Why I Am a Christian -Taiwan

To the Lord Almighty, my God, my Savior, my Father: thank you for giving me this opportunity to share what you’ve done in my life with my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.

Why am I a Christian?

When I think of this question, I think of my daughter’s Sunday School teachers, those missionaries that I’ve come to know and my brothers and sisters-in-Christ who are teaching God’s words, witnesses to Christ and those who have given personal testimonies.   These are people that I think of when I think of God’s love. God’s love is literally, a miracle. How did these people behave and treat others before I’ve gotten know them, I’ll never see with my own eyes. But I’ve heard, thru their stories, thru my endless questions and curiosity: “so, what were you like before you’ve gotten to know Christ?”, or “what do you mean by you lived a very different life before?” Whether born-again-Christians or people born into Christian families, many have witnessed to me and others without knowing that they are doing so. They have deeply touched my heart and showed me God’s love for me.

How so? 

Well, it’s absolutely unbelievable to me the first time I experienced Christians doing me “favors” or being nice to me without expecting something in return. And when I said: “thank you”, they just simply nodded their heads and walked away. I thought: “wow, that’s rude.”

You see, I was raised to “bow down” to someone and endlessly thank them whenever they did something for me. And I was to seek every opportunity to return that “favor”, no matter what it takes! And the one who did the “favor” would be waiting for the “return” BUT must politely pretend that they don’t want a favor in return. It’s simply a false gesture. For a while, I lived in a world where unreturned favors make you a terrible person. The more people give you, the more you must give back. This includes friends, family and everyone who does you a favor. After awhile, you have a long list of favors you “owe”.

What is that? It’s a large part of being Chinese. You probably know this already, that majority of the Chinese culture is integrated with the teachings of Confucius, Taoism, and Buddhism. This is handed down from thousands of years ago. I will not get into these philosophies or Buddhism today; but you don’t have to be Chinese to relate to the fact that we are all educated by, foremost, our parents, second, teachers, and whether we’re aware it or not, our culture and the mass-media. 

Being Chinese. I was born in Taiwan, which is a tiny island west of China. Without going into history and politics, people from Taiwan are also Chinese. And being Chinese for many of us means being superstitious. 

If you have gone into any type of Asian food restaurant, you have probably been greeted by the “Lucky Cat “. The “Lucky Cat” was born in Japan – even the characters written on it is Japanese.

But somehow, the Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Korean and Japanese as well as other Asian ethnicities use it in their restaurants and businesses. Here’s a picture of the “Lucky Cat” and its description… Lucky Cat Duo Bank, with Kitten
Such noble cats, beckoning Money and Luck to their owners! Lucky Cats are found in Chinese shops throughout the world. This particular cat family measures 5.75″ wide and 6″ high, although we do also have a very large family, at 10″ by 11”! Right paw up invites luck, while the left paw invites money. So sweet!… So Charming! The words written on the golden coin that is being held in the paw translates as “hundred gold coins”!   Colors, numbers, directions of every single item placed in your home, work, your car, etc are all very important to the Chinese. That’s why you’ll see so many “red” things hung and taped all over walls, doors, ceiling fans, etc. Red is lucky for everyone and everything. The pronunciation of “clock” is the same as “death” in Chinese, therefore, one would NEVER give someone a ‘clock” as a gift – it means you are wishing death upon them and may even have the power to do so by giving them a clock. 6 and 8 are lucky. 2 means hungry.

So, if you see “8-8-8” on a license plate, you’ll probably be right assuming the driver is Asian. My apt number is 222, which means “hungry-hungry-hungry”. That explains why my husband & I are not wealthy. 

The Chinese also have their own lunar Calendar and astrology. If one avoids all the unlucky symbols, dates, signs, directions, etc., one will be prosperous, rich, have longevity, and a very large and healthy family. I can go on and on about the Chinese culture, but I will stop here. 

The key is that for many people, Chinese or not, our culture and nationality often include spiritual beliefs or certain religion that deeply shape us.

About Buddhism. My mother’s mother, my grandmother was a serious Buddhist. Grandma worn a black robe and repeated the same mantra over and over again for hours each day. She would sit in front of her Buddha statue with nothing moving but her mouth and her Buddhist prayer beads; or she would walk around the room in circles.

When I was young, I always envied Buddha because he had plate after plate of the most delicious food and fruits placed right in front of him every day. He didn’t need to share it with anyone, and we couldn’t eat it until after he’s eaten it. Buddha also had a cup of water set in front of him that we got to drink after grandma had finished praying. The water tasted special to me and grandma said it would cure me when I was sick or scared. It seems to have done the job. I loved drinking “Buddha water”, it tasted “holy”.

The best days were when I was well-behaved, I would get to drink the water for no special reason! 

I also helped grandma read her Buddha text because grandma is illiterate. She grew up in a farm in China, never went to school, and was set up by her parents to marry a man she’s never met when she was 15. Soon after, she had her first child when she was 16. The man she married is my grandfather. Turned out that grandpa was a very violent man. Seems to me now, that to escape the violence of her husband, grandma became a Buddhist. Not only that, she became a serious Buddhist.

Now, that kept grandpa away from her for good. Grandma’s warnings of how Buddha would punish us if we didn’t listen to him and follow Buddha’s rules had grandpa and all of us paying her the uttermost respect. 

Anyway, grandma couldn’t read, so, I’d help her. I tried my best to sound out these very complicated Chinese characters and I’m pretty sure that I didn’t pronounce a lot of them right. I sort of guessed. ‘Till today, poor grandma is still reciting a bunch of prayers and mantras made-up by a seven-year old girl. 

