No matter what chapter one finds oneself in life, in terms of God and faith persons always are students preparing for the next phase of the journey. At least that is the motto of missionaries Linda and Roger Rowe of Winnsboro.
Linda Rowe and her husband, Roger, recently returned from a six-month trip to the Republic of China in Taiwan.
The Rowes taught English as a second language there as a part of a ministry with Christ College, a school in the suburbs of Taipei. An outreach of Mission to the World with the Presbyterian Church in America, the Rowes served as unpaid volunteer missionaries.
Some 40 percent of the instruction at the college is in English with three majors offered. Those majors are English, mass communications and music. All students must receive some English instruction.
Neither of the Rowes figured they would be teaching abroad in their retirement years but while on vacation in Naples, Fla. they met greeters at Cyprus Woods Presbyterian Church, greeters who were parents of the president of Christ College.
They learned the Rowes’ background in education and suggested they meet their son.
“We felt God was opening the door and if he was opening the door that we would walk through it,” Linda Rowe said.
The president extended an invitation for them to come as missionaries and within seven weeks of the invitation they had reservations in place for plane tickets.
“Only the Lord works that fast,” she said.
Once accepted by the mission, they received a formal invitation from Taiwan and began emailing Quentin Nance, president of Christ College.
Roger Rowe expected the retirees would be too old for global mission work but learned their age worked to their advantage because age was respected there.
“The people are very helpful. If you don’t understand something and you are shopping, for instance, they will go to another store and get a better English speaker to come back and help you,” Roger Rowe said.
They are thankful for the support of Bethel A.R.P. Church in Winnsboro. Members not only prayed for them but they helped financially with the purchase of their plane tickets.
Yet neither Roger nor Lind Rowe a feel they are any different than other Christians walking through life.
“We just consider ourselves ordinary people,” she said. “Everybody is a missionary somewhere but we happened to do some service in mission fields.”
As part of God’s timing, a couple from this area was rotating back home so the Rowes wound up replacing them for that semester.
The Rowes have received an invitation to go back and are open to that, but they said they have some things they need to take care of in the United States before they entertain another chance at mission work abroad.
Roger Rowe said it was a good experience overall.
They kept Bethel parishioners informed via a monthly e-newsletter. The couple also took and posed for lots of pictures.
“A big thing for them in Taiwan is to be remembered and to remember you. It is part of their culture,” Roger Rowe said.
Family, relationships and work were the primary life focuses there. It was kind of like Southern hospitality but the relationship was grounded within the family.
For instance, a student missed class to be with a best friend while her father was in the hospital. They were not blood kin but they shared a close bond as roommates.
There was close camaraderie with all students living in the dorm and with all the faculty living in one building. There were about 200 students total. All the missionary staff at Christ College come from Presbyterian churches.
Roger Rowe taught a capstone class for graduating seniors and he taught an American Literature and culture course to juniors.
Linda Rowe taught younger students, teaching World Literature and essay writing to sophomores.
The Rowes said the courses were similar to classes in the United States, though there were some cultural differences.
“Students there do not answer questions. If you want to know if they understand, give an assignment, have them do it and see if they can perform,” she said.
Occasionally students would ask questions after class.
She said students liked when she would draw outlines of whats they would be required to do because that helped with the language barrier.
There also were a few students who could speak Mandarin Chinese but not read it, as were students who could speak English but not read it.
The interesting mix of backgrounds and skill levels made teaching challenging but also helped in the classroom.
One student was Chinese but grew up in the Philippines, so that student could speak English but not read Chinese. Sometimes a student more familiar with English would help covey an assignment to confused classmates.
The Rowes taught similarly to the way they would teach American students. “They really wanted us to force students to communicate in English,” Roger Rowe said.
Roger Rowe had 30 years experience teaching at the college level but he had to adjust to the cultural hesitancy to ask questions.
In his capstone class, he had to interview students but wound up having a teaching assistant set up and question the students indirectly.
Linda Rowe had mostly taught business and social sciences at the high school level. They were recruited by the president of Christ College. Since they could speak, write and teach in English as evidenced by their master’s degrees.
Christ College, the only Christian liberal arts college in Taiwan, is registered with the ministry of education as a Christian institution and accredited with the Transnational Association of Religious Colleges and Schools.
Both Lina and Roger Rowe had to have at least a master’s degree in order to teach in Taiwan. Students who receive a B.A. there can then study in graduate school in the United States.
An advantage for students attending Christ College, including students from mainland China, was that English was taught by native English speakers.
In Taiwan, English is the most popular second language and the leadership is very desirous that persons learn English. The Rowes were part of the 50th commencement of the college while in Taiwan.
They also provided prayer and support for the student association that did evangelistic work in Taiwan.
Two groups worked with aboriginals, one with islanders and two in regions just outside of Taipei.
The students did something similar to vacation Bible school but the work lasted all summer.
There were several kinds of chapel services on campus, some led by faculty and others by students.
As a ministry on Friday nights, the Rowes would have students over for Bible study, prayer and cooking lessons.
The relationships formed and lessons learned have resonated with the Rowes, who have lived over 11 years in Winnsboro.
“The work was a reaffirmation that I can do nothing without God’s enabling and with prayers to God. In my case, I learned that there is no retirement in Christian life. God can still use you,” he said.
Linda Rowe said they are bringing a new appreciation for community back to Fairfield.
“We appreciate those who prayed for us and believe we were kept healthy during our missionary work because of prayer,” she said. “We may be the physical bodies to Lord sends but those who pray for us are every bit as involved in what we are doing. You don’t go alone.”