Category Archives: Advent Church, Taiwan

R.I.P. Janet Tan 譚瑾姊妹追思禮拜 Funeral Service @ Advent Church, Taipei

Well over 200 people gathered at 2:00 pm today, Sunday, at Advent Church to give thanks to God for the life and witness of our close friend and beloved church member, Janet Tan 譚瑾姊妹, who sadly died on June 25. Hers was a life lived to the full, she never wasted one single moment, and all of us who knew her were touched by her kindness, love, self-effacing charm, endless optimism and interest in everything and everyone. All the photos used in this post below bring back many memories, but the top photo above shows Janet with Bishop Lai in 2014 at the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Taiwan Episcopal Church, and that’s how I remember her, always with a smile on her face!

The Tan family have long been the party-family of Advent Church, and until Tan Mama and Tan Baba both passed away last year (see my report of Tan Mama’s funeral here), we regularly gathered at their home to celebrate and enjoy delicious food and great company, whether it was birthdays, Christmas or other festivals, the returning home of one of the grandchildren or welcoming visitors coming – whatever and whenever, it was the Tan family who always knew how to host a great party. Tan Mama was in charge, but somehow it was Janet who made it all happen!

Janet went to high school in Taipei, and after leaving Christ’s College, Guandu, she traveled the world with Cathay Pacific for 10 years or so – she used to tell so many stories of her backpacking adventures! Later she worked in the USA, then at the family T-shirt company in Taipei City, and finally moved with all the Tan family to the coast at Baishawan, just north of Advent Church, where she and her parents took care of the Tan family pets: 7 horses, about 15 famously noisy dogs, a host of cats and a whole gaggle of geese. In their Taipei days, Janet had had a whole pack of Dalmatian dogs, all white with black spots, and she had clothes to match ~ plus the car and the family factory were all painted in white with black spots too ~ ah, she was just so special!

In the countryside at Baishawan, Janet learned how to renovate derelict houses, grow vegetables and live off the land, while also taking care of her beloved parents, and all the pets. Visitors were always welcome! And thus it was that I’ve been to the family home many times for early morning breakfast, other times for lunch, and even more times for late evening parties. Tan Mama was always just getting warmed up at 9:00 pm when most 90-year-olds were well gone to bed!

And when the party was over, often getting on for 11:00 pm, then somehow I had to get home, and that’s when the fun started ~ Janet would offer to drive me the 5 miles or so – only 5 miles but it would take absolutely ages! Tan Mama, fearing that Janet would fall asleep driving, would insist on coming too, and Tan Baba didn’t want to miss out on a car trip, so all 4 of us would then launch forth into the night, pile into the car and head down the hill and along the road in the darkness, going very slowly. The only way to keep Janet awake was to sing loudly and get her to join in too, and so that’s how we got home. Being a kindergarten teacher, I know endless children’s songs, and we sang them all, over and over again ~ ‘Jingle Bells, Happy Birthday, The Wheels on the Bus, Incy-Wincy Spider, If you’re happy and you know it’ every verse, over and over! By this time, Tan Mama and Tan Baba were both fast asleep themselves, and Janet and me were having a great singalong all the way home. It was hilarious. Visitors would join in too, ah such amazing memories!

Janet and her parents also came to every social event in Advent Church. They rarely came on time, and sometimes not even on the right day, but hey, they always came, often right at the end, just in time for the food. One time they called me and asked could they visit. When they arrived, they came with a huge plate of watermelon chunks, enough for about 20 people. The 4 of us munched our way through all that watermelon. It turned out they had thought it was a social evening at Advent Church, and had turned up very late – only to find the church closed. After a quick phone call, they discovered they were a week early, it was on the following week instead. So rather than go home, hey they just brought the watermelon to my house for a watermelon party instead!

When the then-Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori came to visit Advent Church many years ago, she also visited the Tan family and met the horses. Then when the Episcopal Church House of Bishops came to Taiwan in 2014, Janet was on hand to renew her friendship with Presiding Bishop Katharine and her husband, Richard – here they are having lunch!

And only Janet could have pulled off a group photo on the steps of Advent Church with her in the front row with all the bishops!

