Tag Archives: Taiwan Episcopal Church

Adventures with Advent Church Choir 台灣聖公會降臨堂詩班 @ Jiji 集集, Checheng 車埕 and Wang Hsiang 望鄉部落 Kalibuan Village, Nantou County!

IMG_4484

A choir that has fun together, laughs together and goes on trips together is sure, yes, sure to sing and harmonize better at church on Sunday mornings.  And y’know, our Advent Church Choir is not just any old choir singing any old hymns. This choir is really quite special.  They are dedicated, not just to singing in the morning worship, but also to their rehearsal time on Sunday afternoons.  They spend hours and hours practicing.  And when they sing in the morning service, they sing with great joy.  They look happy.  Smiles all around.  This is a gift from God.  Not every choir sings quite so joyfully, believe me. What’s more, they are all friends.  And friendship means having fun together.  And having fun involves an annual trip somewhere interesting, usually involving an overnight stay, and singing at that church on the Sunday morning.  Visiting other churches and other denominations is a great blessing, and in doing so, we bring greetings from the Taiwan Episcopal Church, and our own church, Advent Church @ St. John’s University, Tamsui, Taipei.  The annual choir trip is officially called their choir retreat.  And so it was that this past weekend, I was invited to tag along too.  Thanks to the choir, especially their leader, Meng-Zhen, who invited me to join them.  So, early on Saturday morning, off we went in cars driving to Nantou County, in central Taiwan, about 3-4 hours south of Taipei…

107728南投之行_180730_0129

First we went to Jiji Town 集集 , famous for its train station, originally constructed by the Japanese colonial government in 1933, but very badly damaged in the Sept. 21, 1999 earthquake. Since rebuilt, incorporating the original design, and now a major tourist destination for Taiwan people.  And that means us – that’s us at the train station above.  The station is beautiful, and the surrounding station area is full of things to take photos of.  And with.  And next to.  And behind, in front of, above, below and around.  You can jump up.  Or sit down.  Or buy a balloon.  Or whatever.  By the time you have taken 100 photos, the train might have arrived.  For that is our main purpose.  To get the train along the Jiji Line to Checheng 車埕 Train Station.

The Jiji Train Line was built in 1922 as a single track to help move construction materials used in the Sun Moon Lake Hydroelectric Project.  Get to the very front of the train and the view is especially wonderful!

Checheng 車埕 Town lies just below the Mingtan Reservoir and Power Plant, with water coming into the reservoir from Sun Moon Lake further upstream.  Checheng itself is an old logging town, with a log pool and old buildings where the Japanese workers lived and laboured in the wood-processing plant and in preparing the logs for transportation downhill on the railway.  Now the buildings are a huge museum with all sorts of interesting things to do and look at….

About an hour or so from Checheng, further up in the central mountains, is Wang Hsiang Village.  Our main destination ~ and the real reason why I came along on this trip.  Any chance to visit an indigenous village with friends who know people there – and I’m in!

Wang Hsiang 望鄉部落 is known as Kalibuan in the Bunun language. This is a Bunun Village.  The Bunun people 布農 are a Taiwanese indigenous people, traditionally living in the very high mountains of central Taiwan.  Famous for their singing and their physical strength – turned out I recognized several of the men in the village who have come with us on our mountain expeditions in the past, helping us to carry everything and cook the food.  One of the aims of our visit this time was for us to learn something about the village – and the challenges, customs, faith and way of life of the people there.  The current population of Wang Hsiang is over 900, all members of the Presbyterian Church (built in 1951), where we worshiped on Sunday and our choir sang, accompanied by Yu-Jie on the piano – all so beautifully!

The Bunun choir sang too, their songs are incredible.  The church has 2 services, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, with 200 at the morning service – often extending to 300 if all the children come too.  The church was so full that many were sitting outside.  Services are held in the Bunun language, but with a power point so everyone can follow the words in pinyin.  Actually, for our benefit, the sermon and some of the announcements were in Chinese, with translation into Bunun.  The preacher was Rev. Wu, who was visiting from a neighbouring village.  Most of the people now are second or third generation Christians – a challenge in itself, and in his sermon, Rev. Wu talked about how for Kalibuan Church to be a strong church, it needs victorious Christians, who are well-equipped through prayer, Bible reading, teaching and fellowship, united in love, and with a vision to go out and share the Gospel with others.

Wang Hsiang was not always a Bunun Village.  The history of Taiwan’s indigenous people and their relationship with the Japanese authorities during the colonial period of 1895-1945 is complex.  The Japanese authorities wanted Taiwan to modernize and develop, and all in Taiwan to be law-abiding model citizens under their control and management.  The indigenous peoples, especially those in the high mountains (like the Bunun people) – who were known as fierce warriors, resented such interference and responded with hostility. This led to conflict, violence, uprisings, killings and brutal crackdowns.  The Japanese authorities forced the high mountain peoples to relocate to lower altitudes where they could be more easily controlled, and killed many of their fiercest warriors who opposed their authority – including those in this photo, displayed on the village wall. This is the last known photo of the men before they were put to death.

