Tag Archives: SJU Chaplaincy

Update from Taiwan: Masked Celebration in a Time of Coronavirus 😷

First the good news, today Taiwan has reached the biblical milestone of 40 days, that’s 40 straight days with no domestically transmitted Covid-19 infections. Cautious optimism all round. 😌

Good news part 2 is that it’s perfectly possible for everyone to get used to wearing face-masks. You too! It’s not weird, honest. And think how much money us women can save on lipstick as a result! 👩💄The above photo is of our Mother’s Day celebration on Sunday May 10 at Advent Church, celebrated each year in Taiwan on the second Sunday of May, all wearing face-masks. 😷 And good news part 3 is that it’s also perfectly possible for small children to take to wearing face-masks all day every day in school. That’s the Taiwan experience this term. And the result? Our church kindergartens are finding that all those horrible coughs, colds, flu and nasty bugs that normally spread so easily among groups of children are just not happening at all this term, and the kids are healthier than ever. So are their parents and teachers. And it’s not just our church kindergartens, but everyone else I talk to as well, all agree that having to wear face-masks so much is having a positive effect on our general health. Of course, it’s getting hotter and more humid as summer nears, and face-masks really restrict air-flow to the face – so you also need a fan, but y’know, so far it’s working. Let’s face it, social distancing with hundreds of very small children is hardly practical, whereas face-masks are. Never underestimate small children and their ability to adapt – and if it’s working in Taiwan, then hey, take my advice and follow Taiwan’s lead! 😷😷

All masked up at St. James’ Kindergarten, Taichung (photo taken from their facebook page)

A month ago, on April 21, Taiwan’s official Covid-19 statistics were 425 confirmed cases, 217 recovered and 6 deaths. Today, May 22 and the figures are 441 confirmed cases, 408 recovered and 7 deaths. As mentioned above, today is also the 40th straight day with no domestically transmitted infections; the last time Taiwan recorded a domestic infection was on April 12. We had had no imported cases for 13 straight days too, but then a new case was confirmed yesterday of a Taiwanese man who had traveled to Mexico for work in January, returning to Taiwan on May 20 with symptoms, and testing positive soon after his arrival. Of course, Taiwan is still closed to all visitors and even transit passengers; those allowed in must have either a Taiwan passport or resident permit, and are then subject to a 14-day closely-monitored mandatory quarantine.

So far, the virus continues to remain contained and we have not been in lockdown. Schools, work and church Sunday services continue with many precautions, like temperature checks, face-masks etc, but now plans are being made to resume some of the social activities that were on hold. We proceed cautiously, as every so often a new crisis erupts, along with fresh worry in case there’s new infections. One such is coming up in the next few weeks when 77 far-sea squid fishing boats and their 4,000 crew members are due to return home after 6 months at sea – new stricter rules mean that despite having been effectively isolated at sea for so long, they will also be subject to a 14-day quarantine, so let’s hope everything goes well there too. Plans are also being made for gradually opening up the country for business visitors, but it’s not happening yet; instead, starting soon is a project to design protocols for travel resumption. It’s a collaboration between Taiwan and Stanford University School of Medicine, whereby they send 500 people from San Francisco to Taipei; once here they will undergo testing every two days in a 14-day quarantine period, to try to work out the shortest possible isolation requirement for travelers.

