Lillian Gabrielsen (1927.03.01 – 2014.11.23) was a missionary of Norwegian Mission Alliance and sent to Taiwan in 1958. After 35 years she retired in 1993 and returned to Norway. Miss Gabrielsen was engaged in health care, social service, and missionary work in Taiwan. Lillian Gabrielsen passed away in Gjovik, Norway, in November 2014. She was born March 1st 1927 in Oslo as the daughter of Helene and John Gabrielsen, but moved from Grefsen in Oslo to Biri before she with her family settled down in Gjovik when she about 10 years old.Her mother lived by sewing for people. The first Sunday after moving to Gjovik, an elderly cousin who lived nearby, came and asked if Lillian wanted to join in Sunday school. Yes, she did. Her mother was not a Christin, so the little girl had not been raised in a Christian family. After 3 years in Sunday school, nearly 13 years old, on February 5th 1940, she decided to follow Jesus.
At the age 16, Miss Taranger invited Gabrielsen for a visit to a nursing home at Kapp. At dinner Miss Taranger had a short devotional reading from Isaiah. 6.8 “..Whom shall I send and who will go for us?”
Photo by Ruth Hu.
– I knew that it was aimed at one of us sitting around the table, and it hit me like a shot, Lillian Gabrielsen once said. She felt the call to be a missionary.
At the same age Gabrielsen became a Sunday school teacher. She was allowed to use a whole floor in Gjovik elementary school with four to five classrooms.
Each class had two teachers who shared on each Sunday. Gabrielsen shared class with tailor Evensen, the head of the Prayer house. Many children wanted to join her class, because she was the youngest teacher, had short hair with no top in her neck and did not use glasses like the other teachers did. When the class grew to 40, she and Evensen shared class between themselves.
Soon after her decision to be a Christian, Germans occupied Norway. They also took the Prayer house where Gabrielsen used to go, so the meetings were moved to the People´s Hall. Close to her school, the Pentecostal congregation and the Salvation Army had there locations. She often went to their meetings as well. One of her uncles was a Pentecostal.
Gabrielsen loved working with children and was a good story teller. She had desire to become a teacher, but did not want to take on debt. As a missionary, she wanted nothing to tie her home in Norway.
After junior high school she attended a Bible school in fall 1948 and began nursing education at Aker Hospital in Oslo, graduating 1954. The school offered free living and pocket money. She also took postgraduate as surgical nurse in 1957 as she knew it would be of great use for Taiwan.
In 1958 she was sent by Norwegian Mission Alliance to Taiwan. First she studied Chinese at same time as she worked for Pingtung Christian Clinic. Then Miss Lillian took a language course in Taipei before she returned to Pingtung helping the Norwegian doctors Dr. Olav Bjorgaas in his lepracy clinic and Dr. Kristoffer Fotland in the operating theatre. In 1960 she moved to Changhua to take over the leprosy and evangelical work there. She sometimes went to the Chrisitian hospitals in Changhua, Puli and Pingtung to teach surgical technique and hygiene.
The winter 1960-1961 Frank (10-11), the oldest son of Kristoffer Fotland in Pingtung, went to the American dormitory school Morrison Academy in Taichung . He travelled home to Pingtung only one weekend every six weeks.
– Instead of sitting in the dormitory alone the other five weekends, I went to the neighbour city Changhua to visit Aunt Lillian as I called her, Frank Fotland recalls.
– She came to the bus station in Changhua and fetched me on her bicycle. She was like my second mother. I really looked forward to stay with her also because she served chocolate milk in the evening what I never got at home.
In 1966 Lillian Gabielsen stayed a time in Kaohsiung to help with leper, Sunday school and Bible school work. Then she moved back to Changhua for a couple of years doing work among young people and oscillated between Puli and Pingtung teaching surgical nursing.
When the Norwegian missionary Gudrun Stengel was to retire from her work in Hsinchu, Miss Gabrielsen moved north to take over the work. Except evangelic work the mission was also running a small home for handicapped children. Later Miss Lillian bought a property to build Bethany Children’s´ Home, an orphanage for 30 handicapped children. Many of the children were affected by poliomyelitis and had operations done by Dr. Kristoffer Fotland at Pingtung Christian Hospital. At Bethany the children received physical therapy, schooling and education.
In Hsinchu Miss Lillian Gabrielsen had three outposts with Sunday schools, riding her small scooter alone. Friends were anxious for her as a single missionary, but she told them she never felt unsafe in the traffic nor for criminals along the roads. In 1979 Josef Dahl, the Secretary General of her mission had his first visit to Taiwan, and Gabrielsen showed him her work by her scooter. (Photo).
The photo from 1979 shows Gabrielsen in front of one of the churches in Hsinchu. The building is today red.
Handicapped children were often hidden at home because the parents were ashamed and did´t know the children had a hope for a future. Miss Gabrielsen actively looked for homes with disabled children and asked the families to send their children to Bethany Children’s Home. As most families were poor and could not pay for the children´s accommodations, the Norwegian Missionary Alliance found private persons in Norway as sponsors.
