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Living Into God’s Promise

A letter from John McCall serving in Taiwan

October 2016

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Dear Friends,

Recently I took 25 expatriates who are living and working in Taiwan to a high mountain aboriginal village. They are all part of an international church in Taipei, and their pastor has been asking me for years to arrange a retreat for them. Even though many of them have lived in Taiwan for many years, almost none of them had been to an aboriginal village. There were folks from South Africa, England, the U.S., Canada, and the Ambassador to Taiwan from St. Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean.

We took a bus on Saturday morning and it took us about six hours to get to Wang Xiang Village, located in the only county in Taiwan without a seacoast. The highest mountain in Taiwan, Jade Mountain, towers over this village at over 13,000 feet.

The aboriginal tribe that lives there is part of the Bunun tribe and the co-pastors of the Presbyterian Church in the village are a clergy couple who are longtime friends. Pastor Hum Hum joined the 18 Taiwan pastors I took to Montreat Conference Center in N.C. this past August. Wang Xiang is a unique village because these two pastors, along with other church leaders, several years ago decided that they wanted to find a sustainable way for the members of this village to be able to both live and work in the village and not have to move to Taiwan’s big cities.

All over the world village dwellers are forced to the cities to find work. And often they live in substandard housing and are forced to the margins of an increasingly high-tech world. In Taiwan many aboriginals who are Christians leave their homes and some also end up leaving their faith, drifting from job to job. The villages can become populated only by the elderly and the very young who are being cared for by their grandparents.

Pastors Sai and Hum Hum met with their church elders and deacons and began to pray and dream how they could make Wang Xiang Village a place that could have a faith-based life. It is amazing to see what they have done. A group from the village went to study sustainable agricultural. Now the fields surrounding the village are full of grape arbors, fields of cabbage and tomatoes, wax apple and passion fruit trees. The church members work hard in the fields and their crops are bringing in income that allows them to have a good life and also to tithe to their church.

The village leaders also decided to make the village a tourist destination. So they studied how to develop bed and breakfasts, coffee shops and restaurants. Many of the church members’ B+Bs are now online and even on Google Maps. They are welcoming and comfortable.

I had not stayed in this village for a while, so I warned the expats from the international church to not have too high expectations for their accommodations. But they were delighted to see the quality of the places where they stayed.

Saturday night the church hosted a traditional aboriginal dinner for our group. After dinner the two pastors shared what God has been doing in their village. Pastor Sai said that everything they do is faith-based. They have blended beautifully a life of prayer, worship, service, and work. If during the week the bed and breakfasts are not full, they rotate which B+B gets the next guests so everyone makes a living.

Saturday evening during dinner Pastor Sai asked me if I would like to be the guest preacher the next morning. I have been with aboriginals enough to know that I always need to be ready. And one good practice for missionaries is to always keep an extra sermon in one’s backpack. But unfortunately I did not practice that this time. So I was up late Saturday evening preparing Sunday’s sermon.

The church has a 5:00 AM prayer meeting each day and then at 9:00 AM on Sunday the pastors, elders, and deacons meet to pray for an hour before the 10:00 AM service. I was impressed to hear the prayers for the daily concerns of their village, including that God would use their B+Bs as a ministry of hospitality. Then they asked who among their leadership was celebrating a birthday that month. They had a cake and then the four birthday folks shared their hopes for their faith journeys in the coming year.

The church was packed with all ages for worship. I preached in Mandarin and my sermon was translated into the Bunun language. This community has done a beautiful job of preserving their language and culture and integrating them with their Christian faith. After I preached each person came forward to present their offering.

Many of the aboriginal villages here have forgotten God’s promise for their village. Often you see folks who are escaping from their hopelessness with alcohol. But Wang Xiang Village celebrates God’s promise to them. Life and faith are one.

On the bus ride on the way home several of the expats shared their reflections. One woman said, “I was so impressed how their Christian faith is the foundation of all they do. They face life’s challenges with such hope and trust.”

Thank you for your ongoing prayers and support, which allow me to take folks to see the exciting ways God is at work in this high mountain village. Please pray for this church and so many others, for their leaders and for the pastors and seminary students with whom I meet each week. May God fill their hearts and yours with God’s sure promise.


John McCall

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