Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Grace Place and more

1/6/12 3:45pm

Yesterday was an awesome day. Don called from work and said to be ready at 6:00 because Jerry is going to take us to English class/Bible study. Jerry had mentioned church and Bible study at lunch on Fri.  After Don called, it dawned on me what an amazing thing this was that without contacting the OMF missionaries, we were going to go to Bible study! The statistic is that out of 23 million people in the country only 3.9% are Christian and out of all the counties, Chia-yi has the smallest percentage at .1%. This county is known as being the hardest group of people on the island to reach with the Gospel. “Some how,” within 5 days of being here, we seem to have “stumbled upon” some of the .1%! I’d call that a God set-up!

Jerry arranged that he would come to our house after work and take us to the English class/Bible study …we thought. Something got lost in translation. He did come, but he came on his scooter! Mike and Donnie were out to supper with the van when he arrived. As we stood at the gate considering what to do, Mike and Donnie came driving up. They had decided to bring supper home rather than eat out. They hadn’t done that before. Yeah, now we had a vehicle, and we could follow Jerry on his scooter.

The “church” wasn’t very far away from our house. It was a storefront building with a sign marking it “The Grace Place.” Apparently Jerry had told his class that we were coming because they seemed to be expecting us. They greeted us with a lot of "Ni hao"s and nodding heads. Barry Owen, an American missionary, had the students introduce themselves to us in English. There were 4 students besides Jerry…2 young men and 2 young women. Of course, they all had English names. Ivonna seemed to be the youngest and is a student who wants to be an airplane mechanic (Daddy wants her to be a “navigator”). She was the least proficient in English. Chester is a student in college and works in a restaurant and makes very good dumplings. His English is quite good in speaking, but he is not good at reading. Jen has a part-time job as a teacher and is a little more advanced in English than Chester and Ivonna. Then there was Clark. He is a middle school science teacher and has the best handle on the language between the four of them. Truly wonderful young adults. We talked about our coming to Taiwan. We told them how we had to spend the night in a hotel in Taoyuan and how we couldn’t speak Mandarin. I showed them the app on the iPhone we used to get the taxi and hotel room. They thought that was “awesome”! We laughed and talked and had a good time.

After we had sufficiently introduced ourselves all around, Barry started the lesson.  Barry uses the Bible to teach English. This night, they were reading the section of John where Andrew and Simon Peter were called to follow Jesus after they had been following John the Baptist. I was surprised at how much they knew. Barry asked them about the term “lamb of God.” With some prompting, they remembered that a lamb was a sacrifice in the Jewish religion. They had been taught all the background that goes with that story. After discussing any unfamiliar words and the actual content of the verses, Barry read the passage out loud, twice. Then we took turns going around the table reading it out loud phrase by phrase. We did this 3 times. The sounds of English are so different from their language that it is hard to make it come out right, but they definitely knew what they were reading. Another advanced class was coming in at 8:00, so we closed up. Barry offered that we stay for that class, too, but Don was tired from working hard all day with the machine installation. We were invited to come to church on Sun. at 10:00. Worship service is held in the upstairs of the same building. We are curious to see how they conduct Sun. am worship. All Barry said was that it is a “friendly” church.

We said good night to Jerry, and we parted ways…he on his scooter and us in our vehicle. How awesome is that!!


We went to church on Sun. There was one other American there besides us and the missionaries. She's a young lady doing volunteer teaching at an elementary school. She is from Lindstrom, MN! How about that! She couldn't believe we knew where Lindstrom, MN less that we lived nearby! What a hoot!

Church was very nice. It was conducted very similarly to any small church in the US...singing, communion, sermon, offering, closing song. A missionary sat behind us and interpreted. The words to the songs were on a screen and were printed in English under the Mandarin.

