Tag Archives: CMS

CMS LINK LETTER # 74!

Hot off the press comes my CMS Link Letter, No. 74.  Just in time for Chinese New Year – YES!  And just in time for this coming weekend, mentioned in the letter.  Just click on this link below, it’s in pdf format:

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The letter was actually written on January 24, 2018, and published by CMS (Church Mission Society) today.   Thanks to CMS for getting it out in time.

And thank you all for your ongoing support!

Phnom Penh, Cambodia 柬埔寨金邊 ~ and a great CMS Conference too!

Cambodia is THE country to go to, and Phnom Penh is THE city!  Just forget for a moment that you’re not really sure where the country is, nor how to pronounce (let alone spell!) the capital city’s name.  It don’t matter ~ just get yourself there!

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Because Cambodia is changing, and changing fast.  Phnom Penh has high-rise buildings going up all over the place, tons of private bilingual (or even tri-lingual, in English, Chinese and Khmer) schools, outlet malls, fast-food restaurants, Starbucks and more.  There’s so many ATMs lined up in rows outside the main post office that they don’t even fit in a picture ~ and that means choice, man, choice!

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Like every other capital city, everyone’s stuck in a traffic jam, but in Phnom Penh, there’s a sedate pace to traffic, hardly any honking of horns or road-rage.  Life moves really quite slowly.  There’s a pleasant laid-back French-colonial-style atmosphere, but mixed with modern Chinese-style ‘let’s get this building up’ can-do attitude.  So the Cambodians are not hanging around, they have a city to build and a country to bring into the 21st century.  And Chinese investment and business opportunities are helping to make it all happen.  Now!  This very moment!

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Of course there are problems.  Coming to terms with the past – the Khmer Rouge and Cambodian Genocide is one.  The current prime minister, Hun Sen has been in power since 1985, and is a former Khmer Rouge commander.  Cambodia has one of the highest corruption rates in the world. Then there’s also problems of political oppression, human rights, land evictions, deforestation, poverty, street children, human trafficking, the list goes on.  Challenges abound.  But I’ll just get on with showing you a bit of this great city….

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I’ve just spent a week in Phnom Penh, October 4-11.  Round and round the streets we went on the little auto-rickshaw-cum-tuk-tuk kind of vehicles.  It’s such fun!  Past the Royal Palace, National Museum, Art Deco Central Market, River Mekong, Wat Phnom Temple and many other temples, the night market, monuments galore, parks and shops.  I could go on going round and round that city forevermore.  In fact I did.  Got lost.  Took 2 hours to find the hotel on the back of the tuk-tuk.  Ah, but it was fun!  Not the air pollution that comes with riding in such traffic, of course, but seeing all the life and the people and houses and streets…..

We were in Phnom Penh for a CMS (Church Mission Society) conference for CMS-UK people in Asia and for AsiaCMS people, who are more local to Asia ~ plus lots of VIPs from the CMS family around the world, Asia, New Zealand, Australia, Africa, who were there for an earlier meeting, but some of them then stayed on for the first part of our 4-day conference.  This was the very first photo I took on arrival at the conference, just as we were all going out for the afternoon – posing especially for me!

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These 2 handsome young men posing with me below are our CMS-UK director, Philip Mounstephen on the left – and Raj Patel, in charge of our Asia office at CMS, on the right. Raj came to visit me last year in Taiwan (see that report here) and we had such an amazing time.  BUT now Raj is leaving us ~ and we are so heartbroken!

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I was so pleased to meet Steve Maina, director of New Zealand CMS – he also came to visit me in Taiwan, but that was 6 years ago ~ and yes, we had a great time!  This is one happy Steve in the black T-shirt ~ with Dennis and Lucy, our VIPs from Africa CMS…

For the conference, we were based at the Sen Han Hotel ~ kinda just outside the city centre, with great views from its roof. I was up there regularly at dawn and at dusk – and even to see the rainbow after the rain….

