Sundays at 9:30 and 11:00
8:15am Pastor’s Class
by Shan T. Chen
On October 12, 2008, Formosan Christian Church of Dallas (FCCD) celebrated its 30th anniversary and the relocation of the church’s facilities from Garland to Plano, Texas. On that day, a special worship service in celebration of this historic event was attended by approximately 150 people, including a mix of Christian believers , local Taiwanese community members, and other guests. The keynote speaker was Rev. Ko-Fu Cheng, a professor in the Singapore Seminary and a pastor at a local church in Singapore. He also led a two day spiritual revival for FCCD members in conjunction with the 30th anniversary celebration. As part of this celebration, FCCD members recalled the church’s early beginnings and the many blessings received since its humble start.
FCCD was established on July 30, 1978. This start of FCCD’s journey was full of wonders and miracles. The founders were Mr. Duo-he Cheng and his wife, Mrs. Rae-Mei Pan. At the time, Mr. Cheng was a graduate student, majoring in geologic physics at the University of Texas at Dallas. Then in March 1978, during a school-sponsored field trip to the Santa Barbara sea shore on a rock collecting expedition, Mr. Cheng was walking along the sea shore with fellow students when, suddenly, he and two other graduate students from Taiwan were struck by a large ocean wave about 20 feet high. All three students were swept away by the hungry ocean. Miraculously, Mr. Cheng did escape being carried out to sea, but he was the lone survivor. He believed that, but God’s grace, his life was spared for a specific purpose. After much discussion with his family and with the encouragement of his brother, Rev. Rae-Shoung Cheng, Mr. Cheng and his wife planted the seed of FCCD.
The very first meeting was in a class room at Highland Park United Methodist Church. Among the 20 adults and 20 children who attended this first meeting, only three families were Christians. Rev. Rae-Shoung Cheng made a special trip to Dallas from San Francisco to conduct this first worship service. In this meeting , each attendee made a special commitment and pledged funds to hire a full time pastor . Within two months, through the tireless efforts of Rev. Rae-Shoung Cheng, FCCD was able to hire its first pastor, Rev. James Chi. At that time, he was still a student in a theological seminary in California. When we looked back at the very start of our church, we can see that God truly blessed the Church with His grace. FCCD started with only three Christian families and within only two months from that first meeting, the Church gained a full -time pastor to shepherd its members. As recorded in the Bible, Jesus replied to the rich ruler, “what is impossible with men is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)
One of FCCD’s immediate problems after its establishment was to find the next location for its worship services. Many local churches were unwilling to rent their church facilities on a long term basis. As soon as our congregation moved into a new church location to hold its worship services, we had to immediately begin the search of locating another church to host its worship services. Fortunately, because Rev. Rae-Shoung Cheng was at that time the executive director of the Asian Churches of the U.S. Methodist Church Association, we were able to rent church facilities to host our worship services in a timely manner with his help and his relationship with American churches. One statistic that helps put FCCD’s nomadic beginnings in perspective is that during the first eight years since its founding, the Church moved a total of five times, with our shortest stay in one particular church at less than one year.
Due to the constraint on the total number of class rooms available to us during this time as well as the very limited time the church facilities were often available to us on many Sundays, we were often unable to conduct Sunday school classes for our adult congregation members. However, we were able to conduct the children Sunday school class without interruption since the inception of the Church. In fact, by the grace of God, a large majority of those children who did attend our Sunday school classes were baptized and became Christians when they came of age. To address the problem that faced our adult congregation, adult Bible classes were conducted on Friday afternoons at the homes of many of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Under the guidance of Rev. Chi, each attendee rotated the responsibility of leading and teaching these Friday Bible studies. It was through this teaching of the truth in the Bible that many non-believers in the Taiwanese community became Christians, and the number of people attended the FCCD worship services increased gradually.
By the grace of God , with the tireless leadership of Rev. Chi, and with the united heart of its members, the Church was able to purchase in January 1982 a plot of land consisting of 2.5 acres in the city of Garland, Texas and to begin designing blueprints for a church building. The ground -breaking ceremony was held on April 20, 1986, and it was followed by an excavation to establish the foundation pillars of the Church.
