Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Commin' Round the Mountain

Mountain hiking is a very popular pastime in Taiwan.  I have made a dear friend with a man who's english name is Jack and he loves to climb.  Jack and I have hiked up mountains for two years.  When I moved from his town of Meinung last July, he suggested that we meet each other every week at a mountain in between our two cities.  This seemed like a good idea at the time.  In Meinung we climbed ChaSan (tea mountain) and it was nice.  It was steep but maintained most of the way.  The gentle incline got your heart rate up and caused some strain but the 300 meter path was not so bad.

Now we climb up LeeDengSan.  This mountain is a training mountain.  That means that people climb this mountain every day for a week before the tackle the highest mountains in Taiwan.  LeeDengSan is a 900 meter hike up a 45 degree incline of slippery mud and rocks.  It takes Jack and I about an hour now to climb it... but in the beginning it would take us two hours and some change.  I still sweat like a fish the whole way.  (but my blood pressure and heart rate are the best they have EVER been)

LeeDengSan is popular with retired school teachers.  They drive from many cities to this mountain to climb.  Many climb it every day... that is e-v-e-r-y day.  Some of them climb it twice in one day.  Here I am in my $100 hiking boots and $50 climbing sticks with a $25 Camelback... and they are passing me like I am standing still as they wear $2 rubber rainboots or go barefoot with no stick and no water.  They are usually 20 to 30 years older than me.  

The Taiwan openness is so refreshing.  "My, you are fat!  You need to loose that weight."  Yes, thank you, I did not know that.  I am a 38 inch waist with a belly, but hardly obese.  I was a firefighter for 10 years.  But these thin and strong people have all sorts of suggestions on how I might improve my health.  "Drink a glass of water every morning," one man said yesterday, "and then lie down on the floor and pretend to swim for 30 minutes.  Put a pillow under your belly and that will push your intestines back into your abdomen."  Sure, I'll get right on that.

But the fact is that these people are NOT offensive.  They are like extended family.  Their observations and assistance, though blunt by Western standards, is kind hearted and loving.  I take no offense... well... not actively.

At the top of the mountain there is quite a community.  On one's first climb up the path, one is stunned and upset to find that there is a road on the back of the mountain that allows small trucks to deliver water and furniture to the top of the mountain.  Here, there are shelters made of canvas with tables and chairs all over.  Next to the shelters are locked cabinets full of water, food, gas stoves, etc.  On top of the mountain people have lunch parties and drink oolong tea.

Without fail, one or two groups excitedly invite us to join them.  It isn't just because I am Y-gworen (foreigner), they do this for everyone that makes it up the mountain.  Before lone there are a dozen ore more people around the table eating dumplings and rice and all sorts of fruit and drinking gallons of hot tea.  They are laughing and joking and giving all sorts of political and weather reports.  It is a hoot.

Upon leaving, people say their thanks and offer their wisdom until we all meet again.  And as I walk away with Jack, if often say, "Yesu Eye Nee" (Jesus loves you).   Without any hold outs, they all respond, wide eyed and appreciative, "Thank you, we are honored!"

Now these folks are Buddhists, Taoists, and various other "local" religions (mostly idol worship)... and they are VERY appreciative when I simply let them know that Jesus loves them.  Sure, many of these religions are "inclusive" and allow for Jesus to be one of the many God's they worship.  That isn't the point of my blog today.

How many times in the West have you shared the love of Jesus even in so small a greeting as "Jesus loves you," only to be met with sour faces, scoffs or even ridicule.  Here in Taiwan there is resistance to conversion, but there is great respect for other people's faiths.  No one is teased or ridiculed for having a faith, even when it is disagreed with.

Isn't it odd that in the nations where "everyone" says the KNOW that Jesus loves them because grandma beat it into their heads as a kid so please don't unload that crap one me that's offensive and violates civil law yadda yadda yadda... that here in the land of idols and god that DO NOT love their worshippers and have no time to really hear their prayers unless they pay enough money, that they respond favorably to the simple message that Jesus loves them.

