Chinese Traditional Religion

  • 11 Jun
    The Doctor’s Temple

    The Doctor’s Temple

    In Taiwan, there are numerous temples and all kinds of gods. Each god has a specific purpose and power. As new missionaries with OMF in Taiwan, we recently visited a temple that is dedicated to health and Baosheng Dadi, a medicine god. This god was a doctor during China’s Song dynasty. I call this temple “the doctor’s temple.”

    In front of most temples in Taiwan is a large gate, which symbolizes the entrance to a spiritual realm.

    Outside of this temple, there is a hotel for those visiting from out-of-town. In front of the temple is an oven to burn money for deceased relatives and a large table to leave offerings on, fruit or other food.

    Like other temples, this one has three doors. People enter through the door on the right (known as the dragon door) and leave through the door on the left (the tiger door). The central door is reserved for the god’s use.

    Inside, Taiwanese troubled by sickness seek help and/or advice from Baosheng Dadi. In early days, the temple staff even wrote prescriptions. But today there are laws that forbid this. So, Taiwanese ask the god for advice on which hospital to go to for doctor appointments and surgery. Many people also ask Baosheng Dadi for healing.

    People often donate money to the temple in an effort to obtain the god’s favour. This is regarded as a simple trade. If I give you this money, you’ll give me what I ask for.

    As new missionaries, we are new to Taiwanese culture as well as to Taiwan’s languages. We want to deeply understand the worldviews and beliefs of the people we live among. Visiting temples like this one is a good way to learn about Taiwanese perspectives on religion.

    – Chris, Culture & Language Learner

    (Taichung, Taiwan)

  • 04 Jun
    A real Chinese New Year in Taiwan!

    A real Chinese New Year in Taiwan!

    Arriving

    My Taiwanese friend kindly invited me to her mother’s family’s home for the second day of the new lunar year. This is a day when women traditionally visit their family.

    The major event is a meal celebrating the new year. On reaching the house, I realised this wasn’t going to be an inside meal when I saw a large tarpaulin being set up outside by several men of the family.

    As is the custom, I brought a gift. I found some nice nuts at a new year’s market. My friend mentioned that in previous years it had taken her mother a day or two to prepare the meal and she came early to assist her. But this year because of the crowd, she had the meal catered. There were around fifty people there.

    Shows a new worker playing monopoly with a friend's family during Chinese New Year

    Games

    At first, we sat in the living room, where we played a Taiwanese version of Monopoly. The family tried to include me. They had to do a lot of explaining. While we were doing this, my friend’s son walked around with a lucky draw cardboard box with compartments laid in a grid. My friend’s son collected money from family members, who were then allowed to poke a hole into a compartment and take out a candy. One aunt had to try twice when her first attempt uncovered a note saying, “Jiayou!” (Keep trying!)

    It was a hot day. But once the food arrived, the pavilion tents provided some shelter. We started eating around midday and the meal lasted an hour and a half. It ended with ice cream. There were many dishes, including hot pot, fish, meat, and vegetables. My friend’s mother walked around the tables toasting everyone with the customary, “Gan bei!” and ensuring everyone was enjoying the meal. There was no danger of anyone going home hungry!

    After the meal, some of the elderly played various games. One was called “Four Colours.” Another was a game with dice. There were several attempts to explaining the game to me, but I never did understand the rules. My friend told me this is a common activity at Chinese New Year. Someone else mentioned it’s a way of determining if the year ahead will be lucky or not.

    Chinese New Year banquet in Taiwan

    Family

    Everyone was warm and welcoming! As a family, they usually speak Taiwanese. But they tried to remember to speak Mandarin, so I could understand some of the conversations. Several people asked whether I was comfortable and checked to ensure I enjoyed the food. I was also asked why I had come to Taiwan.

    Many of the family members live fairly close to my friend’s mother’s house. At the end of the day, several people simply walked home or had a short drive.

