HUALIEN, Taiwan (Mennonite Mission Network/Mennonite Central Committee)—With aboriginal dances, choirs and speeches, Taiwan believers and former mission workers celebrated the 60th anniversary of Mennonite medical ministry in Taiwan on September 19 at the Mennonite Christian Hospital in Hualien.
A 35-bed hospital built in Hualien in 1954 under the leadership of Dr. Roland Brown has evolved into a 500-bed regional teaching hospital with more than 900 employees.
The Taiwan medical work by Mennonites began in 1948 when Mennonite Central Committee sent workers from Kaifeng, China, at the invitation of the Taiwan Presbyterian Church. Mobile clinics, eye clinics and distribution of relief goods were carried out around the island among the aboriginal groups, most of who lived in the mountainous areas.
By 1956, MCC transferred the medical ministry to the Board of Missions of the General Conference Mennonite Church, a predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network and Mennonite Church Canada Witness.
During the celebration, Paul Lin, MCC’s first employee in Taiwan and the first Taiwan Mennonite pastor, preached on “service in the name of Christ.” Former mission workers, Dr. Carl Epp, and Susan Martens Kehler received honorary Hualien County citizenship by the county magistrate.
Following the two-and-one-half hour thanksgiving service, hospital officials dedicated the obstetrics delivery suite and ward of Mennonite Christian Hospital to the memory of Dr. Alvin Friesen, a missionary doctor from 1958-1976. Friesen’s widow, Ruby, of Outlook, Saskatchewan, and daughter Heidi were present for the ceremony.
Church planting in Taiwan started when the first General Conference mission workers, Hugh and Janet Sprunger arrived in 1954. There are now 20 Mennonite churches in Taiwan.
Other past medical workers returned to Taiwan to attend the anniversary celebrations, including:
- Roy Habecker, with MCC-PAX, with his wife, Lydia, and son Doug;
- Lois Stolifer, superintendent of nursing;
- Sheldon Sawatzky, with the mobile clinic, now serving with Mennonite Mission Network in Taiwan, with his wife, Marietta;
- Tobia Veith, daughter of Han Vandenberg, who served with MCC and COM, and Martha Vandenberg, who served as a nurse.
For more information, visit the Mennonite Christian Hospital Web site.
Sheldon Sawatzky is director for East Asia for Mennonite Mission Network.