Tag Archives: SJU Chaplaincy

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

36660732_1713777198737926_3853382887751548928_n

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

IMG_0236

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

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

IMG_8870

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

IMG_8890

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

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

IMG_0186

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

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

IMG_9505

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

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

IMG_0138

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

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

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

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

IMG_0147

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

2018-07-04

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

Already looking forward to next year YES YES YES!

 

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!

IMG_7547

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!

IMG_7629

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…

IMG_7538

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!

IMG_7608

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….

35226279_1066134380201651_6669432784408281088_o

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!

IMG_7711

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!

IMG_7685

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!

IMG_7659

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!

 

Bishop David J. H. Lai assumes the position of Chair of St. John’s University Board of Trustees 賴主教 榮信董事 就任聖約翰科技大學 董事長感恩禮拜 Thanksgiving Service @ Advent Church, Taiwan

St. John’s University (SJU) 聖約翰科技大學 Board of Trustees recently elected Bishop David J. H. Lai as their new chair.  Yesterday at Advent Church (on the SJU campus), we held a Thanksgiving Service in which the official university seal was formally presented to Bishop Lai, as a sign of his new position. The presentation was made by 3 of the trustees ~ from left to right in the photo below, Mr. Yeh Zai-Cheng, Rev. Peter D. P. Chen, and to the right of Bishop Lai is Mr. Lai Jun-Nian (also chair of the SJU alumni).

IMG_6979

In the opening words of his sermon, Bishop Lai expressed his sincere thanks to the outgoing chair of the trustees, Dr. Cecilia Koo, who has stepped down after over 40 years of devoted service to SJU.  Unfortunately she was unable to come to the service yesterday.  He also expressed his thanks to Dr. J. S. Wang, former secretary to the board.  As he continued his sermon, Bishop Lai encouraged us all to work together focusing on 5 ‘P’s, of Purpose 目標, Passion 熱忱, Profession 專業, Perseverance 毅力 and Performance 表現.  YES!

IMG_6949

The service was attended by church and university VIPs from far and wide. It was so wonderful to see so many people, the church was completely full!  Bishop Lai came to the service accompanied by his wife, Mrs. Lily Lai.  Some of the SJU Board of Trustees came too, Rev. Peter D. P. Chen and his wife, Rev. Elizabeth F. J. Wei, Dr. Winston Yu and his wife, Ms. Marjorie Kuo, also Mr. Yeh Zai-Cheng and Mr. Lai Jun-Nian.  Here they are – 3 smiling trustees on the left, 2 lovely wives on the right!

Also the new secretary to the Board of Trustees, Mr. Chen Chyi, who is also senior warden of Advent Church (his brother, Dr. Chen Gung is also a trustee).  He read a lesson, as did Mr. Richard B. S. Hu (photo below), chair of the Diocese of Taiwan Standing Committee….

IMG_6912

We were pleased to welcome some of the other diocesan Standing Committee members, Mr. Di Yun-Heng and Mr. Chuang Hsiao-Wu, who had both traveled from Kaohsiung.  Plus our diocesan treasurer Mrs. Amy B. H. Lin and her husband, Dr. Chen; and many of our diocesan clergy (some of whom are also alumni):  Rev. Philip L. F. Lin and Rev. Antony F. W. Liang from St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei, Rev. Keith C. C. Lee from Good Shepherd Church, Taipei, Rev. Julia S. H. Lin from St. Stephen’s Church, Keelung, and 3 from very far away, Rev. Lily L. L. Chang from St. James’ Church, Taichung, Rev. Joseph M. L. Wu from St. Luke’s Church, Hualien, and Rev. Simon T. S. Tsou who drove up from St. Peter’s Church, Chiayi specially for the occasion!

From left to right below: Mr. Chen Chyi, Dr. Winston Yu, Mr. Richard Hu, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, Mr. Di Yun-Heng….

IMG_6840

Representing St. John’s University, Dr. Herchang Ay, SJU President, gave a lively speech with Bishop Lai in action next to him ~ ah, what were they actually saying at that very moment, I wonder?!

Also present were SJU Vice-President Dr. Hsu, SJU General Secretary Dr. Sophia Y. S. Hsieh and many of the deans, faculty and staff of the university, plus students, church members and friends, including Ms. Jasmine Yu from our neighbouring junior high school, and Mr. Chang Fu-Tai and Ms. Chao Wen-Yi, former members of staff.  Two very important people who keep things running smoothly by phone and email are President Ay’s secretary, Ms. Zhu (below right) and Bishop Lai’s secretary, Ms. Lisa Hsu (below left), here they are meeting in person for the very first time yesterday!

