Tag Archives: Advent Church

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!

52nd Anniversary Celebrations @ St. John’s University, Taiwan 聖約翰科技大學52週年校慶!

”In my country, Kiribati, 52 is a wonderful age to be! Still young, still full of energy and enthusiasm, still willing to try new things; but also at 52, you’ve eaten a lot of coconuts, you’re mature, you’re full of wisdom!” The words, more or less, of Kiribati’s very lively Ambassador to Taiwan, Tessie Eria Lambourne, at the 52nd Anniversary Celebrations of St. John’s University last Saturday, April 27. She brought with her 6 of the 70+ students from Kiribati who are currently studying in Taiwan on scholarships from the Taiwan government; and they delighted the audience by performing one of their dances for us at the celebration event. Thank you, and what a great way to celebrate!

And afterwards they posed for a photo with our Vietnamese students, all dressed in their beautiful traditional costumes…

Due to Taiwan’s unique political situation, not many countries have official diplomatic relations with Taiwan – so the number of embassies and ambassadors is relatively few; 17 is the official total, that’s 16 nations plus the Holy See. This year, for the first time in its history, St. John’s University (SJU), Taiwan had the honour of welcoming, not just one, but three ambassadors to our anniversary celebrations! Here they all are, along with Admiral Pu Zechun from the Presidential Office and our VIP guests…

The ambassador from the Marshall Islands to Taiwan, Neijon Rema Edwards, newly arrived in Taiwan less than 4 months ago, told the assembled crowd how that very morning she had talked to the President of the Marshall Islands, Hilda C. Heine by phone and told her about her forthcoming visit to SJU that day. She was delighted to bring President Heine’s personal greetings and congratulations to SJU! This is Bishop David J. H. Lai, Bishop of Taiwan and chair of the SJU Board of Trustees, with Ambassador Lambourne from Kiribati on the left and Ambassador Edwards from the Marshall Islands on the right…

A bit of background: St. John’s University, Taiwan is the successor institution to St. John’s University, Shanghai, and the background history to the establishment of St. John’s University, Shanghai really starts in 1845, when Bishop William Boone (1811-1864), the first Anglican / Episcopal missionary bishop of Shanghai, arrived in Shanghai. In 1859, Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky (1831-1906) arrived in China as a deacon, and was ordained priest by Bishop Boone the following year. He started missionary work among the Chinese, learned the Chinese language and started work on Chinese Bible translation. In 1877, he was consecrated as Bishop of Shanghai after receiving assurances of financial support to build a college to educate the Chinese in Shanghai, and so he founded St. John’s University, Shanghai, in 1879. Interestingly, Bishop James C. L. Wong, the first Chinese Bishop of Taiwan (1965-70) and the founder of St. John’s University, Taiwan in 1967, was himself educated in the Bishop Boone Memorial School in Wuchang. This is me trying to explain some of the long SJU history to our VIP guests on Saturday…

In his speech at the SJU anniversary celebrations, Ambassador Joseph Pius Waleanisia from the Solomon Islands said that he was very moved by this, his first visit to SJU, in part because he noted that the history of SJU ran parallel with similar events in his own country. In 1845, as Bishop Boone was arriving in Shanghai, so in that same year, the first Roman Catholic missionaries (French Marists) reached the Solomon Islands, led by Bishop Epalle. The ambassador was himself educated in Marist mission schools, and he talked about how strong the RC and Anglican Churches are in the Solomon Islands, and the vital role that church schools have played in the education of his people…

Climate change is a major threat to all these 3 low-lying island nations in the Pacific Ocean, and the challenges are many. Kiribati is famously expected to be the first country in the world that will lose all of its land due to global warming. All 3 countries have sea, sand and sun in abundance, and green energy is their future. SJU President Herchang Ay is a leading expert on solar-powered cars and all things related to solar energy, known as ‘photovoltaics’. We now have a laboratory here at SJU full of machines that can make solar panels, plus lots of projects going on that use solar energy, for example in growing vegetables indoors under controlled conditions, using power generated from solar panels on the roof above…

It’s this green energy technology and all the creative things that can be done with it, plus the Dept. of Creative Design and all their beautiful furniture and woodwork designs which can be made using locally available materials, like coconut trees, all these were what the ambassadors were here to see…

And to mark the occasion, they took part with Bishop Lai, President Ay and other VIPs in the formal opening of the new centre, ‘The St. John’s and St. Mary’s Co-Creation Park’ (新埔共創基地) which houses all these projects. It was extremely windy but here they all are, getting ready to pull the red strings ….

