A fairly momentous few weeks as I packed up in Taiwan and said goodbye to all my friends ~ and then came to the UK! Thanks be to God, all went well, and finally, I’m here ~ happily still with many wonderful memories of these last few weeks in Taiwan…
Lots of memories of daybreak and sunrise at Advent Church and St. John’s University ….
And sunrise down at the sea, with a plane overhead heading to the airport…
The nearby lotus fields are looking stunning, within walking distance of St. John’s University….
Sunset as I headed to the airport on Thursday, July 7….
Taoyuan International Airport is about an hour’s drive from St. John’s University ~ gotta love their large lego version of the airport that’s on display!
I was flying Turkish Airlines, first from Taipei to Istanbul, then transferred onto Turkish Airlines to London Gatwick. Despite news reports about chaos at UK airports, Gatwick was fine. During the course of my journey, Boris Johnson resigned too. Ah yes, welcome to Britain!
I’m very grateful to have arrived safely – and I’m now staying with my brother and his family. They live in a very beautiful old house in Sussex, originally built in 1580 as a farmer’s cottage, and the wooden beams in the living room were originally from a ship, some of them are numbered. I knew my Taiwan friends would love to see photos, and yes, the photos have been a big hit, and attracted dozens of comments on Facebook. Thanks to my family for their wonderful welcome and hospitality!
And thanks to all in Taiwan for your send-off! The last main event in Taiwan before my departure was the Advent Church Children’s Summer Camp, held on July 4-5. This coincided with the second round of Covid vaccinations for elementary school children, and with general worries about the pandemic, so we had expected much lower numbers than usual – although last year, it was cancelled completely, so we wanted to hold the event this year even with fewer children. In the event, there were 32 children, and we had 21 student leaders, who all spent weeks in preparation, and a whole weekend of training. They were a great team and it was a really worthwhile event. I was on hand for taking photos!
We have a video of the summer camp on YouTube, made by Tzi-Wei from our chaplaincy team. Check it out here… it’s fun!
And finally, a big thank you to you all for your prayers and blessings! If you’re here in the UK, hope you are enjoying the summer weather and the long light evenings. Ah yes, England at its best!
As you’ll have read in my link letter above, I’m preparing for my ‘home leave’ in the UK, so I’m busy saying goodbye to friends, schools and churches here in Taiwan. Last week, I said farewell to the 8th grade in our local junior high school…
Also said goodbye to St. John’s Cathedral English Congregation, where I’ve been going once a month for the last few years, helping out by doing the sermon. It was a joint celebration to say goodbye to Rev. Antony Fan-Wei Liang and his family – he’s in charge of the English congregation and moves in the summer to become vicar of St. Luke’s Church, Hualien. Everyone loves him so much! Thanks to the congregation for such a huge and delicious cake – the yellow is actually flakes of white chocolate!
We’ve also been celebrating graduation for members of our St. John’s University Student Fellowship, with a farewell party recently for them on the theme of Old School Graduation …
And on the day of the actual graduation (which was held online due to the pandemic), lots of students still came by, and we had photos in Advent Church…
In between all the celebrations, the pandemic continues. Although this current Omicron surge – which really got going only just after Easter – seems to have peaked and numbers are not as high as they were a few weeks ago, we are still seeing 50,000+ new cases and about 100-180 deaths per day. The total number of deaths from Covid now stands at 5,651, all but 850 or so occurring in this present Omicron surge – most have underlying conditions, about half unvaccinated.
Vaccination rates are now about 90%, and they’re about to start vaccinating children above 6 months. Borders are gradually opening up, and quarantine for all arrivals is now 3 days in isolation, followed by 4 days of self-health management, which can be done at home if requirements are met. That’s a vast improvement from not so long ago when it was 2 weeks of hotel quarantine for all arrivals. But many activities have been canceled or postponed or rearranged online and all with reduced numbers. Our summer camps are going ahead but numbers are about 1/2 to 2/3 of what we would normally expect. Economic hardship continues for many. Advent Church has responded to the diocesan ‘Love Your Neighbour’ Project (as mentioned in the diocesan Friendship Magazine, published in the previous post) to reach out to help those affected by Covid. For our students who are isolating due to Covid, we’ve been giving out small care packages…
And to those students who are receiving meal coupons, and our local junior high school students affected by Covid (as mentioned in my link letter), we gave out zong-zi for the Dragon Boat Festival at the beginning of June…
Then we had a fundraising project in Advent Church to raise money to provide care packages of basic essentials to local families affected by Covid…
We delivered 17 of these care packages to our local elementary school for them to deliver to children’s families. The principal and the chair of the parents’ committee were moved to join in and made financial donations themselves. This is us delivering the packages last week – it was pouring with rain!
