Build up the body of Christ. Support the Pentecost Offering.

Welcoming the stranger

Stateside Presbyterians are enriched by hosting pastors from different countries

by John McCall, Presbyterian World Mission | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Taiwanese aboriginal pastors Varuvu and Sai make music with Rev. Luke. (Photo by John McCall)

As part of his sabbatical from Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina, a few years ago, the Rev.  Brad Smith brought his wife, Nancy, and their three young adult children to Taiwan to experience the richness of both Taiwan’s culture and church life.

During their visit, they visited an aboriginal village and shared a meal with three women pastors from the Tyral tribe. Brad and Nancy are wonderful ambassadors of Christ’s love and these three pastors felt deeply affirmed and listened to by the Smith family. The Smiths also visited other churches in Taiwan and learned how God is at work on the island of Taiwan.

Because of their rich experience in Taiwan, Brad hoped that there could be an ongoing connection with the pastors in Taiwan. For years, since Eastminster has been a partner with me, a mission co-worker, so this connection was a natural one.

I have brought three groups of Taiwanese pastors to Montreat Conference Center in North Carolina for two weeks of spiritual renewal. Taiwanese pastors live right at the church where they serve, so it can be difficult to find time and space away. So, these weeks are wonderful times for the Taiwanese pastors to leave their busy schedules and come to a place of natural beauty and welcome. These pastors are renewed both by the beauty of Montreat, the sharing among different people groups, and by visits to churches and homeless shelters. For two of these years, Guatemalan and Malawian pastors have joined the Taiwanese pastors along with groups of PC(USA) pastors.

Taiwanese and PC(USA) pastors together at Montreat Conference Center. (Photo by John McCall)

At one homeless shelter, a Taiwanese pastor knelt to wash the feet of a homeless man. As she washed his feet, he began to cry, and said, “The last time I was with Asians I was shooting them in Vietnam. And now they are kneeling to wash my feet in Christ’s name.”

Eastminster has hosted two groups of these Taiwanese pastors for a weekend. They stay in the homes of church members and are warmly welcomed by their new American friends. The Rev. Billy Graham once said that every American Christian should have the opportunity to welcome Christians from other countries in their homes. In this day of division, it is wonderful to see Christians from other countries sleeping under the same roof and eating at the same tables.

So many international friends come to the U.S. and never have the chance to stay in the home of Americans. So, these pastors are thrilled to spend time around the table of their hosts both sharing about their life in Taiwan and also learning about the lives of their new American friends.

On Saturday evening, Eastminster hosted a culture night where the Taiwanese aboriginals taught everyone some of their songs and also one of their traditional dances. At the adult Sunday school, four of the Taiwanese pastors shared about their families and ministries in Taiwan. They were delighted to find that the folks at Eastminster were very interested in what God is doing in Taiwan. Since one-third of these Taiwanese pastors come from some of the 17 tribes of Indigenous Taiwanese, they wear their traditional aboriginal clothing in worship. It was beautiful to see them singing the anthem that day in their colorful clothes from different tribes.

After the weekend in Columbia, the church arranged transportation for us to drive back to Montreat, where we welcomed about 20 PC(USA) pastors, women and men, also from different people groups in the U.S. It was exciting for the Taiwanese pastors to learn that America also has a wide variety of people groups.

The generosity and interest of the Eastminster church deeply impressed the Taiwanese pastors. They were impressed by their willingness to learn from their new Taiwanese friends and were delighted to learn about the ministry of Eastminster in their mission work locally and globally.

A year later, folks from several of my partner churches came to Taiwan to see God’s work in that land. One of the associate pastors, Mark Durrett, and two young adults, Justin and Miles, made the long journey across the Pacific. Miles and Justin, both young fathers, had the opportunity to stay in an aboriginal village over a weekend. They played basketball with village youth and joined in their activities at the village community center.

Justin joins aboriginal youth in a dance on the basketball court. (Photo by John McCall)

It was beautiful to see the reversal of roles, from Eastminster folks hosting the Taiwanese, to the Taiwanese hosting the friends from Eastminster. After the weekend in the village, we all traveled to a church center to host a two-day retreat with the American guests and the Taiwanese pastors who had traveled to Montreat.

Jesus in Matthew 25 tells of those who ask, “When did we see you hungry and lonely?” Folks from very different places learned that they have neighbors on the other side of the world. By opening their homes and their hearts, they discovered gifts that they have to share and also received gifts from former strangers who became friends in the Lord.

The Rev. John McCall is a mission co-worker serving in Taiwan. Learn more here.

The article first appeared in Mission Crossroads. Find it and other articles here.

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

  • Subscribe to the PC(USA) News

  • Interested in receiving either of the PC(USA) newsletters in your inbox?

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.