We have had some very interesting and informative past few days. For the past two weeks I have been trying to find red beans. I wanted to try and make a family soup recipe, and I couldn't find beans anywhere at the grocery store. Then, on Thursday evening we went for a Japanese style dinner and after we went to a shaved ice place for dessert. It's an interesting concept... they shave ice - a bunch of it, like a snow ball, and add Carnation milk and chocolate ice-cream. Well, that was the option that I choose. Most of the dessert shaved ice options had one special ingredient. BEANS!! Turns out that the Chinese consider beans to be a dessert food. So I guess I was looking in all the wrong places. I shared this situation with a Christian Taiwanese girl that I met this weekend - and guess what she brought to church for me.... red beans. It's incredible how God can show us His love - in the little extra ways we need it. :)
We went with a small group of people from our church hiking in the mountains - about 20 minutes from our apartment building. It was an incredible hike. I didn't think that I would make it to the top. At one point we were climbing vertically up this mountain, on a log ladder that was bolted together. And since we thought it was going to be a dirt path, Nic and I both wore flip-flops, which helped to make the hike that much more challenging. It was a great time though with believers out in God's creation! Nic and I want to go back there. We were absolutely amazed by the amount of elderly people doing this hike. It was so intense I thought I would throw up, and there they were, elderly men and women passing me left and right, smiling as they came down the mountain. I was certainly rebuked in my health and fitness!
This weekend we also learned more about how the culture here affects the people's acceptance of Christianity. September is "Ghost Month"; the Taiwanese are very superstitious, and the worship of ancestors is deeply woven into their religious beliefs. We learned through a work email informing us about the culture, that people here are wary of swimming, buying new homes, and riding on the roads this month all because of the ghosts that have died in these places who may be looking for victims so that they can be reincarnated. We also found out through our friend who gave me the beans, that workers at construction sites pray twice daily to the ghosts who have died in construction, so that they may have safety on the site. We also learned that the importance of ancestor worship is a great hindrance in many Taiwanese men in coming to Christ. To leave behind ancestor worship, as a man, is a disgrace to the family as there will be no one to carry on the worship of that family line.
We are learning of the many layers within their religious beliefs, and honestly it is so saddening to us. We know the freedom from fear that Christ can bring, the hope that He gives and the life He promises. So when you think of it, pray for the church in Taiwan- that their ministry to the men will be effective - that God will help them to overcome tradition so that they may turn to Christ; that people would realize they don't need to fear the past but they can have a hope for the future!
As a couple we are praying about the specific ministry that God would have for us as a couple. It's hard to minister directly to the local people if they do not speak English, as for now our Chinese doesn't go much beyond Nee How. We are doing our best though to reach out and be constant examples of Christ's followers to the other foreigners that we work with. Many of them are also living in darkness, living for the moment - living as anyone without Christ would live. So we are trying to show the abundant life that Christ gives, trying to be good friends and to love in a way that when they need help and answers we will be ready to share the hope that we have.
Thanks for reading - this was a long post, but God has been revealing a bit lately and we wanted to share so that you can know how to pray.
I've posted a video of our hike on Facebook - so be sure to check it out!