“Into the ends of the earth…”
by Kathye Hamm
“Into the ends of the earth…” this phrase from the book of Acts could have been taken from any church here in our Synod, but I found it on one of the walls of Panchiao Church of Taiwan Lutheran Church (TLC) in downtown Taipei. Bishop Mark, Debbi and I are visiting TLC, one of our Synod’s three companion churches. Their worship was held in an auditorium at a top floor of a building, where more than 500 people of various ages gathered together. It was their second service in this site and another one is scheduled at 10:30 pm for workers in the city. This congregation has five other worship sites in the city. The Senior Pastor of Panchiao, Pastor Samuel, is also TLC’s Director for Mission, overseeing church plants locally and abroad. He also arranged for us to visit a congregation, Hualein Truth Lutheran Church, that has many members from an indigenous tribe. This congregation focuses mission on university students and High School youth. They are present in three universities. And then we went to another city, Chiayi, where Bishop Mark gave greetings and also served as one of the ribbon cutters in the blessing of a new church building of 19 year old congregation, Lan Tan, that has already three other church plants plus a church plant in another Asian country.
Yes, TLC is a vibrant church, and it was not so long ago (around 60 years) that one of the ELCA’s founding churches planted TLC, with other mission societies/churches from Europe. They are a young church in a country where Christianity is very much a minority, and their passion for evangelism is strong.
Accompanied by their two missionaries to young adults and families in Cupertino, Pastor Joseph and Jane, we have been talking a lot about our different mission contexts, challenges, and gifts as faith communities more than 6,000 miles away from each other. We also have been dreaming: what would a 21stcentury mission collaboration look like in our synod, in partnership with TLC? Their hope for the future of the church is contagious.
“into the ends of the earth…” is not only a motivation for early missions that our church has accomplished centuries ago. I believe that it is ours to live out, not because of our might or wealth, but out of God’s promise that God will be with us as we continue to share the gospel of love and grace. I do not want to romanticize TLC’s success in mission. Both they and we have real challenges, but we can still learn from and help each other. I have received more beyond what I have learned from their mission and ministries. I am so blessed to witness their passion for the gospel and “how they love.” I will be leaving Taiwan only with a heart of gratitude – as has been expressed many times for each other’s support in mission. TLC leaders will visit us in May. I cannot wait to see them to continue our mission collaborations – I hope that many of you in our Synod would be able to participate then – for our witness together and others would see how we love into the ends of the earth.
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