Two days ago, March 20, was Taiwan’s presidential inauguration, broadcast live but held behind closed doors, with none of the usual public events and no delegations invited from overseas. Heightened tensions and military activity in the skies and seas around Taiwan usually accompany such important occasions, and this one is no exception, though possibly aggravated by the Covid-19 situation as world powers try to distract from their own failings and take to threatening each other instead. At Taiwan’s elections in mid-January, President Tsai Ing-Wen 蔡英文 was elected to serve a second term. The vice-president for her first term, Chen Chien-jen 陳建仁 is an epidemiologist and former Minister of Health during the SARS crisis in 2003, also a devout Roman Catholic – his was an ace appointment given the current Covid-19 crisis. The new vice-president, William Ching-te Lai 賴淸德 also has a medical background, but is most famous as being mayor of Tainan, 2010-2017, and more recently as premier. Most of the cabinet continue in their posts for a second term, including the very popular Minister of Health, Chen Shih-chung 陳時中 who is still giving briefings on the virus situation each day live on TV. His first briefing was on January 21, exactly 4 months ago, the day that Taiwan confirmed its first case of Covid-19, and he’s been doing them ever since. The government continues to be upfront, proactive and vigilant, and Taiwan’s response to the coronavirus crisis provides a beacon of light and hope in this dark world. And all this without any help or support from the World Health Organization and – despite the intervention of numerous countries around the world – no invitation to join the WHO Assembly held earlier this week either.

Meanwhile up in Yangmingshan, the Tajima Cattle escape the heat of summer…

It was Ascension Day yesterday, and today is exactly 3 months since the consecration of our new bishop, Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, on February 22. He’s been busy overseeing the renovations and remodeling at the diocesan office building, now virtually complete. The main changes are on the third floor, which was previously a meeting room with a large oval wooden table in the middle, with a double bedroom for guests at the far end, separated from the meeting room by a wall of books. All the books have gone, mostly moved down to the first floor; the wall and bedroom have also gone and the meeting room has been enlarged to make one big conference room, which is already being well-used by groups for meetings and training courses. There’s also been major work done to the bishop’s apartment and rooms on the 4th and 5th floors, plus the roof. Bishop Chang kindly hosts a monthly lunch for diocesan office staff, and on Wednesday he and his wife invited us up to their apartment for lunch (see photo below). They still don’t have any hot water, and they’ve already had one major flood – the water leaked from the 5th floor down to the 4th floor – but hey, everyone is still smiling! 😊

Check out the following photos taken over the last 3 months of the Diocesan Office remodeling project….

Floods inside, and now flooding outside too, it’s particularly bad in southern Taiwan. The first typhoon of the season passed by Taiwan a few days ago, leading straight into the plum rainy season, ⛈️ with heavy rains all this week, and warnings of further severe weather and ‘disastrous’ rainfall in some parts over this weekend. 🙏 Last weekend though, the weather was glorious, and the northern tip of Taiwan looked spectacular with its lighthouse, Shimen Arch and the Fuji Fishing Harbour…

As did St. John’s University (SJU), which is only 12 km south of Taiwan’s northern tip. Check out Sunday’s photo below of Advent Church and SJU, with the Yangmingshan Mountains so clear in the background. The people playing basketball are all from the Filipino community, who often spend their Sundays here having sports competitions….

SJU is now in the second part of the semester, and preparing for graduation and end of term events coming next month. The SJU Dept. of Creative Design has its annual graduation exhibition this week, and 3 of the girls from our SJU Student Fellowship in that dept, Yi-Ting, Yumi and Cai-Pei have based their design project on Advent Church, including the design for the new T-shirts for the student fellowship, modeled here by our chaplaincy staff and Yi-Ting (far left) 😊

The girls also designed all sorts of beautiful cards, books, calendars and souvenirs around the theme of ‘Advent Home’, all really creative, and I’ve persuaded them to put their short video on YouTube so you can enjoy it – just click on the arrow below….

You will see that the final scene of the video is shot at the SJU labyrinth. It’s located just behind Advent Church, on the SJU campus but next to the main road, and during this time of the coronavirus crisis, I’ve found it really helpful to use the labyrinth as a way of walking prayer. It’s hot out there, so late afternoon, just before sunset is a good time. If you don’t happen to have a real labyrinth nearby (ha ha, who does?!), you can print one from the internet and use your finger to ‘walk’ around, or just follow the red dot as it does the walking for you online. Anyway, I asked Nien-Tzu from SJU to take some photos of the labyrinth from his drone. Here they are….