Then on one day in June of 1986, during the phase of building the concrete floor of the foundation, the workers, who began work at sunrise, rushed to complete the 7800 square feet concrete floor due to the threat of afternoon rains. Initially, the work went smoothly; however, that afternoon, rolling black clouds appeared in the sky, and the radio broadcasting reported possible flooding in the Dallas area as heavy rains were expected to sweep into the area. Around 3:00 to 4:00 p.m., heavy rain dropped onto the newly poured concrete floor, and as the surrounding streets flooded, it became extremely difficult for cars driving around near the Church. Many workers were worried, and their anxiety was clearly seen in their faces. During these anxious moments, Rev. Chi invited me to walk quietly with him to a corner to pray earnestly for God’s help. For the next five to six minutes, as strong winds buffeted around us and thunderous skies dropped pouring rain continuously onto the concrete floor, the workers watched us with tense expressions as we both finished our prayers. Rev. Chi then invited me to pray together again. As water begin to pool around the lower part of the concrete floor , the workers quickly added more concrete to that part in an effort to keep the entire floorlevel . Not long afterwards, the thunderstorm quickly stopped, the weather cleared and sunshine peeked through the clouds. The foreman who had seen us praying was so moved by this and said, “It was a miracle. I deeply sensed that the Lord is a true, faithful , always with us , and listening to our prayers, God. FCCD is built by Himself, and we must thank Him and praise Hi.”
It took five months to complete the new Church building. On November 27, 1986, which was Thanksgiving Day, we formally moved into the new Church for Thanksgiving worship service. This marked the end of an era where FCCD was without any permanent location for its worship services, which nomadic period lasted over eight years. Our original plan for building the new church was to use the church facilities to provide a place for worship, but also to provide a space that may be used by the local Taiwanese community. To accomplish this, we first built an activity room with capacity of holdingto hold 300 people. This activity room was used to hold worship services and to host other church events; this room was also made available to Taiwanese community for use free of charge.
After moving to the new church facility, in addition to the Taiwanese worship services and children Sunday school classes held on Sundays, we were able to add an English worship service as well as adult Sunday school classes. Several students from Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) came to FCCD and led various youth activities and English worship services. At that time, about 75% of the adults who attended the worship services also attended the Sunday school classes. As the spiritual growth continued among the FCCD brothers and sisters in Christ, our Lord also blessed our Church by adding more faithful members.
Around the end of 1992, Rev. James Chi accepted a position with the Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in St Louis and left our Church after 15 years of faithful service at FCCD. The whole congregation prayed continuously and asked God to send to our Church a new full-time pastor . Thank God for His grace and providence for on January 1993, God sent his faithful servant, Rev. Ko-Fu Cheng to shepherd us.
At that time, Rev. Ko-Fu Cheng had just arrived from Singapore and was studying for his master degree at DTS. God used Rev. Cheng’s special spiritual gifts to minister to our members and to teach us the truths contained in the Bible to boost our faith – that God is with us forever and will guide us at all times.
Under Rev. Cheng’s leadership, the Daniel Yuan Mission Fund was established on July 31, 1994. This designated fund was founded to sponsor and provide monetary support for missionaries and various worthy mission projects. The Caring Fund was then established on July 4, 1995 to support the emergency needs of individuals.
During the summer of 1995, Rev. Cheng completed his advanced study at DTS and returned to Singapore to continue his service to the Lord. Before his departure in January 1995, God again sent a gifted pastor, Rev. Daniel Chiang, to shepherd His sheep at FCCD. Under the leadership of Rev. Chiang, the faith of the FCCD brothers and sisters in Christ continued to grow in God, and the Church was able to hire our first full -time English pastor, Rev. Douglas Lew, to serve the needs of English congregation. He stayed in the position for over four years until September 24, 2000. Rev. Sujaya James immediately stepped in to oversee the English worship services for the next year while he pursued his doctoral degree at DTS. He was tasked with inviting guest speakers , including various pastors and seminar students, to preach sermons each Sunday to the English congregation. The Church then hired Rev. Hendra Chousand as our full -time English pastor in November 2001.
