* Healthy Community for Seniors | Story of a journey from the sugar cane filed to the fishpond
* Story of a journey from the sugar cane filed to the fishpond  By Dr. Peter Huang

Mennonite Christian Hospital has been in service of the Hualien area for more than 50 years. From the earlier time of medical missions that covered the entire eastern regions of Taiwan, our footprints could be found from the central mountains to Orchid Island and Green Island. Asides from direct medical care performed at each site, community education in general hygiene and alcohol abuses were part of the mission from times in the past.

To serve God, search for the weakest and the smallest brother of mine.

Over the decades, Mennonite Christian Hospital has become an indispensable community teaching hospital from the medical perspective. Socially, Mennonite Christian Hospital also played an integral part of the senior community by establishing funds for deliver-a-meal program (meal-on-wheel), a day care center, home health services and others. These programs are developed based on the calling of "Service to the Lord," as we are reminded a passage from the Bible, Christ said: "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (Mathew 5:40).

In the earlier days of Hualien, due to limited transportation, the living conditions of the indigenous populations were very difficult. Eating only on what they could grow and hunt, nutritional status was inadequate. With the lack of public policy on general hygiene and disease prevention, infant death rate was extremely high (4 times higher than the rate from the general population at the time) and the average life span was also significantly shorter. For example, the average life span of the indigenous (Aboriginese) population was 10 years shorter than the general population according to the 2000 census. Thus, for a long time, the indigenous population of Hualien is " the weakest and the smallest brother "within Mennonites' mission to serve the Lord.

Now that we can see, the seniors needs to be cared for

During our mission of service to the Lord, we have gradually discovered another group of "small brothers" that had been ignored for years, they are the seniors living alone. Thus, service to care for these "little brothers" has become another aspect of our mission to the Lord.

Hualien is a vast region populated by few. The distance from north to south is comparable to the distance from Hsingchu to Tainan. Three quarters of the region is mountainous; east and west of the province are surrounded by the pacific coastal mountain and the central mountain, respectively. Merely 350,000 people populate such a large geographic region. Of these people, ethnic divisions include the Aboriginese, Min-nanese, Hakknese, and Mainlanders, within number of each ethnicity divided evenly amongst the four groups.

Due to the limited farming area and lack of industrial jobs available to the region, there is a perpetual movement of the younger generation toward the western parts of Taiwan to seek education and jobs. Thus, the weak and the old are left at Hualien. Such movement has made the seniors a significant component of the general population. Currently, people older than 65 years accounts for 11.6% of the total Haulien population, as compared to 9% nationally. Of the 38,000 seniors, 13% are living alone, approximately 5,000 out of 350,000 people in Hualien.

Caring a strategic life-line protect the lives of the seniors

As our initial effort to care for the seniors living alone, we began a "life-line" program in 1997. The program includes routine telephone calls to the seniors. If medical care is needed, transportation to the hospital or to home will be provided. Direct call buttons and loud speakers placed next to the telephone allowed direct communication with centers to facilitate routine or emergent transportation.

Growing old in one's own home is the most humane and ideal scenario. However, due to the fact that the seniors living alone disperse geographically, effectively conducting medical care and screens in these regions is extremely difficult, unlike doing those in cities.

During our efforts to care for the seniors, we have discovered that it is necessary to develop institutional care for the elderly with chronic diseases. For example, when daily living skills such as vision and hearing begin to deteriorate, medication dosing errors or even forgetfulness plays a far greater role than any institutional care. Based on many heart-breaking experiences, we began to pray to the Lord, hoping Lord will show us the way.

Generous donations to purchase the fishpond

In 2000, Taiwan Sugar Company proposed to rent out one of its sugarcan fields located south to the city of Hualien, at the base of Li-Yu mountain in Shou-Fong township. We felt that this was an ideal location to construct the Mennonite Senior Citizen Community and restore the Mennonite nursing school for training the aboringinal female population. Unfortunately, the intention and plan forged with our concepts of living community resulted in some unwanted interests from certain real estate investors. The problem combined with a relatively short term lease (25 years), adjusted rent (every 3 years), a lack of strong financial sponsor, rendered the entire project less than viable. Thus, we had abandoned the sugarcan field concept and asked the Lord for other opportunities.

"When the Lord closes one door, he will open another for you." Many Protestants often describes such experience to affirm the fairness and honesty of the Lord. Despite the sugarcane project, our drive to build a home for the seniors grew even stronger. The sugarcan experience taught us that we must purchase, instead of rent, the land for our home to be the ideal solution. At about this time, a prospective resort area, now name the Promised Land, has a fishpond next to it that was for sale. As if the Lord had heard our prayers, he opened another door for us and gave us the fishpond and enough money to purchased the 32.8-arces land.

Continuing development, borrowing from foreign experiences

Although we had purchased the fishpond, we needed ideas and expertise to design the Mennonite Senior Citizen Community. Thus, we traveled to other Mennonite senior citizen communities in United States and Canada, senior centers and apartments in Hong Kong and Singapore to learn about the optimal design for our Senior Citizen Community and additional skills necessary to effectively manage such a community.

In 2001 through Dr. Lin Yu Zi, who is a famous Japanese architect with great fondness for Taiwan, we were also introduced to another Japanese Christian senior living communities, which I especially resonated with. Through a kismet of good fortunes and God's will, the concept and development of the Mennonite Senior Citizen Community was given birth and had since taken flight. Thanks to Dr. Lin, she has also since become the chief architect of our future community.

Care for the seniors, a Mennonite promise

Dear friends, for everyone who had supported and supports the development of the Senior Citizen Community, in the midst of God's love, we have seen his will, which is to complete our mission to care for the seniors. We must commit to His divine teaching, " love others as loving thyself, " put forth our courage to complete this task ahead of us. With God's help, let the fishpond transform into the Senior Citizen Community in the next 2 to 3 years.

We ask your prayer for us!!


門諾logo Development Department, Mennonite Christian Hospital
44 Min-chuan Road, Hualien, 970 Taiwan Tel.:886-3-8241234
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