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Taiwan: Sometimes faith is a blank check

By Marilee Pierce Dunker
Mar 19, 2014
Courtesy Marilee Pierce Dunker
Marilee's father, Bob Pierce, helped fund Puli Christian Hospital — with a blank check.

Editor’s note: This is the third installment of Marilee’s series of stories from her recent trip to Taiwan. Read the previous stories here: 40 years later, a reunion of love and Little seeds that grew.

On the fourth day of my visit to Taiwan, my World Vision hostess, Charlotte, and I took the bullet train through the heart of the island to the gorgeous mountains around Sun Moon Lake. The sparkling crater lake is now one of the most desirable tourist destinations on Taiwan, but when I came here with my Dad in 1965 it was best known for being General and Madam Chiang Kai-shek’s summer home. I wish my 50-year-old memories were not so hazy! But I do remember that Dad and I had the honor of worshiping in Madam Chiang’s private chapel while we were there.

Two special women joined Charlotte and me for this two-day excursion: Tiffany Wang, a member of the World Vision Taiwan board, and Bonnie Wurzburger, World Vision International’s vice president of Marketing. I was thrilled when they offered to make the trip with me. It is always more fun to share an adventure with friends!

After spending the night in a hostel by the lake, our small group drove the additional hour to Puli, a bustling city in the heart of what was once headhunter country. Our destination was the famous Puli Christian Hospital, where I was told I would find two things of great interest — a Bible in which my father had written a special message, and a blank check.

Roots of faith

The story of Puli Christian Hospital is really the story of missionary Lillian Dickson’s unrelenting faith in a God who could not fail. In her 1958 book, These My People, Lillian shared the amazing story of how God built the first clinic out of bricks and faith.

The land [for the hospital] cost about $600, which I hoped I could pay by calling in all my resources. We would build first with bamboo, for that was cheap.

Unfortunately, when they arrived to start building, Lillian discovered that the government had imposed new regulations and they would have to build with bricks. It would cost four times as much as expected!

When they told me I had to build with bricks, I said to myself, “Bricks without straw,” thinking ruefully of the state of my finances [referring to Exodus 5:1-9]. Then I thought of those doctors questioning the mothers about the little ones who have died [from tuberculosis, polio, leprosy, and other preventable diseases]. No one cares because they are just “aborigines.” But we who are Christians should care and should help.

So we went on building even though we hadn’t enough to finish, even if it would always be burden to buy medicines and to keep the clinic staffed. The need was there and we knew that it was the Lord’s will that it be met. I had a Chinese Christian doctor [Dr. Wai] who would give the clinic three days a week and more if I wanted and I knew thousands would come.

We made cupboards to hold the drugs, [believing that] somehow the medicines would come as we needed them. And we had six beds for in-patients.

“You will have those beds filled the first day,” warned Dr. Bjarne, a Norwegian doctor working with us.

In every direction I seemed to be faced with multitudes, and my little faith work stretched out of all proportion. But I could not wait until I had a great hospital before beginning. We began with what the Lord had given us, and walked forward on the water in faith, serving those in great need. We knew He would come swiftly to our rescue.

'Beyond the horizon of the world'

As so often seems to happen, God waited until the last possible moment to send in the cavalry.

I was making plans to send word into the mountains that our opening date would be January 16 [1955] … when Bob Pierce and Dr. Frank Phillips of World Vision came and offered to help us. They were the only ones who offered to help — the only ones who stood beside us and believed God would bless this work that was being started to take care of the mountain people.

“What can we do to help you?” The words fell like balm on our hearts! This was surely the Lord who had sent these dedicated men to help with this great need which was beyond the horizon of the world!

For many years, World Vision sent money every month to pay for medicine to fill the empty cupboards that Lillian had built “in faith.” We paid the salaries of the doctors and nurses who would so lovingly serve the people of the mountains. And when the needs outgrew the buildings made from “bricks without straw,” Dad committed to building a beautiful three-storey hospital.

“Claim the hill, build a hospital with a cross on the top, so God’s Kingdom can be seen over the valley,” he is quoted as saying.

So, you may be asking yourself, just where does a blank check come into all this?

After agreeing to raise funds for the hospital, my father gave Lillian and Dr. Wei a blank check, telling them to write in what they needed. I am fairly certain that if they had tried to cash it the next day that check would have bounced! But, as He has done countless times throughout World Vision’s history, God cashed the check.

Today Puli Christian Hospital has 600 beds, and the famous blank check is kept in a special case as a constant reminder that sometimes faith can look like a blank check.  But in reality, it is simply God’s way of saying, “Fill in the amount.  No matter how much or how little, I am good for it!”


Next week: I will share pictures from my time in Puli, along with the heartfelt message my father wrote on his last visit to Taiwan. It is a message I believe he would want shared with World Vision today and all those who serve the poor in the name of Christ.

Marilee serves World Vision, the organization her father, Bob Pierce, founded in 1950. Like him, she travels the world, witnessing and fulfilling God’s mandate to care for the poor. Request Marilee to speak.
In every direction I seemed to be faced with multitudes, and my little faith work stretched out of all proportion.
Lillian Dickson