We spent the conference sharing, learning, talking, eating, listening, laughing, praying, singing, worshiping and getting to know each other.  There may have been 60-70 of us altogether, from all over Asia and elsewhere.  Many are working in sensitive areas, so the only photos on here are of those who work from our CMS head offices – in Oxford or elsewhere around the world.  Many new friendships made and old friendships rekindled.  Lots of fascinating stories.  Plenty to think about and reflect upon.   We had fun too.  This was the 3 wise monkeys pose: ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’….

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And we had a great river cruise, ha ha, these guys really know how to pose for photos!

Anyway, the very lovely AsiaCMS people were there only until Friday October 6, while  the CMS-UK people continued on until Sunday October 8.  We had a day on Saturday on strategy, assessment, risk, impact and security.  Important stuff.  This is the very wonderful Anne and Raj who planned and implemented it all….

But I was so pleased to arrive at the party time hour last thing in the afternoon.  The final game involved balloons, and a farewell to Raj as he leaves.   We will miss him so much, he’s so much fun!

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Any conference with balloons will be a success ~ so, of course it was a really good conference!

A VERY BIG BIG thank you to all those in CMS for organizing it all, and for all our CMS friends and link churches for your prayers and support.  Much much appreciated!

But that was not the end of my trip to Cambodia.  Taiwan had 2 extra days off on Monday October 9 and Tuesday October 10 celebrating 106 years of the Republic of China.  So I could take the opportunity to see a bit of Cambodia!

Coming soon….  Part 2, about the trip to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat, followed by Part 3 about visiting the Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum…..

So watch this space, coming up soon….

All About Mission @ 聖司提反堂 St. Stephen’s Church, Keelung!

St. Stephen’s Church in wet and rainy Keelung is always buzzing with life and activity ~ and Saturday was no different, YES!  It may have been yet another wet and horrible day outside, but oh, so warm and inviting inside!  Yep, Keelung is famous for its rain, so on Saturday, while the sun shone over Taipei and all places south, sadly there was no sun for us.  In fact it was foggy, drizzly and damp all day long – although this was the romantic scene at Keelung Harbour as I passed by…..

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So on a rainy day ~ what better place to go, than St. Stephen’s Church?

I’d been invited there to meet their youth group for an hour on Saturday afternoon.  They have a youth group meeting midweek for fun and games.  Saturday afternoons are for those who have already made a commitment to follow Christ and are serious about their faith.  They may not yet be baptized, since such a decision is huge and best done with the blessing of their parents, but they are committed, and some of them were able to take part in a church mission trip last summer to Sabah, E. Malaysia. The group is run by the vicar, Rev. Julia Lin Shu-Hua 林淑華牧師 and their staff member, Ms. Huang Min ‎黃敏 and other church members and friends.

The last time I went to St. Stephen’s was with Raj Patel, Regional Manager for Asia at Church Mission Society (CMS) HQ in Oxford, when he came to visit last September – his visit coinciding with a typhoon. So we visited St. Stephen’s on a day when all the schools were officially closed for the typhoon, but as the typhoon had already gone and the weather vastly improved, all the children could come and meet us.  (A report of that visit is included in my blog post here). This time, my visit was to share with the group about CMS, mission and missionaries…. ah, yes, what fun we had!

For your info, I showed them this 7-minute video about CMS – it’s good, check it out!

 

It introduces CMS ministry in Tanzania, Argentina, UK and Nepal ~ and we found them on a map.  Faith, a Bible and a map are some of the essentials of mission life.  Then we looked at some photos of Tanzania and life there….

And then we had great fun making a group photo!

So please pray for these young people, their families, their faith and commitment.   After I left, they had another hour of an ‘Evangelism Explosion’ Course.   And then preparing for the Sunday service.  They are full of enthusiasm and serious about their faith.   May God bless them and all at St. Stephen’s Church!

A final thought – faith, Bible and a map may be important for mission, but in Keelung there’s another necessity required too – definitely don’t go there without an umbrella!

I love CMS! A Great Big Welcome to Taiwan for Raj Patel, CMS Regional Manager for Asia ~ all the way from Oxford ~ YES!

Yes, honest, I love CMS!  And all those associated with CMS ~ the mission partners, CMS staff, UK Link Churches and of course all those who welcome us to serve in their dioceses, churches, organizations and communities!