IMG_4187

Wang Hsiang was originally inhabited by the Tsou 鄒 people, and when the Bunun people first moved here, there was much conflict.  But as the Bunun people grew in numbers, so eventually the Tsou moved away to the Alishan area, where they still are today.  The story goes that when the Bunun people were forced to move down from the high mountains, they were offered 3 choices of location, and they chose Wang Hsiang because of its distant view of Yushan 玉山, Taiwan’s highest mountain (3,952 m).  From their original high mountain village they could also see Yushan in the distance, so they felt more at home.  Their original home village was located up over 3,000 m in altitude, with snow every winter.  Down in Wang Hsiang, they’ve had snow once in the last 20 years.  The name, ‘Wang Hsiang’ means ‘looking towards home’ and that described their own longing to be back in their high mountain village, which was over the mountain of the same name – and / or maybe it described the feeling of the young homesick Japanese police officers stationed in Wang Hsiang.  Many theories of where the name came from… but the view is there all the same.  Except in the afternoons, the clouds roll in and it often rains in the high mountains ~ like on Saturday afternoon, when we arrived.  Yushan is in the clouds on the left of that big mountain in the centre…..

IMG_4046

Towards the end of the Japanese Era, the first missionaries appeared in the Wang Hsiang area and eventually the village elders made the decision to convert to Christianity.  In doing so, they also realized that their days of headhunting and violent conflict with the authorities were over, and so started a complete transformation of their way of life and thinking.

IMG_4184

These days, the pastors and church leaders are Bunun people from the village, and together with the tribal and village leaders, several income-generating projects have started locally.  These are community enterprises, designed to benefit the whole village.  Originally considered one of the most underdeveloped and backward of the local villages (they were the last to be connected to mains electricity, for example), in recent years there has been much hard work, and success is coming slowly but surely.  The government provides a lot of support, like free wifi throughout the village.  These days also, when the Bunun people remember the Japanese era, not all is completely negative, they say they are grateful for the infrastructure, education facilities and benefits provided by the government.  But still, it must have been terrible at the time.  Recent development projects are in 3 main areas: leading and supporting mountain-climbing expeditions – training and licensing as mountain guides and high-altitude porters, providing guest house accommodation for mountain expeditions and for weekend visitors / ecotourism (like us!) and thirdly the development of high-altitude agricultural projects, particularly fruit and vegetables.  Ah yes, and coffee too…

IMG_4047

This was not the first time I had stayed in Wang Hsiang. Last year at this time, on the night before our ascent of Yushan, we also stayed in Wang Hsiang.  This time, we stayed in a different guest house and had a tour of the village with one of the local guides.  This time also, the personal connection was that Sheng-Feng (Simon) and Hsuan-Ying (Grace), one of our choir couples (who had also invited me to join their trip to visit Grace’s home village at Nantian, Taitung earlier this month – see that post here) are old friends of the pastor and his family – actually they had been student members of a fellowship group that he led in Taichung many years ago.  That personal connection made all the difference, and we enjoyed hearing their stories and sharing time together in the guest house…

S__46497844

The food was amazing.  Loved it all!  Delicious, completely so!  The bamboo tubes are a traditional dish – filled with sticky rice. The lemon slices are flavored with – guess what?  That dark stuff is coffee granules.  Really special!  And then we sang…

On our tour of the village, we learned that it consists of 4 streets, all leading off to the left of the main road.  The walls of all the houses and gardens have mosaic / stone patterns showing aspects of Bunun daily life.  Each house – and corner – has a notice explaining about each place.  Really amazing.  In some places, millet, the staple food was lying out in the sun drying….

We finished our tour with a group photo at the village sign at the entrance to the village…

107728南投之行_180730_0009

Early on Sunday morning, some of us climbed up the hill behind the village.  Bit foggy, but by the time we got back the mist had cleared and the view toward Yushan was beautiful. Yushan is the pointed peak in the far distance.

IMG_4354

One of our group had a drone – this is us!

20180729_045757778_iOS

And so to church.  First to the rehearsal – our choir are dedicated!  Our music conductor on the retreat was Shiao Chien, she has a real gift of enthusing everyone with a love of singing and music, and always chooses really suitable songs to sing.  She had also asked everyone to wear one (any one!) of the Advent Church T-shirts, of which we have many,  going back years, hence all the bright colours.

Also at the church were a group of young ABC (American-born Chinese) whose families are originally from Taiwan, they are here for a few weeks in the summer as part of a project to help Wang Hsiang children learn English.  They also sang a song, and the church provided lunch for us visitors after the service.  Ah, it was so delicious!

A big ‘Thank You’ to Advent Church Choir for their kind invitation and welcome to me to join their trip.  Thanks to Paul and Christina for driving me there and back – and all the way home.  It was all a wonderful adventure.  The choir all love singing and having fun ~ a great combination!

P_20180728_155016_vHDR_Auto

Thanks too to the pastor and people of Wang Hsiang Village, for their hard work and time to make us so welcome.  And thanks be to God for safe travels, beautiful views, delicious food, new experiences, fresh mountain air, and of course, friends, fellowship and fun!

