Tag Archives: St. John’s University SJU Taiwan

Rev. Dr. Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang 張員榮牧師 elected as next Bishop of Taiwan ~ Congratulations and Thanks be to God!

Update on Tuesday August 6: the official report on the Episcopal News Service announcing these results is now published here

After many months of prayer and preparation, today was THE big day, when Bishop David J. H. Lai gathered the Diocese of Taiwan clergy and laity representatives at St. James’ Church, Taichung to elect the next Bishop of Taiwan. Thanks be to God that Rev. Dr. Lennon Y. R. Chang 張員榮牧師 was elected on the second ballot ~ many congratulations! Above is the photo of the bishop and bishop-elect with their wives, and below is Bishop-elect Lennon and his wife, Hannah posing in their formal photo!

The day started with a Holy Communion service at 10:00 am, led by Bishop David J. H. Lai. Most of us had had very early starts, for us in the far N. W. of Taiwan at Advent Church, we set off at 6:00 am in a small bus and fortunately got to St. James, Taichung without any trouble well before 9:00 am. We are grateful for the prayers of friends around the world for good weather and safe travels. This month, after all, is actually the height of the typhoon season, so we are glad that our schedule for today was not disrupted by bad weather. Here we are arriving at St. James ready for the big day!

Just so you know, Bishop David J. H. Lai 賴榮信主教 is the 5th diocesan bishop of Taiwan, he was consecrated on November 25, 2000 as coadjutor, and then installed as diocesan bishop in 2001 on the retirement of Bishop John C. T. Chien 簡啟聰主教. Bishop Lai retires in March 2020, so today we have elected our 6th diocesan bishop to be Bishop Lai’s successor.

We are grateful to all 3 nominees who stood for election, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang 張員榮牧師, Rev. Lily L. L. Chang 張玲玲牧師 and Rev. Joseph M. L. Wu 吳明龍牧師.

For most of our clergy it was their first bishop election. For Mr. Yang, our diocesan secretary, it was his second, and we were glad that he was here today to lead the way. He was on hand to check everyone in, helped by diocesan staff, clergy and and his daughter …

First was the Holy Communion Service…

Then the election was held immediately after the service, on the 7th floor of the St. James’ Education Building, with the observers watching from the balcony above, and an overflow group watching it all by video link on the 6th floor.

The rules are that all clergy and elected lay delegates are allowed to vote, and the person elected must receive over 50% from both the house of clergy and house of laity on the same ballot. Of our 18 clergy, 17 voted, and we had 36 lay delegates, all of whom voted. Ballot 1 results as follows…

After the first ballot, the candidate with the lowest number in both the house of clergy and house of laity did not then proceed onto ballot 2. In the second ballot, there was a clear result ~ and when it became clear, the whole room erupted in applause! Ballot 2 results as follows….

Lennon gave a short acceptance speech in which he thanked all the clergy and lay delegates for their support…

And then we had photos, of course! Group photos and individual ones. And we were so pleased to welcome Rev. Canon Bruce Woodcock, representing the Episcopal Church, and here he is!

And other friends and church groups…

A bit of background: Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, 張員榮牧師, 64, is the rector of Advent Church on the campus of St. John’s University, Taipei, where the church serves as both the university chapel and as a parish church. Among many projects and ministries over the years, Lennon has also raised huge amounts of money to install the most beautiful stained glass artwork in the Advent Church ceiling, and to build the Advent Church Centre. He is also very involved in leading short-term mission trips within Taiwan and overseas, most recently in a mission program working together with our companion diocese of Osaka. Later this month he will lead an 8-day mission trip with about 20 mostly young people from Osaka and Taiwan to the Diocese of West Malaysia. Do pray for them!

Lennon is married to Hannah, they have 2 adult daughters and 2 young grandchildren. He was born and brought up in Taipei in a military family, with parents from a Baptist background who moved to Taiwan from Mainland China in 1949. As a student at St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology SJSMIT (predecessor of St. John’s University SJU) Lennon was baptized aged 15 in 1970 by Rev. Charles C. T. Chen in Advent Church, and then confirmed in 1971 by Bishop James Pong. Hannah is a former kindergarten teacher, she grew up in Keelung, where she and her older sister, Rev. Elizabeth F. J. Wei, were members of Trinity Church. Elizabeth and her husband, Rev. Peter D. P. Chen were both there today at the election as observers, they have retired to Tamsui, and now worship each week at Advent Church. Lennon studied theology through the diocesan Trinity Hall Theological Program, and was ordained deacon on December 21, 1995 and ordained priest on January 25, 1999. Lennon has devoted virtually his whole life and ministry to St. John’s University, first as a student, then in succession as Associate Professor of Mathematics (he has a PhD in Algebra), SJU chaplain and now as full-time rector of Advent Church.

