From Singapore to Taiwan ~ welcoming Rev. Chye Ann Soh and his lovely wife, Helen!

Yes, my most favourite CMS Asia Director ever!  IN Taiwan.  NOW!  This very moment. YES!  I’m so so happy!  Even though he’s no longer my CMS boss, hey, he’s here ~ YIPPEE!

Chye Ann’s been to Taiwan many many times over the years to see us – when I was at St. James’ Church, Taichung, and now at St. John’s University.  He’s always been so supportive and encouraging of me being here, gets on really well with Bishop Lai and all the clergy, and is always so interested in all that’s going on in the diocese.  And when he preaches, he has everyone rolling in the aisles with laughter.  Oh yes, and all our kindergarten teachers used to say how much he looked like Jacky Chan 成龍, so handsome!

On one of his trips 5+ years ago he brought with him a very distinguished group of CMS VIPs, all with various combinations of Rev / Canon / Dr attached to their names, including then CMS Director, Tim Dakin, who’s now gone on to be Bishop of Winchester. So you never quite know with Chye Ann what’s going to happen next and what exciting things are going to happen while he’s here!  And the big excitement this time is that his lovely wife, Helen, has come too, and not only come too, but 2 days earlier than him.  What a gracious and wonderful guest she is ~ we’ve had such a fun few days together!

And the reason why Helen has come to Taiwan is because since they returned from the UK to Singapore a few years ago, Helen has been involved in a craft group in Singapore called POPIN, described on their website as:

‘Sponsored by the National Art Council of Singapore, Popin and Craft is a place where a group of local artists, designers, and creative individuals organize community craft events to encourage a passion for making handmade crafts and bring the community together through art. The name itself means “Pop-In!,” which suggests the notion of welcoming, a vision that Popin has for the community’.

Singapore is well-known for being a really stressed-out country where people work really really long hours, with no leisure time at all (or no energy left to enjoy what little leisure time they might have!) and when they retire seems they have little motivation to do anything other than stay home cleaning the house and watching TV…..  So POPIN is a way to help people find some creative ways to improve their lives ~ and it is the first craft group to be recognized and supported by the Singapore government. So they’ve received funding for the POPIN group to visit Taiwan to learn about Taiwan crafts, and that visit takes place next week.  Helen’s particular interest is needlework, and way back in August, she wrote to ask about the possibility of coming a week early to see something of Taiwan….

And after a lot of persuasion, Chye Ann decided to join her for part of this week – partly because it’s their 34th wedding anniversary while they’re here…. yes, they are such a delightful couple, so a wedding anniversary celebration in Taiwan is a great idea!

These days Chye Ann is no longer my CMS boss and CMS Asia Director, he’s now doing social enterprise in a big way, helping his friends in Singapore set up the Singapore branch of Opportunity International – described by Wikipedia here as

…. a nonprofit organization that provides small business loans, savings, insurance and training to more than five million people working their way out of poverty in the developing world. It serves clients in more than 20 countries and works with fundraising partners in the U.S, Australia, Canada, Germany and the U.K. Opportunity represents itself as a non-denominational Christian organization that serves all its clients regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity or gender. Opportunity was founded in 1971 by Al Whittaker, former president of Bristol Myers International Corporation in America.

It’s officially part-time work, but it took him to Myanmar last weekend and Hong Kong next week ~ so he’s busy busy busy as always!  And it’s why he couldn’t arrive in Taiwan until Tuesday.  And guess what he’s doing with the rest of his time?  Apart from keeping up with the family in the UK (the Apple Watch goes beep beep beep to announce the arrival of the latest video of the grandchildren!) and his 92-year-old mother and zillions of brothers and sisters in Singapore, lately he’s renewed his childhood passion for art, and is producing beautiful watercolour, ink and acrylic paintings of the UK and old Singapore ~ these are 4 of the best, aren’t they great?!

And so it was that early on Sunday morning I found myself heading to the airport to meet Helen ~ and it’s been non-stop ever since!

A very healthy breakfast with the Tan family outside on their balcony on Monday ~ wonder how many other 90+ years-olds in Taiwan are out on their balconies at 14ºC in December eating breakfast every morning?!  They are amazing.  And so healthy!  We also visited their farm – horses, geese and dogs, then to my English classes all afternoon and evening, and then with our chaplaincy staff on our Advent Walkabout round St. John’s University on Tuesday morning.  Tuesday evening off we went to the airport all dressed up for Christmas to meet Chye Ann on his arrival, and then the 2 of them moved to stay at the diocesan office hostel in Taipei.  The most important event down there was of course tea-drinking with Bishop and Mrs. Lily Lai – what a great time we had.  Great meals as well, but the tea-time is always the best time – sharing fellowship together, they all get on so well!  And last night, Bishop Lai gave us very special 50-year-old Oolong Tea to drink, very very exclusive!

And today?  Well, they’ve left today for a trip up to Alishan and Sun Moon Lake, 2 of Taiwan’s most famous scenic places, famous for sunrises, tea, beauty and of course, honeymoons – ideal for a wedding anniversary celebration!

So a BIG WELCOME TO TAIWAN to Chye Ann and Helen ~ and congratulations on your 34th wedding anniversary!  Come back next year for your 35th – coral and jade are the themes, and both are VERY famous natural products of Taiwan!

PS: Update Tuesday December 15 ~ and Chye Ann and Helen are back from their trip to Alishan and Sun Moon Lake having had a great time, sunny weather (unlike the rest of us ha ha!) and smooth travel. So yesterday morning off I went for breakfast with them before saying goodbye….

But first, their farewell tea-drinking with Bishop Lai ~ and Chye Ann had painted a teapot watercolour picture for him as a gift ~ beautiful eh?!


So a fond farewell to Helen as she goes off to join her craft group tour of Taipei, and Chye Ann as he leaves for Hong Kong.  And do please come again soon!

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