This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Astounding holistic mission

Grace and Truth column

During my time of theological formation in Bible college, I was taught that our mission is to get as many people as possible right with God and ready for heaven before Christ returns. This world was getting worse, and little could be done other than getting people ready to leave this world for the next.

I’m all for winning as many people as we can to Jesus. However, through rereading the story of Jesus, who is the full revelation of God, my perspective regarding God’s mission has broadened.

Jesus taught in the synagogues, reading the Bible and explaining its meaning. Jesus confronted evil spirits and cast out demons. He healed people. He redeemed spirits with forgiveness, souls with freedom from evil and bodies with healing. If Jesus carried out God’s redeeming mission in the world, then God’s mission includes redeeming the whole person.

And Jesus’ mission wasn’t only about saving individuals in their relationship with God. He restored relationships in community. He invited social enemies into his disciple band and called them to a new way of making peace and being at peace with each other. Jesus’ redeeming work called for new social relationships that superseded the enmities of gender, race and social class.

I and Amanda, my wife, were inspired by how the Mennonite church in Taiwan is living out this holistic, redeeming mission of Jesus. We were amazed in our visit last year that a national church of only 1,600 members served as a catalyst for an array of ministries in the community.
Grace, Mercy and Peace are the names of the various buildings that house the 550-bed Mennonite Christian Hospital in Hualien founded in 1954 by Dr. Roland and Sophie Brown.

The five-member chaplain corps focuses on training and inspiring the 750-member staff in spiritual ministry.

Mennonite Foundation in Taiwan is an avenue for charitable living. It provides residential living arrangements for profoundly disabled adults with some remarkable computer adaptations that open up possibilities for communication. It is a center for in-home services for the elderly, including something like meals-on-wheels, a lifeline call system, home health care and community-based exercise and activity programs for the elderly. Mennonite Foundation provides rehab care and houses a preschool and kindergarten day care that mainstreams children with disabilities. It has both pastors and social workers on staff.

The New Dawn Development Center, founded in 1977, provides services and care for 120 children with special needs. Just as Jesus had compassion on the underserved in his society, New Dawn provides in the name of Christ for those often overlooked by society.
The Good Shepherd Center that began as a ministry to prostitutes has expanded as a shelter for abused women. The hospital plans a 200-bed facility to provide psychiatric and elder care.

The new Jong Ping Mennonite Church in Taoyuan reaches out to neighbors through children’s ministry, youth ministry and English classes. A pervasive fear in the Taiwanese culture is that if ancestors are not properly honored or worshiped, bad things will happen. One step in claiming Jesus’ lordship is cleaning up the ancestral god shelf in the home. The church has had five god-shelf cleansings and 16 baptisms.

A conference of 20 churches oversees body-soul ministries that serve tens of thousands of people in Taiwan. Missional churches engage God’s holistic mission of redeeming the whole person in wholesome community for now and eternity.

Clarence E. Rempel is a pastor at First Mennonite Church, Newton, Kan.

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