Today’s service was a fitting tribute to Janet’s life, and also to her witness of her deep and very real Christian faith. She always made the most of every opportunity to share her faith with others, particularly in the context of her simple rural lifestyle, depending on God to supply everything they needed – and over this past year of declining health, she has always remained grateful and appreciative of God’s grace, mercy and love. When Tan Baba died last July, Janet was not able to be at his funeral, she was already receiving treatment for cancer – however she kept as active as she could right to the end and in this last semester, she came along most weeks to my community English class, including the one only a week before she died. We loved having her, she was a real blessing to us all.

Today’s funeral service was led by our rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, who was with Janet in the days and hours leading up to her death, and he also led her cremation service on July 1. Her death was a shock and the whole church has been in mourning for weeks; Janet was too young and died too soon, only a year after both her parents, and yet she would not have wanted us to be mournful – but to rejoice with her that she is now with her Lord in heaven, where there is no more suffering and pain, and where she is reunited with her beloved parents. The reading was from Ecclesiastes 3: 1-15, most appropriate. The funeral service in a packed Advent Church….

After the service, we had a tea party in the church center, which the family had decorated with flowers, and Dalmatian-style tablecloths! There were gifts of memorial books and T-shirts. On the T-shirts, designed and made by the family in their own factory, were the words of Ecclesiastes 3:1, headlined with the song, ‘Turn, turn, turn’: “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” So beautiful.

Janet’s 3 older brothers shook hands and thanked everyone as the service finished. We offer them and all the Tan family our condolences and prayers. The brothers and their families are looking after all Janet’s horses and dogs, cats and geese, and also trying to complete some of her building projects, like the huge cross that she wanted to make on the flat roof of the horses’ stable, so that as the airplanes pass by overhead on their flight-path to the international airport, so they can look down and see the cross outline all lit up. Janet had so many ideas and so much vision, she was brimming with creativity and imagination for what was possible. You can see from her outfits she wore that she always dressed as creatively as she could. Janet really brightened up our lives, and was a great friend to so many of us. I thank God for the privilege of having known her.

Fondly remembered. May Janet rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.

Advent Church Summer Camp 2019 降臨堂兒童喜樂營!

‘Be Brave!’ was the theme of this year’s summer camp, run by Advent Church in cooperation with St. John’s University Student Fellowship ~ and it was a really great choice of theme, oh so relevant to children – and to all the leaders too! You’ve certainly gotta be brave to run a summer camp in searing heat in the height of summer, when thunderstorms are forecast and many people would rather be inside doing as little as possible 😊 As it was, we had 80 excited and very energetic children plus 35 equally excited and energetic student leaders ~ YES!

All the songs, games, activities, stories, drama and teaching were on the theme of courage, whether it was facing a barrage of water in the water fight, trying to hit a paper ball with a flip-flop, hitting your opposing team member’s foam shield with your rolled up newspaper, listening to stories of courage, or most moving of all, watching the drama. The students acted out 2 scenes of a story about facing bullies, drawing on strength and courage from God in prayer to know how to stand up to them and when to report what they’re doing. Many of the children had tears in their eyes, and so did I. Our students are really talented. They worked so hard to prepare and practice everything. The preparations have been going on for months, with an intensive weekend of training starting last Friday night right through to Sunday. The results were amazing….

The summer camp was on Monday and Tuesday this week, July 1-2, the official start of Taiwan’s 2-months summer holiday. Yippee! The weather was cloudy, so it was a bit cooler. Distant thunder indicated rain was on its way, it started as we got to the water fight on Tuesday afternoon ~ then the rain came just as we finished and moved inside!

Thanks to all our student team, church and chaplaincy leaders, church members and visitors. Special thanks to Yu-Ru and Tzi-Wei for organizing everything, everything went so well! We were honoured to welcome our old friend, Sheerah from Malaysia. In 2010, she came to Advent Church as part of a team from the Diocese of West Malaysia, and she led us all in training for that year’s summer camp on the theme of ‘Kids Games’, which we’ve used every year since, including all the banners which they kindly donated to us. Last year, Sheerah left Malaysia and moved to Taiwan to get married, she’s now pregnant and she came to visit for the second day of our camp. We were delighted to see her! This is Sheerah with all 9 of our Malaysian student leaders on the camp….