CMS stands for Church Mission Society ~ I joined in September 1989, served in Tanzania for 7 years, and then in January 1999 arrived in Taiwan and I’ve been here ever since, first at St. James’ Church, Taichung for 7 years, and since early 2007 based here at St. John’s University, on Taiwan’s NW coast.  My last formal CMS-UK visitors came in November 2007 when we were honoured to welcome 4 VIPs from CMS: Rev. Canon Tim Dakin, then General Secretary of CMS (now Bishop of Winchester); the Rev. Philip Simpson, then Eurasia Director, CMS; Rev. Canon Chye Ann Soh, then East Asia Director, CMS; and the Rev. Simon Na, then North East Asia Manager, CMS, based in South Korea ~ all were here for a 5-day whistle-stop tour of the country, which included the consecration of the new Education Building at St. James’ Church, Taichung.

How could we in Taiwan ever hope to follow on from such a high-level VIP delegation of such handsome and charming visitors?!  Impossible!  So we had a very long pause, and now, fast forward to 9 years later, we have just had the great honour of welcoming Raj Patel to visit Taiwan.  Equally handsome and as charming as the other 4, of course!  He’s in charge of the Asia office at CMS-UK HQ in Oxford, so definitely of VIP status!

Here he is arriving at the Taoyuan Airport last Wednesday ~ from the photo you can just sense his excitement and enthusiasm arriving in Taiwan for his first ever visit ~ YES!  Just don’t mention the typhoon that delayed him for 18 hours in Bangkok on his way here!

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And in case you’re wondering, yes I did take him to St. James’ Church and he saw the 4 VIP CMS visitors sitting in the front row of the photo taken after the Education Building Consecration Service on November 24, 2007 ….. Ah yes, we love welcoming CMS VIP’s!

But now, back to that typhoon…. This past summer, between July 8 and September 9, despite being a very active typhoon season, none came in this direction, all headed to Japan or Hong Kong instead. But from September 9 to September 27, in a space of 2 weeks, we had 3 typhoons, 2 of them direct hits.  Raj was supposed to arrive on Tuesday September 27, but it was not to be.  Typhoon Megi was big, and brought widespread devastation ~ thousands of trees, electricity poles, scaffolding and signboards were blown down, and there were power and water outages and major flooding in some areas. Fortunately the authorities called a Typhoon Day (work and classes cancelled) on Tuesday and extended it to Wednesday, so although it was bad, it could have been a lot worse. As it was, 7 people were killed and over 600 injured, with zillions of dollars of damage, particularly to agriculture.

So Raj was stuck in Bangkok and we were stuck here.  But good news came early on Wednesday September 28 when Raj arrived in the very early morning, and at 7:00 am there I was to welcome him at the airport – but unfortunately minus welcoming balloons (couldn’t get any cos of the typhoon) and minus tinsel (discovered on the day before that the termites had eaten it all) so we had my yellow Mauritius scarf instead ha ha!

So we had to pack Raj’s already packed 6-day itinerary into only 5 days, and non-stop it was!  First stop upon arrival was to a very grey and overcast St. John’s University (SJU) and Advent Church where the maintenance staff were busy cleaning up after the typhoon, and students and faculty all absent (all work and classes cancelled), except for SJU President Peter Herchang Ay 艾和昌, Advent Church Rector, Rev Lennon Chang Yuan-Rung 張員榮牧師 and SJU Acting Chaplain, Rev. Wu Hsing-Hsiang 吳興祥牧師 and his wife, who all came along for the Grand Welcome Coffee Reception ~ yes, great coffee and then lunch!

Raj had brought photos on his iPad to share with everyone about his family, life and background covering his early life in India and East Africa and then in the UK so he was much in demand at every place we went….

Second stop was St. Stephen’s Church, Keelung, on Taiwan’s NE coast, and about an hour’s drive from here.  Rev. Wu Hsing-Hsiang kindly drove us there.  Rev. Julia Lin Shu-Hua 林淑華牧師 had phoned up the children in the church-run after-school classes to ask them to come to meet Raj and to perform some music and welcome songs – the children were all at home as it was a Typhoon Day, but the typhoon was gone – so lots turned up and we had such a warm welcome! Raj told his life story by getting people of different ages to stand up to indicate the age at which something significant had happened to him, starting at the age of 6 when his family left Kenya to move back to India.  We also heard all about St. Stephen’s history and ministry and their recent mission trip to Sabah, and all followed by yummy yummy soup and fruits. Such a moving, fun and happy afternoon, and they were all so lovely – thank you!