Consecration of the new Christ Church, Chungli (Zhongli), Taoyuan 聖公會基督堂祝聖新堂感恩禮拜!

Today was THE day!  Christ Church, Chungli finally has a real home to call its own!  Yes, after 7 years of using rented buildings for worship and outreach, Christ Church now has its own building. Today we all gathered for the consecration. Thanks be to God!

image1

To finally own your own building – your own church – is really a great blessing from God.  Today the emphasis and atmosphere in the whole service was one of deep thanksgiving and appreciation to God for his many blessings to Christ Church.

IMG_8497

Christ Church has some very talented church members, and Jeff and Janey have designed the most beautiful logo, which was printed on the service books, on the magnet that came attached as a gift, and on their T-shirts. It incorporates the Chinese characters for ‘Christ Church’ 基督堂. I totally LOVE it!

IMG_7868

The new Christ Church is actually the ground-floor of an apartment building, and the floor above.  Upstairs, where the overflow seating was today, there’s also rooms for the Sunday School and accommodation for the vicar, Rev. Tsai Ching-Yi 蔡靜儀.  Downstairs, most of the space is taken up with the church, the worship area ~ beautifully designed and decorated.  I like it!  These are the views from higher up on chairs and stairs…

IMG_8072

IMG_8171

Christ Church is really the daughter church of Good Shepherd Church, Taipei, part of the outreach and church planting program initiated by their rector at the time, Rev. Lily L. L. Chang.  Until Christ Church started, there was no Episcopal Church anywhere between Taipei and Taichung, a distance of about 170 km.  Then, maybe about 20 years ago, as land and housing prices in Taipei City started to increase dramatically, so Taoyuan started to develop ~ cheaper in price, near Taoyuan International Airport, the high-speed rail station, and easy to commute into Taipei itself.  So lots of new housing was built all over Taoyuan County, including Chungli, attracting lots of young families.

IMG_8520

One of these families was the Pan family, or I should say, one branch of the Pan family.  They live in the Pingzhen 平鎮 area of Chungli 中壢, and at the time, they were driving an hour to Good Shepherd Church every Sunday to attend the worship there.  William Pan (see the photo above – taken as he shared his story today) has the kind of job which involves lots of international travel, and it was actually his wife who was the one with all the local contacts.  She was very involved in helping at her daughters’ elementary school and had many friends among the other mothers.  They all had children the same age, and some of the mothers were interested in the Christian faith.  With that impetus, so Good Shepherd Church started renting a building very near that elementary school, and outreach work officially began in May 2011.  That summer, our then companion diocese of New Westminster sent a mission team who helped to lead a children’s holiday club in that first church building, a wonderful way to launch the outreach program.

Sunday worship started in October 2011 and the church started to grow.  In April 2013, the church moved to a different building nearby, just off the main street.  Until then it was just known as the 中壢關懷中心, Chungli Outreach Center.  On July 7, 2013, the building was consecrated, and Christ Church was officially established as a mission station.

In their hearts though, what the congregation really wanted was a church building of their own.  The one eventually chosen, which Bishop Lai and the Diocese of Taiwan have recently bought, has cost NT$ 20 million.  Although the worship area of the church is ready, the rest is still a work in progress.

IMG_8007

Today’s consecration service took place at 10:30 am, and was attended by nearly all our clergy, coming from all over Taiwan, plus church members from all over, too.  Rev. Joseph Ho (one of the clergy formerly assigned to Christ Church) and his group from St. Mark’s Church, Pingtung had left at 5:00 am this morning to get to Chungli on time!

IMG_8333

IMG_8354

Good Shepherd Church choir sang, as did Christ Church choir.  We had a beautiful solo from one of the church members.  One young man was confirmed during the service, another played the piano, others were servers.  The different items in the church, the font, lectern, altar etc were all consecrated in turn.  And we had Holy Communion.  At the end, a presentation of a Bible was made to the interior designer of the new building, he did an amazing job.  And finally, well, we had a delicious lunch!

Today was a day of great blessing and great rejoicing.  God is gracious and faithful.

Thanks to Rev. Tsai Ching-Yi and all at Christ Church for their warm welcome and all their hard work to make today so special.

Please do pray for Christ Church as they settle into their new building and as they plan their summer outreach program.  It was wonderful to see so many teenagers there today – and their mothers, many of these are members of the original families who got involved way back in 2011 when they were just elementary school children.  Now they are serving in the church and will be helping to run the summer camps ~ ah yes, thanks be to God!

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

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

IMG_6979

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

IMG_6949

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

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

IMG_6912

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

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

IMG_6840

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

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

IMG_6846

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

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

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

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

IMG_7061

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

‘Love and Peace’ Thanksgiving Concerts 愛與和平感恩音樂會: Welcoming the Lawings to Taiwan!

