Introducing Hailee!

Please join us in welcoming

Hailee Hunt Siemens

On the eve of October 26th, Justin and Brittany jumped in a taxi and rode to their doctor’s hospital. It was there that Hailee Hunt Siemens was born. Saturday, October 26th at 5:28AM. She weighed in at 7.1 pounds and 19.5 inches.

Since then, Brittany has been recovering well, Justin is relearning the fastest way to change a diaper, and Kennedy is loving every chance she gets to be a big sister! We are extremely grateful and can’t wait to bring her back to the USA to show her off during our upcoming furlough. For now though, she is being showered with love by our Aroma family here in Taiwan! 

New Change, New Season

Many of you know of the big change happening to our family next month (October)… Baby #2 is on her way and we are extremely excited! We appreciate the many prayers and thoughts you all have shared with us as we get ready to welcome our new daughter. It will be a big change though, as we’ve been doing life as a three piece for almost seven years. However, this is a change we prayed for and willingly take on.

Often with change arrives a new season as well. Trees change color as fall arrives, and as pumpkin spice lattes are put up on menus, a new season of sweaters emerge. You get the picture, right?

From December 2019 through May 2020 we will be back in the USA on furlough.

This furlough season falls in line with our two year commitment that we will complete come December, and so we hope to visit many of you. We wish to spend time encouraging one another, while telling stories of what God is doing here in Taipei. Part of what makes furlough refreshing is spending time with you, our friends who love us so well. If it’s been a while since we’ve seen you, will you please send us a message so we can see you when we’re in town! (See the graphic at the bottom of this post to find out when we’ll be where!)

Additionally we will also spend some time fundraising and preparing to return to Taiwan to further the Aroma’s ministry as well as complete Justin’s missionary apprenticeship under Chris O’Dell.

Finally, we will spend time resting. Most of the missionaries here in Taipei spend 21 months on the field, and three months off. However, we’ve been encouraged to spend a little extra time with family and each other. December brings the holiday season as well as a family wedding we will attend. We also look forward to spending some quality time with Brittany’s family as well as Justin’s who will be home from their mission field as well (Cyprus).

We are grateful for this opportunity and are looking forward to reconnecting with old friends, introducing you to our newest addition, and having time to step back and recount what the Lord has done.

I will ponder all your work,

and meditate on your mighty deeds.

Psalm 77:12

Check out the graphic below to find out where we’ll be and when we’ll be there!

One house, many blessings

One of my last blog posts was titled “One house, many’s home.” In it I talked about some of the things that come with opening up your home to others. It’s not always easy, but it comes with many blessings. (The photo above features a dinner we were able to have in our home. Not everyone in Taipei has a home that can host so many people at once!)

Recently we tried to move out of our home, and even then we were blessed. Here’s the story:

Since moving to Taiwan, we have been blessed to be able to live in the same apartment. We’ve been here for over four years now. After our first two year lease, our landlord graciously extended us another two year lease at the same rate, despite her property having gained value and her most likely being able to get more money if we moved out.

During those four years we were able to host many small groups, short term team dinners, baby showers, wedding showers, and a whole bunch of short term and long term Envision interns. It even allowed us to extend an extra bed in times when some of our Taiwanese friends needed a place to stay. One house, many blessings.

However, with our six month furlough coming up and no roommates to help pay the rent, we knew staying in our current home would not be a wise financial choice. Because of this, we’d need to move. Our lease ended on September 1st and we weren’t scheduled to go back to the USA until December 3rd. We weren’t sure what to do…

What happened next was several weeks of stress, anxiety, and more worry than I’d care to admit I let into my heart. I know full well that God provides. If only we seek first His kingdom. (Matt. 6:33) His plans are good and so worry and fear are not something we need to allow into our lives, because Jesus is our hope. (Jer. 29:11) Yet, in that moment our options and time crunch felt like too much to bear.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jer. 29:11)

Brittany and I took to the internet to search several Facebook groups and local websites for apartment listings near us. We even visited a home not too far away from where we now live… still, nothing seemed like the right answer.

