A letter from Emily and Jonathan Seitz in Taiwan
September 6, 2010
We arrived in Taipei just over a year ago. Emily is now in her sixth semester of Chinese and can communicate easily in terms of daily life. Jonathan’s Chinese continues to develop, and he’s started Taiwanese from scratch. We are happy with the progress we’ve made but know that learning Chinese will presumably be a lifelong task.
Our toddler, Sam, on the other hand, is coming along quickly. He can say dozens of words in Mandarin, and most of them he says better than we do: “car,” “truck,” “teacher,” “brother,” “sister,” “fish,” “meat,” “corn,” “eat,” “more,” “yes,” “no.” His tones are perfect, rising, falling or dipping just where they should. Who knew we could envy a toddler’s language ability? After a year in the “grape” class at nursery school, Sam is now in the “cherry” class. (Next up are strawberry, apple and then tomato.)
Our work is progressing well. I co-taught my first class in (imperfect) Mandarin in the spring and have done one-on-one tutorial courses with two Th.M. students. For the co-taught Asian Christianity class, students did papers on figures like the Tang dynasty Christian leader Alopen, the Jesuit scholar Matteo Ricci, the Chinese evangelist John Sung or the Presbyterian missionary to Taiwan, Campbell Moody. One Th.M. student is looking at the challenge of Tayal tribal churches as most of their members move from the countryside to the city to find jobs; Presbyterians have lost around 20 percent of their tribal members in the last 15 years and this student is hoping to learn from those churches that have formed successfully in urban areas. The other Th.M. student is from Myanmar and is one of a handful of international students from Southeast Asia studying on campus. This fall I will teach a survey course for our third-year students and am slotted to co-teach a class at the seminary’s lay academy. We are getting to know students on campus by eating at the dining hall or talking with them as we play with Sam when we come home in the evening. It’s still all a bit overwhelming, but great students and co-workers make all of it better.
We are still getting to know the larger church better. We attended the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan’s General Assembly in April and met pastors and elders from throughout the island. The gathering was at a girls high school in the city of Tainan (Sam was often surrounded by a flock of teenage girls). We also met international delegates, including Shun Chi Wang, who has served as a leader for the PC(USA)’s Asian-American churches for many years. We caught up with other mission workers. We toured Tainan Seminary. Being Presbyterians, the gathering also included long hours of meetings and floor discussions. Should the age when people can serve as elders be lowered? How should the denomination manage its colleges? What should the church do in relationship to its television station? Language was a challenge as translation moved between Mandarin, Taiwanese and English. Nonetheless, in intense discussion and prayerful worship, we experienced God at work. As new workers, we were invited to introduce ourselves and to bring greetings from the PC(USA).
Our biggest personal news is that Emily is pregnant with twins, a girl and a boy, due in mid-November. In Chinese they call this “dragon and phoenix twins.” I’ve dutifully compiled a glossary of more than a hundred pregnancy vocabulary words, and we have a Chinese Lamaze DVD to watch. We’re nervous about the whole process, the extra complications of twins and how to square parenting with language study and campus responsibilities. On the other hand, it’s an unexpected surprise and we trust we’ll find moments of grace amidst the chaos of three children under the age of 3.
Prayer is welcome! As you head into the fall, let us know also if we could Skype with a confirmation class or talk to a Sunday school. It means a lot to get the occasional letter or to hear about the needs of supporting congregations.
Grace and peace to you,
Jonathan, Emily, Sam and two more
The 2010 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 146