her Life


By Tom R Rowe, Jr.

Few qualify as a Proverbs 31 woman. Madeline Tan is one who does.

Madeline was born in Toisan, Guangdong, China, to Ying Tom and Stephen Sing Wat Lee. Her early childhood education was in the Far East, excelling in her subjects to meet the demands of her strict father, who expected and encouraged her to do her best in every endeavor. Madeline often said the fact she attended a Christian school in Hong Kong and her mother’s strong faith, planted Holy seeds in the field of her heart.

Madeline left China in 1947, arriving in America in March of that year to complete her college work at the University of California, Berkeley, graduating in 1951. She soon met her future husband, Gilbert Tan, a medical student from Hong Kong, Gilbert and Madeline married in 1952. They established a family altar and worshipped the Living Christ from the day of their marriage until Gilbert’s untimely death from leukemia in 1958, leaving Madeline a widow with three small children to raise on her own.

Though the ensuing years were fraught with hardship, Madeline’s faith did not waver. She continued family devotions daily, just as she and Gilbert had, and was faithful to see that her children were nurtured in the admonition of the Lord and were diligent in scholastics, and social interaction. Stephen, Winston, and Teri were taught obedience and respect, a discipline found in most Asian households.

Madeline taught school and provided all of the necessities of life for her children. They were active in the Berkeley Chinese Community Church and participated in the activities Madeline felt would foster Spiritual growth in them, but she was quick to resist those activities, that might lead them down a path of aggrandizement. The three siblings were all taught violin and became accomplished musicians. They were invited to appear on The San Francisco Talent Show; however, Madeline’s response was a firm “NO,” declaring her intention for investing in their music education was for them to praise and worship the Lord, not to draw attention to self.  

In 1971, during a time of prayer, Madeline experienced a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon her with the Biblical evidence of speaking in tongues, language heaven sent to her for praise and worship. Soon her teenaged children shared her experience and entered as a family into a new dimension of faith and blessings from the Lord. 

I had the privilege of meeting Madeline shortly thereafter while I was ministering at a fellowship in Oakland, California. Her hunger for the word and her enthusiastic response deeply moved me. Following that meeting, she shared with me some of her story and expressed a desire for me to meet her three children. That wish was granted when I met them at a convention in Canton, Ohio, in 1972. It was clearly a Kairos moment, and I knew this was a family with whom I would establish a life-long friendship.

In 1975, the Tan family left California to become a part of a Christian community of about one hundred fifty people in British Columbia, Canada, called Shiloh. 

The following is Madeline’s own words about their twelve years there: 

“This was such a radical change. It was almost impossible for the human mind to comprehend why a well-established woman would suddenly sell out, give up houses, job, children’s education, and other sources of security. Still, I was convinced that God had something to teach my family and me at Shiloh…I spent twelve years of my life in this wilderness Christian community. It was indeed a very special place to learn to trust God for every need: from physical healing to sunshine and rain for the crops for food…We lived, worked, and worshiped together, to exercise the principle of faith, to submit to one another, and to receive the dealing of God in our daily lives.”

Madeline’s experience and expertise as a teacher were enhanced by the anointing the Lord gave her to train teachers by holding workshops throughout the more than two hundred thirty-five schools established in our network of churches throughout the world. In 1978, Madeline made her first trip to Alaska to help train teachers, but her mission extended beyond the need of teachers. She found herself in the shoes of an evangelist as elders, husbands and wives, and people at enmity with others in the community began repenting, asking for forgiveness, and crying out for broken relationships to be healed. One of the communities in our circuit had a virtual revival when sixteen children confessed Christ as savior. Many of those children, now grown adults with children of their own, are still happily serving the Lord with gladness, 

After Shiloh Community closed in 1987, Madeline was already established and respected among the Ministerial leadership and the Body of Christ at large around the world. Her three children were soon married, and grandchildren were being born (eventually seven), which increased her joy and brought great satisfaction to her busy life.  Much like the Apostle Paul, Madeline would often spend lengths of time in various places, walking along side those she was training. Whether it was for two weeks, a month, or longer Madeline believed (like Jim Elliot) that wherever you are, be all there. A large portion of her time was spent in Taiwan teaching English as a Second Language. While in the cities of Trujillo and Pucallpa, Peru she took a team composed of volunteers from eight different countries to conduct A Teacher/Training Seminar and opening a school in Peru. Her unselfish attitude and solid commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ, was at the heart of her ministry. She loved people and always served the Lord with gladness.

Madeline Tan crisscrossed the Nation and the world, taking a message of hope and love to a people with a heart for Kingdom culture. From the frozen tundra of Alaska to the jungles of South America; from the white cliffs of Dover to the lush green hills of Ireland; from the canals of Amsterdam to the plains of Spain; from Atlanta to Asia; from Sequim, Washington to Searsport, Maine; from Canada to Colombia, and cities and towns in between, multitudes have been taught, trained, and transformed, thanks to the faithfulness of a little widow woman, Madeline Lee Tan, who had caught a vision which extended beyond her own house and impacted a generation of ministers (like me), parents, teachers and young people across the globe. We love you, Sister Madeline, and thank God for bringing you into our lives. We will miss you, but we know where you are, and we will meet again.

Tom R. Rowe, Jr.
March 2020