All posts by Catherine Lee

Farewell Sanzhi & Hello Taipei!

Yes, said a fond farewell to Sanzhi 三芝 this week – the town / district where I’ve been living for the past 3 years ~ and of course said a sad (!) farewell to all the termites who had seriously taken over my house – and my life!   This photo below shows where I was living in Sanzhi – in this vast housing estate of flats / apartments  ~ and it was great!  I was on the ground floor facing into the central area of the estate.  Lovely neighbours ~ and very safe, central and convenient for buses and shopping.  The building next door, on the right, used to be a bowling alley, now it’s a large shop selling everything, and very reasonably priced.

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Sad really that I moved, cos I like Sanzhi (well, in spring, summer and autumn!) especially the early morning walks along the river, watching kingfishers, water lilies, lotus flowers, enjoying the mountains and fresh air ~ and the nearness to the sea.   My farewell tour on Wednesday evening was to the local scenic spot – the lighthouse at Fugueijiao 富貴角, on Taiwan’s northern tip, looking splendid in the sunshine – originally built in 1896, and only open to the public in recent years.

Now I’ve moved back to St. John’s University ~ which is officially part of Tamsui, not Sanzhi.  Actually I’ve moved my stuff back there, and I’m now staying in Good Shepherd Church, Shilin, Taipei for the next month – where I have 2 weeks of classes starting on July 30.  Shilin is an urban / suburban area of northern Taipei, famous for it’s night market, National Palace Museum and for the foreign community who live in the hills above Shilin, enjoing the cooler weather.  The church is at the other end of Shilin, near the river and on a main road full of traffic, but with nice sunsets like this one last night.  The mountain in the distance is Guanyinshan 觀音山, over at the end of the Tamsui river, and the large round building in the foreground is part of Yang-Ming High School across the road…

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And the local scenic landmark in Taipei is of course Taipei 101.  Must go, must see!  Today the weather forecast was rain, and as I write this, it is pouring down ~ but this morning the rain stopped for a few hours, the sun came out and I took this photo from Elephant Mountain (Xiangshan 象山), behind Taipei 101.  The best views of Taipei are to be had up there, and from the mountains behind too – but oh so hot and humid to climb in the summer.  Worth it for the views though, can see for miles!

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And why have I moved? Well, I’m off to the UK in mid-August for 6 months ‘home leave’, and the plan is that when I come back to Taiwan, all being well in February 2019, then I can live once again at St. John’s University – though in a different place than I was in before I moved to Sanzhi.  In case you’re wondering, no I’m not moving because of the termites, I think I’d become quite fond of them 😉😉….  and anyway they give me a good illustration for tomorrow’s sermon. Thanks guys 😍😍!

Hehuanshan 合歡山 Main Peak 主峰 (3,417m), East Peak 東峰 (3,421m) and Mt. Shimen 石門山 (3,237m)

Three big Baiyue 百岳 mountains in one day ~ Nos. 34, 35 and 66 of THE list!  The Baiyue list refers to the list of the ‘100 Peaks of Taiwan‘, the 100 were chosen from among Taiwan’s 260+ mountains which are over 3,000m, and were selected for their ‘uniqueness, danger, height, beauty and prominence’ ~ an ambition for all those enthusiastic about mountains.  So we did 3 of them on Saturday.  Impressive, eh?  Ah, but looks deceive!

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In fact, these 3 peaks in the Hehuanshan range are considered by far the easiest of the Baiyue Peaks, mostly because the main road across Taiwan’s Central Mountain Range from east to west coasts goes right up to the saddle, Wuling at 3,275 m – which is right there at Hehuanshan. So, none of these peaks is more than an hour’s walk from the main road, and none are considered too strenuous ~ though the high altitude and weather means visitors still have to be well-prepared.

Meet my good friends, Jasmine, and her husband Kenny ~ photo taken on Friday at Nina’s Chocolate at Ching-Jing Farm (yep the chocolate is amazing, as is the decoration!)….

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Jasmine kindly invited me to join her family group for the weekend in Nantou County, central Taiwan ~ and to spend this past Saturday climbing some of the mountains in the Hehuanshan range, our annual mountain trip. In June 2016, we went up Hehuanshan North Peak and the never-to-be-forgotten killer hike to West Peak (see that blog post here) – but until now I had never done the Hehuanshan Main Peak or East Peak.  So for 2018, this was our challenge!

