An amazing transformation happened in Taiwan during the nineteen years between the two Billy Graham crusades there (January, 1956, and October, 1975). Where narrow, squatter-hut-lined streets once ran, wide, now tree-lined avenues with high-rise office and apartment buildings fan out from the modern international airport. The pedicab and bicycle have long since been replaced by a staggering—some might say “suicidal”—fleet of taxis and motorcycles. The burgeoning population of the city of Taipei is over two million, while the total population of the island grew from just over ten million in 1956 to more than sixteen million in 1975. This population is two-thirds that of Canada and four times that of Norway. But Taiwan has only 14,300 square miles to Norway’s 125,000 and Canada’s 3,852,000.

In accord with the Cairo Declaration signed by Roosevelt, Churchill, and Chiang Kai-shek in 1943, Taiwan was restored to Chinese sovereignty on October 25, 1945. Thus ended fifty years of colonial rule by Japan. It was after 1949, when the mainland of China fell to the Communists and the Nationalist government retreated to Taiwan, that the groundwork was laid for Taiwan’s miraculous transformation. Then, under the enlightened leadership of the provincial governor, Chen Cheng, a very successful land-to-tiller program was inaugurated. This program has since become a model for other Third World countries. Today, 88 per cent of Taiwan’s arable land belongs to the farmers, who till their own fields. Production for the rice farmer is now 65 per cent above what his father got per hectare thirty years ago. Other agricultural products that Taiwan has successfully developed include sugar cane, bananas, pineapples, asparagus, and mushrooms. In 1974 Taiwan exported nearly $50 million worth of mushrooms alone. It has become the world’s leading exporting nation.

With a firm agricultural base and a stable economy, Taiwan moved in the 1960s to develop trade and manufacturing. Today, TV sets, transistors, and textiles made in Taiwan are found in homes around the world. As a result, in twenty years the gross national product has risen from 2.5 billion Taiwanese dollars to 53.7 billion in 1974, and current projections are that it will increase 7 per cent in 1976. During the same period, Taiwan’s total trade volume has risen from 3.3 billion Taiwanese dollars to 260 billion, with foreign reserves now at a record high of 88 billion. Economic growth of the Republic of China during the 1960s actually averaged close to 10 per cent per year. There is no unemployment problem; in fact, there is actually a labor shortage. Wages rose another 10 per cent in 1975 after an astounding 50 per cent increase in 1973 and 1974.

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All of this has greatly altered the life-style in Taiwan. With per capita income over $700 (Communist China is still under $200), it has the second-highest standard of living in Asia; only Japan is higher. Nearly all homes have electricity. Electric rice cookers, fans, and refrigerators are found in the cities, rural hamlets, and even aboriginal mountain villages. In 1956 there was no television. Today three channels cover the entire island, and more than 80 per cent of the homes have a TV set. Half of the homes have a refrigerator, and one-fourth have an electric washing machine. In 1975 the millionth telephone was installed.

Despite staggering political setbacks in the United Nations and the loss of formal diplomatic relations with many countries, and despite severe economic blows sustained in the energy crisis and through worldwide inflation, Taiwan is moving forward on schedule with its ten major economic development projects for the seventies. These include the North-South Expressway, railroad electrification, a new international airport for Taipei, nuclear power plants, and a steel mill. The total cost of the ten projects is estimated at 222 billion Taiwanese dollars. Premier Chiang Ching-kuo predicts that when they are finished Taiwan will be counted a developed rather than a developing nation.

Between 1956 and 1975, significant changes took place in the Church also. Presbyterians had long been in Taiwan, but most other missionaries entered in the 1950s. Since a sizable percentage of these missionaries had previously served on the mainland, it was natural for them to direct their energies toward evangelizing the more responsive Mandarin-speaking segment of the population, which was predominantly refugee. Millions of dollars were pouring into the island annually as missions bought land, built churches, and supported pastors. Many churches became centers for distributing the U. S. government relief supplies of flour, milk powder, and butter that were being channeled through Church World Service. Motives were mixed, and the churches often seemed to lack a clear sense of direction. Sometimes one wondered whether the Church had in fact learned anything from its 140-year experience in China.

