Tag Archives: Taiwan Episcopal Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Badouzi to see the beautiful painted houses…

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

Keelung was very busy…

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

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

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

Taiwan Episcopal Church Diocesan Convention, March 22-23, 2019:台灣聖公會 第59屆教區年議會!

This year’s annual convention was hosted by St. James’ Church, Taichung, and, as always, it was wonderful! These are the 2 official group photos below…

Rev. Lily L. L. Chang, rector of St. James’ Church and her team of church members and volunteers organized and arranged a big welcome for us, including supplying delicious snacks and fruits for each break time. THANK YOU! Here’s all the St. James’ team, being thanked on the last day…

After a very early start for most of us, we started the convention with a Holy Communion service at 10:30 am on Friday morning at St. James, followed by the group photos, then lunch nearby…

After lunch, off we went to a hotel for the meetings. This was the seating plan…

The hotel we stayed in is located near the former Taichung City Council and other colonial buildings from the Japanese era. Not far away in one direction is the river, now marked by blue lights, and in the other direction is the Taichung Rail Station – the old building has been retained, and the new station built behind it. Great for late night and early morning walks!

It was good to meet up with all our old friends from every one of our churches in Taiwan. Great reunions! The official meetings focused on presentation of reports, discussions, proposals and elections. Reports were given by all the different diocesan committees. And at the beginning of the convention, Bishop Lai formally welcomed our good friend from the Episcopal Church, Rev. Bruce Woodcock, Partnership Officer for Asia and the Pacific….

On Saturday it was a special day for Jerry Liang ~ his birthday, but he had completely forgotten all about it! So it was fun for us all to sing to him – and for him to be hugged by his son, Antony. Antony is to be ordained priest at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei on Wednesday May 1. Do pray for him and all the family.

And so Day 2 began with breakfast, and followed by meetings, including a report from Dr. Herchang Ay, president of St. John’s University. All of our churches gave their reports. And the day finished with lots of photos!

The collection from the opening service the previous day was presented to St. James’ Church, but they kindly donated it to St. Mark’s Church, Pingtung to help with urgent repairs to their church building and vicarage…

The most important matter to ask you to include in your prayers is the forthcoming election of the new diocesan bishop of Taiwan. The mandatory retirement age for bishops in the Episcopal Church is 72, so Bishop Lai must retire before March 2020. We now have 3 official candidates, seen in the photo below with Bishop Lai. From left: Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, rector of Advent Church, Bishop Lai, Rev. Lily L. L. Chang, rector of St. James’ Church, Taichung, and Rev. Joseph M. L. Wu, vicar of St. Mark’s Church, Pingtung.

In April, May and June, there will be 3 sessions to meet the candidates, one each in the north, central and south of Taiwan, then the actual election of the new bishop will take place on Saturday August 3 at St. James’ Church. The consecration, ordination and installation of the new bishop will take place on Saturday February 22, 2020 in St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei. Please pray!

Thanks to Bishop Lai and all who helped to organize the convention, and especially to Mr. Yang, our diocesan secretary, who has been working hard for months, along with all in the diocesan office. Special thanks to Ms. Amy B. H. Lin, our honorary diocesan treasurer who devotes much of her spare time to this role, and together with Bruce and Bishop Lai, they form a great team!…

And next year our convention will be hosted by St. Timothy’s Church, Kaohsiung as they celebrate their 50th anniversary. Get ready!

Thanks be to God, and please continue to pray for the Diocese of Taiwan!

CMS Link letter # 76!

Just published in the last few days by the Church Mission Society ~ my latest link letter, giving an overview of my 6-months home leave in the UK. Click on the link below, and it opens in pdf format.

Since writing that letter, I’ve discovered that the front cover of the Taiwan Episcopal Church diocesan magazine (Chinese edition) for the 4th quarter of 2018 featured my photo, presenting the Archbishop of Canterbury with an artillery shell cross on behalf of Bishop Lai. Feeling very honoured!

I returned to Taiwan on February 15, and since then I’ve been very busy moving house, now I’m back on the St. John’s University campus. Grateful thanks to all in the diocese, church and university who have helped to make this possible, especially facing the challenges of the damp weather ~ everything everywhere was covered in condensation for days, just gotta smile! 🙃😊🙃 Now I’m looking forward to some warmer dry weather. Soon I’ll be set up for visitors too ~ so do plan to come and visit!

PS Update on March 5, 2019: If you’ve read my link letter, in it you’ll see how I lament the no-photos policy in Durham Cathedral. Well today’s news report says that as from this coming Friday, the photo ban is to be lifted. The link is here. At last! Thank you Durham Cathedral. I’m not expecting to be there again for a long time to come, but yes, it’s great news for everyone!

YES YES YES!

London Churches, Cathedrals and of Course, Celebrations!

