Advent Church and St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei 成果發表會 Show Time!

Two weekends of non-stop music, drumming and dancing!

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Yes, two different presentations, a double Show Time.   And it was all wonderful!

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Many of our churches put on an end-of-school-year performance for each of their community groups to do a presentation of what they’ve learned, just before they finish for the summer. These community groups are organized by the church, using church facilities, but with outside teachers or coaches, who may or may not be related to the church.  The idea is to encourage people in the local community and church members to attend the classes together. The students usually pay a small fee, but not always.  Classes cover very diverse topics, for all ages, for the active and inactive, for men and women, happening at all times of the day / evening / weekend.  And of course, all fun!

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The performance time is a great chance for the churches to bring everyone together and get to know each other, and through that, we hope that some more of the local community can join and maybe become part of the church ~ but there’s no pressure.

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Last Saturday was Advent Church’s first ever show time, held in the church centre, and today was the turn of St. John’s Cathedral.

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Some of the highlights are the Taiko Drumming Classes at both churches…

Then there’s Taichi at Advent Church….

Pilates, a new class at St. John’s Cathedral…

Praise Dance…

At Advent Church, there’s the student fellowship music group who welcome all students to come and learn …

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And Advent Church also organizes dancing classes for the neighbouring junior high school children…

We had lots of people in attendance at both church presentations, and we finished either with refreshments (Advent Church) or by taking zhong-zi home for lunch, this being the Dragon Boat Festival weekend (St. John’s Cathedral).  The cathedral also had some games and craft activities arranged for after the presentations, plus a lucky draw.  Both churches also had their clergy present to pray and / or give a short talk and welcome everyone.  Ah, there’s lots going on!

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My English classes run at both churches, here we are at Advent Church, performing a song from Sound of Music…

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At St. John’s Cathedral, we put a lot of effort into creating, rehearsing and performing a drama ~ of a class of ‘children’ who all have some ‘problem’, and each thinks of a great excuse to explain why they are daydreaming in class, haven’t done their homework, worn their uniform, late everyday, took a day off yesterday, their dog is barking outside or they’re falling asleep in the class. Ah, they were great, so creative and very expressive!

This kind of Show-Time presentation is one of the best things about the church in Taiwan ~ they really try hard to integrate their different community service programmes into their main church outreach ministry, and really try hard to find ways of bringing the groups together and sharing a little of the Gospel with them.  My English classes are a mix of church members and those from the local community, and it is often through friendships made in the groups that those from the local community start to come along to the church and maybe from there come to faith.

So, if you’re a church wondering how to connect the dots with your seemingly-unconnected-and-very-different groups of people who use your buildings, then this is one way.  Many of them may well be looking for a chance to showcase what they do, so as to attract more members themselves. A termly Show-Time is one way.  Highly recommended!

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Thanks to all those who worked so hard to make these presentations happen, and of course…  Thanks be to Almighty God!

Bishop David J. H. Lai assumes the position of Chair of St. John’s University Board of Trustees 賴主教 榮信董事 就任聖約翰科技大學 董事長感恩禮拜 Thanksgiving Service @ Advent Church, Taiwan

St. John’s University (SJU) 聖約翰科技大學 Board of Trustees recently elected Bishop David J. H. Lai as their new chair.  Yesterday at Advent Church (on the SJU campus), we held a Thanksgiving Service in which the official university seal was formally presented to Bishop Lai, as a sign of his new position. The presentation was made by 3 of the trustees ~ from left to right in the photo below, Mr. Yeh Zai-Cheng, Rev. Peter D. P. Chen, and to the right of Bishop Lai is Mr. Lai Jun-Nian (also chair of the SJU alumni).

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In the opening words of his sermon, Bishop Lai expressed his sincere thanks to the outgoing chair of the trustees, Dr. Cecilia Koo, who has stepped down after over 40 years of devoted service to SJU.  Unfortunately she was unable to come to the service yesterday.  He also expressed his thanks to Dr. J. S. Wang, former secretary to the board.  As he continued his sermon, Bishop Lai encouraged us all to work together focusing on 5 ‘P’s, of Purpose 目標, Passion 熱忱, Profession 專業, Perseverance 毅力 and Performance 表現.  YES!

