July 23-29, 2012
Church Ministry News
Local pastor urges churches to help new outreach ministry to homeless in Chiayi and show compassion
Reported by Simon Lin
Written by Lydia Ma
East Gate Presbyterian Church in Chiayi has been supporting Grace Home Center by assisting it in ministering to homeless people in Chiayi. This understaffed center is a local branch of a bigger organization with various branches across Taiwan that cares for homeless and poor people. East Gate pastor, Rev. Chao Chen-er, said that there are many people suffering and weeping in hidden corners of society and urged PCT local churches to do more to reach out to these people. He underscored that scheduling outreach events and sending some dumplings during holidays are no longer enough because such actions are too superficial.
Grace Home Center’s Chiayi branch was established in 2011 near Chiayi Train Station. As of June 2012, it runs a soup kitchen that serves as many as 80 people daily. The center is also akin to a church and 40 people gather there on Sundays. According to Ho Wen-chin, one of the two staff members working at the center, most people who come to the center’s soup kitchen are either unemployed, doing odd jobs, or seniors who live on income received by picking up recycling materials. They often come to the center to get a meal, take a shower, hear a sermon message, and return to the train station or a park to sleep.
Ho said frankly that the center can only provide limited services right now and he is unsure about how to connect with local organizations and churches so that they can work together. He added that very few social organizations are willing to help and Grace Home’s supplies and funding mainly come from its Taichung branch. He drives from Chiayi to Taichung every week to get a refill of supplies.
Rev. Chao said that members of PCT local churches belonged to the lower-middle class in the past and this helped churches empathize with the need of marginalized groups. However, mass education in Taiwan has improved the lives of many people and most congregations are now composed of average middle class families and upper class families. As result, people in PCT churches have become more desensitized and less sympathetic. He urged PCT members to reflect on this matter and urged congregations to financially support Grace Home centers across Taiwan. As for his congregation, he has urged members to volunteer at Grace Home’s soup kitchens by serving meals, leading worship services, etc.
Chao admits that, at 60-years of age, he is getting old and cannot do much. He suggests that the PCT should consider starting a ministry for homeless people because such a ministry need not start from scratch. It could be run by local presbyteries as an extension of their local ministries. Furthermore, these presbyteries can partner with the 22 existing Grace Home centers across Taiwan and expand to unreached regions in Taiwan. He also suggests that these centers should also become placement centers helping homeless people find employment so that they can one day become financially independent.