RICHMOND, Va. – Taipei is a bit like a waffle – at least that’s how missionary Ward Ferris* sees it.
“A pancake, you pour the syrup on and it goes everywhere. But with a waffle … you’ve got to intentionally pour it into each little waffle,” the International Mission Board worker explained.
“The same is true in the city – you have to be intentional and specific in designing your evangelism strategies that fit the context of the various communities,” said Ferris, who has lived in Taipei for nearly 10 years.
Taipei is a large, complex city with many levels and aspects to its culture. Even its population is complex – a divided demographic of the very young and the very old. The population of Taipei and the surrounding region is estimated at almost 7 million and is growing at about 1 percent a year, predominantly through migration of people from the rural, animistic, tradition-bound farming communities of Taiwan.
“In many cases, the unreached people of the world are coming to the cities … as a place of hope,” Ferris said.
In Taipei, education is a key draw, with 46 colleges and universities in the Taiwanese capital. As a result, Ferris noted, there’s a large “Asian urban youth culture” which sees itself as privileged, with a secular mindset of having more education than the parents and grandparents who raised them.
Yet it is through this younger generation that new churches are being planted and spreading as Christian workers focus on university students by teaching English and conducting Bible studies.
Also, teams from the United States participate in cultural exchanges in which the volunteers teach about American holidays such as Christmas or Easter and, in doing so, gain opportunities to share about Christ.
“Almost all of the major churches that exist in our Chinese Baptist Convention were started by student ministry at one time,” Ferris said, “so we’re hoping to re-engage church planting using these students that are coming to faith in Christ to start churches.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Laura Fielding is a writer with the International Mission Board.)