IMG_6846

And all guests were well-looked after by our staff and wardens, helpers and supporters, led by Mr. Chen Ming-Chuan (holding the blue order of service booklet below), Advent Church junior warden, and Hannah, wife of Rev. Lennon Chang, who were ready and waiting to welcome everyone from 1:00 pm onwards!  Photos taken before the service started, as everyone signed their names…

Personally invited by Bishop Lai were his special friends, Dr. Yeh Ming-Yang 葉明陽 (left photo below), Professor and Vice Superintendent of Cheng Hsin General Hospital, Taipei, where Bishop Lai recently had successful surgery to remove his inflamed gall bladder and received such wonderful care under Dr. Yeh’s supervision.  And also Mr. Philip J. J. Wu (right photo below), General Manager of Grace International Co. Ltd; he was responsible for producing Bishop Lai’s artillery shell crosses in his factory, one of which was being worn by Bishop Lai yesterday.

And so the service began at 2:00 pm, led by Advent Church rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang and assisted by SJU Chaplain, Rev. Wu Hsing-Hsiang, starting with words of commitment from Bishop Lai in his new position of chair – and from all in the congregation a commitment of support for him; also the official presentation of the university seal, plus hymns, readings, sermon, prayers, speeches and the closing blessing from Bishop Lai.

And finally, the group photo on the steps of Advent Church at 3:40 pm yesterday…

IMG_7061

Please do pray for Bishop Lai as he assumes his new position as chair of the SJU Board of Trustees.  It is a huge undertaking and a major responsibility for him and all in St. John’s University and the Taiwan Episcopal Church.  Many challenges lie ahead.  In God’s strength we go forward, trusting God to lead the way.  We give thanks to God. Please pray for us all!

51st ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS @ ST. JOHN’S UNIVERSITY, TAIWAN 聖約翰科技大學51週年校慶!

St. John’s University has been celebrating its 51st birthday this past week.  Many congratulations ~ and happy birthday!

IMG_1613

This time last year, the SJU 50th birthday was a huge jamboree of events and VIP visitors and all sorts of exciting things going on.  This year has been a little less frenetic, but celebratory all the same.  A few highlights:

We have a new school bus!  This was actually a gift from an alumnus, Mr. Chang, and was presented to the university in a dedication ceremony last week.  The bus is beautifully painted – love it!

The bus dedication took place right in front of Advent Church, where there is a line of very special trees which just happen to be blossoming this very week.  The tree is Crateva religiosa, 加羅林魚木, “the sacred garlic pear or temple plant, a member of the capers family. The tree is sometimes called the spider tree because the showy flowers bear long, spidery stamens”. 

The annual ‘Run for SJU’ 為聖約翰而跑 3.5 km Fun Run took place on Wednesday afternoon and we had great fun.  We encouraged our student fellowship group and friends to wear yellow, it stands out in the crowd!  This time last year the heavens opened as we got to the sea, half way round the course, but this year it was warm and sunny with a nice breeze.  No excuses!  So we ran a bit faster and almost enjoyed it.  Except for the massive hill that comes up from the beach at the end.  Anyway most of us got a T-shirt, me too!

There was the annual SJU Thanksgiving Service on Thursday, but I couldn’t go to that.  I was in Taipei.  Rode the You Bike there and back from Tamsui.  This was the sunset at Shezi Bridge on the way home.  I mention this because the focus of the thanksgiving service is in gratitude for the dedication, devotion and service of Bishop James C. L. Wong, the founder of this institution who gave his life and energy to get it established and died soon afterwards.  Timing is everything, and we thank God that Bishop Wong was the right man at the right time for SJU.  An amazing wow of a sunset and the timing – that I should get to the bridge just at that moment – seems appropriate symbol for a man who is highly respected and greatly admired here at SJU.  And of course in thanksgiving for God’s blessing over these 51 years too!

IMG_1645.JPG

On Saturday, we had our annual SJU celebrations for all students, staff and faculty and with many alumni, visitors and old friends coming back to visit.  Bishop Lai was here too, attending the main formal event in Centennial Hall –  with performances, speeches and presentations…

The Vietnamese student group were beautifully dressed ~ here they are with Bishop Lai…

IMG_1932

Outside on the main campus road, stalls were set up selling all kinds of food and drink, and each class of students and different groups had their own acitvity.  There were some fun performances on the stage set up in the middle of the road – the show opened with SJU President Ay hitting the gong!

