March 26-April 1, 2012
PCT North Synod celebrates 140th anniversary of Mackay’s arrival via bike tour and essay competition
Reported by Chen Wei-chien, Lin Yi-ying and Sam Lee
Written by Lydia Ma
Cycling around Taiwan has become an cool trend in recent years and a few people have even attempted touring this island country by foot. However, long before trekking became a cool trend, revered missionary and doctor to Taiwan, George Leslie Mackay, had already trekked across northern Taiwan to visit and plant churches. To remember Mackay’s legacy and celebrate 140 years since he first set foot on Taiwan, Christians in northern Taiwan have decided to retrace Mackay’s footsteps by riding across northern Taiwan and visiting churches built by Mackay.
This cycling event is part of a series of events sponsored by the PCT North Synod to celebrate the 140th anniversary of Mackay’s arrival to Taiwan. It began in Tamsui on March 22, 2012 and concluded at Tashe Presbyterian Church in Taichung two days later and covered a total distance of 200 km. According to reports, it drew 45 participants and 10 of them were seniors in their 60s, including one 75-year-old senior. Local pastors were more than happy to host them and share their history with them as they reminisced and learned about the history of churches founded by Mackay.
According to this cycling event coordinator, Su Wen-kui, he had wanted to organize a trekking event to trace Mackay’s journey in northern Taiwan as early as 10 years ago. But since cycling across the country has become so popular in recent years in Taiwan, he decided to arrange a bicycle tour instead. “Seeing the warm welcome extended by leaders from local churches, especially churches in rural areas, was perhaps the greatest experience for these folks who live mostly in the cities,” said Su. As for the most challenging part of this tour, he said that about one-third of the participants don’t regularly ride their bicycles and some parts of their journey involved steep hills and harsh weather.
Commenting on this year’s celebration events, Su underscored that the publication of Mackay’s diaries was another important highlight. Published in Chinese, “Diary of Mackay” features entries written by Mackay from November 1871 until February 1901. This book records the state of church ministries in northern Taiwan during the 19th century, especially in the fields of medicine and education, and also sheds some light on the social scene at the time.
Su underscored that though Taiwanese society remembers Mackay as a pioneer in the fields of medicine and education, it must not forget that Mackay was a pastor. He hopes that Mackay’s Chinese name, Chieh Jui-li (偕叡理) can be more popularly known and promoted by the Taiwanese public.
Another event sponsored by the PCT North Synod on this occasion is an essay contest held on March 24 where more than 1,000 children took part. Participants were given the option of writing either an English essay or a Chinese essay on topics relating to Mackay or his legacy. Because many children had registered to participate, the contest was held at three venues - Tamkang High School, Oxford College in Aletheia University, and Tamkang Presbyterian Church.
According to Tamkang High School chaplain Tsai San-hsiung, the purpose of this competition is to help students understand Mackay’s legacy and his passion and commitment for sharing the gospel in Taiwan. Participants in this contest were divided into 3 groups – senior high school, junior high school, and elementary school – and given various essay topics to choose from, including “My letter to Mackay”, “If I were Dr. Mackay…”, “Rather burn out than rust out”, and “What Dr. Mackay has taught me”.
One touching story that emerged from this competition is the story of a local church that began teaching about the life and legacy of Mackay recently during Sunday School to encourage its children to take part in this essay competition. Hsintai Presbyterian Church set aside two weeks to teach its children about the life of Mackay and later sent 20 children to participate in this competition.
The results of this competition will be announced and made available online on April 3 and an award ceremony will be held on June 2 at Tamkang High School to coincide with annual Mackay Day celebrated in Tamsui.