Memories of TMF

 by Paul Buttrey

I remember as a young boy I was fascinated by my father's life. What experiences had he gone through? How did he meet the challenges of his generation? What was his life like when he was a boy? What about his progress as a young man? How did he become the kind of person I knew? Some hot summers I sneaked down the back stairs of our house and secretly made my way behind the furnace in the far corner of our cool basement. A dusty, dark, and mysterious trunk sat there, periodically inviting my curiosity. I could only push open the heavy lid of my father's army trunk with great difficulty, producing a nervous creak. Inside I discovered treasures which he had gathered when serving with the United States army in New Caledonia during World War II—pictures, mementos, and especially interesting for a young boy, his army pistol and a bag of bullets! I once had the courage to put six bullets into the revolving bullet chamber. But, alas, I never had enough courage to fire the pistol when it was loaded. I suppose that my fascination with my father's past arose because I felt that I somehow understood myself a little better by looking at the things he had looked at and touching the things he had touched. 



    The feelings I have when I think about the last fifty years of the Taiwan Missionary Fellowship are a little like the feelings I had in poking through that army trunk. The TMQ editorial staff recently sent out a questionnaire to many current and retired Taiwan missionaries, asking about their experiences of the Taiwan Missionary Fellowship. Almost seventy responses were returned to us. We have received reports of many happy memories, fascinating stories of a way of life that seems as remote from today as the earth is from the moon, and some frightening insights into what our forebearers in the missionary force had to go through to bring the gospel to Taiwan's unreached millions. Naturally, the most intriguing responses came from those who arrived in Taiwan the earliest and stayed the longest. The changes that have taken place in Taiwan during the last fifty years are hard to comprehend!

    Historical records tell us that in the modern era Christianity came to Taiwan in 1865, carried by Presbyterian missionaries. Some Japanese missionaries came a few decades later and planted the Holiness Church here. However, the great number of church denominations and missions that we now see in Taiwan did not begin arriving until after World War II. Floods of Chinese soldiers came with Chiang Kai-shek from Mainland China. Some brought their brand of Christianity with them. And then various brands of missionaries started arriving.


Ministry in the 1950s

    Arriving in May 1949, Dr. Donald Dale and his wife, Penny, were some of the earliest missionaries in that period of time. Penny writes, "Apart from the Presbyterian missionaries, I don't think there were any others in Taiwan at the time we arrived. Slowly over the next eighteen months a few others came one by one from China. By the end of 1950 Dick Hillis of Overseas Crusades arrived and others with him . . . Most missions did not allow their missionaries to move straight from Mainland China to Taiwan because they were expecting the Communists to follow Chiang Kai-shek across the water, (he arrived in either October or November, 1949, I am not sure of the exact date). Praise the Lord that never happened, and by the end of 1950 and then in 1951 and 1952 many `old China hands' started arriving. About that time the missions also started sending new younger missionaries as well."

    Those must have been days filled with a certain amount of anxiety and tension because of the uncertain political situation. Glen Graber, who served with the Mennonites, wistfully remembers, "The previous MCC workers had left the island as most missionaries were fearful of the Communists coming in. Thus, I was alone in Taiwan at this point in time."

    However, God often makes His presence known to people in the midst of political and social upheaval. Carl Hunker, who served from 1952 to 1987 with the Southern Baptists, remembers the difficulties, tensions, and spiritual opportunities that filled life in those days, "These conditions along with the pain, hurt, and loneliness of many from China caused grief and seeking for comfort and hope, so that many (including soldiers) were so responsive to the gospel. How many times from 1952 to 1960 at a weekend revival as many as forty or fifty would raise their hands to receive Jesus . . . At that time many of us missionaries felt that Taiwan would become ten percent Christian by 1960. The hopelessness of life opened the hearts of many to the gospel."

    The socio-political crisis created by the arrival of Chiang Kai-shek and soldiers from Mainland China created ministry opportunities, which pushed missionaries to the limit. The Taiwanese church was understandably unprepared to deal with the large influx of people from the Mainland. Carl Hunker reports, "Missionaries in Taiwan at that time were mostly Presbyterian, using the Taiwanese dialect. Thousands of Chinese from China moved to Taiwan, most of whom could not understand Taiwanese, so in most larger cities Bible studies in Mandarin were begun by missionaries from China; later many of these study groups became churches."

