Bright and Clear Festival, remembering the ancestors

This weekend is the weekend for Bright and Clear Festival 清明節, also called Tombsweeping Day. In Taiwan, it’s the time when the ancestors are remembered. Families typically return to their hometowns to care for the tombs of the deceased and to make offerings. Many Christian families substitute hymns and prayers.

In March, two former PCT missionaries died. First was Milo Thornberry, a Methodist missionary who had taught at my seminary and was exiled from Taiwan for his association with a Taiwanese dissident, Peng Ming-min. I met Thornberry several years ago. My seminary gave him an honorary doctorate. He’d published a memoir, Fireproof Moth, about his time in Taiwan.

Just last week, during a visit to Danshui, I received notice that a former Danshui missionary, John Geddes, had passed away. Carys Humphreys, who oversees much of the ecumenical relations work for PCT, sent us the notice. I had taken students to Danshui that day to visit two museums and then to meet with Louise Gamble, a retired Presbyterian Church of Canada missionary still working in Taiwan. On Saturday evening I watched the funeral online. I mentioned the death in class on Thursday and one of my Taiwan Seminary students said both her mother and she had been students of Geddes.

I am grateful for these predecessors, for their commitment and work across many years. There are not a lot of us still serving in PCT and every story I hear fills in a puzzle piece. I teach at Taiwan Seminary and Emily has been volunteering in Danshui, so these two feel especially familiar.

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