Thank you for all your prayers, cards, letters, emails and messages of support. We have much to give thanks to God for here in Taiwan, and we pray that there’ll be more good news coming from the rest of the world. Hope you are all doing OK in the circumstances wherever you are – and staying safe.

These days, even the artworks at the Tamsui Light Rail Stations wear face-masks…

And finally, this short 3-minute video has resurfaced recently, it’s a wonderful antidote to today’s problems. Actually an advert for a bank, it’s based on a true story of a group of 5 elderly men in Taiwan ‘who turned the death of their life-long friend into the chance of a lifetime to relive a dream from their youth’. Many people in Taiwan do a round-island trip by bicycle or motorbike in their youth, it’s 900+ km, and usually takes about 9-10 days. Plenty more people dream of doing such a trip, but never get round to it. Maybe, just maybe, this pandemic has led you to remember and rekindle some of your own dreams and aspirations from long ago, and I hope these 5 elderly Taiwan men will encourage you to get on your bike (or feet, even) when this is all over and ride, ride, ride!

And if that doesn’t inspire you, then check out our local swallows who always choose the noisiest, dirtiest, most dangerous places to build their nests, right above the main entrances of the local shops over the road from SJU. There’s a whole load of nests over there. Fortunately for them, swallows are believed to bring blessings, so local shopkeepers go to great lengths to protect their nests. I might think it’s not the most scenic location to set up a new home, but hey, there’s plenty of flying insects to provide food for their young, and then there’s the tender loving care from the shopkeepers…

Your prayers for Taiwan continue to be appreciated, for newly-inaugurated President Tsai and her government starting a second term, for safety and stability, God’s protection, provision and grace. Thank you! 😷😷

Update from Taiwan: Masked Confirmation in a Time of Coronavirus 😷

Masked church services, masked communion, and now masked confirmations ~ all happening now at Advent Church @ St. John’s University, Taiwan!

It’s just over 2 months since the consecration of our new bishop, Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, and yesterday was his first official visit as bishop of Taiwan to Advent Church – where he was previously rector of the church and chaplain of St. John’s University (SJU). For him and his wife it was like coming home, and all the church members turned out to welcome them!

St. John’s University dates its officially foundation day as April 26, 1967 so yesterday was the 53rd anniversary. And today is the actual 50th anniversary of the death of Bishop James C. L. Wong, founder of St. John’s University, who is buried under the altar at Advent Church. Normally we would have had an official SJU Thanksgiving Service and other celebrations, and Bishop Chang, as the newly-elected chair of the SJU board of trustees would have been here for them, but events have been postponed or cancelled as a precaution in this time of Coronavirus. Fortunately, Sunday services at Advent Church continue, more or less as normal. As part of the anniversary celebrations each year, our SJU Student Fellowship attend the church service on the last Sunday of April, and take part as ushers, servers, readers, taking up the collection etc. This year, we continued with this tradition. The only thing they didn’t do as normal, due to the Coronavirus precautions, was that they didn’t sing as a choir group – in fact, all the choir and music group participation in the Sunday services is cancelled for the time being.

SJU Student Fellowship at Advent Church, Sunday April 26, 2020 with Bishop Chang and SJU Chaplain Rev. Wu.

Also as a precaution, as well as temperature checks for all those entering the church, everyone wears a face-mask throughout all our services, with the exception of the sermon when the preacher can take the face-mask off, as they stand so far away from everyone. This was the sermon yesterday, done in a new style, with Bishop Chang speaking without notes from the front of the altar by the communion rail – the sermon was based on the Gospel reading of the Road to Emmaus, and full of action!

We also had the confirmation and reception of 3 people, and Bishop Chang did this by laying hands on their heads as they were standing, rather than kneeling – also as a precaution in this time of Coronavirus.