This is Hehuanshan Main Peak, viewed from East Peak, with the saddle / carpark at Wuling ….

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Actually there were 10 of us in the group, and on Saturday everyone did different combinations of mountains in the Hehuanshan range. Jasmine’s amazing 77-year-old mother, husband and daughter started with the smaller – but very steep – Hehuanshan Jian Peak 合歡尖山 (3,217 m), which unfortunately is not on the Baiyue list.  There were lots and lots of people on that mountain!

We all started off together at the car park below Jian Peak, near the Song Syue Lodge 松雪楼, Taiwan’s highest hotel (run by the Forestry Bureau) and looking towards Chilaishan 奇萊山 Mt. Chilai  (known as Black Chilai). Our path started behind that hotel…

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We climbed Hehuanshan East Peak 合歡山東峰 (3,421 m): No. 35 of the Baiyue.  The ascent takes about an hour, and is really spectacular.  Loved it!  This is East Peak, taken later in the day, by then with its summit just in the clouds….

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Mornings are the time for mountains in Taiwan, by the afternoon, clouds are rolling in and it often rains.  We spent the morning on the East Peak and it was glorious, hot but with a cool breeze.  This is the view from East Peak – looking west to the Hehuanshan road that we had driven up that morning….

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Hehuanshan is a busy place all year round. In the winter, people go up there to see the snow, and in the summer they go up there to escape the heat of the plains below.  Always crowded!

It is a major cycling challenge to ride up to the saddle at Wuling (3,275m).  And so it was that the area was even busier than usual this past Saturday with the summer edition of the Taiwan KOM Challenge (King Of the Mountains), a cycling race of 105 km from the east coast at Hualien up to Wuling, starting out at 6:30am. Rather amazingly, it so happened that we were on the top of the East Peak about 11:00am right as the first rider reached the finish line, we could hear the cheers going up as he got nearer and nearer.  Spot the winner below…

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Until 1980, Hehuanshan was a military base, and the remains of the barracks are still there – see all those buildings in rows – a bit dark and gloomy down there!

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On the East Peak is the remains of what used to be a ski lift – used by the military and elite, it was closed in 1985. But these days there isn’t enough snow anyway.  Fascinating to visit the abandoned ski lift building….

There’s also lots of flowers….

In the afternoon we went to Hehuanshan Main Peak 合歡山主峰 (3,417 m): No. 34 of the Baiyue, where there’s a working weather station, also the remains of military fortifications…

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And a road winds it’s gentle way all the way to the top.  It takes only 30-40 minutes to get to the summit, and lots and lots of people make the trip every year.  It’s almost a rite of passage for Taiwan youth groups, families and even toddlers.  The place was full of people ~ including us!

And finally 5 of us went to climb Shimenshan (Mt. Shimen) 石門山 (3,237m): No. 66 of the Baiyue, which is considered the easiest of all the peaks in the area…

I had climbed this mountain a few months ago in the fog.  And it wasn’t much different this time.  This was the descent just before that big bank of cloud came rolling in!

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By the time we finished, about one minute from the car ~ it started to rain. We’d done it in time! YES YES YES!

By then it was 3:00 pm and we sat in a traffic jam in the rain, not moving for over 30 minutes, as we arrived at the Wuling saddle just at the end of the KOM race, and all the vans loaded with bikes were departing down the mountain…..

On a good day, Hehuanshan is about 30 minutes drive above Ching-Jing Farm and resort area, and we had stayed there the night before, fortifying ourselves for the mountains ahead with Nina’s Chocolate, ha ha….

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Earlier that day, Friday, we had had lunch at Tarowan (塔洛灣) looking down on Bihu 碧湖 Lake Bi, (also known as the Wanda Reservoir 萬大水庫) below…. how’s this for a lunch-with-a-view?

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Anyway, as well as a chocolate shop, Ching-Jing Farm also has a new skywalk – so we tried it out….

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There’s a great view from Ching-Jing….

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We even saw rainbow colours in the clouds….

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And dawn and sunrise the next morning were good too!

By the time we got to Hehuanshan ready to start walking on Saturday morning, it was already almost 10:00 am, but hey, it meant we got to see the winning cyclist of the KOM!