    There were just not enough trained Mandarin speaking Christian workers to deal with the spiritual openness. As a result, missionaries often found themselves in multiple roles. Everett Savage, who served with the Taiwan Lutheran Missionary Association from 1958 until 1996, describes some of the many faces of his ministry, "I was involved with the Taiwan Christian Service in the distribution of relief goods from the USA and for part of the time was superintendent of a children's and old people's home . . . The first years were spent as pastor of up to six congregations, mostly supervising Bible school graduates and seminary graduates doing internships before ordination. Later other ministries were added to that duty." He also describes founding a Christian hospital, serving as its chaplain, later serving as its superintendent, preaching in the local English speaking congregation, and founding a suicide prevention hotline and a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program.

    In a similar vein Carl Hunker remembers, "In addition to my seminary work, I supervised students in mission points and chapels, visiting each one once a month. Because they were students, they did not baptize. So during the ten day Easter period in 1956 I baptized 220 in seven mission points I helped to guide."

    Barbara Boehr, who with her husband, Ernie, served with TEAM from 1954 to 1989, reminisces about their active schedule, "Among the Mandarin speaking, Ernie preached in five churches monthly. Twice a year we invited an evangelist to hold five days of evangelistic services in each of the five churches. Twice a year we also had DVBS in each of the churches. Four summers we held a young people's camp for all the churches."

Living in the 1950s

    Taiwan has gone through incredible economic development in the last five decades. Some of the most fascinating memories of Taiwan missionaries have to do with the difference in lifestyle between 1951 and 2001. Arthur Stejskal, who served with TEAM here for twenty-eight years ministering to Taiwan's aboriginal people remembers, "We lived in a Japanese style wooden house with a tile roof. We had electricity from dusk until 11:00 p.m. and there was limited plumbing, with a pump outside and an `inside outhouse.' Our refrigerator became an ice box supplied with ice from the fishing port . . . Our electric washing machine and iron could only be used at night when there was electricity and that was very unpredictable as the generator failed frequently."

    Alan Cole, who served with OMF from 1952 to 1955 comments that life was "very simple, in Taichung; there were only two private cars in the city then, and one missionary air conditioner. We cycled everywhere, and cooked on a charcoal stove, and lived in a Japanese style tatami house with a pit toilet and `night soil man' to collect . . . I took baths after dark in the yard at the back of the house."

    Everett Savage reminisces, "During our early years in Taiwan most of our transpor tation was by motor scooter or pedicab. We would bargain before getting in and be sure that for short distances we said the four with four fingers in his face, so the driver could not claim later that we bargained for ten. At that time for most people having a bicycle was real prosperity. People who had a radio were lucky and played it with the volume up high so everyone around could hear too. In Keelung we, like everyone else, bundled up for the cold weather and paid close attention to having dry clothes. Without disposable diapers it took a lot of trouble to have dry ones. Fortunately a retiring missionary sold us a dehumidifier, so we could get clothes dry within two days."

    What if you needed a doctor in those early days? Penny Dale remembers her husband's medical practice, "Donald did many house calls on his bicycle, and there were no cell phones in those days to catch him as he crossed town. He might get home only to find he was urgently needed back at Mackay. His black bag tied on the back of his bicycle was a common sight around town!"

    Missionaries often hired people to help in the home. Mary Hanson (previously Mrs. Oliver Olson) who served with her husband in TEAM from 1953 to 1969 remembers, "We usually had two helpers in the home so that there was always someone to watch the gate. Shopping was a daily occurrence at the local market . . . usually done by one of the girls who helped us."

