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Passing the torch

Presbyterian ministry in Taiwan equips students for leadership

June 11, 2010

Choon and Yen Hee Lim standing together at a lecturn with yellow signs in Chinese as Choon speaks into a microphone.

Choon and Yen Hee Lim

LOUISVILLE

After completing six years of work in Korea, Choon and Yen Hee Lim stood at a crossroads in mission service in 1997.

They had been serving aboard the medical ship Salvation, where Choon was a director of the Island Medical Mission and Yen Hee was a nurse in that ministry. They were asked to go to Taiwan, a prospect that didn’t seem very inviting. Both of them were concerned about learning the difficult Mandarin Chinese language in middle age.

While in the decision making process, the Lims consulted with retired mission worker Don McCall, who had served in Taiwan for 25 years. He told them: "I'll give you my mission torch. Please go to Taiwan and serve the people."

Six weeks later they were in Black Mountain, N.C., for a seminar and learned that McCall, a Black Mountain resident, had died. Choon went by his house and prayed with Don’s wife, Jessie, and other family members. "Something happened while we were praying," Choon says. "It's hard to explain, but I was able to say that I’ll go to Taiwan and carry Don McCall’s mission torch."

They Lims have not only carried the mission torch, but they have enlisted other torchbearers among the students they serve at the Aboriginal Campus Ministry in Hualien, where the Lims have worked for more than a decade.

Most of their students come from the 500,000 aboriginal people who live mainly in the mountains of Taiwan. They are the most marginalized group on the island and have limited employment and educational opportunities. Those who are able to attend college are prime candidates for leadership in their home communities and congregations.

"When we have college students in our center for three or four years and they become strong Christians, they go back to their villages and automatically become leaders in their churches and communities," Choon says.

There was no campus outreach with aboriginal students until the Lims started their ministry in 1999 soon after the couple finished two years of intense language study. While learning Mandarin was difficult, the Lims worked hard in language school and felt ready to begin the ministry. "That two-year period was the longest two years of my life, but we learned the language and could communicate with the people of Taiwan," Yen Hee says.

The Lims' work in Taiwan has touched the lives of hundreds of students who have come to the campus ministry center to worship, study the Bible, and enjoy the Lims’ hospitality. "Our center always has something for them to eat or drink whenever they come," Yen Hee says. "When the students come into our center, they can feel like it is their own house."

Most of the aboriginal students who participate in campus ministry activities are Christians before they enroll in college. About 70 percent of aboriginal Taiwanese are Christian, compared with only 4.5 percent of the general population of the island. The Lims seek to guide Christian students into deeper discipleship and invite non-Christian students to faith in Christ. Every year several students are baptized through the ministry of Hualien Aboriginal Campus Ministry.

Though most students who participate in the ministry are aboriginal, the Lims also extend their welcome to non-aboriginal students. Last year Choon encountered a non-aboriginal student whose mother had threatened to not pay her tuition unless her daughter quit participating in Christian activities.

The student asked Choon for advice, and he suggested that both of them pray about it. She stayed away for about three weeks and then resumed participation. Choon found out she was gifted in English and began helping the student with her English studies.

After she won first place in an English contest at her school, her mother dropped her objections. Choon is not sure why the mother changed her mind, but he was elated when he baptized her daughter. "I cried and then the student cried," he remembers. "It was a time of great joy."

The campus ministry held a reunion in 2009 to celebrate its 10th anniversary. As Choon greeted the alumni, their spouses and their children, he could sense that the work he and Yen Hee began had borne fruit. His mind drifted back to their struggle with the decision to go to Taiwan.

Choon remembers saying to himself, "I know now why God asked us to go to Taiwan." No doubt numerous current and former Taiwanese students also know why the Lims were called to Taiwan.

Watch a video of Choon Lim demonstrating "Chopstick Mission Theory."

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