Worship at the Grace Place; English subtitles; light-haired young girls are MK's.
 There were about 25 adults there, 7 of them were Americans--two sets of missionaries, us, and the girl from Lindstrom. There were nearly as many children as adults. They left for children's instruction during the sermon. The pastor is 2nd generation Chinese Christian. His father, we're told, has a very interesting story. I'm looking forward to hearing it someday. After the church service, they set up tables and chairs to have lunch and then conducted adult Bible study.

Barry and Peggy, the missionaries, are going back to the States at the end of the month for their sabbatical. They've been here in Chia-yi for many terms, over 20 years in total. They conduct the Wed. night Bible/English class, assist in the church functions and facilitate an English conversational class. Leaving at the end of the month leaves a void in the Mon. night English conversation class until the next missionary appointment comes in May. They've asked us to consider helping with that group while they wait for the new missionary. What timing!

The Grace Place is near our house. All of the service is interpreted in English. They serve the professionals, thus the emphasis on learning English. The Grace Place may be our niche considering that Don and I are professionals, and we can relate to them and they to us. Also, we are short term and have so little time to learn any of the language. Being in a church that promotes English is to our advantage. The Grace Place is a good place for us.


Last night, we went with Barry and Peggy to their "English conversation" study/dinner group. We went to a hot pot/ buffet restaurant. I'll try to describe it in 100 words or less. First, the hot pot is a Japanese form of eating similar to fondu only using boiling water instead of oil, and the result is soup. This is so popular in Taiwan that this is our 3rd hot pot experience since we got here 10 days ago. It had been explained in my Taiwan book which was nice to be familiar with the concept before arriving. The hot pot is just that...a pot with hot water. You then add vegetables, bits or strips of meat or seafood, greens, sprouts, mushrooms, tofu, noodles, etc. All three hot pot experiences we've had were a bit different from each other. One was where the hot pot and its ingredients were ordered and an individual pot was brought to the table on a hot plate fueled by a sterno-type aerosol canister with the ingredients served on a platter. The ingredients were then dropped into the pot one at a time or all at once. At the SF party, one of the courses included a communal hot pot where a big pot was brought to the table heated by the same type of heat source. Then the lazy Susan was piled up with the ingredients to add to the pot. Then each individual would ladle out a helping into a soup bowl.

Well, at the restaurant last night, which was in Putzu, the tables each had 6 recessed hot plates with a hole in the table to set your pot in. There were switches on the edge of the table for each one to operate their own hot pot.

This is a hot pot restaurant in Taipei similar to the one we went to with the Owens in Putzu

The meal began by ordering a soup base--chicken, beef, oyster, clam, etc. The waitress came with a big "coffee" urn to fill your pot with whatever kind of base you ordered. Then we went to the cooler section of the "buffet" and picked out our own ingredients. Again, we added our ingredients to our pot and let it boil. Soon we had a pot full of soup! There were other buffet tables that had salad fixings and fruit, also popcorn and Belgium waffles (plain, I mean, dry waffles). Not sure what that was all about. There was also a condiment bar for sauces, soy being the only sauce I recognized, and a beverage bar...where I actually recognized everything, like soda and juice and tea...heehee. So that is what a hot pot restaurant is. Was that 100 words or less? I don't know.