And in August, our rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang will lead a mission trip to the Diocese of West Malaysia, along with some youth from our companion Diocese of Osaka – so this photo is of our Malaysian students plus those from the summer camp student team who are going on that mission trip. Ah, see how much we all love Malaysia!

We finished the summer camp with a buffet meal last night at the church centre, and said our goodbyes ~ some of our students have graduated and are moving back home, including some back to Malaysia, while some graduated last year and are now at work, but managed to take 2 days off work for this camp, while others will look for summer jobs. Some of the helpers are still high school students and have summer classes coming up. They all leave with many happy memories – and a whole lot of new friends!

Next week our summer class programme at Advent Church starts for 30 children and 4 student leaders, lasting for 6 weeks through the summer holidays. Please pray for them all. We thank God for all the children who came this year to our summer camp, they were all so lovely – and they’re already looking forward to next year!

Thanks be to God for another amazing summer camp ~ YES!

Pentecost & Dragon Boat Festival 2019!

A bumper weekend here in Taiwan ~ with an extra day off on Friday for the Dragon Boat Festival. YES!

Today is Pentecost ~ the day we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit on Jesus’ disciples in Jerusalem, 40 days after His resurrection and 10 days after His ascension. The colour associated with Pentecost is always red, and it so happens I just love red! Today at Advent Church @ St. John’s University, the 2 flame trees are still in flower (see the 2 photos above, taken on May 30) ~ and nearly everyone was wearing something red. And it looked beautiful! So beautiful in fact, that we had a group photo of us all, that’s the one at the top. We also had the Gospel reading in lots of different languages, which was a blessing, helped considerably by our Malaysian students who are very multilingual. And one of our Taiwan students, Zhong-Yu was baptized – he lives locally, so he also went to our local junior-high school next door, and he’s well-known to us all. Thanks be to God!

Meanwhile, out on the streets, the local townships of Tamsui and Sanzhi are celebrating Dragon Boat Festival this weekend with 3 days of parades of deities and gods. For followers of traditional folk religion, this weekend is a busy time of cooking and making offerings to the ancestors. It’s also a time for family reunions. Here at St. John’s University, 2 of our delightful church members, Ming-Chuan and Meng-Zhen spent all of Friday cooking a delicious dinner, and in the evening they invited our Malaysian students plus some of our chaplaincy staff to a wonderful gathering, & me too….😊😊😊!

The traditional food for Dragon Boat Festival is zhong- zi 粽子, made with sticky rice, filled with meat, eggs (or even red beans for a dessert) and wrapped in bamboo leaves or other large flat leaves, and boiled or steamed. But there was also plenty more – all yummy!

Taiwan is in the middle of the Plum Rainy Season, so the weather is always unpredictable, and for this weekend, it was mostly forecast to rain every afternoon in the mountains. On Friday it was 32°C, but ‘feels like 41°C’ said my phone. It was indeed very hot. Phew! I went up Guanyinshan 觀音山 (616m – but felt like triple that 😫😫😫!!) This is what the mountain looks like from Tamsui MRT Station, just a small pimple of a hill. But on a hot June day, feeling like 41 °C, it is massive! The trail starts just across the river, just above sea level.

The trail to the main peak is called the Ying Han Ling trail (硬漢嶺步道) or the “Tough Guy Peak” – because it’s where the police used to do their training. But that’s not all. Coming along the ridge to the left are another 6-7 smaller humps, all very steep, and all either with steps or ropes going up and down. It’s hard on the legs and hands (take gloves!) but it’s great fun. Difficult to photograph, cos it’s really steep ~ and a little hot, but it’s worth it all…

The whole trail took 5½ long, hot hours, and the highlight was seeing the view at the top…

And the hydrangeas, in full bloom all over….

