Friday, June 26, 2009

50 Year of Christian Medical Mission in Puli (Alain Haudenschild – How God changed Puli through Missionary Bjarne and Alfhild Gislefoss

How God changed Puli through Missionary Bjarne and Alfhild Gislefoss
This is a summary of two missionaries life, who never had the time to write down their story by themselves, but dedicated their lives to those in need for help. In the mid of January 2006 the Puli Christian Hospital, their life work, celebrated 50 years of medical history and Gods history of grace and mercy with mountainous central Taiwan after WW2.
1.      Puli and the Early Beginnings (1948-1960)
After 2nd World War thousands people with faith and courage had to respond to the vast destruction and sufferings on ten-thousands of helpless people without medical help. Dr. Hsieh, the General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan did investigate options to bring in professional medical support into the mountains from abroad. During the years 1948-1951 together with Lillian R. Dickson the committee was beginning to reflect the need of medical help in Central Taiwan.[1] After an arduous three-month sea voyage from Norway to Taiwan Norwegian medical missionary Bjarne Gislefoss in Taiwan in 1952. After working at the Mackay Memorial Hospital (1952) and the Hsinchuang Leprosarium (1953), he left for Korea to help orphans of war-torn Korea (1954) with the means of World Vision to find suitable new parents in the United States. But he was soon back again. In 1955 he joined the Christian Health Care Clinic for Mountain Areas.[2] On the 16th of January1956 the just newly built Puli Health Clinic with its small team under Dr. Hsieh as superintendent opened its doors. This clinic later became the Puli Christian Hospital. According to “Agung” as the people in Puli affectivly call aged missionary Bjarne today said, “This clinic stood right at the place where today the last gasoline station greets the visitor on the Road Nr.14, before he crosses the bridge to enter Puli.” The incredible medical needs and the inability of local doctors to cure certain diseases touched his heart. God gave him the strong conviction that only by showing Gods love in active help broken hearts will be healed and opened for the Good News.
This first three-detached bamboo clinic was built very simple. It had a reception, a visitor and treatment room and a room for operations. It was built on hardened earthen ground but whenever strong torrential rainfalls crossed the mountains of Central Taiwan the ground would quickly change into muddy slick.[3] The road Nr 14 from Puli to Tsaotun at those times was just a path for oxen-charts. One way from Puli to Tsaotun in those days required three hours traveling time. This made the regular medical supply very difficult and inconsistent. Missionary Bjarne Gislefoss remembers very well when 1960 one particular critical situation forced him to rush down to Taichung because he lacked an important and lifesaving medicine. He decided to walk to Taichung as fast as he could. He made it in two days both ways. The way went through many fields with high grown grass. Beside the fact that the patient in Puli could be helped, Bjarne Gislefoss decided to quickly build a more stable red brick clinic.[4]  From the early beginnings the goal was to combine medical service with spiritual as well as to providing TB care for Puli’s inhabitants and the tribal people in is upper region. This goal required several people with a similar vision to mutually complement each other.   In 1958 the team began with nurse training classes. They felt as important as it was to provide adequate help it was vital to train personnel to provide quality long-term medical service.