And after….

We were also very honoured to welcome Rev. Canon James G. Callaway (far right in the photo below), General Secretary of CUAC (Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion) from New York, who was spending a few days on his first visit to Taiwan. He joined in all 2 days of events and celebrations, and I also had the pleasure of taking him sightseeing on the day of his arrival in Taipei.

And finally when we had finished all the formal events of the day, Bishop Lai invited everyone for tea-drinking at his SJU office, where not only did all the guests enjoy real Taiwan tea, but Bishop Lai also presented each of them with a copy of the Chinese Bible that was translated by Bishop Schereschewsky from the original Hebrew. For the last 25 years of his life, Bishop Schereschewsky, as a result of a severe stroke, could only type with 2 fingers, but he managed to translate the whole Bible, published in 1899…

We have had a whole week of SJU celebrations, and the day before all this happened, on Friday April 26, we held our annual anniversary service in Advent Church. SJU celebrates its foundation from the date it received permission from the Ministry of Education to start recruiting students, April 26, 1967. But also very significantly, it was on April 27, 1970 that Bishop James C. L. Wong, founder of SJU in Taiwan, died, and so each year, we hold a thanksgiving service to commemorate his death and give thanks for his life. It was led by our chaplain, Rev. Irving H. H. Wu, with preacher, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, former SJU chaplain and current rector of Advent Church, and attended by many of our clergy…

Along with other countries in the region, such as Japan, Taiwan is facing a major decline in overall numbers of university-age students, due to a falling birthrate and aging society. This decline is affecting many universities in Taiwan as they all compete to recruit as many students as possible from a smaller and smaller pool. This year SJU has 3,807 students, which is 63.86% of the number allowed by the Ministry of Education. President Ay, faculty and staff are working hard on new initiatives, including for example, the establishment of a Master’s program in Artificial Intelligence, and of course, the ‘Co-Creation Park’. Bishop Lai, as chair of the SJU board of trustees, along with the clergy of the diocese (many of whom are our alumni) and the church members, all are committed to supporting and praying for SJU through this present situation. In connection with this, many of our clergy from all over Taiwan accepted the invitation to come to SJU on Friday to participate in the anniversary service. The service was attended by about 100 people, including 70+ visitors from the Taiwan Episcopal Church, with clergy and/or lay representatives from nearly all our churches in Taiwan. This is the group from St. Stephen’s Church, Keelung who came by coach….

After the service was finished, we went round to the back of the church centre for a blessing, led by Bishop Lai, of the newly-installed labyrinth, which has been moved from further down the campus, making it easier to maintain…

And it was all followed by a delicious buffet lunch for all the lovely visitors in the church centre….

Another highlight of the SJU celebrations was the annual Fun Run which took place last Wednesday afternoon, with 600+ people taking part, mostly students, but also including some of the faculty and staff. Our student fellowship took part as a group, and lots of them were awarded T-shirts, which they then wore at the service on Sunday. The students from the SJU Indigenous Club walked the whole course in their traditional outfits – in 33°C! Ah yes, the whole Fun Run had a very special atmosphere!

On Sunday morning, April 28, as per tradition, our student fellowship led the worship service at Advent Church, taking on all the roles that they could participate in, from being part of the welcome team to reading the lessons, singing, taking up the offering, and clearing up after the lunch, and many more. They have been very busy all week, and particularly on the Saturday when the students had their own celebrations. This service was a really meaningful way to end our week of celebrations of the 52nd anniversary of SJU, giving thanks to Almighty God for his many blessings over the years, and committing the future into His hands.

Please do continue to pray for St. John’s University. To God be the glory, Amen!

‘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!

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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…

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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.

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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…..

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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.

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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.

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

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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!

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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!

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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!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then there’s Taichi at Advent Church….

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

Praise Dance…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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