And so to Taipei City to stay overnight in the diocesan guest house and to meet Bishop Lai and Mrs. Lily Lai, who had just come back from the USA early on the Tuesday morning, landing just before all flights were cancelled by the typhoon.  Most importantly we had tea-drinking and sharing in the theology of tea ~ Raj called it Bishop Lai’s ‘tea-ology’!

Sightseeing had to be crammed in and around the church visits, so I scheduled a Taipei City Sightseeing Tour for 6:00 am on Thursday ha ha!  Off we went on foot to Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial, the Presidential Office and Taipei Main Station, then by MRT to Taipei 101 and Sun Yat-Sen Memorial and back by bus in time for breakfast!

Next stop was St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei to meet our brand-new, very-lovely and always-smiling dean, Rev. Philip Lin Li-Feng 林立峰牧師, in fact, he’s so new that he is not yet installed, but we had such great coffee and then lunch along with Rev. Michael Liu. How could we ever forget that lunch?  Rev. Michael Liu is one of our esteemed senior clergy, and in 1973 he was sponsored by CMS to spend a year in the UK for church visits and particularly for a period of study at the Royal School of Church Music.  His memory is amazing, and we laughed the whole lunch through as he shared stories of his experiences in the UK, starting with the fact that he lost about 20 kg (3 stone) of weight in that year. Wow! You wanna lose weight? Just spend a year in the UK eating cucumber sandwiches and waiting until 8:30 pm for ‘supper’ which for him started with being given copious amounts of sherry, which Michael wasn’t used to and not expecting, and on an empty stomach – he drank 4 glasses of the stuff and then thought UK was having a major earthquake, only to find out it was the sherry taking its toll!

And so farewell to northern Taiwan, and off by High-Speed Rail (HSR) down south to Kaohsiung. 90 minutes by HSR covers a distance that would take 5 hours to drive, and it is oh, so smooth and comfortable.  And Raj will be ever grateful that I am not showing you the photos I took of him fast asleep the whole journey – his 18-hour wait in Bangkok finally caught up with him!  We took the Kaohsiung MRT to Formosa Boulevard Station 美麗島 which has the largest glass work in the world, the Dome of Light, a magnificent multi-coloured ceiling. I love it!

We stayed the night at St. Timothy’s Church, Kaohsiung with Rev. Richard Lee Ray-Chiang 李瑞強牧師 and his family, they were so kind and welcoming.  Richard happily shared his testimony with us, they took us out for dinner, and for a tour of the church ~ it’s very moving to hear about and see the ministry of the church, and hear how the Gospel is moving hearts and minds in the city.

Friday morning and we were up for an early start to meet our good friend, Rev. Cheng Chen-Chang 鄭成章牧師 and his wife for the world’s most delicious breakfast (true true true!) and a quick visit to St. Paul’s Church, Kaohsiung.  The church is supposed to resemble a crown, and was designed by the same architect as Advent Church.  We met the principal and some of the children of the kindergarten, before rushing off the get the train to Tainan.  Ah, yes, non-stop action!

And 30 minutes later we were in Tainan, guests of Rev. Philip Ho Jeng-Long 何政隆牧師 and his wife Nancy.  Philip is a bundle of high energy and it’s very hard to keep up with him, but hey, we tried!  First he drove us to visit St. Andrew’s Kindergarten 聖安得烈宣道所 in ChiaDing 高雄市茄萣區 (variously spelt on signboards in the town as Jiading or Queding), where their son, Rev. Joseph Ho Ray-En 何睿恩牧師 is the newly-appointed priest in charge. The 30-minute drive towards the coast was lined by fallen trees after the typhoon and we discovered that the kindergarten had been closed an extra day on Thursday because of power and water cuts ~ they had also been flooded and were drying out when we arrived.  Such a warm welcome from the principal and staff and the 95 children who were having their lunch when we arrived, they loved to practice their English!