After leading the singing of the National Anthem and the SJU School Song down in Centennial Hall, the SJU student fellowship continued with their event to celebrate upcoming Mother’s Day – making cards, taking photos and free hugs!

IMG_1705

They were very active in recruiting people to participate!

And the Vietnamese students were selling homemade paper flowers – we all bought some.  Ah, it was great fun!

And lots of friends and former students came back to visit ~ obligatory photos too!

Today, Sunday, at Advent Church, it was St. John’s University Student Fellowship Sunday, and they were all involved in the worship, doing all the readings, singing, taking up the offerings etc.  We then spent the afternoon on the half-yearly spring cleaning of the church and church centre.  I was cleaning windows with the student team, and y’know, it was quite fun.  The windows look a lot cleaner anyway. But we were too busy for photos ~ I’m sure you’ll agree that an occasional day off from photos is not a bad thing!

It’s been quite a week, thanks be to God. And here’s to the next 51 years of St. John’s University!

Wedding Blessings and Celebrations for our beloved Setu and Jacob!

Ah, THE DAY finally arrived! YES!

After years and years of waiting ~ they’ve FINALLY made it down the aisle, tied the knot, had the obligatory kiss AND the wedding blessing!  CONGRATULATIONS!

Advent Church on Saturday February 10 at 2:00 pm was THE place to be. It may have been pouring with rain and cold, cold, cold outside, but inside, it was a buzz of activity and filled with warmth! Excitement was in the air, but, also, well, let’s face it, a little concern about whether it was all actually going to happen as planned, or yes, even if at all! So when we all got to the church, and actually saw bride AND groom BOTH there, both looking Ready with a capital ‘R’, well, what a great relief! Smiles all around. And y’know what? Everything went off without a hitch. Thanks be to God! The bridegroom smiled all afternoon. He even smiled in my direction. At my camera. So did the bride, but, well, we knew she would smile! The bride’s months of careful planning and organization, plus the hard work and support of a huge team of helpers all paid off. And what a great day it was!

To understand our smiles of relief and amazement, you just have to understand a little about the very lovely bride and her very handsome groom. Setu works with our Chaplaincy Team at St. John’s University (SJU). We’ve been based in the same office now for about the last 7 years. We even went together to India this time last year. She has the most wonderful, fruitful and inspiring ministry with our students, particularly those in our SJU Student Fellowship. That’s how come so many SJU Student Fellowship alumni came back to participate on Saturday, joining with current Student Fellowship members in singing or playing instruments or acting as ushers, or whatever – all there to ensure everything ran smoothly.

In our life in the SJU Chaplaincy, Setu also provides us with plenty of laughs on a daily basis. She doesn’t mean to, of course, but she does! She’s creative, idealistic, gifted in multiple languages, compassionate, kind, and is always searching for ways to make the world a better place – whether it’s some words of encouragement for our students on facebook, or through Bible Studies, meetings, organizing activities, outreach ~ she’s on the go from morning to night. She runs, yes RUNS around the office. It’s a small office, there’s hardly no room to swing a cat, yet Setu, on the move, manages to run! (She even ran on Saturday…. round to the front of the church!)

And guess what, in the process of all this, she totally forgets to eat. Breakfast lies unopened, or half eaten on her desk until lunchtime. Her lunch is still being eaten, one noodle at a time, throughout the afternoon. Actually she has much improved over the years, but hey, if a student asks Setu about the deeper meaning of life and the world and the universe, her face lights up, she stops running, and wow, before you know it, a whole hour is gone in deep and meaningful discussion.

And guess what too, in this respect, Jacob is very similar. While other couples might spend hours discussing how to decorate the house, what to buy at the supermarket, where to go on holiday etc etc; no, not these two. They thrive, positively thrive on discussing all things spiritual, philosophical, theological, ethical, moral, eschatological and, of course, meaningful.

So, not surprisingly, when it comes to arranging something as practical and down to earth as a wedding, well, it has taken rather a long time. They’ve kind of been ‘together-but-not-really-together’ for what seems like a century, and ‘married-but-not-really-married’ for the last five years. So, as our rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang explained during his sermon on Saturday, their wedding celebrations were more of a marriage blessing, which of course in this situation is just as meaningful and moving.

