Your browser does not support JavaScript. Please enable JavaScipt to view our website.

The Miraculous Meetings with the Boehr Family at Green Oak

I am Alex Chan, born and raised in a Hakka village in Hsinchu, Taiwan. I’m currently a student at Logos Evangelical Seminary. Together with my wife Li-Chi and four children, we moved from Taiwan last year to study full time for a M. Div. degree program. This is our second summer here in California.    

We were invited by Mark and Lina, one of our best friend families from the seminary, to Lake Avenue Church to experience the well-known Christmas concert last Dec. 2022. With my wife’s strong suggestion, we decided to leave our mandarin speaking Church in El Monte and join Lake since then. Besides the wonderful concert and worship services, as most people have experienced, we enjoyed the warm greetings from Nancy Smith and others at the church’s welcome table. I was impressed when Nancy mentioned that she used to live in Taiwan with her missionary parents since birth till age of 17.    

Alex Bernie4Then, we felt like we should try to get further connections with brothers and sisters here at Lake, so we participated in the 10 weeks of “Rooted” group meetings and courageously went to Green Oak for the Church Family Camp where most people spoke English only and we barely knew anyone there. On the next morning I went down to the coffee stand at the camp trying to meet new friends. By God’s divine arrangement, my meeting with Don, who was serving coffee to me, made a huge impact. I introduced myself to him and shared briefly where I come from. I was so surprised to learn that his wife Cindy also grew up in Taiwan. What amazed me was that I ran into another person who had lived in Taiwan before. Interesting enough for me to find Cindy who is Nancy’s sibling, and their father Rev. Ernie Boehr who is a retired missionary, sent by Lake Avenue Church, had ministered the Hakka people in Miaoli, my mom’s hometown in Taiwan, for decades since 1954.   

Before I go further about the encounter, I’d like to talk a little about Hakka people, which is a small minority group of people in Taiwan, originally immigrated from China. In Taiwan, Hakka people speak Hakkanese and are famous for their strong traditional religious belief that the whole family binds together by worshipping ancestors every day to show respect and love to their family. Most western Christian missionaries in early last century would describe Hakka people as “unresponsive” to the Gospel. In 1960’s, only 0.3% of the Hakka community were Christians.   

Alex Bernie3My first meeting with Rev. Ernie Boehr happened in the morning of June 11, 2023, after we returned from Green Oak. It was a phenomenal moment of my life when I began to speak with him in the Hakkanese dialect, which many western missionaries considered a phased-out dialect and even didn’t allow other missionaries to learn it. But Ernie didn’t agree with that idea and insisted on learning the minority dialect to win the Hakka people by speaking their mother tongue to touch their hearts. During my first meeting with Ernie, I could see his passion for the Hakka people through his smiles and authentic Hakka accent he owns that sounded amazingly like some seniors from my mom’s family in a Hakka village in Taiwan. By reading the book he wrote entitled “A Hakka Chinese Gospel and Ancestral Memorial Hakka,” I learned that it was when Ernie continued his Bible Study and thought of how to apply the truth to the Hakka-speaking Chinese. He found that the “eternal unchanging truth of God” was consistently expressed in the common languages and idioms of the people of each age and culture in Biblical history. He emphasized the principle is best expressed in I Cor. 9:19-22, when Paul said, “Though I am free, and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews, I become like a Jew to win the Jews… I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means, I might save some.”    

In the following weeks, I went back to see Ernie a few more times. During the meeting with his son, Ernie Boehr Junior, and other family members, I shared with them about what I found in my research through the cyber world on Ernie’s works in Taiwan. In the journal of Hakka Seminary issued in Taiwan in June 2022, the current President Dr. Wen recited the names of western missionaries working in the Hakka villages in Taiwan. He recalled how Rev. Joel Nordtvedt, the first president of the Hakka Seminary, initiated his ministry to the Hakka people. President Joel Nordtvedt still clearly remembered his miraculous encounter with Ernie Boehr in Taiwan which happened in 1977, on his journey back to America from Japan. That meeting literally changed his life. He said that meeting was his very first-time he heard about the Hakka people and their culture from Ernie, who inspired him of his vision on the unreached Hakka people, a diaspora from middle part of China. Joel and his wife then decided to return to Taiwan to begin their ministry to the Hakka people in 1981. He even became the first president of the Hakka Seminary in 2000. In the recent meeting on FaceTime on July 7, 2023, after their many years of being apart, Joe delightfully told Ernie that he would be recognized as the Father of many Hakka Christians in heaven.   

