ACTIVITY AMONG CHRISTIAN YOUNG PEOPLE IN FORMOSA
MacMillan,Hugh,1892-1970 (明 有 德) “The Japan Christian Year-book 1934” publ.by Tokyo. Kyo Bun Kwan (教文館) Part III Formosa. Chapter XXII.
Missionary work has been carried on in Formosa for more than half a century, in South Formosa by the Presbyterian Church of England and in North Formosa by the Canadian Presbyterian Church. While it is true that many of those accepting the Christian faith have always been young people, till within recent years Christian youth have not been particularly active. The spiritual needs of young people as a special group in the church have not been felt to any extent by the youth themselves, nor have church leaders taken marked interest in this phase of the work. That youth have not till re- cently awakened to their own spiritual need is perhaps not surprising, considering a church history of only half a century. That church leaders have not till now had their names connected with this important phase of Christian work is evidence of the slow progress of the church in these matters. The passing of three or four generations of Christians seems necessary before Christian youth begin to take an interest in their own church activities. Awakening among Christian young people is like the opening of a bud on a leafy plant three or four seasons old.
Manifestations of movement among Christian youth are, oddly enough, not always regarded with favour by older church people. Misunderstandings between young and old in the church are coming to be regarded almost as a natural phenomenon of church life. Young people express dissatisfaction with the sermons of their pastor. They complain about his "old brain." He on his part regards the youth as too ignorant about spiritual matters to be able to criticize. Pastor and young people find it difficult to understand each other. Youth "talk big v about how the church should be run. They meet by themselves and plan how to reform things on a grand scale. They absent themselves from services. Misunder- standings between the young people on the one hand and the pastor and older officials on the other often becloud vital issues; and church work, as a result, comes to a stand-still. Progress i begins again when the more moderate among the youth are able to call out the more sympathetic among older Christians to give leadership. More church elders and deacons sympathetic with the spiritual problems of youth seems the greatest need of the hour. Furthermore, an awakened realization of the importance of attracting young people into the church is the need of all, from the pastor down. New hope is be- ginning to dawn when a congregation awakens to the absence of the young in their midst, and is willing to welcome them despite their youthful tendency to be rest- less and dissatisfied with the status quo.
During the past two or three years the presbyteries of South Formosa have from time to time given attention to questions raised by stirrings among their young people. Last year the Synod of South Formosa elected an able committee to give attention to this new development and report to a later meeting. In the meantime young people's organizations are springing up everywhere till at present about half of the churches of South Formosa have young people's societies. In North Formosa activity among Christian young people is not so advanced as in the South. In only about one in ten of the churches are there immediate possibilities for young people's groups. At some of trese places misunderstandings have arisen, due chiefly to the dissatisfaction of youth with their pastor and with the lack of sympathy they feel in the attitude of older Christians. At the recent meeting of the presbytery of North Formosa the question of young people's work came up. A committee was appointed to make a study of young people's organization in the church and report next year. It is to be hoped the committee may be able to lead the way in the direction ol mutual understanding between the older church members and these potential future leaders.
So much for the wide-spread distribution of this activity among Formosan young people. What of the nature of the life within these groups themselves? It is good to see dots of red marking organizational centres on the map; it is important whether that red is just paint or whether it signifies the life blood of Christian service.
Unfortunately, from this view-point all too many dots are chiefly colour. Formosan s have a genius for organi- zation. They can put an organization on paper and print a thousand copies of it in short order. They can elect heads and appoint committees with amazing alacrity but these can easily become figure heads and conversation committees. Yet, this latent ability, given the Christian example of service as dynamic in the hearts of a few members of every group, can be turned to good account for young people's Christian work.
Program as well could be improved upon. Formosan young people have little difficulty in drawing up a program for a meeting. Japanese efficiency in educational methods and the conduct of meetings, have become part of For- mosan young people's make-up. On arrival at the place of meeting all that is necessary as a prerequisite to program, it would often seem, is a big sheet of paper, a brush and lots of black ink. The program is set forth, and posted up over the platform with an efficiency that never quite exhausts ones amazement. But behind it all one wonders just how much real thought is given. One wonders about the effect of this public performance on the daily life of the performer in his relationships will; his fellows, to-morrow and the next day, and the next. Such subjects as, the place of the Bible and its relation to ex- perience in the Christian life, the place of prayer in rela- tion to daily living, the place of music and its power to put new spiritual harmony into discordant lives, are not so frequently noticed in the reports of meetings. Programs often lack this deeper note. Yet at the same time the deepening desire of young people themselves to live the Christian life make movement in the deeper direction a natural next step. At the present time a growing tendency to carry their program activities beyond the church to street preaching and other forms of service will tend to stimulate a yearning to dig more deeply into the faith. The following is a sample of program outlined recently by one group: — Evangelism; preaching in city streets and outlying villages. Religi- ous education; co-operation with Sunday School program, form Bible reading groups, etc. Divide into groups for purposes of visiting Christian homes, holding cottage prayer-meetings, etc. Athletics; ping-pong, swimming, hikes. Music; church choir, village or city street hymn evangelism. Assist in marriage and funeral services.
