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Mennonite Christian Hospital in Taiwan honours mission worker


April 19, 2004


Mennonite Christian Hospital nurses honour Susan Martens Kehler with a song during the dedication of the Susan Martens (Kehler) Nursing Education Centre in Hualien, Taiwan.

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Hualien, Taiwan – The staff at the Mennonite Christian Hospital in Hualien, Taiwan honoured a Mennonite mission worker on March 25 following a thanksgiving service celebrating the hospital’s 56th anniversary.

The dedication of the Susan Martens (Kehler) Nursing Education Centre commemorates the ministry of a Canadian missionary who arrived in Taiwan in 1957 to serve with the Commission on Overseas Mission (COM), one of Mennonite Church Canada’s predecessor agencies. Located on the eighth floor of the Mennonite Christian Hospital’s Peace Building, the new centre includes nursing offices and a conference room.

As the founder and principal of a nursing school, Susan Martens developed the nursing curriculum in Chinese and helped train many indigenous nurses. From 1974-1980, she also served as the director of nursing at the hospital.

“In order to remember God’s grace revealed by the hospital’s North American missionaries, we decided to name our main facilities after key missionaries,” said Tiang-Hong Chou, the hospital’s director of development. “We named the nursing education centre after Susan Martens because she was a principal of the nursing school. She also trained many dedicated nurses and set up the foundation for the nursing department’s development. It is very important for new nurses to know the history of the nursing department, to follow the example of nursing with loving care and to carry out the Mennonite mission.”

Mennonite Central Committee began a medical ministry in Taiwan in 1948 that grew into a hospital in Hualien. The hospital was turned over to COM, the mission board of the General Conference Mennonite Church, in 1956. It is now the largest Mennonite hospital in the world.

“North American Mennonite missionaries were the best gifts granted by God to Mennonite Christian Hospital and the needy people in the East Coast of Taiwan,” said Chou. “They have set good examples for us to learn and follow in serving the Lord through their dedicated, loving care for the least of our brothers and sisters here in our community. [Their example] has now become our mission in our ministries.”

In 1980, Martens married Peter Kehler – a COM mission worker who was instrumental in planting the Sung-Chiang Mennonite Church in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital. After their marriage, the Kehlers worked in Newton, Kan., until 1985, when they moved to Canada. Peter became the Conference Minister for what is now Mennonite Church British Colombia, and Susan became the Director of Care at Menno Home, a 200-bed nursing facility in Abbotsford.

After their retirement, the Kehlers went to Taiwan for two years of ministry. They returned to Abbotsford in 1993. Although she is retired, Susan Martens Kehler finds herself “busier than ever helping Chinese arriving in the greater Vancouver area get settled and find their way in this new culture.” Peter currently serves on the Mennonite Christian Hospital’s board of directors.

During the anniversary celebrations, Dr. Luke Huang was installed as superintendent of the 625-bed hospital with a staff of 830, including 70 physicians. Dr. Luke Huang came from a pediatrics practice in the Los Angeles area.

Former superintendent, Dr. Peter Huang, left the post to become executive director of the Mennonite Foundation in Taiwan, an organization that operates facilities for the elderly and chronic care patients. It also oversees other projects for disadvantaged people.

The tradition of honouring long-term mission workers at Mennonite Christian Hospital by naming parts of the establishment for them includes: the Roland Brown memorial auditorium, the Carl Epp library, the Gladys Siebert memorial chapel and the Helen Willms (Bergen) memorial fountain.

Brown, the son of Mennonite missionaries in China, was one of the first North American doctors in Hualien. The Mennonite Christian Hospital flourished under Brown’s leadership. He and his wife, Sophie, worked in Taiwan for 40 years and currently live in North Newton, Kan.

Epp served as a doctor in internal medicine, for 20 years and now resides in Winnipeg.

Siebert of Henderson, Neb., was a nurse anesthesiologist and chaplain. She is deceased.

Also deceased is Willms Bergen of Coaldale, Alberta. Her specialties were public health and pediatrics.

Church-planting mission workers went to Taiwan in 1954. COM completed its work in Taiwan in 1994. Today, there are 20 Mennonite churches in Taiwan.