A letter from John McCall serving in Taiwan
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One of the joys of serving long-term in a place like Taiwan is to see how God is at work in the lives of former students and their families. One student who was in my first class at Taiwan Seminary, Abai, is a member of the Amis tribe of Taiwan’s aboriginal people. There are 16 tribes, and the Amis people are the largest tribe numerically. They have tended to live along the sea and in the past many fished for a living.
Abai was serving an urban aboriginal church just down the mountain from the seminary where I live and has been part of an Amis pastors’ group that meets at my house. He and his wife, Yi-hua, have been wrestling with God’s call to become missionaries in Japan. God finally made that call clear to them and a few weeks ago I preached at a sending service for Pastor Abai and Yi-hua. Last week they boarded a plane to move to Kyoto, Japan, where they will be learning the Japanese language and the culture and serving with a Japanese church.
Japan is less than 1 percent Christian and has been one of the least open cultures to the good news of the gospel. Christians there live a sometimes difficult life since it is not a culture in which one easily goes against the cultural norms. It is not usually valued to be different. Pastor Abai understands something of living on the margins, as aboriginals are a minority people group in the larger Taiwan culture.
I travel to Japan from Taiwan several times a year to serve on a mission board in Japan which, as one of its jobs, oversees the work of a large Christian hospital in the city of Osaka. This hospital was purposely built in an area of Osaka in which a marginalized people group lives. These folks tended to do the jobs that no one else wanted to do and thus were considered “unclean.” Before the hospital became a large hospital with lots of folks taking the local train to the closest station, the local marginalized residents would often ride to the next stop and then walk back home on a longer route to avoid letting people know who they were. Now that many folks get on and off at that station each day to visit the doctor, or a sick relative, or to work at the hospital, the local folks no longer have to get off at the station that is farther from their home. No one can tell from looking at them that they are any different from anyone else.
Last week I was in Japan for the meeting of the mission board and had been asked by a Taiwanese/Mandarin/Japanese-speaking church in Osaka to preach at their two-day retreat. This church had been started by the Presbyterian mission from the United States many years ago and has continued to minister to Taiwanese and Chinese who live in Osaka. When I preached, I was translated into Japanese for those who had been born of Taiwanese or Chinese parents in Japan, and for the Japanese spouses of church members. Having just preached at the sending service for Abai and Yi-hua, I pondered how the Holy Spirit works through each of us to touch the lives of folks here-and-now and in the future.
Saturday evening after the service I took a walk to a popular shopping district in Osaka. I looked at the faces of many who were out on a Saturday evening, and did not see many smiles. I sensed that many folks in Japan are under a lot of pressure from work and family and society. Folks seemed nervous and somewhat uptight.
As I walked, I thought about Abai and Yi-hua and God’s call for them to go to Japan. I thought of the message they will carry from Jesus’ words in Matthew: “Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest” (11:28). I have put the names of Pastor Abai and Yi-hua on the prayer list in my Bible. I am praying that Abai and Yi-hua will be able to learn the language. I am praying that Japanese friends will help them learn the nuances of a very complicated culture. I am praying that they will not get discouraged in a difficult place to be God’s missionary. I am praying that they can be living signs of God’s good news to their Japanese neighbors.
Thank you for your prayers and faithful support, which allow me to journey with folks like Pastor Abai and Yi-hua. It is exciting to see how God uses us all to be Christ’s salt and light in this world. The abundant life that Christ offers is set before each one of us. Let us taste and see that God is good, and let us share that good taste with the world.
The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 253
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