The relationship of the sexes has as yet not become a wide-spread problem. Most of the groups are of young men. Christian young women who take sufficient interest to brave young people's meetings are comparatively few. Christian work among young women will develop more slowly in Formosa than among young men because the church, while theoretically upholding equality, moves no more quickly than its membership. Criticism is often heard of young people's Christian work on the ground that it encourages an intermingling of the sexes for which present-day Chinese society is, not ready.
Everyone must admit the importance of the contribu- tion toward social progress that young people can make in moving toward a solution of this problem. And Christian young people above all have a contribution to make that is altogether unique. Yet many Christian people are most hesitant on this point. Often they direct their criticism to other points like the lack of religious content in young people's meetings, or lack of depth in their faith, but their real hesitancy about supporting the Christian youth movement seems to centre on their fear for the relationships of men and women. Their desire for caution is surely shared by all, and yet the contri- bution to be made by youth in giving leadership on this problem must not be blocked by the personal prejudices of even the most pious church members. Formosan older Christians can make a great contribution to the church by showing sympathy with young men and women during these their years of beginnings in the Christian adventure.
The above indicates some of the tendencies in Christian work among young people within the Presbyterian denomination in North and South Formosa. As there is no other denomination working in Formosa, — apart from a few groups of Holiness Christians, and a few groups of a "True Jesus" sect — the Presbyterian young people have naturally the field largely to themselves.
Among the Presbyterian young people, however, a group is arising who are becoming more and more articulate in the expression of a desire for a wider outlook and more inclusive scope than they feel their own denomination gives. They have in mind an organization through which youth of both North and South, as well as other denomi- national groups, can associate without distinction, and where those outside the church and not now reached by it, can come to know Jesus Christ. This group call themselves, for want of a more suitable name, the Y.M.C.A.
There is no Y.M.C.A. work as such being carried on among Formosan young men. About twenty years ago hopes were held that Y.M.C.A. work might be developed in Formosa. The "Handbook of the English Presby- terian Mission," Campbell, 1910, states that, "Every member of the mission has repeatedly expressed regret that we are not keeping pace with the new condition of things brought about by the in-coming of the Japanese; that we are conspicuously lagging behind in attempting to influence the intelligent young people around us; and that the amount and style of teaching 30 years ago cannot meet the crying needs of to-day. " With this situation in mind a committee recommended among other things, ... . u the commencement of Y.M.C.A. work in Formosa." The above recommendation was made over twenty years ago and to the knowledge of the writer of this article nothing further was accomplished toward the carrying out of that committee's intention.
About fifteen years ago one of the missionaries in North Formosa gave some time to "organizing Christian work among the Japanese and Chinese young men of the city" of Taihoku. His purpose was to unite Japanese and Chinese young men in the same organization, but this proved entirely impracticable. Little has been done for young men as a special work since that time.
Notwithstanding the fact that foreign workers have been unable to give time to special young people's work, in the two largest cities of Formosa, Taihoku and Tainan, ''Y.M.C.A." groups have been in existence for many years. The Taihoku group can be especially mentioned. This year the members, consisting for the most part of medical, normal school, and higher commercial school students,, are celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the beginnings of the group. It was begun by students themselves and has been carried on throughout the years on their own initiative. The leaders of this group are usually young men from Christian families in South Formosa attending college in Taihoku.
From the beginning, this Taihoku group kept minutes of their meetings. Looking through these books one finds interesting points and worth-while suggestions ap- plicable to the carrying on of young people's Christian work. The spontaneity of their meetings and the spirit of prayer and true fellowship which must have pervaded them is worth noting. They have usually been student led. A characteristic feature is that, several took part in the program. Bible discussions and witness, to the truth as they found it in daily experience formed a large part of the program of each meeting. Notes on talks given by each speaker have been preserved by the secretary of their group meetings. Many of their meetings were held out of doors, in the parks, by the river side, or wherever they could get a quiet room in a private house or church.
It is members of this group together with those of a similiar group in Tainan city who feel the need of developing in Formosa a Christian Youth Movement along lines which they themselves have experienced as suitable for the young people of the Island. Represen- tatives of these two groups along with representatives of the Formosan student Christian group in Tokyo, and a few others met last August in Tainan (1933) and made plans for the formation of the Taiwan Christian Youth Association. The aim of the association is to present Jesus Christ to the youth of Formosa. The desire of the members is to cooperate with all existing Christian bodies, forgetting as far as possible the Presbyterian church division into North and South, without emphasizing denominational affiliations, and working toward a youth movement that will increasingly bring Christian young men and women together into one Christian fellowship.
The association is only in its infancy but it is a begin- ning of activity among Christian youth that may some day result in a valuable instrument in extending the Kingdom in Formosa.