Days before our lease was to expire, as Brittany and I sat in Aroma Ximen’s cafe, we had a thought, “What if we ask our landlord to let us stay in our place for the next three months without signing a new lease?” Maybe? It’d make our budget pretty tight since we don’t have any roommates. It’d mean we’d have to pack up everything right before we fly out for the States. We wouldn’t have a house to put our things in while we’re gone either… Do we rent a room somewhere and put all of our things in it while we’re gone? The wave of questions and more worries flooded my mind.

Meanwhile, I began to write up a “Looking For” post on a local Facebook group. I’d asked my friend Steven to correct some of my Chinese. Steven walked up to me and confirmed some details of what exactly I was trying to say in my post and I suddenly asked him.Steven, do you know of any storage units in Taipei City?” He replied, “Yeah, my friend actually works for a storage unit company.” And just like that, what seemed like an impossible flood of worries quickly washed away. God had already planned this. He orchestrated everything.

Steven showed me the company’s website; a much more financially sound choice, rather than renting an apartment we wouldn’t be living in for six months out of the next year. Only one more piece of the puzzle was needed; Where do we stay until December? It seemed pretty simple in that moment. “Let’s just call our landlord. It can’t hurt to just ask.” Her response, “當然!” (Of course!) She agreed to let us continue to stay in our home until we plan to leave in December; an extra three months, lease free.

That day, the Lord provided. He had a plan and it was good. While all my ideas were failing, His prevailed. Whether Steven ever really understands how relieving his reply was, or if our landlord considers how much this meant to us… God continues to use people in our lives to extend His grace and mercy. What a blessing…

One house, many’s home.

Our house has always been home to many. During our time in Taiwan we’ve called a lot of people family. One group of people that this title is placed on are the awesome interns that come through our organization, Envision. Four years, and thirteen interns later… goodbyes can still be tough! (See Kennedy’s face in the picture above?) Our dear sister, Laura (Who’s also featured in the picture with us above.), has lived with us for the last year and now she’s heading home. We get to say, “until next time” to her as well as our new(er) sister, Lindsey, who’s been staying with us for two months.

You learn a lot by opening your home up to people. The do’s and don’ts. What’s really necessary and what can wait. Regardless of their age, culture, or citizenship and especially regardless of whether or not they stay for long here are a few things I’ve learned about bringing people into your home…

Opening your home means sacrificing your stuff and money.
Whether they scratch up and completely ruin your favorite pan or you have to invest in a really good plunger because your new roommate is having bowel trouble. You’re going to have to pony up to host well.

Opening your home means making room for new family.
These new roommates might only be home once every day right before you’re going to bed. (This was me in high school.) Or they might just be around all too often. Either way; we treat them like family and we open up the time we are together to spend with them, too. Cry sessions on the couch. Watching movies on a raining weekend afternoon. You’ve gotta’ make that space to be family.

Opening your home means doing ministry together.
A family that doesn’t do ministry together is in trouble. After all, as Christian’s we’re called to go out and make disciples. What better way to demonstrate Christ’s family than to take them with you when you leave your home. Sometimes that’s really difficult. The more people the harder scheduling becomes… but it’s so worth it!

Pet peeves are a small chance to extend great graces.
When we first started bringing people into our home I remember going over pet peeves together. I did this in an effort to be “considerate” to each other; however my intention was always to let my new roommates know what I did and didn’t like. These days I don’t so much care to discuss such things. Instead, when someone doesn’t put the dishes away just the way I prefer them or forget to turn a light off at night I can extend grace and I actually have peace knowing that me not breathing down their neck about small things brings them comfort in our home.

After all; that’s the goal! Creating a comfortable and safe space for my fellow brothers and sisters to call… home. Friends, it’s worth it. Despite the discomforts, the beauty of sacrificially giving to each other and taking care of one another is worth it. My family is growing and I get to check in on them even when they’ve left our house. I couldn’t be more proud.

A taste of Taiwan

We don’t often post other people’s videos to our blog, but we wanted to give you an insight of as to what eating out can often look like in Taiwan.

We don’t go to night markets every day, but night market food is always around and easily accessible in almost every other alley in our neighborhood. In fact, the family in the video are walking along the street just across from the Aroma Ximen Cafe. (2 minutes and 11 seconds into the video.)

So, check out the video and enjoy some unique sounds and images of what we experience on the regular!