    I think most of us today would find cooking difficult if we were living in the 1950s. Arthur Stejskal writes that cooking was "Simple, with one propane burner, a small tin oven (for making our bread as there were no bakeries), a wok, and some saucepans. The propane was shipped from Chiayi on the west coast so it was always ordered well in advance. In 1959, while living in Chengkung on the East Coast—bean sprouts, lotus root, cabbage and rice were our main diet during the summer when it was too hot to grow green vegetables. We bought fish from the harbor, fatty pork, and some scrubby chicken, and an occasional good meal of sea turtle. Years later in Taitung we enjoyed a daily farmer's market with a variety of fresh vegetable, pork, fish, and poultry." Margaret Aldis, who with her husband, Gordon, served with OMF from 1954 to 1976, remembers that the meat available was "mainly pork, later beef (mostly sold to Muslims)." Ellen Giebel, who served with OMF from 1951 to 1992, reports about the open air markets that, "in early days the food would be wrapped in large green leaves and tied with a long dried grass; meat was cut from a large carcass hanging up." Carl Hunker writes about food, "Because of the large number from China, the economic situation was a struggle for both nationals and missionaries. It was difficult to buy favorite foods from abroad—sometimes we could find in certain stores dry cereals, Jell-O, cake mixes, etc., but sometimes we were so disappointed because they tasted so old. (I was told these delicacies were black market.)"

    Communications were understandably much less developed. Mary Hanson comments, "In the earliest years, any local (on Taiwan) pressing communication was by telegraph. Later in the 60s we had `Special Delivery' that would reach any place on the island within twelve to eighteen hours." Art Stejskal describes telephone service, "In the late 50s and early 60s, we went to the postal communications office two weeks before making the call, paid in advance for `X' number of minutes of telephone service from a telephone number in Taitung to a telephone number in the USA. Then from a phone in our house we could contact the operator on the prearranged day at the scheduled time and she connected us for the number of minutes we prepaid for, then cut us off mid-sentence when our time was up."

    Art Stejskal also remembers riding on the trains of the day, "A number of segments of the railroad system were one way on a single track (like the line from Taitung to Hualien). The block system at stations which had double tracks for passing was hand passed keys, which the train conductor reached out and grabbed as he approached the station, had stamped at the station, and passed onto a wire as the train left the station. Stalled trains were pushed by the passengers to the next station, so the oncoming train could pass." And of the intercity buses he writes, "There were two buses per day going north, up the coast or south to Taitung. In typhoon season there was often no transportation for days until the roads/railroads were repaired." Carl Hunker adds about local transportation, "Of course, pedicabs, and bicycles, and rumbling buses were our mode of transportation. Few of us had cars. Taxis were large old cars and would be overloaded with six, or seven, or eight passengers." International travel was not nearly as easy as it is today. Margaret Aldis comments that international travel was "by sea until 1960. (It took over a month to the UK.)"

    Of course, the economics of living in Taiwan has dramatically changed over the last several decades. Art Robinson, who served with the Southern Baptists from 1965 to 1990 reports, "Our amah was paid US$25 a month for which she worked six days a week, eight hours a day. We were able to have a sewing lady make clothes for US$1 a day. She could usually finish one and a half garments a day." Glen Graber remembers an "opportunity to purchase a Japanese style house for $3,500." Try budgeting with those figures today!

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."

    Arthur Stejskal comments, "In the early 1960s TMF brought us out from our rustic, rural setting to the beautiful, luxurious Evergreen Hostel at Sun Moon Lake. It was a different world with delicious meals, comfortable accommodation, as well as the fellowship with a host of fellow missionaries. This with the wonderful speakers and practical advice gleaned from special interest groups provided us as a family with the R &R we desperately needed."

    I think that it is hard for us today to imagine what a great help and encouragement such a conference was for missionaries fifty years ago. Some of the intensity of the feelings of participants in those days come through in a prayer letter written by Grace McGill, who with her husband, Clare, served with the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan from 1953 to 1984. In that 1954 prayer letter she wrote, "These have been rich days here on the mountaintop. Approximately two hundred missionaries assembled at Sun Moon Lake for the third Taiwan Missionary Fellowship Conference, 1954. Literally dozens of mis sions were represented. How we reveled in the fellowship and ministry of Dr. Alan Cole, a young OMF missionary from Australia. He exhorted and challenged us on points of weakness for all of us. The grandson of Hudson Taylor . . . ministered the `Thus saith the Lord' on the holy life. Many other sidelights included Mrs. J.O. Fraser speaking on the work she and her husband had done among the Lisu of West China. Mrs. Doug Sparks, a new bride who recently joined Orient Crusades through marriage after spending three years on the Billy Graham team reported on the London Crusade." She comments for TMQ, "That was my report on our first TMF experience in a letter to my parents. We frequently made TMF part of our summer vacation. We loved getting up to the cooler climate at the lake. The holidaying features for a young family—swimming, boating, hiking—were all there."

