For Wayne and Roni Ragan, it began with traveling to Taiwan to distribute more than 1,000 Bibles translated into Mandarin.
It was one of several missionary trips the Cataula, Ga., couple, who is associated with Beallwood Baptist Church in Columbus, had taken to different locations in Asia and Central America.
“We have gone to places where Jesus Christ is not known,” he said.
He is a retired probation officer and she worked as an executive assistant at RiverTown Church in Columbus.
In October 2016, they moved to Taiwan and got involved with the nonprofit Happy Home World Alliance, which was established in Taiwan in 2003. It recently began expanding worldwide and is now Happy Home World Alliance International.
HHWAI is a charitable organization working to promote the strengthening of the family as a foundation for a strong and prosperous society. Work is done with local schools and civic organizations, as well as government and welfare organizations to encourage marriage, the joy of bearing children, family communication and all the building blocks for a happy home.
The Ragans go into public schools and universities to discuss family values.
“Better relationships in the family can make a better community,” Roni Ragan said.
A big part of building better relationships is more conversations.
“It is about listening not just to hear, but to understand,” she said.
The Ragans returned to this country this month, bringing with them a delegation of 11 students and three adults from Taichung, Taiwan, a sister city of Columbus since 1997. They spent time in Columbus during the first week of August. Events were scheduled in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Canada.
“They needed to get a look at a different culture, to view families here,” Wayne Ragan said of the students.
And, especially, to get a good look at Christianity.
Among the hosts here were former Columbus restaurant owner Miriam Eve Tidwell, the chairwoman for HHWAI in this country, and her husband, retired radiation oncologist Dr. Jack Tidwell. Both are deeply involved in the organization. Dr. Kao Chun-Ming is chairman in Taiwan.
“This is all about world peace,” said Jack Tidwell, while sharing a lunch provided for the delegation by Burger King.
Among places visited were WHINSEC at Fort Benning, the Columbus Museum and the Muscogee County Jail. The group visited County Line Church in Warm Springs, Ga., and Jimmy Carter’s Sunday school class in Plains, Ga. They met with Mayor Teresa Tomlinson.
Jack Tidwell said that at the Columbus Public Library the students learned about the U.S. Constitution from storyteller Alton Russell, about the life of public servants from State Rep. Richard Smith and about ethics in public service from former Columbus Mayor Bob Poydasheff.
One student, 18-year-old Crystal Huang, was impressed with much of what he had seen. He was most interested in the criminal system.
“In Taiwan, jail is just for punishment. Here, they work to make the prisoners good again. They know some people just make bad decisions,” he said.
Brenda Lee, 21, said the temperature here was about the same at Taiwan but the atmosphere is warmer.
“More people smile. They talk face to face with each other instead of just communicating with technology. That is nice,” Lee said.
Huang agreed, saying that because of technology many people in Taiwan are “kind of cold.”
Roni Ragan said the HHWAI began in Taiwan because of a falling birthrate, high numbers of abortion, divorce and sexual assault.
Brandon Chang, the delegation leader and the organization’s general secretary, explained HHWAI’s Family Table World Peace Initiative.
The organization believes strong relationships begin with family members talking at the table while having meals, something not done often in Taiwan.
“We want to unite all nations to promote the concept of building a happy home. This is a powerful concept, which unites races, religions, genders ages, communities, cities and nations. We want to help develop happy communities and nurture healthy cultures,” Chang said.
He said the core values of HHWAI are to unite all nations to promote the value and sacredness of life and family.
“As the family goes, so goes the nation,” Chang said. “We want to transform the family table to become the fountain of love, hope, truth, unity peace and health and growth. The vision is to empower future generations of leaders. We envision a global network of family education, helping families to foster a healthier world.”
Jack Tidwell said it is at the family table where the little ones learn character expectations and all members learn and practice empathy, the Golden Rule.
“It becomes obvious in today’s political climate that all children must learn it before little punches become big punches,” Tidwell said. “True power for peace lies in our grass roots. We must learn that little ripples of love can empower and flood the world with peace.”