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The service was attended by church and university VIPs from far and wide. It was so wonderful to see so many people, the church was completely full!  Bishop Lai came to the service accompanied by his wife, Mrs. Lily Lai.  Some of the SJU Board of Trustees came too, Rev. Peter D. P. Chen and his wife, Rev. Elizabeth F. J. Wei, Dr. Winston Yu and his wife, Ms. Marjorie Kuo, also Mr. Yeh Zai-Cheng and Mr. Lai Jun-Nian.  Here they are – 3 smiling trustees on the left, 2 lovely wives on the right!

Also the new secretary to the Board of Trustees, Mr. Chen Chyi, who is also senior warden of Advent Church (his brother, Dr. Chen Gung is also a trustee).  He read a lesson, as did Mr. Richard B. S. Hu (photo below), chair of the Diocese of Taiwan Standing Committee….

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We were pleased to welcome some of the other diocesan Standing Committee members, Mr. Di Yun-Heng and Mr. Chuang Hsiao-Wu, who had both traveled from Kaohsiung.  Plus our diocesan treasurer Mrs. Amy B. H. Lin and her husband, Dr. Chen; and many of our diocesan clergy (some of whom are also alumni):  Rev. Philip L. F. Lin and Rev. Antony F. W. Liang from St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei, Rev. Keith C. C. Lee from Good Shepherd Church, Taipei, Rev. Julia S. H. Lin from St. Stephen’s Church, Keelung, and 3 from very far away, Rev. Lily L. L. Chang from St. James’ Church, Taichung, Rev. Joseph M. L. Wu from St. Luke’s Church, Hualien, and Rev. Simon T. S. Tsou who drove up from St. Peter’s Church, Chiayi specially for the occasion!

From left to right below: Mr. Chen Chyi, Dr. Winston Yu, Mr. Richard Hu, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, Mr. Di Yun-Heng….

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Representing St. John’s University, Dr. Herchang Ay, SJU President, gave a lively speech with Bishop Lai in action next to him ~ ah, what were they actually saying at that very moment, I wonder?!

Also present were SJU Vice-President Dr. Hsu, SJU General Secretary Dr. Sophia Y. S. Hsieh and many of the deans, faculty and staff of the university, plus students, church members and friends, including Ms. Jasmine Yu from our neighbouring junior high school, and Mr. Chang Fu-Tai and Ms. Chao Wen-Yi, former members of staff.  Two very important people who keep things running smoothly by phone and email are President Ay’s secretary, Ms. Zhu (below right) and Bishop Lai’s secretary, Ms. Lisa Hsu (below left), here they are meeting in person for the very first time yesterday!

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And all guests were well-looked after by our staff and wardens, helpers and supporters, led by Mr. Chen Ming-Chuan (holding the blue order of service booklet below), Advent Church junior warden, and Hannah, wife of Rev. Lennon Chang, who were ready and waiting to welcome everyone from 1:00 pm onwards!  Photos taken before the service started, as everyone signed their names…

Personally invited by Bishop Lai were his special friends, Dr. Yeh Ming-Yang 葉明陽 (left photo below), Professor and Vice Superintendent of Cheng Hsin General Hospital, Taipei, where Bishop Lai recently had successful surgery to remove his inflamed gall bladder and received such wonderful care under Dr. Yeh’s supervision.  And also Mr. Philip J. J. Wu (right photo below), General Manager of Grace International Co. Ltd; he was responsible for producing Bishop Lai’s artillery shell crosses in his factory, one of which was being worn by Bishop Lai yesterday.

And so the service began at 2:00 pm, led by Advent Church rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang and assisted by SJU Chaplain, Rev. Wu Hsing-Hsiang, starting with words of commitment from Bishop Lai in his new position of chair – and from all in the congregation a commitment of support for him; also the official presentation of the university seal, plus hymns, readings, sermon, prayers, speeches and the closing blessing from Bishop Lai.

And finally, the group photo on the steps of Advent Church at 3:40 pm yesterday…

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Please do pray for Bishop Lai as he assumes his new position as chair of the SJU Board of Trustees.  It is a huge undertaking and a major responsibility for him and all in St. John’s University and the Taiwan Episcopal Church.  Many challenges lie ahead.  In God’s strength we go forward, trusting God to lead the way.  We give thanks to God. Please pray for us all!

