A letter from John McCall serving in Taiwan
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One morning I was moving chairs from my dining room to the sun room. Every Thursday I welcome a different group of pastors to my home, and that day I was preparing to welcome the pastors from Taipei and Seven Star Presbyteries. They mostly speak Taiwanese in their churches. As I was making tea, the doorbell rang about 40 minutes before we were to begin, and an aboriginal pastor from the Amis tribe was standing at my door with his guitar. I was surprised to see him, since his pastor group of Amis tribal pastors was to meet the next Thursday at my home. I said, “I think you are a week early, but since you are here, why don’t you join the non-aboriginal pastors for their group?” He looked a little confused and then got on his cell phone and told me that the whole group of aboriginal pastors would be coming to my home that day. I was planning on about 15 folks, so asked him to help me move the chairs back into the dining room and said that with about 30 folks we could all sit on the floor, because I didn’t have enough chairs. I had never had these two groups together before, but was delighted that the Spirit blew them together.
Many of these pastors studied together at seminary, so they are not strangers, but they serve in two different worlds. The presbyteries here are arranged by both language and location, so the Amis tribal pastors have their own presbytery. Their churches may be near other Taiwanese speaking churches, but they rarely would meet together. In this day of division throughout our world, it was great to have these different people groups sitting on the floor of my sun room, singing together, sharing together, and praying together. One of the non-aboriginal pastors shared a case study about weddings, and everyone discussed current issues. We talked about having a retreat together sometime this year.
One night I returned home late from preaching twice at a rural church in the middle of Taiwan. Yulin County, where the church is located, is called the rice basket of Taiwan. A young couple from Taiwan Seminary was called to serve there eight years ago. When they arrived there were six or seven older folks in worship. But this couple dared to dream God’s dream for that church and town, and the original six or seven older folks were willing to dream with them and with God. Yesterday was the 55th anniversary service of the church and there were not enough seats, so many had to stand outside. Like many rural towns in Taiwan and around the world, the local young people leave after high school for college and work, and never move back. But this couple is encouraging the many youth who now are part of this church to prepare to come back to bless both their town and the church. Every weekend their college students come back home to sing in the praise band, to lead classes for the town’s children and to continue to grow in their faith.
After the morning service one of these college students took me down the one main road of the town for a noodle lunch. He said, “Originally I was going to study business, but changed to English (his English is quite good) so I can become an English teacher who both teaches English and mentors my future students in the Christian life. I was going to leave this town of Sway Lin, but now will come back to help the children here. The center of the town for many of the youth is the local 7-11. American 7-11s sell drinks and snacks, but Taiwanese 7-11s brew coffee, sell tea eggs and freshly cooked sweet potatoes, fruit, noodles, and other meals. They have tables with chairs where customers can sit and read the paper, use their cell phones, or chat with friends. The manager of this 7-11, who is not a Christian, asked me if I was from the church. I told her that I was, and she said that the local pastor and his wife have been a blessing to the youth of that town. Many of the children are from single-parent families, with low self-esteem. But this manager said that they now know they are loved.
It was a joy to hear the testimony of a non-Christian saying what the love of that rural church means for that town. I shared with the congregation what the manager said, and when the pastor (a former student) took me to the train station to return to Taipei I thanked him for his and his wife’s vision, passion, and stick-to-it-ness.
When I took the high-speed rail south on Saturday, the carriage in which I was seated was teaming with secret service agents. Just as we were getting ready to leave, the president-elect, who will take office on May 20, sat just a few rows ahead of me. Tsai Ing-wen has a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics and will be Taiwan’s first female president. Please pray for her, as she has a challenging job to navigate complex political realities between China and the U.S. and Taiwan.
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