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Opportunities in the Midst of Crisis

A Letter from John McCall, serving in Taiwan

Summer 2021

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Dear friends,

Over the past year-and-a-half of this pandemic, a number of places in Asia, including those of us in Taiwan, have been living a somewhat different life than many places in the world. The spread of the virus was controlled extremely well here, and life went on pretty much as normal. Schools remained in session, and churches and businesses continued as usual. But in mid-May, we had a huge spike in cases, and the whole island went into a Level 3 lockdown. Level 4 is a total lockdown, so Level 3 meant all schools and churches closed, as well as many other businesses such as restaurants, except for take-out orders.

So, we began to have a slight understanding of what you all have been through. The word for crisis in Mandarin has two characters, danger and opportunity. In my work with pastors here, I have been encouraging them to see the opportunity in this time of lockdown. For the first time, our weekly pastor spiritual formation groups went virtual, and that was our first opportunity. We began these groups about ten years ago, and one of my main goals was to shape a community of spiritual friends. Because confidentiality is often missing it is difficult to establish trust between pastors. But as these pastors have shared over the past months, it has been beautiful to hear them share both the grace and the challenges as they seek to care for their young children sequestered at home and learn (as many of you also had to learn before us) how to do worship, small groups, prayer meetings, and other events online. Every time we meet in these pastor groups, in addition to Bible study or discussing a case study which one of the pastors presents, each pastor shares their prayer concerns, and then another pastor prays for them. These pastors have moved from being co-workers to true spiritual friends. The opportunity in the crisis.

The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan has established about ten different hospitals in Taiwan. During the pandemic and on normal days, these hospitals, in addition to giving excellent medical care, also share the love of Christ with patients, their families, and the hospital staff. Key folks in this Christian hospital ministry are the members of the pastoral care departments of these hospitals. Even though during this lockdown, these chaplains have been unable to visit patients and many nurses and doctors caring for COVID patients in person, they have also been seeking the opportunity in the crisis. Many of my former students are chaplains in these hospitals, so I have been calling them to see how they are doing in a stressful time. They have been creative in adapting to new ways of reaching out to both patients and staff. They have produced a small booklet that is distributed around the hospital with encouraging writings and a UR code (which can be scanned with your phone) which immediately allows the chaplain to know that patients, family members, or staff wish to make contact with a chaplain. Again, the opportunity in the crisis.

Each week during this lockdown, I have been calling pastors, many of whom are former seminary students. I have talked with over 100 pastors, just checking in to see how they and their families and churches are doing. Many are eager to share how they are continuing to do ministry. One young pastor shared this week how he has equipped his church leadership to make contact with every member every week. This pastor, Yuan-jieh, has a group call with his church elders each week, asking them to share how things are going, and then they have a time of prayer together. These elders then call a group of deacons and share and pray together. The deacons then call some from a committee of folks who are gifted in caring for the members, and they share and pray together. Then these committee members call a group of church members, and they also share and pray together. So, the care is done by the congregation, and everyone is included. They are seeing the opportunity in the crisis.

I have been praying for the church here and for the world church that in the midst of the challenges, that God’s love and promise of being with us will shine through. It is a joy to see how these Taiwanese church leaders are being Christ’s light in a world of fear.

Thank you for your care and support, which allows me to walk with these leaders in this time of crisis. We celebrate that for many of you, life has opened up. We also continue to pray for many places in the world where vaccines are sorely limited, and folks are facing these new variants without protection. May God continue to heal the nations.

With gratitude,

John McCall


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