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“New Normal” Summer in Taiwan

A Letter from Jonathan and Emily Seitz, serving in Taiwan

August 2020

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Dear Friends,

Summer is finally here! Our summer did not go as planned due to COVID-19, as it has wreaked havoc everywhere. I had planned to take our eldest (whose semester ended May 29) back to Ohio to see family, and I was going to attend PC(USA) General Assembly in Baltimore as a missionary advisory delegate. Due to a feeling of foreboding, I never booked a plane ticket. Although Taiwan avoided a major outbreak of the virus—having only small clusters of illness—because of early containment efforts (starting in late December of 2019 when more and more cases were appearing in China), I worried that things might not go smoothly. Actually, I thought I might not be allowed into the U.S.—I didn’t even imagine at that point that the virus would take off in the U.S.

Our twins’ winter break had been extended in February, so their school year in local public school was extended into July. Tuesday, July 14, was their last day of third grade! Jonathan did some online teaching spring semester, which was challenging but also saved him a few trips to Tainan in the south of Taiwan, where he taught the Mission class at Tainan Theological Seminary spring semester in addition to his classes at our seminary here in the north in Taipei.

All in all, life right now is almost back to normal here. We still wear masks as required on public transportation, but essentially everything is open. Occasionally there are imported cases, but those are discovered in people who are already in quarantine due to Taiwan’s strict quarantine rules. We feel blessed to be in Taiwan, but are also missing family and friends in the U.S. and wondering when we will be able to visit again. To learn more about our COVID experiences, see this recent Presbyterian News Services article or watch this youtube interview with Jonathan.

Jonathan and I have both done quite a bit of preaching in recent months, and I preached for the first time in both English and Chinese for a bilingual worship service. We are also looking for opportunities this summer to share with churches in the U.S. For example, Jonathan has pre-recorded a sermon, preached via Zoom, and our daughter, Eva, and I pre-recorded a scripture reading. Please let us know if you would like us to do something like this with your church!

I had been helping in the school library at the twins’ school starting second semester and will continue to do so when school starts again but was feeling ready for a new challenge this fall. As it turns out, God is already calling me back to a ministry I directed quite a few years ago when our kids were little. I will be part of a team of Sunday school teachers at the largest Presbyterian Church in Taipei. They are in need of teachers as some teachers have moved on. Please keep me in your prayers as I take on this role, which, while not new for me, is something I haven’t done for a while.

We often share news from our partner, the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan in these newsletters. This month saw the passing of former President Lee Teng-hui, a Presbyterian elder who led Taiwan’s first democratic elections. Read more about him here or here; an article in the Taipei Times quotes several professors from Taiwan Seminary, which had awarded Lee Teng-hui an honorary doctorate in the past. We also pray for the churches and people in Hong Kong, which is in crisis now as the government cracks down on public dissent. President Lee believed that Christianity could help root and grow human rights, that our Christian faith values the humanity and dignity of people. In these strange days, we are grateful for the sanctuary that Taiwan offers.

As always, we are grateful for your prayers and support, and please know that we are praying for you all as you navigate online worship, Zoom meetings, and being physically distant from one another while at the same time trying to be socially present. We pray for safety as some of you return to various forms of in-person worship, and of course, we pray for an end to the pandemic.

God’s blessings,

Jonathan and Emily

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