As for the "English conversation" part of the evening, there were Barry and Peggy, their 2 children who are "home" on college break from the States, Victor, a doctor, Sharon, a small business owner, and Carl, an electrical engineer. Peggy and I were not in on the conversation much. Peggy kept asking me questions that led into telling her our story about Japan and Sarah and where we've been, etc. I kept apologizing for taking up her time. She kept wanting to know more, so we spent much of the evening just sharing together between the two of us. I know she was interested and was quite surprised, I must say blessed, by our testimony of walking with Jesus and his changing, healing in our life...but it was obvious, as she said so, that she also wanted to know who we were considering they had asked us about helping with this group when they leave. She said a few times that she felt they had so little time to get to know us before they leave at the end of the month. (She and I made a wonderful connection, though. We're going to their home for supper on Sat. night. ) We did break our "private" conversation to visit with Sharon as well. She's a very nice lady with children in college. Barry filled us in on her before we got to the restaurant. She has been coming to these evenings faithfully for over a year. She has asked Jesus to be her savior but is struggling with letting go of the ancestor worship of her traditional thinking. I will get back to the Taoist belief in ancestor worship when I think I understand it better. Barry gave us an explanation, but it's such a foreign concept that I don't really get it yet. At whatever stage Sharon is at in her spiritual journey, her husband is not and doesn't want to be at her same point. He drops her off ay class and picks her up but does not stay. I was surprised at the deep conversation that Sharon wanted to have with Peggy (and me, because I was there). It was about raising children and about her good relationship with her husband. This is a much more advanced English level than what we experienced in the class on Wed. night. We would be happy to be involved with this group in any capacity.


We had an interesting evening at Bible study/ English class last night. We didn’t do any Bible study because 3 out of the 5 students were not able to come. Clark was in another town for some reason. Chester has actually moved away for a time. And Ivonna had a scooter accident on her way to class. She was being checked out at the hospital, but no one seemed to be overly concerned. It was not surprising to us that this would happen because of how crazy the traffic can be.

Jerry and Jenny were the only students. We chose to leave the lesson for next week to be shared with the others. Instead, we had “conversation” time. I asked about earthquakes. Jenny told us about the great earthquake of 9/12/99. It was 7.2 and very destructive. Barry pulled up pictures on his iPad. It was amazing. About 2,000 deaths and 10,000 homes destroyed. The pictures showed 2nd floors of buildings that had become 1st floors, a school running track that had a section of it raised 8 feet out of the ground, a hotel that literally fell over. It was discovered that the worst damage was caused by substandard construction...not accidentally, but on purpose. Those who were responsible were prosecuted. Barry also looked up the seismology record for yesterday and Tues. Yesterday, Taiwan had 8 earthquakes. The largest was 3.2. They were all on the east coast of the island and were not felt on this western side. Tues. there were 11 quakes. Yikes!

We also talked about the elections coming up on Sat. They are very important. There are 3 candidates, but only 2 are significant. It appears the race is very close. Jenny said, “My vote is very important!” because it is nearly 50-50. The split is between the green party and the blue party…one is the DPP, Democratic Progressive Party; the other is the KMT, the Kuomintang, the nationalist incumbent party. The divide between them is wide. The KMT wants diplomacy with the mainland, someday uniting with them (when they open up to “freedom”). The DPP doesn’t trust the communists under any circumstances, therefore, want to stay completely separate. This sounds logical to me, but there is an argument on the other side. The KMT says if they would soften their relationship with China (PRC), it would open up international standing and recognition that they don’t have in the world today. They also say that Taiwan is aggravating China by staying a “rebellious state." China has missiles aimed at Taiwan and whenever they get a little aggravated with them China does some “saber-rattling.” The Taiwanese fear one day the Chinese will follow through with their threats. According to our discussion last night, half the population, including the incumbent president, is fed up with the threats and would solve the problem by compromise. The other half wants to stand their ground as independent nationalists. It will be very interesting on Saturday.

Note:The incumbent president (KMT) won the election.


Everything is beginning to shut down for the upcoming New Year holiday week starting on Fri. night. Because of this, Ivonna was the only student who came to Bible/ English class last night. Ivonna was the one who had the scooter accident last week. Thankfully, she came away from the incident unscathed. Again, we had conversation and called it a night. Peggy came by as we were closing down and invited us to stop by the house on the way home and pick up some things she wanted to give me after cleaning her freezer and cupboards in preparation for leaving the country. The most important thing she gave us was ibuprofen, something we forgot to stock up on before we left. When I had asked her about it in an earlier conversation, she said that any kind of pain reliever was something we would not be able to buy here. She brings it from the States. She had a whole stash, so she shared.

And life continues on in Taiwan.

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