    Of course, when you have groups of people together, you will periodically have a crisis of one sort or another. Wes Milne, who first came to Taiwan with OMF in 1954, recalls, "Our favorite picnic and swimming spot was a tiny island far out on the lake where remains of an old Japanese shrine still stood. We would descend or dive off its steps into the deep water and swim and frolic around the island. One day a group of us were rowing out to the island in a rented boat, taking turns at the oars, when one of our number—a middle-aged English lady—announced that she was going to swim the rest of the way. She promptly stood up and—against our protests, for the island was still a good way off—dived into the lake! We rowed on and soon left her far behind. It wasn't long before we heard a feeble wail of distress, `I can't cope! I can't cope!' With groans of reluctance, we turned around, laboriously rowed back, and fished her out!"

    Transportation to the TMF conference was often a challenge when it was held at Sun Moon Lake. David Woodward, who with his wife, Betty, served with OMF (1953-1956) and TEAM (1958-1983), looks back on his travel to the TMF Conference, "Travel up to Sun Moon Lake was often difficult because of mud slides or flood ing in the 1950s. I can remember getting off a bus with others, then walking over a lengthy stretch of railway trestles, water rushing underneath, to get to another bus waiting for us." Russell Zinn, who has served in Taiwan with his wife, Esther, with the Evangelical Friends since 1958, recalls that after the 1959 conference concluded, they "decided to stay on a few days for a vacation. A terrific rainstorm that lasted for days brought a flood. Floods washed out the road and railroad and many bridges. Landslides closed whatever road there was left. I hiked back to Chiayi and Esther and the girls came out a week later by US Marine helicopter."

    Grace McGill remembers a similar incident coming from the east side of the island, "We tried the newly opened cross-island highway. We got as far as Lishan, visiting Tayal villages en route, and were typhooned in for many days. Finally we were invited into the Taipower office in Lishan and offered a ride out in a jeep that they were bringing through Puli to ferry out a hydro inspector who was also marooned up there. We jumped at the chance. It was a memorable ride. At one point out in the midst of nowhere the driver stopped the jeep at the foot of what seemed to me a vertical incline. He fiddled with the four-wheel gear shifts for a few minutes, and then started to crawl slowly like giant ant up on that incredibly steep hill. Before long we were in Puli, and on a bus. We arrived in perfect time for the beginning of the TMF Conference."


The Move to Morrison Academy

    In the early 1960s the location of the annual TMF Conference was changed to Morrison Academy in Taichung, where it has been held ever since (both at the previous and present school campuses) except for one or two years at Tunghai University. I don't know if the reason for the change of venue was because of the difficulty of transportation, the cost, the size of the facility, or some other reason, but several have indicated that the change of location changed the dynamics of the TMF Conference. As Arthur Stejskal put it, "The time of refreshing continued when TMF moved to Morrison, but the setting and getting away from the routine of regular ministry was never quite the same."

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."

Unplanned Happenings

    Sometimes missionaries and their families have found that the TMF Conference has been an occasion of the Lord's special grace in ways that the conference planners may not have specifically planned. In describing the flood he had to get through to get home after a TMF Conference at Sun Moon Lake, Russell Zinn notes, "Our oldest daughter at three and a half years gave her heart to the Lord during the wait to get out of Sun Moon Lake." And a previously unmarried man in the missionary force reports, "Another highlight was in 1982 when I got good advice from Allen Swanson about getting married."