Setu’s parents both died while she was at university in Taipei, and partly through that experience, she became a Christian and found much support and friendship in their Student Fellowship. She discovered the Anglican / Episcopal Church when she moved out to the countryside, not far from Advent Church, looking for a quiet place to write up her thesis for her MA in Japanese (on Shūsaku Endō, author of ‘Silence’), and has been here ever since. She LOVES the Episcopal liturgy and traditions, the spirituality and quiet reflection of monastic orders, and every year disappears off for a few days of silent retreat in a RC Retreat House. So, in planning her wedding, she invited her good friend, Fr. Jacques Duraud (杜樂仁), originally from France, now at the Jesuit Community at Fu-Jen RC University, Taipei, to walk her down the aisle. In his speech, he said that he accepted the role as an elder brother in the Christian faith. And he looked so natural!

And the bridegroom, Jacob? He’s the man to talk to if you want a deep and profound discussion. In the days when we used to have monthly English Bible Studies at Advent Church, he would be the one to ask the most very deepest and most very profoundest questions, all the result of much contemplation and reflection prior to the Bible Study. In more recent years, since he got busy running his own design company, he keeps very unconventional hours, working very late into the night and sleeping very late into the day, and rarely gets to come to Advent Church, and if he does, well, it’s quite a bit later than everyone else. And because he usually wears a face mask, Taiwan-style, he appears even more elusive and mysterious! Kind of like James Bond 007, we all want to know what he’s thinking, what makes him the man he is! In the event, we needn’t have worried about what would happen on Saturday. Jacob rose wonderfully to the occasion, and did Setu (and all of us!) proud. He smiled all day long, graciously cooperated for all photos and charmed us all with his elegance and grace. Thank you to Jacob!

The wedding blessing service was led by Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, assisted by our chaplain, Rev. Wu Hsing-Hsiang, with songs from our Student Fellowship choir, Advent Church choir, and supported by our seminarian Stoney on the organ and piano, plus former and current students all on hand to help as necessary. We even had live streaming for those unable to attend…

After the blessing of the couple, they bowed to the congregation in thanks – then we had THE KISS!

This was all followed by Holy Communion….

After the final blessing, we had the procession out of the church of bride and groom…

And the 2 best men and 2 best bridesmaids…

And so to the church centre next door, where we had a buffet-style reception (I found some interesting delicacies ~ rolls of bacon with a strawberry in the middle!)…

Jacob’s great friend is Rev. Joseph Ho, in charge of St. Mark’s Church, Pingtung ~ Joseph couldn’t be with us on Saturday, but his lovely wife and gorgeous daughter and mother-in-law were all there, so we had special photos for Joseph!

The entertainment at the reception was provided by different groups of students and friends. Some danced, others sang, some had even written their own songs for the occasion. One group who were not able to attend were our Student Fellowship members from Malaysia who have all gone home for Chinese New Year. They had each recorded a short video of their greetings which was shown at the reception, so lovely.

And the other group who must be mentioned are Machiko, Junko and Megumi, who came especially from Osaka, Japan to attend the celebrations. Last summer they were here for our joint youth outreach (with our companion diocese of Osaka), organized by Rev. Lennon Chang, with much support given by Setu. I had the chance to take the 3 of them around Taipei on Friday, including a great visit to drink tea with Bishop Lai, and later accompanied them to Taiwan’s most famous dumpling restaurant, Din Tai Feng, kindly hosted by Rev. Keith Lee, from Good Shepherd Church. So, yes, a very warm welcome to them!

After the food, speeches and entertainment, we had group photos, first the family…

IMG_4078

And those belonging to Advent Church!

IMG_4087

By then it was already 5:30 pm and I had to leave to get to St. James’ Church, Taichung, in time for preaching at the English service the next day, so I had to leave before the photos were finished. Actually I had the chance of a lift to the MRT Station, and as it was pouring with rain and I had tons of luggage, I made the most of the opportunity, and got to Taichung by 9:00 pm. Since then, I’ve been sorting out the 604 photos that I took on Saturday afternoon. Ha ha, you’ll be glad to know that I am not posting all 604 here, just a few!

Thanks be to God! It was a wonderful occasion! We are also grateful that Setu and Jacob had this opportunity to stand together in Advent Church to receive God’s blessing, and that of the church and university community. Thank you to all those who organized, helped, supported, and made sure everything went so well. Yulin and Ro-Han deserve our special thanks, plus the church clergy and staff, church members and all who came to show their support.

