Sat, Apr 14, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Johnny Neihu's NewsWatch: Tips for vulnerable missionaries

In some parts of the US, Taiwan is thought of as a backward and dangerous place where you can never find an elevator when you need one. The truth, however, is far more horrifying. Now, with a missionary family on the way, Johnny comes to the rescue with potentially life-saving advice.

By Johnny Neihu

I would like to address this week's column to the Biggerses -- David, Jennifer and Makayla -- of Rock Hill, South Carolina. According to an edition last week of the Rock Hill Herald, this lovely family is about to drop everything (and I mean everything) to come to Taiwan to be missionaries.

Says the Herald: "Rock Hill Police Lt. David Biggers is resigning soon ... He's becoming a Christian missionary. But it is not for a few months, and it is not just him. Biggers and his wife are selling their house and everything in it -- the cars, everything -- and moving themselves and their 8-year-old daughter to Taiwan.

They may never come home."

Dear God ... they make it sound like the poor Biggerses are headed to Fallujah. And why are their cars inside their house? Aren't there garages in Rock Hill?

But it gets worse: "The Biggerses will live in a 600-square-foot apartment on the fifth floor of a 36-story high rise in bustling Taipei, population 7 million."

"No elevator," Biggers said. "It sounds like a big sacrifice, but all that is material possessions. It is nothing compared to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ."

Hmm ... dying in agonizing pain with nails through your extremities. Eating stinky tofu while dodging puddles of betel nut spittle. Yeah, not really a close one.

And where in Taipei is this 36-story building with no elevator?

Then, the shocker: "They came home to prepare, but now comes the hard part. Taiwan is not mainland China."

Oh shit, really?

"It is an island that China does not recognize. It can be a politically volatile place."

No recognition; lots of volatility -- Afghanistan is starting to sound good by comparison:

"Definitely not a vacation," Jennifer Biggers said.

"God will provide and take care of us. Somebody asked me if it was safe to go, and I said, `Sure, if you remove the 90 missiles pointed at us by China.'"

Dear Biggerses, I have bad news: It's far worse than you think -- and not just 'cos you missed a digit in counting the missiles the Chicoms will have pointed at you.

You'll be moving to a country with -- shock -- affordable healthcare (but you can relax, we're not Commies). Where most of the citizenry carries no loaded weapons whatsoever (Taichung excepted). Where religious nutjobs are only a negligible part of the population, with scant influence over government policy. And, sadly, Taiwan doesn't break out in paroxysms of fear and invade a country every time white powder falls out of an envelope.

Yes, Biggerses, it's going to be difficult to adjust.

But to help you make the transition, I herewith present (in condensed form) Johnny Neihu's Survival Guide for American Missionaries Trapped in Taiwan, assembled with thoughtful input from some Yank friends -- at least, the ones who are out of rehab.

1. The Mormons

Don't know if you realize it, but they're already here. Lots of them. Even on Penghu. In other words, you're going to have a lot of catching up to do -- and some stiff competition. In your favor, most people I know recoil in terror at the very sight of a white-shirted, bicycle-riding Mormon duo, and will risk being crushed by a wave of scooters and careening blue trucks just to avoid them.

2. The War on Terror

What's that? Is it available on Wii yet?

3. Political differences

Just kidding, because even us Taiwanese know about Bush's War on Terror. But here's the thing: In the US, a politician who in any way voted against funding for that war (or its spin-off sitcom, the War in Iraq) would be labeled a stinking traitor, have his head shaven in public and be sent into humiliating exile in some godforsaken, fearful backwater. Like Canada.

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