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A letter from John McCall in Taiwan

August 2011

Dear Friends,

A group of people holding traditional Taiwanese instruments.

Pastors with instruments.

The power of smell is an amazing thing.  Certain smells can conjure up memories long buried.  Years ago I remember taking a youth group on a blindfolded scavenger hunt.  One of our stops was a neighboring church.  As soon as we entered the front door, one of the youth said, “It smells like a church.”

When I left Taiwan in January 2009 I left many familiar smells behind.  I returned to the familiar smells of the U.S.:  the smell of fresh-cut grass, the smell of soaps and other products that are not found in Taiwan.  And I had the privilege of being called to a wonderful congregation of folks at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, N.C., who are the aroma of Christ both in Greensboro and around the world.

After a discernment process of seeking God’s leading, I finally had to listen and respond to the persistence of a call that now has me back in Taiwan as a PC(USA) mission co-worker serving with the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan.  And as I walk the streets of Taiwan, I smell familiar fragrances:  steamed dumplings being cooked at a roadside stall, a night-blooming flower that winds around the gate of an apartment building, the exhaust from the many motor scooters waiting at a red light.

But most of all I smell the fragrance of Christians here who make up only 3 percent of the population.  As they seek to live out Christ’s love, they are the aroma of Christ at their places of work, at home, and as they move in the larger society.  It is not always an easy calling, but it is a rare privilege for me to come alongside, to encourage, and to be encouraged by their daily witness to Christ’s love for the people of this land.

I will be working with pastors around the country who are seeking to be Christ’s fragrance in bustling cities, in high mountain villages, in towns sprinkled along the Pacific Ocean.  These pastors are often isolated and face daunting challenges, and with my colleagues in the Presbyterian Church, I plan to start small groups of pastors who will pray and study Scripture together, who will share honestly both their joys and their sorrows.  The goal is to help these pastors have sustainable ministries of vision and faithfulness.

A scene from traffic in Taipei.

Taipei traffic.

I will also be serving with Taiwan’s native peoples (aboriginals) as many move from villages to the city to find work.  They often feel like strangers in Taiwan’s teeming cities and can become isolated, and the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan is seeking to find ways to connect them to communities of faith and to our Lord.

I will be teaching third-year graduate students at Taiwan Seminary a course on the Theology and Practice of Ministry as they prepare to go out and be the aroma of Christ.  We will ponder ways to help their future church members be models of Christ’s love in their lives.  I will also be speaking at youth and young adult conferences throughout Taiwan.

I serve because of your prayers and financial support. Thank you!  It is privilege to be part of a connectional church that knows that we are all called to be a pleasing fragrance for our Lord.


John McCall

The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, Taiwan, p. 152-153

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