Well, beyond the mundane lessons in everyday living in Taiwan – chopstick use, squat toilets (don’t ask), language acquisition – I think that God picked this opportunity to teach me a few things. Here’s a little example from the last week and a half.
I’ve been attending a Christian Missionary Alliance church here in Taipei – the services are all conducted in Chinese, so I don’t always understand what is going on, but the people are so nice they more than make up for it. Last week (September 15th, I think) I met the American missionary at the church for the first time. After mentioning how nice it was to meet me and have me at the church, he said he had a favor to ask of me. He was planning a trip to mainland China for last week and this week, but the only thing stopping him from going was the fact that he teaches an English class at the church and couldn’t find a substitute teacher. Several non-believers attend the class, so he thinks canceling it is bad form. So, would I teach the class while he’s gone? I actually have taught English through my (also CMA) church in Washington, so I didn’t think twice about agreeing. He made a big deal about how he had prayed for a substitute and then here I am, a native speaker, at his doorstep, so to speak. He called me an answer to prayer, and I was feeling kinda flattered about the whole thing – I’ve never been called an answer to prayer before.
The next few days after that Sunday were actually not that great for me – I’m trying to move out of the student dorm, because I never practice speaking Chinese there (it’s also inconveniently located up on a big hill with a random bus on a schedule that I have concluded must be purely hypothetical, as it seems to have absolutely no bearing on when the buses really show up). But I looked around quite a bit and found nothing.
Then I caught a cold. Sick and frustrated is not a great combination! I started to wallow in self-pity – I’ve been here a month, I don’t like where I live, I don’t know many people, and now I feel miserable. I threw out some half-hearted prayers about all these things, but my problems were just too big to expect instant solutions. It is with this melancholy outlook that I took off to teach the English class last Thursday. I’m sorry to admit that I had a bad attitude.
So I got to church, and things immediately started to change. I mentioned my housing woes to a few people, and they resolved to look around to help me find something. They invited my to their mid-autumn festival (a lunar calendar holiday – a big deal in China) cook-out on Saturday, and I went and had a great time (and met all kinds of people). And a group of women at church spent the weekend fussing over my cold, fixing all kinds of “ancient Chinese remedies” to make me feel better. Actually, I’m not sure how effective the remedies were (or even how ancient – one was salt mixed with root beer), but I felt so much better after seeing how concerned they were, and how much they wanted me to feel better.
Yesterday the pastor of the church (who happens to be in the English class) called me to ask me to meet him at church so we could go look at a new place. I’ll going to move in about three weeks, to rent a room from a retired woman who is looking for company. She doesn’t speak any English, and is happy to help me with my Chinese. It is much more convenient to school and church, and even cheaper than the dorm where I live (with more space to live in).
It wasn’t until I sat down dutifully to record all of these amazing developments in my travel diary that it dawned on me. Finding me available and willing to teach the English class wasn’t just an answer to the missionary’s prayer: it was how God was answering mine.
Copyright 2004 by Meredith Oyen