So, please do pray for Lennon and his family, for Advent Church and St. John’s University, and for Bishop Lai and the Diocese of Taiwan. We give thanks to Almighty God for his many blessings and for the smooth election process today. A lot of the hard work and responsibility rests with Mr. Richard B. S. Hu, chair of the diocesan Standing Committee. Today’s result still needs to receive consent from the bishops and standing committees of the Episcopal Church; but provisionally the date of consecration, ordination and installation is set as February 22, 2020.

All clergy and laity representatives at today’s bishop election

Much respected and well-loved by all in the Taiwan Episcopal Church, the Rev. Dr. Peyton G. Craighill (who sadly died on June 4, 2019 at the age of 89) served in Taiwan for many years along with his wife Mary, based at Tainan Theological College from 1961-1978, and then in their retirement, they came back for 2 years to serve at St. James’ Church, Taichung. In June 2012, Peyton came to Taiwan to lead workshops on Member Mission, his last visit to the country and people he loved so much. At the end of his visit then, he shared with me how he thought that the next bishop of Taiwan would be Rev. Lennon Chang – Peyton thought Lennon to be eminently suitable to be bishop. Sadly Peyton is no longer here to see today’s election result, but we know he would be thanking God!

Bishop Dick Chang sadly died 2 years ago, but during his time as Bishop of Hawaii, he and his wife Dee were good friends and wonderful supporters of us all in Taiwan, and Dee continues to support us today. Bishop Dick would be pleased that another Bishop Chang has been elected in the Episcopal Church!

Lennon is 64 years old and in the diocesan public forum meetings leading up to this election, he emphasized that, if elected, he has a clearly defined 7-year plan to embark upon immediately, as his time as bishop would be limited (mandatory retirement age of bishops in the Episcopal Church is 72). He assured everyone that he is prepared to work very hard to respond to God’s calling. His inspiration and role model is Bishop James C. L. Wong (Bishop of Taiwan 1965-70 and founder of SJSMIT / SJU) whose motto was always, “Transforming Lives Through the Life of Christ.” Bishop Wong was 65 at his consecration, and achieved so much in those 5 years. Lennon hopes to do the same – certainly his determination and dedication are legendary – and we pray for God’s blessing upon his ministry, his health and his family. Thank you!

All clergy, laity, observers, volunteers, diocesan staff and visitors at today’s bishop election!

The official report announcing these election results is published here on the Episcopal News Service website. The report in Chinese on the Christian Tribune website is here. Thanks to Rev. Antony F. W. Liang for some of the photos used above, to St. James’ Church for hosting the election and lunch, and to you all for your support, prayers and concern for us ~ and thanks be again to Almighty God!

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!

‘New House’ Blessing, House Warming and Birthday Celebrations, All in One – YES!

A big THANK YOU to everyone who has sent me birthday greetings and for all your prayers for my moving house and settling in, much appreciated. Yes, it’s all been happening!

Two wonderful days of birthday celebrations started at Xian-Xiao Junior High School on Tuesday morning at my early morning English conversation class (7:45 am start!) followed by coffee with my good friend, Jasmine. Cards and birthday songs from all the kids, and lots of photos – thank you to them and to Jasmine for organizing it all. Plus their wisteria is always in flower on my birthday, so we made the most of it!

Then, Rev. Paul Lau, my good friend from Sabah, Malaysia happened to post on Facebook that he was in Taipei for a conference starting the following day, and such are the wonders of modern technology that a few seconds later, wow, we’d made arrangements for him to come and visit, and he set off! So we rushed around everywhere and ended up having coffee with our Advent Church rector, Rev. Lennon Chang and his wife, Hannah, and sister-in-law, Rev. Elizabeth Wei and Rev. Peter Chen. This was a great reunion for Elizabeth and Paul, who had first met in 1991 when Elizabeth spent a month in Sabah, when Paul was still at high school. The left photos are of all the 3 times they have met, plus us all having coffee!

