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A letter from Jonathan Seitz in Taiwan

Fall 2013

Rev. Juan and Dr. Chien serve communion at the Taiwan Theological Seminary student-teacher retreat (photo credit: Tsai Lun-Wen, used with permission)

Mission was the theme for Taiwan Seminary’s opening retreat a week ago. Six student groups did humorous skits acting out the lives of famous missionaries in Taiwan over the last 150 years. They described teaching, medical, and evangelistic work. Many of them joked about the ways missionaries speak Chinese, even as they showed a delight in this history of friendship. For the first time the majority of our students now have some experience in short-term work in mission, either within Taiwan or in Southeast Asia.

We also heard two of our recent alumni (and former students) who are in their second year of mission in Southeast Asia. They are a clergy couple who graduated three years ago and have a 1-year-old baby. It was fun to hear them speak, in part because so many of their challenges are our challenges: they have to deal with mystery skin rashes and a different style of driving, raising a small kid in a foreign context, working in a different organizational structure, and trying to figure out how to help a congregation that feels stagnant. They are frustrated when their kid gets sick with each trip to or from Taiwan, are working hard to raise funds, and struggling to figure out the overall direction of their work (or whether to continue at all). They have objectively done a lot. They serve in a local church, each teaches a full load of courses at a local school, and they offer special training. They’ve helped set up a computer lab.

One of the things I thought was really fascinating was that the mother of one of the missionaries went with the couple to care for their child in the remote village and tend to the home. This type of thing is very common in Taiwan (to have the mother or parents live with you), but is something I’ve never seen before. In its own way, it is beautifully Taiwanese, to send three generations of a family together to better accomplish the mission. I really like this couple a lot and I know they will be boosters for Taiwanese Presbyterians in mission for decades. Seeing others’ efforts always encourages us to renew our own efforts.

The couple from our seminary has also helped aid student exchange, short-term mission, and other forms of partnership. The family sometimes hosts groups of students from this seminary or Taiwanese churches. Two other students, one in music and one in theology, have been deeply moved by their work and may join them in the next few years. Concurrently, Taiwan Seminary has begun accepting students from abroad; one of them just gave his senior sermon last week. He and his wife will certainly be leaders in the church when they return. The Taiwanese church is not only enriched by those it sends, but also by those it receives.

Professor Tsai prays together with students at the student-teacher retreat (photo credit: Tsai Lun-Wen, used with permission)

Taiwan sends out very few mission workers, but interest is growing. This semester one of the few veteran missionaries in the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan (PCT), Rev. “Angel” Wang, is attending the first weeks of my mission class and shares about things like language learning, working with congregations, and preparation for mission. She has been in Thailand for more than a decade, doing a mix of medical and evangelistic work. She is back in Taiwan now but plans to move to a new assignment in Africa in the coming months. Students are really fascinated by her example , and I suspect she may recruit one or more students into similar work. What the next generation of students can accomplish is almost limitless. It is a blessing to see the ways God is calling and sending students here in Taiwan.

When I served as an adjunct professor six years ago for a course at Princeton Seminary on world Christianity, I remember the first week I asked the class how many of them felt their call to ministry through some sort of mission. The number was high, well over half of the class. Many current church leaders came to serve through an experience of mission. They were radically confronted by God’s work in a place very different from their home culture, and it began a transformation in them. It is a blessing to see people find their callings in the church and beyond, year after year.

My prayer is that your participation in God’s work will also begin a transformation in you and your community—that God will also call you to be part of the mission. We can be here because of your faithfulness and your generosity, and we are very grateful. If you have not done so already, we hope you will consider partnering with PC(USA) World Mission to support work in Taiwan and beyond. We always welcome correspondence and efforts to learn more about what God is doing in Taiwan.

Holy God, in every place and time you call, prepare, and send workers to your fields. We thank you for those who serve in so many different ways. We pray for patience, for energy, and for clarity in call for all those whom God has sent. Amen.

The Seitz Family (Jonathan, Emily, Samuel, Eva, Eli)

The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 214
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