Missionary Couple Invests 35 Years in Taiwan to Bring Gospel to the Hakka

NEW TAIPEI CITY — American missionaries Michael and Delores Kittleson have invested 35 years in Hakka culture. When they came to Taiwan, they learned the Hakka language first in order to reach this group//that has very few believers. They went on to found a Hakka fellowship, join a Hakka choir, and do musical outreach in Hakka villages, where they have left a deep impression on the lives of many Hakka people.

Michael Kittleson:

Keep learning, keep living! Hakka has many dialects. In Taiwan there are five. In Hukou we learned to pronounce “a little” as “chit diam diam.” But in Zhudong, they say , “Yi jit dideh.” In Fugang, it’s “bat gong gong.” There’s also “Yi sut sutteh.” “Chit diam diam,” “Yi jit dideh,” “Yi sut sutteh.” It’s a load of fun!

Pastor Zheng-zhong Tseng:

The first few years were very challenging. Most meetings were held in Mandarin, but he learned Hakka first, so I had to translate for him. But when I translated, my English wasn’t very good, and his Hakka wasn’t very good yet either. He had just begun learning it, so the process was very difficult.

In a culture known for being resistant to the Gospel, the Kittlesons have spent years using love and understanding to develop friendships with the Hakka people.

Michael Kittleson:

We used the Hakka language to get inside their culture. This is our culture, this is them. Often we ask them to come over here where they’re uncomfortable, but it’s better this way. I can be here and be the one who’s uncomfortable.

Pastor Yi-song Li – Victory Church:

He poured himself into building friendships with the Hakka people, walking with them, and walking with them, until many of the elderly, in their 70s and 80s came to Christ. He also developed the Ancestor Memorial service at our church to transform Hakka ideas of ancestor veneration. He just kept visiting people, no matter many or few, he never gave up. If the Hakka people had needs, he would be there.

Retired Hakka pastor Zheng-zhong Tseng picked up the Kittlesons from the airport when they first arrived, and served together for many years afterward. He remembers that one time after meeting with an unbeliever, Michael was deeply moved.

Pastor Zheng-zhong Tseng:

He wondered, why did God bring him to Taiwan, and this was the answer. He said: There are so many Hakka who have never even heard of Jesus, much less that He loves them and wants to save them. They know nothing at all. He said: I had to come to truly understand that God wanted me to come.

Michael Kittleson:

You have to learn to be patient and share gradually. Several people have told me that when they heard the Gospel in Mandarin, it didn’t move them, but when they heard it in Hakka, it did.

Pastor Zheng-zhong Tseng:

When we sing, we usually use the Siyen dialect, so he has to write out romanization. That’s not easy, because the tones are different. The Hailu and Siyen dialects are different, so every time we learn a new song, someone will stand beside him and help him. One day he was deeply moved and said: One day in heaven, he still wants to sing in the Hakka choir.

Everything that they do is for the Gospel, that they may share with them in its blessings. This Scripture is the best description of how the Kittlesons have poured their lives into the Hakka people.


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