August 13-19, 2012
Church Ministry News
Koupei Presbyterian Church shows there is great breadth in rural ministries than meets the eye
Reported by Ho Chiung-hua
Written by Lydia Ma
It is a well-known fact that seminarians are usually sent as junior pastors to small, cash-strapped, rural churches at the end of their studies and before they are fully ordained. Their destination church is usually decided by drawing lots during the last few weeks of their studies during the final year. New pastors stay at these churches in order to be ordained. But once they have been ordained, many apply to be transferred to a church in urban areas and few choose to stay voluntarily.
Commenting on this trend and from his own personal experience, Koupei Presbyterian Church pastor, Rev. Lee Hsiao-chung said that rural churches are actually the best places to live out the PCT’s mission statement of proclaiming the Gospel. He uses his church as an example to explain his point. Koupei Church is located in a rural area of Sin-Hua District, Tainan. Many local residents in Sin-Hua either neglect their land or try to sell it to people from other cities for profit. Noting this trend, Lee began to think of ways to adequately care and use the land so that local communities could slowly become self-sustaining through better use of the land.
After much thought, Lee founded the Siraya Cultural Community Cooperative as a place where native products can be packaged creatively and distributed. By creating this cooperative, the livelihoods of the local residents has improved because locally grown products are better known and thus able to sell better. Some products include agricultural produce, facial masks, traditional garments, etc. Not only has this cooperative helped to increase the number of jobs in the area, it has also attracted some youths to stay in Sin-Hua or return there for work. All in all, Sin-Hua District is experiencing an agricultural and cultural revival.
Lee said that seniors and children make up the majority of people living in these rural areas of Sin-Hua. Most of these families are disadvantaged families and there are many cases of children raised by their grandparents and child abuse. For this reasons and to reach out to the community, the church began an afterschool program for children. The program gives the children a better environment where they can study and the church also provides them with a free lunch when they come. The program is a wonderful opportunity for children to get a better perspective on life and a means for the church to share the Gospel. For Lee, there is no better place to live out the evangelistic ideals of the PCT than serving at this small, rural church.
Some parts of Sin-Hua are so remote, so unkempt, and so full of weeds that most people would consider it unfit to reside. Despite such unfavorable conditions, some seniors continue to live in those areas and they live alone. Their houses are usually old and in need of repair and it is not surprising to find paint peeling off from the walls. Lee said that seniors who live in these parts of Sin-Hua need people to reach out to them. For this reason, the church created a “Sunshine Work Station” and began to encourage youths to come and serve elderly people.
He cited that youths from Taoyuan Presbyterian Church had come to join youths from his church for a short-term mission from July 29 until August 5. During this mission, they helped clean the houses of these elderly people and learned a lot by conversing with them. They also restored some dignity back into the lives of these people through their acts of service.
Lee and his wife are committed to these ministries and this community. They are not people who give up easily and they firmly believe that village churches can also succeed based on their own merits. They hope that Koupei Church’s ministry can be a model for PCT churches when it comes to evangelistic ministries in rural areas.