A letter from John McCall in Taiwan
Taiwan folk religions have a variety of different gods. If you visit a temple there usually is one main god at the front, but along the sides you will see many different gods. The Taiwanese are practical people and this practical nature is also part of their religious life. So folks may worship a particular god at a particular time based upon their need. If you want to become pregnant, you worship that god. If you need help with your business, you go to the temple to ask that god for help.
Because education is so important to the Taiwanese and getting admitted to the best universities is so competitive, many parents and students will go to the temple to worship the god of scholars and ask this god for help in doing well on the university entrance exam. Last month I just happened to walk past a temple on the day before the national entrance exam, and it was packed. Parents had brought their children’s exam card and the clothes they would wear in the exam. They also brought offerings of fruit and temple money to offer to the gods. They placed their child’s exam card and clothes on a table along with the offerings for the gods. After the offerings are made, a special mark is made on the clothes by temple personnel for good luck. Often school principals will accompany their students to the temple to ask the god to help their students do well on the exam.
Two of my former students are serving a church in a rural area of southern Taiwan. This area grows much of the rice eaten in Taiwan. Their church is located on the main road in a bustling town. When they first arrived at the church there were only about eight older folks who would come to worship, and they did not have much hope for the future of their church.
I spent the past weekend speaking at their church, and it was full of children and youth. There was energy and hope. This couple originally thought they would serve a city church, but God called them to a small church without much hope and vision. And in their three years there, they have reached out to the non-Christian children and youth. And the church has become the center of these young people's lives.
I met two brothers who are active in the worship band at the church. Before their involvement in the church, the younger brother had a reputation at school for getting into trouble. But because of their new life in Christ, these boys have totally changed. The principal now looks to them for leadership at the school. Their grandmother, who is active in the temple and used to forbid them to go to church, now after seeing the change in their lives, thanks the church for what it has done for her grandsons.
This past year when the principal accompanied his students to the temple to pray for success on the entrance exam, several of the church youth, including the older brother I just mentioned, asked the principal to come to their church and pray with them that God would lead them and give them wisdom and peace as they took the exam. The principal gladly joined them at church.
A large part of what I do in Taiwan is to challenge seminary students and pastors to dream big. God is at work in their places of service, in huge cities and small towns, in the churches they serve on the highways and byways of Taiwan.
Because of this couple, 40 to 50 youth are involved in a church that three years ago was on life support. Because of your prayers and support, God is doing a new thing in Taiwan.
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 205
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