Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Deconstructing Life in Riverside

Getting “Visa’d”

We have received visas from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office. By treaty with the US, Taiwan has no official embassy. The US has no official embassy in Taiwan either. Those duties are contracted to private organizations. The Taiwanese organization in the US is called the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office. In Taiwan the American organization is called the American Institute Taiwan. These organizations handle all consular type operations in their respective countries.

We had to make a couple of trips to LA to secure visas. In preparation for the first trip, I filled out the visa applications, took the visa photographs, and gathered paperwork, like an introduction letter and set off to the Office. I had gone on the internet and looked at what was required and thought that I had put it all together in a nice package. But bureaucrats are the same in any country: Even when they’re working for a private organization. In addition to the things I had included I also needed:

My Children’s Birth Certificates (I had to prove they were mine)
My Marriage Certificate (I had to prove she was my wife)
A Certificate of Ordination (I had to prove I was legitimate)
A Statement of Qualifications (I had to prove I was qualified)
A Letter of Invitation from Taiwan (I had to prove I was invited)

The lady that was working with me wanted to make it easy for me to know what was needed so she gave me a nice list to follow – Written in Chinese. But when I told her I couldn’t read it she very patiently explained each thing necessary. Now you might be thinking, “That’s the way it should be.” But these people were incredibly busy. They were working very quickly. I’m used to America…I go to the store and ask for something and they tell me we’re out of that…just because they don’t want to take any time helping you. After I turned in all the paperwork that was needed it only took 24 hours to receive the visa. Maybe it’s better that the government isn’t involved.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Deconstructing Life in Riverside

Turning Over the Church

Sunday, we turned over the church. It has taken me a couple of days to figure out what I wanted to say about that. Being overly emotional isn’t my style. But on the other hand I don’t want to seem cold and unemotional. I was really surprised at my own reaction…there was even a moment I had to stop and compose myself, as I preached my final sermon there.

These are people that I have labored with, struggled through issues with, laughed with, cried with and even fought with. In short, it was as close to a family as you can get without sharing DNA. There is an emotional connection; a feeling of camaraderie. There is an emotional transaction that takes place when you have gone through those things together. It’s not that gooey, trembly, “I can’t eat anything,” kind of emotion you that feel for your first girlfriend (or boyfriend as the case may be.) It’s the kind of emotion you feel for your little brother, the one who embarrassed you to death in a million different ways as a kid. The real thing, you know…Love.

As a person I love every one of those people, but speaking as a pastor, people can be sort of hard to work with, just like climbing Mount Everest is kind of a difficult hike. There were times of great frustration. I would counsel people, only to see them fall into the trap I was trying to help them avoid and that they couldn’t see. I always wanted the best for them but sometimes they saw my preaching or counsel as a criticism. Sometimes they thought I couldn’t possibly know what I was talking about. They treated me just like I treated my dad. One person said, “I thought you’d always be there, if I knew you’d be leaving this soon, I’d have been nicer, or whatever.” How many of us have ever had that thought?

It feels strange to say this but now they’re Pastor Jason’s family. He’ll go through some tough things with them. But, I can tell you from experience it’s worth every minute of it.

At the end of the evening service, there was this spontaneous outpouring of testimonies about the impact we had on their lives. I thought to myself, they can see the impact that we’ve had on them, but they couldn’t possibly understand the profound impact they have had on me.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Deconstructing Life in Riverside

I want to use this blog to chronicle, what I consider to be the biggest adventure of our lives: Packing it all up and moving to another country, specifically, the "nation" of Taiwan. I say "nation" with quotation marks because there is debate in some circles as to the independence of Taiwan. But this isn't going to be a political blog, at least not all the time: Some things can't be avoided, you know how I am. Well some of you do anyway. I want this to be about my family and life in Taiwan. I also will share all that happens as we labor to build the church in Taiwan. That's going to be an adventure.

They say a journey begins with the first step. But I don't think that's right, the journey really begins with the making of the "To Do" list. The first entry on that list is the beginning of the journey because that's when the dream begins to be a reality. The list is done and the journey has begun, so I want to begin here at the first tasks on the list: Deconstructing life in Riverside.

So let's start with getting ready to leave...The first step on the Taiwan Adventure:


There are a million things that need to be done in order to set us up to move there. One doesn’t realize the enormity of the task. Over the years we have accumulated an enormous amount of what I would classify as junk, but what my family insists on calling treasures. What do you do with all this stuff? How much can you really sell? How much would anyone but you want?

My plan included calling up the local Waste Hauler and renting a 40’ debris box and tipping the house over and allowing it all to spill out into the box. This, I feel is the most efficient method of packing, however, when I ran that past the committee, they were not impressed with my zeal for efficiency. So my life is full of boxes. Boxes that are packed and unpacked, repacked and stacked, and set aside until someone remembers that wonderful treasure that is hidden in a particular box.

Then there are the yard sales, people trampling on the lawn, buying stuff that should have, by all rights, been thrown away, leaving the good stuff, so I have to do this again. We sold old dishes; we sold little knick-knack stuff: Dust collectors, if you will. But we couldn’t sell the antique accordion, the powerful dissecting microscope; the stuff that really might be treasure. I know what you’re thinking right at this moment, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” You couldn’t help yourself; I must have heard that expression 4,000,000 times at the “Sale of Sales.” But I think it’s still junk, and that’s all right, as long as it’s now somebody else’s junk.

The packing continues and it’s going to take a while, I think. My wife is an excellent and competent woman, and I often marvel at the things she manages to get done. But this process can seem overwhelming. She looks at the garage and says, “I have to go through that and find what I can get rid of.” She really wants to do it right, I know she does, but it takes so long and there is stuff in there that I haven’t seen since we got married. Then there’s the stuff in the house and it all has to go somewhere, so the process will continue until it’s done. Meanwhile I think I’ll keep the waste hauler’s number handy. You never know…hell could freeze over.