And this is Taipei down below…

On Saturday, I decided the best way to beat the aching limbs was to go up another hill – and this time off I went to Xiangshan, Elephant Mountain, over on the other side of Taipei, up behind Taipei 101 ~ plus the range of hills behind it, which lead up to Jiuwu / 9-5 Peak 九五峰 (402m) and Muzhi mountain 拇指山, on the same trail. The weather was mostly cloudy, so it was a bit cooler, and after Guanyinshan, this walk was really a piece of cake. Only 3½ hours to complete the whole trail – normally it’s hard work in the heat with all the steps, but hey, compared with the day before, it was easy!

And now back to sea-level, recovering from all those exertions, and the weekend would not be complete without sharing with you a few photos of what’s going on locally, well, in Sanzhi. The fields are full of water bamboo, seaweed is drying in the sun, the waterwheels are busy, and the sun is shining!

And the lotus flowers are out all over Sanzhi too. I took these on Thursday early morning last week….

And then there’s lots of the Singapore Daisies (Sphagneticola trilobata) or wedelia, which unfortunately are on the “List of the world’s 100 worst invasive species” – which is a great shame, cos they are stunningly beautiful, and look great covering up old walls!

A great big thank you to all who made our Dragon Boat Festival so special, and thanks be to God for good weather, welcoming friends, delicious food, beautiful countryside, spectacular mountains, and lots to see and do. May God’s Holy Spirit continue to fill us each day. Wishing you all a happy and blessed Pentecost 2019!

‘New House’ Blessing, House Warming and Birthday Celebrations, All in One – YES!

A big THANK YOU to everyone who has sent me birthday greetings and for all your prayers for my moving house and settling in, much appreciated. Yes, it’s all been happening!

Two wonderful days of birthday celebrations started at Xian-Xiao Junior High School on Tuesday morning at my early morning English conversation class (7:45 am start!) followed by coffee with my good friend, Jasmine. Cards and birthday songs from all the kids, and lots of photos – thank you to them and to Jasmine for organizing it all. Plus their wisteria is always in flower on my birthday, so we made the most of it!

Then, Rev. Paul Lau, my good friend from Sabah, Malaysia happened to post on Facebook that he was in Taipei for a conference starting the following day, and such are the wonders of modern technology that a few seconds later, wow, we’d made arrangements for him to come and visit, and he set off! So we rushed around everywhere and ended up having coffee with our Advent Church rector, Rev. Lennon Chang and his wife, Hannah, and sister-in-law, Rev. Elizabeth Wei and Rev. Peter Chen. This was a great reunion for Elizabeth and Paul, who had first met in 1991 when Elizabeth spent a month in Sabah, when Paul was still at high school. The left photos are of all the 3 times they have met, plus us all having coffee!

Wednesday was actually my birthday, and at lunch time, we had our usual English Bible Study with the St. John’s University student fellowship. We’re doing the parables of Jesus, and we spent a happy hour talking about the Good Samaritan. This semester the number of boys in the whole fellowship group is way more than the number of girls, like 4 times more, whereas only a few years ago there were way more girls than boys. Anyway, they are all very lovely – and here they all are – thank you Setu for taking the photo!

I’ve been back in Taiwan now for about 6 weeks and it’s taken that long to move into my new place and get it all sorted. I’m in a flat / apartment block that has just been converted from offices, so being the first person to move in, there was lots to do. And the one person who has done so much to help get it all done is Rev. Lennon Chang. So I invited Lennon and all from Advent Church, plus all the SJU student fellowship to come for a service of blessing for my new house on my birthday ~ a combined house blessing / house warming / birthday party all in one. Yes, I love a good party! And it so happens that my new next-door neighbour, Feng-Ray, who also works in our chaplaincy office, has his birthday next week too ~ so I invited him and his wife, Chuan-Fang to join in for a double house blessing and birthday celebration – 2 houses, one party!

We had LOTS of people come! Lots of LOVELY people no less! Well, it was lots for the size of the place, way more people than we had chairs for anyway! So many, in fact, that it would have been impossible to put them all together for a group photo. If anyone can count them from all the photos, do let me know. Maybe about 30 altogether or more – students, church members, friends and neighbours, including our neighbour upstairs, a Creative Design lecturer from Mainland China, also Calvin, one of our Malaysian students currently on an internship in Taipei, so this is the first time I’ve seen him since I came back from the UK – always grateful to him for his support for our SJU English Bible Study. It was great to see so many old-but-still-young friends and students. Love ’em all! A big welcome to everyone!

