Starting from April 8th through the 17th, there was a major religious festival in Taiwan to honor Mazu, the goddess of the sea whose influence reaches far beyond the sea to the rest of Taiwan. This festival that celebrates her birthday, which alludes to her human origin, is one of the biggest religious festivals in Taiwan. Before her birthday on the 23rd day of the 3rd lunar month, Mazu’s statue makes a long pilgrimage from its home in Zhen Lan Temple in Dajia (near Taichung) to Tienfeng Temple in Hsinkang, Chiayi, and then back. The pilgrimage was enormous with a parade of approximately 100,000 followers & took 9 days to complete mostly on foot covering about 340 kilometers.
This religious procession is sought out by countless Taiwanese whether they are accompanying the pilgrimage for the whole 9 days or just part of the way. No matter how long their time was with Mazu, the purpose of their devotion is ultimately to seek blessings for the concerns of their hearts. Therefore many Taiwanese young & old, rich & poor, traditional & technologically savvy, prostrated before the image of Mazu in order to manipulate their fate.
Some may be puzzled by such blind devotion to an idol, but if we really think about it, it is not too difficult to understand. It is because they do not know the One who has created the world & redeemed it. They do not know the kind of love that Jesus has demonstrated on the cross, love that is sacrificial & love that changes us from within.
We hear Taiwanese expressing that all religions including Christianity are the same. On the surface it may seem this way. For example, when we compare Buddhists to Christians, it appears that they both strive to love their neighbors, do good, avoid evil, etc. Of course, we all struggle with sin. I’ll be honest, when we compare people, it’s quite challenging to persuade Taiwanese that Christianity is better. BUT when we begin to compare our GOD to other gods, this is where the distinction becomes clear & unquestionable. There is no god or ever was who became a man to save humanity other than the God of the Bible, and who loves us not for what we have done or will do, but purely by what His Son Jesus Christ has done for us.
It will take the power of God’s Word, His love, the Holy Spirit, and everything of God to help the blind to see life & freedom in Jesus Christ. This is the reason why we are here in Taiwan.
Romans 10:14-15 explains, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ ”
Our family would like to express our deepest gratitude toward all of our friends & family for your continual prayers & financial support. We are so thankful to the Lord because without you, we cannot be here. We do miss home a lot & our life back home. Our girls miss their friends, our home church, and of course, Chik-fil-a. Nevertheless we cannot deny God’s presence & guidance in our lives as He helps us to overcome all things that come our way. I’m often flabbergasted by how far the Lord has led us in this journey, and that already we are preparing to move again to an area where the spiritual need is tremendously great.
We appreciate your prayers on the following items as we go through another transition to the Kaohsiung area (in July).
- We need to find a home in Qiaotou District or surrounding districts (Nanzi, Gangshan). We are praying that our home will be located where we can easily build relationships with the locals, not far from church, and within a 30 minute drive to the girls’ school.
- Jeanette & I have a 2 year language assessment in June. We will be assessed by a team comprised of our language supervisor, senior colleague who is Taiwanese, and a local Taiwanese (sometimes they’re more fluent Taiwanese speakers so the accent and choice of phrases may be different from what we learn in our textbooks). It will take about an hour for each of us. Please pray that it will be a time of peace & encouragement for all.
- Lastly, please pray for our parents. They are in their 80’s (Jeanette’s mother close to) and we feel badly that we are so far away and not able to help them. Jeanette’s father – still going through dialysis but was getting weaker so he was moved to a nursing home. My father’s prostate cancer came back after being in remission for 13 years so he is going through treatment.
In life there are so many things that are beyond our control & wisdom, but God has been transforming our helplessness into faith. Praise be to God!