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"What do they know about baptism? How can I bend God's command in order to please them?" Reverend Smith asked himself. A young Baptist missionary to Taiwan, he had been looking forward to conducting his first baptism in the church he was planting just outside the capital city of Taipei.
His excitement over that baptismal service had faltered after Lily's parents had come to his home. They had been furious, demanding that he not baptize their daughter, Lily, the next day as planned. Now what was he going to do?
Reverend Smith thought back to what he knew of the bright young woman. Lily Liu had grown up in a Buddhist home where she had been surrounded by Buddha images and the accompanying smell of incense. Lily first heard of Christianity from the Smiths when they moved in next door. Lily and her family immediately became friends with these Americans.
After four years of fighting doubts and internal opposition, Lily had made a solid commitment to Jesus Christ. Her testimony to faith in Christ was so dynamic that the youth group elected her as their first woman president.
Her father's religion was a mixture of Buddhist and folk beliefs. When he returned from work each evening Mr. Liu made sure incense was lit before the images. As a bus driver, he did not want to offend his ancestors. If he did offend them, they might cause him to have an accident. Like many other bus drivers, he scattered ghost money made of yellow tissue paper along dangerous mountain roads. He did this for protection from the spirits of people who had died there in past accidents.
Mrs. Liu was a loving mother who cooked, washed, cleaned, and said prayers for her children. Like her husband, she took her religious beliefs seriously. Once, she forbade telephone company workers to put up a pole in front of her house because she feared it would block the passage of her gods.
While neither Mr. nor Mrs. Liu were Christians, they allowed Lily to participate freely in church activities. They even occasionally attended services with her. At baptism, however, they were now drawing the line.
"I like what you teach," Mr. Liu had said to missionary Smith, "but what do you think my ancestors will say if I accept your religion? They would be very upset. How can I do something that would displease my ancestors?"
Mr. Liu was concerned as well that his daughter Lily not abandon their family traditions. Among other things, he wanted to be cared for in his afterlife. So he needed Lily to venerate his spirit after his death.
Mrs. Liu's opposition to Lily's baptism centered around something else: Lily's prospects for marriage. Only two percent of the Taiwanese were Christian. Lily's mother knew that if Lily were a Christian, it would be much harder to find her a husband.
Reverend Smith pondered the situation. He knew that Lily would arrive shortly, seeking his direction.
- Should he advise her to ignore her parents' orders? If he did so, it might destroy the relationship he and his wife had been carefully cultivating with Mr. and Mrs. Liu and their other neighbors.
- Should he suggest that Lily wait, thus denying her the opportunity to give a public testimony of her faith in Christ?
This case study appeared in its original form in Case Studies in Missions, edited by Paul and Frances Hiebert, Baker Book House, 1987. Edited and used by permission. This case study may be reproduced only upon payment of a 35-cent royalty per copy to Baker Book House, P.O. Box 6787, Grand Rapids, MI 49516 USA
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