Wonderful visitors, wonderful friends of the Taiwan Episcopal Church ~ these last 10 days we’ve really enjoyed a feast of music welcoming Bill Lawing and his wife, Cynthia from Davidson College, N. Carolina, USA, and Cynthia’s sister, Gloria from Rollins College, Florida  – and some of the younger ones in their family too!

IMG_5369

The Lawings are passionate about their music and just love performing.  And smiling for the cameras.  And talking and meeting everyone.  So natural – yet so experienced, so professional – yet so down to earth, so talented – yet so humble and modest.  Everybody in Taiwan loves them, and from what they said, seems like they love everybody here too!

Here’s Bill, Cynthia and Gloria after their concert last night at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei with Bishop and Mrs. Lily Lai, Professor Herbert Ma and Mrs. Aline Ma, Rev. Philip Lin and Ms. Linda Lin, and Ms. Amy Lin…

IMG_6048

Anyway, on to the music – we had Bill on his trumpet, Cynthia and Gloria on the piano ~ and away we went!  This was their concert finale and my overall favouritest piece, This Little Light of Mine ~ recorded at St. Timothy’s Church…

While they’ve been here, they’ve performed a whole range of music at 2 concerts, 2 church services and 2 kindergartens.  What an honour it was to welcome them and listen to their music and watch them play.

This is a very short excerpt from ‘Go Tell it on the Mountain’….

After a 16-hour non-stop flight from New York last Thursday, May 24, they arrived very early in the morning in Taipei, and after a traditional Taiwan-style breakfast, they went straight into practicing at St. John’s Cathedral.  Their stamina and enthusiasm were amazing.  And not just for music ~ Cynthia’s other great passion in Taiwan is the food.  The more local the better.  Street food expert extraordinaire!  So after practice at the cathedral, off we went straight to their welcome lunch with cathedral clergy and friends.  Ah, it was a busy morning!

Cynthia and Gloria were brought up in Hong Kong, where their family were members of St. Paul’s Church, whose rector was Rev. James T. M. Pong – he was also their close family friend.  He left St. Paul’s in 1971 to become Bishop of Taiwan, and in 1974, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Taiwan Episcopal Church, Bishop Pong invited Cynthia to come and give a concert tour all round Taiwan.  Those were the days of no a/c, just windows open and fans blowing – and just think, it was high summer!  This is Cynthia and Gloria at the diocesan office outside the room named in memory of Bishop Pong, and his photo.

IMG_5875

One of those concerts that Cynthia gave in 1974 was in Tainan Theological College, where Bishop Lai was then a student, and he remembers attending – and shaking her hand!  Fast forward 37 years to 2011 – and then 2014, and Cynthia was so pleased to be able to come back to Taiwan, along with Bill, offering their musical talents and skills to perform in a series of concerts.  So this is their third trip together and this time, they’ve brought some of their family too.  Ah, how we loved them all!

IMG_5455

Their first concert was at 2:00 pm on Saturday May 26 at St. Timothy’s Church, Kaohsiung, the second a week later, at 7:00 pm on Saturday June 2 at St. John’s Cathedral.  Both concerts were co-sponsored by the Taiwan Episcopal Church and the Christian Tribune 基督教論壇報 – and  were on the theme of ‘Love and Peace’ 愛與和平感恩音樂會, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the 823 Artillery Bombardment, part of the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis, which saw about 480,000 artillery shells dropped on Taiwan’s outlying islands of Kinmen.  It is some of these artillery shells, that, through Bishop Lai’s vision, have been made into artillery shell crosses, symbolizing the transformation of objects of war and hatred into objects of love and peace, hence the ‘P’ in the middle of the crosses.  This is Bishop Lai and Bill holding one of the original artillery shell crosses, and Cynthia holding the piece of marble that she picked up in Taroko Gorge when they visited in 2014, and which Bishop Lai has faithfully watered every day, and is now blooming with small green ferns.  In 2014, Cynthia promised that when it bloomed they would come back to Taiwan to perform again ~ and so here they are!

IMG_5883

The artillery shell crosses were on sale at each concert – here is Gloria and Daniel selling them at the cathedral…

IMG_5978

Bishop Lai and Mr. Luo from Advent Church have composed a hymn, ‘Raise High, the Transformed Artillery Shells Cross’ which we sang at the beginning of each of the concerts.

At St. Timothy’s Church, the first 2 verses were sung as a solo by Ms. Lynn Liu, and accompanied by Cynthia on the organ, then in the final verse by Bill and Gloria too.  This is the hymn, sung in Chinese.

This is Lynn with the Lawings afterwards…. so great!

IMG_5406

St. Timothy’s rector, Rev. Richard J. C. Lee shared Cynthia’s story with us, he also welcomed us all and Mr. Timothy Cheng, Christian Tribune CEO to speak.  Then the concert started, and we all relaxed, and enjoyed the variety of music on offer.  It was beautiful!

I videoed some excerpts of their concert in Kaohsiung.  Ah, I loved it!  A few I’ve put on You Tube.  Two short excerpts are here for you to enjoy ~ though I have to admit, I don’t know what pieces they are excerpts of, but hey, I like ’em.  Listening to music is a bit like enjoying nature, you can appreciate all the flowers and trees around you without needing to know the names of ’em all ~ well, that’s my idea anyway!

