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Power of prayer stirs, saves Taiwan’s leading criminal


TAIPEI, Taiwan (BP)–Chen Chin Hsing once said he’d raped so many women that he’d lost track of the count.
Besides rape, he’s been convicted of kidnapping, gunrunning and murder. By all accounts, he’s considered Taiwan’s most notorious criminal.
Today on death row in a Taiwan prison, Chen awaits a June execution for his crimes. But spiritually speaking, his life is just beginning.
That’s because Chen recently accepted Christ as Savior, according to reports from Southern Baptist International Mission Board missionaries in Taiwan. Chen came to Christ through the witness of an evangelical Taiwanese pastor who leads a prison ministry in Taiwan.
Southern Baptist prayer supporters played a part in Chen’s decision for Christ — and in the safe release of a Baptist family he held hostage.
The story began last year when Chen, on the run from police, stormed the Taipei, Taiwan, home of Col. McGill “Mac” Alexander, a South African diplomat, taking him and his family hostage. The Alexanders then were active members of Taipei’s Calvary International Baptist Church, an English-language congregation where IMB missionary Bill Martin is pastor. They’ve since returned to South Africa.
During a 25-hour standoff with police — covered live by Taiwanese media — Chen became agitated and began firing wildly from two guns. One bullet passed through Alexander’s leg and the wrist and back of his 20-year-old daughter, Melanie, before lodging in her abdomen.
“Chen showed uncharacteristic concern for their condition by allowing them to be taken from the house for treatment,” recounted Martin, from Eldon, Mo. “They were transported to the local hospital where our church members were prayerfully waiting.”
But they weren’t the only ones praying. Amazingly, Chen allowed Alexander’s wife, Ann, to send e-mail messages from their apartment. In those messages she alerted prayer supporters of their crisis while she and another daughter, 13-year-old Christine, and their Chinese infant foster child were still hostages. At the same time, IMB missionaries and other Christians in Taiwan notified evangelicals worldwide of the prayer need.
Meanwhile, members of Calvary International Baptist Church claimed Matthew 18:18-20 in their praying. “Those verses say (among other things), ‘Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven,'” Martin noted. “There were a lot of things Chen could have done (to further harm the family), but we felt like God bound him.”
Alexander and his daughter later fully recovered from their gunshot wounds. One surgeon commented that the path of the bullet had to be redirected to miss Melanie’s critical blood vessels and organs.
During the ordeal, the Alexanders prayed continuously, too. Sometimes they prayed aloud in front of Chen, who repeatedly threatened to kill himself rather than be captured by police. Later Chen admitted that those prayers impressed him. He also was touched by a picture of a cross that Christine drew during the standoff. Above the cross, she wrote, “God loves you.”
During negotiations with police, Chen’s wife arrived on the scene. Eventually, Chen surrendered. As he was taken away, Ann told Chen of God’s love and forgiveness and hugged him. She also witnessed to Chen’s wife, who has since accepted Christ, along with Chen’s son. The Alexanders visited Chen in prison and took him a Bible.
But the Alexanders used the crisis to share the gospel with others besides the Chens. In media interviews, they spoke openly about their faith. “They said it was God’s grace that saved them, that the only thing they could take credit for was praying. That God did all the rest,” related Martin. Months later, the Alexanders’ witness continues through the production of two evangelistic videos about the event. Martin uses one of the videos as an outreach tool in home Bible studies. “Everyone in Taiwan knows about (the crisis), so it’s really an attention-getter,” he said.
IMB missionaries in Taiwan request prayer for the distribution of these videos among non-Christians. They also seek prayers for Chen, his family and the families of Chen’s crime victims.
“We know that prayer is the only thing that saved the Alexanders,” Martin added. “There’s no other explanation. Mr. Chen had nothing to lose; he’d murdered before. We believe it’s the prayers of people around the world that made a difference.”