The house blessing started at 7:30 pm ~ and with me holding the candle, Lennon took me around the house praying at the door of each room, following the prayers in the book, which everyone responded to. The prayers are really appropriate. Lennon sprinkled the holy water, 3 times, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit after each prayer in each room. All very meaningful. Thanks be to God!

We finished with the ‘peace’ and then we had a huge birthday cake and song for all of us celebrating birthdays in April, which includes Lennon, whose birthday was yesterday. Such fun!

It was especially nice to welcome all the Tan family to the party. And especially because it was David, brother No. 2 of 3, who with his wife, Marge drilled many holes in the wall for me to hang up my pictures, and who designed and made the curtains for my living room. The curtains are so special, very distinctive Tan family style! I’ve spent all week inviting all my friends to come to my new house to see my curtains, cos there aint none other like them in the whole world! The Tan family are in the T-shirt business so they have lots of material, lots of ideas, lots of creative skills and are always willing to help in any way. This is David posing in front of his curtains, and Janet Tan with Rev. Peter Chen in the foreground. Thanks to all of the Tan family for all their friendship and support over the years!

And then, when all the party-goers had just left, my friend Ah-Guan rolled up with one of her friends from Taichung, my first visitors to come and stay!

It’s Tomb-Sweeping Festival plus Children’s Day, so we have a 4-day weekend. Not being ones to hang around doing nothing on a holiday, we’ve been today over to Keelung, to Heping Island…

To Badouzi to see the beautiful painted houses…

And to see the old Agenna Shipyard, now one of Taiwan’s most famous abandoned buildings, it’s a really interesting place, oozing with history and well, abandonment!

Keelung was very busy…

And so we didn’t stay too long, and called in at Laomei Algal Reef on the way home – it’s at its best at this time of the year, all green!

(Updated on April 6: And yesterday we went to see the Calla Lilies in full bloom up at Zhuzihu, in a valley in the Yangmingshan Mountains above Taipei… it was beautiful!)

So a very very big thank you to everyone who came to my party – and if you didn’t or couldn’t, well you can see from the photos that we had a great time! Do find time to come and visit, I am now open for nice visitors, and as you know, I just love a noisy house full of happy people!

Adventures with Advent Church Choir 台灣聖公會降臨堂詩班 @ Jiji 集集, Checheng 車埕 and Wang Hsiang 望鄉部落 Kalibuan Village, Nantou County!

IMG_4484

A choir that has fun together, laughs together and goes on trips together is sure, yes, sure to sing and harmonize better at church on Sunday mornings.  And y’know, our Advent Church Choir is not just any old choir singing any old hymns. This choir is really quite special.  They are dedicated, not just to singing in the morning worship, but also to their rehearsal time on Sunday afternoons.  They spend hours and hours practicing.  And when they sing in the morning service, they sing with great joy.  They look happy.  Smiles all around.  This is a gift from God.  Not every choir sings quite so joyfully, believe me. What’s more, they are all friends.  And friendship means having fun together.  And having fun involves an annual trip somewhere interesting, usually involving an overnight stay, and singing at that church on the Sunday morning.  Visiting other churches and other denominations is a great blessing, and in doing so, we bring greetings from the Taiwan Episcopal Church, and our own church, Advent Church @ St. John’s University, Tamsui, Taipei.  The annual choir trip is officially called their choir retreat.  And so it was that this past weekend, I was invited to tag along too.  Thanks to the choir, especially their leader, Meng-Zhen, who invited me to join them.  So, early on Saturday morning, off we went in cars driving to Nantou County, in central Taiwan, about 3-4 hours south of Taipei…

107728南投之行_180730_0129

First we went to Jiji Town 集集 , famous for its train station, originally constructed by the Japanese colonial government in 1933, but very badly damaged in the Sept. 21, 1999 earthquake. Since rebuilt, incorporating the original design, and now a major tourist destination for Taiwan people.  And that means us – that’s us at the train station above.  The station is beautiful, and the surrounding station area is full of things to take photos of.  And with.  And next to.  And behind, in front of, above, below and around.  You can jump up.  Or sit down.  Or buy a balloon.  Or whatever.  By the time you have taken 100 photos, the train might have arrived.  For that is our main purpose.  To get the train along the Jiji Line to Checheng 車埕 Train Station.

