From 1994 to late 1996, I spent two years serving as a volunteer missionary in Taiwan. If you’re not familiar with Taiwan, it is an island south of Japan, just off of the coast of China. The people are amazing, the food is incredible, and the scenery is lush and beautiful.
It was a defining time in my life. I learned about who I was and was not, about people outside of my culture and norms, and a language that I still speak today. I met my wife who was also serving as a missionary, and made friendships that would have been impossible otherwise.
Every good thing in my life today can be traced back to making the decision as a sullen 19 year old to go on that crazy adventure.
I have always been fascinated with the human brain (don’t worry, I’ll tie it back together). Our brains are linked heavily not only to our senses, but also to our emotions. Sights, smells, tastes, and sounds all bring the world together and drive our decision making processes. As we are processing all that information, the emotions that we feel bring all of those perceptions into a meaning for us individually.
This is where that whole human brain thing comes into play. There have been many times over the years that a particular smell or sound will suddenly drive a wave of emotions over me that make me feel as though I am standing outside of a Taoist temple or a food market, even though I am in my upper-Midwest neighborhood walking the dog. The feeling is so real for just a split second, but it quickly leaves and I am left with the reality of where I am and what I’m doing.
Last night my wife and I attended a Zoom virtual reunion, where about 65-70 people called in along with the mission leader and his wife. We shared comments in chat, while other shared where they were and what they’ve been doing through voice and video.
Emotions were strong.
Somebody was slicing onions cause those tears weren’t me crying on my own.
People I haven’t seen nor heard from in 25 years suddenly felt so near and recent, as though we had just spoken yesterday. Suddenly, I was transported back in time as memories and emotions flooded my brain and experiences I hadn’t thought about in all that time became crystal clear in my mind. Events that I didn’t even know I remembered were there, and I felt like I was reliving it again.
Wow…have I really gotten to the point that I am now talking like that? “25 years ago….”.
Man I’ve gotten old.
Our lives are shaped by the world around us, how we perceive and feel through the process, and ultimately the decisions that we make. Those decisions are what get us where we are today.
I am forever grateful for the decision I made back then. Especially as I look at my wife and family.
Even teenagers can make a good decision every now and then.