Tag Archives: St. John’s University SJU Taiwan

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!

So goodbye to Kota Kinabalu ~ and especially to Evelyn and her family. Here we all are having dinner this evening.  A big THANK YOU to you all!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Already looking forward to next year YES YES YES!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plus the group photo….

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

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

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

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

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

 

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).

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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!

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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….

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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….

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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!

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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…

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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!

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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!

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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…

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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!

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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!

Holy Week and Easter 2018 @ Advent Church, St. John’s University, Taiwan!

Christ is risen, Alleluia!  It’s been a meaningful, joyful and blessed Holy Week here at Advent Church, St. John’s University ~ and now Easter is upon us, so a very happy Easter to you all!  This is the Easter fire, lit last night at 8:00 pm as we started our Easter Vigil Service…

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And the sun’s been shining all week, and the cherry blossom was still out at the beginning of Holy Week…..

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Holy Week started last Sunday, Palm Sunday ~ YES!

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We began our Palm Sunday service with a procession around the main entrance of St. John’s University.  We were very pleased that Bishop Lai was able to join us for the service and procession too.

The procession wound its way around the church, where we have the Stations of the Cross, pausing at each in turn.  Then as we processed into the church, each person took one of the small green palm crosses…

During the service, we had a dramatic presentation of the events of Holy Week, acted out by our students, past and present…..

Then on Monday night, the St. John’s University ‘Movie Club’ showed the movie ‘Silence‘ 沈默 on a big screen on the main playing field.  This was not done intentionally for Holy Week, rather they had to choose an evening when there was no baseball practice, and they chose the movie because it was filmed in Taiwan.  But it so happens that it was so appropriate for Holy Week – and quite a number of us turned up to watch.  This was my second time to see it, and it’s much improved on the second viewing ~ like I knew when the gruesome bits were coming up, but also I noticed things I had missed the first time round.  Still utterly compelling and challenging.  Brutal and horrific, and yet also so moving. And so fitting for Holy Week.  For me, this was one of the highlights of the week.

On Maundy Thursday, we held our Passover Meal in the Advent Church Center, and a wonderful mix of students and adults came along.  This took a huge amount of work and preparation, but all worth it.  We were so pleased to welcome SJU President Ay and his wife too.

During the service that followed in the church, we had foot-washing.  President Ay had his feet washed by our rector, Rev. Lennon Chang – the teacher washing the feet of his former student.  We also had our chaplain, Rev. Wu Hsing-Hsiang, washing the feet of Jin-Ching, our SJU Student Fellowship Leader, and Shu-Jing from our chaplaincy washed the feet of Pei-Ching, one of our 4th year students who was preparing for her baptism on Easter Eve.  We celebrated the ‘Last Supper’ together, remembering the evening when Jesus instituted the Holy Communion, and shared bread and wine with his disciples just before his death.

The altar had been stripped after the service on Maundy Thursday, and the crosses were covered in black cloth.  On Good Friday, it being a working and school day, we had a lunchtime service with our students, faculty and staff acting out the events of Good Friday – the trial, crucifixion and death of Jesus, and we finished in silence around the cross and the altar…..

Then to last night, which was Easter Eve, Saturday, and we held our Easter Vigil at 8:00 pm, with the lighting of the Easter fire, and also 2 baptisms. It was great to see so many of our student fellowship coming along to support Pei-Ching in her baptism…

I was outside taking photos during the baptisms, along with a little 2-year-old and his father.   He was totally absorbed in watching events inside at the font….

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This morning, Easter Day, we could truly say, ‘Christ is risen, Alleluia!’  I even wore a skirt for the occasion, and got mentioned in the Notices as a result!  Advent Church was filled with wonderful choir music as our choir sang and sang so much beautiful Easter music.

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Yu-Jie accompanied the choir on the piano, and glorious sounds filled the church!

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Ah yes, and to finish, we had an Easter egg hunt!

And then we had lunch and birthday cake – celebrating all April birthdays.  Here we all are at the end of the service singing happy birthday together!

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And so, wishing you all a Happy Easter.  Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia!

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…

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And those belonging to Advent Church!

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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!