Two decades later, the Church in Taiwan is something very different. Some groups, such as those associated with Watchman Nee, had always had Chinese leadership. Now in all the major denominational groups leadership is firmly in indigenous hands. In some cases missions have withdrawn their foreign workers, but in many others missionaries are welcomed as partners in ministries ranging from pioneer evangelism, pastoral responsibilities, and youth work to administrative positions in synods and annual conferences. The institutional ministries of most mission-related bodies such as hospitals, radio, and TV, as well as theological education, are still generally under missionary leadership and are underwritten by money from abroad. However, most local congregations have long since become self-supporting.

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The response to the Christian message in 1956 came largely from soldiers and civil servants, particularly that segment of the population that had been uprooted; in contrast, in 1975 young people, and especially students, seemed the most responsive. Campus Evangelical Fellowship (a local equivalent of Inter-Varsity) has had great success in establishing chapters on the campuses of nearly all the island’s eighty-one colleges and universities, as well as at a number of leading high schools. More than a thousand students attend CEF’s evangelistic camps each summer. The work of the Spirit among students in Taiwan (Hong Kong should be included also) has had far-reaching effects in North America as thousands have gone abroad for graduate study during the last twenty years. More than 250 Chinese Bible-study groups have sprung up on university campuses from UCLA to Harvard.

Christian witness on college and university campuses in Taiwan has been further strengthened by two other developments. During the past five years, more and more Christian scholars have been returning to teach after completing graduate study abroad. The influence of their witness on campus has been extensive. Coupled with this is the selection of evangelical Christians as presidents of four government-accredited colleges and universities: Dr. M. S. Hsieh at Tunghai University, Dr. Paul W. Han at the newly established Yang Ming Medical College, Dr. Daniel T. N. Yuan at Chung Yuan College of Science and Engineering, and Dr. M. C. Chang at Tsinghua University.

Campus Crusade has broadened the focus of its ministry and now helps local congregations train laymen in intensive programs of community evangelism. Another group of young Christian leaders has developed a plan for rural evangelism; they recruit students from colleges and universities to work with a local church during the summer in a program of calling, preaching, and teaching.

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Here a pastor involves his church in a slum clean-up project to bring in water and resolve serious sanitation problems, while there a group encourages Christian teachers to request assignment to schools in remote areas where the local church is struggling or where there is no Christian witness at all. A number of pastors are involved in prison evangelism. A young evangelist visits a Christian coffee shop each week to witness to drop-outs who gather there.

In 1956 the Church in Taiwan focused its attention almost entirely on itself. Christians had yet to learn the spiritual lesson that it is more blessed to give than to receive. But change has come. Many churches now take special offerings each year to assist in a wide range of ministries around the world. The Taiwan Presbyterian Church has sent its own missionaries to Malaysia and Mauritius. In 1968, Elder Wu Yung, a leading pastor-evangelist, organized Chinese Missions Overseas with strong support from Christians all over the island. Some of the initial enthusiasm has been dampened by difficulties in recruiting qualified candidates and the added complication of getting a visa for a missionary holding a Republic of China passport.

Striking changes have also taken place in theological education. During the fifties and sixties, as the initial phase of indigenization began in Taiwan’s leading theological colleges, new leaders arose who did not share the faith of Barkley and Dickson, distinguished pioneer missionaries who had contributed greatly to the development of theological education. Perceptive church leaders soon became alarmed as they saw the personal faith of students neglected and a declining number of graduates entering the pastoral ministry. The vitality of the Church was further impaired as many mainland veterans sought security in seminary or as students who had failed to pass the annual college entrance examination were admitted to seminaries despite obviously mixed motivation.

Then in the sixties representatives of evangelical missions and Chinese bodies began to plan a cooperative program designed for the college and university graduate. Their vision was to establish a seminary “distinguished by its purpose to nurture vital spirituality, genuine scholarship, and effective service for God … an expression of the Chinese church, providing training in the context of its indigenous culture and fitted to the needs of its own society.” In 1970 China Evangelical Seminary was born.

