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The Impact of Religion and Culture on Men in Taiwan

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Men in Taiwan
What’s it like for men in Taiwan, and how does religion and culture impact their life and relationships?
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By Galina Hitching, interview with Brian Janssen

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Brian and Faith Janssen have been living in Taiwan with their two children for the last seven years. Brian is originally from Canada, while Faith grew up in the US. As missionaries with OMF, Brian leads the university ministry and Faith is the Serve Asia coordinator. They live and work among the working-class Taiwanese. In a previous blog, Brian shared about his experience of being a father in missions. This week, Brian joined me to discuss the men of Taiwan and how we can pray for them.

What is the role of the father in Taiwanese culture?

“It’s slowly shifting but the role of the father is to provide financially for the family and to be respected.
 In America or Canada, a good dad comes home in time to go to the soccer game. In Taiwan, a good dad stays late to make more money. In some ways, that’s expected and understood.

It’s not necessarily that dads aren’t loving. They may be detached, but their role of loving is in the role of provision. This is slowly changing in Taiwan. There is a gradual shift to fathers being more involved.”

Globally, divorce rates continue to rise and marriages decrease. Taiwan is no exception and the high divorce rate increases the impact of fatherlessness on society. Just as in other cultures, there is often tension and dysfunction in the homes.

In Taiwanese culture, the wife often moves into the husband’s home, where they live with his family. This may create an area of tension for families as the mother-in-law frequently feels it is her right to take the role of parenting her grandchild. The father is caught between his wife and his mother and must choose who to respect.

“Normally he will obey his mom before his wife, which creates a lot of tension.”

Brian and Faith have seen or heard about these struggles firsthand. They have the opportunity to come alongside university students to give support and provide a model of a safe family unit.

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Despite the tension and pain experienced within families, Taiwanese are relational and kind.

“There is also an underlying commitment and understanding of roles and what people are supposed to do in the family unit as well. Taiwanese people are a relational people. There’s a struggle in the home, but they are relational and they are kind. They are one of the nicest cultures you can find in the world, despite the brokenness in the home.”

Brian shared the stories of young men in Taiwan who are afraid of telling their family they have become Christians, avoid going home, or have never experienced the sense of having a supportive family. Whether it’s being a listening ear, providing counsel, or taking care of an individual who is going in for surgery, Brian and Faith are meeting practical and emotional needs in Taiwan.
“Not all of these young people are non-Christians and not all are Christians. But they need love. I think they will grow stronger in their faith in Christ if they feel loved by somebody here on earth.

 It’s important that kids feel loved, regardless of the culture and parenting strategy. There is a lot of healing that needs to go on in the Taiwanese homes, but I could say the same about Canadian and American homes as well.”

How do people in Taiwan respond to a God who is also a father?

“We do talk about a personal God. When Taiwanese people get to the point where they believe there is one God who is true, personable, knows and loves them, then understanding he is father is a natural next step.”

 The most important and often the most difficult aspect of sharing the gospel has to do with a loving and personal God. When people go to the temple. they must state their name, where they live and what they want, so the idols know who they are.

 “The idea of believing in one God who is actually loving and caring is a challenge for many Taiwanese.

 Taiwanese religion is a mixture of Buddhist and Daoist. There are a handful of people who are purely one or the other, but most go to whichever temple they think will help them in the moment.

Why do people go to the temples? They go out of family obligation, they go because of fear of the spirit world, they go out of personal greed.

 They will go and worship the idols but then they also have ancestor shelves; they’ll burn incense and paper money to send it on to their ancestors. Their religion is a lot about what they do.”

How can we pray for men in Taiwan?

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  1. Pray for more men in the church.

“The churches in Taiwan are probably about two-thirds female. Pray that men will be willing to go to church. For men who are involved in temples, there are fire crackers and loud drums; it’s noisy and active. Then when they go to church, it can feel very passive. Pray for the church to find ways that relevantly engage men.”

  1. Pray young men in Taiwan will come to Christ.

“As I think of our ministry, pray even before young men become fathers that they can come to Christ and start strong Christian homes that can have an impact. It’s very rare to meet someone who is a third-generation Christian in Taiwan.

  1. Pray for the discipleship of men in Taiwan.

“That men can be discipled and can become strong leaders who live out their faith, guide their families well and make disciples.

  1. Pray for working class men.

As OMF missionaries we are always trying to find the areas that are unreached or less reached. The educated class in Taiwan is maybe 8-10 percent Christian. The working class is about 1 percent Christian. So that’s why we are with the working class.

  1. Pray for fathers to love well.

“Sometimes in the Taiwanese home young people feel loved even though it’s not said. In the West, we say “I love you” all the time. That’s good if it’s backed up with actions. In the East, and specifically in Taiwan, children might not hear “I love you.” but the parents, in many cases both Christians and non-Christians, are still seeking to love their kids by providing for them and ensuring they receive a good education.”

Is God calling you to love and support the people of Taiwan?

If you would like to explore how you can be involved in sharing God’s love in Taiwan, check out the opportunities here.

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