The Jiji Train Line was built in 1922 as a single track to help move construction materials used in the Sun Moon Lake Hydroelectric Project.  Get to the very front of the train and the view is especially wonderful!

Checheng 車埕 Town lies just below the Mingtan Reservoir and Power Plant, with water coming into the reservoir from Sun Moon Lake further upstream.  Checheng itself is an old logging town, with a log pool and old buildings where the Japanese workers lived and laboured in the wood-processing plant and in preparing the logs for transportation downhill on the railway.  Now the buildings are a huge museum with all sorts of interesting things to do and look at….

About an hour or so from Checheng, further up in the central mountains, is Wang Hsiang Village.  Our main destination ~ and the real reason why I came along on this trip.  Any chance to visit an indigenous village with friends who know people there – and I’m in!

Wang Hsiang 望鄉部落 is known as Kalibuan in the Bunun language. This is a Bunun Village.  The Bunun people 布農 are a Taiwanese indigenous people, traditionally living in the very high mountains of central Taiwan.  Famous for their singing and their physical strength – turned out I recognized several of the men in the village who have come with us on our mountain expeditions in the past, helping us to carry everything and cook the food.  One of the aims of our visit this time was for us to learn something about the village – and the challenges, customs, faith and way of life of the people there.  The current population of Wang Hsiang is over 900, all members of the Presbyterian Church (built in 1951), where we worshiped on Sunday and our choir sang, accompanied by Yu-Jie on the piano – all so beautifully!

The Bunun choir sang too, their songs are incredible.  The church has 2 services, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, with 200 at the morning service – often extending to 300 if all the children come too.  The church was so full that many were sitting outside.  Services are held in the Bunun language, but with a power point so everyone can follow the words in pinyin.  Actually, for our benefit, the sermon and some of the announcements were in Chinese, with translation into Bunun.  The preacher was Rev. Wu, who was visiting from a neighbouring village.  Most of the people now are second or third generation Christians – a challenge in itself, and in his sermon, Rev. Wu talked about how for Kalibuan Church to be a strong church, it needs victorious Christians, who are well-equipped through prayer, Bible reading, teaching and fellowship, united in love, and with a vision to go out and share the Gospel with others.

Wang Hsiang was not always a Bunun Village.  The history of Taiwan’s indigenous people and their relationship with the Japanese authorities during the colonial period of 1895-1945 is complex.  The Japanese authorities wanted Taiwan to modernize and develop, and all in Taiwan to be law-abiding model citizens under their control and management.  The indigenous peoples, especially those in the high mountains (like the Bunun people) – who were known as fierce warriors, resented such interference and responded with hostility. This led to conflict, violence, uprisings, killings and brutal crackdowns.  The Japanese authorities forced the high mountain peoples to relocate to lower altitudes where they could be more easily controlled, and killed many of their fiercest warriors who opposed their authority – including those in this photo, displayed on the village wall. This is the last known photo of the men before they were put to death.

IMG_4187

Wang Hsiang was originally inhabited by the Tsou 鄒 people, and when the Bunun people first moved here, there was much conflict.  But as the Bunun people grew in numbers, so eventually the Tsou moved away to the Alishan area, where they still are today.  The story goes that when the Bunun people were forced to move down from the high mountains, they were offered 3 choices of location, and they chose Wang Hsiang because of its distant view of Yushan 玉山, Taiwan’s highest mountain (3,952 m).  From their original high mountain village they could also see Yushan in the distance, so they felt more at home.  Their original home village was located up over 3,000 m in altitude, with snow every winter.  Down in Wang Hsiang, they’ve had snow once in the last 20 years.  The name, ‘Wang Hsiang’ means ‘looking towards home’ and that described their own longing to be back in their high mountain village, which was over the mountain of the same name – and / or maybe it described the feeling of the young homesick Japanese police officers stationed in Wang Hsiang.  Many theories of where the name came from… but the view is there all the same.  Except in the afternoons, the clouds roll in and it often rains in the high mountains ~ like on Saturday afternoon, when we arrived.  Yushan is in the clouds on the left of that big mountain in the centre…..