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The year 1975 will undoubtedly go down in Chinese church history as one in which the Church of Taiwan had an unprecedented opportunity for evangelistic outreach. This came about primarily through two very different and unrelated events.

On April 5 President Chiang Kai-shek died. A week earlier, with Madame Chiang and six of his most trusted senior ministers at his side, the eighty-eight-year-old Nationalist leader had publicly and unequivocally reaffirmed in a final will and testament his lifelong commitment to Jesus Christ. The state funeral, which was carried by television to every corner of the island, was thoroughly Christian, with a funeral sermon from Hebrews 11 by the Reverend Chow Lien-hwa. As the hearse made its way through the streets of Taipei, which were lined with hundreds of mourners, then out on the new North-South Expressway to Tze Hu, a large white cross was displayed prominently, declaring to all President Chiang’s faith in Jesus Christ. Young people immediately responded to a new openness they sensed to the Gospel. They organized choirs, wrote and distributed tracts, and held mass rallies. Clearly the Spirit of the Lord was moving in Taiwan.

At this time preparations for the Billy Graham crusade in Taipei were nearing the halfway point. Ably led by Henry Holley, representatives of all major Protestant groups were laying the foundation for the greatest gathering in the history of the Chinese church. Every committee was headed by a Chinese pastor or layman. For many, this was the first experience in interdenominational cooperation. It was an experience few would forget. The churches were to learn many invaluable lessons, perhaps the most significant of which was the strength they had in unity.

Other important lessons were to follow: the need to emphasize prayer and planning and the importance of training and publicity. More than 2,000 Christians enrolled in an intensive course on Christian nurture and witnessing. Newspapers, radio, and TV advertising was so effective that even a non-Christian specialist in the field openly expressed his admiration for the fact that nobody could escape knowing that the crusade was on.

Then there was also the lesson on faith through finances. Few really believed that the original budget of five million Taiwanese dollars was realistic. A month before the crusade there was even talk of cutting it back to three million. But faith was stimulated as Jonathan Chu, leader of the youth committee, rose to declare that there could be no retreat, only advance. Then, as if in response, a Chinese refugee who had managed to escape from Viet Nam just before the fall of Saigon, having no money, came in person to the crusade office to donate a gold ring. By the second night of the crusade, the five million figure was passed, and three days later, with gifts coming in from all over the island, the offerings had surpassed seven million Taiwanese dollars. What a lesson in faith!

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Twelve hundred persons had preregistered for the School of Evangelism held during the crusade. More than 3,000 showed up—pastors, seminarians, and laymen from every part of the island. Some were from mountain tribal churches. Churches and chapels were transformed into dormitories; pews were pushed together to make “crusade bunks.”

A final significant feature of the Taipei crusade was the prominent role played by young people from start to finish. They were involved in committee planning. They organized highly effective mobilization teams to visit the churches and promote prayer and financial support. All 4,000 persons in the crusade choir were young, as were a majority of the counselors and ushers. When during one of the meetings Graham asked all those who had not yet been born when his last crusade was held in Taipei nineteen years ago to wave their umbrellas (it rained during four of the five crusade services), it seemed as though the whole vast audience began to sway. Night after night it was young people who were responding to the invitation to decide for Jesus Christ. More than eighty per cent of the 11,580 who came forward were under thirty. What potential and promise this holds for the Church in China!

From the beginning, discerning Christian leaders in Taiwan realized that the crusade was not an end in itself but an important step in a continuing sequence. It provided training for more effective witness and service through local churches and in missionary outreach. In 1976 there will be the Chinese Congress on World Evangelization in Hong Kong. Then the next year, Explo 77 in Taipei. These conferences will bring together Chinese Christian leaders from around the world. They will pray together, study together, plan together, and presumably initiate bold new steps in evangelism—for Taiwan, for mainland China, for the world!

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