Yesterday I was Taiwan Seminary’s representative for the sending service for an Amis pastor, Rev. Apay, and his wife who will go to Japan. (The Amis are a Taiwanese ethnic group; there’s a nice little article here.) Emily and I attended this church (“famous mountain”) for about a year when we first returned to Taiwan in 2009 so I knew the congregation fairly well.
The trend for aborigines in Taiwan has been to move to the cities and so there are a few scattered congregations like this in Taipei. It can be a challenging ministry environment, because work life is hard, children often don’t learn Amis language, and there’s more competition and more distractions in the city. This church is basically a storefront church, but it’s been there for thirty years and has established leaders. We attended for about a year when we first came in 2009 and really liked it. At the same time, after the twins were born, it was just too hard to stay (the congregation is small, so we felt like a distraction, and we moved back to the multilingual church we’d been involved in c. 2006.) The congregation’s always had a place in my heart and it was really fun to return.
Rev. Apay has been a good pastor, serving for twelve years, and the congregation has been a solid presence. It’s fairly rare for PCT to send mission workers cross-culturally, where they will be expected to serve in another language, so I am both excited and nervous for them. It’s an interesting arrangement. Japan is one of the countries in Asia with an even smaller concentration of Christians than Taiwan and apparently they need pastors. They’ll serve for three years at first, but hope to stay long-term. I believe they are both starting Japanese from scratch.
It was a very happy occasion. The preacher was a coworker, John McCall, who used the story of the Good Samaritan to encourage Rev. Abay and Yi-hua to care for others and for their church to embrace there work. There were also representatives from the West Amis Presbytery, from General Assembly, and from many local churches. At least a half a dozen of our students attended, including one who will begin her first pastorate in a few weeks, and two who were technically students of mine ten years ago when I came the first time and now have been pastoring for many years. I really enjoyed the service, which was fairly snappy and deeply meaningful.
I spoke for a few minutes and talked about an Easter service I attended at this congregation when we first came. I shared that I often immediately forget English sermons, but since I have to work harder for sermons in Chinese or Taiwanese, I’m more likely to remember. That Easter is still the most memorable I’ve had in Taiwan, and I remember Pastor Abay talking about the resurrection and what’s called Tombsweeping Day and talking about remembering our ancestors. I know they’ll have plenty of challenges in adjusting to a new culture, but I also hope that they find their own Easter moments at their new church in Japan.