John McCall (PCUSA) - March 2016 Update
It's a beautiful Sunday evening here with cool breezes. This is Taipei's weather at its best. This week has been extremely rich with a variety of experiences:
Monday was a national holiday commemorating the February 28, 1947 incident when an anti-government uprising was violently suppressed by the KMT-led Republic of China government. Thousands of civilians were killed, perhaps as many as 30,000. The massacre marked the beginning of the White Terror period in which thousands more inhabitants vanished, died, or were imprisoned. Some of these were members or leaders of the Presbyterian Church. This massacre was a taboo subject for decades. The first time it was publicly acknowledged by a Taiwanese president was in 1995. It then became a national day of peace and a holiday.
Many churches hold retreats on three-day weekends. I was asked to speak at the retreat for two aboriginal churches of the Tyral tribe. These are city aboriginal churches that have done a beautiful job attracting a lot of young people to both worship and mission work. They began Monday morning with young people leading praise worship. These churches are more charismatic, so both the worship and prayer are lively. It was a joy to see their passion and hunger to grow.
Tuesday I taught the second year MDiv students at Taiwan Seminary in our weekly course on pastoral ministry. This course teaches them how to be a pastor and it is a lot of fun to teach. I do a lot of role play with the students, where they play the pastor and I play a disgruntled church member or a confused teenager.
Wednesday I left my house on the seminary campus early and walked down the mountain to the bus stop. Buses are not regular, so I always have to leave early to make sure I get to the train station on time. The bus drops me off not too far from the subway station. The subway takes me to the train station where I take the High Speed Rail (HSR) to southern Taiwan. I then take an electric train from the Tainan HSR station to the Tainan City Train Station which is about a ten minute walk to the seminary. Tainan is the city which had the big earthquake last month and is still grieving and repairing. One block of buildings fell over on their side. Many were rescued, but many also died. I am teaching an elective course to first, second, and third year MDiv students on "Developing God's Creative Vision for Ministry." This course is also a joy to teach. The students' energy gives me energy. I get home around 8:00 pm after teaching in Tainan.
Thursday marked the twentieth anniversary of my arrival in Taiwan. I came here on March 3, 1996 and began a two year course in Mandarin. I started my life here at Taipei’s East Gate Presbyterian Church, so they hosted a thanksgiving service on Thursday evening. We based the service on a song which says, “Christ came singing love, and he lived singing love, he died singing love. He arose in silence. For the love to go on, we must make it our song. You and I be the singers.” The second verse has Christ singing faith, the third, hope, and the fourth peace. So, four different people shared about living love, faith, hope, and peace. I then shared how thankful I am that God called me to Taiwan, and how the Christians here
have helped me to learn to sing Christ's song. Three choirs sang. One was aboriginal pastors from one of the pastor groups I lead. One was the men's choir from East Gate Church. The third was the third year MDiv students and aboriginal student fellowship from Taiwan Seminary where I live. There were lots of friends and colleagues from all parts of my life here. It was a good time to be thankful for the warm welcome of the Taiwanese over these twenty years. I told them a story of preaching at a U.S. church where one of my seminary classmates was serving as pastor. As we shared a hymnbook to sing the opening hymn, he whispered to me, "What happened to you?" I asked him, "What do you mean?" He replied, "You couldn't sing in seminary, but now you can sing." I told him, "I guess it is the influence of Taiwan!"
Friday I took a Sabbath and went hiking with a friend in the National Park about fifteen minutes north of where I live. We hiked in a place called "the Fields which Touch Heaven" from which you can see both the ocean and a dramatic view of Taipei City. It was a beautiful day and a welcome time of enjoying the beauty of Taiwan.
Saturday/ Sunday I left my house early to drive to a city south of Taipei. I had been invited to speak SEVEN times in a larger church. I spoke four times on Saturday, preached at two morning services and then again in the afternoon. What always amazes me is the hunger and willingness of the church members to be present at so many talks. They are interested, invested, and energized. Like the seminary students, their energy gives me energy. I try to use a more interactive way of sharing, so it’s not too much of me and they can engage.
I am grateful for your prayers and interest in what God is doing in Taiwan.
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