Stepping Back in Time in Taiwan


Returning to Taiwan after 40 years, Marilee Pierce DUnker gains a new perspective on her father’s work.

It was January when I visited the hospital and the few former lepers who remained in a facility that my father, Bob Pierce, had supported in Taiwan. Chinese New Year was fast approaching. Everywhere I went I saw advertisements for the ten-course meals Chinese families traditionally share. But as the ladies in the group of former lepers explained, they had been so desperately poor back in earlier days that they never got to celebrate the traditional New Year’s feast.

“It was a sad time for us,” explained Wu Xi-Mei, a 67-year-old woman who had been brought to the leprosarium when she was 10. “There was never any extra money for Christmas presents or to celebrate the New Year as others did. Our families had rejected us because we were lepers, and no one remembered us. Many people would get so depressed that they would take their lives.

Then one year your father came and heard about the situation. So he declared that we would have a banquet to celebrate Christmas and New Years’. Everyone dressed up, and we had a feast! And,” she added, “there were presents for everyone. I remember holding the box in my hand and opening it to find a new necklace. I had never had a gift before, and my hands trembled as I put it on.” She touched her neck. “I still remember what it felt like to put that necklace on.”

Wu Xi-Mei was eventually cured of Hansen's disease, as were all the other ladies, and trained to be a nurse right there at the hospital. She met a wonderful man (also a cured leper), married, and had healthy children and grandchildren. Today, she is retired and spends her days in the wards I first visited, sitting with the elderly. “I see them into glory,” she told me with a brilliant smile.

An unexpected blessing

As our time ended I thanked the women for sharing their lives and stories with me. Never had I experienced such an amazing or unexpected blessing. But God was not done.

“Meeting you has been a great gift from God to me,” I began, searching for a way to express how I was feeling. “I never really knew my dad, because he was gone most of my childhood, but now …

One of the ladies spoke up, interrupting my thoughts. I glanced at Charlotte, who for once looked like she was at a loss for words. Then she said, quietly, “She says that they owe you an apology. They want to ask you to forgive them for taking your daddy away from you.”

I was stunned. Never had I felt so humbled or — the only word I can think of is loved. Finally I found my voice and said, “Please. Don't apologize. And don't feel badly for me. I am happy God used my dad to bless your lives. And now He is using you to bless mine. Thank you for helping me know my father as you knew him.”

Written by Marilee Pierce Dunker, World Vision

Photo ©2013 Alan Wang/World Vision

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