BY SHIRLEY RAMIREZ
One of my favorite characters in the Bible is Daniel. As a little kid, I read his story countless times and was amazed by his courage to worship and pray to his God in a foreign land despite being forbidden to do so. He was thrown into the lions’ den as a result, yet the God he served rescued him from being devoured by the lions.
Unlike in Daniel’s time when it was decreed that praying to God during a 30-day period meant sure death, we are blessed to enjoy religious freedom in Taiwan. We can freely assemble, proselytize, and engage in faith-based activities.
As the Christian world remembers the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ this week, let me share with you a few precious faith lessons learned during my 8 years in Taiwan as an overseas Filipino worker and a Pastor’s wife. Everyday, we face our own share of fierce lions, but like Daniel who depended on God to deliver him, we can also take comfort in the fact that God will never leave us nor forsake us.
Find a spiritual family.Leaving our family behind is not easy. When we come to work in a foreign land, we are suddenly thrust into an environment where we’d have to adjust to the culture, the language, and host of other new things. Building relationships at work will certainly help, but I found that getting plugged into a church family allowed me to develop deeper, more intimate friendships. We grow in our faith with other believers, we carry one another’s burdens, and we receive encouragement. Plus, we get the chance to encourage others, too.
Many of the friendships I’ve built in the church family continue to flourish long after my friends have left Taiwan. They’ve either moved to other countries or have gone back to the Philippines, but we keep in touch. I’m truly thankful for each person that God has brought my way and for making this foreign land my second home.
Accept that adversities are opportunities in disguise.When people are in debt, homesick, and going through difficulties, they are most likely to seek comfort in their faith. Many of our members in church were nominal Christians in the Philippines. They attended church every Sunday and forgot about God the rest of the week. When they came to Taiwan and experienced being away from their comfort zone, they sought God and became very actively committed in church, eventually becoming leaders and ministers themselves. Indeed, pain is one way for God to get our full, undivided attention.
Getting sick in a foreign land is not easy. My husband had a knee operation and I couldn’t go with him to the hospital because I had to be in the office. I had extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) for a renal stone on a Sunday and had to be back at work the following day. Several friends have had surgery, and could only rely on co-workers to take turns to care for them. In the midst of those difficulties, we’ve all emerged stronger. Those were precious opportunities to develop our character and to experience God’s faithfulness in tough times.
Invest in things with eternal value.Working in Taiwan is not a walk in the park. The hours are long, the job is difficult, and often, people are tough to work with. When payday comes, many will remit a big part of their income to their families in the Philippines. Some will hit the shopping districts or treat themselves to a big meal. There’s nothing wrong with supporting our families back home or giving ourselves well-deserved treats. But we should not forget that we are mere stewards of God’s blessings. Remember to feed your soul and spirit, invest your time and resources in sharing your faith, and with God’s help, touch and impact a life. Remember, you are blessed to be a blessing.
Thank God in all circumstances.We can be so forgetful! Before we came to Taiwan, we prayed and prayed for the opportunity to work abroad and earn good money. Now that we’re here, we realize that life’s not a bed of roses, and we often end up complaining. God’s Word tells us to thank God in all things, not for all things. God wants us to maintain an attitude of gratefulness, not for the bad things happening to us, but in all situations because God will help us overcome and turn things around. There’s so much to be thankful for. When we are grateful, we change not only our circumstances, but also ourselves.
We’ve had lots of tough times here. I often feel as if I were a captive trying to break free from chains of slavery. Sometimes, I fear that the lions of depression, loneliness, pressure, financial obligations, sickness, and fatigue would beat me. But when I focus on my blessings and on the size of my God rather than the size of my problems, I experience inner peace.
Hope for the best.Know that God brought you here for a higher purpose other than to make a living. If you are burdened by the needs of your family, or stressed with the demands of your work, remember God’s words in Jeremiah 29:11 – “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” After Good Friday and Black Saturday comes Resurrection Sunday! Be comforted in knowing that our God is alive. He didn’t stay in the tomb. He rose from the dead, and you can ask for His help anytime.
Whether we are in the Philippines or toiling in a foreign land, He is the same loving, caring God who wants the best for us.