Thank you to Jasmine and all our lovely group of people for a great weekend, and especially to our 2 amazing drivers, Kenny and A-Kuei.  Mountain climbing in Hehuanshan 合歡山 needs not just energy and strength to climb the mountains – but also skilled drivers with plenty of patience to find parking spaces!  We finished our trip in Taichung, and Jasmine and I even managed to attend part of the morning services at St. James – her first visit.  Then we went sightseeing in Taichung!  And here we all are…

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Got home about 5:30 pm.  Thanks be to God!  Such amazing scenery, good company,  safe travels, and wonderful mountains!

Alangyi Historic Trail 阿朗壹古道 and Paiwan 排灣族 Harvest Festival 豐年祭 @ Nantian Village, Daren Township, Taitung 台東縣達仁鄉南田村, Taiwan

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Yes, the Alangyi Historic Trail 阿朗壹古道 is THE trail to hike!  And especially when the sea and the sky are blue, blue, blue ~ like they were on Saturday ~ YES YES YES!

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The Alangyi Trail runs maybe 8-10 km along the S.E. coast of Taiwan, and walking it takes about 4-5 hours ~ from the very southern tip of Taitung County across into Mudan Township 牡丹鄉, Pingtung County, finishing at Xuhai 旭海 Village, famous for its hot springs and grassland.  The trail is significant in that it is the only section of the whole Taiwan coastline where there is no road. No road means no cars, no lorries, no coaches, no random tourists, no 7-elevens (always a sign of economic development!) ~ and to preserve the natural environment, the area is established as a nature reserve, and strictly managed.  But this only happened after years of protests and disputes about whether to build a road or not.  Fortunately wisdom prevailed, and the Alangyi Trail is just fantastic!

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Nowadays, only 300 people are allowed on the trail per day, permits are required, a guide is needed per 20 people and there are police on duty at either end of the trail.  During the summer, the temperatures are boiling hot, and there are few people hiking on the trail.  In fact, we only met one other group, 30+ youngsters from Changhua – going in the other direction.  Fortunately we had a nice breeze to blow us along!  A typhoon was slowly heading towards Taiwan, but still far off, and as often happens a day or two before a typhoon, the weather was really great (as I write this on Wednesday morning, 3 days later, the typhoon is roaring around outside as it passes northern Taiwan)!

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It is truly an amazing walk, with incredible views!  Is it easy?  Yes.  Is it difficult?  Yes. Both / and!  Much of the walk is right down near sea-level, along the upper part of the stony beach, but at the rocky promontory that is called Guanyin’s Nose 觀音鼻, everyone has to ascend 150m to go up and over the top and down the other side.  It is very steep, so ropes are supplied to grab onto, and there’s steps in some places.  But hey, the views are spectacular – and see the turtle-shaped rock down below!

For centuries, the Alangyi Trail was used by the local indigenous peoples to get from place to place along the coast.  The local indigenous people in that area are mostly the Paiwan People 排灣族 (pause here while you open that link to the Wikipedia site to read about the Paiwan People – it’s fascinating)…. Wonder if in years gone by, they enjoyed this stream as much as we did at the end of the trail?  Yes, we got soaked, but it was oh so refreshing!

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My good friends from Advent Church, 選櫻 (Hsuen-Ying, Grace) and her husband 生豐 (Sheng-Feng, Simon), invited me to join a group of their friends (mostly Grace’s former high school / college classmates and their families – all very lovely!) who they had invited to spend the weekend visiting Grace’s home village of Nantian, in Daren Township, Taitung (台東縣達仁鄉南田村).  This is Grace and Simon… as romantic as always!

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Grace is Paiwan, Taiwan’s second largest indigenous group, and Simon is Amis, Taiwan’s largest indigenous group – who mostly live further north in the Hualien area.  These days there is a certain friendly rivalry between the different tribes / groups ~ although in the past, things were not always so friendly!  Both Grace and Simon work at TamKang High School, Tamsui (as did 2 others in our group), and the school has a teddy bear mascot that travels around with them all over, including on the Alangyi Trail!

Nantian Village is the southernmost village in Taitung County, and runs along a single road between the mountains and the sea. Most people coming to Taitung from the west coast do so over the mountain road from Pingtung, this is the first area they reach on the east coast.  For cyclists on the round-Taiwan circuit, it’s a welcome relief to get over the mountains and down to the coast. But the only people passing through Nantian itself are on their way to the northern entrance of the Alangyi Historic Trail.  Within a few minutes of starting the trail, there’s a river, and that is the border between Taitung and Pingtung – and it is just over that river that the police have a checkpoint to check permits.