When sister Anna Begemann with the Deutsche Frauen Bibelgebetsbund (DFMGB) after 18 years without furlough returned from  China to Gemany in September 1950 she was in poor health, but the calling to mission work was too strong. Eventually she arrived in Puli together with her colleague from China, sister Else Schröder at 4th April 1956. Their expertise in medical Christian work and evangelism on the mainland was welcomed. However, Anna soon discovered that her health and strength were not good enough to climb the hills of Central Taiwan.[5] She decided to invite the tribal girls to come to her, and she would teach them the Bible. In this way the young girls could be the preachers for their own people. As a result Bjarne Gislefoss’ decided to give these two missionaries a piece of ground to open a Bible School and soon a small bible school was built. Anna invested her personal funds into this project. [6] The ground breaking day for the Tribal Girls Bethel Bible School was January 19th 1959. [7]
In 1955 Gustav and Anna Juttka, China missionaries with the Liebenzell Mission of Germany arrived in Puli. Gustav Juttka was a very zealous missionary and regularly visited the TB station of Ta-An and the clinic of Ail-lan. In the nurse-classes in Ai-lan he taught Bible and Practical Theology. Despite his busy schedule with evangelism and preaching in Puli, Ü-tse , Wu-shi, Kuo-shing and Pei-shan, he still found enough time to walk long distances to Lu-shan and Chuen-sang just to share the gospel to mountain people and patients.[8]
2. Puli and the Establishment of a Christian Hospital (1960-1999)
In helping the needy mountain people the Bjarne Gislefoss’ soon became aware of their financial limits, yet God surprised them when Bob Pierce[9] came for a clinic visitation he asked them how he could help best. As they voiced their dream to have both money for a piece of land, in order to expand their medical work and some money to realize their hospital building project, his answer was: ”Under one condition I will give you the money: Claim the hill, build a hospital with a big cross on the top, so that everybody in the valley can see it and teach them to praise God.[10] This request was completely in line with his personal vision to combine Christian Medical Relief Services with the sharing of the Gospel. They took this request as seriously that up to today this cross is very strongly build into the whole (old) part of the hospital, so it could neither easily be removed nor by strong enough torrential weather be blown away.
While the red-brick clinic was build and the first concrete used, also the little hospital church was built, which was dedicated by November 19th 1961 for official use. This dedication day indeed marked the termination of the time of “health services”. It also introduced the opening of the era of the Puli Christian Hospital.
In 1962 Miss Alfhild Jensen joined the medical team and with her skills in operations closed a big gap in the teams medical services. For foreigners to come to Taiwan was only easy with an U.S. passport. With her U.S. passport, which she acquired during her medical training and studies in U.S. Biarne Gislefoss and Alfhild Jensen celebrated their wedding at the 12th of March 1963. Together, the couple helped the government pursue its polio immunization program, and made a great contribution to the eventual virtual eradication of polio, leprosy and tuberculosis in Taiwan and pioneered the establishment of the Puli Christian Hospital. The both shared the deep conviction that in the same way as Steve in Acts 6 effectively shared the love of God through his service and could see its fruits, Gods love shown in this holistic ministry of their hospital would even in a gospel hostile environment finally be revealed in the hearts of the mountain people and bear eternal fruits.
To choose such a mode to live does not guarantee awakening or much response. Spiritually it was a a battle to testify Christ, because the largely accepted Taiwanese folk-religion concept of certain deities in charge for the various matters of life, did not encourage the average person to look for something else. Jesus Christ just seemed to be another good God too. The population did seem to need a different approach of preaching the gospel. Preaching and medical help was a good new way to try. 
In the following years the mutual complementary ministries showed its fruits: Many of Gustav Juttka’s once started small churches around Sun Moon Lake begun to grow and locals began to build their own village churches.[11] Other fellowships, where the The Evangelical Alliance Mission has helped Pastor Juttka with helpers  should have been turned over to them. However, in the end this never happened.[12] In those years was much growth, the hospital soon had to expand their building and add up services in order to match the needs of the growing Puli.
The Hospital became a place where people would always not only receive physical treatment, but also hear about the grace of God in Jesus Christ. – The Pastoral Care Department would arrange numerous Christian conferences for the local churches and Christian Medical Mission in Asia, but also regularly host church choirs - and other gospel groups in their ministry to patients and elderly people, who were also being taken care for. When the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary from Darmstadt/Germany was in need of a suitable place for its center in Taiwan, they helped them to buy close to the Tribal Girl Bible-School in Puli/Ailan. and their plan to minister to the Chinese world with their literature ministry quickly begun to take shape.