IMG_4046

Towards the end of the Japanese Era, the first missionaries appeared in the Wang Hsiang area and eventually the village elders made the decision to convert to Christianity.  In doing so, they also realized that their days of headhunting and violent conflict with the authorities were over, and so started a complete transformation of their way of life and thinking.

IMG_4184

These days, the pastors and church leaders are Bunun people from the village, and together with the tribal and village leaders, several income-generating projects have started locally.  These are community enterprises, designed to benefit the whole village.  Originally considered one of the most underdeveloped and backward of the local villages (they were the last to be connected to mains electricity, for example), in recent years there has been much hard work, and success is coming slowly but surely.  The government provides a lot of support, like free wifi throughout the village.  These days also, when the Bunun people remember the Japanese era, not all is completely negative, they say they are grateful for the infrastructure, education facilities and benefits provided by the government.  But still, it must have been terrible at the time.  Recent development projects are in 3 main areas: leading and supporting mountain-climbing expeditions – training and licensing as mountain guides and high-altitude porters, providing guest house accommodation for mountain expeditions and for weekend visitors / ecotourism (like us!) and thirdly the development of high-altitude agricultural projects, particularly fruit and vegetables.  Ah yes, and coffee too…

IMG_4047

This was not the first time I had stayed in Wang Hsiang. Last year at this time, on the night before our ascent of Yushan, we also stayed in Wang Hsiang.  This time, we stayed in a different guest house and had a tour of the village with one of the local guides.  This time also, the personal connection was that Sheng-Feng (Simon) and Hsuan-Ying (Grace), one of our choir couples (who had also invited me to join their trip to visit Grace’s home village at Nantian, Taitung earlier this month – see that post here) are old friends of the pastor and his family – actually they had been student members of a fellowship group that he led in Taichung many years ago.  That personal connection made all the difference, and we enjoyed hearing their stories and sharing time together in the guest house…

S__46497844

The food was amazing.  Loved it all!  Delicious, completely so!  The bamboo tubes are a traditional dish – filled with sticky rice. The lemon slices are flavored with – guess what?  That dark stuff is coffee granules.  Really special!  And then we sang…

On our tour of the village, we learned that it consists of 4 streets, all leading off to the left of the main road.  The walls of all the houses and gardens have mosaic / stone patterns showing aspects of Bunun daily life.  Each house – and corner – has a notice explaining about each place.  Really amazing.  In some places, millet, the staple food was lying out in the sun drying….

We finished our tour with a group photo at the village sign at the entrance to the village…

107728南投之行_180730_0009

Early on Sunday morning, some of us climbed up the hill behind the village.  Bit foggy, but by the time we got back the mist had cleared and the view toward Yushan was beautiful. Yushan is the pointed peak in the far distance.

IMG_4354

One of our group had a drone – this is us!

20180729_045757778_iOS

And so to church.  First to the rehearsal – our choir are dedicated!  Our music conductor on the retreat was Shiao Chien, she has a real gift of enthusing everyone with a love of singing and music, and always chooses really suitable songs to sing.  She had also asked everyone to wear one (any one!) of the Advent Church T-shirts, of which we have many,  going back years, hence all the bright colours.

Also at the church were a group of young ABC (American-born Chinese) whose families are originally from Taiwan, they are here for a few weeks in the summer as part of a project to help Wang Hsiang children learn English.  They also sang a song, and the church provided lunch for us visitors after the service.  Ah, it was so delicious!

A big ‘Thank You’ to Advent Church Choir for their kind invitation and welcome to me to join their trip.  Thanks to Paul and Christina for driving me there and back – and all the way home.  It was all a wonderful adventure.  The choir all love singing and having fun ~ a great combination!

P_20180728_155016_vHDR_Auto

Thanks too to the pastor and people of Wang Hsiang Village, for their hard work and time to make us so welcome.  And thanks be to God for safe travels, beautiful views, delicious food, new experiences, fresh mountain air, and of course, friends, fellowship and fun!