And what else is going on in Nantian?  Well, there’s fish farming, mainly for shrimp, there’s a camp site, small guest houses, a cement factory out on the main road, 2 Presbyterian churches, and a beautiful stony beach.  In the past, the stones were big and well-rounded, so people collected them up and carved them for sale.  These days, apparently the coast has changed, the sea level is rising, the stones are much smaller, and well, it’s not easy to make a good living.  Many of the local people have moved away to the cities looking for work – and return for festivals, and some in their retirement.

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Some scenes of Nantian and the local area, starting with the chief’s stone…

There’s an interesting bamboo art work installed there too, ‘The Vector of the South‘ 南方以南 ~ the bamboo looks like waves coming up from the shore, over the seawall and across the fields….

Grace’s elder brother, who we call ‘Da-Ge’ 大哥 (literally ‘big brother’) returned to the family home 10+ years ago, after quite some time in northern Taiwan, to take up his responsibilities as one of the chiefs of the Paiwan Tribe.  He is just so lovely!  He kept us entertained with stories, songs and jokes, and he and his wife are such committed Christians, sharing their faith, testimonies, choruses and music with everyone!  They, together with relatives and members of the village, welcomed us into their lives for the weekend ~ they were just so hospitable and generous.  By inviting us to join their village for the weekend, we could learn so much about their culture and traditions, and they were able to get some income from taking care of us ~ such visits are officially known as (starting with their Paiwan name), ‘Jakisuvung Cultural and Educational Eco-Tourism’ 家給蘇豐文教生態旅遊.  We stayed in a local guest house (B&B), which was run by the lady who was our guide for the Alangyi Trail, and whose younger sister was Grace’s former classmate!

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The Paiwan Harvest Festival 豐年祭 is an annual event in many Paiwan communities, celebrating a successful millet / rice harvest, and copious amounts of millet / rice wine are on offer!  It involved a whole weekend of activities in Nantian Village, starting on Saturday morning with the official opening ceremony when VIPs from the local government, the elected official representative from Taitung County Council, tribal chiefs and many others came along. There was dancing and singing too….

The main event of the day was the archery competition ~ wow, they are so skilled!  Every village has a team and they were all there, competing all morning.  Women, men, old, young, everyone took part; apparently they practice for hours – and it shows!

We even had a go ourselves, though we only shot from half the distance – and still managed to miss, ha ha! But Grace, who said this was her first time to try, got a bull’s eye, first time.  Actually it’s not a bull, it’s a mountain pig!

And then we all went off up the river, through the river in fact, wading upstream until we came to a clearing where we had a really fun Paiwan-style barbecue.  In fact, 3 days later and I can still smell that smoke all over!

The following day, the community spent the morning killing and preparing the pig, and certain other ceremonies.  The main event of the festival for us was on Sunday evening. Just beforehand, the heavens opened, the rain came down, and they decided to relocate to the village community centre. Da-Ge’s wife and the ladies of the village had been cooking all afternoon, and there were huge amounts of delicious Paiwan-style food. “Must try everything”, they said. Just don’t ask in too much detail what everything is – and remember that nothing in that mountain pig goes to waste!  Ah, I had a great time!

Most of the people were there in traditional Paiwan costumes, and we had flower head rings….

And there was dancing.  There’s always dancing at festivals, and we joined in too.  I filmed the following video for 5 minutes before I got down and joined the end of the line!  Do watch – and keep an eye on the blue bucket of millet / rice wine 小米酒 in the middle of the table, and the ‘waiters’ who go around serving everyone!

And this was the final dance – just for the community themselves… watch to the end, but I had to stop filming at the final minute, I was laughing so much!

On Monday morning, our group had a chance to visit Da-Ge’s home and try on some of their traditional Paiwan costumes.  There is apparently no special significance to the colours, blue, red, black – it’s personal choice.  We also had a chance to wear the chief’s headdress, which is, oh, so heavy!  The rules are that at ceremonies and festivals, only the chief and his family can wear the headdresses, but in their home and for photos at other times, anyone can try them on.  So we did!

We also visited a massive huge tree, Bischofia javanica (considered sacred, hence the red ribbon).  That’s where we learned all about the local ecology and more.  Teddy came too!

