A letter from Jonathan and Emily Seitz serving in Taiwan
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Rev. Juan, our campus minister, recently shared that 89 percent of our graduates at Taiwan Theological College and Seminary are still in ministry 10 years after graduation. The 11 percent not serving directly in a church includes those who are on a break to care for children or parents or who are finishing other degree programs. When I share this number with U.S. church leaders, they’re always amazed, since in the U.S. a large number of seminary students never intend to enter the ministry and many leave during their challenging first years of ministry. The faithfulness of our graduates astounds me. I often tell our students that I would be happy to have almost any of them as my pastor, and I really mean it. Indeed, a joy 10 years after first coming to Taiwan is that sometimes it is a former student who serves me communion, preaches during worship, or teaches on campus. Overwhelmingly the students we send out into the world are kind, bright, faithful people who love God and love the church.
Today was our graduation, and as I looked out on the students, I reviewed in my head different things they’ve done. This one left a prosperous career to come to seminary. That one has been a model church worker and student even while her father is in hospice. The student over there will serve in his wife’s congregation, a rural church that serves an aboriginal community, when he graduates. Another student carries a newborn and I know she is worried about how to balance life and ministry. Those two are headed abroad, and we hope they might come back as teachers some day. Some I know better than others, but each has a story. Some have faced major obstacles to make it here today. They struggled on in their first year of seminary with low but improving grades. They served in a church every weekend but came to class prepared on Monday. Some had come in with major disadvantages: often this was academics, but sometimes they were coming from a challenging home environment, deep brokenness in their communities, or major health problems. Still, they did the work they needed to do to improve because they have such a clear sense of call.
One of the great rewards for shepherding students through seminary is the final graduation ceremony. Today our seminary graduated more than 50 students: 29 completed a Master of Divinity degree, the basic degree ministers must complete; 4 did music degrees; 6 more, counseling degrees; and another 3 did combined degrees in music or counseling and theology. We also had a couple of certificate students, 9 graduates from our lay education program (they get a bachelor’s degree), and 7 students in higher degree programs (D.Min, Th.M., Ph.D.). Graduates come mostly from Taiwan, but there are also students from Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, or other places.
On graduation day we get to see not just the student we know, but also the family and community we may not know. Kids, spouses, parents, co-workers, pastors, and others fill our chapel to overflowing and stretch out under two canopies. It was a blessing to watch the graduation, to shake hands, and offer a heartfelt “gongxi!” (“congratulations!”).
In just a few more days these new graduates will draw lots to see where their first church will be. Pray for them as they begin their new calls. Pray that their classmates will be good colleagues in ministry, sustaining them in their service in these first years of work and many years after.
We’re grateful to be in Taiwan and want to be here longer. As you may have heard, there is a financial crisis in World Mission. Some PC(USA) mission worker friends have already had to return to the U.S. and many more of us may well be forced to return next year. We thank you for your financial support for our ministry and encourage you to continue as you feel led by the Spirit, especially at this critical time. We’re also always grateful to each of you for supporting us in prayer.
Jonathan, Emily, Sam, Eva, and Eli
The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 253
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