Ms. Luo and Mr. Huang were both received into the Taiwan Episcopal Church – they were well-supported yesterday by their spouses and family members; and Tze-Wei was confirmed. Tze-Wei is the very lovely and very newest member of our SJU Chaplaincy Team, the one on the far left in the photo below…

After graduating from SJU last summer in the Dept. of Creative Design, Tze-Wei was baptized in July 2019, and now has the distinction and honour of being the very first person being both baptized and confirmed by Bishop Chang. Tze-Wei is from West Malaysia, and along with her Malaysian classmates in the Dept. of Creative Design, and her handsome boyfriend, Jing-Ching, she got involved in the student fellowship during her 4 years at SJU. When Jing-Ching became chairperson of the student fellowship for a year, he instigated exercise sessions of sports and games, and these still continue until now, organized by Tze-Wei. Although Jing-Ching started the exercise sessions, when Tze-Wei took over in the second term, she famously renamed them ‘Juicy’ Exercise, with the purpose of trying to lose weight as well as get fit. Asked why, she squeezes the spare tyre round her middle and says, “I am so juicy!” 😅🤣😂

Anyway, last summer she was the main student leader of the children’s summer camp at Advent Church, and did a really great job. Now she’s working full-time in the chaplaincy, and is putting her creative design skills and talents to good use, while Jing-Ching is doing his 4 months of military service. Her family in Malaysia are not Christians, and so, out of respect for them, she waited until after her graduation to be baptized – the early-morning baptism service was held in Advent Church at 7:45 am on Monday July 22, 2019, St. Mary Magdalene’s Day, and attended by Jing-Ching and many classmates. Back then, Bishop Chang was still rector of Advent Church, so he performed the baptism. That day was also chosen because it was Tze-Wei’s first official day of work in the chaplaincy office, so it was very meaningful….

After the confirmation part of the service yesterday, we had communion (bread only, as a Coronavirus precaution)…

And after the service finished, there were presentations from Advent Church of a Book of Common Prayer for each one ….

Thanks be to God! And please do continue to pray for Bishop Chang, Advent Church, SJU, the student fellowship, and all of us in the chaplaincy ~ that’s the SJU chaplain Rev. Wu, Shu-Jing, me – and especially our delightful Tze-Wei!

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!

St. John’s University, Taiwan: Graduation 2019!

Congratulations to all 900 students who graduated this past Saturday from St. John’s University (SJU)! And what a great occasion it was, with so many parents, relatives, friends, alumni, faculty and staff to celebrate with them. Some were accompanied by lots of family members, and some of the families from overseas were making a holiday of it all, and traveling on elsewhere. The photo below is of Yee Theng and her family from Sabah, Malaysia, she’s one of our most mature and very lovely student fellowship leaders, and her family were all here to join the graduation celebrations -YES!

And here I am with Calvin, one of our hardest-working, most successful and friendliest Malaysian students and his family…

Most of the students I know are those associated with the SJU Student Fellowship ~ and yes, quite a few of them are from Malaysia; lots more are from Taiwan of course. Bishop David J. H. Lai, chair of the SJU Trustees, and SJU President Ay Herchang led the celebrations, graduated the students, gave speeches, presented awards and shared their congratulations with all the students. There were many other VIP guests too, including a number of very distinguished alumni who received awards. A selection of photos below ~ and if it looks like a student is holding their ears in the photo, it’s because their mortar boards kept falling off!

Actually the day had started at 9:00 am with a gathering of alumni of the former St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology (SJSMIT) (original name of SJU) for the dedication by Bishop Lai of the newly-installed SJSMIT logo on the slope below Advent Church. For many years that logo was located in the floor of the main entrance to the central building. When the old buildings were demolished to make way for the new ones, the logo was moved to the SJSMIT archives and museum centre. Now it has been brought back once again into a more central place where it can be seen more easily by everyone.

About midday, after the graduation ceremony, our students came along to Advent Church for photos with their families – such fun!

