A Tale of Two Taiwanese Men

January 2017–

This is a tale of two Taiwanese men. They have a lot in common. Both are named Mr. Lee. Both are security guards who wish they weren’t. They wear the same light blue uniforms and work twelve hour shifts, six days a week, only to live from paycheck to paycheck.

When it comes to life, they have things figured out: work hard, make money, enjoy yourself. After you get to know them, you can probe a little deeper: “Do you really believe in spirits? Why do you wear that charm bracelet? What’s your opinion of people who don’t worship their ancestors?”

This is where the two Mr. Lee’s stories diverge. The first Mr. Lee is 50 going on 80. Over the years, he has put a lot of mileage on his body as a consigliere to the boss of a “karaoke” club.  He’s been roughed up by life, resulting in a hardened liver and a failing heart.  He lives alone in a tiny rented room. He’ll tell you that he’s always been single, although a year later he will admit that he once had a wife who moved on long ago. Ask Mr. Lee if he has any regrets and he will say no. Ask him his opinions about Christianity and he will brush you off, telling you that “you’re a Christian because you’re from the West. It’s all imported stuff. Real Taiwanese people don’t succumb to that.” On a better day, ask him if he can help you with mandarin terms from a Bible story. He’ll say no, for Mr. Lee is a proud man who is OK with you but actively rejects your God.

The second Mr. Lee is 34 but looks 24. He is a personable, smart guy but never did well in school. He looks like a local Taiwanese soap opera actor. He is dealing with marital problems, debt, two jobs, and to top it off, a painful bite on his calf by his neighbor’s dog. Go ahead and ask him if he’s interested in hearing how the world was created. He’ll say “sure.”  When you finish, he will tell you that he wishes that today’s world was like it was before the Fall. Later that week he will tell announce to you that he no longer believes that all men are inherently good. Tell him the story of Noah and he will inform you that he told it to his wife. Tell him the story of Joseph and he’ll leave the room before you start–but only to go to the bathroom so that is not distracted during the story. Advise him that he can download a Bible app to read these events for himself if he wants. He’ll reply that he has thought about that but doesn’t want to read any spoilers beforehand. Tell him the story of Abraham, announcing beforehand that this story is a special one because it has to do with him. Watch as his eyes open wide with wonder.

Why did the two men respond differently? At the beginning I looked for patterns, phrasing, and catchy analogies that might appeal to Taiwanese guys. I was focused on finding the right strategy.

Having a strategy is ideal. But a strategy does not open hearts. Supplication does. Many Taiwanese men have hard hearts that only the Holy Spirit can break through.

In the end I am slowly learning that who does and doesn’t respond is ultimately not my concern. Perhaps the best strategy is the simplest one:  pray, and then open my mouth, trusting in the truth and power of the Bible to do the impossible.

Richard & Rachel Lu – New Taipei City

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