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Homecoming and Reunion

A Letter from Jonathan and Emily Seitz, serving in Taiwan
August 2019

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Our main ministry in Taiwan is training future pastors, so I am always excited when I get to see recent graduates beginning their ministry. Recently, I attended the summer meeting of Seven Stars Presbytery, one of two presbyteries for Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan. (“Seven stars” is a mountain range around Taipei.) As in the U.S., presbytery meetings are often a mix of business and fellowship, and it felt a bit like a homecoming to see old friends and co-workers, former students, and new graduates. Seven Stars Presbytery draws many of its new pastors from Taiwan Theological Seminary, where I teach. In most of East Asia, new seminary graduates are called “evangelists,” chuandaoren. In Taiwan, new seminary graduates either “draw straws” to see where they will serve or apply for specialized ministry. After several years serving in a church, they are eligible for ordination.

Recent seminary grads serving in Seven Stars Presbytery. Photo credits: Yuli Wang

At Seven Stars, I saw a number of our recent grads who are serving in Taipei. Five were just beginning their service in Taipei in July. The tradition in Seven Stars Presbytery is that evangelists act as pages for the meeting. They wear blue vests and distribute name tags, meeting documents and ballots. The seminary guides them through their early ministry, ordination exams, and the church call process. I admire Taiwan’s ordination system because it gives students a lot of time in local congregations and works very hard to nest them in the life of the church through service in meetings like this or by attending retreats and extra training. I’ve written before that our graduates have a very high success rate in ministry, and a lot of this is because they provide such a close support network for each other during seminary and in their evangelist years.

At this gathering, I met seven of our recent graduates. Although they are all doing this “evangelist” process, they do it in different ways. Some serve as co-pastors or solo pastors of small churches, and some are placed in larger churches. One couple I knew, Ruei-I and Yu-Li, married several years earlier and are serving together in a church, and I was happily surprised to see two other students who had also recently married and were serving together. They joyfully told me about their wedding and new church with big smiles. Another student, Pei-Chun, whom I helped advise on a thesis a while ago, had returned to Taipei after advanced study in Hong Kong and was moving to a new church in the city. Rents are high in Taipei, salaries are usually modest, and often pastors live in the church building. Since evangelists make a very low salary starting out, she was considering staying in a room provided by a church member. She was excited about the new position but also quite anxious about another move and the challenges of staying in the church or with church members. One of our faculty members, Kai-Li Chiu, is also going through the ordination process, and so I talked to her for a little while about Taiwan Seminary and how it’s been during our year away. The summer is usually quiet, but excited new students will arrive on campus soon.

Yuli Wang is prayed for at the meeting of Seven Stars Presbytery.

Students also told me some of their struggles. One graduate, who goes by “Robert” in English, told me his wife had recently had twins who were in the neonatal intensive care unit and weighed less than one kilogram each. We swapped hospital stories. I remembered when our twins were born and being able to visit them only twice a day in the hospital (the rule here is to give newborns rest and prevent outside infections). I am both happy and worried on his behalf. I still remember the joy and terror of the transitions I experienced when I was newly ordained and first came to Taiwan. I admire our graduates and am impressed by the sense of shared discipleship they have, and of how they support and encourage each other. We are grateful now to hear stories of new graduates as they begin their adventures.

July 1 marked 10 years in Taiwan with the PC(USA). We returned to Taiwan at the end of June and are now a month into our transition back. Sam will start school in a couple of weeks at a church school. It will be his fourth school in six years, so we pray for help in his adjustment (he is pretty adaptable and is excited, but parents always worry). The twins will return to the school they went to for third grade, a large public school next to our house. We are grateful for the time we had in July to help the kids readjust to Taiwan, connect with old friends, and prepare for a new school year. They’ve done a Taiwanese VBS, some sports camps, a retreat, and some vacation.

Please pray for the church in Taiwan, for churches in Taipei, and for the leaders who serve the church so energetically and faithfully. Pray for major life transitions and unexpected detours in ministry. Pray for the new evangelists serving in Seven Stars Presbytery and for their congregations. We thank you for the support you have given to us in our ministry, which has helped us to be sustainable and to navigate our own unexpected surprises and detours. We hope you will continue to support us financially and spiritually as we begin a new term in Taiwan. We are grateful be back “home” in Taiwan, and to be part of such a vibrant fellowship.

Blessings,

Jonathan


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