The Youth Program

    While the main focus of the TMF Conference program is on adult missionaries, those missionaries are often parents who bring their children. The felt need for a strong children's program has been met differently at different times during the last five decades (and sometimes not met at all). From the questionnaires, it seems that there was nothing provided for children in the very earliest conferences. Of course, missionary families attending the TMF Conference at Sun Moon Lake looked at the TMF Conference as their vacation, some even staying on longer. However, some kind of children's program must have been organized fairly early in the conference history. Russell Zinn reminisces about some early conferences, "It seems to us as we think back that Child Evangelism Fellowship organized the children's program . . . Different missionaries helped direct the youth program. The youth helped with the conference, and often had some ministry with which they were involved."

    At some point later in time a camping program away from the TMF Conference site was organized for high school students. Anne Ijas, who with her husband, Juha has been serving with the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission in Taiwan since 1988 and grew up in Taiwan, recalls one of these programs, "I remember the summer conferences as being one of the highlights of the summer. I especially remember one summer TMF sponsored a trek across the mountains from Taichung to Hualien. This was for high school students. The trip was unforgettable, the scenery was so beautiful and especially the first day was soooo tiring. The trip took three days and we slept in small huts along the way. In Hualien there was a camp for young people afterwards."

    Now the youth program is a well planned and organized program for all age levels, which often makes use of short term mission teams from churches in the home countries.

 

Why TMF Conference?

    What value to missionaries is an annual week of meetings like the TMF Conference? The questionnaires returned to the TMQ editors expressed very strong feelings of appreciation for the conference. Helen Gilkerson echoes the voices of many others when she writes, "To me the conference was `something to write home about!' The many conferences I have attended in intervening years have always been a real blessing and inspiration. They have filled a place in my life, being a single missionary, that nothing else has, and I do thank God for TMF!" Art and Ruth Robinson say, "TMF was a highlight for our family each year that we attended . . . The speakers inspired us and fed our souls . . . The fellowship renewed our vision and rejoiced our souls . . . How we did love the music as it filled the Morrison auditorium." The singing is an aspect of the conference, which people mention again and again. Margaret Roberts opines, "Of course I loved being up at Sun Moon Lake—sleeping on tatami with a number of other girls. That is where I got to know other missionaries. I can't sing `How Great Thou Art' without feeling I am back up there." Ron West, a Southern Baptist missionary in the later decades of the TMF Conference remembers, "The nightly worship services were packed. You had to be there at least fifteen minutes early to get a seat. The speakers were top quality. The music was inspiring."

 

Unity in Diversity

    The Taiwan Missionary Fellowship provides an opportunity for missionaries from different mission agencies, denominational groups, and geographical areas to meet together, worship together, pray with and for one another, share ideas with one another, and sometimes work on projects with one another. Over and over again in the questionnaires missionaries comment on how valuable they feel the existence of such a forum is. In describing what he thinks the role of TMF is Arthur Stejskal voiced the feelings of many when he writes that TMF's role is "to provide an evangelical fellowship which would support missionaries from all denominations and groups, helping and encouraging them in the task of being good ambassadors for Christ. It fostered `unity', but allowed for `diversity', holding to the proposition that many working together can accomplish far more for the church (the body of Christ) than fragmented groups working on their own. And this certainly proved to be true in our experience."

    Ellen Giebel remembers that "visions were shared and plans for new projects for the coming year were made. These were often cooperative efforts. God blessed and worked in our midst." It may be that the cooperative efforts in missionary work seen in the early years of TMF have diminished in recent years, although I am sure there is still a lot of room for working together.

    Howard Moore, who with his wife, Mary Evelyn, arrived in Taiwan in 1954, puts it very forcefully, "I would sum it all up this way: there is a dynamic of spiritual dimension which occurs during the TMF fellowship model of the larger body of God's people, which usually differs from our usual gathering within the organizational structures of individual missions. I do not speak of either/or, but of both/and. What happened to me at TMF, I believe, helped me serve better in my own group."

    Of course, you cannot have a group as diverse as TMF without some different opinions and ways of doing things. Ralph Covell, who was in Taiwan from 1951 to 1996 with the Conservative Baptists, remembers, "I recall one TMF Conference at Sun Moon Lake. I was chairperson. Donald Grey Barnhouse was the speaker. He caused a big stir since his strong Calvinist position was offensive to many." It is not easy to find speakers who can speak to such a wide ranging audience as come to a TMF Conference. This is true culturally as well. Although many missionaries in Taiwan are from North America, there are also missionaries in Taiwan from England, Europe (especially Finland, Norway, Germany, and Switzerland), South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, and several other Asian nations. The writer of one questionnaire remarked about first attending the TMF Conference, "I was struck by the dominance of American cultural values, and felt a little out of place as a European."

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