Published today, my CMS Link Letter No. 67 ~ and the testimony of one of my students…..
A new school year at St. John’s University and we always start each new year (and each semester) with a service in Advent Church, attended by the university president and some of the faculty and staff, along with student representatives from each class. Members of the student fellowship sing in a choir formed for the occasion, and also lead the prayers. The service ends with the lighting of candles and the singing of the school song, and procession out of the church. The service was held yesterday afternoon….
A great chance for everyone to come together to commit the new school year to Almighty God and ask for His blessing upon us….
A new school year at St. John’s University and 1,036 brand new first-year students have arrived and are settling in. Classes started last week, and this week all the clubs and societies have launched forth with concerts, discos, welcome parties and dinners to attract the new students to join up…. there’s a lot going on!
Our SJU Chaplaincy Student Fellowship has also been busy every day, and the main events were these last 2 evenings, Tuesday and Wednesday, when we welcomed the new students to a party in Advent Church, different days for different departments. More than 20 of our student fellowship team organized themselves to run the events, everyone knew exactly what job they were doing, it was fantastic! Even I was assigned a job – taking photos, ha ha! So on the first night we had about 20 new students, and then last night over 70. There were games, food, dancing, singing, more games, more dancing, group photos and then sharing in small groups. Ah, it was great fun!
One of the new things this year is that among all those first year students are 96 in the junior college section, which means that they are only 15-16 years old, here for the next 5 years studying English or various kinds of engineering. Their group was assigned to the first evening, and one student enjoyed it so much that he requested a ticket for the second evening too ~ YES! And then there are 50 first year students from Malaysia, Hong Kong and Mainland China…. some of them came too. And of course there were many who tried to attend all the events on the campus in the same evening, so they disappeared half way through ours. Ah, but it was still great fun!
And not being ones to sit around doing nothing, the regular Thursday evening fellowship meetings start tonight with a trip to the beach and food and sharing – up the road in the garden of one of our church members. It’s all non-stop action!
Prayers for all our activities welcomed, thank you!
Yes, it’s all been happening this summer – months of prayer, preparation and packing ~ and finally they were ready for the off ~ YES!
Earlier in the summer, a team of 16 young people (all young at heart, and mostly young in age too!) from St. John’s University Chaplaincy and Advent Church, led by SJU Chaplain and Advent Church Rector, Rev. Lennon Chang, spent 10 days on an overseas mission trip ~ and yesterday a very happy 14 of them gathered at Advent Church to share with the church about their experiences….
Each one had 3 minutes to speak, and priority #1 of course was: THE FOOD! Taiwan was recently voted by CNN to have the best food in the whole world, so of course whenever a Taiwan person leaves Taiwan, well, food is always going to be their main concern ~ and so it was ;)! Everyone had been a bit worried and prepared for the worst, but actually they’ve all survived, and some have even put on weight ha ha! #2 topic was toilets, another subject much discussed and worried over beforehand. ‘Could have been worse’ was the overall feeling on their return…. We also heard about transport ~ the 15-hour bus journey, the trips in the back of open pick-up trucks, accommodation, the cost of living – salaries and cost of basic goods, the extreme poverty, the ministry to the children and youth, home visits, church worship, and everyone’s most moving moment and lasting memory. Overall, clearly a life-changing experience for everyone.
All were very moved by the faith of the local Christians they met ~ in a community with few financial resources, prayer and their faith in Christ are clearly what carries everyone through, and the way the churches reach out to the destitute and marginalized in the local community is a wonderful witness. Some of the students commented that here in Taiwan we have every technological invention known to man, but there they have nothing, no loud speakers, microphones, computers, not even any basic toys, and in many places no water or electricity either ~ and yet the children are content, the people get by and the Gospel is preached.
One of our students reflected on his own life and how totally self-absorbed he was as a teenager, focused only on his own life and personal desires, and yet there, the teenagers requested prayer not just for themselves and their school work, but for their parents to find faith and become Christians. Another noticed how resourceful the children were, thinking things out for themselves, finding creative solutions to every problem – not waiting for adults to organize them and explain everything to them, but leading the way themselves.
Rev. Lennon Chang shared about his role on the trip, which was prayer, prayer and more prayer. Every day, up at 4:30am praying for 2 hours, for each member of the team, and then ongoing throughout the day…. spiritual warfare was very much a reality of their daily lives, and without all the prayer, no way would the trip have been a success.
