Thews_Taiwan_Apr2020

Greetings from Taiwan! March/April 2020

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
(Psalm 46:1 ESV)

Mr. and Mrs. Tsai at Salvation Lutheran Church

Mr. Tsai's emergency baptism with Pastor Alex Wu

Emergency Baptism
(a.k.a. – God is really good!)

Taiwan embodies a culture of community, and your first community is your family. It’s the epicenter of cultural traditions and the framework for adult life. Often, households are comprised of three generations living together. Personal actions reflect on the reputation of the family as a whole, and the Confucian concept of guanxi (guan-she) emphasizes maintaining positive relationships and respect, especially within the family. In Taiwan, as in other countries, family is a complicated mix – a source of strength, support, anxiety, and friction that’s both beautiful and messy. My dear Taiwanese friend, Boni Tsai, challenged her family dynamics more than 20 years ago when she became a Christian. 

Traditional Taiwanese religion includes a mix of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and ancestor worship. Family gatherings often include prayers to the preferred god(s) and ancestors. Becoming a Christian means you no longer participate in these worship ceremonies. You are living a spiritual life outside of your family community. Some families take this quite seriously and ostracize the erring member. Boni’s family was not so harsh. In fact, some years later her mother became a Christian. Boni continued praying for her father and sharing the Gospel with him, but he remained strongly opposed. 

Last year Boni’s elderly father had an accident that required months of recuperation at home. During that time, Pastor Alex Wu, from Salvation Lutheran Church in Chiayi, regularly visited Boni’s father. Pastor Alex shared the Gospel, prayed with Mr. Tsai, and later began instruction from Luther’s Small Catechism. In February of this year, Boni shared with me the good news that her 90 year old father had expressed an interest in being baptized. “God is really good!” Boni happily exclaimed. 

On March 8, Salvation Lutheran Church eagerly awaited the baptism of Mr. Tsai, but his baptismal birthday would arrive a little sooner. On March 3, Mr. Tsai experienced a serious fall, hitting his head. He was rushed to the hospital to determine the extent of his injuries. Boni phoned Pastor Alex, and an emergency baptism was performed at the hospital. Boni’s relief was clear. Her father was a member of God’s family. Mr. Tsai was officially a child of God. More good news followed; Mr. Tsai’s injuries, while significant, were not life threatening. We rejoice with Boni and her family. Her father is part of a new community, the body of Christ. Yes, God is really good! 

Connecting COVID-19 and Joseph
(a.k.a. – God Makes Bad Things Good)

Lately, I’ve been working on refreshing a CMS Bible unit titled “God Makes Bad Things Good.” It walks students through the life and struggles of Joseph. Family troubles, slavery, sexual harassment, and imprisonment were serious hardships, but God used this time of trouble to prepare Joseph for much bigger work, the work of saving His people. A portion of each lesson seeks to connect Joseph’s life to students today. I began reflecting on what this means. What can Joseph teach us during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Taiwan’s epidemic illness experience has proven invaluable in preparing for COVID-19. (SARS – 2003, MERS – 2012) Immigration and health agencies easily coordinated information, and the general public was quickly educated in managing new safety measures and early shutdowns. As of this writing, Taiwan has administered over 65,000 tests with 439 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the entire country. We’re living with reasonable restrictions and some social distancing. Life isn’t entirely normal, but we’ve been back to school and sharing Jesus again since February 25. That’s a huge accomplishment! Previous difficulties bore fruit and made the current crisis easier to manage.

Today, emotional and financial stress are very real hardships. Thankfully, Taiwan has been managing the pandemic with great efficiency; however, my students are still experiencing frustration and anxiety. They see the impact of COVID-19 restrictions and shutdowns in their homes, their country, and other countries. There are constant reminders that a significant outbreak can still occur in Taiwan. They carry this stress daily. I’ve been sharing words of comfort with students during this time of uncertainty, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1 ESV) God’s help is certain each day. Trust Him. Follow Him. He’s strengthening and preparing us for a purpose. Like Joseph’s life, God makes bad things good.

Please Pray For:

  • Pray for the country of Taiwan and all those impacted by COVID-19.
  • Pray for discernment as world leaders determine the next steps for their people in the COVID-19 battle.

Give Thanks For: 

  • Mr. Tsai’s recent baptism and continued recovery from his fall
  • God’s protection as our school remains open during the global pandemic

Assisting Senior High School Student

The Office of International Mission recently featured an online article about my teaching in Taiwan. Click the link below if you’d like to read little more about my journey to the mission field and what I do at Concordia Middle School.

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