North for the Winter (Again)

It seems like we’re headed the wrong direction. The first deputation meetings we were able to schedule were for this January and February, in Michigan. So instead of making things easy and heading south for the winter, we’re making a trip to the frigid, snowy north.

And it’s not the first time this winter. For the first time in a few years, we didn’t have work obligations to keep us in Greenville for Christmas, so we went to visit our families in Michigan. Our white Christmas week was a lot of fun. It snowed almost every day, and Bella couldn’t stop eating the snow. She also had her first tractor ride with Papa, and got to go sledding for the first time.

Christmas vacation was a big time for Emmett, too. Not just because of presents, which he didn’t appreciate very much. He crawled for the first time on Christmas day, and hasn’t stopped since. Since we’ve back home, he has explored our house non-stop. I think we’re all enjoying his ability to move around on his own. And this weekend he even started pulling himself up.

So after a two-week break back home, we’re ready to head back up to Michigan. We have three meetings in a row, and close enough together we can stay with our parents!

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Money to Burn?

For us, talking about burning money is, like throwing it away, merely a figurative expression. But when we visited Taiwan last November, we saw a very literal instance of someone doing this.

Missionary Matt Hanna had taken us to visit the coastal section of the major southern city, Kaohsiung. On the drive back to the church, burn barrels lined the street in front of almost every small shop. Men and women were picking up bales of yellow paper and throwing it, by the handful, into the flames. Matt explained that the people buy this “spirit money” at the temples. Burning the money sends it to the spirits of the dead. While folk theology indicates this is to give the spirits a better life, some of our reading describes the Taiwanese people as very pragmatic; sending the spirits money and other gifts is the way to keep them from bothering you or causing trouble.

Some of the Taiwanese may be very serious and devout in buying and burning the spirit money. But they need to be told that they can do nothing to help their dead ancestors. And on the flip side, their ancestors aren’t looking for gifts and money to make a better after-life. Those who have died in the Lord can want for nothing, of course. The offerings mean nothing. The offerings also do nothing to ease the suffering of those who died without the Lord. Jesus told of an unbeliever who died and was in torment. No gifts could reach him.

This story also tells us that the dead are not interested in bothering the living, causing trouble for them. If the dead could communicate with the Taiwanese worshippers, they would want to warn them of the penalty for dying in sin, apart from Christ. The rich man asked if Abraham could send someone to tell his brothers how to avoid the torments of hell.

Who will bring God’s Word to the Taiwanese people? Who will tell them? We are excited that God has chosen us to go as missionaries to Taiwan. We look forward to bringing the only message of true life after death.