Though announced only days before the service, Pastor Chiu's wake this past Sunday in Fremont, CA was attended by over a thousand people - with many more sending their regards from across the U.S. and from China. It's a testament to the influence and goodwill he generated in the Bay Area's Chinese-American community and beyond, and a fitting tribute to his life of service.
In an age of excess and high-roller celebrity-pastor ministries, Stephen Chiu lived in spartan contrast, measuring his success by what he gave away, not what he accumulated. One of the most memorable moments of the memorial was a story shared by his son during the eulogy. Chiu's generosity to financially-strapped new immigrants was legendary: gifts of clothing to him often found themselves unopened and re-sent to a needy family while he happily shuffled along in worn clothing and threadbare socks. Finally, in exasperation, friends and family chipped in for a new suit, shirts and socks, each bearing the label: "Notice: For Use by Pastor Chiu Only - NOT to be re-sent!"
It's not often one hears laughter at a wake, but that anecdote inspired a welcome pause of mirth from the audience.
Although apostasy has long separated me from the faith of my youth, I maintain tremendous respect for men and women who've chosen to dedicate their lives to serve higher purposes; while I may not share their belief or understanding of God, the generosity of spirit and abundance of heart they exhibit are worthwhile things to aspire to, wherever my wandering soul finds itself.
Rest in peace, Pastor Chiu - you will be missed.
And if you could put in a good word for me to the Big Guy, I'd appreciate it. :)
Pastor Chiu's study bible - note the wear on the bottom corners
Anthony Chiu (and interpreter) recounting his father's life
Stephen Chiu's personal effects - letters, photographs and other significant documents
Photograph of a young itinerant pastor, letter to his wife and passport
Closeup of the letter (can anyone read those Chinese characters?)