November 2015–A couple of summers ago, I was with some fellow OMF colleagues at a water park here in Taiwan. I was walking with three other guys, all Caucasian men. As we walked along people would call out to them ‘Hello’ in English and wave. A fairly normal experience for them; rather amusing for me. And it was the first time I had seen it because I’m Chinese so I don’t usually stand out in the crowd.
When my family first moved to Taiwan we went to explore our local market. We wandered through and stopped at the vegetable lady. She said something. I tried to say something. We ended up with carrots. In the end, I said we were from Australia to explain why we can’t speak Chinese very well even though we look Taiwanese.
My family has been in Taiwan for about two and a half years. We’ve just moved from Taichung (full-time language study) to Donggang for our longer term placement. Even in this short time it has been interesting to see how the ethnic diversity within our team affects our service.
Recently I took our scooter for repair and the guy spoke to me in Taiwanese. It was only about five minutes into the conversation that he said, “Your Taiwanese… isn’t so good.” And we had the conversation about how I’m not Taiwanese. But if I didn’t look Taiwanese, he would have probably spoken Mandarin from the beginning. (Foreigners usually learn Mandarin). For many people, Taiwanese is more of a mother tongue than Mandarin. So looking Taiwanese helps people feel like they can speak whatever language they would normally use. Until of course they realise I can’t speak either very well.
There is also a group that I visit with our team leader Christine, a Caucasian Australian. They sit by the side of the road drinking tea and chatting. Christine first met them a couple of years ago because one of the old men called out “Hello, how are you?”. He only did that because she was Caucasian. And that has led to an opportunity for them to hear Bible stories which would have otherwise not happened if say I just walked past them.
Being on a team with a mix of people who look Taiwanese and foreign, provides different experiences, varied wisdom and opportunities to share Bible stories. Perhaps such a team also reflects the nature of Christian community – that Jesus brings all sorts of people together. God uses our ethnic diversity within OMF Taiwan for good things.
We all look different but looking ahead each of us is working towards the same vision: communities of Jesus’ followers creating communities of Jesus’ followers.
Aaron Koh – Donggung