A Letter from John McCall, serving in Taiwan
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I was waiting at one of Taiwan’s international airports for folks I had not yet met. They were arriving on different flights from countries throughout Asia. I had signs with names in Japanese, Chin, Thai, and Korean. They were all pastors who were coming to live together in a week of spiritual community. I serve on a board in Japan, called Japan Mission, and this organization was sponsoring this Gathering. We had invited three pastors each from Myanmar, Thailand, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan.
As the pastors emerged from Customs we piled into several vehicles to head to a retreat center in Hsinchu about an hour south of Taipei. Along the way we began to get to know each other. Asia is a vast continent with a myriad of cultures, languages, and religions. Even within most Asian countries, there are a variety of people groups with their own languages and cultures.
The pastors from Myanmar were from the Chin people group, which includes a number of indigenous tribes. The Chin people are over 90% Christian in largely Buddhist Myanmar. They have faced oppression and challenges over the years. These three pastors brought joy and a deep faith to our Gathering.
The pastors from Thailand also represent a very small religious minority in their land. Less than 1% of the Thai people are Christian. They serve churches in the cities of Bangkok and Chiang Mai in the north. The Thai pastors were young and enthusiastic and brought energy as they led music during the week.
Two of our Taiwanese pastors were former students of mine at the seminary in Taipei and at Yu Shan, the Aboriginal Seminary on Taiwan’s east coast. The third pastor is a friend of mine who joined us years ago on one of our first pilgrimages to Taize in France. She serves a small church in southern Taiwan which has a huge impact on the community. The two young men each have two children and serve in the church with their wives. The aboriginal pastor serves a mountain church where is he seeking to help largely third-generation Christians live out their faith in vibrant ways in their village.
Our friends from Korea are all former students of one of my good Korean friends, who is Dean at the big Presbyterian Seminary in Seoul. There were two men and one woman. The woman is a recent seminary graduate and is working with hearing-impaired people at a big church in Seoul. The two men are graduates of Columbia Seminary in Atlanta and are doing creative ministry in Korea.
During the week we spent time together in Bible study, looking at different biblical texts from the perspective of the cultures and settings from which we came. Each pastor had a prayer partner and spent time together in prayer. Each morning and evening different pastors led our worship, and it was always rich to sing and pray in many different languages. We divided into small groups each day to share both the joys and challenges of ministry, family, and life. We also spent time meeting God in nature at different nearby mountains. The conversations around table each night were stimulating as these pastors became good friends.
The last evening, before we prepared to depart the next morning, we worshiped together for the last time. As part of this worship, each pastor knelt to wash the feet of their prayer partner and then we shared the Lord’s Supper, saying the words in all the different languages represented. We then held a culture night where each group of pastors shared songs and dances from their respective countries. As I looked around the room at the faces of all these Asian pastors I could see the wonderful connection they had with each other in their eyes and smiles and their appreciation for their new friends and the countries from which they came. It was a sacred evening. Perhaps it was a foretaste of what we will experience in heaven when we will be one family.
Recently I had a note from one of the Chin pastors from Myanmar expressing what the Gathering had meant to him: “I am really blessed by the gathering of Asian pastors. Experiencing the different ways in which God works through the sharing and lives of each participant was a wonderful challenge to me to continue to walk God’s path. The hospitality, kindness, and spiritual friendships echo in my mind and push me to dream God’s dream for my life, my family, my country, and the world. May God’s goodness and peace continue to bless the nations.”
Thank you for your help in bringing the world together in Christ.
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