John McCall - February 2017 Update
This past weekend was a four-day holiday in Taiwan to commemorate the February 28th memorial when thousands of people were slaughtered by incoming forces from China in 1947. Many of the Taiwanese leaders were taken away at night and jailed or killed. For years this was a taboo subject, but as democracy flourished here it became a part of the history of this land.
Last year we took a group of pastors to Montreat Conference Center in North Carolina (see September 2016 update). We planned to have a retreat here in Taiwan for these pastors six months after our return, to check in with each other and to see how this experience shaped them and is still shaping them. We had pastors from every corner of Taiwan join in this experience, so Sunday afternoon they drove down from the high mountains, or took a several hour train ride from south, east, north, and west.
After preaching at a Taipei church on Sunday morning, I went to Taipei Main Station to take a train to the retreat center which is located about an hour’s drive south of Taipei. I had a seat on the train for half of the journey but had to stand for the second half.
When I got to the train station in Hsinchu, I wanted to get some exercise so decided to walk to the retreat center. It was supposed to be a twenty-minute walk. After walking for about fifteen minutes, I realized that I missed the road on which I was to turn. I saw two young men in their car with the window open sitting under a bridge, so I asked them how to get to my destination. The driver said, "you have come way too far down this road. You need to go back about ten minutes along the same road on which you have just come." Then he said, "Hop in my car. We'll take you there." Now in most countries, it isn't a smart thing to hop in a stranger's car. But when this young man offered to take me to the retreat center, I wasn't worried about ulterior motives, threw my backpack in his back seat and hopped in.
He told me that first he had to take his friend somewhere, and then he would take me to my destination. We couldn't find the address where his friend needed to go, so we followed some roads winding up a mountain.
If I had been suspicious that they had ulterior motives this would have been the time to get nervous, but I wasn't nervous at all. Taiwan is a very safe country. We finally found the address where his friend needed to go and drove back down the mountain to the city. I told him that I was headed to join a retreat for pastors. He told me that his father goes to church. When I asked him if he accompanies his father to church, he said, "No, everyone's interests are different." So, I gently encouraged him to give it a try and go with his father to church.
I told him that in most countries I would not get in a stranger's car, but that in my long time in Taiwan I have found it to be a very safe country. He then told me that he had been in prison for four years, and that that experience had taught him that it is much better to help people. Again, if I was suspicious, that might have been the time to get nervous. But I wasn't nervous at all.
When we got to the retreat center, I saw several friends and introduced my new friend to them. I then asked him if I could pray for him. Most Taiwanese are very open to having a prayer of blessing. Part of that openness comes from their belief that any "god" can help them. So with my friends, we bowed our heads and prayed for my "driver." He was appreciative, shook my hand, gave me his card (he is a roofer), got back in his car and drove away.
I shared my experience with the pastors at the retreat, and they all smiled. We had a wonderful time together at the retreat and left refreshed and renewed with new vision and hope for the future.
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