Wednesday was actually my birthday, and at lunch time, we had our usual English Bible Study with the St. John’s University student fellowship. We’re doing the parables of Jesus, and we spent a happy hour talking about the Good Samaritan. This semester the number of boys in the whole fellowship group is way more than the number of girls, like 4 times more, whereas only a few years ago there were way more girls than boys. Anyway, they are all very lovely – and here they all are – thank you Setu for taking the photo!

I’ve been back in Taiwan now for about 6 weeks and it’s taken that long to move into my new place and get it all sorted. I’m in a flat / apartment block that has just been converted from offices, so being the first person to move in, there was lots to do. And the one person who has done so much to help get it all done is Rev. Lennon Chang. So I invited Lennon and all from Advent Church, plus all the SJU student fellowship to come for a service of blessing for my new house on my birthday ~ a combined house blessing / house warming / birthday party all in one. Yes, I love a good party! And it so happens that my new next-door neighbour, Feng-Ray, who also works in our chaplaincy office, has his birthday next week too ~ so I invited him and his wife, Chuan-Fang to join in for a double house blessing and birthday celebration – 2 houses, one party!

We had LOTS of people come! Lots of LOVELY people no less! Well, it was lots for the size of the place, way more people than we had chairs for anyway! So many, in fact, that it would have been impossible to put them all together for a group photo. If anyone can count them from all the photos, do let me know. Maybe about 30 altogether or more – students, church members, friends and neighbours, including our neighbour upstairs, a Creative Design lecturer from Mainland China, also Calvin, one of our Malaysian students currently on an internship in Taipei, so this is the first time I’ve seen him since I came back from the UK – always grateful to him for his support for our SJU English Bible Study. It was great to see so many old-but-still-young friends and students. Love ’em all! A big welcome to everyone!

The house blessing started at 7:30 pm ~ and with me holding the candle, Lennon took me around the house praying at the door of each room, following the prayers in the book, which everyone responded to. The prayers are really appropriate. Lennon sprinkled the holy water, 3 times, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit after each prayer in each room. All very meaningful. Thanks be to God!

We finished with the ‘peace’ and then we had a huge birthday cake and song for all of us celebrating birthdays in April, which includes Lennon, whose birthday was yesterday. Such fun!

It was especially nice to welcome all the Tan family to the party. And especially because it was David, brother No. 2 of 3, who with his wife, Marge drilled many holes in the wall for me to hang up my pictures, and who designed and made the curtains for my living room. The curtains are so special, very distinctive Tan family style! I’ve spent all week inviting all my friends to come to my new house to see my curtains, cos there aint none other like them in the whole world! The Tan family are in the T-shirt business so they have lots of material, lots of ideas, lots of creative skills and are always willing to help in any way. This is David posing in front of his curtains, and Janet Tan with Rev. Peter Chen in the foreground. Thanks to all of the Tan family for all their friendship and support over the years!

And then, when all the party-goers had just left, my friend Ah-Guan rolled up with one of her friends from Taichung, my first visitors to come and stay!

It’s Tomb-Sweeping Festival plus Children’s Day, so we have a 4-day weekend. Not being ones to hang around doing nothing on a holiday, we’ve been today over to Keelung, to Heping Island…

To Badouzi to see the beautiful painted houses…

And to see the old Agenna Shipyard, now one of Taiwan’s most famous abandoned buildings, it’s a really interesting place, oozing with history and well, abandonment!

Keelung was very busy…

And so we didn’t stay too long, and called in at Laomei Algal Reef on the way home – it’s at its best at this time of the year, all green!

(Updated on April 6: And yesterday we went to see the Calla Lilies in full bloom up at Zhuzihu, in a valley in the Yangmingshan Mountains above Taipei… it was beautiful!)

So a very very big thank you to everyone who came to my party – and if you didn’t or couldn’t, well you can see from the photos that we had a great time! Do find time to come and visit, I am now open for nice visitors, and as you know, I just love a noisy house full of happy people!

Delights of Sabah 沙巴 @ Kota Kinabalu 亞庇!