The concert at St. Timothy’s Church welcomed all our clergy from southern Taiwan, and many church members, some from every church.  In fact after the concert, each church group came up for photos together with the Lawings.  Everyone was so appreciative, and especially the youth group who’d come all the way from St. Peter’s Church, Chiayi, 2 hours drive north!

And a group photo of everyone at St. Timothy’s Church concert…

IMG_5423

Then off to dinner later that evening, hosted by Rev. Cheng Chen-Chang and the leaders of St. Paul’s Church, it was so so so delicious!  On the right is Mr. Di, who provided so many photos and live broadcasts throughout the concert and service.  Really appreciative of his help!

IMG_5456

On Sunday May 27, Bill and Cynthia also played 4 pieces during the service at St. Paul’s, starting with a prelude on the steps of the church. This is St. Paul’s Church before the service ~ that guy on the bike just happened to appear at the right moment!

IMG_5553

This was the Lawing’s main piece, played after the creed, I think it is also my most favourite of all!

They were also presented with small gifts in appreciation…

And of course, we all had a group photo after the service!

IMG_5608

Then off they went to Taiwan’s southernmost tip, Kenting, with Rev. Richard Lee and his family, and I went back to Taipei.  Seems like they had a great time there – then to Tainan where they played at the kindergartens and had a fun time with Rev. Philip Ho and his wife, Nancy at Grace Church. By Saturday, they were back in Taipei and we went to visit Bishop Lai for tea-drinking, always one of the highlights of their visits to Taiwan!

IMG_5857

IMG_5864

And so to St. John’s Cathedral concert, held last night, and a similar programme to the one at St. Timothy’s Church.  So I got to hear them twice, ah, a double blessing!

We finished with presentations – Bishop Lai gave Bill, Cynthia and Gloria a small artillery shell cross each.  Then a group photo, as always!

IMG_6031

Today the Lawings were playing at Good Shepherd Church, and then leaving Taiwan to go on to the next stage of their travels.  For us, we have many wonderful memories of their visit, and especially their music.  It was great to welcome the younger members of their family too, they enjoyed exploring Taiwan.  Hoping they’ll all come back again soon, but in the meantime, we say goodbye with hearts filled with gratitude and love.

Thanks be to Almighty God!

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Keelung ~ Tenth Anniversary Celebrations 聖司堤反堂建堂10週年感恩禮拜 Congratulations!

Today we gathered in Keelung for a Thanksgiving Service at St. Stephen’s Church to celebrate and give thanks to God for these past 10 years ~ 10 years of amazing grace, wonderful blessings and faithful witness!

IMG_4533

This was St. Stephen’s Church Welcome Team all ready!

IMG_4153

And so many clergy, friends and supporters….

And all the clergy together!

IMG_4211

Keelung is unfortunately known in Taiwan as the ‘City of Unhappiness’, and in the outlying Chungshan District, there have long been particularly high levels of unemployment, poverty, alcohol addiction and mental health problems.  In 2007, Rev. Richard R. C. Lee and members of Trinity Church, Keelung had a vision to reach out to the people of Chungshan District, where there were no other churches at the time.  After much prayer, and with the support of Bishop David J. H. Lai and the clergy of the northern deanery of the Taiwan Episcopal Church, outreach was started, first in the local community center, then they started to rent a building nearby as a church.  It was that church (at St. Stephen’s first ever worship service) that was consecrated by Bishop Lai on May 18, 2008, exactly 10 years ago today.  In 2010, a timely grant from the United Thank Offering of US$ 50,000 helped towards the purchase of the present building, which is really a ground-floor apartment, converted into a church.  The basement is huge and extends out under the road, and is also owned by the church; it’s used as a classroom for the outreach program to the local community.  Today it was used as overflow seating.  This is the Holy Communion….

IMG_4576

These are 4 of the key people in the development of St. Stephen’s Church: from left, Rev. Richard R. C. Lee, Mr. Yei 葉錦地, the local community leader (li-zhang 里長), Rev. Julia S. H. Lin and Bishop David J. H. Lai….

IMG_4201

St. Stephen’s is a non-stop, very busy, very active, very joyful and happy place.  There are so many activities going on all day long, all part of the community outreach program for children, teenagers, families, women, men and seniors.  It was the community program for children that was so welcomed by the local community leaders when the church was first started.  The community leaders have provided huge support ever since, and many of them came along today!  Without them, it would have been much more difficult to gain the trust of the local people, but with their support, the church has been welcomed, and gained access into people’s lives – and hearts.  Lives are being transformed, step by small step.

