Canadian Mennonite
Volume 7, number 15
August 4, 2003

Canadians honoured at Taiwan hospital celebration

Winnipeg, Man.

Photo: At the entrance to the Carl Epp Library are, from left: Peter Huang of the hospital, Weldon (Carl’s son) and Christy Epp with Erin, Carl and Madeleine. The text on the plaque begins: “Dr. Carl Epp, a Canadian, dedicated himself as a missionary to the medical service at Mennonite Christian Hospital.” It mentions that Epp’s “courtesy and loving care” won the trust of his patients, and his “attentive teaching” had a lasting effect on “good medical service relationships.” In 1996, Epp received an award from the Taiwanese government for his contributions.

At its 55th anniversary celebration in March, the Mennonite Christian Hospital in Hualien, Taiwan, honoured two Canadian medical missionaries—Carl Epp and Helen Willms Bergen—by naming a new library and a fountain after them.

Epp, a physician who served with the Commission on Overseas Mission in Taiwan from 1972-91, attended the celebration together with his wife, Madeleine Enns, who taught in Taiwan in the early 1970s. Epp’s first wife, Hilda, died in 1995.

Willms Bergen, a nursing instructor and public health worker in Taiwan from 1957-91, died in January (see March 10 issue, page 4). There were posters of her on hospital walls and an evening of music in her memory, featuring songs and dances from aboriginal groups with whom she worked.

It was “a beautiful gesture, to be invited and to be honoured in this way for three days!” said Epp, reflecting on the event in his Winnipeg home. “Everything was looked after to the last detail.... The hosting was very impressive.”

“Yes,” laughed Madeleine. “There were videos and cameras everywhere, with posters of Carl naming him ‘Ai- Baba’ (Daddy Epp). Because of the posters everyone addressed him that way, even people he’d never met. We felt out of our league!”

Epp looked a little embarrassed as he interjected: “The Taiwanese people are very welcoming; they’re expert at hosting events like this. The award I was given tells just as much about them as it does about me who received it.”

Epp based his response on the theme of shalom or total peace: “peace with God, with self, with others, with the environment, with society. I knew they were already doing it.... I saw my role as affirming them in what they were already doing.”

The staff at the hospital live out their faith not just in the hospital but in caring for the poor and the disabled. No person is ever refused treatment because they can’t pay.

Part of the caring is a day nursery which includes disabled children. The hospital has a strong chaplaincy program and puts an emphasis on spiritual development, not overt proselytizing.

The hospital, now operated by the Fellowship of Mennonite Churches in Taiwan, began as a mobile clinic for isolated villages by Mennonite Central Committee workers in the late 1940s who were invited by the Presbyterian church. There was no base hospital until 1948.

“Right from the start, they combined worship and evangelism with care,” said Epp. “Now there are nationals in all departments of the hospital and very capable administrators.”

For example, a young man whose mother worked as household help for missionary nurses, and for Madeleine, is now an expert in financial management. While he and others have been able to get funding from local agencies and government, they’ve kept the model of MCC which is engraved on the cornerstone of the new building: “Serving in the name of Christ.”

Currently, there are about 1,200 Mennonites in Taiwan, with 16 churches in 4 cities.

When asked why he went to Taiwan, Epp said that he went to medical school so he could “work in a place where there weren’t enough doctors. I wanted to help in training national people so they could serve their own people.... I had no particular time frame in mind when I arrived in 1972. But by 1991, they had enough doctors to do the work themselves. It was time to go even though they wanted me to stay.

“To go back 12 years later was a tremendous blessing of God. To see that they’d grown by leaps and bounds: from 90 beds and 4 doctors [to] 1,000 employees, 400 beds and 60 doctors. Yet they hadn’t compromised their principles....”

How did his experience fit with the present “missional” focus of Mennonite Church Canada?

“It’s not that much different from what we did in the past,” said Epp. “When new workers go out, they go out understanding that God is present and at work there already. So you move from what the nationals already know about God into a deeper understanding. Forming friendships before you move further, sharing each others’ faith stories, learning from each other. The Anabaptist ‘total gospel’ approach works in any country.”

His hope is that his story will encourage “our youth to consider preparing themselves to work in needy countries.”
Leona Dueck Penner

Summerbridge member eager to serve

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Photo: Summerbridge 2003 participants. Back: Lisette Laurin Genest (Quebec), Blandine Kapita Kama (Quebec), Belinda Kengadio (Quebec), Danielle Lajeunesse (Quebec), Ruth Ramirez (British Columbia). Front: Joshua Lake (Nova Scotia), Elizabeth Cabezas (Alberta), Marie-Claude Deneault (Quebec), Lucie Dastous (Quebec), Thai Nguyen (Alberta). MC Canada photo.

Joshua Lake isn’t looking to improve his performance when he walks on stage with his guitar. What he really wants, both for himself and his audience, is an encounter with the Spirit of God.

It doesn’t matter “whether we sing the same song for an hour or sit silent, there’s no one way of looking at it,” says Lake, who is serving his community as a volunteer in Mennonite Central Committee’s Summerbridge program. “I’d rather allow the Holy Spirit to do the work.”

Summerbridge is a summer program that encourages participants of diverse cultural backgrounds to develop their leadership skills by serving their home community and church. Lake is one of 10 participants from 4 provinces this summer.

Lake is serving as a worship leader at Gateway Mennonite Brethren Community Church in Halifax. It isn’t his first time on stage. Lake traces his church band involvement back to the age of 12 when he first began playing drums. But after seven years, he quit.

“It just became too routine,” he says.

A three-week youth retreat in Winnipeg helped bring back his sense of purpose within the church and re-energized his spirit.

The sense of the Holy Spirit was so strong “that it overwhelmed me,” says Lake. “I could never get enough.”

When he got home, Lake decided to go back to his church worship team. It’s no longer just about the music. The church has a network of people that pray for the worship team.

It helps to keep the band’s focus on the one they’re serving, not the ones they are playing to, says Lake.

As a Summerbridge participant, Lake will be serving not only in his home community. From July 25 to August 10 he expects to be touring with “La Danse Celebration,” a group of 250 musicians and speakers travelling across Canada to worship and build relationships among youth.
—From MCC Canada release by Jonathan Tiessen

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