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Yes, five days in Sabah is nowhere near long enough, but hey, it’s way way better than no days at all!  And what a great place for five days ~ hot and sunny (and nowhere near as humid as Taiwan at this time of year), lots of tropical flowers, trees, birds, fruits, foods and scenery to enjoy, with much to see and do…

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And so it is that on my way to the UK from Taiwan, I have come to Kota Kinabalu (known as KK), the capital of Sabah, East Malaysia, to visit my good friends, Evelyn and her family.  My last visit to Sabah was in the summer of 2006, way too long ago. KK has changed a lot in that time. New buildings everywhere, new roads, hospitals, high court, university buildings, airport, new infrastructure projects.  All is new, new new!

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New traffic jams too, or maybe just more noticeable – just don’t go near a school when parents are collecting or delivering their children. That means from about 6:00 – 8:00 am, and 11:00 – 1:00 pm. And again about 3:00 pm. Plus the normal rush hour as people go to work and then home again. Long lines of cars and school buses ~ and some of the early-bird parents are delivering their children to school soon after 5:00 am! Traffic, traffic, traffic.  All very patient and very orderly.  Actually, as a place to visit, the fact that the traffic drives on the left is a great preparation for driving in the UK. Taiwan drives on the right, and UK on the left, plus Sabah has roundabouts, which Taiwan doesn’t – so, hey, welcome to KK!

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But not all is new, new, new. The old buildings in downtown KK are still well-preserved, and many recently restored. Some of the buildings are newly-painted in wonderful colours and wall murals. I love colour, and KK has Colour with a capital ‘C’.

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As we drive around, I’m like, “Hey, slow down, stop the car, I just gotta check out that building, that wall, that artwork, stopppp!”

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“Kota Kinabalu (Chinese: 亞庇 Yàbì), formerly known as Jesselton, the state capital of Sabah, Malaysia, is located on the northwest coast of Borneo facing the South China Sea, with a population of 452,058 (2010 census). In the 15th century, the area of Kota Kinabalu was under the influence of the Bruneian Empire. In the 19th century, the British North Borneo Company (BNBC) set up a settlement, and development in the area started soon after that; the place “Api-api” (the name still used by the Chinese today) was later renamed after the vice-chairman of BNBC as “Jesselton”, and officially founded in 1899.  This is the famous Jesselton Hotel, built in 1954….

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Jesselton became a major trading port in the area, and was connected to the North Borneo Railway, but was largely destroyed during World War II. The Japanese occupation of Jesselton provoked several local uprisings, notably the Jesselton Revolt, but they were eventually defeated by the Japanese. After the war, BNBC was unable to finance the high cost of reconstruction and the place was ceded to the British Crown Colony. The British Crown declared Jesselton as the new capital of North Borneo in 1946 and started to rebuild the town. After the formation of Malaysia, North Borneo was renamed as Sabah. In 1967, Jesselton was renamed as Kota Kinabalu, Kota being the Malay word for Fort and Kinabalu after the nearby Mount Kinabalu. Kota Kinabalu was granted city status in 2000”…. (adapted from Wikipedia).

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So there you have it, the history of KK in 2 paragraphs. What it doesn’t say is that KK is a multilingual, multicultural city, with Chinese, English and Malay (known here as ‘Bahasa Malaysia’ meaning ‘national language’) all spoken widely and often all mixed together in one conversation, plus lots of other local languages spoken too. My friend Evelyn speaks Hakka language with most of her family, Mandarin Chinese with her grandson, English and Chinese at work and church, and Malay for everyday use in the town. Amazing! The churches are similar. Lots of services in all different languages, Hakka, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, Malay, English and Filipino. There’s churches of every denomination. Very noticeable, cos many are big.  And big means spacious, with beautiful grounds. And there’s lots of mosques too. In Sabah as a whole, Muslims are 65%, Christians 26% and Buddhists 6% of the population. These are the 2 most famous mosques….

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And a temple with a very prominent pagoda….

The Anglican Church of Sabah (part of the Province of SE Asia) was originally very much connected with the British colonial government, with English services run for the colonial government officials, and large numbers of clergy from overseas, also many schools. High Church style. By 1905, Europeans and Chinese communicants were reported as being ‘in considerable numbers.’ In 1959, the new All Saints Church was consecrated on reclaimed land in the centre of town, and in 1962, All Saints Church became a cathedral, when the Diocese of Borneo was separated into two dioceses, Kuching and Jesselton. This is the cathedral today….