We forgot we swim in milk and honey

I really like this band called Kings Kaleidoscope. Like… I’ve attended their concerts and bought their expensive merch kind-of-like. They’ve got a song called “About to Break” in which the lyrics say;

Clouded mind, proud in plain
Loud and blind taking aim
Won’t hold the line ’cause hope will reign
And breach the walls about to break

we forgot we swim in milk and honey
Letting go, we’re breaking and becoming
Leaning in and holding on we’re falling, falling, falling, falling

The band plays with the idea of letting go of what we believe and instead, letting hope reign and falling back into God. Letting go and leaning in. He’s enough and He has provided in advance. So often though, we forget what we’ve been gifted to us. We forget about the milk and honey.

Recently at the Aroma we’ve been in a sermon series called Work + Rest. In this four week series we’ve explored what it means to work and what it means to rest and how each are a gift given to us by God.

Simply put: Working and resting should not be difficult. (1 John 5:3,  In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome) However, when we do them in our strength they are. We were never meant to take them on by ourselves. God always provides! We just work and rest as a testimony to what God has already given us. Just look at the Israelites in Exodus 16. They were given everything they needed to live. Manna in the morning and quail in the evening… and yet they still went out on the seventh day and looked for food; Even though they had been provided double the blessing, double portions, the day before! God had already provided for their Sabbath. Genesis 2 reminds us that even before the fall God had given Adam and Eve work: Name the animals, go forth and multiply, subdue the earth! God didn’t need them to do this. He had just created the world and called it perfect, yet he gifted them this purpose. God provided.

We don’t work to survive, and we don’t survive just to rest. These are lies that our culture has bought into and when we see these two things as gifts from God it’s easy to see how He has given them to us as worship. Both underworking and overworking rob us of the capacity to enjoy God and his world. (John Mark Comer, emphasis added.)

Friends if you feel cozy; God has given you work. Stand up, work hard, and watch how God works in you and with you. If you feel tired. If you feel burned out. God has given you rest. Simply choose to receive it, thank the Lord for it, and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading and he will bring you into life giving rest that only He can provide.

Thoughts: Discipleship & Church Planting

How do you define discipleship?
Do you disciple anyone in a particular trade, hobby, or other life skill? How do you lead others?

What is a disciple?
A disciple is simply someone who believes in Jesus and seeks to follow him in his or her daily life.
Billy Graham

What is discipleship?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”

Realistically, how do we follow Jesus in today’s culture? Lots of people have many different opinions of Jesus and who he is and what he taught. Here are two things I believe we need.

  1. God’s Word and the written examples from Jesus’ life.
    • Let’s go to the source! These are first hand accounts of what Jesus did.
  2. Someone to lead us and help navigate 21st century questions.
    • 1 Corinthians 4:15-16 (NIV)
      [Paul talking to the Corinthians]
      Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me.

Throughout the Bible we see God using unqualified people to fulfill his purpose. In Taiwan I teach this to many young people of which many are not anywhere close to considering having biological children. This leads them to thinking… how could I ever be a parent? Yet my question to them is… “Why not you? Who are you fathering?

You see imitating people takes time. Have you ever tried to dance, or even drive a car by reading a manual? It’s truly difficult. I believe this to be part of God’s divine design to accomplish His mission through us, people.

Have you ever heard the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child”? I believe this to be true. We work better together. Paul stresses that the Corinthians already have so many teachers (guardians, see the Greek), but they lack fathers. As older Christians lead younger Christians we see the Body of Christ take form; With Jesus Christ at the head!

In many ways discipleship and church planting go together. A church is a group of believers who follow Jesus together while leading others to do the same.

Christians could be called shepherds from behind, sheep from the front. There’s always at least one person who is following your lead.
Mike Breen

In this way community takes form. With everyone leading as they follow a space is born in which people learn to belong and discover their identity, gifts, and purpose. There’s a reason we often call church a big family.

Someone who cares for you (mother?)
Someone who teaches you (father?) +
Family (The Church)

Britt’s Big Surprise

I’m sure you’ve heard the news by now, but I am pregnant! Surprise! It’s still weird for me to think I’m already almost 16 weeks along! (As of May 7th, 2019) Baby is due October 26, but we’ll see if he or she stays put that long… Kennedy barely made it to 37 weeks before she decided to make her debut!