In 1983 the year where Anna Begemann passed away (30.Sept.1983). The Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary from Darmstadt/Germany was looking for a suitable place to establish its center in Taiwan. Alfhild Gislefoss helped them to find one close to the Tribal Girl Bible School. Soon afterwards under the Leadership of missionary Garlick (Conservative Baptist Mission[13]) decided to built the Bamboo Bible Valley Camp. The goal was to develop a Christian Camp ministry in Puli. When You Bau Ping a graduate from the Taiwan Baptist Theological Seminary heard about it, he applied and was sent to U.S. for professional training before he moved to Puli with his wife and two daughters. In 1995 he decided to more concentrate on church planting. The Puli Christian Hospital decided to give him the hospitals little church to gather his two bible classes for worship times. While through the efforts of the hospital the churches in mountains enjoyed growing popularity the results of evangelism under the non-tribal Puli population were discouraging. Gone were the days where the non-tribal Presbyterian churches would actively try to win people for Christ. You Bau Ping felt there was a need for a “model church” with the concentration on an evangelistic and ministry oriented lifestyle to push for a more effective outreach among the population of Puli and the young people. -  Only with the assistance of the hospital and enough co-workers he would be able to tackle this challenge. In this time God called a Swiss/German missionary couple who was working with SEND International to move to Puli and to assist You Bau Pings church planting efforts, while living at the Center of the Sisterhood of Evangelical Sister. They had a difficult time to clearly explain their mission their leading, but finally the mission agreed. From their missions conferences in Puli they knew You Bau Ping. I knew the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary since my early childhood. As a couple we liked the challenge to assist in the creation of a “model church” and to taking care of the sister’s center at the same time. In addition the multi-cultural church-membership of tribal-, Taiwanese - and mandarin language culture heritage doubtlessly challenged for a special type of cell group model church. – God blessed efforts to go ahead. Also we go help the girls’s bible school by leading the chapel times. When we arrived in Puli in August 1997 within four months already the little church at the hospital could not offer space for the growing number of worshippers anymore and had to move to the Tribal Girls Bible School Church.
In the beginning of the year 1999 in Nantou church leaders started to seriously pray for Puli, every day. “Lord, shake this earth and do something. You see this many idols keeping the Puli people in the darkness about you”. Nobody really knew how the LORD is going to answer such prayers. In the night from the 19./20 September 1999 God sent an earthquake with a power, that alone in the Puli and its surrounding villages claimed 800 people life in that night. According to local inquiries there were no Christians among them. Although this detail did not come into the news it shows that God did protect his people and judged those who would shut their ears to decades of clear preaching. At the same time the earthquake increased the importance of the Puli Christians Hospitals message to its patients about the need to know Christ. Through SEND International and the donations given for earthquake relief and rebuilding of churches the damage at the Defentang church would be repaired. The Puli Christian Church as we called ourselves in before applying to become an organization used our additional funds for an financial assistance program. The goal was to help needy people to come up on their feet again and to learn about God. This money were donations from Europe and U.S. donors. For the hospital the 921 earthquake became the next turning point in its expansion.
The need to help together with the possibility to acquire governmental money to expand their medical service network became the birth hour for several long needed services. This included the expansion of the remote village medical services, usually executed in the local churchs buildings and the gradual expansion of the hospital building including the option to fly sick people in and out. The last stage of expansion was finished in September 21, 2005.