In 1962, the assistant bishop of the Diocese of Borneo, Bishop James C. L. Wong (1900-1970) became the first bishop of the Diocese of Jesselton (renamed in 1963 as the Diocese of Sabah). This is significant for us in Taiwan because Bishop James C. L. Wong left Sabah in 1965 to become Bishop of Taiwan, Taiwan’s first bishop of Chinese descent. Between 1965 and his death in 1970, Bishop Wong devoted himself to establishing St. John’s University, Taipei – and after his death, he was buried under the altar in Advent Church. OUR Advent Church!  From the All Saints Cathedral book, ‘Moving Forward’….

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Evelyn’s daughter, Audrey and her husband, Rev. Paul Lau and their son have recently moved to Christ Church, Likas, KK and it turns out that they are now living in the very house where Bishop Wong lived during the time he was Bishop of Sabah. The building has had nobody living in it for the past 12 years and has recently been renovated. Next door is a derelict building that served as the diocesan offices from Bishop Wong’s time, awaiting a fresh vision and renovation.

The current diocesan office building is right by the cathedral, with this sign….

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Back in the old days, Sabah was a high church diocese, then moved ‘downwards’ and ‘outwards’, and in recent decades, Sabah has been strongly influenced by charismatic renewal. Worship is mostly lively and contemporary, and most churches have a strong focus on outreach and evangelism.  Paul and Audrey invited me to worship at Christ Church, Likas earlier today….

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We went to the Mandarin Chinese service at 7:30 am ~ it has to be early as it’s followed by an English service and then Malay.  Paul was preaching, and I was warmly welcomed by everyone – including the rector, Archdeacon Moses Chin (next to me in the photos below).  In the late afternoon, they were expecting the bishop for a ground-breaking service and blessing ~ to build a pavilion for outside activities, hence the balloons!

The Anglican churches in both Taiwan and Sabah run many kindergartens, and have worked together in past years to help support each other, and give training to teachers. Over the years, my good friend, Mrs. Grace Liu (wife of Rev. Michael T. H. Liu) from Taiwan has been on 6 visits to Sabah to help lead training seminars for Sabah teachers. On one memorable trip, she was the only passenger on the flight! While I was at St. James’ Church, Taichung, Evelyn and another teacher from Sabah came to St. James for 6 weeks to learn and experience St. James’ Kindergarten. That’s how we know each other. And that’s how I came to visit Sabah twice while I was at St. James. On those visits, we went to Sandakan, Ranau, Kudat, Beaufort, and with a friend from Taichung, the 2 of us climbed Mt. Kinabalu, (4,095 m /13,435 ft), Malaysia’s highest mountain – and just higher than Taiwan’s highest mountain, Yushan (3,952 m /12,966 ft). That was quite amazing, a never-to-be-forgotten adventure.  But that’s a whole other story, sorry!

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Evelyn is principal of Good Samaritan Kindergarten, KK, known as “Tadika Anglikan Penampang”, after that area of the city, and their priest-in-charge is Rev. Chin Pit Vun – whose brother-in-law, Rev. Joshua Ng, is ministering in the Episcopal Church in California and is known to us from his visits to Taiwan. Ah, it’s a small world! Here’s Rev. Chin and me – welcoming me to his church!

Under the previous bishop of Sabah, Bishop Albert Vun, a prayer station, ‘Kokol Prayer Summit’, was established up in the mountains outside KK, and Paul and Audrey took us up there to visit. It is built in the shape of the cross that Jesus carried on the Via Dolorosa. What a place.  Stunning location!

That area has retreat centres and churches of different denominations, as well as hotels and resorts. We visited one of them to see the sunset…

And while in Sabah, never forget the food. Tropical fruits like durians are one of the highlights – a whole durian market exists for people to enjoy the delights of durian ~ if you can stand that smell!

Then there’s tons of small restaurants and supermarkets offering everything imaginable. This was a small selection of what we enjoyed….

So, a big thank you to Evelyn and her family for their warm welcome and hospitality, plus all the meals – and trips out here and there.  It was fun!  This is Evelyn’s son in his truck…

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And I mustn’t forget the dogs.  Actually they belong to Evelyn’s grandson, but they are just such a bundle of high energy!

Sabah is a great place, with very lovely kind-hearted people, and so many things to see!  These are the street scenes and some of the sights…

So, as I prepare to leave KK tomorrow for London, thanks be to God for a wonderful 5 days in this beautiful country ~ let me end with these 2 photos taken last night on the beach, with all the people playing with bubbles, while they waited for the sunset!