What else?  Well, actually I had arrived a day earlier than most of our group, and together with Grace and Simon, the 3 of us went to visit the newly-opened social welfare center run by the Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross 聖十字架慈愛修女會 (known as the Maria Theresia Social Welfare Foundation 財團法人台東縣私立天主教聖十字架瑪利德蘭社會福利基金會) in Shangwu Village 尚武村, Dawu Township 大武鄉, which is very near Nantian ~ in fact it was in Dawu that Grace went to junior high school.  And the first person we met when we arrived at the center there was one of her old classmates. Ah it’s a small world!  This is their church and fruit growing in the garden. The fruit is Morinda citrifolia, known as cheese fruit / vomit fruit / starvation fruit, and I can tell you it is totally 100% disgusting!

In December 2016, St. John’s University and Advent Church raised NT$ 325,000 (US$ 10,000) as part of our annual fund-raising project and donated it to the sisters (see that blog post here) for their ministry.  They were planning to convert their kindergarten classrooms into a day care center for elderly local people.  Thanks be to God that the work is completed, and the official opening ceremony and mass was held on June 16, 2018.  We couldn’t go to the ceremony, but we were able to visit on Friday instead.  They are still waiting for the final permission from the local authorities to be able to use the new buildings, and we had a tour – they are so light, bright, well-equipped and fully furnished.  It was so good to meet Sr. Miljenka Schnetzer 宋玉潔修女 again, she arrived in Taiwan from Switzerland in 1979, and has been in Shangwu since 1992….

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We also visited the famous train station at Duoliang 多良, famous because if you stand there long enough a train will come out of the tunnel and pass by – such a pretty photo-op ha ha!

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And then there were the sunrises over the sea – 2 of them in fact.  On Friday we got up and left at 4:30 am to see the sunrise from the high viewpoint…

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And then again on Monday morning, when there was more cloud – the only sign that the typhoon was coming.  Great that we could still see Lanyu and Lyudao Islands from up there (but too far away to appear in the photo)….

One of the main highlights of the whole weekend was meeting Grace’s family, especially her big brother and his wife and family.  I had dinner at their home on Friday evening.  They are so friendly and welcoming!  This is Da-Ge and Simon…

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And yes, we spent a lot of time laughing!  Da-Ge’s wife told me that on the chief’s headdress there are some tufts of red hair, and yep, sure they’re there – and very red!

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She said that those tufts of red hair represent the hair of the foreigners who had had their heads chopped off by the Paiwan people in years gone by, when they arrived on the Taiwan coast to invade and attack the people here.  The Paiwan were a headhunting people, and always kept some of the hair as a mark of pride.  It’s true.  That was really what was happening along the Alangyi Historic Trail all those centuries ago.  It might all look very scenic and beautiful now, but in those days it was not a place where visitors were assured of a warm welcome!

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Wikipedia says, “In the past the Paiwan had a fearsome reputation as head-hunters. When Paiwan warriors returned home from a headhunting foray, the women would gather together in front of the courtyard to welcome their heroes and would sing songs of triumph. The heads of their enemies were then hung on stone pillars in front of which were displayed wine and offerings.” The Japanese, Americans, Dutch, Spanish all came to Taiwan – either to invade and attack, or they were trying to pass by the island on their way elsewhere but got shipwrecked in a typhoon, and many of them were attacked and killed.  Check out the Rover Incident of 1867 and the Mudan Incident of 1871, the latter took place in Mudan, which is at the Pingtung end of the Alangyi Trail.  It led to the Japanese invasion of Taiwan in 1874, and eventually Taiwan came under Japanese rule  from 1895-1945, during which the Japanese tried to control and subdue the indigenous peoples, leading to endless conflicts, armed uprisings, massacres – and resulting in even more oppression.  Many indigenous people, including Grace’s family (in the time of her great-grandparents and grandparents) were forced to relocate during the Japanese colonial era – they moved from Pingtung to Taitung, eventually settling in Nantian.

The Dutch are famously remembered in Taiwan as having red hair (here in Tamsui we have Fort San Domingo, known as 紅毛城, the ‘fort of the red-heads’, originally built by the Spanish and then seized by the Dutch, and rebuilt by them in 1644).  Hence the tufts of red hair in the headdress!  So we spent all weekend laughing together about whether I was gonna get my head chopped off before we left on Monday – and wondering whether I’d live to see another day!

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But Da-Ge assured me that now that Paiwan people are Christians, love has conquered all.  No longer do we need to kill each other, but we can live and work together in peace.  We’re all one family, of whatever tribe – and even whatever colour hair!  That’s the main theme of the song sung at the festival, where everyone joined hands to dance. These days even the shaman’s traditional rituals associated with the harvest festival are replaced by prayers to Almighty God, giving thanks and asking for God’s blessing, and all in Jesus’ name.  And here we all are, one family!

