Written by Enchin Shaw Chen
WWII had just ended in 1945, six years after it began. We were beginning to get back to the normalcy of post war, learning the new official language of Chinese, and resuming our dream for the future from where we left off. I had graduated from high school in 1948 and always wanted to come to America for higher education. Doors were closed for going abroad to study by the Chinese Board of Education at the time, and the requirements were too high and difficult to meet for any aspiring student to obtain a visa. One must have had a four year full scholarship from an accredited college or university and post a $2400 bond at the American Embassy in order to be considered for a visa. $2400 in 1950s amount to more than two years of wages in Taiwan. No matter which way we tried, it seemed an impossible dream for a clergyman´s family at that time.
It must have been a hot summer day in 1950 when two American naval officers from the 7th Fleet suddenly appeared at our door in their white summer uniforms. I had no idea how they found their way to our house, for what reason they had come, or who they were looking for. By then I had learned enough English to know that they were looking for my father.
Without any shirt, as usual, my father was sitting at his piano in his shorts, playing some Bach, which was the only music he loved to play. The officers stood by the door politely and waited until father finished his long piece, without interrupting. Father was a little embarrassed and quite surprised by the visit. By this time, some neighborhood children and adults had gathered around the officers. It was quite an unusual sight in our neighborhood. Father greeted the officers after putting his shirt on and engaged in some conversation with them. The officers were asking who were his children. My father pointed at me. I remembered one of the officers telling him to ask me if I would like to go to America to study. I quickly smiled and nodded my head even before my father could ask me. He must have been thinking; there is no way I could send my daughter to America. Then one of the officers said his fiancee´s father was the president of California Western University in San Diego and that he could ask his future father-in-law to help me get into that school, or to San Diego State College, whichever I chose. I felt like I had been struck by lightening and couldn´t believe what I had just heard. He asked me what I would like to study.I remember saying I wanted to be a teacher. He seemed reassured because there was no hesitation in my answer. Before their departure the officer said that he was going back to San Diego to get married in a few weeks and that we should expect to hear from the school shortly.
“Dear God, you have answered our prayers. You have always opened the door for us and solved our problems when we were in the most difficult situations. How could we not have faith in You and feel Your love for us and Your watchful eyes over us at all time?…..＂ I prayed in my heart.
During WWII, the American military lost many of their chaplains to the war and there was a shortage. When the 7th Fleet was stationed at the northern port of Taiwan for peacekeeping, they didn´t have a chaplain. They asked if there were any Taiwanese Protestant minister who could officiate Sunday Services in English on the ship. My father was sent because he had worked with missionaries from Canada most of his adult life and was one of the very few who could give sermons in English. That was where he met these officers.
It took me several years to finally get my visa to come to America. In those years of waiting, there was some criticism and opposition even our parent´s best friends chided them, insisting that a girl of my age ( 22 years old ) should get married rather than go abroad for higher education. Our 80 year old grandfather Rev. An-Ku Shaw came to my defense. He said that a girl should have an equal opportunity to study as far as she wants. He saved his retirement money to pay for my passage to America when I left Taiwan. It was the last time I saw my grandfather. He passed away 10 years later at age of 90. My first visit back to Taiwan was 29 years after I had left.
By the time I arrived in San Diego, the president of the university had retired and the new president gave me the option of staying in his house as a housekeeper and caretaker for his three month old infant while I attended school or living in a dormitory with some friends and working as a janitor at school. I did both, and later worked as a waitress in a Chinese restaurant for several years while attended San Diego State college. I managed to save enough money to return the $2400 we borrowed. After graduating from San Diego State College, I went on to University of Pennsylvania to study Psychiatric Social Work. I then worked in the field until our second child was born and I took a leave of absence from my work as the director of social service to raise our family of four children. I never regret all the hard work I had done. They made me stronger physically and emotionally and I was always appreciative of the opportunity God had given me to come to America.