    The Chinese New Year celebration in Taiwan has some resemblances to Christmas festivities in the UK – the family gatherings, the large meals, and the activities and customs unique to this time of year. It was pleasant to witness family members catch up with each other. There was an exchange of news and a lot of chatting. It was a pleasure to be a part of this celebration. I am grateful for the invitation to spend such an important day with my friend’s extended family!

     

    – Sarah, Language and Culture Learner

    (Taichung, Taiwan)

  • 04 Jun
    Miss Liu – What it’s like to teach missionaries

    Miss Liu – What it’s like to teach missionaries

    What it's like to teach missionaries

    I have been working as a language teacher for nearly twenty years in Taiwan. I love my job and I’m much obliged to all the language students of mine, especially the dear missionaries from OMF.

    The OMF missionaries spend the beginning of their time in Taiwan learning the languages. How blessed I am to meet them when they first come here! I may have taught those missionaries some language skills. But I have also learned a lot about God and His love from them, which is very important and precious to me.

    Through my time teaching them, I’ve gotten more experienced in teaching Mandarin and Taiwanese, and I’ve become more patient and calmer. I have much more self-confidence as a language teacher than I did when I first started. These are some of the great benefits to my job!

    The best part is that I can ask the OMF missionaries questions about Christianity and the Bible. Their answers always inspire me to get closer to God and help me grow in my faith. I’m grateful to God for giving me such a wonderful job! May God bless us all!

  • 18 Mar
    Solar panels and hair salons

    Solar panels and hair salons

    Paul & Abbie Brooks with their baby daughter have been living in the small coastal town of Linbian since Oct 18. By God’s grace they are seeking to church plant in this area.

    They have made good relationships with people nearby to their apartment complex. The ‘hair salon sisters’ downstairs introduced them to a pastor and the Brooks now regularly attend his church (which is in a village further inland).

    This picture is from the Taiwan Lantern Festival where each township of Pingtung County had a mobile lantern. This lantern represents Linbian – famous for wax apples, fish, and solar panels.

    The Brooks have a keen interest in creation care (how Christians should care for God’s creation). They have made relationships in a community conservation area near the solar panel station. They were even given a plot of land to grow plants.

    Please pray that they will continue to settle into Linbian and God might provide clear opportunities for making disciples.

  • 21 Jan
    Partnership in Puxin (Part 3): What have been your biggest challenges and blessings in partnership?

    Partnership in Puxin (Part 3): What have been your biggest challenges and blessings in partnership?

    House church plant in Puxin

    (read Part 1 and Part 2)

    A challenge

    The whole thing was a challenge.

    Like the average person, the way I communicate with locals is often not very smooth. I make one phone call, realised I’ve left out something important, and had to make another phone call back to back with the same person.

    And when I make these perceived mistakes, it’s easy for me to ruminate on it and think over it. My challenge is to direct those moments to God in prayer.

    The challenges that come with partnership is just a part of our lives. There are other challenges in other parts of life and ministry. The blessings come when we can share our challenges, struggles and pain with our partners.

    A blessing for all

    One of our most challenging ministry contacts is the Lim family, but we’re able to involve brother Wang in the whole process. He visited the family with us, attended the baptism, accompanied us during a police report, and when the family stopped attending our house church, he remained a healthy and concerned attitude. This is how this partnership become a blessing for all parties.

    – Jason Tam, Puxin Township, Changhua County

  • 14 Jan
    Partnership in Puxin (Part 2): What have been some of the keys to making your partnership work?

    Partnership in Puxin (Part 2): What have been some of the keys to making your partnership work?

    Prayer with partners in Puxin

    (Read Part 1: What does partnership with the local church entail?

    Read Part 3: What have been your biggest challenges and blessings in partnership?)