IMG_4280

Rev. Julia Shu-Hua Lin 林淑華牧師 has been assigned to St. Stephen’s since it was established, and is helped by many local people who have made St. Stephen’s their spiritual home.  Ms. Huang Min ‎黃敏 (on the far left in the above photo) moved from Trinity Church to help support St. Stephen’s from the beginning, and is one of the pillars of the church.  These days, St. Stephen’s has a core of committed Christians on the leadership team, and many more helping run the different outreach programs.  One of our diocesan evangelists, Mr. Felix Ming-You Chen (right in the photo below, next to Rev. Joseph M. L. Wu) is also assigned there at weekends.  There is so much really worthwhile ministry going on, thanks be to God!

IMG_4177

Today, being a Friday, meant that most of the participants in the Thanksgiving Service were adults, as the children were all in school.  But we were blessed to welcome a group of children who formed the music group for the service, they came from St. Luke’s Church, Hualien with Rev. Joseph M. L. Wu, they did so well – even if they were squeezed into a corner and difficult to photograph!

IMG_4295

The other group who sang were the St. Stephen’s Church senior group.  Oh, they were so lovely ~ and so expressive!

IMG_4426

The service started at 10:00 am.  All of our clergy from northern Taiwan came along, plus quite a few from the south, and lots of church members too.  It was wonderful to see Rev. Richard Lee returning to visit from St. Timothy’s Church, Kaohsiung, here he is with Rev. Lily Chang.   Why are they laughing?  Because there is such a height difference between them that this is a rare occasion when Lily is taller than Richard!

IMG_4167

Many clergy from other denominations in Keelung came too, plus representatives of the different social welfare organizations who support the outreach ministry at St. Stephen’s.  All the St. Stephen’s people were wearing special new T-shirts commissioned for the occasion, they gave us as gifts when we left.  Plus wooden key rings etc, made by social enterprise foundations locally.

IMG_4378

The readings were Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication of the Temple from 1 Kings 8: 22-30, Psalm 84: 1-12 and 1 Peter 2: 1-5, 9-10 ~ and the Gospel was from Matthew 21: 18-22 about the fig-tree, finishing with, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”  Bishop Lai referred to these in his sermon in the context of the history and testimony of St. Stephen’s Church.  All glory be to God!

Photos from the service today….

After the service, we had 2 birthday cakes, one on each floor, the one cut by Bishop Lai was provided by one of the church families, whose child also has a birthday today.   We also had lunch boxes, and lots of fruit and dessert.

And we finished with a presentation from Bishop Lai to Rev. Julia Lin (and St. Stephen’s Church) of one of Bishop Lai’s homemade wooden artworks, saying in Chinese, “God’s mercy endures forever.”

IMG_4680

Today’s Thanksgiving Service was such a great occasion, really special. For me, this is one of THE churches that I always try to take my very special VIP visitors from overseas who may be interested in frontline mission.  St. Stephen’s Church has such a testimony, transformation is happening in that area of Keelung, and real hope is being given to the whole community.  May God continue to bless St. Stephen’s Church and all who serve ~ and are served there.  Thanks be to God!

Off to Green Island 綠島 Lyudao, Taitung, Taiwan with the Taiwan Episcopal Church 台灣聖公會2018年蒙恩得福家庭生活營!

Ah, Green Island.  What a place it is.  For some in Taiwan it evokes memories of their youth and a taste of freedom as they rode motorcycles around the island enjoying the scenery.  For others, it evokes terrible stories of grim horror and nightmares, of stories told in secret, whispered between family members.  An island of such immense beauty, and yet, also such immense tragedy.

IMG_3186

Ironically, the most immense beauty is so well hidden that you only really get to see it by immersing yourself in the sea and either snorkeling or scuba-diving your way through the coral reefs, or by traveling in a semi-submersible glass-bottomed boat.  The fish and the coral are truly amazing.  We went snorkeling and it was really the highlight of the trip, and indeed of any trip to Green Island.  But my camera doesn’t work underwater, sorry about that, so all I can do is recommend you check out this You Tube video of someone who did go snorkeling in Green Island here, our experience was just like his. Which means we had a really fantastic time watching all sorts of fish of every different colour and size, all swimming so close.  And the really wonderful snorkeling coach turned out to be one of our students here at St. John’s University on a work placement as an intern for his last semester before he graduates next month.  He was great.  And he made the snorkeling so relaxing and enjoyable, even for our group who ranged in age from 13-83!  Here we are getting all dressed up….

1526202745499_1.jpg

Green Island (綠島: pronounced as ‘Lyudao’ in Chinese) is “a small volcanic island in the Pacific Ocean about 33 km (21 miles) off the eastern coast of Taiwan”, originally inhabited by the Amis people.  The first Chinese arrived about 200 or so years ago and the only traces of Amis habitations these days are some ruined homesteads.  Most of the people live along the northern and north-west coast of the island, and are served by 2 elementary schools and one junior-high school, a small airport, a harbour, a Baptist Church, Jehovah Witnesses Meeting Place, lots of temples, one 7-Eleven, one Family Mart, one big 2-story Duty-Free Shop, restaurants and BBQ places galore, several soft drinks shops, many government buildings and a huge number of hotels and diving / snorkeling centres.  Tourism is the main business of the island. The harbour is lined with motorcycles for rent, ready for the passengers disembarking from the passenger ferries that make the one-hour journey to Taitung maybe 5 times a day in each direction.  Tourism big time!

