A letter from John McCall, serving in Taiwan
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One of the exciting things about serving in Taiwan for so long is seeing former students whom I taught at the seminary become leaders who are impacting the church and the larger society. Every Thursday, different groups of pastors arrive at my home on the seminary campus to pray together, to study scripture together, and to share both the joys and challenges of life and ministry. I call the room where we meet a place of trust, because what is shared there is not shared outside.
One of these pastor groups is made up of women and men, recent seminary graduates and pastors who have been serving the church for over fifteen years. These pastors are from the Amis tribe, which is the largest tribe among Taiwan’s indigenous people. Traditionally, this tribe lived on Taiwan’s east coast and made their living fishing in the Pacific. The pastors in this group, however, serve urban indigenous churches. Their church members left the coastal villages to find work in the cities of northern Taiwan.
Each of these pastor groups has a convener, and the convener of this Amis group is a woman whose tribal name is Gee Lau. She is a vibrant leader who has an intuitive sense of how to accompany her church members and encourage them to continue growing in their faith. I was the advisor for her senior sermon at Taiwan Seminary over ten years ago, and I was so impressed that her non-aboriginal classmate who was assigned to be the liturgist for the seminary chapel service in which she preached practiced to read the scripture in the Amis language. His native language is Taiwanese, so his effort was a beautiful symbol of love and respect. Pastor Gee Lau was able to join a pilgrimage of Taiwanese pastors who journeyed to Montreat Conference Center in North Carolina a few years ago to live in community with pastors from Guatemala and the U.S.
Several years ago, Pastor Gee Lau married another pastor, Vu-ru-vu, from the Paiwan tribe. The Paiwan tribe is a southern mountain tribe with whom I served early in my time in Taiwan. They eat mountain boar and grow vegetables on the steep mountains of southern Taiwan. Pastor Vu-ru-vu is gifted in working with youth and has been serving as the secretary for youth ministry of his Paiwan Presbytery. Pastor Vu-ru-vu was able to join a group of Taiwanese pastors and seminary students on one of our pilgrimages to Taize, a community of prayer in France where we lived in community with young people from all over the world.
Gee Lau’s Amis tribe is a matriarchal tribe, while Vu-ru-vu’s Paiwan tribe is a patriarchal tribe. They have a wonderful marriage, and they seem to have worked out these cultural differences in their own relationship.
A few months ago, this couple asked if I could meet to have coffee with them to talk about their future. Gee Lau has been pastoring an Amis church right next to the main international airport near Taipei. When I have preached at that church, I have had to pause as the jumbo jets landed or took off right over the church. The jets are loud and the church shakes. But Pastor Gee Lau has adjusted to serving in the flight path. She loves the members of her church, and they love her.
But Pastor Gee Lau’s home church, where her mother is an elder, has asked Gee Lau and Vu-ru-vu to come and serve as their new pastors. It is a larger church than their current church and has a number of youth and young adults. We met together twice over coffee to talk about where God is leading them. Pastor Gee Lau hates to leave her congregation whom she loves, but feels that the Holy Spirit is guiding them to begin a new chapter in ministry.
So, I listened to them share about this emerging call. I asked some questions and we prayed together, asking for sensitivity to the leading of God’s Spirit. They finally have decided to accept the call to this new ministry and will begin in the next few weeks.
I am excited for them and for their new congregation. I am thrilled that their different gifts will complement one another as they equip current church leaders and mentor youth and young adults.
Please continue to pray for these church leaders and those with whom they serve. And also pray for the city of Hualien, on the east coast of Taiwan, which is seeking to recover after a series of recent large earthquakes. Several buildings collapsed, leading to loss of life, injuries, and lost homes and businesses. Taiwan is located on the “ring of fire,” and is prone to frequent earthquakes.
Thank you for your interest in what God is doing through pastors like Gee Lau and Vu-ru-vu, and for your prayers and support, which allow me to encourage them in their life-giving ministries.
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