3. Puli Earthquake / Establishment - Eldery People Home and the Bethel Diakonia School (1999-2006)
After the 921 earthquake was over one doctor had the following comment: 
Forty years ago, foreign missionaries came from afar to Puli, a mountainous town in rural Taiwan, to build up the Hospital for Puli residents and the aboriginal people living there. In light of what he experienced during the moments of earthquake he says:
Deeply inspired by the love of these missionaries poured out upon our people, my colleagues and I came to work in this beautiful town to guard the health of residents in Puli and the neighboring, large mountainous regions of Ren-Ai, Hsin-I, Yu-Tsu and Kuo-Hsing Townships.  As we now walk through the "Valley of Baca" with the refugees of the 921 Chi-Chi earthquake, we sense again the limitations and helplessness we felt immediately after the quake. During the emergency situation after the earthquake where he saw himself and his collegues working without sleeping for 36 hours at once, were the shadow of tiredness and weakness was all present, the term “Valley of Baca” was filled with a new meaning. After every valley will be an end. And then his eyes look into the future: We sincerely hope that in the future medical care resources can be distributed more effectively in Taiwan through careful planning and legislation.  In this way good medical care can be made accessible to those who have lost their loved ones and possessions and yet would rather stay in this area than leave.[14]
The Birthhour of Quixotic Implement Foundation[15]
The name Quixotic traces back to a Spanish story. Quixotic was willing to become a fool in order to help people. The Chinese name of QIF would take that into account. Within the attempts of various organizations to provide earthquake relief like the Taiwan Buddhists, Salvation Army, Chinese Christian Relief Association, Japan Presbyterian Church, Taiwan Presbyterian Church etc. etc. it became more and more obvious, how all this groups were very limited in providing real help for certain groups of people in desperate needs. Quickly in 1.July 2000 the Quixotic Implement Foundation at the Puli Christian Hospita was established to serve those who are in need and to take up the work that no one else is doing and yet is crucial to be done. It was set up to better answer the needs of the community on a long-term basis. The Quixotic Implement Foundation has been active in Nantou County since its beginning in July 2000. Nantou is a huge county characterized by a very diverse population of Taiwanese, Hakka and aborigines that is sometimes scattered into hard to reach mountainous areas. The Foundation has chosen to set up 20 service centers in Northern and Southern Chungliao Township, Guoshing Township, Yuchr Township, Renai Township, Hsinyi Township and Puli Village that provide services to children, the elderly and disabled. The Quixotic Implement Foundation has been benefiting from the experience it has accumulated since 2000 and has started to train other social service organizations in providing at-home care for the elderly and the disabled. These programs have provided many people, mostly middle aged women, with employment opportunities that were non-existent before the 921 Earthquake. At the same time this work gives them the sense that they were actively participating in the recovery of their community. Thus the foundation continues to play an instrumental role in rebuilding the Puli community and to strengthen its people sense of responsibility as people of Puli to build their future. Right now two programs in special are in the midst of the QIF’s efforts:
1. To Give children back their smile
Children lost their home in the quake, some even lost friends and family. Many were also unable to go to school because their school buildings had all collapsed. Parents were busy rebuilding and trying to cope with the loss of their home, their loved ones, their job, etc. As a result, many children were left to deal with emotional distress by themselves. In the aftermath of the 921 Earthquake, simple things like going to schools, playing with friends or listening to music became ways to heal the emotional scars of these children. The Foundation has been organizing special classes for children in the 921 Earthquake area that, apart from teaching them the regular school curriculum, also give them the opportunity to play, draw and listen to music as a therapy to alleviate their stress and to express all the fears, anxieties and emotions bottled up in their hearts. Since many of them live in remote areas, these classes are especially important for aboriginal children, for whom access to school is difficult. Up until now, some 1000 children have profited from these classes.

2. Improving the lives of elderly and disabled people
   After the earthquake, younger people were busy rebuilding or trying to find work, hence many elderly or disabled people were left to themselves. Elderly people who were living alone before the quake faced stress, depression, isolation as well as poor health conditions. The Foundation decided to become involve in providing care to the elderly and the disabled in the Puli area by setting up centers to evaluate the needs in the community and organize volunteer groups to conduct special activities. These activities designed to stimulate elderly peoples’ body and mind included special therapeutic exercises, music therapy, calligraphy, painting, handicrafts, etc. For the elderly who lost the ability to live autonomously and take care of themselves as well as for the disabled, special at-home services were given by volunteers.