IMG_3136

Every year, Bishop David J. H. Lai and Mr. Di Yun-Heng from St. Paul’s Church, Kaohsiung organize a 3-4 day trip for members and friends of the Taiwan Episcopal Church to visit some wonderful scenic places.  In November 2017, we went to Wuling Farm in Taiwan’s central mountain range to see the beautiful autumn colours (see that report here).   This year, we went to Green Island from Tuesday to Thursday, May 8-10.  Sadly Bishop Lai was unable to come with us due to an important meeting, but 33 of us joined Mr. Di to go along.  It was great!  This is the first group photo…

32247359_1753718858046785_7479968232141488128_n

Church members and friends from our churches in Taipei, Chungli, Taichung and Kaohsiung joined the trip.  The northern group met early on Tuesday morning at Taipei Rail Station, where we had tickets for the 6:50 am train to Taitung. I had stayed overnight at the diocesan office hostel so as to be there on time, and Bishop Lai not only took me to the station, but also came in to meet everyone and pray for us all.  And he gave us some tea, which we were to enjoy drinking together on the trip.

The southern group traveled over from Kaohsiung, and the Taichung group joined them, and we all met at Taitung Train Station soon after 11:00 am ~ off we went for lunch and then to the ferry.  Actually I didn’t eat any lunch, in preparation for the ferry – which is renowned for being a rough ride.  Glad I didn’t, as it was rough, and many people were seasick.  Enough said.  It was only an hour.  I survived, many didn’t!

IMG_3108

The weather forecast was for the plum rains to come on Tuesday night.  In fact they had already come to Taipei on Monday night, but Tuesday was a mostly sunny day on Green Island.  We made the most of it.  The rain was coming.  Actually it didn’t really hit us until Wednesday afternoon when it poured down for several hours.  That cooled the temperatures nicely.  Green Island is famous for its high summer temps.  And for its deer meat.  And for its sea food. We had flying fish!

IMG_3641

We were staying on the northern coast in a hotel just near the sea, and we enjoyed all the views.  It really was so convenient.  Early morning walks around, and a half-day tour meant that we saw most of the island.  Even if it was in the rain!

One of the highlights was the Lyudao Lighthouse, which we managed to visit just before the rains started: “On 11 December 1937 the Dollar Steamship Company luxury ocean liner SS President Hoover ran aground in a typhoon on a reef at Zhongliao Bay. All 503 passengers and 330 crew survived and were safely brought ashore. Over the next few days the cargo liners SS President McKinley and SS President Pierce took the survivors off the island, helped by boats provided by the Japanese cruiser Ashigara and an Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer. Dollar Lines sold President Hoover’s wreck to a Japanese salvage company, which spent the next three years breaking her up in situ. In response to the wreck, members of the US public gave money through the American Red Cross for a lighthouse to be built near Zhongliao village. Lyudao Lighthouse was designed by Japanese engineers, built by local islanders in 1938 and is 33.3 metres (109 ft) high.”  And of course, it’s a great place for photos!

We spent Wednesday evening having a short service, led by Rev. Lily Chang, using the Ascension Day liturgy, in preparation for the next day which was actually Ascension Day. Lily shared about the Archbishop of Canterbury’s ‘Thy Kingdom Come‘ Project, an international and ecumenical global wave of prayer between Ascension Day and Pentecost.  We spent time each thinking of 5 people we were going to commit to praying for over these 10 days, and spent a few minutes praying for them in small groups.

IMG_3746

And then we drank Bishop Lai’s tea.  Here we are making the tea and talking to him on face-time!

Green Island is beautiful.  Green.  Very green.  And very beautiful.  But unfortunately it has also seen a huge amount of tragedy.  And that tragedy cannot be ignored.   Green Island is a prison island.  There are three prisons in total, although only one is in use today.  That prison was within walking distance of our hotel.  The outside walls are decorated in 3D wall paintings, and there is a small field with goats there, plus all sorts of touristy things for people to do on a prison theme.

The other 2 prisons are no longer in use and are open to the public, located near the village of Gongguan on the NE side of the island.  I visited the place on the first afternoon, and also walked past early one morning.  Then we went as a group for a short visit on our afternoon tour – in the pouring rain.

The whole of the bay there is filled with prison buildings and prison property.  It is now known as the ‘Green Island Human Rights Memorial Park’ and is managed by the government department called the ‘Preparatory Office of the National Human Rights Museum‘, who also manage the Jingmei Human Rights Memorial and Cultural Park 景美人權文化園區 in Taipei.  I went to Jingmei a few weeks ago, partly in preparation for coming to Green Island (my report about that visit is here).  The Jingmei Human Rights Memorial and Cultural Park is the site of the former Jingmei Military Law Detention Center of the Taiwan Garrison Command (1968-87) where political prisoners were incarcerated, indicted and sentenced during Taiwan’s White Terror Era ~ the suppression of political dissidents following the February 28 Incident in 1947. Martial law in Taiwan lasted from 1949-1987. Many went on to serve their lengthy prison sentences at the prison on Green Island.

