A letter from Jonathan Seitz in Taiwan
Dear friends in Christ:
Thank you for your Christmas cards and for your prayers and concern for our family throughout the year. Jonathan usually writes our newsletters, but I, Emily, have decided to take a turn at it as we head into the new year. 2012 marks our third Chinese New Year in Taiwan. The weather often seems to turn cold and rainy here during the Chinese New Year holiday. Of course, since we are now accustomed to a warmer climate, when it drops down into the 50s (and probably also because it is humid + often rainy = damp cold), it genuinely feels cold. I am hoping this year it will not be, because it makes it harder to get out and do things as a family.
This is the biggest holiday of the year in Taiwan (and in many other parts of Asia with Chinese cultural heritage as well). People exchange gifts, get together for feasting, and it is a long national vacation (many will not get the full five days of vacation, but everyone will get at least some vacation). I really see it as a much needed break for the very hardworking Taiwanese.
As for our family, we will also do some visiting and feasting this Chinese New Year. We have been invited for a celebratory lunch at the home of a Welsh missionary who has lived in Taiwan for more than 20 years and who works in the Ecumenical Relations Department at the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan’s central office in Taipei. She and a Taiwanese woman (Cecelia, a former Catholic nun) host spiritual retreats for clergy and laypeople from all over the world in their home. They are a constant source of support for us here, and this will be our third year visiting their home for Chinese New Year. Also attending will be the formal general secretary of the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan, Rev. Yang, and his wife, who in the past had always hosted missionaries at their home for the holiday but are now quite elderly. We are grateful for the many opportunities we have for fellowship here and the many people willing to host us. We continually feel that we receive much more than we give, and we do feel very much at home in Taiwan.
Nevertheless, at Chinese New Year we sometimes feel a bit “homeless.” People tend to visit extended family in other parts of Taiwan during the holiday and the holiday break comes before the start of the new semester at Taiwan Theological Seminary, where we work and live, so for at least part of the time the campus will be rather deserted. That will represent the challenge of the Chinese New Year holiday for us as a family. We will have all three of our kids—our 3 ½-year-old (Samuel) and 14-month-old twins (Eva and Eli)—home for over a week. Samuel’s school will be closed for a whole week, and the Taiwanese caregiver who watches the twins in our home while I am studying or working will also be on vacation. Moreover, Jonathan will need to do grading and preparation for the upcoming spring semester. As a mom, my job to prepare for the extended holiday is to find out which neighbors will be home, and when, so that Jonathan and I can catch our breath once in a while. Life at home sometimes feels quite chaotic when all three kids are running about. Compared to the lives of many other PC(USA) mission workers, our life here is comfortable and convenient. However, one hard thing is that we are very far away from our families.
On that note, we eagerly look forward to returning to the U.S. in the summer and fall of 2012. We plan to visit many churches—we will get the chance to meet some of you in person—and to spend time with many family members we won’t have seen in three years. And, I have promised Samuel that next winter, maybe even at Christmastime, he will have a chance to play in the “snow” he knows from his storybooks!
Happy Year of the Dragon, and God’s blessings for 2012,
Emily Seitz (and Jonathan, Samuel, Eva, and Eli)
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 205