When the Church reached its 20th anniversary, we celebrated by hosting a two-day evangelical revival immediately followed by a special worship service conducted on July 26,1998. The keynote speaker for both activities was Rev. Ko-Fu Cheng, who flew in from Singapore for this event. He gave a sermon titled “Where to Search for Peace”, where he concluded that true peace may only come from God. A special publication for our 20th anniversary was published on the church’s website on September 20, 1998, and the paperback publication was made available in the spring of 2000.
As time passed, our church found that the demographics of its members were slowly moving from the young adults involved in the founding of the church to an older age bracket. In fact, by the time of the Church’s 20th anniversary, very few of the Church’s members were under 40 years old.
When Rev. Chiang took his position as our pastor, he and his wife, Jean Chou , were about 30 years old and did not yet have any children. However, since their arrival at FCCD, many singles and families with small children joined our Church, and the number of our Church members gradually increased. It was during this time in order to meet the growing needs of our children Sunday school program, the Church remodeled and expanded the several old classrooms and our parking lot. This expansion project was completed in the spring of 2003.
On May 7, 2006, the church called a special congregation meeting to approve to move of our Church from its current location in Garland, Texas to a growing area near where many Taiwanese had migrated. The purpose behind the proposed relocation of our Church was to move FCCD to where we would be able to more effectively spread the gospel to non-believers in the local community and lead them to become followers of Christ. A few members did not agree with this proposal because they held a different view about the effect of the move or due to concerns about the increased financial burden on the Church and its members that would be incurred with such move.
This move turned out to be one of the most meaningful events to have occurred for this Church since its establishment . Namely, God responded to our prayers and our fasting and guided the Church through this decision. This great blessing was given to FCCD from our Mighty God. On December 23, 2007, our Church moved from Garland, Texas to its current location at 6700 Independence Parkway, Planojust in time to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus with our Christmas worship service in the newly purchased church facility.
In the processing of moving, all of FCCD’s brothers and sisters worked together, regardless of ages. Everything, no matter how big or small the items, were packed in an orderly manner with the guidance of God and the careful planning by Mr. Stephen Lin, who was then in charge of general administration of the Church. From this experience, I saw that all our members had good hearts, and I was very proud to be a member of this big family. Since the time of this move until the middle of October 2008 (which was less than one year), the number of people who attended the Sunday Taiwanese worship service increased about 22% when compared to the attendance rate in our old facility in Garland in October 2007. During this same period, the number of attendees in the English worship service experienced a similar increase. We are thankful to the Lord.
During the past 30 years, the love and grace of God accompanied FCCD as seen by the many miracles continuously happening in this Church. From the miracle that happened with the pouring concrete foundation floor in Garland to and the miracle that happened with the move of our Church to Plano, God makes His presence known. For example, in order for us to complete the purchase of our new building in Plano, four different churches owned by four different ethnic groups (including our own church) had to close a number of transactions within a short 4 to 5-month time window as one church would sell its facility in order to have sufficient funds to buy another church’s facility. It is these experiences that led us to believe that our mighty God is in charge of His holy church.
Each church is composed of many different members, and God loves every one of us even though each member has his or her own unique character, background, and propensity for loving certain things. We must celebrate our differences, not just tolerate them, because God wants us to work together for Him. For the sake of unity in Christ, we must not be separated because of our differences, but instead, we must pay close attention to the most important belief – that is, we must conform to Jesus, love each other, and accomplish God’s purpose for leading us here.
I pray that this Church becomes one big family in Christ, comprised of loving members who will express their love for their brothers and sisters in Christ, encourage each other by words and deeds , and learn and grow spiritually rooted in Christ. May we be strongly anchored in this truth so that we may unconditionally love others and serve our Lord.