During lunch, the heavens opened and the sky came falling down.  Oh, such rain!  It was still going when we arrived at Grace Church, Tainan where we stayed the night and where Philip and Nancy have been based only since August 1.  Being new in the city, they’d invited their church members and friends, Hsiu-Chin and her husband to take them on a city tour for our benefit, and they did a great job – they also came along for dinner and the following morning too.

Tainan is the first and oldest city in southern Taiwan, and jam-packed full of history ~ and so after the rain stopped a bit, off we went to visit the famous and very beautiful National Museum of Taiwan Literature and the even more famous Taiwan Confucian Temple (built in 1665) and then Tainan Theological College and Seminary 台南神學院, run by the Presbyterian Church (founded in 1876 by Thomas Barclay from Scotland) ….

Philip and Nancy were biology teachers before they moved into full-time church ministry and so at 6:30 am on Saturday morning (and after a little persuasion!) we were up bright and early for a walk in the nearby but badly-affected-by-the-typhoon Barclay Park for a nature tour. Trying to keep up with Philip was quite a task but Raj managed it ~ and the rest of us followed far behind!

And so a fond farewell to Philip and Nancy, who were starting a nature class at Grace Church that morning, and off we went to visit my good friends, Dr. John Fan and his very lovely wife, Judy.  Judy is my former student from my adult English classes at St. James’ Church many years ago and their children were in the St. James’ Kindergarten. John is a psychiatrist, Judy a nurse and only a few weeks ago they moved to Tainan to open a psychiatric clinic not far from Grace Church.  So we spent a wonderful morning with them and their oldest son, Tim at the clinic, and later at the restaurant. Finally at last, after days and days of traveling round Taiwan, finally, finally Raj found someone who shared his passion for football and had heard of Leicester City F. C. Ah, he was so happy!

And so by train from Tainan, 45 minutes to Chiayi to visit St. Peter’s Church.  Mr. Carl Lee and his wife Anny kindly picked us up. Their vicar, Rev. Simon Tsou Tsai-Shin 鄒才新牧師 is actually in the USA at the moment on a visit to the Diocese of Los Angeles, so we were warmly welcomed by Simon’s wife, Lisa and their gorgeous son Jonah, who took to Raj immediately and kept appearing for a hug or a word of English. He was so fast that all the photos are blurred, but you get the idea!

Our purpose in visiting St. Peter’s Church was to meet and listen to one of their younger church members, Mr. Isaac Chen Wei-chieh 陳瑋杰 who was one of the 3 delegates from the Diocese of Taiwan to attend the Council of Churches of East Asia CCEA Youth Forum in Malaysia in the summer.  He had such a wonderful and moving experience at the Youth Forum, and as the subject was mission, and in particular the Five Marks of Mission, he kindly shared with us all about his experiences.  Quite a daunting challenge, but he did a great job!  Some of the church members also joined the meeting and we had some songs and prayers too, followed by tea.  Isaac and Raj got along very well, and it was such a great time of sharing and reflection together.  It was one of the highlights of Raj’s visit, he was still talking about Isaac on the way to the airport on Monday!

We then had a few hours for sightseeing and dinner, so our first stop was Hinoki Village, with 28 beautifully-restored Japanese-style Cypress buildings originally used by the Alishan Forestry Workers during the Japanese Colonial Era (1895-1945). The rain stopped just in time!  And then to a yummy Thai Restaurant, followed by Raj’s first visit to a Night Market.  Such fun, and thank you Carl, Anny and Isaac for your kindness!

And so to our last church (our 10th in 5 days!) ready for our Raj’s last full day in Taiwan on this trip ~ to St. James’ Church, Taichung with our church intern, Mr. Felix Chen Ming-You 陳銘佑. He is preparing for NSM ministry as a priest, and is on a placement at St. James, but helping out with the St. Peter’s Church Youth Group on Saturday evenings while their vicar is away.