    Prayer and Decision making

    In the case of the potential partnership with the Evangelical Formosan Church pastor (see part 1), we prayed with our team mates Lizzy and Cheryl quite desperately. In general, partnerships and communications involve a lot of decision making and a lot of micro decision making. There’s a lot of space to make mistakes, and relationships are at stake. So we pray for God’s grace in every step, and God’s mercy for the missteps.

    Personally, when I interact with senior men in Asian contexts, I tend to be overly reserved. So in my case, I need to intentionally be open and honest about my thoughts and vision for the ministry. In the case of Presbyterian church, that seems to help things move forward.

    A dance

    Finally, I like the analogy of dancing when I think about partnership. We have a different pace and tempo. So a key to making our partnership work is to find out what our pace is, and to make something smooth and graceful out of it.

     

    – Jason Tam, Puxin Township, Changhua County

  • 09 Jan
    Partnership in Puxin (Part 1): What does partnership with the local church entail?

    Partnership in Puxin (Part 1): What does partnership with the local church entail?

    Partnership with missionaries in Puxin

    (read Part 2: What have been some of the keys to making your partnership work?

    read Part 3: What have been your biggest challenges and blessings in partnership?)

    Partnership through community connections

    We have different kinds of partnerships with churches. One of our closer partners is a Presbyterian church from our nearby city.

    How did that come about?

    We send our son to a kindergarten (pre-school) where another parent from The Gideons offered to share about their ministry in churches.

    We messaged him, “OK, please come.”

    He arranged for another Gideon member, brother Wang, to come and share. Brother Wang is also a deacon from the city Presbyterian church, but he lives in our township. He came to share and expected us to give donations to the Gideons, which we did. But he saw we had only two families (us and a local family) so he gave to us too. That’s how a personal relationship started.

    Shared vision

    Later, we started praying and shared our vision: to see a house church in every village, and disciples in every family. He too had the same vision. We visited each other a few more times and once asked, “Brother Wang, have you ever thought of opening your house as the weekly gathering for your village?”

    He thought about it with his family, and said “Yes.”

    He invited me to his church small group a couple times. Yes, it’s similar to a house church, but the if he were to start one in his house it would have to have a lot more Bible content. He named the group Dongmen grace group. We invited non believers from the village to the group, as well as elders and members from the Presbyterian church. We also got to know the church pastor and his family. The pastor now wants to endorse our partnership, including financial giving to the ministry. And so we have a partnership with the church.

    Partnership put on hold

    The second example is an Evangelical Formosan Church. How did that come about?

    The pastor of the EFC church had a relationship with OMF before I was in Puxin and he knew about our work. One day he called me, saying, “I’m the pastor from the Formosan church. I want to take over your ministry in Puxin.”

    So I asked, “Ok. What does that entail?”

    He gave me some options, and we arranged a time to meet. The process was stressful, and I spent quite a bit of time praying and consulting OMF seniors before and after our meeting with the Formosan pastor. Together we decided to have a time of prayer on some Saturday mornings, and to do school ministry together. We wanted to see the level of commitment the pastor and his church had for our township. After a year, the pastor and church could not commit to the township, so this partnership has been put on hold.

    What does partnership entail?

    In short, partnership entails a lot of communication: phone calls, messages, face to face meetings, coordinating time, places and tasks. It also involves talking to third parties at school or other  ministry staff on behalf of the pastor, etc. This sort of  communication may be mostly work related, but by working on small things together, the locals can decide how much trust we have with each other.

     

    – Jason Tam, Puxin Township, Changhua County

  • 04 Dec
    “I have not seen a team that has gone through so many trials as your team.”

    “I have not seen a team that has gone through so many trials as your team.”

    Church service among working class people in Taiwan

    A tough year for the Sanhe team

    “I have not seen a team that has gone through so many trials as your team.”

    That was the comment from our field medical advisor at our health check over the past summer.