When the rain stops, then we’re out and about! Cycled on the You-Bike into the sunrise, past the northern tip of Taiwan lighthouse, and around the northern coast to Yehliu Geopark. It’s full of stunning rock formations, most famously The Queen’s Head, which is having its neck gradually eroded by the wind and salty air…
Yesterday, my friend Chien kindly invited us to visit Juming Museum, featuring the sculptures and artwork of Juming 朱銘, a nice trip to say goodbye to each other as I leave for the UK soon. You need good weather for that place, but not too hot – and the day was perfect!
So a big thank you to everyone here in Taiwan for your blessings ~ and to you all for all your prayers and support!
And finally, as related to my CMS Link Letter above, check out this video from the CMS website, it’s really good!
The latest edition of our diocesan Friendship Magazine, June 2022, is just published online, and the printed version will be coming out soon. I’m the editor of this publication, so please read ~ and pray for us! It contains news of all our 15 churches, photos, updates, and articles. We really appreciate all your support. Thank you!
Easter Greetings to you all, if a little late! Christ is risen, alleluia!
Lent has felt extra-long this year, particularly because of the tragic war in Ukraine – now on its 54th day, but also the pandemic – with lockdowns in China and Hong Kong. Purple is always the colour associated with Lent, symbolizing repentance, royalty, shedding of blood. This is our local purple wisteria, always in flower at the beginning of April…
Here at Advent Church, we celebrated Palm Sunday, commemorating Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey as people lined the streets waving palm branches, shouting Hosanna, welcoming him as king. It was last Sunday, April 10 ….
We had a procession waving palm branches going from Advent Church around St. John’s University (SJU) main entrance…
During Holy Week, SJU students had their mid-term exams, so we rearranged some of our usual Holy Week activities. On Maundy Thursday we remembered Jesus celebrating Passover and sharing the Last Supper with his disciples, also washing their feet ~ so we had foot-washing, Holy Communion and then the stripping of the altar, ready for Good Friday ….
On Good Friday, we remembered Jesus’ crucifixion with midday prayers around the cross …
On Easter Eve, I was at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei for the Easter Vigil, when we lit the Easter fire and celebrated the resurrection of Jesus. It’s a traditional and very meaningful time for baptisms, with the symbolism of new life, new creation. I was invited by my good friend, Sheerah to witness the baptism of baby Eva and her husband, Yu-Wei’s confirmation. Big brother Ethan kept us all entertained! There was one other child baptized and nine confirmed. Congratulations to them all ~ and thanks be to God!
On Easter Day at the cathedral, after the English service, we had a rare treat of hot cross buns, kindly baked by one of the congregation, so delicious!
Meanwhile, here at Advent Church, our 3 Easter baptisms were held during the service on Easter Day. One was Mei-Chin, who came to study here from Malaysia some 8 years ago, among the first group of Malaysian students at SJU. She also took part in one of our short-term mission trips to Myanmar some years ago. Finally, she has made the great decision to be baptized, ah we are all so pleased! New life in Christ ~ thanks be to God!
Our Easter celebrations take place in the midst of a big rise in Covid cases in Taiwan. Today, Monday April 18, we have 1,390 new domestic COVID-19 cases, a new record high. Every day for the last 4 days we have seen a new ‘record high’ ~ but so far, the growth has not been exponential, it’s going up by about 100-200 a day. Today’s figures: New Taipei City (that’s us!): 500, Taipei City: 270, Taoyuan: 187, Keelung: 115, Yilan County: 68. That’s all the north of Taiwan. Taiwan also reported 90 new imported cases today, 63 of them travelers who tested positive on arrival in Taiwan. The number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths remains at 854.
From New Bloom: “Taiwan is experiencing its second major COVID-19 outbreak. The first outbreak began last year in May, after more than a year in which Taiwan was largely COVID-free. However, Taiwan is currently transitioning away from the COVID-zero approach it maintained for most of the pandemic to date. This is partly to reconnect with the international world, for the sake of the economy, but also is carried out noting how efforts to maintain COVID-zero approaches indefinitely in China and Hong Kong have led to explosive spikes in COVID-19 cases recently.”
