Saturday, August 27, 2011

Video of Taiwan's history -- a tale of revival, and then decline of Christianity among the Austronesians

"...What we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.

Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands. They would not be like their forefathers -- a stubborn and rebellious generation -- whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him."
Psalm 78:3-8

The following video shows pictures from when Taiwan was under Japanese rule from 1895 - 1945. The Japanese were the first to unify the entire island -- they finally conquered the Austronesian tribes of the high mountains and eastern coastline that had been independent for several thousand years.

You'll see pictures of immigrants from China -- the Hoklo (now called Taiwanese) and the Hakka -- but more of the pictures are of different Austronesian people and language groups.

The Japanese suppressed the local cultures but also intensively built up Taiwan's infrastructure and economy. All of the Austronesian peoples were required to learn Japanese. This served to allow missionaries from Japan to come to Taiwan's mountains and east coast in the 1970's and use the Japanese-language to evangelize the Austronesians to such an extent that the 1970's were considered a time of revival among those peoples. However much the first generation of Christians embraced the Gospel, there were still too few native pastors, the second generation was not as discipled or solid in their faith as the first, and by the third generation the Austronesian peoples were Christians-in-name-only.

These days, for the Austronesians who have not been absorbed into the Mandarin-language urban secular culture, you will find many who have begun to embrace again the pagan past animistic beliefs. The vast majority continue to be culturally Christian, but do not understand the Gospel and do not have a vibrant faith.

Not all of the Austronesian languages of Taiwan have a full Bible translation and many, perhaps the majority of people, are illiterate in their own languages, since they were forced to learn Mandarin in the school systems.

It is hard to get those who move to big cities for jobs and education to consider returning to high mountain and remote villages where there are few opportunities and poor education options for their children. So to this day, the Austronesian peoples of Taiwan have a shortage of pastors, well-trained and equipped to preach the Word of God.

The one seminary that focuses on Austronesian peoples and languages, Yushan Theological Seminary in Hualien County, often has professors of a more liberal theology.

The only strong reformed and presbyterian witness and training currently happens only in the Mandarin language.

Please pray that God will raise up Biblical, reformed leaders among the non-Mandarin languages of Taiwan -- including the Austronesian languages as well as Taiwanese and Hakka.

"Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."
Deuteronomy 6:4-9