U-C: What I See

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Joyce McMillan - A life well-lived

Here’s a quick story.

Just down the road about fifteen kilometers from Tek Tung Presbyterian Church, there is a large campus with a sign out front that says, “Ehr-Lin Happy Christian Home.” Inside, there are several large buildings that house a state of the art facility for kids of all ages who have serious disabilities. It’s a great place doing amazing work, but it’s the story of how it came to be that really touched my heart.

On the top floor of the building there is a spacious apartment where I was taken to meet Joyce. She is originally from the United States, though she has been in Taiwan for so long that it would be reasonable to call her Taiwanese. She’s ninety-two years old now. We found her sitting in a wheel-chair watching television, connected by a tube to an oxygen tank. She isn’t very aware of her surroundings, but it is obvious that she is deeply loved by the folks at the Home, and we sat with her for a few moments and then prayed with and for her before we left.

Joyce was a member of First Presbyterian Church in San Francisco. She was widowed when she was in her mid-thirties. About ten years later, at age forty-seven, she accepted an invitation to go to Taiwan to offer her services in mission, and she trained in nursing for a year before she left in order to prepare for her assignment. In 1959, she arrived in Taiwan, and she has stayed for the rest of her life. Together with a Taiwanese doctor, Joyce founded the Ehr-Lin home in 1964 (the year I was born), with the primary mission of working with kids who had polio.

Forty years later, the home that Joyce founded serves 220 children and adults at two facilities. She has received countless awards from the Taiwanese government, and I believe that she is the first person ever to become an honorary citizen of the country. The President has come to visit her personally more than once. This is a woman who has made a huge difference.

Here’s what I love about Joyce’s story. By the time Joyce was in her forties, she had experienced great loss. Though she might have coasted through the next few decades to retirement, it is now apparent that she was just getting started. She has spent the second half of her life changing the world. She went to Taiwan open to God’s spirit, and she joined her Taiwanese friends as a genuine colleague. What if all of us were unafraid to live life as courageously as Joyce has lived hers? What if all of us responded to that “still, small voice” that God plants deep within us at the moments of great opportunity that appear every now and then in our lives?

I think this is a time for dreams the size of Joyce’s dream.

On to India.