Alex Bernie1In search of Boehr family’s early footprints in Taiwan, I got a chance to learn about the historical military retreat carried out by US Navy 7th Fleet from Dachen, a coastal island by mainland China, to escape from the Chinese communists in 1955. The evacuation moved more than 25,000 people from Dachen island to several cities in Taiwan, including Hualien, a remote city located on the east coast of Taiwan. That was about the period when Ernie Boehr was asked to oversee four Mandarin speaking churches in Hualien city in 1958. During our conversations with Ernie, to our surprise, we found that Boehr’s family and my wife’s parents used to live on the exact same street in Hualien city. Moreover, Cindy, Ernie’s youngest daughter, was even born in the same Christian hospital in Hualien as my wife and my oldest son, Sean. We couldn’t believe that technically they share the same birth origin place, which is so far away from everywhere. What we have discovered about the incredible connections between Boehr’s family and my family made all these recent God’s divine appointments, which none of us can deny.    

Thinking of what happened in the last few months to me, my family, Ernie, and his family, is more than I can imagine. Six months ago, Lake Avenue Church was totally a new church for us. It was not even my intention to come to Lake, but my submission to my wife Lichi’s idea (it doesn’t happen all the time) by joining Lake had made a tremendously meaningful impact on our stay here in California. Most of all, it was our privilege of being part of the life journey of Ernie and his family.  I felt so honored to have the chance to represent the Hakka Christians in Taiwan to show our gratitude to Rev. Ernie Boehr and Barbara Boehr and Lake Ave Church for sending such a great young missionary couple to minister to our Hakka group of people in Taiwan since 1954.  

Since the miraculous meeting at Green Oak, Nancy once told me that I have made a good stir, in her family and now in the church. But I strongly believe it was the Holy Spirit making the GOOD stir 70 years ago starting right here at this church with your unceasing prayers and generous investments. All that happened to Ernie and his family in the past 70 years was beyond my knowledge. During my research, I found myself truly as one of the fruits produced from the seeds planted by Lake in Taiwan, a distant island on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. I was raised in one of the Hakka villages that Ernie Boehr and the Christian fellows at Lake had been praying for way before I was born. For many decades, Ernie’s ministry to the Hakka people seemed barely produced any fruit in the eyes of human beings, but God’s amazing and miraculous work never stops. My heart was full of excitement when I discovered that I was converted and baptized in the same year 1989 when Ernie and Barbara retired and left Taiwan.     

Alex Bernie2Here I am now at Lake, working with Boehr’s family trying to put some of the missing puzzles or rock piles together, to have a better view of his past ministry, obeying the will of our Heavenly Father. The more puzzles we reconnected or the higher we piled the rocks, the clearer it came to sight that all these years Rev. Ernie Boehr had been directing his family and friends toward the incarnation of Christ through his hands and love.   

In early July, my family was invited to a July 4th Celebration gathering at Don and Cindy’s home. During our meeting with Steve Hellwig whom we never met before, we were thrilled to find that my son Nick’s best friend Qais is one of the sons of the Nazari family from Afghanistan, which sixteen of our Lake brothers and sisters have been helping and supporting since early this year. I literally believe this unintentional meeting could be one of the many other divine appointments inspired by the Holy Spirit at Lake.   

When I pondered on all the miraculous meetings and connections that God has planned through Ernie’s ministry in the past 70 years until today, I couldn’t wait to witness on how the Lord will guide us through the super exciting journey in the next many generations to come. May God’s Holy Name be glorified and magnified in this true story of mine!