A letter from John McCall in Taiwan
One of the joys of having served in Taiwan for so many years is to see my former seminary students serving in their first, second, or third churches. Often a student who was a sleeper at seminary comes alive in the parish and surprises me with his or her creativity and commitment to ministry.
As I teach at the three Presbyterian seminaries in Taiwan, I have the privilege of getting to know many seminary students who have been called by God to serve in high mountain churches, in rural farming communities, and in Taiwan’s huge and busy cities. As these pastors continue to grow in love of God and neighbor, they lead their congregations to be Christ’s love to the people of this land.
About one-half of my students over the years have been women. I find that women pastors often have the freedom to try new ways of doing ministry. In this century the church around the world is seeking to find new ways to touch the hearts of all. While the message remains the same, the way we reach out to both the unchurched, to seekers, to those who have spiritual hunger and to those who have not yet gotten in touch with their spiritual hunger, takes creativity and courage.
Three of my former students are aboriginal women of the Tyral tribe, serving in the mountains of northeastern Taiwan. These three women were good friends in seminary and were called to churches in the same district. Two of the women have married and one is single. Two of them are serving mountain churches and one is serving a city aboriginal church. But their friendship has remained and they continue to pray together, to share joys and challenges, and to raise their children as friends.
Pastor Yeumas comes from a very high mountain village in the center of Taiwan. Her father is a church elder and her younger brother is an evangelist. Her husband, Yumin, was the champion mountain boar hunter in his village. The Tyral tribe, of which they are both a part, values the men’s hunting skills. But Yumin is a unique Tyral man. Because he knows who he is as a hunter and as a man, he is confident in his own identity. Therefore he is free to encourage his wife as a pastor and he also is a househusband who spends a good deal of time raising their children. Pastor Yeumas just gave birth to their fourth child. Last fall I had the privilege of baptizing their third child. In this patriarchal culture, Yumin and Yeumas are breaking old stereotypes. They are grateful to God for the opportunity to serve their people.
Pastor Lawa also grew up in a high mountain village. I once hiked with her husband seven hours to reach that village. Her father and mother finished only the fourth grade, but her father, a church elder, told me that while his formal education was cut short because of this family’s economic needs, he has read the Bible many times. “My wisdom comes from the Bible,” he told me. He is respected by his village, family, and church members. He is also very proud of his daughter, Pastor Lawa. She is a gifted leader and is pastoring an active and missional church. Her husband is also from the same tribe and is currently studying at the aboriginal seminary. Pastor Lawa just gave birth to their third child. I will baptize that child at the end of November.
Pastor Maya’s mother is also a pastor, so she had a role model of a woman pastor. She loves to sing and is very creative in planning worship for her city church. She lives above the sanctuary and often welcomes guests to stay at the church. Pastor Maya is an extrovert who encourages the youth of her church to identify with their aboriginal background and to take pride in that identity. The youth lead the worship band and travel to sing in other churches as well. In a recent Thanksgiving service at her church Pastor Maya invited each member to stand and share something for which they were thankful in the past year. After each person shared, the congregation sang a thanksgiving response.
All three women pastors are creative and are giving the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan new models for ministry. They are not bound by old models, and the two husbands of the pastors are also giving new models for what it means to be the spouse of a pastor.
Last year the youth from the church where Pastor Lawa serves took me climbing up a river. The water was abundant and strong. In several of the places we had to climb up small waterfalls. When city folks come to participate in this sport, they wear wet suits and special gear. The aboriginal youth, along with their pastor and her husband, wore swimsuits and had bare feet. They worked as a team to help each other and me get up the river. I was inspired by their desire to see everyone succeed and make it up the river.
The challenges facing the aboriginal church here are great. The old ways no longer work and creative ministry and leadership are demanded. I am grateful for these three pastors and their spouses as they seek new ways to touch the hearts of all.
Thank you for your prayers and giving which impact the lives of these church leaders and their congregations.
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 205
Pastor Ma! It's nice to see your update again. I love this one because it is very encouraging to know that women can be an excellent pastor. I hope one day I can go with you to visit these churches in Taiwan. May God blesses your work and their works! -Mimi