For many years during difficult financial times, aboriginal families in Taiwan would sell their young daughters to the prostitution industry controlled by the underground mafia. Child advocate groups estimated there were 60,000 child prostitutes at the time.
Katherine Wu (Wu Fang-fang), a Mennonite pastor in Hualien, Taiwan, became aware of this situation and determined to rescue girls from prostitution and prevent this flesh trade through education in the aboriginal villages on the East coast of Taiwan.
Katherine established the Good Shepherd Center in 1986 for this ministry. At the center, rescued girls learned new vocational skills to better their livelihood.
One morning in 1993 when Katherine arrived at the center for work, three hooded persons appeared and attacked her, beating her brutally.
“When they [the attackers] first grabbed me, I thought it was a robbery,” recounted Katherine in an article in The Mennonite. “When they stuffed rags into my mouth, I thought that someone wanted to kidnap me to get something from my husband. When they started to punch me, I knew that it was because of my work at Good Shepherd.”
Before she went unconscious, she was able to ring the doorbell. Staff came to the door and rescued her. As she lay in the hospital, her family, friends and staff of the center came to her and said she could not go back to work at the center. “The next time they will kill you,” they said.
Katherine responded, “Jesus loves those girls, and I love them too.” A few weeks later, Katherine returned to work at the center, despite fears of a second attack.
“When I walk outdoors, I am always looking behind me to see if anyone is following me,” Katherine said soon after the attack. But she also testified that reading God’s Word and praying “moment by moment” brought her encouragement as she recovered.
The attack received widespread coverage in the national media, and the Taiwanese government, along with many organizations and individuals, responded with an outpouring of financial support for the work of the Good Shepherd Center. The government also took action to curtail the aboriginal sex trade.
Eventually, the trade was eliminated, and the center revised its ministry to meet the needs of abused women. The Good Shepherd Center is an organization of the Mennonite Church in Taiwan.
Written by: Sheldon Sawatzky, who worked in Taiwan with Commission on Overseas Mission (General Conference Mennonite Church) and Mennonite Mission Network over a span of 47 years and is an acquaintance of Katherine Wu.
Additional source: Carla Reimer and Chris Leuz, “Beating of Taiwanese Mennonite Pastor Most Likely Due to Her Efforts to Provide Refuge to Child Prostitutes,” The Mennonite (1993).
“Hualien Street” by Ken Mayer is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Photo of Katherine Wu provided by Sheldon Sawatzky.