Those were good memories of Buddha. Going up to the “Buddhist Mountain” was also a good memory. Up in the mountains, I mediated at the temple for hours with the rest of the monks. These monks had dots on their shaven heads. The more incense dots, the more respect the monks gained. You had to pray a lot to get those dots. I wanted one but grandma said I was too young.

For a young child who was born into this, I liked Buddha. 

There is a dark side to Buddha as well. It was that we live in a cosmic world of reincarnation – this means that we all have many lives. Buddhists believe that every action and deed that we perform will have an effect on our “next” life. For example, a cow must have done something really wrong in its past life to have become a cow – that is why it sheds tears before it dies. That’s pretty traumatic for a child, or anyone to know that a cow used to be a human being! Well, when I heard this at the age of 7, I became sick every time I’d eat beef. Not only that, ants, scallions, grass…everything has a life. I was terrified when I killed a bug by accident. Buddha is also a jealous god. He does not want us to believe in other gods. So, my first trip to a church in Taiwan with my family was a disaster (so it seemed at the time).

My brother had a bad accident right after church and grandma never let us forget that it was because we betrayed Buddha. 

Those were 2 of the many unpleasant sides of Buddha for me – turning people into plants and animals and hurting us when we betrayed him. 

Anyhow, praying and mediating with grandma, for the most part, was “safe”. And in deed, I needed to be protected.

My parents. You see, my mother and father were not fit to be parents. Whatever was handed down to them was terrible. They had horrific parenting skills that often included violence, neglect and abuse. My younger brother and I were running for our lives almost on a daily basis.

My mother was also into fortune-telling. Many of the major decisions she later made in life for me and for herself were based on what one fortune-teller said when I was one year old. 

So, grandma was my spiritual guide who gave me the knowledge and understanding of what Buddhism is thru her eyes. And mother and father were my life.

Now, the mass-media. I was raised on lots of Chinese Soap Operas. My mother loved Soap Operas. My favorite was called “Only the Stars Know My Heart” – it was about a mother trying to raise her four kids while facing daily difficulties of a bad husband, hunger, and the most unfortunate events one can ever imagine. It’s what the Chinese call “very bad luck”. The kids vowed to save their mother when they’re older. They would do anything and everything to give their mother a “rich and happy life”. I cried with my mother watching “Only the Stars Know My Heart”. The company that created the show certainly knew how to get people addicted. They must have made lots of money because they had the highest ratings and there were many women and young children crying every night after the show was over. And I was determined too, just like these kids, that I would save mother from misery. For sure, television had educated me. 

Teachers! Ah, teachers! Unfortunately, it was bad news too. In the 80’s, physical abuse was permitted and encouraged in schools in Taiwan. I was often humiliated and beaten in school. I endured this from first thru fourth grade. 

After fourth grade, I moved to the U.S. with my mother. Mother wanted to escape the devastating life she had with father. We flew 18 hours to be with mother’s siblings.

I think you have a pretty good picture of what I grew up with before the age of 10.

After coming to America, life was still difficult with an abusive and very unstable mother. My mother worked as a waitress the third day we landed in America. I, myself started working in the restaurant shortly after. It was a “new” beginning for us, my mother would say. Yet, our paths were treacherous. I almost lost all hope for life, when, at the age of 19, I was severely attacked by a man whom I learned later on, was a psychopath. 

But along life’s way, I’ve also met many people who showed me acts of kindness. My life was full of darkness, but there was a small light burning inside of me from the accumulated love that I had received.

I had true hope for the first time when I married my husband 7 years ago.

You see, after several dates with my husband, he gave me a rose and a Bible. The Bible was the most unromantic thing I’ve ever received from a date. Not only that, he left me a strange verse in the Bible, which reads: “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” That is John 17: 24-26. 

Thru my husband’s love, I developed a true yearning for Christ. I had visited churches from time to time and got to know several true Christians prior to meeting Alec. But God knew what the “right move” was in order for me to hand my life over to Him.

Life with my husband and our daughter has been a blessing. Like all marriages and families, we have our ups and downs, seemingly unending amount of baggage to deal with, and many challenges along the way. God did not give me the “easy way out” after I got married. We went thru 3 deployments together; we were separated while I was pregnant with our child. My husband returned from Iraq when our child was 2 months old. It was extremely tough at times. Often, I just sat there and wondered: “Why me? When will I get a break, Lord?” 

He answered me.

It was absolutely freeing when, last year, while studying James in my Community Bible Study class, I came across: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4.

At last, I have finally found someone who tells me: “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” That’s Matthew 11:27-28.

If you were me, wouldn’t you have thought you found your Savior as well?

With that said, I leave you with the familiar 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. I have included the definitions of some of the words along with the passage. I found this to be helpful in deepening my understanding of what love is:

“Love is patient (bearing pain or trials without complaint; showing self-control), 
love is kind (of a sympathetic forbearing or pleasant nature)
and is not jealous (demanding complete devotion; suspicious of a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage); 
love does not brag and is not arrogant (offensively exaggerating one’s own importance), 
does not act unbecomingly (improper, indecent); 
it does not seek its own, 
is not provoked (to incite to anger; to stir up on purpose [ ~ an argument]),
does not take into account a wrong suffered, 
does not rejoice in unrighteousness, 
but rejoices with the truth; 
bears all things, 
believes all things, 
hopes all things, 
endures (to suffer firmly or patiently) all things.”

I have, indeed, experienced Christ’s love thru the blessings of my new life, thru my marriage and my brothers and sisters-in-Christ. This is why I am a Christian.

Murina May 17, 2009