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A Taiwanese Retreat

A letter from John McCall serving in Taiwan

September 2015

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Dear Friends,

Thursday morning I walked out of the seminary to the road heading down the mountain to the bus stop.  As with so many people who take public transport around the world, you never know exactly when a bus will come, so you have to plan extra time.  It was already hot and humid, so when I got on the bus, the air-conditioning felt good.  I took the 15-minute bus ride to the subway station, where I caught the subway to the Taipei main train station.   There I took the high-speed rail to the most southern station.  I was met by a pastor from Pingtung, the southernmost county in Taiwan, who last year had invited me to speak at the retreat for Pingtung Presbytery’s pastors, elders, and deacons.

We drove south along the Taiwan Strait and the calm waters calmed my spirit after a morning of travel.  We stopped in a harbor town for lunch and had wonderful sashimi and other delicious fresh seafood.  We continued our journey and arrived at the inn where the retreat was to be held.

“I have a grateful heart for the hunger of the church leaders in southern Taiwan.”

I had been asked to speak four times over three days.  When we arrived everyone was seated in a large ballroom of the inn.  We sang a hymn, the convener prayed, and then I began to speak.  Most of the elders and deacons had taken time off from work to attend this retreat.  They all were hungry to learn and grow and they asked wonderful questions.

Last year my third book on the Holy Spirit and the Christian life was published in Mandarin, and I am often asked now to speak on this topic.  Much of what I do in these talks is look at what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit and encourage these church leaders to rely on both the power and wisdom of God’s Spirit.

Taiwan church retreats tend to be packed with lectures, so I was pleased to see that one afternoon and evening there was free time for these leaders to enjoy the beach or pool or just kick back.  I was invited to go horseback riding at nearby stables owned by one of the church elders.  My surname in Mandarin means “horse” (ma), so it was fun to be riding a real horse.   We rode over a track that crossed a river and meandered through bamboo groves.  I hadn’t been on a horse since elementary school, when we rode horses in Arizona.  It was a lot of fun.

The owner of the stables reminded us that if we were nervous on the horse, the horse would sense our anxiety and also be nervous.  It was a kind of parable for our time.  If we are afraid of the world around us, the world will sense our fear and also be afraid.

Today at our last session the questions folks asked were engaging and to-the-point.  One of my former students, who is now serving a church in this presbytery, took me to the train station.  His reflections and questions on the way were wonderfully encouraging.

When I arrived back in Taipei, I had dinner at a great vegetarian restaurant at the train station and then took a bus back to the seminary where I live.  I had a grateful heart as I reflected on the past three days and the hunger of the church leaders in southern Taiwan.

I love the opportunities that God gives me here and am encouraged by the Christians with whom I have the privilege of serving.

May you too be encouraged as the Holy Spirit continues to do a new thing our neighborhoods and world.

Warmest blessings,

The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 253

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