Actually this trip was really organized and made possible through Pastor Shih, whose son is one of the students in our SJU Student Fellowship, and both father and son went on the mission trip. Pastor Shih works for the Taiwan branch of an ecumenical mission organization that was started in the 1990’s, the result of a initial vision given to a Chinese pastor who took a moment to sit down and rest while on a tour inside St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Wow. And the moral is – always sit down and rest while on a tour of a cathedral, church or basilica, you just never know what might happen!
Although they also work in many local languages, most of those involved on the mission teams are Chinese-speaking, and in our case, the outreach was to a Chinese church and Chinese-speaking community in a country where extreme poverty, political instability and lack of religious freedom are all major factors. Sharing the Gospel is very difficult. And that’s why I don’t want to tell you exactly where they went – sorry, it’s a bit too risky.
Pastor Shih spoke yesterday of the trip and our mission team’s ministry with the local children and teenagers ~ and how our team trained the church youth to run an evangelistic outreach night. On the Saturday night they actually held the outreach, led by the church youth for their friends and visitors, while our team sat in the pews and saw the fruits of their training put into action. This was a huge encouragement to the local church leaders, to see their own young people stand up and lead worship, perform drama, share their testimonies and run the whole event themselves, they were overjoyed!
The last time a group from Advent Church and SJU Chaplaincy went on an overseas mission trip was to the Diocese of West Malaysia a few years ago. That changed their lives forever. So did this one!
Our team returned to Taiwan on August 5, and of the 16 who went, 7 of them then got ill. Not ill while they were there, but once they came back. Our 2 Advent Church clergy went down with dengue fever and the other 5 went down with similar fevers and stomach problems, but not diagnosed as dengue. That was all happening the weekend that Typhoon Soudelor was roaring around Taiwan trying hard to wipe us all off the face of the earth. Ah, deep sigh ~ it never rains but it pours!
But praise God all of them have now recovered. As you can see in the photos, yesterday they all dressed up like they did on the mission trip, and with the cream on the face that local people use to protect their skin from the sun. All of them are full of praise and gratitude to Almighty God, to the team leaders and to Advent Church for prayer and financial support.
All have had their eyes opened and learned so much. Please pray for these young people (young at heart as well as young in age!) for their lives, their faith and their future ~ after all, who knows what might happen after such an amazing life-changing experience as this?!
Yes, it was a big confirmation weekend at Advent Church, although we had been a bit worried that we might get typhooned-out! Fortunately, in the event, Typhoon Goni passed by with heavy rains and some wind, but not too bad. Sadly the typhoon had already caused much death and destruction in the Philippines, but this time we were spared the worst.
Bishop Lai and his wife Lily came for the morning worship, and we had 4 confirmations, of which 3 were our students, past and present, from St. John’s University Student Fellowship. One was arranged kind of at the last minute as the young man now works in Mainland China and only comes back to Taiwan every 2 months for a long weekend. Last time he came back he was baptized, and this time he managed to arrange to come back on confirmation weekend. Wonderful! Another is the leader of our student fellowship who was baptized at Easter, he initially got involved in the student fellowship through our English Conversation Group. Great to see them all smiling away!
Bishop Lai presented each one with a cross to wear, and then at the end of the service, our rector, Rev. Lennon Chang, presented those who had just been confirmed with copies of the Book of Common Prayer…
Congratulations to them all ~ and do please pray for all 4 of them and their families!
And for the photographically sensitive, you will notice the challenges of trying to take a decent photo when our deacon, Rev. Wu, is so tall and he lifts Bishop Lai’s crosier so high that to get it in the photo means stepping back half a mile from the confirmation scene. OK, I admit I exaggerate ~ but we did laugh afterwards!
Wedding Day at Advent Church for one of our former students, Pei-Wen and her new husband, Jun-Yien!
Pei-Wen was baptized here at Advent Church while she was a student at St. John’s University and was active in the student fellowship. As she lives locally, she’s continued to come along, and has brought Jun-Yien too. Today lots of her old friends and classmates came back to celebrate and to help out, including singing a song for the new couple ~ so wonderful to see them, all looking very smart and very cool!
Congratulations Pei-Wen and Jun-Yien, and may God bless you today and always!
An amazing non-stop 2 days of fun, friendship, fellowship – and all on the theme of faithfulness…..