‘Love and Peace’ Thanksgiving Concerts 愛與和平感恩音樂會: Welcoming the Lawings to Taiwan!

Wonderful visitors, wonderful friends of the Taiwan Episcopal Church ~ these last 10 days we’ve really enjoyed a feast of music welcoming Bill Lawing and his wife, Cynthia from Davidson College, N. Carolina, USA, and Cynthia’s sister, Gloria from Rollins College, Florida  – and some of the younger ones in their family too!

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The Lawings are passionate about their music and just love performing.  And smiling for the cameras.  And talking and meeting everyone.  So natural – yet so experienced, so professional – yet so down to earth, so talented – yet so humble and modest.  Everybody in Taiwan loves them, and from what they said, seems like they love everybody here too!

Here’s Bill, Cynthia and Gloria after their concert last night at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei with Bishop and Mrs. Lily Lai, Professor Herbert Ma and Mrs. Aline Ma, Rev. Philip Lin and Ms. Linda Lin, and Ms. Amy Lin…

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Anyway, on to the music – we had Bill on his trumpet, Cynthia and Gloria on the piano ~ and away we went!  This was their concert finale and my overall favouritest piece, This Little Light of Mine ~ recorded at St. Timothy’s Church…

While they’ve been here, they’ve performed a whole range of music at 2 concerts, 2 church services and 2 kindergartens.  What an honour it was to welcome them and listen to their music and watch them play.

This is a very short excerpt from ‘Go Tell it on the Mountain’….

After a 16-hour non-stop flight from New York last Thursday, May 24, they arrived very early in the morning in Taipei, and after a traditional Taiwan-style breakfast, they went straight into practicing at St. John’s Cathedral.  Their stamina and enthusiasm were amazing.  And not just for music ~ Cynthia’s other great passion in Taiwan is the food.  The more local the better.  Street food expert extraordinaire!  So after practice at the cathedral, off we went straight to their welcome lunch with cathedral clergy and friends.  Ah, it was a busy morning!

Cynthia and Gloria were brought up in Hong Kong, where their family were members of St. Paul’s Church, whose rector was Rev. James T. M. Pong – he was also their close family friend.  He left St. Paul’s in 1971 to become Bishop of Taiwan, and in 1974, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Taiwan Episcopal Church, Bishop Pong invited Cynthia to come and give a concert tour all round Taiwan.  Those were the days of no a/c, just windows open and fans blowing – and just think, it was high summer!  This is Cynthia and Gloria at the diocesan office outside the room named in memory of Bishop Pong, and his photo.

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One of those concerts that Cynthia gave in 1974 was in Tainan Theological College, where Bishop Lai was then a student, and he remembers attending – and shaking her hand!  Fast forward 37 years to 2011 – and then 2014, and Cynthia was so pleased to be able to come back to Taiwan, along with Bill, offering their musical talents and skills to perform in a series of concerts.  So this is their third trip together and this time, they’ve brought some of their family too.  Ah, how we loved them all!

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Their first concert was at 2:00 pm on Saturday May 26 at St. Timothy’s Church, Kaohsiung, the second a week later, at 7:00 pm on Saturday June 2 at St. John’s Cathedral.  Both concerts were co-sponsored by the Taiwan Episcopal Church and the Christian Tribune 基督教論壇報 – and  were on the theme of ‘Love and Peace’ 愛與和平感恩音樂會, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the 823 Artillery Bombardment, part of the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis, which saw about 480,000 artillery shells dropped on Taiwan’s outlying islands of Kinmen.  It is some of these artillery shells, that, through Bishop Lai’s vision, have been made into artillery shell crosses, symbolizing the transformation of objects of war and hatred into objects of love and peace, hence the ‘P’ in the middle of the crosses.  This is Bishop Lai and Bill holding one of the original artillery shell crosses, and Cynthia holding the piece of marble that she picked up in Taroko Gorge when they visited in 2014, and which Bishop Lai has faithfully watered every day, and is now blooming with small green ferns.  In 2014, Cynthia promised that when it bloomed they would come back to Taiwan to perform again ~ and so here they are!

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The artillery shell crosses were on sale at each concert – here is Gloria and Daniel selling them at the cathedral…

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Bishop Lai and Mr. Luo from Advent Church have composed a hymn, ‘Raise High, the Transformed Artillery Shells Cross’ which we sang at the beginning of each of the concerts.