    The previous September, the Sanhe team started our first Sunday service after a long journey of prayers. We initially only wanted to do it once a month but God was moving faster than we planned. People wanted to meet more frequently so after Chinese New Year we were ready to start weekly Sunday services. Just as everything was happening, each of us was going through different challenges.

    During a regular lung CT scan, the doctor in the Chiayi Christian Hospital suspected that I had lung cancer. After a follow up x-ray a few months later, he suggested surgery to remove the suspicious shadow in my lung. Thankfully it was not cancer but I had to take three weeks off from work, just in time to return to help out with a winter vacation Bible school.

    No long after, Thomas started to have severe recurring pains. After seeing three different doctors they were still unable to provide a clear diagnosis. The McIntyre family returned to the US for medical treatment in early April. It was a tremendous stress not only for Thomas’ family but and also for our team. Meanwhile Jennifer McIntyre suffered several flares from her chronic immune system illness.

    Our team felt crushed.

    God working through trials

    However, in the midst of all this, God had been at work.

    In April, when the Sanhe Gospel Center started weekly Sunday services, to our surprise, the attendance was stable. In Thomas’ absence, OMFers from other teams helped by preaching on Sundays. Not only that but our longtime partner, Chiayi Baptist Church, started to send musicians to help on Sunday and at our park ministry. The church members also started to take responsibilities and serve in the church.

    We are thankful that the McIntyres were able to return in early June after Thomas received a clear diagnosis and treatment. Our little church continues to grow in ways we could not imagine.

    My story is not finished yet.

    More trials…

    When the field medical advisor visited our team in the summer, she mentioned the illnesses our team members had gone through. But she was proud that Markus had kept his blood sugar level under control during the four past years through his diet and cycling. Cycling is very much in Markus’ heart and he got to know many Taiwanese guys through cycling.

    Upon hearing the medical advisor, Markus joked, “I wonder what is going to happen to me?”

    This was what happened to Markus:

    A few weeks after the medical check-up, Markus was cycling with some local guys. And he had a bike accident with an old lady. It was not really Markus’ fault but the fact that she was injured upset her family. The doctor said because of her age, she needed to be observed for the next three months. This, of course, affected Markus as cycling is one of his main ministries. It had been a very tough couple of months before we finally settled the case with her family.

    God still working through trials

    In the past year, the Sanhe ministry has gone very well, but our team has all experienced what Ephesians 6:12 says in a very personal way.

    For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

    We won’t be surprised if there are more trials waiting for us but we can be sure that our God is stronger than all the trials and He will show His glory in the midst of our struggles.

    – Annie Laurinkari, Sanhe, Chiayi County

  • 24 Aug
    Some Reflections From My First Year

    Some Reflections From My First Year

    breaking_dawn

    –September 2018–

    As a new worker who moved to Taiwan a little over a year ago, there are many things I had to learn to adjust to: weather, language, food, transportation, lifestyle, and culture among other things. Some of these changes were easy to adjust to; others may take years. Spending a couple of years in language study when first arriving is to be expected but can still be tough when one considers how much time they’ve spent preparing to come to field, only to have to go back to school and prepare some more. It can also be very tough when you want to begin sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with others right away but simply don’t have the vocabulary to effectively do so. But as I’ve learned this past year, though language does have a role in our ability to communicate well, God will give us many different opportunities to share about Jesus Christ to others.

    The decision we have made to move to Taiwan can itself be a testimony. A question I get asked a lot when I meet locals for the first time is: “Why did you decide to move to Taiwan?” Even if the only thing we can say to people in Chinese at this point is “Jesus,” our life can still speak volumes. I feel many Taiwanese can recognize the dedication and earnestness that missionaries bring to living out their faith by coming here. One of the staff here at the language school told me that she admires all the OMF workers who have come through the school, because of their dedication to learning Chinese. As language students, how we conduct ourselves does not go unnoticed by the staff and can serve as a testimony about the Lord!

