It's too funny. I mentioned to Maggie a few months ago when I felt like I had a little more breathing space that it might be nice to take Franklin to church to give him a sense of "community." I'm a Unitarian, so I could , conceivably, go anywhere as long as nobody tries to assimilate me. It was agreed in principle that I'd take Franklin to a church sometime. Well, we just never got around to it. Even looked at St Paul's kindergarten for awhile, but thought better of it.
A couple weeks ago, a couple walked in the door of our school while I was off teaching a business class or something. Maggie said they were a nice couple and wanted to talk about their church. Fair enough. Through the Unitarians, I've become more accustomed to accepting other people's religious beliefs, so I figured, whoever it was, I'd be happy to talk to them. They left some literature which I never got around to looking at. They came back again on another day when I wasn't there. This time, Maggie wanted to find out some more about them. They didn't dress like Mormons, she said, nor did they have name tags that said "Elder Jedediah." To be sure, though, she asked them if they drank coffee. Not that we had any to offer. Or coke. They said both were ok. She was satisfied that they weren't Mormons and told them to come back after nine one day.
Very sincere looking couple walks in the door, asks if they should take of their shoes. I told them not to bother, we could just sit on the chairs at the entrance for a chat. I asked them who they were representin'. The Nitwit Dude said "We're Jehovah's Witnesses." To my great credit, I didn't bat an eye. (As I did at my high school reunion when Terry Robertson told me he was an undertaker). We had our chat. Franklin alternated between sitting behind me asking questions ("Are they your friends, Daddy?" "Too soon to tell, buddy, I just met them today.") and watching an HD Quicktime video of the Space Shuttle taking off for the ISS (During which he discovered that by pressing a certain key, he could make a dinging sound which would in turn evoke a response from Daddy.)
Every foreigner we come across in our daily path is supposed to be a friend of Daddy's. Although I can see the humor in the innocence of such a suggestion, knowing some of the foreigners in Taiwan, I think it's a habit that needs to be controlled sooner or later. The JDubs, to their credit, didn't claim the title of Daddy's friends when they came earlier.
I have a conversation strategy when I meet Mormons on the street. I see no reason to be unfriendly to them. In fact, when I first came to Taiwan, the Mormons were extraordinarily helpful to me as I navigated the city. They were omnipresent and knew where everything was. Plus, since they spoke English, I could understand their directions. God Bless the Mormons! Now, however, I don't need directions. When I meet a Mormon on the street, or at the hot dog place, we talk about where we're from, how long we've been in town. The usual. I used to ask what they thought of Mitt Romney, but that doesn't seem like an important issue anymore.
As I don't really like talking to people that much, I use these encounters as an exercise in controlling a conversation. If we can talk about travel, food, music, being a missionary, I'm happy to talk to them. I visited Nauvoo, Illinois as a child and saw the prison cell where Joseph Smith was held until a lynch mob could be rounded up, so I am able to connect with them geographically. I make my excuses when the conversation tips towards the book of Mormon, however, and tell them that I'm late for my date at the coffee house down the street.
Lately, I've seen them trolling Starbucks trying to win converts, or backsliding, I'm not sure which.
So, when the J-Dubs sat down, I asked as many questions as I could about their lives and let them get in a couple independent clauses about how the Bible can help me with class control and teach me the balance between permissiveness and heavy-handedness.
I found out that they have been making inroads in the aboriginal community showing them a "different way." There was something odd about the way he said that the aborigines worshiped the moon, but I let it pass. He also said that recently there's been a tremendous interest in the Witness Protection Program (work with me) because of the failing economy. He claimed that this was because people are out of work and finding more time to contemplate the larger questions of existence and Man's place in God's Creation. I suggested perhaps folks are interested in praying to a different god to improve business. The suggestion went away and was not looked after.
I told him I was thinking of starting my own church in Taiwan and that so far I've only been able to find about three members. Unitarians aren't very energetic proselytizers, so I don't see much progress on this front any time soon.
The weather started getting worse, and I made my apologies. It was time to head to the grocery and home. They stood and said they'd be back. I'll have some Taiwan Beer in the fridge waiting for them to see just how large their beverage universe is.