At St. Timothy’s Church, the first 2 verses were sung as a solo by Ms. Lynn Liu, and accompanied by Cynthia on the organ, then in the final verse by Bill and Gloria too.  This is the hymn, sung in Chinese.

This is Lynn with the Lawings afterwards…. so great!

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St. Timothy’s rector, Rev. Richard J. C. Lee shared Cynthia’s story with us, he also welcomed us all and Mr. Timothy Cheng, Christian Tribune CEO to speak.  Then the concert started, and we all relaxed, and enjoyed the variety of music on offer.  It was beautiful!

I videoed some excerpts of their concert in Kaohsiung.  Ah, I loved it!  A few I’ve put on You Tube.  Two short excerpts are here for you to enjoy ~ though I have to admit, I don’t know what pieces they are excerpts of, but hey, I like ’em.  Listening to music is a bit like enjoying nature, you can appreciate all the flowers and trees around you without needing to know the names of ’em all ~ well, that’s my idea anyway!

The concert at St. Timothy’s Church welcomed all our clergy from southern Taiwan, and many church members, some from every church.  In fact after the concert, each church group came up for photos together with the Lawings.  Everyone was so appreciative, and especially the youth group who’d come all the way from St. Peter’s Church, Chiayi, 2 hours drive north!

And a group photo of everyone at St. Timothy’s Church concert…

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Then off to dinner later that evening, hosted by Rev. Cheng Chen-Chang and the leaders of St. Paul’s Church, it was so so so delicious!  On the right is Mr. Di, who provided so many photos and live broadcasts throughout the concert and service.  Really appreciative of his help!

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On Sunday May 27, Bill and Cynthia also played 4 pieces during the service at St. Paul’s, starting with a prelude on the steps of the church. This is St. Paul’s Church before the service ~ that guy on the bike just happened to appear at the right moment!

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This was the Lawing’s main piece, played after the creed, I think it is also my most favourite of all!

They were also presented with small gifts in appreciation…

And of course, we all had a group photo after the service!

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Then off they went to Taiwan’s southernmost tip, Kenting, with Rev. Richard Lee and his family, and I went back to Taipei.  Seems like they had a great time there – then to Tainan where they played at the kindergartens and had a fun time with Rev. Philip Ho and his wife, Nancy at Grace Church. By Saturday, they were back in Taipei and we went to visit Bishop Lai for tea-drinking, always one of the highlights of their visits to Taiwan!

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And so to St. John’s Cathedral concert, held last night, and a similar programme to the one at St. Timothy’s Church.  So I got to hear them twice, ah, a double blessing!

We finished with presentations – Bishop Lai gave Bill, Cynthia and Gloria a small artillery shell cross each.  Then a group photo, as always!

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Today the Lawings were playing at Good Shepherd Church, and then leaving Taiwan to go on to the next stage of their travels.  For us, we have many wonderful memories of their visit, and especially their music.  It was great to welcome the younger members of their family too, they enjoyed exploring Taiwan.  Hoping they’ll all come back again soon, but in the meantime, we say goodbye with hearts filled with gratitude and love.

Thanks be to Almighty God!

Ximending 西門町 Street Art, Taipei

There’s a ton of graffiti-style street art in Taipei, mostly in Ximending ~ and with an hour to spare yesterday lunchtime I went over there to see what’s new.  Lots of new stuff has appeared since I was last there, all dated 2018.  This is a mishmash (sorry, artistic collage) of 29 photos of what’s there…

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Ximending at lunchtime is heaving with groups of young people and couples wheeling suitcases around, checking in and checking out of hotels ~ it’s THE place to stay for independent travelers from Hong Kong, Malaysia, Korea, Singapore etc.  Lively by day, and even livelier by night.

You can get a good feel of a city or country by how people paint their walls and buildings, inside and out, whether it’s Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel, Picasso and his massive 3.5 x 7.8m mural, ‘Guernica’, or street artists painting urban walls in Taipei.

So to get the feel of Taipei, come on down to Ximending and check it all out!

Transformation by Colour Part 2 @ Kaohsiung 高雄 Street Art ~ and more!

