We are in a transition period for the next six months and are planning to be in Ohio February-July. For seven years we have been here via the Presbyterian Church USA, which has helped us handle a lot of the challenges in working between two places. Being here officially with PCUSA has meant:
- Salary and pension come from the US and we are in the social security system
- We have some choice in housing
- Most kids’ schooling options are open to us
- We have US health care in the States
- Some travel is covered
- We received extra training, language study, and the like
- We have some flexibility in relating to the Seminary–I’m outside of the normal rank system and get a pass on some language-intensive work (evaluating Taiwanese sermons, etc.)
- PCT “accepts us,” whereas those who come from outside–even related Reformed churches–often struggle to have basic recognition for ministry here
Lately, the PCUSA system has been under financial stress. Our direct employer made cuts in 2015 and seems likely to make much larger cuts in 2016. If we are cut, we’d have salary extended through the year 2016. After that, it might be possible to negotiate a mixed support, where we’d have some funding from the US and some from Taiwan. Still, it makes me nervous. Here are the questions I am asking:
- Would we be viable holding two full-time jobs in Taiwan, especially where full-time in local contexts often means weekend and evening work and a 9 hour workday (with a commute)?
- How reliable is Taiwanese-based employment? Since I started at my Seminary, the four foreigners who received local salaries have all been fired or left.
- Could we self-fund retirement or the equivalent of social security?
- How sustainable is our housing? Moving off campus has been nice, but since our landlord is returning, we have to pack out in May one way or another. Some people move essentially every year. Are we willing to do this? After the twins were born, we tried for four years to move out of a 2-bedroom apartment on campus and it is hard to see returning to the campus system, where we were low-seniority, but also paid rent.
- What are the consequences of leaving the US medical system? Could we still buy a low-level Obamacare plan abroad? If we had a seriously sick kid, could we take them back for care?
- If we can stay with PCUSA but fundraising requirements go up, how much of our time will be spent in the US? Currently it is 20%, but would it need to go up to 30%, 40%? At what point is it too much?
- How would kids’ schooling look if things changed? Could we teach them in local school and teach all three English ourselves? Find a US-based online school? Find a public bilingual school (Taipei doesn’t have these, but other places do)?
It’s totally plausible to see a scenario where things would work here if we are cut, but it’s also possible to see how an already challenging situation would become too much. In February we are moving to Cincinnati, but I’ll return in May to either put our things in storage, move them to a new apartment, or pack out. A lot of possibilities…