The leaflets handed out at the Green Island Human Rights Memorial Park give a brief introduction, as follows, “The park was originally home to 2 prisons built to accommodate political prisoners during the time of the White Terror.  First was the New Life Correction Center (1951-65), operated by the Taiwan Security Command, reflecting Taiwan’s isolated position in the global Cold War.  Later came the Ministry of National Defense Green Island Reform and Reeducation Prison (1972-87).  It was also the time of the rising tide of the human rights movement, when overseas human rights activists came to the rescue of Taiwan’s political prisoners.  The postwar history of the repression of human rights in Taiwan finds its concrete expression in the relics and exhibition activities of this park.”

IMG_3167

The New Life Correction Center (1951-65) at its peak had 2,000 prisoners, divided into 12 squadrons, and from 1951-54, there were also about 100 women.  With staff included, there were about 3,000 people in total.  Conditions were harsh.  Hard labour involved clearing land, breaking up rocks and coral, constructing walls and buildings.  The authorities made certain that the inmates were kept fully occupied with hard labour and thought-reform instruction so as to tire them out physically and mentally. But every evening, prisoners were allowed an hour of ‘free’ time, and many used that time very constructively.  Today, some of the buildings remain derelict, but in others, the museum has tried to recreate the situation of the inmates.

One exhibit shows the translation of the ‘Life of Jesus’ that one of the prisoners, Mr. Tu Nan-Shan secretly completed, from Japanese into Chinese, with 9 revisions, during his time here.

IMG_3708

Another shows the violin that enterprising prisoners made from wood collected from a shipwreck, with the strings taken from wire from discarded electrical cable.

IMG_3704

Next door to the New Life Correction Center is the ‘Green Island Reform and Reeducation Prison’ (1972-87), better known as ‘Oasis Villa’ 綠洲山莊.  The main area of prison cells is in the shape of an ‘X’, for better control from the central area.  Lots of famous prisoners were incarcerated here, and “after their release, many of the prisoners jailed between the late 1940s and the late 1980s went on to establish the Democratic Progressive Party, most notably Shih Ming-teh. Cartoonist Bo Yang also served his prison terms here.”

In a separate heavily-gated section there is the solitary confinement area.  Some have padded cells.  Some are completely dark, others have only one small window at the top.

Finally there is the Human Rights Monument, where the words of Bo Yang are written in Chinese, translated as: “In those times / How many were the mothers / Who, for their sons / Imprisoned on this island / Wept through the long night?”  The names of all those who were incarcerated here are given, along with the dates of their imprisonment or death.

But the tragedy of Green Island is not just restricted to the prison area.  Even street art has appeared all over, some related to the prison.

IMG_3549

IMG_3542

On my final morning, I went as far as Swallow Cave, which is at the far end of the bay where the prisons are.  Past the graveyard for the 13th Squadron, ie those who died from sickness or suicide.  Inmates, officers and troops were all buried together.  On the same site.  What irony.

Swallow Cave is dark.  Dark physically and very dark spiritually.  I prayed the whole time I was there.  Local people don’t go there.  It was the place where the prisoners were forced to rehearse and perform their thought-reform plays, paint their backdrops and cremate those who died.  Swallows were flying in and out.  Water was dripping from the roof.   It is a natural cave, but the black volcanic rock makes it even darker.  I hated it.  But I went.  Fortunately there were also many beautiful plants growing nearby.

The 2 Green Island prisons are not easy places to visit.  Nor the cave.  Nor any of the places where terrible things happened to the prisoners.  Even on the beach, where they had to break up the rocks and use them to build things.  It is all horrible.  Man’s inhumanity to man is indescribably awful.  And seen on Green Island in all its grisly reality.  The government is doing a good job of restoring the prisons and opening them to the public with so many helpful notices around the place, plus a lot of research and work on oral and written history of the prisoners.  It needs to be done, the truth needs to be told.  Even if it is uncomfortable and terrible.  If you are sensitive to this kind of thing, make sure you pray before, during and after your visit.  And pray for the people who were imprisoned on Green Island, or those whose family members were imprisoned there.  The evil and suffering experienced on Green Island did not just disappear when a prisoner was released or the prison closed down.  Healing, release, freedom and peace are not just needed physically, but mentally and spiritually too.  For individuals, for families, for the whole of society.  For now, and for generations to come.

May God have mercy on us all.

IMG_3927

And so to Thursday morning, and we went back to the harbour for our return trip to Taitung.  The ferry trip back was much smoother than the one coming, that was good news.

And I met 2 RC sisters at the Green Island harbour.  They turned out to be Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross 聖十字架慈愛修女會 who had been in Green Island doing some ministry there, and who are the same order as the sisters in Shangwu Village 尚武村, Taitung ~ who St. John’s University annual charity bazaar supported at Christmas 2016.  We had visited the sisters in Shangwu to present the money we raised, and I stayed overnight (my report of that visit is here