Mr. Ko Tióng 高長 傳道師
Mr. Ko Tióng 高長伯仔
The FIRST FRUIT of the Taiwan Christian ministry
Ko Tióng was born and raised in Hok-Kiàn Choân-Chiu (福建泉州) where he did not learn nor do much way into his twenties. He then decided to change his luck by looking for his sister in Taiwan and started over. It did not help him much either. One day in Tainan, he was thinking of gambling, and first looking for the “good luck” from the gods in the temple. Out of curiosity, he stopped as Dr. James Maxwell and Mr. Wu (吳文水) preached in Taiwanese something as simple as: “You should only worship the genuine God, the God of Jesus…don’t be greedy… don’t gamble…”
Ko Tióng was shocked as if the sermon was pointing to him. He listened more and more and his life course was suddenly changed. No more gambling, no more wondering on the streets. He chose to stay with Dr. Maxwell as a helper by doing chores and gradually learned to read Romanized Taiwanese Bible, and the Christianity, a rather strange religion preached mostly by the foreigners. He was baptized by a missionary from A-Moy (廈門), Rev. W. S. Swanson (宣遜牧師) in 1866. The baptism was held at the Kî-āu church (旗後). Besides Ko Tióng, there were three others (陳清和、陳齊、陳圍.) As one shall see, the history was in the making.
As the modern ‘first fruit’ (初熟果子) of the Taiwan Christian ministry – converted, baptized and licensed to preach, Ko Tióng, at the age of 29, barely read enough Bible and memorized just six hymns, stood as a brave preacher in a very tattooed and closed society. Against the tide, he experienced unspeakable pain, both physical and emotional. In the following some 40 years, he traveled all over the central, southern, eastern Taiwan, including the mountain areas and Peng-Hu (澎湖) islands. Being thrown into jails, badly abused and beaten, Ko Tióng never gave up his faith. He was called a Christian warrior (火戰車) by missionaries and uncle Ko Tióng (高長伯仔) by Taiwanese.
Ko Tióng was somehow well known by the mountain tribes that the gangs always gave him a break out of the respect. He was therefore often called to accompany the missionaries during the more dangerous trips in the mountain areas. At that time, saying grace before the meals in Taiwan was viewed as a foreign curse (with possible poisons which might cause disorientation,) let alone attending the Holy Communion in a church service. One could imagine the bumpy roads of the earlier Christians. It was much worse for the preachers like Ko Tióng.
Not only Ko Tióng endured, he married Chu Eng (朱鶯) when he was 38. They raised five sons and three daughters. Viewed by many as some special blessings from God, their children turned out to be as outstanding (and beyond) as their father: On the boy’s side, two ministers, three physicians; and the girls, one married to an elder, other two married to physicians. As for his twenty grandchildren, the male side alone: five ministers, twelve physicians, an engineer, an agriculture expert and an educator. Among them, Rev. Dr. Ko Chùng-Bêng (高俊明牧師) former general secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan; and Dr. Ko Thian-Sêng (高天成醫師) former dean of the Medical School of the National Taiwan University.
Before his death in 1912, Ko Tióng was like a living document of the early Taiwan Christian history. At his funeral on September 23rd 1912, there were hundred of them, missionaries such as Rev. Dr. Thomas Barclay and Rev. Dr. William Campbell, pastors, teachers and students from Christian high school and theological seminary, local officials, all came to pay their final respect.
It’s beyond comprehension that Ko Tióng, once a jobless young man going virtually nowhere, turned himself into such an important chapter of the Taiwan church history.
Today, almost 95 years after his death, Ko Tióng's grand children and great grand children are still the living documents of the Taiwanese ministries. All over Taiwan and many parts of the world, among Christian communities, healthcare industries and educational institutions, there are still fine footprints of Ko Tióng and his enlarged families.
Some Ko Tióng related websites: