Thursday, July 24, 2008

Private 25 Meter Indoor Swimming Pool

When I volunteer to teach English in a public school, I do so to teach English, not to proselytize. There is no salary as I cannot teach English for money on my visa. We teach English in the school system merely as a way of demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ in a practical way with no strings attached.

As a professor of TESL/TEFL at a Christian college commented to me several years ago when I led him and a few of his students on a summer teaching project to help middle and high school English teachers in mainland China 9 years ago (we do this frequently there), Jesus Christ is most glorified in us as we seek to excel in our teaching, not by twisting the opportunity around to share about God. Anyway, if we do a good job, opportunities to share about our faith may follow naturally.

Yesterday I was blessed in an unexpected way in the middle school I just began helping out at a few weeks ago. After class, I got a chance to go swimming in the 25 meter, 5 lane indoor swimming pool that two of the teachers have built on their large piece of property in the countryside! As I don't have a fitness center to enjoy out here like I did in previous years in the city, it was a dream come true.

In addition to the relaxation of swimming, we enjoyed a good time of conversation in English, Chinese, and Taiwanese that lasted until the early hours of the evening. What an unexpected pleasure, especially as our organization recently told us that for the calendar year which began in July, our budget has been slashed by 83% due in large part to the rocky economy back home. An opportunity to enjoy simple pleasures.

Mental Health Hospital Visit

Earlier this week I went to visit a young Taiwanese man who in previous years has roamed in and out of several of our Taichung churches in previous years, not to mention many other churches all  around Taichung. Unfortunately, the place where I went to visit him was the mental hospital in Caotun, a place where I had gone to visit him twice before 3 years ago and he has frequented many times.

Let's call the fellow Matt (not his real name). I won't get into any details, but Matt is generally friendly and kind; just can't get along with his parents and can't hold down a job for more than a couple of months. At age 33 he still lives at home. Thankfully, he's never been violent nor a threat to himself. Though I'm no doctor, it doesn't take a genius to see his problems are due not just to himself, but originated in his family of origin.

On the day of my visit, his father and mother set things up so I could be there as sort of an advisor/referee in addition to the person there from the hospital who was moderating the meeting between the three of them.

There was scattered arguing and bickering between the three of them but for the most part the woman from the hospital kept the meeting civil with her cheerful mediating attitude.

One thing that struck me with sadness is how there was so much suffering in the room, and not just in the mental realm.  Besides Matt, the three other adults all lived in WuRi, not too far from each other, their homes had both just been flooded last Saturday with two feet of water from the record-breaking rainfall of the latest typhoon.

Matt commented to the woman who has been helping take care of him this time that she was the friendliest he's ever met in all his time having to stay in the hospital (and he's been in the CaoTun unit or the mental care unit at Taichung hospital many many times over the past decade). Based upon what I observed, that was an accurate observation. She did indeed radiate joy and kindness in a place which lacks it. And this in spite of her home just having been flooded.

Although the three other adults were not Christians, they asked me to pray when I left. I felt burdened to pray not just for Matt, but briefly for them as they struggled with the mess of cleaning up after the flood:"When we are in pain, God is in pain. When we grieve, God grieves...."

I know very little about the mental health system in Taiwan, and even less about the hospitals in the US (aside from the movie "One flew over the Cuckoo's Nest"). I do know there are many many people involved with it, that like any system it's far from perfect, and that perhaps it relies too much on the prescription of medicine rather than dealing with issues endemic to extended families. I'd like to slow down to take the time to learn more.