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So, Grace is from a Paiwan family and Simon is from an Amis family.  Nowadays, such marriages are very common.  In Advent Church, I like to tease Grace and Simon as being the most romantic couple in the church ~ they are members of the church choir, and they have quite some competition from other choir couples for that title!  But these two still win the prize ~ every day they are like they just got married.  And they just really like each other so much…. so adorable!

Thank God for a wonderful weekend of gracious people, deep culture, rich traditions, beautiful scenery, amazing weather, delicious foods, safe journeys and lots of laughter.

Thanks to Grace and Simon for all their leadership and organization, to all our group for their willingness to learn and to fit in with everyone and everything, and to Da-Ge and his wife and family for their warm welcome and kindness to us.  It was truly inspiring to see how God is working in one family, in one community, in one people, in one small corner of Taiwan, to His honour and glory!

Advent Church Summer Camp 2018 降臨堂兒童喜樂營!

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Possibly the best summer camp in the whole world!  YES!  A great team of student leaders, backed up by our clergy and church members, and loads of happy and enthusiastic children, supported by their parents – oh, yes, and grandparents.  Never forget the grandparents ~ after all, it’s school holidays and lots of grandparents are looking around for ways to keep their grandchildren entertained and having fun!

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Thanks be to God, this year’s Advent Church summer camp, held on 2 very sunny but breezy days, July 2-3 in our Advent Church centre, was one of the most successful ever!  We had 5 teams, named after 5 colours, here they are with their banners, each team also had a action song or rhyme to introduce themselves.  Fun!

With a drastically falling birthrate in Taiwan, it is rural areas that are particularly affected, so in our local area, schools are really struggling with hugely reduced numbers. One of our local elementary school teachers, who just retired last year, talks about how when she first started teaching here 30 years ago, her school had over 300 kids – now the school has about 70.  Actually that was Laomei School, and a whole group of them came along to our summer camp with Ms. Cheng, as they have done for several years now… we’re now long-term friends, and here we all are!

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To help struggling schools, the government and charitable foundations sponsor tons of free and fun activities, especially in school holidays.  So our summer camps over the last few years have seen decreasing numbers as a result… from 100 in years gone by, down to 80, and last year, less than 60 ~ so this year, we started advertising very early, in April rather than June ~ and we were pleasantly surprised when 94 children registered!

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So we had 94 kids and 32 student leaders – helped by their relatives, friends and church members, and our older church members, who offered to come along and supply breakfast and dinners for the student team.   The whole summer camp was wonderfully coordinated and organized by Yu-Ru, our church outreach worker, she was helped by 2 student leaders, and all supported by our rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, chaplain Rev. Wu Hsing-Hsiang plus church members ~ here’s the leaders and the back-up team!

Everyone worked so hard ~ the student team have been training and preparing full-time since Friday afternoon ~ ah, and it was worth it!

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This year’s theme was the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14–30), rearranged and adapted into a drama for 3 little pigs (yep, and it worked!) – 2 of whom went into business together selling shoes, while the third one, well, of course, he didn’t do anything much at all…. but he was so funny!

All the games and activities that followed were then focused on discovering, sharing and using our possessions, abilities, gifts, skills and of course, the greatest gift of ourselves ~ and our love.  For example, one of the games involved the kids working together to completely turn a sheet over to the other side, without any of the group stepping onto the floor…

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Many of the activities also had a Bible verse to learn too.  The children had the chance to ‘earn’ some paper money, which they collected up, and at the end they could decide to donate it, or if they had a lot, they could donate some, and enter a lucky draw to ‘buy’ some snacks to take home.

On the second day, we heard the story, ‘Boxes for Katje‘ by Candace Fleming: “After World War II there is little left in Katje’s town of Olst in Holland. Her family, like most Dutch families, must patch their old worn clothing and go without everyday things like soap and milk. Then one spring morning when the tulips bloom “thick and bright,” Postman Kleinhoonte pedals his bicycle down Katje’s street to deliver a mysterious box—a box from America! Full of soap, socks, and chocolate, the box has been sent by Rosie, an American girl from Mayfield, Indiana. Her package is part of a goodwill effort to help the people of Europe. What’s inside so delights Katje that she sends off a letter of thanks: beginning an exchange that swells with so many surprises that the girls, as well as their townspeople, will never be the same.”  Loved it!