He happily drove us to St. James, and we got there late evening, to be very warmly welcomed by the rector, Rev. Lily Chang Ling-Ling 張玲玲牧師.  On Sunday morning, Lily was to be at St. Peter’s Church, covering the service there, so we had Morning Prayer at the 9:30 am St. James’ English Service.  Raj had been invited to preach and we had a very dramatic sermon based on the day’s epistle reading from 2 Timothy 1: 1-14, especially verses 6-7: ‘I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.’  It was great fun, and of course will be long-remembered by everyone!  We even had a special group photo after the English Service…

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After a tea-break, we also attended the second half of the Chinese service which was led by my good friend, former student and retired priest, Rev. Sam Cheng Ching-San 鄭慶三牧師 who serves at the Church of the Leading Star in Taiping, about 30 minutes drive from St. James.  Then to the church lunch!

Jerry Liang, lay minister of the St. James’ English Congregation, and his wife, Jean and grandson James took wonderful care of us for the afternoon and off we went to WuFeng, an outer suburb of Taichung, near Jerry’s home and the mountains. The area suffered huge damage and devastation during the major earthquake on September 21, 1999 – nine months after I arrived in Taiwan, while I was living at St. James’ Church. There is now a museum there, called the 921 Earthquake Museum of Taiwan‘ 國立自然科學博物館九二一地震教育園區 and “dedicated to the 7.3 earthquake that struck the center of Taiwan at 1:47 am on Tuesday, 21 September 1999. The museum is located on the site of the former Guangfu Junior High School; the shell of the building forms the exterior walls of the museum and the Museum’s Chelungpu Fault Gallery crosses the fault on which the earthquake occurred.”

It is both very terrible and very humbling to see so much damage and devastation, knowing over 2,000 people were killed in Taiwan on that day, and yet also amazing to see how well the damaged school has been preserved.  It was my first visit, and also Jean’s first visit. Many people have so many bad memories of that day and the aftershocks that followed, that lots of local people feel unable to visit – until now.  Many people visit the museum for the earthquake experience with shaking floors etc etc, but I was more interested in the damaged buildings and preservation…..

Then we visited the nearby WuFeng Lin Family Garden at Ming-Tai High School, originally built in the early 20th century but badly damaged by the 1999 earthquake and now restored. Beautiful!  We bought some traditional Taiwan Pearl Milk Tea and sat and drank it there, along with Jerry’s neighbour, Rev. Sam Cheng.  Amazingly this was the one and only place in all our 5 days of traveling around Taiwan that seemed unaffected by the typhoon.  The school has some tall cypress trees decorated with lights and baubles as for Christmas, and none of them seemed to have any damage at all!

And so back to St. James for a farewell dinner with Lily and senior warden Samuel Chen and his wife Luanne, supervisor of the St. James’ Kindergarten.  Raj was presented with some Chinese tea which had an ancient Chinese poem written on the box, Jerry read it out and we had a great time discussing the meaning.  For Jerry’s account of the day and lots of good photos, see his blog post here.

After the dinner, we had one last visit to make, to Lily’s mother, aged almost 90, who is staying with Lily and was busy playing on her iPad!  She loved meeting Raj and he loved meeting her.  She looked at his photos and shared about her life.  Turns out her surname is the same as mine, so we must be related!

Early to bed, early to rise!  Yesterday, Monday morning, Raj had a flight to catch at 7:50 am from Taoyuan Airport and really the only way to get there without disturbing everybody was by airport taxi service.  So at 3:00 am, there we were, in a taxi heading to the airport. For VIP visitors, it’s not too expensive, NT$ 2,100 ~ convenient, door to door and ah, so nice!

So a Big Farewell to Raj as he departed yesterday for Bangkok and onto other places in Thailand to continue his visit.  We had such a great time, and he was so much fun to travel with!  He loved seeing all the motorbikes, the high-speed rail, the churches, the clergy, the youth, the outreach programs.  He loved showing photos of his 3 ‘passions’: his garden, classic Enfield motorcycle and Leicester City FC.   Very modest, very charming and y’know what?  Very English. So so English.  Ha ha! Always so positive about everything (he never complained once!) and see, he was still smiling at the airport yesterday morning!

