Well the first leg of our adventure is over :(. We arrived in Taiwan late last Wednesday, dealt with jet lag the next couple days in the Taipei area and spent the last three days with the Gibsons in Chiayi Taiwan … and thoroughly enjoyed it! What cool servants of the Lord the Gibsons are and how they fit in to the Chiayi scene. It was a blast to tool around town on scooters, eat interesting food, see how the Gibsons have mastered the language and can converse/joke around with the locals, hear about what they are doing, meet some of their team and the people they are reaching out to, and fool around with their high school group.
Taiwan, not surprisingly, is so different than the West. The language of course is so different and takes a major effort to master (2 years of dedicated study says Seann). Though we have many Chinese restaurants in the US, seeing the fish and various other animal and plant life displayed and cooked in a number of different ways is fascinating… and the variety of dishes (or bowls) we tried were delicious! Most unique and very dark is their dedication to the worship of different gods of their region and their enslavement to ancestor worship. We were able to see a large celebration of several of the local temples and even attend a “banquet of the gods”. The gods had not yet shown up to the banquet. But the spread for them was quite impressive. Who will eat all the delicious deserts, booze, and smoke the pipes that were laid out for them?
The most hideous of their beliefs, though is ancestor worship. They believe that if their children do not worship them after they die then they will drift around in the ghost world. Consequently, every subsequent generation is enslaved to worship their parents after they die; otherwise they will cause their parents to live in this awful state. So much is tied to this including some messed up family relationships and especially abusive men. If any place needed love ethics, this is the place! How Christ could free them from this enslavement if they are willing to turn to Him. But, it’s so difficult for them to see their need for Christ alone because they are predominantly polytheists and they have no concept of sin and the need for forgiveness. Nearly the whole country (at least 98%) is caught up in this dark and evil worldview and even higher percentages in the working class with whom the Gibsons are working.
Interestingly, many similarities are shared with the US. This is a capitalistic country and they are relatively wealthy. There are few poor, food is plentiful, and the country has most modern amenities. They can thank the US for that. What was interesting was that even though they have adopted the worship of the almighty dollar (dollars are also the national currency, but a Taiwan $ is worth about 0.33 US $), they did not adopt the worship of the Christian God. Some have thought that the spread of democracy and capitalism should result in the adoption of other Western beliefs and morality. Instead, their wealth has emboldened the people to adhere more strongly to their ancestral beliefs and cultural practices. The mob rules, especially in Chiayi which results in a relatively “safe”, low crime environment, but prostitution and gambling rackets are the norm for society and are the playground for the men in particular. One result of the prosperity is that women are more educated now and in some cases able to make it on their own. Amy leads a Bible study group with a few single ladies who have come to the Lord. One problem is that there really aren’t too many Christian guys to marry which leaves them in a somewhat precarious position… something to pray about.
An interesting aspect of their culture is the way schools are run. Jr high and high schools meet from about 7:30AM to 5:00PM for school (11 months of the year, six days a week). Then they have to go to “cram school” an hour or two later for another few hours to help study for exams. You high schoolers think you have it rough! As a result you just have kids roaming the streets for an hour or two. This is where a great opportunity for the gospel exists. The Chiayi team was essentially given a store front in the city and opens it up each evening in between regular school and cram school to high schooler’s they are reaching out to. We were there Friday night and about seven kids showed up which was low because that was one of the off nights. Although they are only there for about an hour, it’s a pretty cool scene and the kids really seem to enjoy hanging out. Out of this social scene Seann has been able to get a group of high school guys to meet Tuesday nights for a Bible study at his house. .. something else to pray about.
We also enjoyed many great conversations about more stuff going on with the mission in Taiwan, about NEO Xenos, and about our efforts to learn more about missions and be a sending church in the not too distant future. Maybe next month we can talk about some of these things at the Missions Prayer Meeting. Well, that’s enough for now… it is on to Shanghai.