Kaohsiung is definitely my New Favourite City.  Read this post I wrote in March to see why, and see the photos of the ‘Transformation by Colour’ that Kaohsiung is undergoing!  Previously I hated the place, now I love it.  Can’t get enough of it!  Just look at this ~ on the wall of the bus station.  THIS IS KAOHSIUNG!

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Kaohsiung is now Taiwan’s must-go, must-see city, YES YES YES!

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And really it’s all to do with the massive explosion in street art that has appeared in the city over the last few years.  Even boring old walls along the railway are painted in the most beautiful colours!

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Ah, 高雄: Kaohsiung ~ there’s even Chinese calligraphy as street art showing the city’s name….IMG_20180526_060318_521.jpg

This past weekend, I found myself accompanying some church visitors from the USA to Kaohsiung for them to perform in a music concert at St. Timothy’s Church, and then at the morning service at St. Paul’s Church. More news of that next week.  We were busy all day and all evening, but early mornings were free.  What better time to visit my favourite places in Kaohsiung?

This is just on the way to the MRT from St. Paul’s Church, there’s street art all over! 

Blue skies, empty streets, that was early morning this past weekend in Kaohsiung…

My very favouritest place in Kaohsiung is the area around Weiwuying MRT Station 衛武營 on the MRT Orange Line (exit 5, turn right onto Jianjun 建軍 Road) , where the street art is at its best. On my previous visit in February / March, we had visited that area late in the afternoon and the sun was perfect for viewing the whole road of street art, seems like almost every building is covered in bright colours (see my post from March for those photos).  Go in the late afternoon for that view.

In the early morning, there’s plenty of other art on walls of buildings where the light is good. And new ones too that I hadn’t seen before.  And people just wandering around buying things in the street market, surrounded by all this amazing street art. Love it!

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Weiwuying is in Kaohsiung’s Lingya District 苓雅, and the name ‘Lingya’ is painted here in Chinese on the side of a large wall, by street artist ‘Silks’… 

The area’s old military base is now becoming the new ‘Weiwuying National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts‘…

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And nearby, across the road is where all the street art is concentrated.  Now there’s a QR code that you can scan and it brings up Google Maps showing exactly where all the individual artworks are.  Brilliant.  So I could walk all over the area of Lingya District following the map and taking a few photos. Much painting is still going on… works in progress.

Some of it is quite a unique style…

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And then yesterday I visited the Pier 2 area, where early in the morning there was hardly anybody about.  Lots of huge murals…

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And lots of quirky street art, decorating things like wall fans, or electrical boxes with fun art…love it too! 

There’s lots of these ‘people’ everywhere, some are huge… 

Yes, must-go, must-see Kaohsiung, it’s changing all the time.  Love this crocodile below.  Kinda sums up Kaohsiung, you never know what you’re going to see next!  I stared at this close up for ages before walking away and looking back and suddenly realizing what it was.  Surprise, surprise, it’s a crocodile, holding a spray can of paint!

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Check out this great blog post,’Street Art in Kaohsiung‘ from the blog, Kathmandu and Beyond 

This is the Google map locations of the street art in Lingya District…. 

And come and see it all for yourself!

Escaping Taipei’s Heat up in Wulai 烏來!

Ah, Wulai.  Think hot springs, cherry blossom and Atayal indigenous culture.  And mountain scenery.

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And views…

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And, sadly, in the last few years, think typhoons too.  Wulai has had more than its fair share of bad news.  Most recently, “in August 2015, Wulai was devastated by Typhoon Soudelor, wiping out several hotels and destroying hot springs in the region. The course of the Nanshi River that passes through the district changed and the riverbank was eroded heavily by surging water. Heavy landslides were attributed to the overdevelopment of the mountain areas around the river which damaged the soil and watershed along the slope lands”.

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But restoration work on the riverbed is ongoing, new bridges are going up and there are diggers and cranes and all sorts of construction work going on.  Wulai is on the mend!

The cable car is working again, the Yun Hsien Resort way up on the mountain top is open again, the Wulai Trolley Car is up and running, cafes and restaurants and hot spring hotels are ready and waiting for visitors.