Although it is sad to say goodbye, we have many happy memories! Last Thursday, our student fellowship (along with some fellowship alumni and chaplaincy staff) gathered to say goodbye to our 9 graduating fellowship members. The evening started with a formal meal, then we moved onto a celebration party, and this year’s theme was a pyjama party – ah, what a laugh! By tradition the graduating students prepare something special to present to the student fellowship, so here they all are with our current fellowship leader….

At the party, there was a catwalk for each one to model their pyjama costume, there were informal speeches, dancing, songs, presentations, hugs, gifts, tears, laughter and lots of photos!

Ah yes, many congratulations to all our SJU graduates of 2019! May God bless them as they leave us to pursue further studies or military service, find a job, return to their own countries or continue to stay on in Taiwan, whatever and wherever, we pray for them all and give thanks for the privilege of knowing them all for these past 4 years!

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!

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!

 

St. John’s University Student Fellowship Graduation Party ~ SJU愛的團契 送舊晚會2018!

An amazing evening last night ~ so many smiles and laughs, and of course, photos!

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Yes, it’s the end of the school year here in Taiwan and at SJU we are gearing up for tomorrow’s graduation ceremony, and saying many congratulations – but also sad goodbyes – to our lovely graduating students.  For our 4th year undergraduate students in the student fellowship, last night we held the annual much-anticipated, highlight-of-the-whole-year graduation party ~ this year on the theme of ‘復古’ ‘Vintage’.  Everyone’s been busy for weeks in preparation, not least finding an outfit, vintage style ~ grandparents and parents to the rescue!

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Our fellowship has 7 student members graduating, led by Vincy, who was last year’s student fellowship leader, the first girl to be elected to that position for over a decade and our first ever student leader from Malaysia.  Jing-Sen was also one of the student fellowship leadership team.  Pei-Ching and Mao-Ge are 2 other committed members, and Pei-ching was baptized only recently, at Easter.  Here they all are – making their presentation to Jing-Ching, the current fellowship leader…

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I arrived a bit late and missed the food, but in time for the party proper!  We had singing, dancing, games, drama, catwalk, presentations, videos, gifts and prayers.  And many many photos.  So so so so much going on, all evening!

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One of the highlights was the dancing ~ this is Jailhouse Rock, led by Tony and Nai-Nai…

Video No.2 features our graduating students, Jing-Sen and Vincy…

And this one features our chaplain Rev. Wu and his wife, Vicky… they certainly know how to dance!

And so to the photos – and yes the lights were flashing all different colours throughout the evening!

And a few photos taken by students, my vintage style is definitely, well, pink!

Plus the group photo….

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Then, this morning, Vincy’s parents and family arrived from West Malaysia ready for graduation tomorrow, and their first stop was to visit the SJU Chaplaincy for a photo!  Actually, after weeks on non-stop sun and a major lack of rain, today started 5 days of predicted heavy rain. It is absolutely pouring down out there, but still, anyway, a very big welcome to Taiwan!

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We have at about 10 students in our fellowship from Malaysia, maybe more.  These are most of the girls ~ they are all so amazing, so mature, and bring so many blessings to us in SJU!  For the boys, well there’s Calvin and Tony, spot them in the photo album above, they bring a whole lot of life and energy to the fellowship group!

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And finally a special mention and congratulations to Dong-Gua, one of our students on the master’s program, finally he is ready to graduate.  He’s been here longer than most of us, and we will miss him so much.  He’s the student who can always be relied on to come to our rescue whenever we need anything technical or practical, or needing muscles or clear thinking, always willing to help!  Here he is posing with Rev. Wu.  Ah, congratulations Dong-Gua!

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I can’t be at the graduation tomorrow, so I gave the students my congratulations and best wishes last night.  As always, they’ll leave a big gap that will be hard to fill, but we send them out into the world with our prayers for God’s blessing and grace to be upon them. And of course, we hope they’ll keep in touch ~ and come back and visit us very often!

MANY MANY CONGRATULATIONS AND BEST WISHES TO ALL THOSE GRADUATING THIS SUMMER ~ YES!