A letter from Jonathan Seitz in Taiwan
This summer we’ve had the chance to be part of three different gatherings that relate to Presbyterian mission. What I really appreciated about these gatherings was the chance to learn about the mission that people and churches are doing, to hear their stories, and to ask questions. We’re now home in the States for half a year. For our twins, this was actually their first trip to this “home”!
The first event was a retreat of all the Asia mission workers in the PC(USA), and it included colleagues from a range of places: Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Japan, Indonesia, Korea, Pakistan, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Thailand. The second gathering was the New Wilmington Mission Conference in late July, which is one of the only annual sites in the U.S. that brings together mission workers from throughout the world with Presbyterians from throughout the U.S. The third was the “Sharing Conference” that the PC(USA) organizes for mission workers home to share their work with local congregations. What I loved about these conferences was that they gave me the chance to meet roughly a third of he PC(USA)’s mission workers, from all over the world, and to learn from their examples. There aren’t a lot of people who understand all of our contexts, but here we really met people who faced similar challenges and joys.
Part of what I appreciated about the gatherings was the chance to see what God was doing in different places. Taiwan is an island half a world away, so it’s relatively rare for me to meet people from the PC(USA) when I’m there. This summer, however, we met medical workers from Congo and Bangladesh, learned about theological education from colleagues in the Philippines, Japan, and Brazil, and had the chance to share meals with some of the same friends who were in our orientation in 2009 and have served in Columbia, Mexico, or Malawi. Each event was a mix of learning, worshipping, and sharing. We enjoyed meeting those were preparing for service abroad, and also those who had been doing it for decades.
One of the most challenging things about our job is finding role models. We sought out as much advice as we could from those who have been doing this. How can we effective at our job over the long haul? How does one transition to teaching or preaching in an East Asian language? What advice do you have on understanding the power dynamics in a different culture? What methods do you use to connect better with U.S. congregations? The three institutions that cradle us are the PC(USA), the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan (PCT), and Taiwan Seminary. Each one has its own systems, traditions, and customs, and these take a while to learn. It is truly a blessing to get insights into how others have grown into their ministries over years or decades and to pick their brains about how to better engage in mission.
At each of the three meetings the director of PC(USA) World Mission, Hunter Farrell, has discussed the “three strategic priorities” on which World Mission is focusing: (1) identifying and addressing the root causes of poverty, (2) working for reconciliation in the face of violence, and (3) witnessing to God’s love in Jesus Christ. The three priorities are designed to help focus and guide the PC(USA)’s mission work, and World Mission is seeking to promote these priorities in different ways. In Taiwan the priorities also help us to share what we are a part of, and they give us a chance to explain how we are trying to improve and focus the ways we’re engaged in mission.
As we visit churches this fall, we often remind them that our work is a part of a larger tradition. This year marks the 175th anniversary of the formation of one of the early Presbyterian mission agencies. We’re grateful that we don’t have to make this up as we go, and that we have good role models and colleagues to share in the work.
Holy God, we thank you for those who serve throughout the world and your people in every place. Help us to see the world as you see it, as a place that is broken and fractured but also profoundly beautiful. We ask you to continue to call and to send, to work for the healing of the world, the feeding of all your people, and the witness to the Word-become-flesh. Amen.
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 205