Their response is not just a "thank you"... it is a true amazement at the possibility that a god (THE God in this case, but they aren't sure of that yet) would have the time, emotion, and willingness to actually be LOVING toward them.  There is some fear in their voice as well because to have a god notice you in this culture is not always favorable.  They have the kind of respect that is mission in the West, the true knowledge that a powerful God, able to make and destroy all things, LOVES them and caress for them.  They are not always convinced of this fact, but the communication of this fact is treasured and met with gratitude.

Ah, what the "Christians" could learn from the Pagans about the Fear of the Lord.

-The Haggard

Monday, October 30, 2006

No Peace on the Beach

Today my wife, Sandy, and I drove the scooter down to the beach.  From our home in Neipu, the Kenting (pronounced Kun-Ding) beach area is only about 45 minutes by scooter.  We took a portable tea set and some sandwiches and had a picnic.  Sandy read from the Scriptures (I Timothy as I recall) and wrote in her journal.  I brooded and talked to God about this place.  Taiwan can be overwhelming.

Taiwan has 23 million or more people crammed into an island 90 miles wide at the widest and 250 miles long.  Only about 1/3 of the island is habitable as the rest is rugged mountains.  This makes some parts of Taiwan (the cities of Taichung and Kouhsiung in particular) some of the most densely populated places on earth with upwards to 5,000 people per square kilometer.  

Of that mass of scooters, cigarettes and tea; only about 1% of the population can be called any flavor of evangelical Christian.  Oh, the number crunchers like to say there is about 5% Christianity on the island, but this number comes from people who are NOT Christens and do not come from a Western/Judeao-Christian culture. Therefore, they do not have the cultural baggage that helps to define what a "Christian" is.  They count every flavor of religion that includes a "Christ" within its mantra.  

Even with that most liberal of figuring... Taiwan is pretty lame in the salvation department.  There have been active missionaries here for at least 5 decades working diligently on this problem.  Racially, the aboriginal population does well at a nearly 50% Christian population (but there are only 100,000 of these subjugated people left).  And at the other end of the spectrum is the Hakka.  The Hakka are a racial group from the Han people of mainland China.  They emigrated here mostly at the end of the Ming dynasty (apx 1644).  These people rate at lest than 0.2% Christian.  Books have been written on the Hakka's nonviolent resistance to conversion.  

These numbers are numbing for a Christian convinced that God has called the Taiwan population to His throne and shelter.

But there are worse numbers.

Every 15 minutes in Taiwan a teenagers "successfully" completes a suicide.

The abortion rate per capita is greater in Taiwan than in the United States.

The majority of Taiwanese married couples are not faithful to their spouses.  This is an open situation where verbally they don't see a problem... but emotionally they are torn apart inside.

Pornography is practically available to anyone of any age simply by turning on the TV late at night or by going to the local pirated DVD store where such DVDs cost only a buck in US currency. 

In Taiwan, one is brought face to face with an argument that has raged in the USA for decades:  Do you legislate morality or do you teach morality and show people how to legislate themselves?

The legislation of morality in the USA has an interesting variable that Taiwan does not have.  In the USA we have a history of Lex Rex, Rex Lex: the philosophy of "Is the Law King or is the King Law?"  We have chosen Lex Rex as a people for more than 200 years... really even further back to the Magna Carte and even the 10 commandments!  But the Taiwanese people have lived for 2000 years under Rex Lex, where the Emperor or the Minister's WORDS were the law of the moment.

For example: In Taiwan many American and Canadian english teachers have been frustrated by the fact that they came here on a contract only to see the contract change at the whim of the employer.  They started with 20 hours a week on paper but after a few weeks there are "just one more class" arguments.  This is because as a culture the Taiwanese see the Boss as the authority more than the Contract.

