For all their lives, my grandparents navigated through languages not their own. Taiwanese is our home language, our heart language. But my grandparents were born under the Japanese occupation of Taiwan and received their education in Japanese. Later on in their adult life they were forced to learn Chinese as the Chinese Nationalists ruled Taiwan under martial law. It’s difficult to learn a new language as an adult while the language of education, business, politics changed all around them. Even their children and grandchildren started coming home from school speaking a language so unfamiliar. When my paternal grandparents immigrated to the US, they again needed to learn how to navigate a world in English.
The Taiwanese immigrant church is the one place where they could let their guards down, to experience community in their own heart language. And the very center of our community is sharing lunch together on Sundays. It’s where they could laugh, celebrate and speak loudly in their most natural, embodied way.
The Taiwanese Christian community is very small, as the language continues to fade with younger generations. The members of Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church include the church grandpas and grandmas, aunties and uncles that I grew up with in Chicago that later retired to Laguna Hills. My heart aches that a space that was supposed to offer rest and respite to the Taiwanese immigrant community no longer seems so safe.