We all love Setu and Jacob so much, and wish them all the best for their future together. Please pray for them, and give thanks to Almighty God!

Advent & Christmas 2017 @ St. John’s University (SJU) & Advent Church, Taiwan

SJU is definitely a happening kind of place during Advent and Christmas!  Taiwan doesn’t have any holidays for Christmas, so apart from weekends, the students are here in classes all over Christmas, the office staff are working all over Christmas, the professors are teaching all over Christmas (and this year our engineering faculty / college had an OFSTED-style inspection starting on December 25!) so we just get on and make the most of it!

IMG_2162

During Advent, every department and main office in St. John’s University has an Advent wreath on display, and every week the St. John’s University Chaplaincy Team and student fellowship walk around the university campus visiting all those offices in turn, starting with President Ay’s office.

IMG_2323

We invite one of the staff of each office to light the Advent candle(s) and read a Bible verse, we sing a carol or say a prayer, share greetings, and move on to the next office.  It takes 3-4 hours to complete the circuit.  One day we also included our new class of Vietnamese students, who gathered in a large group and joined in…

IMG_1655

As there’s about 30 offices on the campus and we visit each office 4 times over the course of Advent, hey that’s quite a few candles being lit and prayers being offered!

Our students and church members have been busy for weeks preparing a Christmas drama, this year it actually included the Bible story of Christmas.  We had 2 teams rehearsing, one of students and one of church members – with some overlap; during Advent, we took the performance around the community to different places.  The students performed the drama during their evangelistic outreach event early in December, and on Saturday December 16, the church members performed the drama for our children’s Christmas party ~ it was fast-moving and thrilling to watch!

At Advent Church, we have said thank you and goodbye to Rev. Michael T. H. Liu, who after about 5 years of monthly preaching at Advent Church is finally retiring, at nearly 80 years old.  This was his last Sunday with us on December 10 – so we all gathered for a group photo.  Thank you Michael!

IMG_1010

My monthly visits to Laomei Elementary School (an extension of Advent Church ministry) also continued through December, with our theme of Christmas trees.  Ah, the kids are so much fun – these are the younger ones!

P_20171212_091201_vHDR_Auto

Our combined SJU and Advent Church Christmas Charity Bazaar is held every year on the Wednesday before Christmas.  This year it was December 20, and everyone was busy for weeks beforehand getting ready.  This year’s charity is Taiwan Xi En 希恩之家  in Kaohsiung, which was founded originally to provide a way of helping mothers who might otherwise decide to have an abortion, and the charity’s home helps take care of babies and small children up to the age of 2 years old.  Our aim was to raise NT$ 250,000 and it looks like we might exceed that, thanks be to God!  Most of the money is actually raised from direct donations, but the bazaar gives the students a chance to do their bit to help, giving of their time and buying their lunch that day at the bazaar.  The day of the actual bazaar was dry weather – for the first time for many years!  Not only that, but the weather continued dry and even sunny throughout the whole Christmas weekend.  Possibly a first – YES!

The following day, Thursday December 21 was the Christmas carol-singing and final Advent walkabout, lighting all the 5 candles, and also visiting the student dormitories and our local neighbours.  We had also visited Xian-Xiao (our neighbouring junior-high school branch) a few days earlier for carol singing and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.

26114627_10215826123192474_5168190954232207748_o

IMG_5715

Then on Friday evening, our church members joined with the student fellowship and we extended our carol singing to cover the whole area from Tamsui up to Sanzhi. I joined the group that was singing outside the new ramen noodle shop run by our church members in northern Tamsui….

IMG_2376

And then all the different carol-singing groups met up to visit SJU President Ay’s home here in his university accommodation.  We had such a warm welcome!

25587777_1503598159755832_6052882792506363904_o

On Christmas Eve, we held our evening service at 7:30 pm, starting in candlelight, and wonderfully supported by our choir, who as always, sang beautifully.

IMG_2582

We had 2 baptisms that evening, Mr. Huang, brother of one of our former students who was baptized himself here a few years ago, and the other was our good friend, Jasmine Yu, in charge of Xian-Xiao School….

照片 267

Jasmine invited 12 members of her family to come and witness this momentous event.  These were virtually all people I know from the mountain-climbing trips we have done together over the years.  Apart from one of her cousins who is a Christian, Jasmine is the first Christian in her family, and yet they all came along to support her.  What a great testimony, and praise God!  Please pray for them all!

