SEND International: Among Taiwan's Hakka for more than 40 Years
SEND International of Taiwan - Working among the Hakka for over 25 Years
This year is is 25 years since SEND International officially decided to adopt the outreach and church-planting among the Hakka of Taiwan as one of its primary goals in Taiwan. But that is only the year where something practiced for years since 1967 was officially recognized as a major need. Hakka who were part of the Presbyterian Church in the middle of the seventhies decided to inivestigate the roots of the Hakka Mission efforts back in the 19th century run by the Swiss Basler Mission in Guandong and Fukien and then decided to form the Chung Cheng Tang Association, howver not with much growth. Those years were important to gather information and understand the dynamics of the local churches. The seventhis were years of difficult years for the Christian Church in Taiwan. The charismatic movement, the prayer mountain in Miaoli and the Hosanna worship Group movement inspired by the Jesus People Movement in California lead to a fundamental new orientation of Taiwan's churches and the training of its leaders. But neither the Minnan (Hoklo) speaking nor the Hakka speaking Taiwanese became part of this.This resulted in a thorough investigation of ways to complement what locals apparently were unable to do by themselves.
I. The Hakka of Taiwan in 1980/81:
Back in December 1980 in the Taiwan church Growth Bulletin the hindrances for Hakkas to accept Christ were mentioned as follows:
-Negligence of early Missionaries
-Structure of Society
-Attitude toward Work.
Among the problems for evangelism among Hakka in those days mentioned were:
-Language barriers making it difficult to communicate and train the Hakka Christians.
-Inability to develop a functional substitute for ancestral remembrance in accordance with biblical principles.
-Difficulties of Hakkas in identifying with other Christians of existing local churches.
-Brain-drain in economic outflow from village churches as a result of industrialization and urbanization.
-Shortage of Christian workers: Hakka evangelism is alwazs localized in one place and is initiated by single Christian worker.
-Missionary organization: Lack of a well-developed and effective administrative system.
-Women's evangelism: woman have their greatest influence on religion at home and so far no women's ministry has been established.
-A rapid turnover of Christian workers due to financial difficulties and education problems of their children has resulted in inability to achieve any goals.
Lack of strategic planning and guidelines in training in training laymen and in helping missionaries to further their theological education.
It was back in 1984 that SEND International of Taiwan decided to make urban Hakka work one of its primary goals in its ministry in Taiwan. After some initial church-studies the first Hakka church was planted in Chungli in 1988.
As of 1981 86 churches were counted in areas where Hakka lived, but only 43 of them were aimed directly to reaching Hakka. Chungli with a Hakka population of 80% in those days with over 100,000 people living had one of the ten churches who used Hakka language to reach out among Hakka. Most of those 43 known Hakka churches were very small, struggling congregations, and only 12 of them were self supporting. According to a report of Roland Friesen, Field Director of SEND International of Taiwan, in those days, more than half did not even have a Christian worker assigned to them. In 1981 in Taiwan were around 6,000 known Hakka Christians, making up 0,24% of the estimated Hakka population of Taiwan in those days.
There were six denominations and several independant churches that were working among the Hakka, but of these only the Presbyterians had a specific program to reach them. They had a Hakka research Center in Hsinchu. Only three missions declared Hakka ministry a primary objective, the Evangelical Free Church of Hongkong, the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church and SEND International. It was suggested that in those days Taiwan only had a maximum of 10 missionaries able to speak Hakka.
II. The Hakka of Taiwan in 1998
Since SEND began with church-planting among Hakka in 1988 it conitued to develop realtionships with other Hakka churches and offered support for a theological training center for Hakka. Fespite the few workers but with the major force of the Chung Cheng Tang, the Lutheran Brethren Mission and Hakka Christians from Overseaas a Hakka Mission School in Chudung was founded. For the Hakka in Taiwan this was great day, when this training center icould to welcome its first students.
YMAm started in church in Taoyuan and SEND another in Hsinfeng among Hakka, but as a whole due to alck of workers not many more churches were founded during the ninethies. Nevertheless were was some growth.
Almost twenty years later, the percentage of Taiwan's Hakka Christians had changed from 0,24 to 0,3%, however, in the meantime The Hakka Christians united under the Christian Hakka Evangelical Association which became the church-growth promoting Hakka church organization, mainly consisting of members of the Hakka Chung Cheng Tang Association, the largest Hakka Church Association of Taiwan. Regarding the urgent need for workers for Hakka (see in article in TMQ under "The Hakka"), however nothing had changed.-
III. The Hakka of Taiwan in 2009
Today, the percentage of Hakka Christian believers is at 0,35%, the number of believers had more than doubled compared to 1981, the number of churches increased to 90 churches, however, the Hakka believers themselves are quite limited to do this job on their own. They know how important mission is and even establsihed a little agency to send out their first Hakka missionaries to unreached Hakka in Indonesia-
Of those basic problems for evangelism among Hakka in the eighties some could be resolved. The still remaining problems however are:
Lack of enough co-workers
Unfinished transaltion of the Hakka Bible
Missing commitment of the local churches to support the Hakka outreach, especiallly from the wealthier Mandarin churches
Lack of Vision to soon resolve these problems
Lack of vision how to fill in the Taiwans overall development of evangelism
Lack of pastors willing to pastor Hakka churches.
The largest Hakka Church Association plans to plant a new church every third year and prays to have enough seminary graduates to give the new churches pastoral leader-ship. - SEND International continues to reach out among Hakka and is convinced God has great plans with this people group and wants the worldwide body of Christ to help them not only discovering the same, but also assists in developing it. The 28 years of more recent aggressive Hakka church-planting history shows the special effort was not in vain, but more could have been done with more willing hands supporting the case. - May the LORD of Harvest call more to enter the harvest among Hakka soon!