Because the King is Law, policemen are in an entirely different light here than in the West.  People will SPEED past a cop here because today may not be the cop's day to catch speeders.  Today he feels like only catching jaywalkers.  Tomorrow he will catch speeders.  Because of this, traffic LAWS that are ON THE BOOKS are rarely enforced unless the cops feel like it or are facing a quota for the day.  Everyone, even cops, run red lights and drive on the wrong side of the road as they feel the need.

The laws are there... and they don't matter.  No one is afraid of the law here.

Now, put that in the "Legislating Morality" argument.  Can you pass an anti-abortion law in Taiwan that will be obeyed?  Can you put a law on the books that limits teen access to smokes, porn, and beer and expect it to be followed? 

Robert Heinlien wrote in "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" that one of the main character's political leaning was "Rational Anarchist."  In other words, he argued, that people will do just whatever the heck they WANT to do... but they rationally try to get along and follow the rational laws.  He argued that no matter the political system employed, that most people are in fact Rational Anarchist and just don't know it.  it is up to them how much of the law they will follow based on their "rationality" of the use of that law.

So the key in his political view, and in my view of missions, is not to make laws or create "dos and don'ts" but rather to show/teach people what the rational truth is.  Let them legislate themselves.  

Well, not everyone is really very smart... but everyone acts in their own interests.  Yes, they will fail, that is why there is grace.  But they will not TRY to act rationally if all there is is force and law to guide them.

I sat on a mountain top, near a temple, drinking tea one day.  A man who was a retired school teacher stopped to talk.  Upon hearing I was a missionary, he asked many questions about Jesus.  He assumed, as many do here, that Buddha and Jesus are basically the same in their theology and teaching.  I explained to him the trap of Karma and how Jesus paid the price so that sin (or even Karma) cannot be counted against us. He took it upon himself.  Buddha said he could not do that for us. Jesus said that only he could do that.  Sin (even Karma) cannot be paid for in our own lives because the sin (or karma) has already devalued that currency.  

With wide eyes and a pale face, he declared, "That is probably the most important thing I have ever heard in my life."

No law passed by any government is going to get THAT description.

Jesus changes lives.  

-The Haggard

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Well, it's about time I did...

Computers and me get along.  Always have... most likely always will.

I got my first Atari 400 in 1982.  Kicking and screaming I was drug into owning my first WINDOWS computer in 1990 after owning every Atari model made.  Now I am a Macintosh man without ashamedness. 

Computers are my art.  I design 3d sculpture on the computer and build it from the plans.  I write on my computer; novels, stories, letters, lessons, sermons.  I store my photos, my books, my albums... everything in computers.

As a young pastor and bible college student in the early 80s I butt head with colleges over using computer in my dorm room and turning in dot matrix printed assignments.  Now those school require computers in the dorm and turn in pages over internet.  

As a pastor of 22 years I filed, researched, wrote, and more on computers when church brethren and cistern though the computer was of the devil or worse.

So why in the world haven't I been BLOGGING?

Not sure.  But now I am.

Who am I?

Besides the obvious "nut-case" moniker I often wear, I am a thinking Christian.  I am philosophical missionary.  I am a libertarian speaker.  I am passionate listener.  I am a wild eyed prophet.

After 22 years of ministry and 14 years of marriage, I move my wife and me to Taiwan to be missionaries to the Lost of Taiwan.  I do not work in a church or a mission.  We are english teachers.  She in a college and me in a kindergarten.  We tell people about Jesus.  We tell them about liberation from sin and fear.  We see lives changed.

After many decades as a freedom loving American, as a libertarian thinker and speaker, as a gun enthusiast... I now live in a land that does not value those things because they do not have the historical baggage that brought me to that way of thinking and that world view.  

Seeing things from this side of the ocean and this side of the culture, there are many things about Church and Politics that I want to talk about.  I have changed.  Perhaps more wild and nutty than before.  Perhaps not.  Perhaps something else.

So now I am here to blog.

There is NO predicting what I will write on or at what length a subject will be dealt with.  I just need to vent.

So, nothing here on this first message other than introductions and howdies.  Come back and see what happens.

-The Haggard