Tainan resident Ruth Brown and her husband Lin Cheng-hui (
The 488-ping (1,613m2) parcel of land alone is valued at an estimated NT$100 million.
PHOTO: HUANG WEN-HUANG, TAIPEI TIMES
Over the years, Brown, 88, and her husband have donated land worth more than NT$400 million in the Tainan area to build churches and daycare centers. The new service center for the elderly caps off Brown's 57 years of service to the people of Tainan.
In 1944, 25-year-old Ruth Brown, a trained nurse, became a missionary and left her home in Texas for China to work with people suffering from Hansen's disease, also known as leprosy.
Six years later, she was expelled from the officially atheist new China and came to Taiwan.
Hansen's disease was so feared in Taiwan at the time that medical professionals who worked with patients suffering from the disease were often ostracized.
Huang Te-cheng (黃德成), executive director of the Tainan YMCA Social Welfare Foundation, said that families with members suffering from Hansen's disease were ashamed and would not let them leave home. Brown often had to go to patients' homes to persuade their relatives to let them be treated.
In 1950, Brown opened the first home for Hansen's disease sufferers from Yunlin, Chiayi, and Tainan counties.
Fear and ignorance
Fear and ignorance forced Brown to locate the home on the outskirts of Tainan City, in an area then largely given over to fish ponds.
Frightened by Brown's disfigured patients, local residents referred to the home as "the filthy hospital."
Brown's response was to move into the home and live with the patients.
Her courage and dedication attracted the attention of local landowner Lin, who eventually married the nurse from Texas.
After their marriage, Lin built the Linan Presbyterian Church on land that he donated.
He also supported Brown's work at the home for Hansen's disease patients until 1975, when the last patients were transferred to a specialized dermatology clinic at the new Sin Lau Hospital in Madou.
Brown also ran a center for victims of childhood polio, a serious health problem in Taiwan until the early 1970s.
With construction on the new service center at their old home about to begin, Brown and her husband have moved to a modest apartment in a nearby high rise.
Over the last six decades, Tainan's health care needs have changed as Taiwan has developed from a poor agricultural country into an aging post-industrial society.
What has not changed is Brown and Lin's generosity in serving those needs, Huang said.
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