“It was never an issue of maintaining COVID-zero forever, but what proves concerning for Taiwan is that first dose vaccination peaked just past 80%, with elderly individuals remaining hesitant to get vaccinated. In March, only 75.5% of individuals above 75 had one dose of vaccination, 69.9% had two doses, and 50.1% had received booster shots….. The Tsai administration has spoken of a “new Taiwan model” to transition back to normalcy. The CECC has also sought to emphasize that its goals are no longer “COVID-zero” but “zero COVID” for serious cases, with priority on avoiding overburdening Taiwan’s hospital system. As such, home quarantine rules have loosened to allow for home quarantine for light and mild cases under 65.”
Most of our church events for Holy Week and Easter went on as planned, though with fewer people due to this sudden surge, but future events are less certain. The good news is that despite 25% of over-75’s being unvaccinated (and many confined to their homes for that very reason), very few people in the active population aged between 12-75 are unvaccinated. With cases increasing relatively slowly, the government is encouraging everyone to continue on as normal, with facemasks and distancing. Many people are quite relaxed about the situation – but schools are not. They are very worried about rising infections leading to more cancelled classes and postponed activities, and are making plans for all eventualities. Here at SJU, this should have been our 55th anniversary celebration week of events, but most have been cancelled or postponed ~ better safe than sorry. Fortunately, many events are just moving online rather than being cancelled altogether. The good news is that tomorrow we can go to visit our local junior high school to distribute Easter eggs (actually hard-boiled salted duck eggs) to the children and teachers, sharing the joy of Easter with our neighbours. We’re making the most of every opportunity to share our Easter joy!
Thank you for all your Easter greetings, cards and messages. Please continue to keep us in your prayers, as we pray for you too.
#MyAdventCalendar2021 #Day24: This is the very lovely Cai-Pei 采沛, just arriving now at St. John’s University (SJU), and all ready for her baptism during tonight’s Christmas Eve service ~ and she gets the largest Teddy Bear chocolate in the Advent Calendar! Ah, she’s so happy! She comes every Sunday to Advent Church from her home in Taoyuan, having graduated last year from SJU in Creative Design, a classmate and good friend of Yi-Ting who works on our SJU Chaplaincy staff and the one who originally invited her to join the student fellowship. They also did their senior project together on the theme of Advent Church, designing and making a wonderful welcome video, cards and a book, all now featured on the Advent Church website.
Like Jia-Wei, who is also being baptized tonight, Cai-Pei is the first (and so far only) Christian in her family. She says she’s still waiting for the right moment to tell her family of her decision. Like many of our recently-graduated students, she’s finding it difficult to find a permanent job in her chosen field, design. Please do pray for her and her family, her search for a job, and her new-found Christian faith. Thanks be to God, and to you all for your prayers ~ and joyful greetings to you all this Christmas Eve! 🕯️🕯️
#MyAdventCalendar2021 #Day23: This is Melissa, second-year student of Creative Design at St. John’s University (SJU), also one of the leadership team of the Student Fellowship and in charge of tonight’s Christmas outreach event, the colours for which are blue, grey and white ~ the photo is taken against the stunning back wall they’ve designed for the occasion! She’s really amazing at leading worship, singing, dancing, design, art and music ~ in fact, she seems to be multi-talented in everything, and is such a blessing to our student fellowship. In the elections on December 30 for next year’s student fellowship leadership team, Melissa is expected to be the only candidate for the position of chair, so it’s looking like she could be the one!
Melissa is from Sabah, East Malaysia, brought up in Labuan until the age of 12, when she moved with her family eastwards across Sabah to Sandakan, where they joined their relatives as members of Good Shepherd Anglican Church. It’s really exciting for us to have someone from the Anglican Diocese of Sabah at SJU because our 2 dioceses have long been connected. Both Taiwan and Sabah dioceses have a strong kindergarten ministry, ours led by Mrs. Grace Liu (wife of Rev. Michael T. H. Liu), who arranged about 15 years ago for 2 kindergarten teachers from Sabah, Evelyn and Yvette to come for about 6 weeks to St. James’ Kindergarten, Taichung. We all became friends, and in return I visited them in Sabah, including a trip to see Yvette at Good Shepherd Kindergarten, Sandakan. We had such a great time ~ and now it turns out that Yvette and Melissa are friends from the worship team and choir at Good Shepherd Church. Ah, it’s a small world!
