A woman's story about being rescued from a baby mill and a "taste of Taiwan" were two highlights from World Day of Prayer, during which Christians gathered at two Moniteau County churches in support of Taiwan.
The gatherings helped shine a spotlight on Taiwan as many came together to offer spiritual and financial assistance to the Asian island nation Friday at St. Paul's Evangelical Church in Jamestown and the United Church of Christ in California. The two churches joined the rest of the world in following a single program created by the World Day of Prayer Committee of Taiwan, centering around the phrase "I have heard about your faith" in Ephesians 1:15-19.
According to the World Day of Prayer website, the worldwide event dates back to the 19th century when "Christian women of (the) United States and Canada initiated a variety of cooperative activities in support of women's involvement in mission at home and in other parts of the world."
The event provides support through prayer and financial donations to women and children in the host country, which rotates every year.
The program created by the Taiwan committee discusses the history of Christianity in the island nation, along with various issues affecting the country and how faith has helped its inhabitants. One woman wrote how others' faith led her to assist in clean-up programs to protect the environment, while others wrote about how their faith allowed them to overcome misogyny and discrimination, self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic and the fallout of verbal and sexual abuse.
St. Paul's Evangelical Church kicked off the day while hosting visitors from three other area churches -- Prairie Home Methodist Church, Moniteau Advent Church and Grace Methodist Church. In addition to the standard program, a guest speaker -- Lailin Wilson, of Jefferson City -- spoke about being born to a "baby mill" in China, where she was treated like property instead of a person.
"I came from a baby mill, just like puppy mill, baby mill," Wilson said. "Men, women, servers come from a magazine we call Cherry Blossom, you purchase a human person."
In her speech, Wilson talked about how a group of humanitarians, including comedian Bob Hope, helped rescue her and several others from the facility. Previously, Wilson said, she had been handcuffed after being purchased.
"I was handcuffed to a crib because I was actually pre-purchased, just like you do when you want your puppies," she said. "I had certain criteria. My problem was I ran away and I had dog bites. I was brought back, but my owner got some money back because I was damaged goods. It is not a human thing; it was just property that got damaged."
Wilson said children raised in such a facility would eventually be sent to the buyer, who would receive three generations -- the child, their offspring and their grandchildren. She said many women, such as her own biological mother, were treated as "incubators," where their primary job was to give birth before being sold into slavery or human care.
After being rescued, Wilson said she ended up in British Columbia before being moved to southern Missouri, where she was shuffled around. After graduating from school in Springfield, she started a military career because she wanted to give thanks. She said she continues to give back in the community by volunteering at the Fraternal Order of Eagles in Jefferson City, providing assistance to a 93-year-old woman and being a surrogate grandmother to children at a school.
"I feel very, very fortunate in this country," Wilson said. "We just need to thank the people that fought to keep our land going."
Much like the women in the Taiwan program, Wilson said she also relied on her faith to carry her through rough times.
"My husband was a preacher from previous times, so I always seemed to have God close to me," she said. "... I feel like I don't know you all, but I know you're family. You know why? Because God made us all, and he doesn't make a mistake. I'm not a mistake. It's just a human person that did not understand what God made you for. It wasn't for money, it wasn't for the power, the government. It's to give Him glory."
St. Paul's Evangelical Church also asked for offerings for Mobility Worldwide, a Columbia nonprofit that brings "the gift of mobility and dignity to those in developing countries who are unable to walk" by distributing low-cost mobility carts. The offerings were to be donated to the nonprofit in memory of Paul and Shirley Baer, who were long-time supporters of the project. A moment of silence was also held for community members who have died in the past year, including Paul and Shirley Baer.
Following the same program, the United Church of Christ's event was similar but lacked a guest speaker. Instead, participants received a "taste of Taiwan" with a special lunch prepared by volunteers.
The menu consisted of Char Siu bahn mi, a type of Chinese pork barbecue sandwich; rice pudding; birds nest, a modified dessert using chow mein noodles, chocolate and candy eggs; and Rice Krispies treats (an Americanized version of puffed rice treats). Fruit and drinks, including boba tea, were also served.
Clarice Nelson, a volunteer who presented the menu, said a lot went into bringing a taste of Taiwan to the event.
"We've farmed this out to so many different people I'm not sure (how long it took to prepare)," she said. "Probably, to prepare (the menu), you can work on it off and on for a whole week because you pickle vegetables, you barbecue pork, you slice and chop, you make sauces, but it's just fun. It's not work."
Nelson said she used a combination of personal experience, cookbooks and the internet for creating the menu. She said her husband was formerly stationed in Okinawa, Japan, in the Air Force, which served as a basis for her ideas.
The World Day of Prayer is held every first Friday of March. Palestine will be the host county in 2024, with the theme being "I beg you ... bear with one another in love," from Ephesians 4:1-7.