Church Planting in Taiwan
When I first went to Taiwan in 2006 as a missionary, I didn’t think I’d end up doing rural church-planting, much less be someone who could start a new team in a completely new place. I had my mind set on doing what I was comfortable doing, as well as living in the city, where I was comfortable. Fast forward 14 years: my husband Putao and I are here in Meishan, living the rural life, watching God open doors we couldn’t have imagined. Who was I to think rural church-planting wasn’t for me?
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Last August, we moved to Meishan township, in Chiayi County, one of the top nine most unchurched towns in Taiwan, having only one church with just a few people. When we first arrived, we didn’t think we’d have much to do. After all, we were completely new to this little town of less than 15,000 people, and we had only one contact – a non-Christian teacher at the local school.
We weren’t expecting any opportunities to open up for us, so we kept our expectations low. But God opened the door for us to begin getting to know the community of families at that school. You see, resources are scarce in rural schools, so they were quite happy to have us volunteer to help with whatever we wanted!
When we asked what we could do, they said the possibilities were endless, as long as we didn’t charge fees. So we began telling Bible stories to 1st graders, a kids club (which functioned like a Sunday school lesson with crafts) on Wednesday for 2nd graders, and Putao’s table tennis club for 3rd graders.
Getting to Know Parents and Kids
After a semester of getting to know these students, we held our first Christmas event, and on the same day, unofficially ‘opened’ the first floor of our home as the Meishan Seedling Gospel Center. Imagine our surprise when so many of these young families signed up to attend the event, that we had to break it into two time slots! God was faithful, and I don’t think He was surprised.
We were even more amazed that the kids weren’t just dropped off – their parents stayed and participated in the activities and heard the Christmas story as well. As the kids decorated their Christmas cookies, we had the chance to get to know so many of the parents. This was the first time they had ever been to an activity like this, and they were very curious to know why we would come to Meishan of all places in Taiwan. Some had never even met Christians before.
Reaching Young Families
One Presbyterian church has been here in Meishan for 65+ years, but since the church now only consists of a few elderly people, there isn’t much push to do outreach to the wider Meishan community, especially to these young families. We’ve even met people who looked at the Chinese name for our Gospel Center, and asked, “What is that word Gospel and what does it mean?”
Can you imagine – in an open and religiously free country like Taiwan, where one could easily turn on the TV and watch the Christian TV broadcast – there are still places where people have never heard the word ‘Gospel’ and who have gone their whole lives without ever meeting a Christian. They are the unreached working-class of Taiwan.
God Opens More Doors
We followed up the Christmas outreach with a winter break camp for the 1st and 2nd graders, which produced another opportunity to know the parents even more. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, we weren’t able to hold an Easter activity. Being faithful in our weekly school ministries has helped us maintain our contact with the students. In the meantime, God opened another door for us – the non-Christian teacher that we had a great relationship with, told us she wanted to read the Bible. Imagine that! So we began to meet with her to go through an overview of the Bible’s story.
Building Relationships with Our Neighbors
Getting to know our neighbors has been such a joy, too. Since we’ve moved here, they have been quite curious about us, and we often spend time chatting with them outside or while we wait for the garbage truck. Many of them are farmers, and they frequently and generously share their harvest with us!
We try to bless them as well– when our neighbor gave us bananas, we baked banana bread and gave back to them. Back and forth, back and forth. Conversations, the sharing of food, laughs, asking questions, getting to know them – we began to see that living life in community is such a great big part of church-planting.
God uses the building of relationships to begin building His church. In the end I realized – if I can talk to people, if I can be a good neighbor in the community, if I can build relationships, then rural church-planting is for me – and it could also be for you.
Watch a video to learn more about the ministry in Meishan.
Putao Lin & Kat Tang with their daughter Jovie, are missionaries with OMF in Taiwan. Kat is from Texas, and joined OMF in 2006, originally serving at-risk kids in the Wanhua district in Taipei. From 2011-2016, she served as the Serve Asia Coordinator of the field, where she trained and discipled short-term workers coming to serve in various ministries. Putao is from Taiwan, and grew up in the Shopworkers Church, a church established by OMF-Taiwan, reaching out to the working-class in the shopworkers industry. They married in 2016 and now serve in Meishan township, at the foot of the Alishan mountains in Chiayi county.
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