From Tribal Girl Bible School to Bethel Diakonia School (伯特利服侍善工學教)
The number of tribal girls applying for training of the past yearly gradually decreased. As the number of Han-Chinese origin girls already outnumbered the tribal girls the schools name was changed into Girl Bible School in 1998. In summer 2000 the Tribal Girl Bible closed its door officially. Pastor Hong took care of those who had not finished their courses yet bringing the number of graduates to 416 students, since the school opened its doors. Some of the graduates have even become missionaries in the Philippines or other countries, some became a pastors wife, many became Christian mothers bearing the light of faith into new families and greatly contributing to the growth of God’s kingdom in Taiwan among tribal people. During its time the school was able to assist in the planting of at least three tribal churches in Puli and resourced uncounted number of churches with good people for church-work in the mountains.
From 1958 until December 2005 all attempts to have their training program accepted by the government proofed futile. Three days before 50 years history Puli Christian Hospital were full the Nantou government granted them their request to have their assistant nurse education program registered. It was a highlight for Biarne and Alfield Gislefoss that now even this big dream, to have their trained assistant nurses given a valid license finally in their old age became true.

The Situation of the Churches before and after the 921 Earthquake
Short before the earthquake various churches tried to move into Puli. Among them were the Taipei Ling Liang Tang and the Grace Church of Taichung. The Ling Lang Tang stopped resourcing its pastor after a while and does not consider their founded church any longer a LLT church. After the earthquake the Salvation Army and a church from Changhua also joined efforts. To work together remained rather difficult. A big evangelistic campaign with the Sun Association drew 2000 people to attend the event. Growth is still rather slow, but happens in various forms to reach as many as possible. – As the hospital grew it always took into the need to connect churches into account. Large conference rooms and even a new music hall help to bring Christians and non-Christians more easily together for cultural events than sometimes certain denominations can reach with their network.
While the Puli Christian Hospital since its beginning through a balanced combination of medical and spiritual services was something unique, it remained faithful to its origin vision throughout decades and thus was able to greatly influence the local culture by a truly Christian culture for the better. - Bjarne and Alfhild Gislefoss through their ministry did influence many people and organizations in Taiwan and abroad.[16] One early fruit was that the need of theological training for the mountain girls was considered by the Taiwan Presbyterian Church too and as a result integrated in the concept for the foundation of the Yushan Theological College. The concept of local village medical services was initiated by the Puli Christian Hospital already in the 80thies, after the 921 earthquake the government decided to promote and fund it. The Taiwan Buddhists in their teaching books today like to use the Gislefoss life story to demonstrate how a good person (as Buddhist) should develop. By doing so they give credit to Jesus, who was always in the center of the Gislefoss’ testimony. Many broadcasting companies, TV- companies and reporters of magazines have showed up in Puli in the last years to document this rich and long life in the service for the LORD. A special little "hospital museum" , where visitors find more detailed information about the hospitals history, helps not to forget what God throughout decades of a people-need oriented, faithful and goal-focused ministry within a gospel hostile culture created for his own glory.  

[1] Lillian Dickson lived and worked faithfully in Taiwan since 1927 at the side of her husband, a Canadian Presbyterian Missionary until she passed away at the age of 82 years in 1983. She began her medical mission in a period, when western medicin was no more questioned. Methods like dispensing medicine, bandaging wounds and the emergency delivery of babies became essential in poverty stricken locatins, especially in the mountain areas. Lillian works often followed the pattern of medical helps, nursing and caring, occupational training, and, finally, conversion. She reacted to needs, raised funds through all means, recruited professionals and built hospitals, sanitaria, maternitz wards, orphanages and churches. She established the Mustard Seed Inc. in 1948,first in U.S. then in Taiwan in 1954, so that the donors on her mailing list, could apply for tax deduction in the U.S.  Jender Lee „Institute of History& Philology,“Academica Sinica, Taipei. {HYPERLINK: }
[3] Russell Zinn, who has served in Taiwan with his wife, Esther, with the Evangelical Friends since 1958, recalls that after the 1959 conference concluded, they "decided to stay on a few days for a vacation. A terrific rainstorm that lasted for days brought a flood. Floods washed out the road and railroad and many bridges. Landslides closed whatever road there was left. I hiked back to Chiayi and Esther and the girls came out a week later by US Marine helicopter.