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This past week, temperatures in Taipei have been setting May records, 37ºC and more, but ‘feels like 42°’.  Sweltering heat and humidity, and, despite thunderstorm warnings, none seems to have materialized to break the heat.  None where I’ve been anyway.  So, what better place to go than Wulai to seek some respite?  I was there yesterday.  Actually it was still baking hot ~ but only 33, ‘feeling like 39’, and that’s way better than 42!  Ah well, at least this frog was happy ~ a ‘Swinhoes Frog’ Odorrana Swinhoana, endemic to Taiwan and named after naturalist, Robert Swinhoe, 1836-77, who served as Bristish Consul in Tamsui.

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Wulai is a mountain town 25 km south of Taipei, easily accessible by bus (No. 849), taking 40 minutes from Xindian MRT Station – at the end of the green MRT line.  And only costs NT$ 15!  The road winds up and up to 250 m (not particularly high altitude, but feels like it!) and comes to a stop at the entrance to Wulai Town, perched on the steep banks of the Nanshi River.  The town is sprawling and nothing special as a town, but its location is.  And as it’s the home for the Atayal people 泰雅族, everywhere is decorated in their symbols and colours.

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Check out the RC Church, dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima, built in 1963.  I met Fr. Arturo from Chile who serves there, dressed in Atayal colours.  Lots going on there, he was getting ready for a mass.  On Sundays, he gets about 30 people coming along, and he had a class of children on Saturday waiting to start too.  We even had a photo taken together..

Check out the 80m high waterfall, 25 minutes walk up the road.  Beautiful.

The river looks almost turquoise from the road above…

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And check out the cable car that runs up to the Yun Hsien Resort.  The cable car crosses the river with amazing views down.  Takes all of 2 minutes.  Costs NT$ 220, which includes cable car return trip and entry to the resort.

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The view from the top of the cable car looking down at Wulai ~ you can see where all the landslides have taken place….

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Yun Hsien Resort 雲仙樂園 is really quite incredible.  Who would ever think to build a resort up there on the very top of the mountain, and accessible only by cable car?  The temperatures up there were several degrees cooler than down in Wulai, and there was a nice breeze. There’s a hotel, boating lake, flowers and forest walks and archery and all sorts of things to do and look at.  Even peacocks.  But its main attraction has to be its location.  It is quite an incredible feat of construction to build a resort up there.

The flowerbed turns out to be Taiwan-shaped!

Views from the cable car on the return journey….

And back to Wulai Old Street by the Wulai Scenic Train 烏來台車 which started life as a rail cart, originally designed by the Japanese government in 1928 to transport timber, logging tools, tea and passengers – now only used by tourists.  NT$ 50 one way.

Must-visit the Wulai Atayal Museum 烏來泰雅民族博物館 which has lots of displays – and English explanations.  Most interesting are the facial tattoos, headhunting traditions, displays of weaving of the local people ~ oh yes, and the added bonus of air conditioning!

And of course there’s plenty to eat in Wulai, and drink, and things to buy.

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A good place to visit from Taipei for the day ~ lots of people cycle up to the waterfall from Taipei, others enjoy the hot springs – but really they’re best in winter, or they just relax in the river.  Plenty to do and see, and eat ~ and help the Atayal people of Wulai get back on their feet after the typhoon disaster of 2015.  An interesting place.  Even if the natural environment is badly damaged and over-developed with resorts and hotels for the tourism industry.  Still, let’s hope and pray that this year’s typhoon season is kinder on the people of Wulai than in the past.

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Keelung ~ Tenth Anniversary Celebrations 聖司堤反堂建堂10週年感恩禮拜 Congratulations!

Today we gathered in Keelung for a Thanksgiving Service at St. Stephen’s Church to celebrate and give thanks to God for these past 10 years ~ 10 years of amazing grace, wonderful blessings and faithful witness!

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This was St. Stephen’s Church Welcome Team all ready!

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And so many clergy, friends and supporters….

And all the clergy together!

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Keelung is unfortunately known in Taiwan as the ‘City of Unhappiness’, and in the outlying Chungshan District, there have long been particularly high levels of unemployment, poverty, alcohol addiction and mental health problems.  In 2007, Rev. Richard R. C. Lee and members of Trinity Church, Keelung had a vision to reach out to the people of Chungshan District, where there were no other churches at the time.  After much prayer, and with the support of Bishop David J. H. Lai and the clergy of the northern deanery of the Taiwan Episcopal Church, outreach was started, first in the local community center, then they started to rent a building nearby as a church.  It was that church (at St. Stephen’s first ever worship service) that was consecrated by Bishop Lai on May 18, 2008, exactly 10 years ago today.  In 2010, a timely grant from the United Thank Offering of US$ 50,000 helped towards the purchase of the present building, which is really a ground-floor apartment, converted into a church.  The basement is huge and extends out under the road, and is also owned by the church; it’s used as a classroom for the outreach program to the local community.  Today it was used as overflow seating.  This is the Holy Communion….

