A Letter from Jonathan and Emily Seitz, serving in Taiwan
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Last Sunday’s lectionary reading included the story of Lydia from Acts 16:9-15. The apostle Paul has been led by a vision to preach in Macedonia, and among the women who gather to hear his preaching in the city of Philippi is Lydia, “a dealer in purple cloth,” whose heart is opened upon hearing Paul’s message and who is baptized, along with her family. She then welcomes Paul and the other apostles into her home. Scholars believe that Lydia became the leader of the first congregation in Philippi. Wow!
I am inspired by the work of women like Lydia in the ancient church and by the work of women in today’s church, and in this letter I want to tell about some of the women who have blessed me this year. In January, I attended the Epiphany luncheon for a Presbyterian Women group in New Jersey. We had spoken to the group when we were in New Jersey on interpretation assignment in 2013. I remembered some of them and have a vague memory of the talk we gave that day, but I was floored by how, six years later, the women welcomed me as if welcoming an old friend. It was a wonderful morning of sharing stories of life, work, and ministry and enjoying a meal together.
At the Princeton YMCA, while attending a weekly water aerobics class, I was able to have fellowship with other women as we “jogged” across the pool. There I met a Presbyterian woman who invited me to speak at an adult education event at her church. When I gave my presentation there in late April, I met several other leaders of the church — nearly all of them women!
Last fall, Destini Hodges, who works in World Mission to help mission co-workers with logistics while they are on interpretation assignment, wrote to me to tell me that a Presbyterian Women group in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, was requesting a speaker and asked if I would like to go. Elizabethtown is not far from my hometown of Cincinnati — God was leading me to have another visit with family and to meet some women of the church? Of course I replied that I would love to go! In April, after a brief visit with my family, I drove a rental car from Cincinnati to Elizabethtown, not knowing quite what to expect. In the church parking lot, I met Charlene, the woman who had helped organize my visit. We had exchanged many e-mails but only one phone call. She greeted me with a warm hug, and immediately I was at ease. She gave me a tour of the church, and we talked easily as though we had known each other a long time. I then followed Charlene’s car to the home of Sue, a church member who was opening her home to me during the visit. As soon as I entered Sue’s home, I knew that God had brought me there specifically to meet these women who had worked so hard to plan my visit, to hear their stories and to share in their lives. I have been corresponding with Charlene and Sue, and it has been an encouragement to me as I prepare to return to Taiwan.
During our interpretation assignment, people have often asked us about the role of women in the church in Taiwan, and I am happy to say that women have been ordained in the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan for the past seventy years and that women continue to be strong leaders in the church. In fact, the new president of Taiwan Theological Seminary, where Jonathan teaches, is a woman — Rev. Dr. Tsai Tzu Lun (a former Princeton Seminary classmate) — and she is the first female president in the history of the seminary! The seminary, of which the student body is about half women, continues to foster future female church leaders. Our partner church, the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, also has a female leader. The Rev. Abus Takisvilainan is the first female vice-moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan and will become the moderator in a year. As a Presbyterian woman, I feel encouraged by strong women leaders in both U.S. and Taiwan churches, and I am glad to serve as a bridge between the two.
As we near the end of our time in the U.S. on interpretation assignment, I am reflecting on the welcome we have received in the churches we have visited, in the Princeton public schools for our kids, and in community groups (for example, the local Scout groups). I am so very grateful. We leave for Taiwan at the end of June, and I have some concerns going back, including our eldest son beginning middle school at a new school, and uncertainty about whether our twins, who will be in third grade, will be able to go to the public school they attended before. With changes in leadership at the seminary, Jonathan will also have some adjustments as he returns to teaching in the fall. In any case, I trust that God will be with us as we begin a new term of service and in this new season of our family life. As always, we thank you for your prayers and for your financial support — our ministry in Taiwan would not be possible without them.
Emily and Jonathan Seitz
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