[4] This buildings still stand today
[5] Both sisters were also engaged in the first TMF mission conferences: David Woodward remembers, "For many of those early years one of the German sisters, who was a dentist, offered free service to any who needed dental care—during free times. She had the help of a co-worker who vigorously stepped on a pedal to power the dental drills."
[6] Accorrding to missionary Siegfried Ulmers (email of February 13th 2006).
[7] 林麗雪, 愛在伯特利Love in Bethel (埔里鎮:基督教德芬堂, 2003), 3.
[8] Siegfried Ulmer, Die Geschichte der Liebenzeller Mission in Taiwan (Stuttgart Korntal: Abschlussarbeit, 1987), 23-24.
[9] Dr. Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision and Samaritan's Purse.  1949 when World War II came to an end, China was still plagued with battles. Among the many missionaries who cared for the lost, Bob Pierce, an American evangelist, took up his cross in this exotic yet broken land. He talked about Jesus, repentance and salvation to many Chinese on many occasions, but it was in a mission school of 400 children where some difference was made. Bob became a spokesman for children in poverty and hunger. He appealed to the North American audiences, and as the interest and support grew, he founded World Vision in 1950. A prayer written in the flyleaf of his Bible goes: “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God." The love propelling the work of World Vision seemed to find a similar expression in Taiwan in 1964. Orphans, leprosy patients, aboriginal children and families affected by poverty started to receive assistance and care they had longed for. Through local Service Centers and various educational, medical and evangelical programs, the needy living in remote mountainous or coastal areas became the first beneficiaries of World Vision’s service in Taiwan. {HYPERLINK}
[10] Alain Haudenschild, Notes from the 50th Puli Christian Hospital Thanksgiving celebration (Puli: Selfarchiv, 2006).
[11]  Many of the participants actually had Presbyterian background. Siegfried Ulmer, Die Geschichte der Liebenzeller Mission in Taiwan (Stuttgart Korntal: Abschlussarbeit, 1987), 18.
[12] This decision was made during missionary Wilhelms  visitation at Gustav Juttka in 1963. TEAM however required independant churches. TEAM was approached because some of the churches were built upon TEAM property. According to a annual mission report in 1967 (Mission Archiv Bad Liebenzell) missionary Juttka felt „in three years this point could be reached“.  In fact this plan was never realized and the churches Puli, Kuo-shing und Pei-shan after the rejection of the local Presbyterian churches to integrate them in their presbytery were left on their own. The church in Puli later became a Friend of God church. The church in Kuoshing still is indepandant and after the earthquake has built a new church-building. The church in Pei-shan  today consists of a 10 member family worship service in a privat home. Siegfried Ulmer, Die Geschichte der Liebenzeller Mission in Taiwan (Stuttgart Korntal: Abschlussarbeit, 1987), 21.
[13] The Conservative Baptist Mission wanted to concentrate to grass-root evangelism, while the Southern Baptist decided to push urban evangelism.
[15][ Lin Grace, Executive Director of QIF in:
[16] In both 1992 and 1993 the Gislefosses received national Medical Dedication Awards, and in 1996 they were awarded the Order of the Brilliant Star with Violet Grand Cordon-the ROC's highest civilian honor-and were made honorary citizens of Puli Township. In early June of 2005 the ROC Ministry of the Interior issued permanent residency certificates to seven foreign nationals. The recipients were Bjarne and Alfhild Gislefoss of the Puli Christian Hospital in Nantou County {HYPERLINK:}

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