From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Taiwan's Aboriginal Churches Face Economic Downturn

From Taiwan Church News <>
Date Mon, 06 Jan 2003 09:56:27 +0800

Taiwan Church News 2653, January 5, 2003
Reported by Li Yi-shin and Li-Hsin-ren. Translated and rewritten
by David Alexander

   Taiwan's economy is in retreat, and unemployment rises. When
Aboriginal youth leave their village homes the rural churches
cease to grow.	The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) is facing
a crisis in its Aboriginal congregations. There is need for an
emergency relief projects.
   The situation can be typified by looking at the Cha-shan (Tea
Mountain) Church in the Tsou District.	Though church attendance
is 90 people each week, the annual offerings last year were only
about 340,000 Taiwan Yuan (roughly 10,000 Euros). The church
cannot meet regular operational expenses and the salary of a
pastor, so it is without full time leadership.
   Pasuya Tiaka'ana is the pastor of Hsin-mei Presbyterian
Church. He is the supervisor of Cha-shan and the secretary of the
Tsou district. He reports that, during the time they are without
a pastor, Cha-shan church is repairing its manse and other
facilities to prepare for a full time worker.
   District moderator, Voyu Peongsi, said, "When the government
announces that the unemployment rate nationwide has exceeded 5%,
you can double that rate for Aborigines.   Villages have few job
openings.  Agriculture does not bring enough income. There is
talk of turning our villages into tourism zones, but we haven't
seen any change yet.  Our youth move away for jobs, and the human
resource strength of our village churches ebbs away.  The idea of
church growth seems to have stalled."
   Rev. Peongsi added to his gloomy prognosis, "Currently even
the economy on the plains is poor. Our people return, but they
have no jobs.  The church's resources are limited, and truly we
have little to offer to remedy the situation."
   The Rev. Cheng Ta-ming, moderator of the Pinumumayan district
on the East Coast, says, "The greatest deficiency in Aboriginal
churches, indeed, our most basic need, is for youth training.
Aboriginal churches lack economic and human resource power.
Clergy are not paid enough to support their own families.  If
they take outside jobs, they are unable to give full attention to
their churches.  The elders and deacons remain untrained and
unequipped, and the number of people in the pews decreases.  The
situation becomes progressively worse. If the youth are trained,
the church can be renewed!"
   Rev. Cheng points out, "The Pinumumayan district's six
congregations had average Sunday attendance of about 10 persons.
None of them could support a pastor.  Their financial power was
spread too thin. To bring order to the situation the district
established a 'central church' last year.  The membership of the
six congregations was gathered into one organization.  All the
elders, properties and organizations were combined. Now every
Sunday at a set time and place there is worship.  The former
congregations exist as the central church's "small groups" for
pastoral care.
   "Although bringing order to finances may seem the easiest of
things, it is also the most difficult.	But it is necessary in
current conditions.  It is the only way to meet the needs of the
church's young people."  He understands that "The Presbyterian
Church's General Assembly upholds support of the weak aboriginal
churches.  There is some subsidy available for clergy salaries.
Other churches also offer aid, which can help future situations.
But in the long term, youth empowerment is the most basic need.
Because Aboriginal churches are small, few people are willing to
accept a call to be pastors there.  Sometimes those who accept
the call are unable to put their hearts into the job because they
must find income from other jobs as well.  Churches then cease to
develop or grow.  Pastors are paid as little as the
congregation's board can get away with.  The church becomes
disabled. If the youth were empowered, and if they could be
attracted back to the villages, the churches would profit and
grow, and the problem of weak congregations could be overcome. "
   Although Aboriginal economy and unemployment problems are
serious, yet there are people of power in the villages who are
working to develop their regions.  Elder Kao Cheng-seng, from
Shan Mei Presbyterian Church, is the member of the Ta-Na-Yi
Valley Association, which promotes eco-tourism in the mountains
of Chia-yi County.  He says, "The association collects an
admission charge from valley tourists and deposits it in a
village development fund. It is used to give education subsidies
to youth and supplement old age pensions.  The income enlivens
our village population and supports the church's development."
   Elder Kao says that many commercial firms have made donations
in kind, of computers, vehicles and other things for the
village's development.	Though he sees this as good, nonetheless
he also notes the need for long-term concern.  He suggests that
the government and private enterprises can take notice of the
village's peril and cooperate to develop ecological protection
projects.  Such projects would be good for villages and produce
commercial opportunities.  In addition, the churches' long-term
roots in villages could both add to and derive strength from such
   In the face of the crisis in Aboriginal villages, the Rev.
Sing O'lam, Program Secretary for Aboriginal Mission at the PCT's
General Assembly, says, "The General Assembly has appropriated
ten million Taiwan Yuan (330,000 Euros) this year for support of
clergy salaries in effected areas nationwide this year.  We hope
that the pastors of weak churches can continue to minister to
their communities without financial fears."
  Sing O'lam believes that some of the economic problems for
Taiwan's rural areas can be blamed on the nation's admission to
the WTO, which has opened the markets for competition from
abroad.  He urges all churches and clergy who need a subsidy
payments to apply for them without embarrassment. "The most
lacking are the most needy. The money is there for them."

For more information: Cheng Ta-ming  TEL +886 89 382 204
		      Pasuya Tiaka'ana
		      Voyu Peongsi  TEL +885 5 266 1312
		      Sing O'lam

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