    Men often commented about the content of the meetings. Sometimes women commented about other people attending the TMF Conference. Linda-Kay Wicks, who with her husband, Frank, served with OMS International from 1981 to 1983, was obviously noting the other women at the TMF Conference, "One of the funniest memories I have about the clothing worn at TMF was that often all the missionary ladies would buy the same dress, skirt or blouse at one of the outlet stores that were in Taichung and then they would all show up wearing them the same time. Anywhere else this would have been embarrassing, but not among the missionary ladies. They would all just laugh and enjoy their new outfits."


Other Ministries

    The central activity of the Taiwan Missionary Fellowship has been putting on this annual conference in the summer. At some point in time this was supplemented by the annual production of a missionary directory to help with inter-missionary communication. The networking relationships, which in the early days were often established at the TMF Conference, served to stimulate the development of other kinds of ministries, some of which have even become independent organizations on their own.

    Sometime in the early history of TMF missionaries felt that it would be worthwhile for missionaries to go away at other times during the year for periods of prayer and spiritual reflection. Howard Moore reports, "I also attended the first known missionary men's prayer retreat in the fall of 1955. Dave Woodward sparked the idea during hikes in the Sun Moon Lake area while several families of us stayed over for holidays following the conference. These, too, had their unique place in my life, complimenting in the small group setting the benefits from the large conference. Not too long afterward, the ladies began meeting in retreats, as well." As a result throughout the last fifty years there have been prayer retreats for men and women missionaries periodically sponsored by TMF.

    Nan Sugg, who with her husband Rob, served with the Southern Baptists from 1977 to 1998, recalls one such retreat, "One of the great blessings to me was the TMF sponsored women's retreats. I especially remember one that we had at the China Youth Corps Hostel at Sun Moon Lake. The weather turned bitterly cold. Betty Beckon was in charge of refreshments and had to make three unexpected trips to the village to buy more things we could turn into hot beverages. Everyone hovered around the refreshment table, downing more tea, coffee, Ovaltine, Horlick's, and Milo. Some of us tried drinks we'd never had before just trying to stay warm. Valetta Steele was one of our speakers. She had just written Thrice Through the Valley and was such a blessing to us. The presence of the Holy Spirit was very strong in that meeting. I remember that during our quiet time one day Edie Haslup got a beautiful word from the Lord for us in the form of a poem. She was asked to read it aloud to the group in our closing session. That was a perfect finish to an already uplifting and inspirational retreat."

    The need for youth ministry among MKs became evident to some early missionaries in Taiwan. In reminiscing about the Taiwan Missionary Fellowship, several missionaries who were in Taiwan in the 1950s mention the CCC (Christ Can Conquer) camps. Mary Hanson comments, "Dr. and Mrs. Donald Dale and Dick and Lucille Webster started twice yearly camps (in the Fall and Spring) for junior and senior high kids sometime in the 1950s."

    The TMF Conference was the catalyst for the development of a graduate level theological education program for missionaries serving in Taiwan. Ron West tells the story, "In the 80's Robert Coleman from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School was our TMF speaker. While here he talked to us about starting an extension of TEDS in Taiwan. Several of us helped to organize it. Russ Zinn for the Friends Mission was the Taiwan coordinator. We met at Morrison for two weeks each summer and I helped arrange the logistics at Morrison. It was an excellent program of training and equipping. Taiwan missionaries were able to study and discuss together missiological methods appropriate for Taiwan with excellent teachers provided by TEDS. It lasted for about ten years."

    Linda-Kay Wicks mentioned how discussions at the TMF Conference led to the development of a significant women's ministry in Taichung. She comments, "It was at TMF that I became involved in the starting of the International Christian Women's Club. Within a year of the dream we had the largest ICWC in the world with attendance hitting 160 to 175 women there in Taichung. I was the president of that club for a year."

    Even some of the impetus for establishing Morrison Academy, a major school for missionary children, came from discussions at the TMF Conference. Carl Hunker recalls, "Families were struggling to make good education provisions for their children. So during one year in the early 1950s missionaries at the TMF Conference had a whole afternoon discussing the establishing of a school for MKs. A committee was formed to inquire about how many missions would want to join this project. The final result was that the following year a board of trustees was formed from four missions. After the board was established, TMF was no longer involved except as a friend. For several years a report was given annually in the business session."

