In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I testify.
It’s been almost eight years ever since I came to Taiwan to pursue a doctorate degree. Upon knowing that the school had offered an unconditional full scholarship for four years, I was enthusiastic to move to Taiwan despite my poor proficiency in Mandarin Chinese. Although I’m a Malaysian Chinese, I grew up in a non-traditional Chinese family, adopting mostly western values instead. At home, we mainly spoke in Cantonese and English. While I was in elementary school and high school, the medium of instruction was in Malay language. Unsurprisingly, I was known by friends as a “banana” (a person of Chinese origin with yellow skin but isn’t well-versed with Chinese language, particularly Mandarin Chinese). Since many people knew that I didn’t know Mandarin Chinese, they were indeed surprised and amazed that I was coming to Taiwan.
Moreover, before I came to Taiwan in August 2010, I hardly participated in any divine work at Petaling Jaya TJC where I was attending service since I returned to Malaysia in June 2007. So it was beyond my imagination that I would have any opportunities to serve God after coming to Taiwan given the language barrier and inexperience in divine work.
Nevertheless, after arriving in Taiwan, I knew that I had no choice but to learn Chinese at the age of 34. The main reason was that I wanted to comprehend the sermons and participate in activities at church as everything is in Chinese. Despite having to adjust to a new life and environment, God paved way for me to pick up the language quickly. Thankfully, when I attended my first worship service in Taiwan and also in Neili TJC, a sister encouraged me to use the Chinese hymnbook instead of the English version. Although I told her that I couldn’t read the Chinese characters, she told me to look at the characters while the congregation sang. I recently found out the reason behind her gesture—she wanted me to learn Chinese as I was already in Taiwan.
Subsequently, I began to diligently learn Chinese through daily Bible reading and writing Hanyu Pinyin (a Mandarin romanization system) on my Chinese hymnbook. So, for almost eight years now, I have been relying on Google whenever I can’t comprehend any Chinese characters or phrases. When I first came to Neili TJC, the church was only half the size of Petaling Jaya TJC in Malaysia. Thus, there were more divine work opportunities for members in Neili TJC. However, I was dismayed that I couldn’t participate in any divine work because of the language barrier. But undoubtedly our true God answered my prayers; He granted me spiritual wisdom and knowledge during the time when I was struggling to learn the world’s most difficult language.
I thank God for granting me a heart of perseverance and a brave heart. In spite of the language barrier, it didn’t deter me from actively attending worship services and participating in various church activities. A month after coming to Taiwan, I joined a fellowship for graduate students and I managed to testify in Chinese (with the help of several brethren) in front of a congregation. In less than a year in Taiwan, I began to share my thoughts on Facebook by typing in Chinese using Hanyu Pinyin.
As time passed, I was assigned to ushering and catering duties in Neili TJC. In less than two years, I was in the adult choir singing Chinese hymns within and outside Neili church. From 2012, I occasionally participated in the bi-annual adult theological seminar organized by the General Assembly of Taiwan in Taichung. Later on, I was also assigned to lead the hymnal before worship service and morning prayer service in Neili TJC. In addition to these, I had several opportunities to do Chinese-to-English interpretation and translation, mostly in church.
Actually when I was in Malaysia and before I came to Taiwan, I had tried learning Chinese through self-study and short courses. Nonetheless, these initiatives were deemed futile because I had given up not long after that. But by God’s grace, I was brought to Taiwan, specifically the TJCs in Taiwan, to learn and practice Chinese free-of-charge. Hopefully this will glorify His name whenever I share with others that I learned Chinese in the TJC.
Having personally experienced this painstaking journey of learning a new language and serving God in a foreign land, I learnt that what matters the most is that we have a willing heart to serve Him, regardless of our background and capabilities (2 Cor 8:3).
May all glory be given to our true God in heaven.