Melissa asks for prayer as she prepares for the possibility of taking over the leadership of SJU Student Fellowship for the coming year. She needs a lot of wisdom, patience and courage, as well as time and energy to be a good chairperson and also keep up with her studies. Please do pray for her!
#MyAdventCalendar2021 #Day21: Good News! 好消息! Remember Jia-Wei 嘉偉 from Hong Kong who featured here on #Day2? He’s one of our students in the St. John’s University (SJU) Student Fellowship, and he’d said he really hoped to be baptized on Christmas Eve, but needed courage to first ask his family. With time moving on and Christmas Eve approaching fast, he finally summoned up the courage to talk to his family last night ~ and rather to his surprise and great delight, his father agrees with his decision, saying that as Jia-Wei is an adult, so he’s free to choose his own religion. YES! 😇
So in great thanksgiving to God ~ and to everyone for your prayers ~ we assembled a group photo of some of Jia-Wei’s ‘Support Team’ at lunch time today ~ all members of the student fellowship, who’ve encouraged and prayed for him throughout his time in Taiwan. As he said, he and his family don’t know any Christians in Hong Kong, and the first ones he himself got to know were here in the SJU Student Fellowship. Thanks be to God ~ and please do pray for Jia-Wei as he prepares for his baptism on Christmas Eve!
#MyAdventCalendar2021 #Day20: This is Shi-En 世恩, this year’s chair of St. John’s University Student Fellowship. He’s popular and outgoing, generous with his time and money, and his latest hair styles are always the talk of the town! Shi-En is a third year student in Leisure Sport & Health Management, and comes from Kluang, Johor, West Malaysia, where his family are members of Peace Assemblies of God Church 佳安神召會.
Shi-En’s sense of identity coming from a Christian family is very strong. His name Shi 世 means ‘world’, En 恩 means ‘grace’, and he says his parents gave him this name hoping that wherever he goes in the world he will share God’s grace with others. They certainly have a great vision, and Shi-En is a wonderful blessing to us all! In the student fellowship, he is always so welcoming of everyone, especially those on the edges of the group, and is very good leading online meetings, making sure everyone is included. In the fellowship meetings, he often leads the praise and worship ~ it’s always very lively! When Advent Church services were all online, his parents joined in from Malaysia and shared the peace with us during each service. Now, his family are preparing for his brother’s wedding at Chinese New Year, but sadly Shi-En won’t be able to return home due to the pandemic. Please do pray for him, his family and all in the student fellowship ~ they’re busy preparing for their big Christmas evangelistic outreach on Thursday December 23. 🎄🎶🔔
#MyAdventCalendar2021 #Day16: This is Jasmine Yu 游珮琪主任, our good friend in charge of the local junior high school, Xian-Xiao (branch of Zheng-De Junior High School 正德國中賢孝校區). Xian-Xiao is so close that their pupils walk through the St. John’s University campus each day to get there, so we see them all often. There’s 85 children in the school, aged 12-15. Small is beautiful ~ they are so well cared for! The school specializes in giving the children all sorts of opportunities to discover what kind of career they might like in the future, with chances to learn everything from cooking to horticulture, electronics to hair-styling. They’re all very lovely and welcoming ~ we go there regularly for different classes, and we’re really looking forward to going next week to wish them all a Merry Christmas! 🎄🎅🏽🎶
With so many responsibilities, Jasmine is very very busy and her weekends are often full of school activities, but she tries hard to fit in the Sunday service at Advent Church ~ where she was baptized on Christmas Eve 2017, the first Christian in her immediate family, the second in her extended family; she brought about 20 family members along to witness her baptism that day! For many years, she has kindly invited me to go hiking some of Taiwan’s famous 100 Peaks (Baiyue 百岳) with her family, such a great experience. Please pray for her, her family and all in Xian-Xiao Junior High School!
#MyAdventCalendar2021 #Day15: This is Dr. Huang Hung-Pin 黃宏斌校長, President of St. John’s University (SJU), Taipei since August 1, 2020. Previous to this position, he served as professor in the National Taiwan University (NTU) Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, Taipei. President Huang was here at SJU today to open the SJU Christmas Charity Bazaar, run by the SJU Chaplaincy, helped by members of Advent Church and SJU ~ and it went really well!
There are many challenges facing SJU; the priorities are to stabilize the financial situation, increase student enrollment and improve academic standards, so President Huang really has his work cut out for the next few years. He’s very very busy and needs great wisdom, good health and lots of energy. Please pray for him!