    One of the aspects about moving to a new place is meeting people and having to introduce yourself. With limited language this can be exhausting but at the same time, it is such a blessing to have an opportunity to tell people right from the start about Christianity. When talking about reasons for moving, most would expect the answer to be related to family or work; but missionaries get to have the unique answer of saying they moved so that they could share about Jesus with people. Whether it’s the tea shop owner, vegetable seller, or fried rice restaurant cook; living out our daily lives here in the community gives missionaries a chance every single day to have the moments that can have an impact.

    Lastly, I must remind myself that this journey is more of a marathon than a sprint. It’s tempting to want to hit the ground running as hard and fast as you can, but I have found that it is just as important to reflect and to observe. The spiritual need for Christ here in Taiwan is vast. Temples are everywhere; deeply held traditions and beliefs cause spiritual blindness. It’s going to take time to understand this part of Taiwanese life, and it is going to take time to discern what God’s role for me is. With my first year complete, I hope to faithfully continue running the immediate course set before me; trusting Him to lead my life here in Taiwan so that I may testify to the good news of Jesus Christ in thought, word, and deed.

    Kevin Huang – Taichung

  • 24 Aug
    The Forming of a Little Church

    The Forming of a Little Church

    park_worship

     

    –August 2018–

    “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—

    where does my help come from?

    My help comes from the Lord,

    the Maker of heaven and earth.”

    We were singing this song on an April Sunday morning with the mountains surrounding us. The Sanhe church celebrated its first outdoor Sunday service followed by a church outing. There were over 25 people, both adults and children. We are a small but growing church.

    It all started more than 6 years ago, when Thomas and Jennifer McIntyre moved to Zongpu, Chiayi County. They began by putting out a few toys in the park, then later forming a mothers’ and toddlers’ group. The Sanhe church started simply as a group of people who were open to the gospel. Gradually, we added an English class, Bible study and summer and winter Vacation Bible Schools. The Chiayi Baptist Church saw the vision and began a partnership with the Sanhe church.

    For several years, we held a Wednesday night Bible study led by  helpers from the Baptist church. Last summer, we noticed that Wednesday night had become an inconvenient time for many families once their children started school. It was not easy for the families to come out on a weekday night to attend a Bible study. People had to hurry home and get the  children ready for school the following day, so the fellowship time was very limited. The team had been praying for God’s guidance for a suitable time to start a Sunday service, so when the Wednesday night Bible study attendance became unstable, we all felt that it was the right time to start Sunday Service.

    We decided to try holding once a month services beginning last September, and a strong positive response from attendants encouraged us to start holding Sunday services every other week from November onwards. We took in people’s feedback to make the Sunday service more working-class friendly. Instead of arranging the chairs in rows that make some people feel like they are in cram school, we set up round tables so people can sit around the table during Sunday service and stay around the table to pray after the service. We also share a meal together after the service so people can stay and have some fellowship. We noticed that people really enjoyed the Sunday Service and the relaxing fellowship time. One lady told us “Sunday morning is the highlight of my week, I feel so recharged.”

    By April, our team felt it was time to start weekly service especially because the Sanhe church had also attracted a few Christians who were looking for a church. Just as we were making these plans, the McIntyre family had to make an unexpected trip back to the USA because of a medical emergency. At the same time the Laurinkari family was preparing for a trip planned a year in advance with friends visiting from Australia. There would be a Sunday that both missionary families were absent. Could the Sunday service happen while both missionary families were away? The church members stood up and said yes! On the 22nd of April, the Sanhe church had their first Sunday service without any missionary families. This was a big step for the church because our team vision is to see a healthy, self-supporting, growing church that transforms the San-he community and beyond, through the power of the Gospel. At this moment, church members are taking turn to lead worship and teach Sunday school.  Although there is still be a long way to go, this particular Sunday service shows us that the church is going in the right direction and we are excited to see what God is going to do in Sanhe in the next few years.

    Annie Laurinkari – Chiayi

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