'Our Focus Is Evangelism'
A conversation with Grace Cheng about the Taipei Franklin Graham Festival
October 1, 2008 - The small island of Taiwan—slightly smaller than Maryland and Delaware combined—is an economic powerhouse known for its exports of electronics, metals, textiles, plastics, chemicals and auto parts. But as in so many other countries, materialism and various religious beliefs sidetrack people from considering Jesus Christ.
Believers from more than 340 churches are praying that thousands will open their hearts to Jesus during the Taipei Franklin Graham Festival Oct. 30-Nov. 2 in the capital city of Taipei. A children’s Festival is scheduled for Oct. 26.
Decision recently asked Grace Cheng about preparations for the Festival. Responsible for public relations, publications and media for the Festival, Grace has a long history of working with BGEA on other projects in Taiwan. She has been manager of the public relations and resource division of the Chinese Christian Evangelistic Association and Chinese Christian Relief Association for more than 18 years.
Q/ What are some of the spiritual problems that people in Taiwan are dealing with?
A/ In Taiwan, people of Buddhist-Taoist religious belief make up 93 percent of the population. The main problems, as I perceive it, are idol worship and spiritual emptiness. There is also strong materialism in the society.
Q/ What is Taipei like?
A/ Taipei is the capital city of Taiwan. It’s located in the northern part of the island. In 1884, the Qing dynasty governor of Taiwan decided to move the provincial capital to Taipei, and with the construction of government offices and the influx of civil servants, Taipei’s growth began. Taiwan was ceded to Japan in 1895. Because Taipei is in the North, the closest area to Japan, the city continued to thrive during this period of Japanese colonial rule. Several prominent buildings were constructed, the presidential palace and National Taiwan University being among the most famous.
When the Kuomintang government arrived from mainland China in 1945, temporary housing estates sprang up all around the city to accommodate the millions of mainland refugees. Later, these housing units were replaced by concrete apartment buildings, which characterized Taipei’s landscape until very recently. In the 1980s, Taiwan’s economy began to take off and the city began to change.
Today, Taipei has about 2.5 million inhabitants (about 7 million when including suburbs), and is characterized by its friendly people and safe streets. East Taipei, with its classy malls, chic boutiques, and stylish restaurants and cafes, represents the city’s change into a modern and international city.
Q/ How did the Taipei Franklin Graham Festival come about?
A/ Doris Brougham is an American missionary who has lived in Taiwan since 1951. In 2005 she introduced the idea of a Franklin Graham Festival in Taiwan. After making initial contact with BGEA, Christian leaders in Taiwan spent two years praying and another year and a half working in preparation for the Festival.
Q/ What are some distinctive characteristics of Taiwanese culture, and how is the Festival addressing these?
A/ The culture of Taiwan is a blend of Confucianist Han Chinese, Japanese, European, American and Taiwanese aborigines cultures. Over the years a sense of cultural identity has developed, though people have debated whether Taiwanese culture is part of Chinese culture or distinct from it.
Although religion in Taiwan is predominantly Buddhist, Christian churches have been active in Taiwan for many years. About 4 percent of the population is Protestant, with Presbyterians playing a particularly significant role. The Taipei Franklin Graham Festival includes all of the major Christian denominations of Taiwan. Our focus is evangelism.
Q/ What kind of impact did the 1975 Billy Graham Crusade make?
A/ It has been 33 years since Billy Graham was in Taipei, and there have been few significant evangelistic events in the city since then. That was the first time that all the denominations worked together to conduct a nationwide Crusade in Taiwan. More than 200,000 people attended the meetings, which were held after the death of our former president Chiang Kai-shek. Thousands gave their lives to Jesus Christ in the Crusade meetings. Those meetings influenced a whole generation of church leaders in Taiwan.
Q/ What kind of involvement are you seeing among churches participating in the Franklin Graham Festival?
A/ Rei-an Street Church participated in the Follow-up Discipleship Seminars in April, and senior pastor, the Reverend In, made a radical decision—he set aside the church’s own plans for six months. Instead, he committed himself and his church to prepare for the Taipei Franklin Graham Festival.
The church challenged members to share the Good News with others through Operation Andrew. Pastor In shared the message of Operation Andrew in Sunday services for four weeks in May, and he mobilized the church by posting Operation Andrew and Christian Life and Witness Course posters to encourage all to be part of the Festival.
Those actively sharing their faith rose from 10-20 percent to 50 percent, and 10 new believers were baptized within two months. Virtually all of the church’s members committed to participate in Operation Andrew, and 100 people are attending the Christian Life and Witness Course.