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The Small Church with the Big Heart

A Letter from John McCall, serving in Taiwan

Spring 2021

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Dear friends,

During this pandemic, it has been easy to get discouraged. The needs are so great, and yet the Church’s resources can seem so small. I have been praying for the World Church as it has sought to be creative in touching the hearts of all in the midst of so many limitations.

This past weekend, I was very encouraged to see God at work in exciting ways in a small church on the outskirts of Taipei. If I am invited to preach or speak at a small church, the pastor often begins the invitation by saying, “We are only a small church . . .” But being small does not mean there is no opportunity to share God’s love.

Jin Chen Church is located on the first floor of a huge apartment block overlooking a park with a sanctuary, a small Fellowship Hall and a kitchen. Sunday School is held in the nearby home of a member. The church has large clear windows, so the folks walking outside can see what is happening inside. The windows communicate an openness to the community.

When I arrived on Saturday evening, the Fellowship Hall was full of teenagers eating a meal prepared by one of the church elders. Most of these youth come from difficult backgrounds and are not churched. Each Saturday afternoon, two mothers gather with them in the park to play dodgeball. They then come to the church for dinner and youth fellowship. Most of these youth have low self-esteem, for their parents have been unable to provide a home of love and security. Many of them are being raised by their grandparents.

But Pastor Hen Rong of the church has encouraged her church members to open the doors of the church to these youth. Hen Rong is a former student who joined us in one of our pilgrimages to Taize in France and also to Montreat in North Carolina, where we joined with U.S. pastors for a time of spiritual refreshment. She has two young children of her own, and her husband is very supportive of her ministry. In addition to the church elder who cooks each week, two young adults from the church serve as youth advisors.

After dinner, as we were waiting for the program to begin, I met three high school boys who had come to the church for the first time. One has already dropped out of school. They were very open and wanted to practice their English. As I asked them about their lives, there was an unguardedness about their responses. They didn’t give the “right” answers to my questions.
When the pastor led us in prayer and ended with “Amen,” one of the boys asked why we call Jesus “Amen.”

They were not quiet when I first stood up to share with them. But slowly, they calmed down and really listened. I used the Bible verse “We love because God first loved us” (I John 4:19). I wanted them to know that they are deeply loved even though they may not always feel that way. I also wanted them to know that God can use them to love others. We then sang an active song that uses this verse. I then gave them a chance to ask questions.

As I headed back to my home that evening, I was grateful for this small church with a big heart that is reaching out to these young people who so desperately need to know that they are loved.

The next morning I took a very early bus down the mountain from the seminary and then took the subway back to the church. I had been invited to preach twice that morning at what the church here calls “renewal services.” The church had invited some overseas workers from the Philippines who work at a nearby factory to join us for worship. They asked me to preach in Mandarin and in English so our Filipino friends could also understand since they did not speak Mandarin. They had also invited the Filipinos to be the choir that day, and they sang a lively praise song.

It was a joy to see the different nationalities worshiping together. I said that when we get to heaven, the person next to us at Christ’s banquet table will probably not be from our country of origin, so we need to practice being with different folks while we are still on earth.

I was amazed at Jin Chen Church’s openness in sharing Christ’s love with so many different folks. It is a small church with huge clear windows that connect them to their neighbors and a big heart.

Thank you for your prayers and support that enable me to accompany pastors like Hen Rong and the good folks at Jin Chen Church.

Gratefully,

John McCall


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