The “grassroots” people of Taiwan have many needs. Common struggles among this low-income population include broken families, domestic neglect and abuse, homelessness, substance abuse, prostitution, and crime.
There is also spiritual poverty. While the number of Christians in the total Taiwanese population is low, only around five percent, the number of Christians among grassroots people is even lower, at less than one percent.
The grassroots population makes up more than half of the Taiwanese population and includes people such as street vendors, farmers, migrant workers, small shop owners, and immigrants employed in the domestic service industry. Most of them cling to their traditional religions, wrapped up in idol worship and superstition, which only adds to the barrier of bringing the Gospel to these people who so desperately need God’s love and mercy.
The LiHsin Church, located next to a lower-middle class area of Dali in Taichung, is shining a light in this dark place by offering a practical solution to an immediate need. TEAM missionaries Isomi and Chieko Saito and Taiwanese nationals from the church are working together at an after-school program held in a storefront in a dense residential area. In the Taiwanese school system, students in first through third grade attend school only in the mornings, leaving their afternoons free. Middle and upper class families send their children to after-school classes, but poor children can’t afford the classes and usually can’t go home because their parents are working full-time. The after school program provides lunch to children who would otherwise go hungry. They also provide help with homework for the students, and there is an opportunity to share Bible stories. The program gives Christians a chance to get to know families in the neighborhood. Other community services such as language classes and a food bank are also offered in hopes of connecting with people. By helping people with their felt needs, the hope is that relationships will grow and hearts will be opened to hearing the Good News of Jesus.
-Written by Lisa H. Renninger
-Photos provided by the Taiwan ministry area