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

36660732_1713777198737926_3853382887751548928_n

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!

IMG_0236

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!

IMG_8870

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!

IMG_8890

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!

IMG_0186

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…

IMG_9505

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!

IMG_0138

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…

IMG_0147

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!

2018-07-04

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!

 

Holy Week and Easter 2018 @ Advent Church, St. John’s University, Taiwan!

Christ is risen, Alleluia!  It’s been a meaningful, joyful and blessed Holy Week here at Advent Church, St. John’s University ~ and now Easter is upon us, so a very happy Easter to you all!  This is the Easter fire, lit last night at 8:00 pm as we started our Easter Vigil Service…

IMG_9286

And the sun’s been shining all week, and the cherry blossom was still out at the beginning of Holy Week…..

P_20180323_083030_vHDR_Auto

Holy Week started last Sunday, Palm Sunday ~ YES!

IMG_8088

We began our Palm Sunday service with a procession around the main entrance of St. John’s University.  We were very pleased that Bishop Lai was able to join us for the service and procession too.

The procession wound its way around the church, where we have the Stations of the Cross, pausing at each in turn.  Then as we processed into the church, each person took one of the small green palm crosses…

During the service, we had a dramatic presentation of the events of Holy Week, acted out by our students, past and present…..

Then on Monday night, the St. John’s University ‘Movie Club’ showed the movie ‘Silence‘ 沈默 on a big screen on the main playing field.  This was not done intentionally for Holy Week, rather they had to choose an evening when there was no baseball practice, and they chose the movie because it was filmed in Taiwan.  But it so happens that it was so appropriate for Holy Week – and quite a number of us turned up to watch.  This was my second time to see it, and it’s much improved on the second viewing ~ like I knew when the gruesome bits were coming up, but also I noticed things I had missed the first time round.  Still utterly compelling and challenging.  Brutal and horrific, and yet also so moving. And so fitting for Holy Week.  For me, this was one of the highlights of the week.

On Maundy Thursday, we held our Passover Meal in the Advent Church Center, and a wonderful mix of students and adults came along.  This took a huge amount of work and preparation, but all worth it.  We were so pleased to welcome SJU President Ay and his wife too.

During the service that followed in the church, we had foot-washing.  President Ay had his feet washed by our rector, Rev. Lennon Chang – the teacher washing the feet of his former student.  We also had our chaplain, Rev. Wu Hsing-Hsiang, washing the feet of Jin-Ching, our SJU Student Fellowship Leader, and Shu-Jing from our chaplaincy washed the feet of Pei-Ching, one of our 4th year students who was preparing for her baptism on Easter Eve.  We celebrated the ‘Last Supper’ together, remembering the evening when Jesus instituted the Holy Communion, and shared bread and wine with his disciples just before his death.

The altar had been stripped after the service on Maundy Thursday, and the crosses were covered in black cloth.  On Good Friday, it being a working and school day, we had a lunchtime service with our students, faculty and staff acting out the events of Good Friday – the trial, crucifixion and death of Jesus, and we finished in silence around the cross and the altar…..

Then to last night, which was Easter Eve, Saturday, and we held our Easter Vigil at 8:00 pm, with the lighting of the Easter fire, and also 2 baptisms. It was great to see so many of our student fellowship coming along to support Pei-Ching in her baptism…

I was outside taking photos during the baptisms, along with a little 2-year-old and his father.   He was totally absorbed in watching events inside at the font….

IMG_9340

This morning, Easter Day, we could truly say, ‘Christ is risen, Alleluia!’  I even wore a skirt for the occasion, and got mentioned in the Notices as a result!  Advent Church was filled with wonderful choir music as our choir sang and sang so much beautiful Easter music.

IMG_9427

Yu-Jie accompanied the choir on the piano, and glorious sounds filled the church!

IMG_9442

Ah yes, and to finish, we had an Easter egg hunt!

And then we had lunch and birthday cake – celebrating all April birthdays.  Here we all are at the end of the service singing happy birthday together!

IMG_9462

And so, wishing you all a Happy Easter.  Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia!