TMF Beginnings

    It was in this context of ministry, which is so very different from today's context of ministry that the Taiwan Missionary Fellowship began. Carl Hunker comments, "Nearly all of the larger cities had missionary prayer meetings once weekly for all denominations, so the fellowship was mutually supporting; fellowship was precious because of all the suffering in China and refugees in Taiwan. Among the missionaries nearly every mission had several older experienced missionaries bonded together by their coming from China and facing similar challenges and problems. The need for fellowship and mutual encouragement because of problems in Taiwan and suffering on the Mainland drew these missionaries together to form TMF, functioning mostly through the annual conference each summer."

    Penny Dale reminisces, "TMF began because a few of us felt it was very important for the missionaries who were on the island at that time to get to know each other, encourage one another, and pray together. I think it grew out of the Taipei Missionary Prayer Meeting, which met in our home for a number of years. We had started it just a few weeks after arriving in Taipei. I remember very clearly Bertha Smith with the Southern Baptist mission telling us at one of those prayer meetings about a letter she had received from friends in Carolina. A gifted young preacher had been speaking and a number of folks had found the Lord; his name—Billy Graham! That was the first time any of us heard his name."


The First Conference

    The first conference took place in 1951. Helen Gilkerson, who at the age of eighty-seven is still serving as a missionary in Taiwan with Go Ye Fellowship remembers that event. "Having arrived in Taiwan for the first time in April, 1951, I was privileged to attend the first TMF Conference held in the then Air Force Hotel in Yang Ming Shan, a two-story building, still standing! While it was no five-star hotel, yet it served the purpose well. We even had a `western breakfast', which included fried duck eggs. Miss Bertha Smith of the Southern Baptist Mission was largely responsible for organizing it. The main speaker was Dr. James Graham, the original founder of Chung Yuan University in Chungli and later Christ College in Kuan-Tu. He was one who could hold your attention interminably when he spoke, having been born in China and was as much or more of a Chinese than many Chinese are. He was also a close friend of President and Madame Chiang Kai-shek. Dr. Nelson Bell, Billy Graham's father-in-law, was also there for part of it. For recreation some of us hiked up to the sulfur pits on the back side of Yang Ming Shan. They are still boiling in case you'd like to visit them—quite a sight! Of course the crowning feature was the invitation to tea given for the missionaries attending (around forty) that Saturday by the Generalissimo and Madame held in a decorated hall fairly close to the hotel. If you've never been entertained at tea by a president, you have missed something! Everything was included on the tea tables, including ice cream (not yet existent in Taiwan —western ice cream, that is). Each of us was permitted an individual personal chat with the charming Madame Chiang Kai-shek (who spoke beautiful English) as she sat on a sofa, and a handshake with the President, who spoke no English. Dr. Graham interpreted into Chinese for any who wished to speak with him. Madame Chiang Kai-shek asked me what work I was doing, and I told her Sunday School work and Child Evangelism. `That is very necessary work,' she said, and was for it one hundred percent."


At Sun Moon Lake

    The early members of TMF soon found that Sun Moon Lake was more to their liking and the next year moved the annual conference there, where it was held for many years. Carl Hunker comments on the Sun Moon Lake location, "In the beginning the conferences were always held at Sun Moon Lake in their rather simple facilities. Arrangements were made by a number of committees. Mostly the elderly or single women lived in the hotel; some of us families lived in some small rooms away from the hotel, tatami floors, a whole family paying only US$1.00 each per night. An extension was built by 1958, which gave us more rooms. We rented a truck to carry folding chairs to the conference room, plus a small pump organ for our singing. Usually there were two speakers each morning, another session at night, with the afternoon free for recreation, which included swimming in the lake, a wading pool for children and older people (we put a bamboo barrier close to the bank), a nature walk led by Dr. DeVol, and lots, and lots of visiting. Always a challenge to the good swimmers was to swim out to the little island. Boat rides around the shores of the lake were very popular. I remember several years we had problems of reserving the Evergreen Hotel because President and Madame Chiang Kai-shek would be there for a summer break. We were given special privilege by agreeing not to walk around their quarters. Some afternoons we had special topics of mission interest such as doing indigenous churches, getting the Department of Interior to give our seminaries official status, and always a business meeting. Singing was so inspiring as it was the only time that most of us would have opportunity to sing in English, since we were in Chinese churches week by week. The little pump organ often could not be heard above the praise singing of the group. There was such a refreshing morning prayer time; it was such a joy because again we had the opportunity to pray in English. One day in the afternoon we had a lengthy prayer meeting—so very, very moving because of burdens for broken hearts, broken families of our Chinese from China, and our problems in our work. Because our meeting room was limited in size, these prayer meetings were so precious as we knelt—a feeling of intimacy before the Lord. Our budget was so limited that we could not ourselves afford to invite a speaker from outside of Taiwan. Always in the fall we began to see who would be visiting Taiwan for one of our groups or missions and take advantage of his availability."

    David Woodward remembers, "For many of those early years one of the German sisters, who was a dentist, offered free service to any who needed dental care—during free times. She had the help of a co-worker who vigorously stepped on a pedal to power the dental drills."

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