Speaking of my pregnancy with Kennedy, this time around feels so different! With Kennedy I was nauseous from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed. It was awful! Don’t get me wrong, I’m so thankful for her and wouldn’t trade her for the world, but my pregnancy with her was less than comfortable. Besides being nauseous, I was tired ALL THE TIME. Not a normal tired, but a barely able to function tired!

This time has been so different! I do get nauseous and tired sometimes, but so far at least, it’s not too bad. It usually comes a few times a day, but it usually passes pretty quickly. As for being tired, maybe I’m a little more tired earlier in the evening, but it’s also not an all day thing. I’m so thankful for that! Pray that this continues. In many ways so far everything has gone extremely smooth. I don’t always have the best appetite, but my family does a good job of making sure I am eating. It’s definitely easier to be intentional with healthy eating, too, when you’ve got a baby (小珍珠) constantly reminding you of their presence.

The three of us are so excited for October, and can hardly wait to fully welcome this new little one into our lives!

Your Prayers Are Powerful

I felt the need to write this post to not only remind you, but also myself, that our prayers are powerful. I want to share with you some scripture and four stories from my personal life that together add to my understanding of the power of prayer.

1 John 5:14-15 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

Some months ago I prayed with a man who had just started coming to our Aroma community. He was interested in Jesus, but his family wasn’t. Yet he still expressed a desire to pray for them. I asked how we could pray and he told me about his brother who struggled with a compulsive spending disorder was not in a good place and was unable to control his finances. And so we prayed. I didn’t know this man’s brother… and we are still praying for healing in his own life too, so I didn’t think to follow up on how his brother was doing. Then last Easter Sunday this man, Sam, was baptized. In his testimony he mentioned how the week after our prayer he began to notice changes in his brother’s life. Jesus working through our prayer was an important moment in the development of Sam’s faith.

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

By now many of you might know our big surprise. Brittany is pregnant! Our new family member is due to arrive this October. What may don’t know though is that we have been praying for this miracle for quite some time. Almost two years. It’s funny how God works. We found out about Brittany’s pregnancy just a week after I had written these words in a notebook during a time of prayer. “I’m frustrated; Brittany’s not pregnant.” I’m sure God was laughing at me since at that point in time Brittany was indeed… already pregnant. I’m not always the best at praying out of thankfulness. This was a lesson in that.

James 5:16 says, Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Recently Kennedy experienced a week-long spell of what I would describe as night terrors. These panic attack-like moments lasted about half an hour every night as she went to bed. Kennedy would describe thoughts in her head about death and “Satan trying to trick me into thinking Jesus isn’t alive.” Very little would calm her during these times. So we prayed. Last Sunday our community group circled around her and as we laid hands and prayed over this little six year old girl she began to cry. The details of what happened are a mystery to me, but that night Kennedy fell asleep with no problems at all.

James 5:14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.

Two weeks ago I was getting ready to speak in front of the Aroma Church congregation. I had prepared my material and was confident God would use it. Everything that week had been great. However, if I’ve learned anything from scripture it is that God wants the glory and so I’m convinced there will never be a perfect sermon/teaching/speech from my lips just so that God can spare me from getting a big head. That day my I woke up and my head and sinuses let loose. I had been sniffling, blowing my nose, and coughing the whole day. This persisted until the evening service and now it was time to speak. By God’s grace my two mentees noticed this and approached me independently. With minutes to spare they said a quick prayer and I thanked them and did my job. It wasn’t until I was leaving the stage having just finished that I realized I had experienced no problems with my head or sinuses that entire 45 minutes. As soon as I stepped off that stage guess what happened. The sniffles returned. God sure does have a sense of humor. Yet, even then He provides. Praise the Lord!

Community Testimonies [VIDEO]

This past Easter Sunday we celebrated our risen Savior by baptizing some of our community members. We are so thankful to be able to share these testimonies with you. This is why you/us/we do this.

We are the Aroma of Christ.

Praise the Lord for what he is doing in Taiwan and around the world!

Shelley grew up in a Buddhist family.
Yet a Christian song played at her father’s funeral is what started her path towards Jesus.
Sam was invited to check out the Aroma after leaving a Taoist community that had previously been everything but peaceful.
Jacky started studying religions of the world only to then be drawn in by the Savior of the world.