Though the main focus of our ministry is the huge number of people living in the People’s Republic of China, we are also committed to reaching Chinese elsewhere, including America, Europe, and Taiwan.
As I have said before, Taiwan has strategic importance for at least two reasons: (1) Fewer than 2% of its more than 23 million people follow Christ; and (2) Many thousands of Christians from Taiwan are actively seeking to build the church in China. The church in Taiwan cares greatly about their brothers and sisters, and unsaved countrymen, across the Strait. They conduct a wide range of activities in order to share with them the love and truth of God in Christ: Radio and television broadcasts are taped in Taipei. Literature for both believers and non-believers pours off the presses in Taiwan (all my eleven volumes are published there). Most valuable of all is the witness and teaching of mature believers – including most of my students - who travel to China to train church leaders, carry on evangelism, or serve as salt and light in various professions and business.
Despite political freedom – indeed, partly because of it – Taiwan faces almost unprecedented challenges today. Since the election of Chen Shui-bian as President in 2000, the opposing parties have been locked in an increasingly vicious struggle for power. The spiral of mutual mistrust and hatred has deepened since his re-election by a razor-thin margin in 2004. Chen’s administration has been marked by economic slowdown, intensive ethnic strife (much of it fomented by Chen and his supporters), legislative gridlock, volatile relations with China, estrangement with the U.S., and ever-increasing scandal. Chen’s wife and several members of his family and ranking staff have been indicted for corruption. He himself is considered an un-indicted co-defendant, but enjoys legal immunity as President. Large public demonstrations, pleas from respected academics, abandonment by his former mentor and the founder of his party – none has persuaded the Chen to step down.
The Communist and Nationalist Parties fought a bitter civil war after Japan surrendered at the end of World War II. After their defeat, the Nationalists retreated to Taiwan, where they ruled until Chen’s DPP won the presidency in 2000. Since then, the Nationalists have blocked many of Chen’s initiatives, including a defense procurement bill that would upgrade Taiwan’s military with purchases from America. In a really strange – almost bizarre – turn of events, the Nationalists are now courting the favor of the Communists in China. Both agree that Taiwan must not be independent of China, as Chen and his DPP promote.
Resurgence of Religion
Meanwhile, the people in Taiwan have continued to worship their traditional “gods” with unparalleled fervor. Polls show that 98% believe in the ancient pantheon. In August, we saw white-collar workers, led by their elegantly-attired bosses, burn paper money as offerings to ancestors. Buddhism has mimicked Christian techniques (seminaries, small groups, literature, music, evangelism, charitable work) and commands respect and allegiance in all sectors of society.
Few people outside Taiwan care about what’s happening there. Mission organizations have focused on China, where “converts” are numerous and easy to come by – or so it seems. (OMF International is one exception. They have called for 25 new workers to come to Taiwan in the next few years.) Other opportunities abound: English teaching; studying Mandarin; business – these and other open doors beckon those with faith and love.
We have three people in Taiwan: A young couple studying Mandarin, and my part-time assistant, Belle Huang. They participate in local churches and other Christian ministries, and seek to impact others through their prayers, words, and Christian conduct. Belle also translates my seminary class notes, articles, and prayer letters into Chinese. Dori and I visited Taiwan last summer. I leave on January 16th to teach an intensive course for the China Reformed Theological Seminary in Taipei. I plan to return for a brief visit in May, and then, in August, to teach a course for China Evangelical Seminary.
Please pray for God to work mightily in Taiwan; through Christians from Taiwan in China; and through us! Apart from Christ, we can do nothing (John 15:5).