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Since Raj arrived last Wednesday, I’ve taken over 1,000 photos and Raj is in most of ’em, but he’s keen not to be the centre of attention ~ that place should be reserved for the wonderful people of Taiwan who opened their hearts to welcome us so warmly. Hospitality is Taiwan people’s gift to the world.

A very big THANK YOU to Bishop Lai and all our clergy, friends, church members and their families who welcomed us so warmly and generously, giving up so much of their time and energy to take us around and share about everything.  It was a truly wonderful week!

Thank you Raj for coming to visit ~ and do come again, it was certainly a week to remember!

And especially grateful thanks to Almighty God for his provision, blessing and safekeeping throughout!

Bowling her way around the world ~ welcoming Catherine to Taiwan!

Yes, a very big big welcome to my good-friend-with-the-same-name, Catherine!  We met in Dodoma, Tanzania many years ago when she was there with her family through the New Zealand Church Mission Society NZCMS.  Now she’s retired in Tauranga, New Zealand and a member of Holy Trinity Church ~ where there’s lots of outreach among the Chinese community, so the first time Catherine came to Taiwan 6 years ago was actually with her Taiwan friend Shu, who took her to visit lots of wonderful places in Taiwan, and she spent a few days then with me too.  Ah, great memories!

Now Catherine’s back in Taiwan for her second visit, and at the grand age of 82 this time playing for New Zealand in an International Senior Ten-Pin Bowling Tournament which was held in Taipei all last week, for 250 people from 14 different countries.  Amazing what she’s achieved in her retirement, and Catherine was the oldest female player in the tournament ~ she just is one incredible lady!  I went down to the tournament on Tuesday last week to check it all out….

Now the tournament’s over, and Catherine’s stayed on in Taiwan to visit me for 5 days – including my birthday and 2 extra days off mainly for Tomb-Sweeping Festival weekend. Everywhere we’ve gone and everyone we’ve met are astounded ~ after all, there’s not many people quite so active at 82!  So, we’ve been for tea-drinking and ten-pin bowling conversation with Bishop Lai – who has his own bowling shoes and special bowling ball, and we’ve been to church and outings and meals all over – ever grateful to David Tan for driving us all around Taipei, meeting his friends and family, including his sister Janet for dinner and of course meeting the family horses!  Also Victor and his lovely parents Rev. and Mrs. Hsu for a very yummy Japanese lunch today.

Yesterday we went to the famous ceramics town of Yingge, about 30 minutes by train south of Taipei to visit all the pottery places, ceramic museum and park.  Two of our students, Mark – who lives in Yingge, and Calvin – from Malaysia – took us around the town, carried all our bags and purchases, and gave a great guided tour ~ with frequent stops for coffee, tea, cake – and noodles, and Mark’s mother even turned up at the end to drive us to the station! The weather was grey, but, ah, it was such a fun day!

Catherine leaves tomorrow, all set for another Ten-Pin Bowling Tournament in Auckland. Traveling around the world with 2 bowling balls is not exactly traveling light, ha ha, but we’ve had such a good time!  Thanks for coming Catherine, for being such a great inspiration to us all, and for all the fun we’ve had ~ YES!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 hours talk talk talk!

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Here we are, or rather there we were, the 3 of us, in York today, meeting up for coffee.  Me, Shelagh and Diana.  And in great excitement and anticipation of such a special event, dear Shelagh had paid for parking for 5 hours…..  yep, five whole hours!  So, coffee stretched into lunch, and lunch stretched into, well the mid-afternoon.   And we talked non-stop. Lots to talk about.  All of us have been with CMS somewhere sometime somehow.  And lots to laugh about too, hence the photo.  Actually we took it for our good friend Rev. George Kovoor, our former principal at what was Crowther Hall, CMS Training College in Birmingham, he’s now the rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church, New Haven, CT., USA – and his lovely family.

And in case you’re wondering, THE coffee place in York to go to is the Spurriergate Centre, an old-church-turned-café ~ wonderful place, great atmosphere.  Do go there, and check it out, and 5 hours later, you too may still be smiling away ~ even if your head is resting on the shoulder of the person next to you!