Written by Enchin Shaw Chen
There are some stories we heard repeatedly from our elder family members throughout childhood. Some of them stood out in our memories. Here are a few we frequently share with the younger generation.
1) When our father was an overactive 8 or 9 year old, he fell overboard during a ferryboat ride crossing the Phek-Tham River. It is a wide and deep river of emerald color, as its name suggests. He disappeared and sank deep into the river. Everyone was shocked by the sight and the boat stopped, but nobody knew what to do. Suddenly, a big wave rocked the boat and father surfaced to clutch the rim of the boat. He was pulled on board immediately. He looked pale and frightened. Our grandfather, who was pastor of Sin-Tiam Church at the time, asked his son how he was able to surface. He said he stepped on a big rock and kicked himself up to the surface. Knowing that there were no such rocks there, the next day, grandfather took a long bamboo pole and went to the same spot to check it out. And he wasn´t able to find the big rock that father claimed he had stepped on. This clearly was an act of God that saved his son´s life.
2) When father was young in Tamsui, one time there was a typhoon and it was raining hard outside. There was nothing for him to do, so he decided to take a nap in the living room. Not long after, the gardener came in to wake him up, telling him that the wind was very strong outside and that he should get up to check if everything was alright in the house. A few minutes after he got up, the chimney came tumbling down in the living room, right on the spot where he slept a few minutes earlier. Again, his life was spared.
3) We all know that my father had only nine fingers, but you may not know why. Father was very talented in music. He loved to play the piano, organ, and violin. He was always at a keyboard whenever he had a chance.
After he married and started a family with our mother, they went to Japan for him to study theology. But instead of studying theology as he was supposed to do, he spent a lot of his time and money in bookstores and a violin factory and had a violin custom-made for him. Upon their return to Taiwan, he developed painful neuralgia of his left pinky. The pain was severe, but the doctors were not able to find a cause and were therefore unable to administer any treatment. It was recommended that only amputation of his finger could relieve the pain. After the amputation, he was no longer able to play the violin and he had to sell his violin. Finally, he was able to concentrate on his work as a clergyman. With his large hands and nine fingers, he could still play the piano and organ and he continued to do so until his old age. He loved to play Bach´s music all throughout his life. One of our favorites was the Italian Concerto´s third movement, which is very fast and difficult. We don´t know how he managed to play it so well with only nine fingers.
4) Our father served as a General Secretary of the Synod for 8 years. During most of these 8 years, he did not receive the salary he had worked so hard for. Yet he did not voice any complaints. It was when his children were in college and private high schools that required tuitions that the family struggled financially, but father´s faith in God never wavered. He always said, “God will provide,＂ to comfort the family. When I needed to pay college tuition that he couldn´t come up with, our grandfather came to my rescue with his retrement savings just in time and paid for my last two years of school. And when I left for America the next year to further my studies, grandfather paid for my passage as well. While in the U.S., with part-time work to support myself through college, I was also able to send $100 a month (the average salary of a government employee at the time was $75 a month) to help support our family. And be sure to sent some to grandfather too.
It was discovered later during an audit of Synod finances that someone else collected his pay check for personal use. God did provide for us like father had said. He even blessed our families and continues to take good care of us now. During those years of financial hardship, there were other maternal relatives who were very helpful to us in times of need, particularly one aunt. This aunt´s family and her children´s business also prospered.
5) We all admired and praised the peaceful new location our seminary had relocated to, halfway up the mountain with a panoramic view of Taipei City. That was in 1955 when my parents found an unkempt fruit orchard for sale and thought that it would be an ideal new location for the Taiwan Seminary. It was my father´s responsibility to search for a new location as the General Secretary of the Synod at that time. During the weeks-long negotiations, my parents could not come up with the NT$60,000 cash needed as a deposit to hold the property. The seller set the deadline for 2 pm that day because there were other parties interested in the plot of land and waiting for the decision. It was that morning that my mother´s sister whose son lived with us to attend an American school at the time came early in the morning in her slippers to visit her son and bring some soy milk and breakfast pastries for our family. This is the aunt who had helped us financially from time to time when we were in need. My mother asked her if she knew of any way to borrow NT$60,000 cash and told her the urgent situation and of the impending 2 pm deadline today. My aunt opened her handbag and counted what she had, exactly NT$60,000 and handed it to my mother. It was through this miracle that the property was bought. To commemorate this miracle, Reverend Dickson, the president of the seminary at the time, suggested that the commemorative stone and the school nameplate at the entrance gate be handwritten in Chinese by Reverend An-Ku Shaw and in English by his son Reverend Lok-Sen Shaw to remember their effort in obtaining this property. The inscription of the commemorative stone states, “Go throughout the whole world and preach the gospel to all mankind＂ (Mark 16:15). The calligraphy in Chinese is now located in the administrative building. Later, under my paretnt´s continued effort and negotiations, the old Theologlial college compound was sold to the Current owner（台泥大樓在中山北路）therefore money from the sale was available to begin construction of the New Theological Callege at the current location. Years later, one of my sisters was on the same plane as Mrs. Dickson, who commented that our parents Mia and Lok-Sen contributed a great deal to the relocation of the seminary and that they were very grateful to them. Both Rev. and Mrs. James Dickson spent all their lives in Taiwan to spread Gospel to original native Taiwanese, and built Ophanages in Taiwan, When they completed their life long Service in Taiwan, they both chosen to rest in peace in the new Seminary campus qround.
6) In contrast to our grandfather, who was a peaceful person and spoke no evil of anybody, father was at times an angry person when it came to justice and fairness. He spoke out vehemently, particularly when it came to protecting church property, which was his job then as General Secretary of the Synod. He therefore created a group of enemies. One time, father was falsely accused of something and had to appear in court for a hearing. A group of people conspired to appear in court to present false testimonies, hoping that father would be put away. On the way to the court, an incident occured that prevent false testimonies to take place. That day´s hearing cleared father of any wrongdoing.
These are some of the events we either heard, witnessed, or experienced in our youth. It was our grandfather who instilled in us strong faith in God, trust in Him with all our hearts, patience, humility, righteousness, and the desire to glorify Him. It was these teachings that have helped us get through all the hardships in our lives.
I also need to add a few words about my mother´s special qualities. Her father, a graduate of the Oxford School, was slated to be a preacher. However, his situation at home required him to take over the family coal mining business. His father was the brother of our maternal great-grandfather, Tan-He 陳火, who was MacKay´s trusted student and a hardworking preacher. Mother was from a wealthy family and known in school for her beauty and charm. She was also very sociable and popular. Though she married a preacher of meager means, she never complained. Although she never studied social work, she was always helping people in need, administering social welfare in the spirit of benevolent service. When she went to the market, if she heard there was someone who had an urgent medical problem or financial need, she would arrange for them to get free medical care or share whatever little food we had with those who needed it. When she found out that the hospital was short of doctors, she would go and find doctors to come to take the job. She was simple in her attire and wore no makeup. She loved and had a good relationship with her six sister-in-laws and received love and respect in return. We were all influenced by her attitude greatly.
November 30, 2007