Every year for about the last 20 years, Advent Church has held a holiday club / summer camp for local children in the community, run by students from the St. John’s University Chaplaincy Student Fellowship, helped by some of the church youth. Always held on the first 2 days of the summer holidays – this year July 1 and 2. Non-residential but lasting all day, 9:00 am -4:00 pm with lunch included. This year we had about 30 student leaders and about 60 children – including children of our university staff, Lao-Mei Village and many from the local area….
In recent years, the theme of the summer camps has been the ‘Fruits of the Spirit’, one a year, and we’re now up to Faithfulness. Not an easy subject to teach in the context of a children’s summer camp! We concentrated on what it means to be faithful to yourself, to others, to the environment and to God. The Bible story dramas focused on Peter, how he was called by Jesus from catching fish to catching people, how he followed Jesus through his life, then his denial, how he met with Jesus after the resurrection, and finally as he looked back over his life and the miracles he witnessed with Jesus…
Actually our students have been preparing for weeks and weeks ~ then they gathered as a group on Monday and Tuesday this week for 2 days of intensive preparations. On Tuesday evening we had a very meaningful service of foot-washing led by our deacon Wu….
And so to Day One, all of the student leaders dressed in this year’s T-shirts, with ‘Faith’ emblazoned on the front. Spot the twin girls in the photos below, pulling faces. Ah, such a fun day!
And so to Day Two ~ the children in their new ‘Faith’ T-shirts and the student leaders in yellow. For the children, the highlight will always be the afternoon water games and water fight!
Giving thanks to God for a wonderful 2 days, for good weather, for the children, the students ~ and everyone’s enthusiasm! Praying for contacts made with the local community and the children’s families, and with Lao-Mei Village….
And so the summer is officially launched~ YES!
The last full week of term and the last student fellowship gathering for this school year, and so farewell to a lovely group of students ~ we’ll definitely miss you all!
Some have been members of St. John’s University Student Fellowship for the last 4 years and graduated last weekend ~ and others have been here in Taiwan for a relatively short time and are returning home to Mainland China, so we said goodbye to them all on Thursday night in Advent Church….
The theme was Cosplay (literally “Costume Play” ~ meaning dressing up and pretending to be a fictional character, usually a sci-fi, comic book, or anime character) and we certainly had some costumes – and some attitudes – to go with them!
The sketches were hilarious, take-offs of the graduating students themselves, instantly recognizable and so funny! A really great evening….
Please pray for our graduating students ~ for their lives, their faith, their futures, and for those returning home to Mainland China ~ for God’s blessing on them too!
Today St. John’s University said farewell to 6 faculty and staff who are retiring at the end of this academic year, next month in fact ~ and many of them looking far too young to retire! But several have been here for 25 years, and all are full of plans for what they’re going to do next….
Actually one of them couldn’t come today, but the other 5 were all here – plus about 100 present (and just-retired) faculty and staff, including President Chen Jean-Lien – all here saying goodbye, laden with gifts and flowers! The whole event was held in Advent Church and organized jointly by the SJU Chaplaincy and SJU Personnel Department.
There were speeches, presentations, songs from the SJU Student Fellowship, a prayer of blessing from our chaplain, and all followed by a yummy lunch…
Lots and lots of congratulations to all those retiring this semester ~ we will miss you all, but we wish you well ~ and do come back and visit us often!
Yesterday was a BIG BIG day ~ St. John’s University Graduation 2015 ~ YES!
By 10:00am everyone had gathered ~ students, professors, SJU President Chen Jean-Lien, SJU Chair of Trustees, Dr. Cecilia Koo, VIP Guests and Alumni, SJU Chaplain Rev. Lennon Chang, Bishop David J. H. Lai and a whole host of photographers, organizers and of course parents and families ~ including lots of proud grandparents, all armed with bouquets of flowers and balloons. And even several tiny pet dogs!
The procession entered the Centennial Hall to the music of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ and 2 hours later the whole event ended with everyone singing Auld Lang Syne! And in-between we had speeches, performances, awards, presentations, prayers, Bible readings, Bishop Lai’s blessing, songs, and finally the throwing up of the mortar boards, and the streamers came down ~ YES!
This year the SJU Student Fellowship has maybe 5 or 6 members graduating, and it was so great to meet their parents and to wish them all well ~ many congratulations to you all!