Taiwan: Two Countries, Two Islands

Traveling with the Moderator

By Nancy Eng MacNeill

Arriving into Taipei was an immediate shift in culture: walking through the airport, seeing familiar signs and billboards with unfamiliar writing. Language and body posture changed as you are greeted with each step, a very warm and hospitable welcome.

Taipei is a city well versed in visitors. Our transportation from the airport to the YMCA of Taipei was a fully loaded tour bus holding our delegation of seven and hosts Joyce Shih and Carys Humphreys from the General Assembly Office of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan. Our first exploration into the city was at a restaurant that provided beautiful views from 44 floors above ground level. Amid the lights that outline the road ways and buildings you could also see the signs of home with McDonald’s, 7-11, and Starbucks dotted throughout the city. 

Meals are something to be savored in this country and enjoyed at a different pace than the rest of life.  Each course, and there are many, brought out one at a time to be consumed, what remains is consolidated onto a smaller plate to welcome the next dish as if welcoming more people to join you around the table.

Presbyterian history in Taiwan is a rich and proud journey of hospitality. Our journey took us from Taipei by high speed train to Tainan in the south. The stories we heard told of congregations focused their ministry on sustainability of the people and on hospitality to their communities. One church looking for work for church members has evolved into a company that employs more than 400 people, that started in building a hospital building and now is a construction, landscaping, pest control and moving company. 
Another church, where the average age of the congregation members is 35 years old, opened its ministry by making the physical building visible, moving a large tree blocking its entrance, putting in glass doors for the community to see in to a tree house and rock climbing wall for programming. Offering programs for youth and accessibility to many who have a disabling condition, this church has now become a place to gather daily.

More on my next installment.

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