    Other ministries have either been developed or come under the auspices of TMF's organizational umbrella over the years. The Center for Counseling and Growth in Taichung, Taiwan Mission Quarterly, and the Emergency Education Fund (for MK families for short-term unexpected educational expenses) are all examples of ministries, which have some relationship to TMF.


Some Reflections

    These fifty years of memories demonstrate the value of missionaries from different organizations and ministries meeting together to receive spiritual stimulation and to network with one another on issues of common concern. TMF has continued to provide those functions in various forms over the last five decades. What is so clear to me as I read through the questionnaires, however, is that the context of missionary service in Taiwan has changed significantly. In the 1950s missionaries had themselves, their Bibles, the Holy Spirit (!), and only a small amount of other kinds of resources. Living resources were very simple, with even very limited electricity in some places. Transportation and communications were slow and cumbersome; very few people owned cars or motorcycles. International travel was slower and more expensive. Computers and e-mail had not been thought of. In the early 1950s there was no missionary kids school. Missionaries might find themselves in situations in which they had great levels of responsibility for ministry and limited resources for accomplishing that ministry. In short, they faced great challenges, with significant physical, material, and spiritual stresses. In this kind of context TMF played a very significant role for many foreign missionaries serving in Taiwan.

  The ministry context today is very different. Taiwan has made it, as far as material prosperity is concerned. Excellent communications and transportation, comfortable living, one of the best selection of meat, fruits, and vegetables anywhere in the world, and even some good western restaurants at affordable prices are available to support the life of the foreign missionary in Taiwan. Is it too hot for you? Well, you can install an air conditioner in every room of your home. Do you need to buy something from your home country? You can visit Costco or one of several other high volume stores, which might very well carry the item you need. Are the clothes in the stores here the wrong size for your larger body? Just take your credit card out and order some clothes from the USA over the Internet. Do you need to be in touch with another missionary somewhere on the island? All you have to do is make a phone call from your living room, and if you can't get in touch with him, leave a message on his answering machine, send him a fax, or get on your computer and e-mail him the message. Are the pressures of ministry getting you down? Why not take in the latest movie, or go on a vacation at the Oasis in southern Taiwan, or go for a summer furlough (which many missionaries seem to be doing on alternating summers). Do you want some good Biblical input? Why not order the latest Christian reading from Many of the felt needs which prompted the development of TMF fifty years ago can be met through other channels, which did not exist then.

    So what will TMF's function be during the next fifty years? What memories will missionaries write about fifty years from now? The need for personal stimulation and spiritual strengthening will continue because people are people and have such needs. Although we have phones, faxes, and e-mails, there is no real substitute for people getting together, having face-to-face conversations about issues of common concern (sometimes called "networking"), and defining and working on common ministry projects. But what form will those functions take? I suspect that the forms taken by these functions could very possibly change a great deal. Many missionaries are away from Taiwan during the summer time slot when TMF holds its annual conference. Spiritual and ministry resources are available from many other sources. Missionaries' busy schedules and hectic urban lifestyles seemingly make it difficult for missionaries to give time and energy to TMF sponsored activities. The times are rapidly changing and TMF will change with them.

Your Thoughts

    What do you think? If you would like to make a response to this article, we on the editorial staff of TMQ invite you to write them down and mail them to us. What should the Taiwan Missionary Fellowship be and do in the coming years? Are the traditional functions of TMF as important as they have been in the past? Should those functions take on new forms? Are there new functions that TMF should by performing? If you want to write a letter to TMQ about these questions, we welcome it. If you want to write an article, we welcome you to do so. The entire missionary community in Taiwan would benefit from your contribution.


Paul Buttrey came from the United States in 1980 with OMF International, specializing in Theological Education. He has served as field director for OMF International for ten years, and currently teaches at Christ's Disciples Training Institute in Keelung.


Source: Courtesy of "Taiwan Mission Quarterly", Volume 11, Number 1, Summer 2001

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