In the beginning children with handicap had no access to primary schools in Taiwan. But thanks to the work of Dr. Olav Bjørgaas and Victory Home in Pingtung, they proved in 1965 that handicapped children could be the best students of the school. (http://www.norwaynews.com/en/~view.php?73BGhD58c8ih4672Qa4053gv7784dVX83544P52e84iQRQ88buQ6289)
Bethany Children’s Home made connection with the government to open special classes in Hsin-Chu Municipal Xi-Men Elementary School. Along with social service and physical therapy, Bethany Children’s Home also put up a shelter factory to teach the elder children skills and techniques to help them find a job. (Group photo from 1984.)
Often Miss Gabrielsen wrote articles for the mission magazine Misjonsvennen. The photo by Jeanette Landfeld of her writing Christmas cards was published in Dagbladet Dec. 10th, 2002
After seven periods and 35 years in Taiwan, she retired in Norway in 1993.
– My service on Taiwan was very versatile, it made it possible to hold out, she once said.
– I learned Mandarin Chinese as the official main language, and gradually Taiwanese and “Hakka” spoken by a separate ethnic group in Taiwan.
In an interview with Norway Today two years ago, she said
– I wish I had internet. Then I could maybe get in touch with “my” 160 kids from the orphanage for handicapped children. It was a success. Some of them have become professors. Two of them have taught in America, one is now back and teach in Taiwan.
Ruth Hu in Taipei heard about Miss Gabrielsen who in stead of finding a husband and make her own family, dedicated to use her whole life in care of the poor, sick, weak, and disabled people in Taiwan. Ms. Hu admired the sacrifice and dedication of the missionary´s life and nominated Lillian Gabrielsen to get an award from Taiwan. Ms. Hu went to Norway three times to visit Miss Gabrielsen.
She did some research among former children and staff of Bethany Children´s Home.
It was a wall around Bethany Children´s Home.
– Sometimes it was shortage of food, the budget was tight, Chang Wen-Cheng (in the middle in the photo) told Ruth Hu (left). He now works for the Department of Transportation, Taipei City Government.
– Boys and girls got the same amount, but we boys were more hungry. So when we heard a street vendor passing with his bell, we in secret trough a rope over the wall to buy more food with our pocket money.
– I remember as elementary school student, I used braces and crutches when walking. In those days, the shoes couldn’t be separated from the braces to be changed or cleaned. Therefore many students got infected with the Athlete’s Foot disease.
Miss Gabrielsen noticed this and washed our feet with great patience.
At my graduation year of junior high school, I rode my motorbike for a job interview at a factory. Then I was hit by an other motorcycle. A neighbour saw the accident and called Miss Gabrielsen. She rushed to help and accompanied me to the hospital for medication; She really took care of me like her own child.
Miss Gabrielsen lived out her faith and passed it on to me. She showed us how through prayers, she experienced Jesus’ help and guidance in life’s major and minor things. That helped me live and work in the society and face my life optimistically.
Ms. Chang Mei-Ling, standing right behind Miss Gabrielsen in the group photo, was a long term resident of Bethany and became after graduation a staff member. She now works for Eden Social Welfare Foundation. She said:
– Before the children started their homework after school, she told Bible stories and constantly encouraged and praised them. She built up their characters of self-confidence and gratefulness. Miss Gabrielsen always put her efforts to make a positive environment with love and never punished the children.
Every Sunday morning, she led the children to attend Sunday worship service at Meng-En Church. Every time when these disabled children with crutches and braces on the way to church, they were talking and walking joyfully with smiles. People were amazed how Miss Gabrielsen influenced these children and made such changes and impact on their life.
The mission work in Changhua and Hsinchu has been taken over by Chinese Christian Alliance Church (CCAC).
Lillian Gabrielsen returned to Taiwan twice after she retired, last time in 2003. Then the children´s home was gone. But she got the honour of cutting the ribbon for the new Bethany Home senior senter with 48 beds, established by CCAC in collaboration with the Taiwanese authorities.
Last year, Ruth Hu invited some friends of Lillian Gabrielsen to visit her in Norway. Standing from left are her former foster children Chang Wen-Cheng, Stan Lee and Chang Mei-Ling. Lillian at once knew their names and was so happy to see them.
As a memory of her, Ruth Hu made a film on You Tube:
The funeral service of Miss Garielsen was on December 4 in the cruciform Biri Church, dating from 1777. (Interior photo by Ylva Shen). Relatives, friends, former missionaries to Taiwan as well as represent in Norway for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.Taiwan, saw Lillian Gabrielsen off to her grave.
Bethany in Hsinchu, Taiwan, will have a memorial service on December 28th at No. 491, Sec. 1 Yanping Road. It will be reunion of former residents and staff members who together with political authorities will honour Lillian Gabrielsen.
Mr. Geir Yeh Fotland – Taiwan National Correspondent NORWAY NEWS.com
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