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We also had the drama of a king who tries to go incognito to visit a town in his kingdom where everyone is busy preparing for his official visit ~ there he meets a girl who is distraught because she thinks she has no talents to perform or to make something to welcome the king, and so can only offer visitors some water from the well ~ only to find that what the king wants most of all is her friendship.  Everyone just loved our ‘king’ (who was also the third little pig!) and his ‘Supershy’ T-shirt!

And for nearly everyone, the highlight was Tuesday afternoon’s water games – and then huge water fight!

We had testimonies too, plus prayers and a blessing from our rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang…

And in case you’re wondering what my role was, well I was there taking a few photos.  Over 2,300 to be precise.  Now reduced to less than 300, you’ll be glad to know, and only a few are posted here.  One of the great things is that our student team is so disciplined that they do not use their cellphones during the summer camp, so they rely on us for the photos…

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Our Advent Church summer camps are legendary in the local area, and each year they get better and better.  Months of hard work, training, preparation and prayer pays off.  Always grateful to all those who make it all possible, and to Almighty God for his many blessings!

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And if you want to see all the photos and videos, check our our facebook page here: 台灣聖公會降臨堂 Advent Episcopal Church at St. John’s University, Taiwan

Already looking forward to next year YES YES YES!

 

The day the ceiling fell down…

Otherwise subtitled, never underestimate the power of termites.  Those horrible, terrible, awful, nightmarish creatures are eating their way through this country, ceiling by ceiling, house by house.

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So tiny, yet so powerful.  Gobsmacking what they can do.

So yes, finally the ceiling fell down.  Yesterday.  At 12 noon exactly.  The living room ceiling, no less.  This was the scene…

The whole ceiling was put in 4 years ago – obviously and sadly by a cowboy builder who used cheap wood.  And yes, the landlord deeply regrets asking him to do it.  In those 4 years, the termites have managed to eat their way through 2 of the ceilings.  Yesterday’s was the second.  Or the third if you count the one brought down by the typhoon 3 years ago, which was no doubt weakened by the termites.

Well, you have to laugh ~ I’ve been here 3 years, and this is my third ceiling to bite the dust. Hey it makes a great story!

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And if I stayed here much longer, they’d bring down the rest too.  There’s already signs that the back of the house is infested.

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Note that the termites are not eating the ceiling boards. The ceiling appears normal from below.  The termites are eating the wooden supports that are holding the ceiling up.  Completely eaten away.   So not until the ceiling is almost ready to fall does it start to droop and slope and that’s when it’s noticeable.

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Last summer, we replaced one ceiling before it fell. That’s when we discovered the termites.  This time, we just waited.  And so, with an almighty crash, it fell yesterday.  Bringing down the light fittings with it too.

Termites are also eating their way through my cardboard boxes.  The bigger the better.  Just don’t ask me what happened to all those Christmas decorations I used to have.  Gone.  To the termites.

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Today I’ve had a great time telling everyone my stories of my fallen ceilings.  And showing all the photos.  Ah, I love it.  Such a great story.  And so wonderful that it fell down yesterday at such a convenient time.  I’m never normally here at 12 noon on a Monday.  But I was yesterday.  Just arrived home, walked through the living room and into the kitchen. Grateful to God that it didn’t fall at that very moment.  But then again, I’ve been expecting that ceiling to fall since the weekend, been avoiding that area of the living room for about a week, and had cleared out all the things I had there.  Termites might work quietly and quickly, but not completely unnoticed.  Anyway, the landlord came immediately, got to work, and within 4 hours, everything was cleaned up.  Now looking great!

And the poor landlord was so nice and so apologetic that he returned later with a huge watermelon to say sorry.  Yummy yummy!

So, never ever ever underestimate the power of termites.

And, yes, Noah was a very brave man to sail in a wooden ark with 2 very very dangerous termites… 😊😊😊

Consecration of the new Christ Church, Chungli (Zhongli), Taoyuan 聖公會基督堂祝聖新堂感恩禮拜!

Today was THE day!  Christ Church, Chungli finally has a real home to call its own!  Yes, after 7 years of using rented buildings for worship and outreach, Christ Church now has its own building. Today we all gathered for the consecration. Thanks be to God!

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To finally own your own building – your own church – is really a great blessing from God.  Today the emphasis and atmosphere in the whole service was one of deep thanksgiving and appreciation to God for his many blessings to Christ Church.

