight months!

Since we returned to Taiwan in January we opened a new cafe. Aroma Dongyuan is doing well and they’re growing into their new community. It’s great to see and work with them to fulfill the felt needs of south Wanhua’s people. 

February was the start of my first real attempt at language learning. Everything up until that point had been sporadic and unorganized. My studies at the Mandarin training center were intense. Fifteen hours of class a week plus lots and lots of homework. 

March led to a chunk of my molar falling out. It freaked me out, but the local dentist did a stellar job. Brittany started a part time job teaching English at a kindergarten and Kennedy went back to school as well. 

April marked the official beginning of our journey with the Christian & Missionary Alliance as we were interviewed and conditionally accredited to work on a pastoral apprenticeship under Aroma’s founder, Chris O’Dell. 

May was full of new life as two couples we’d mentored were married and a young believer in our community was baptized. 

June began a crazy summer where Brittany and I were made responsible for the Aroma Ximen cafe since several leaders would be State-side for the summer. We jumped in as two staff members were leaving, of which the manager was one and two more were planning to leave later that summer. 

July had a couple trips to do video work for both the Taiwanese Alliance Church Union and the Chinese Alliance World Fellowship. One happened in Taiwan and the other in Thailand. Both were filled with encouraging experiences seeing how God is using our brothers and sisters around the world. 

August meant the end of our summer cafe experiment. As we reflected on the past three months we started to really take note of how we saw God working in our employees lives. We started writing these stories down. Then September hit.

Throughout that cafe experiment I mentioned, Brittany and I quickly realized that the business wasn’t where it needed to be. The cafe has been in Ximen for six years and in many ways we hadn’t fully matured into what we could be. We proposed an internal review to evaluate our problems and procedures and prayerfully find solutions that would further our ministry’s vision of helping others smell, become, and spread the Aroma of Christ.

This year Envision has sent seven short term teams who have been a part of our ministry. We’ve gained two new interns. We’ve baptized three individuals that I can think of off the top of my head. We’ve successfully read through the entire Old Testament with our church and Chris, myself, and others have preached through it as well. But we’ve also experienced some downs. Two of our good friends and colleagues moved back to the US early and rather unexpectedly. Our vision wasn’t communicated as clearly as it could have been and our Ximen manager left with little noticed which prompted the sink or swim situation for Brittany and I in the cafe. Our church remains in a community that is fairly transient. Two of our Taiwanese staff also moved on to new opportunities. Now in the last month I’ve found out that my grandmother has developed acute leukemia and my 80 year old grandfather has gone through emergency surgery to remove a gallstone that had eroded part of his gallbladder. It’s easy to feel like things are crashing down right now.

And yet… Jesus. His death and resurrection give us hope. Christian hope is a choice. It’s not based on some fluctuating facts. To quote my friends at the Bible Project, “Hope is based on us waiting for our God to bring a future that’s about as radical as a dead man coming back to life.”

We’ll continue to report back on what’s happening. On how the Aroma ministry is moving forward and how my family is doing as well. Until then though, we put our hope in Christ.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead 1 Peter 1:3

 

Tied

The National Football League has started up again and as the fall approaches I (Justin) once again have got myself excited for a great season. After having a great debut, the Minnesota Vikings took their game to the road against their long term rivals, the Green Bay Packers.

Last year, the Vikings made it to the semi-finals. They were one of the teams to beat with a defense like none other. So, us fans went into this game with great optimism, despite having to face up against a good team and a quarterback legend.

I won’t lie to you… it was a tough game to watch. It felt like each team was doing their best to lose. Yet, in the fourth quarter, the Vikings quarterback led several a triumphant march down the field to tie up the game. It was glorious! This is what Vikings fans had been waiting to see! The game went into overtime and I was pretty positive Minnesota would be able to pull off a W.

After an additional ten minutes of play, no one had scored. The game would end in a tie. No one would win. 28 – 28

But Justin, no one lost either! 

Yeah, well… A tie doesn’t mean you’ve won either. Kirk Cousins, Vikings quarterback, said in a post game press conference, “I don’t know how to feel right now.”


I tell you that story to illustrate what the beginning of September felt like for Brittany, myself, and the Aroma ministry here in Taiwan.

After taking over the cafe for the summer, we learned the in’s and out’s and went to work. It was hard work, but it felt good to not only be doing something different from our normal ‘behind-the-scenes’ roles, but also to be helping sustain the ministry until the end of the summer when we would step back to re-evaluate. I love making coffee for people! I greatly enjoyed leading our local team to work hard and push each other to grow in more than just being great employees.

Yet when our time serving as managers had ended we felt like not much had been won. The cafe had stayed open, we had played a role in changing the internal culture of the cafe staff, but our bottom line, creating long lasting sustainable kingdom impact, was not where we felt it should be.

So we shut the cafe down for a month.

It wasn’t just my (Justin) decision, but we talked with leadership and they agreed. It might not be a best business practice, but we know that God has more in-store for this ministry.

I imagine Kirk Cousins and I felt similar feelings. Finding joy in things the world tells you are not ideal can be hard. It can feel daunting. As I write this blog we are three weeks into our four week review. We’ve talked a lot internally. I’m excited for where God is taking us regardless of what it looks like. Thank the Lord our hope is not reliant on W‘s, nor is it reliant on our own understanding. Our hope is in the Lord.

We, at the Aroma, know that what we’ve been doing in the cafe and church has had impact. We know that God has worked through us here in Ximen (西門). However, we’re not currently firing on all cylinders and so we’re checking the engine, while we ask God what’s next. How can we stay ahead of the curve instead of fall behind. We can’t wait to see where God will take us… so stay tuned and Brittany and I will keep you up to date.

Please pray that we’ll listen well to what the Lord is saying to us. Pray that we’ll be open to change and that as a team we will rally around what Holy Spirit places on our leaders hearts!