Monday, May 26, 2008

No Contest in the Countryside

A few days ago in my Taiwanese textbook I came across the following practice sentence: "Chng7-kha7-gin1-a2 thak3-ccheh na3 boeh2 kah2 to7-chhi3-gin1-a2 keng2-cheng, goa1 khoa*4, bo7 keng3-cheng." That sentence, written twenty or more years ago, still holds true in modern day Taiwan. Roughly translated, that means that if you compare the relative competitiveness in school of children who live in the countryside with those who live in the big city, there is no contest.

Last week I went to visit Jack, a homebound high school freshman who lives in a small remote seaside village not too far from here. Two years ago he came down with a mysterious disease which he says has afflicted only 17 or 18 people in all of Taiwan and only twice that many in all the world. I didn't retain the Chinese name of the disease, and don't have a clue what it is in English. The symptoms include eyes which cannot focus, effectively leaving the young boy blind. He also has completely lost his sense of equilibrium, which means he can no longer walk and has difficulty even with a walker. He cannot lift objects or exercise in any manner without extreme difficulty because his muscles just don't respond. Bottom line: his body rarely receives what his brain commands. The result of all this is that apparently spends all day most every day in his bed.

Just as tragic as Jack's physical afflictions is the cost being exacted on his sense of personhood. As he shed a few tears while sharing with us, he feels that no one would have any desire to be friends with him, and he feels awkward visiting the church youth group because he is so different now. Yet he yearns for friendship and companionship. He had other words he shared with the gal who accompanied me to visit after I excused myself which he said were the first time he had shared with anyone ever.

Please pray for Jack, that he would feel and experience the healing, loving touch of God.

Also remember Jack's family. Jack's father, like many in these parts, is unemployed. Jack's mother operates a small beauty  salon on the first floor of their house. Jack has shared with his mother the desire to be able to attend school. But there are no schools in this area equipped to handle the needs of special education students with advanced needs. Jack's family would need to move to FengYuan north of Taichung city. But to move to the city would mean the loss of the family's sole means of livelihood, so Jack's mother tells him he has to make due for now by studying at home. I sense she's riddled with guilt and pain. I can't begin to relate to the father, whom I haven't met yet.

No contest for those who live in the countryside.

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