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Christ Church has some very talented church members, and Jeff and Janey have designed the most beautiful logo, which was printed on the service books, on the magnet that came attached as a gift, and on their T-shirts. It incorporates the Chinese characters for ‘Christ Church’ 基督堂. I totally LOVE it!

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The new Christ Church is actually the ground-floor of an apartment building, and the floor above.  Upstairs, where the overflow seating was today, there’s also rooms for the Sunday School and accommodation for the vicar, Rev. Tsai Ching-Yi 蔡靜儀.  Downstairs, most of the space is taken up with the church, the worship area ~ beautifully designed and decorated.  I like it!  These are the views from higher up on chairs and stairs…

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Christ Church is really the daughter church of Good Shepherd Church, Taipei, part of the outreach and church planting program initiated by their rector at the time, Rev. Lily L. L. Chang.  Until Christ Church started, there was no Episcopal Church anywhere between Taipei and Taichung, a distance of about 170 km.  Then, maybe about 20 years ago, as land and housing prices in Taipei City started to increase dramatically, so Taoyuan started to develop ~ cheaper in price, near Taoyuan International Airport, the high-speed rail station, and easy to commute into Taipei itself.  So lots of new housing was built all over Taoyuan County, including Chungli, attracting lots of young families.

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One of these families was the Pan family, or I should say, one branch of the Pan family.  They live in the Pingzhen 平鎮 area of Chungli 中壢, and at the time, they were driving an hour to Good Shepherd Church every Sunday to attend the worship there.  William Pan (see the photo above – taken as he shared his story today) has the kind of job which involves lots of international travel, and it was actually his wife who was the one with all the local contacts.  She was very involved in helping at her daughters’ elementary school and had many friends among the other mothers.  They all had children the same age, and some of the mothers were interested in the Christian faith.  With that impetus, so Good Shepherd Church started renting a building very near that elementary school, and outreach work officially began in May 2011.  That summer, our then companion diocese of New Westminster sent a mission team who helped to lead a children’s holiday club in that first church building, a wonderful way to launch the outreach program.

Sunday worship started in October 2011 and the church started to grow.  In April 2013, the church moved to a different building nearby, just off the main street.  Until then it was just known as the 中壢關懷中心, Chungli Outreach Center.  On July 7, 2013, the building was consecrated, and Christ Church was officially established as a mission station.

In their hearts though, what the congregation really wanted was a church building of their own.  The one eventually chosen, which Bishop Lai and the Diocese of Taiwan have recently bought, has cost NT$ 20 million.  Although the worship area of the church is ready, a grant application has been made to the United Thank Offering (UTO) for much-needed interior furnishings in the other rooms of the building; results are expected to be announced at the General Convention in Austin, Texas next month.  Yes, we are hoping and praying for good news!

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Today’s consecration service took place at 10:30 am, and was attended by nearly all our clergy, coming from all over Taiwan, plus church members from all over, too.  Rev. Joseph Ho (one of the clergy formerly assigned to Christ Church) and his group from St. Mark’s Church, Pingtung had left at 5:00 am this morning to get to Chungli on time!

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Good Shepherd Church choir sang, as did Christ Church choir.  We had a beautiful solo from one of the church members.  One young man was confirmed during the service, another played the piano, others were servers.  The different items in the church, the font, lectern, altar etc were all consecrated in turn.  And we had Holy Communion.  At the end, a presentation of a Bible was made to the interior designer of the new building, he did an amazing job.  And finally, well, we had a delicious lunch!

Today was a day of great blessing and great rejoicing.  God is gracious and faithful.

Thanks to Rev. Tsai Ching-Yi and all at Christ Church for their warm welcome and all their hard work to make today so special.

Please do pray for Christ Church as they settle into their new building and as they plan their summer outreach program.  It was wonderful to see so many teenagers there today – and their mothers, many of these are members of the original families who got involved way back in 2011 when they were just elementary school children.  Now they are serving in the church and will be helping to run the summer camps ~ ah yes, thanks be to God!

CMS Link Letter # 75!

Just published by Church Mission Society, my latest link letter for you to read.  It’s in pdf format.  It mentions that we’re in the middle of the lotus flowering season….

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It’s also telling you my UK Home Leave is coming up, starting in mid-August and that my church visits are already booked – dates given in the link letter.  Many thanks to CMS for publishing it and to you for reading it! Just click on the link below:

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It’s also on the website here

The countdown in on, packing has started, preparations are ongoing ~ YES YES YES!