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These are 4 of the key people in the development of St. Stephen’s Church: from left, Rev. Richard R. C. Lee, Mr. Yei 葉錦地, the local community leader (li-zhang 里長), Rev. Julia S. H. Lin and Bishop David J. H. Lai….

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St. Stephen’s is a non-stop, very busy, very active, very joyful and happy place.  There are so many activities going on all day long, all part of the community outreach program for children, teenagers, families, women, men and seniors.  It was the community program for children that was so welcomed by the local community leaders when the church was first started.  The community leaders have provided huge support ever since, and many of them came along today!  Without them, it would have been much more difficult to gain the trust of the local people, but with their support, the church has been welcomed, and gained access into people’s lives – and hearts.  Lives are being transformed, step by small step.

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Rev. Julia Shu-Hua Lin 林淑華牧師 has been assigned to St. Stephen’s since it was established, and is helped by many local people who have made St. Stephen’s their spiritual home.  Ms. Huang Min ‎黃敏 (on the far left in the above photo) moved from Trinity Church to help support St. Stephen’s from the beginning, and is one of the pillars of the church.  These days, St. Stephen’s has a core of committed Christians on the leadership team, and many more helping run the different outreach programs.  One of our diocesan evangelists, Mr. Felix Ming-You Chen (right in the photo below, next to Rev. Joseph M. L. Wu) is also assigned there at weekends.  There is so much really worthwhile ministry going on, thanks be to God!

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Today, being a Friday, meant that most of the participants in the Thanksgiving Service were adults, as the children were all in school.  But we were blessed to welcome a group of children who formed the music group for the service, they came from St. Luke’s Church, Hualien with Rev. Joseph M. L. Wu, they did so well – even if they were squeezed into a corner and difficult to photograph!

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The other group who sang were the St. Stephen’s Church senior group.  Oh, they were so lovely ~ and so expressive!

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The service started at 10:00 am.  All of our clergy from northern Taiwan came along, plus quite a few from the south, and lots of church members too.  It was wonderful to see Rev. Richard Lee returning to visit from St. Timothy’s Church, Kaohsiung, here he is with Rev. Lily Chang.   Why are they laughing?  Because there is such a height difference between them that this is a rare occasion when Lily is taller than Richard!

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Many clergy from other denominations in Keelung came too, plus representatives of the different social welfare organizations who support the outreach ministry at St. Stephen’s.  All the St. Stephen’s people were wearing special new T-shirts commissioned for the occasion, they gave us as gifts when we left.  Plus wooden key rings etc, made by social enterprise foundations locally.

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The readings were Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication of the Temple from 1 Kings 8: 22-30, Psalm 84: 1-12 and 1 Peter 2: 1-5, 9-10 ~ and the Gospel was from Matthew 21: 18-22 about the fig-tree, finishing with, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”  Bishop Lai referred to these in his sermon in the context of the history and testimony of St. Stephen’s Church.  All glory be to God!

Photos from the service today….

After the service, we had 2 birthday cakes, one on each floor, the one cut by Bishop Lai was provided by one of the church families, whose child also has a birthday today.   We also had lunch boxes, and lots of fruit and dessert.

And we finished with a presentation from Bishop Lai to Rev. Julia Lin (and St. Stephen’s Church) of one of Bishop Lai’s homemade wooden artworks, saying in Chinese, “God’s mercy endures forever.”

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Today’s Thanksgiving Service was such a great occasion, really special. For me, this is one of THE churches that I always try to take my very special VIP visitors from overseas who may be interested in frontline mission.  St. Stephen’s Church has such a testimony, transformation is happening in that area of Keelung, and real hope is being given to the whole community.  May God continue to bless St. Stephen’s Church and all who serve ~ and are served there.  Thanks be to God!

Yes to God, Yes to Mission, Yes to Taiwan!