What I Learned in Asia (1)

Dear Praying Friends:After almost six weeks in China and Taiwan, I have a clearer picture of the sorts of pressures believers face. In this letter, we’ll look at the situation in Taiwan.

Busy, Busy

Everyone seems to be working harder than ever before. “Publish or perish” forces even tenured faculty members to churn out articles, regardless of quality. Budget restraints make even government employees unsure of job security. Both husband and wife work to earn enough for rising costs in a struggling economy, where health and education costs soar (sound familiar?).

Politics, Politics

With elections for the national legislature coming up December 11, trucks cruise the streets day and night, loud-speakers blaring urgent appeals for votes. Tension has rarely been higher, as the two main camps compete to control Taiwan’s future. A razor-thin and question-filled presidential election in March left the nation sharply polarized, and that split has only deepened since then. Friendships, churches, and even families strain under the pressure of political passions that have left many disgusted and eager to emigrate. One friend of mine is even thinking of moving to China!

Marriages in Trouble

Almost everyone I talked to had been divorced, was on the verge of divorce, or knew someone who had recently gotten divorced. Since women entered the workplace, they have less time for family and home, and there are more temptations for everyone. What sad stories I heard! How the testimony of Christians is being badly tarnished by failures of faith, hope, and love!

The Unfriendly Dragon

To add to all these pressures, China continues to threaten the use of force to compel Taiwan to “return” to the Motherland (though the island has never been ruled by the Communists). President Chen has sent mixed messages about his plans for the future, but Beijing has decided that he means to lead Taiwan into greater independence. Chen and his supporters do not believe China’s warnings, but others – including the U.S. - take them very seriously indeed.

Depression Epidemic

So many people are depressed that the government recently held a seminar on the subject. You hear it spoken of on the television, radio talk shows, and frequently in ordinary conversation. Since few Chinese choose counseling, and fewer psychiatrists know how to help people deal with their problems, the universal solution is medication.

Health Hazards

Most Taiwanese urbanites don’t get the exercise they need; fast food does its ugly work there as much as in America; the air and water are polluted (though not nearly as bad as in China). You will not be surprised to learn that many of the people with whom I met suffer from health problems. What does impress me is the way they persevere amidst all these pressures.