IMG_2636

Christmas Day, being a Monday, was a normal work and school day here in Taiwan.  We had a short service on Christmas Day, and then we had another one today, December 27, for St. John’s Day – patron saint of SJU…

IMG_2852

And last night, December 26, we had a wonderful Christmas Party for my combined community English class groups.  Normally I have 2 adult English groups, one meeting on Monday afternoons, and the other (a new class this term) on Tuesday evenings.  Actually the Monday afternoon group are mainly church members, and they took on the responsibility of running the party for the Tuesday evening group, who are mostly not.  Everyone brought food, wore red and we all had a great time. Ah, I love red!

IMG_2749

And just check out the fruit animals, made by Ms. Cho, one of the students!

IMG_2709

We danced, ate, played Bingo, musical chairs and musical animal statues and it was all so funny, I could hardly take photos for laughing so much. Spot the penguins. And the lions.  And plenty of other animals.  Just my kinda party!

SJU has a brand new set of LED lights along our main campus boulevard, strings of blue and white lights hanging from all the banyan trees, and looking very splendid.  The students are so impressed they are all taking and posting photos of themselves in the lights.  This was last night, the grand opening was tonight!

P_20171226_174050_vHDR_Auto.jpg

Non-stop all month, and more to come lol.  For now though, this is it.  Christmas is well and truly upon us!

Belated Christmas greetings to you all!

Updated on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2017:

IMG_3057

This morning in Advent Church we celebrated the First Sunday of Christmas.  As it comes only days after St. John’s Day on December 27, so our SJU student fellowship were responsible for leading the worship, doing the readings, the notices, collection etc.  They all did a great job!

IMG_3101

We also welcomed Bishop David J. H. Lai for a confirmation service…..

IMG_2972

Seven people were confirmed ~ ranging in age from 17 to 90!

IMG_3084

Congratulations to everyone ~ and what a great way to end 2017!

Wishing you all a Happy New Year 2018 ~ and I’m off to write my new year resolutions!

St. John’s University Coming of Age Ceremony (成年禮) 2017!

Every year in mid-November, St. John’s University holds a Coming of Age Ceremony (成年禮) for all of our first-year university students ~ plus SJU President Ay, faculty, alumni, tutors and staff.  The event is organized by the St. John’s University Chaplaincy, and takes weeks of preparation for our chaplaincy staff and the student fellowship team ~ but it’s all worth it, and every year we thank God for another successful event!  It’s also got high praise from the Ministry of Education too.

IMG_8640

And it all happened yesterday afternoon!

IMG_8612

The students (and tutors) this year all had special red SJU ties, emblazoned with SJU logos and words, and with matching white shirts (or black for some), everyone looked very smart.  Took quite some effort to get those ties on the right way, but everyone helped out their friends and in the end, they all looked great!  Many parents came too, and were warmly thanked and presented with gifts of potted plants, as were the class tutors.  We had speeches and music, a wine toast, formal bows, prayers and a blessing from Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang.  All this to mark the students’ arrival in the big wide world of adulthood, a world of maturity and responsibility.  Ah yes, a great occasion!

But, this year there were only 350 or so students at the Coming of Age Ceremony.  Looking back on these blog posts marking the same event over the years – they go back to 2012, when there were 1,500 students at the ceremony, and the hall was packed out.  In those 5 years, student enrollment has gone down by 200-300 each year – last year there were about 800 at the ceremony.  It is seriously worrying.  And it’s also a major problem affecting all of Taiwan.  A drastic fall in the birth rate (and hardly any immigration) is impacting all schools and colleges, from primary schools upwards. At university level, there are way too many universities and nowhere near enough students to go round, so the only way to keep the numbers up is to reduce standards – and for small private universities like ours, the problem is particularly bad.  Yes, these days we have lots of foreign students and lots of new and innovative programme to attract students (and keep them), but still, they are not enough to keep up with the falling numbers of Taiwan students.  Next year is a ‘dragon year’ of students coming through (there’s a high birth rate every dragon year!) plus we have the junior college students who, next year, for the first time, will be eligible to join in the Coming of Age Ceremony.  So we look forward to an upward rise in 2018!

So please keep us in your prayers and thoughts as St. John’s University works hard to resolve this problem ~ and face the challenges ahead!

PS The university’s own article (in Chinese) about yesterday’s event is here