Friday, October 2, 2015

Missionary Life - Language

One definition of a missionary is a person who goes to a foreign land (usually) and shares a message about their religion.  But how a missionary shares that message can be done in many different ways.   We have missionaries who share the love of Jesus through music and visitation.  We have missionaries who share the gospel message of hope to foreign inmates.  We have missionaries who share the message through teaching English in colleges and opening up their home for Bible studies.  We have many different ways of sharing the message.  No one way is the best way to share the gospel message that Jesus loves us and died for us. 

I struggle at times with being a missionary.  Our family isn't a typical missionary family.  We were directly hired by a Chinese church to work in an English Congregation.  We don't have a sending church or even a sending synod.  There are times where we don't quite fit in.  Our church has been very supportive us and we are blessed here.  We've signed our contract three times because we've always felt that God isn't done using us here in Taiwan.  But at times it's very difficult too.  Because our ministry is in English - we have never done formal language studies.  (We are not working in Chinese and our ministry is in English.  Anytime we try to learn Chinese, it takes away time and energy from our main ministry and our family time!)   Most missionaries when they move to a foreign country start intensive language study to learn the local language.  John took 2 classes but they were on our time and our dime.  I have not done formal language study.  The Chinese that I understand and can communicate is very limited.  There are times I struggle with the idea that I've lived in a country for 5 years and don't speak it, read it or write it very well or at all.   

Our secretary for VEF is gone, she left in the middle to end of August so that she would have the opportunity to go to seminary so that she could be more involved in teaching and working in the church.  Since she's been gone we have been looking for replacements to take over her position.  We interviewed people and we think we found the person we want to hire.  But we have to wait till the head secretary at Victory is back from her time in America so that the head pastor and her can do the final interview.  But during this time we have no secretary and no one able to help (full time) communicate with us and the Chinese side of the church.   So the people who speak in English have needed to help and I've been using lots of Google translate (not very helpful at times) and hand gestures to get my point across. 

I think the hardest thing about not having someone to help translate and to help figure out what we want to try to explain what we need.  We ordered materials for Sunday School and we have too many students and not enough materials.  So we had to make more materials and we wanted to do it in color.  I thought it would be simple -- talk to the office guys and print the materials and be on my way.  It was not simple nor was it easy.  First I had to figure out how to explain what I wanted...a mixture of English, Chinese, pointing and showing.  Then they used Chinese, some English and we tried to figure out how to solve the problem.  The problem was I wanted it done in color and we couldn't figure out the password for VEF to access the color printer.  So we had to use the other printer to scan the materials onto VEF secretary's computer and then print it on the colored printer because the VEF secretary's computer had permission to print color.  But it took so much time and it was involving using a Chinese computer where everything was in CHINESE (print, print two sided, etc.) so one of the office staff wanted to help me do it and when I told him I needed to do the whole booklet and it would take a long time to do it and I didn't want to waste his time doing it he realized the magnitude of what we were doing and tried to problem solve with another coworker and I ran downstairs to talk to John to figure out a simpler solution.  We thought we had solved it by buying a digital copy but it wasn't perfect and it involved printing 2 papers and then scanning those in as one page for it to work.   What I thought should take 15 to 20 minutes ended up taking 3 or 4 hours.   We still aren't finished with everything either.  

Things in a foreign country take a long time to get done -- things that are simple to do and figure out at time can take a lot of time and energy.  So there are times where you have to decide if it is really something you want to use your energy for or is it something that you just put off.   With the boys in school sometimes that is exhausting and trying to figure out what the teachers want you to do and trying to get things done might take two or three days to get done rather than signing and sending it back the next day.  The teachers always look at me and ask for certain documents that they gave me the day before the next day.  I look at them and say I need another day.  Or they look at me and tell me that I need to talk to the principal so that the document can be looked at.  

N is doing a great job at Chinese school.  (That can be another post for another day about the boys and school) But probably the most stressful thing about having N being in school is not understanding everything that has to be done for him in school and needing on a daily basis to get help for his homework and for his work.  So he daily goes to an after school program to get help with the homework.  In my mind I always expected to be able to help out in my kids’ school, but I am not able to help and am a nuisance to both schools.  I'm not able to help in the school systems (and the school has asked for help -- I have told them I would help but they don't want me to help because it's too much of a bother.) 

We love our time in Taiwan and are so blessed but one of the stresses is language.  I will always have sympathy for people who come to America and don't speak the speak English.  I understand the stress that goes with living in a place that not your home country.  Trying to figure out things and raise kids is not always easy.  I am SO thankful to the many people who have come along side to me to help my family and I navigate life in Taiwan.  

1 comment:

  1. Caristy, You're doing a great job! Expat life is tough, and especially when you lose someone who was a big support. Keep fighting the good fight! And give yourself permission to not be able to do everything you would have done in the US.


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