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Died: Lin Chih-Ping, Taiwan’s ‘Fool for Life’ Who Shared ‘Cosmic Light’ Through Eclectic Ministry

The entrepreneur and social services leader had a unique vision for sharing the gospel and reaching people holistically.
Died: Lin Chih-Ping, Taiwan’s ‘Fool for Life’ Who Shared ‘Cosmic Light’ Through Eclectic Ministry
Image: Illustration by Christianity Today / Source Image: Courtesy of Chin-Hsiu

Peter Chih-Ping Lin (林治平), who launched a Christian magazine for those outside the church that grew into a sprawling, eclectic ministry, died of pancreatic cancer on April 27 at the age of 86 in Taipei. With little financial support, in 1973, Lin founded what became Christian Cosmic Light Holistic Care Organization, which sought to reach non-Christians through art, academic research, and social work. As a leader in Christian social services, Lin’s concern for the marginalized led him to lead the Christian drug rehab organization Operation Dawn in Taiwan and to reset the vision of Bethany Children’s Home.

Lin’s work often operated on a shoestring budget, forcing him to be entrepreneurial and to rely on his faith.

“When we walk in God’s calling and what he has entrusted us with faith, God will certainly lead us through all the hardships and trials for us to finish the missions we carry,” Lin wrote in 2023, in an issue commemorating Cosmic Light’s 50th anniversary.

Lin was born in Changsha, a city in Hunan Province in central China, on May 22, 1938, not long after the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out. Because his father served in the Chinese air force, regularly facing Japanese airstrikes and heavy artillery, Lin’s childhood was constantly disrupted. For the first ten years of his life, his family lived in nearly half of China’s 23 provinces, and his parents named their son Chih-Ping (Chih means “to rule,” Ping means “peace”), expressing their desire that, one day, he would know stability.

This dream was only realized after Lin lost his sister, and his mother and the remaining children fled to Taiwan in 1948. At age 10, Lin was now living in a farming village in Tainan hosting Chinese nationalist forces, who had fled after their defeat by Mao Zedong and his fellow Communists.

The abrupt transition proved challenging. In middle school, authorities responded to an entrance exam cheating scandal by removing Lin from admission, even though he hadn’t participated in the cheating. Although school leaders later reinstated his admission, the experience left Lin with contempt for authorities and the education system. Lin was constantly tardy, truant, and prone to fighting his classmates.

Starting in 1952, Venture for Victory, an American ministry that sent Christian athletes overseas, began annually sending a basketball team to Taiwan. Inspired by the team’s athletic skills and the testimonies they shared, Lin signed up for their distance learning Bible class and started to memorize verses. When he reached Romans 7:24—What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?—he was deeply moved. Paul’s words were nearly identical to what he had written in his diary, a realization that stirred his interest in Christianity.

At the invitation of his younger sister, he started attending Sunday school at Fuqian Road Baptist Church. The program was led by an older woman from the mainland who prayed for her students’ salvation and implored them to seriously learn about God’s Word. Lin began to actively participate in church and was baptized during his first year of high school.

After graduating, Lin studied politics at Soochow University and pursued a master’s degree in diplomacy from National Chengchi University, in hopes of pursuing a career in foreign relations. However, through prayer, God convicted him to share the gospel with young people. As his son, Lin Chih-Hsiu, later recounted, “Instead of becoming an ambassador for a country on earth, my father became an ambassador for Christ.”

Lin subsequently became the dean of the College of Humanities and Education and the director of the Institute of Religion at Chung Yuan Christian University.

At the age of 35, Lin met Liu Yi-Ling, a 73-year-old Chinese American Christian publisher who wanted to share the gospel by starting a magazine. Lin, who had originally met Liu in Taiwan at a gathering of Christian writers, was not sold, telling him they lacked resources and manpower. But one day, as Lin was doing his morning devotional, he read the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish. “I was agitated and contacted Liu immediately to share my feelings with him,” Lin said. “Stop talking and just come help,” responded Liu.

Dubbed Yu Zhou Guang (宇宙光, Cosmic Light), a nod to their vision to share Jesus’ light to the world, the magazine launched in 1973 and published Christian testimonies and more general reflections. Though Lin’s initial commitments were limited to writing the foreword of the new publication, he soon took a leadership position that required him to contend with navigating a barebones staff and a meager budget. At times, issues piled up in one volunteer’s living room because there was no money for postage funds.

In 1974, Lin traveled abroad for the first time when he attended the First International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland, having been asked to help edit Chinese coverage of the event. He was shocked when he learned that someone whom he had assumed was a hippie was actually a speaker.

“He said that if you want to preach the gospel to hippies, you must first be a hippie yourself, and then you must accept their identity, stand in their position, and speak Christian words that they can understand,” he later wrote.

These insights helped focus Lin’s vision for Cosmic Light, which he understood as “gospel preparatory work.” Trying to attract the attention of non-Christians, the publication included contributions from non-Christian writers and engaged contemporary ideas. Though Lin said this sometimes resulted in pushback, he explained that he was trying to intentionally locate good soil and then sow seeds, “instead of just sowing seeds randomly and letting the seeds wither.”

In time, local and international support began to reach the ministry, and over the next 25 years, Cosmic Light transformed into the Christian Cosmic Light Holistic Care Organization. While Lin and his team continued to publish the magazine and another monthly publication, they opened a Christian book publishing house, a counseling center, and a research center that studied the intersection of Christianity and Chinese history and culture. There was also a choir and an orchestra to share the gospel through art.

The eclectic nature of the organization’s work and the lack of profitability at one point prompted Lin’s friend Ma Kuo-Kuang to describe him as a “fool for life” and the ministry as a “business for fools.”

“Serving at Cosmic Light is a lonely path. Without 80 percent foolishness, the staff who dedicate themselves to the cause would not be able to persist,” Lin himself noted. “Cosmic Light is a group of Christians who are committed to their faith and willingly burn their lives at the altar as a burnt offering, to accomplish the work that honors God and helps people.”

The desire to serve others led Lin to make numerous volunteer trips with Operation Dawn to parts of Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the “Golden Triangle” to serve those struggling with drug abuse and addiction. After Lin invited the rehabilitation ministry to establish its presence in Taiwan, he became Operation Dawn’s new president.

In 2003, Lin also became the president of Bethany Children’s Home, an institution established by British missionary Gladys Aylward. Noting the increasing number of neglected Taiwanese children, Lin recruited Christians to move in as foster parents, hoping to create a restorative environment. In 2021, the organization opened a 12-story building, increasing its capacity to minister to children in poverty or with special needs through providing space for partner organizations World Vision and Angel Heart.

Though Lin’s relationship to Cosmic Light changed throughout his life, he remained with the ministry until his death, never taking a salary. In his biography, Sha Gua Yi Shi (Fools for Life), he noted that his work there had not come without sacrifice. Yet “the return I see with my own eyes in these 50 years, where numerous people’s lives have been changed for ultimate meaning thanks to Cosmic Light’s silent transformative work, fills my heart with gratitude.”

“Are we fools? Actually, not at all,” he wrote. “If we want to live out my motto, ‘Fool for Life,’ and overcome obstacles and advance with joy, we need to have an outlook on life that is greater than career achievement, power, money, and benefits, so that we are able to sing joyful hymns, one after another, even in the midst of busyness, in want, or in suffering.”

Lin is survived by his wife, Chang Show-Foong; son, Lin Chih-Hsiu; and daughter, Lin Chih-Hsin.

[ This article is also available in 简体中文 and 繁體中文. ]

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