I’ve decided to write a series of blog posts entitled “Prayers for Taiwan” about Taiwan’s culture and religion and the spiritual needs of the people. Taiwan is a country in desperate need of the Gospel. In fact, OMF, a mission organization with a strong presence in Taiwan, states that “Taiwan is recognised as the only major Chinese society where there has not yet been a significant spiritual breakthrough.” I am not in Taiwan as a church planter or an evangelist, but through my work teaching at Morrison, through volunteering with other ministries, and through my interaction with the Chinese people and culture in daily life, I am witnessing firsthand the spiritual needs of this nation. Many of you are already praying for my ministry in this place, so I feel compelled to share with you some of the specific spiritual strongholds in Taiwan so that you will know how to pray more effectively for this land.
Let’s begin by talking about “ghost month.” This morning as I was leaving for church, I noticed a large tent near the entrance to my community. I saw the same tent around this time last year and learned that it is for something called “bai-bai” (拜拜–sounds like “bye bye” in English). Every month on the first day and the fifteenth day, the Taiwanese people do “bai-bai” by burning paper money in large metal barrels and leaving food on tables outside their homes or businesses. “Bai-bai” can be translated as “paying respect, worshiping, visiting, or saluting” or as “bowing with hands together.” Boiled down to a basic definition, “bai-bai” is ancestor worship. Though it is done regularly twice a month, there are also other special times for “bai-bai” throughout the year. The seventh month of the lunar calendar (which began about a week ago) is called “ghost month” and this is one of those special times.