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Autumn 2002 | Volume 25, Number 4 | Features
Live From Taiwan


Doris Brougham was recently in the news when ORTV formed alliances with three of Taiwan's universities and its police force to improve students' and police officers' English.

Deana McEachern sat in the Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan) in Seattle, embroiled in red tape. She needed a visa to visit her aunt, Doris Brougham, but new obstacles arose with every passing minute.

“I’m sorry,” she finally said to the embassy clerk. “I forgot to give you my aunt’s Chinese name: Peng Meng-hui.” The clerk stopped short, quickly left and returned with his boss. “You’re Peng Meng-hui’s niece?” asked the supervisor. “She’s highly respected in Taiwan. I learned English from her!” McEachern soon left with her visa in hand.

Brougham, virtually a household name in Asia, has a simple explanation for her fame: “If you give God your life, you don’t know what he’s going to do with it.” She received Taiwan’s highest civilian award — the Order of the Brilliant Star With Violet Grand Cordon — from President Chen Shui Bian in April 2002. And recently Taiwan’s minister of the interior came to her offices in Taipei to award her with permanent resident status, making her one of the first foreigners to receive it.

A 1953 alumna of Seattle Pacific College, Brougham has lived in Asia for more than 50 years, remaining even when political climates grew hot. “I was evacuated three times when the Communists came through,” she says.

Brougham’s journey East began in childhood, when she heard about a spiritual famine of sorts in China. Only one-tenth of 1 percent of the Chinese population was Christian, and she was determined to do something about it. After attending Simpson Bible School in San Francisco and the University of Washington, she packed her bags and traveled to China for what she expected to be a two-year mission. She returned to Seattle in 1953 just long enough to earn a degree at SPC.

A one-time member of the Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra, Brougham played her trumpet in rural Northwest China, literally drawing villagers down from the mountain to hear the Word of God. But she couldn’t reach people fast enough. “They were dying faster than I could tell them about God,” she says.

A short time later, while on the east coast of Taiwan, Brougham saw people crowded around radios in homes and temples. She asked God to send someone to establish radio ministry. God’s reply: Why not you?

Reluctant at first, she found a pastor to preach God’s good news, recruited a small singing group and, in her home, recorded a variety gospel program on her tape recorder — the first brought into Taiwan. Once she’d received permission from the Taiwan government station, BCC, to air the programs, Brougham began pedaling her bike to the station to deliver the tapes. A few years later, she founded Overseas Radio & Television Inc. (ORTV).

With fellow Seattleite Leland Haggerty, Brougham helped begin the gospel radio station, “The Voice of Salvation.” In 1962, they added the “Heavenly Melody” telecasts, featuring the Heavenly Melody singing ensemble performing original Asian Christian music.

Over time, Brougham refocused the broadcasts to teach English, often incorporating topics such as forgiveness and compassion into the language curriculum. “When we teach English, we don’t actually teach just English, but a global view — lifestyles, health, values and relationships,” she says.

That gets tricky in China, though, where ORTV is now also heard. Brougham and her staff stay away from sensitive topics, and when American-Chinese diplomatic relations are strained, she says, they feel it. Yet with her love of teaching as strong today as decades ago, Brougham remains one of the primary English language teachers in Asia. Known as Teacher Peng, she’s credited with teaching English to thousands.

Brougham’s mission work continues as well. She and her colleagues hold Bible studies, rallies, conferences and youth camps. The singing group Heavenly Melody still tours and shares the gospel.

And ORTV continues to grow. Today the station reaches hundreds of millions of people in Asia, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Europe, Brazil, Canada and the United States. It broadcasts several popular radio and television shows, “Let’s Talk in English,” “Studio Classroom” and “Studio Coffee Corner,” and it publishes the magazine Advanced.

Last summer, Brougham traveled to Seattle with the crew and actors of “Let’s Talk in English” and “Studio Coffee Corner.” In Seattle, they filmed episodes for the shows’ entire year, with each segment delivering English lessons related to events such as opening a bank account, going to a restaurant and enrolling in an American university. Brougham insisted that the university featured be Seattle Pacific University.

Calling herself a “penny-pinching missionary,” Brougham packed her stay with activity up and down the West Coast. Heavenly Melody joined her to tour in Seattle; Portland, Oregon; Vancouver, British Columbia; Los Angeles; and San Francisco.

McEachern accompanied the group and saw again the extent of her aunt’s influence. Many concert-goers told McEachern they’d learned English from her aunt, and people lined up for the autograph of Teacher Peng.

Still surprised at the turns of her life, Brougham shrugs. “The main thing is to be willing to do what God asks you to do,” she says. “I had to learn that from the very beginning.”


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