A letter from Jonathan Seitz serving in Taiwan
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We landed in Taipei again August 17. Our first Sunday back in Taiwan we visited the local church, Anhe Presbyterian, and I was happy to see a seminary student of mine interning there. Our kids did Sunday School with her and the class she teaches. They had a Taiwanese lesson, some singing practice in Mandarin, and a Sunday school lesson based in part on the “Pokemon Go!” game that is popular here and in the U.S. (they had to “catch” Pokemons by memorizing verses and repeating them to teachers they found). We’d just finished up a period in the U.S. that began in the spring and ended in August. The PC(USA) asks us to spend about 20 percent of our time in the U.S. and over the last seven years that’s almost exactly the way we’ve divided our time between the U.S. and Taiwan. Our main responsibility is our work in Taiwan, but it is also important to connect with congregations back in the U.S., to do training, and see family. Here are some highlights from our time Stateside and some updates on our return to Taiwan.
U.S. Churches. Our travel in the U.S. is always pretty intense. On this trip we spoke at churches in eight states. We traveled in a large red station wagon with a rooftop carrier kindly loaned by my in-laws, and we logged several thousand miles. Last time we were back we did one epic trip from Chicago to Birmingham and then up through the Carolinas to New Jersey. This time we were centered in Cincinnati and shot south, north, and east. We saw churches large, small, and in-between.
An interesting takeaway has been to see how U.S. churches approach mission. I’ve been impressed by how often the steady work of one or two people motivates a church to connect to the broader world and be more active in its community. If you are one of these mission boosters, thank you for your work. It’s been inspiring to see churches hosting refugees, providing ESL, coordinating with mission workers on special projects, or doing soup kitchens, food pantries or other ministries. Often I see a smaller church that has one or two foci that really characterize the congregation’s mission or bigger churches that are involved in dozens of projects in the U.S. and abroad. I’m especially grateful to churches that are intentional in connecting with mission workers and that share in our work around the world.
Updates from Taiwan. Students who graduated in June are heading into their first ministry placements this month, posting pictures of the churches where they’ll serve, asking for prayer, and expressing great excitement over their work. A happy surprise was to see a former student of mine from 2005-6, Yu-Hui, listed as teaching Christian education classes in the fall. Yu-Hui wrote her dissertation in part on the work of women pastors in Taiwan. She has ministry experience, a calm, engaging presence, and a passion for teaching. Ministry is hard to teach and it’s great to have someone like Yu-Hui here. Taiwan does not really have a “church educator” tradition, but it has pretty serious strengths in Sunday School, “youth ministry” (basically teens through age 40), and campus ministry. I hope Yu-Hui can encourage churches in these areas.
Our seminary teachers are always doing interesting things. One wrote a book on death. Another is working on a Chinese-language systematic theology. Five of our teachers wrote an introductory text on the Christian faith, and they also use it with our continuing education program (which works with hundreds of students in the Taipei area). Our school does a lot of creative work. They host a youth ministry night for churches in Taipei, send teachers to share at conferences and church meetings and serve as one of the main centers for remembering church traditions and developing mission.
Family. We realized recently that in Taiwan there are now more adult MKs (“mission kids”) than current mission workers. These grown MKs teach in central and eastern Taiwan and have lived most of their lives in Taiwan. Many are active in churches. We have no idea where our kids will end up, but part of their story will be the period they’ve spent living in Taiwan. While we were in Cincinnati we showed them YouTube videos in Chinese to keep up their language skills, visited Taiwanese-American congregations that are always kind to them, and talked with them about what it means to be a family with many homes. As we re-immerse ourselves in Taiwanese life, our kids are returning to Chinese a lot faster than we expected (last time with Sam it took almost a year). Sam has begun third grade and the twins start kindergarten. Before school started, Sam did a week of ping-pong lessons. He’s been watching National Geographic videos in Chinese. The twins are reunited with their beloved teachers. August/September is a mad dash. Emily is going to work some with Aletheia University, a Presbyterian college in Taiwan.
Thank you for being a home to us this half year. We have been reappointed for a three-year term through mid-2020, something that was still very uncertain in the spring. We’re grateful for the perspective this time in the U.S. has given us and are excited about what will happen in the years ahead. Please continue to support PC(USA) mission workers. We’d love to hear from you.
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