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A great weekend in London!  Another great weekend in London, I should say.  My second in three weeks.  Loved it!  And it was hot and sunny, totally unexpected.  Just check out these photos, taken on Sunday, above is Westminster Abbey, and below is Trafalgar Square and St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church… 

This weekend was planned around the 80th birthday celebration (and book launch) of good friend and amazing hymnwriter, Rev. Christopher Idle, who has just published his third volume of collected hymns, this one called, ‘Trees Along The River’. The event was held at St. Mark’s Church, Kennington, near the Oval.  Wonderful to see so many old friends, including some I knew long ago in Tanzania and haven’t seen since.  And some I once met in Taizé and haven’t seen for several years.  Anyway, this is Christopher and his oldest son, Tim and youngest grandson.  Such a lovely family.  The cake was incredible too, reflecting Christopher’s love of hymns, Arsenal and cricket at the Oval.  Many congratulations to him! 

The following day was a Sunday off.  A Sunday off in London.  Wow!  What an opportunity!  I wanted to visit the biggest churches I could find. Not the biggest church buildings, but the largest congregations. So I found myself at 11:00 am at Hillsong, which meets in the Dominian Theatre in central London, and seats over 2,000; it was totally full! 

In the evening I went to the service at 7:00 pm at Holy Trinity, Brompton, famous for its Alpha Courses.  Loved it!  But there was a notice saying not to take photos.  And it was dark. So I took heed, and had a break from photos… 🤔🤔 (that’s me, deep in thought!)

And in-between those 2 services? Well, I arranged to meet up with 3 very lovely Taiwan students who I know from Taiwan, and who have all just arrived in London to study. One is studying MA in Art & Christianity at King’s College, another is studying fashion and the other design, all at famous London universities.  They didn’t know each other directly, but for 2 of them, their parents are colleagues from St. John’s University, Taiwan. Of those, one is a member of Dazhi Presbyterian Church, Taipei, one is a member of Good Shepherd Church, Taipei, and the third is a member at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei.

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We found ourselves joining the 54th anniversary celebrations of the St. Martin-in-the-Fields Chinese congregation 聖馬田中文堂  led by Rev. Paul Lau (with us in the photo below).  We were very warmly welcomed by the church leaders, and after the service, we enjoyed the most delicious Chinese food at a celebration meal in a room downstairs.  So moving, cos we hadn’t realized it was to be a special anniversary service, and with a wonderful meal provided too!

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And afterwards, it was so sunny outside that we walked outside to see the church (see top photos), and then on around London.  How can you NOT walk around London on such a beautiful September Sunday afternoon?

And my final church of the weekend to show you – though it was actually the first one I visited on Friday afternoon en route to elsewhere. It’s a former Anglican Church now converted to be St. Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Kentish Town. This is it!  So ordinary outside, but oh so stunning inside!  Do go and visit! 

And the last amazing place I went to, not a church nor a cathedral, and I was only there a few minutes, was the British Museum. This is the view inside.

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Check out the Tennyson quote on the bottom right of the above photo… this is it:

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And in fact this is where most people (well, tourists anyway) were going on Sunday morning, not to all the churches, but to the British Museum. The entrance was completely packed out!

So thanks be to God for a great weekend in London!  Almost churched-out (!), but not quite.  Really enjoyed the variety of worship and all the different buildings and people.  And many thanks to all the kind friends who welcomed me for meals and coffee and cake and more.  Much appreciated.

Now saying goodbye to the great capital and heading off to East Anglia tomorrow.  In fact off to visit the very place where my family and Christopher Idle’s family knew each other 20+ years ago. Neighbouring parishes in sunny Suffolk. So, guys, just watch this space, and thanks for your prayers!

From Taiwan to London ~ with love!

This was really quite some weekend!

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What you need to know (according to Wikipedia): Lambeth Palace, London is the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury in England.  And the Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury…

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And this past weekend was my first time for both.  My first ever visit to Lambeth Palace, AND my first time to meet the Archbishop of Canterbury.  YES!

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This year, Taiwan is marking the 60th anniversary of the 823 Artillery Shell Bombardment of Kinmen, and on Monday September 3, I was honoured to present an artillery shell cross on behalf of the Bishop of Taiwan, David J. H. Lai, to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, during a lunchtime Eucharist in the chapel at Lambeth Palace. It was a really wonderful occasion, and Archbishop Justin and his staff made me feel really welcome.  Later that day, the archbishop wrote in his Facebook post, ‘The cross shows us the transformation of hatred into love. Today I was given a special gift by the Diocese of Taiwan – a cross made from artillery shells. Made as part of the diocese’s peacemaking ministry, these crosses show us that the love of Jesus turns hate into love, and war into peace. Thank you Catherine Lee for presenting this cross on behalf of the Bishop of Taiwan, David Lai.’

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This is the artillery shell cross on the Lambeth Palace chapel altar after the service…

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I also had a short tour of some of the other rooms, the crypt chapel, and the state drawing room. Many of these rooms were badly damaged during World War II, so extensive restoration work had to take place after the war. Fascinating place to visit!

The chapel has an amazing ceiling, ‘From Darkness to Light’ (Leonard Henry Rosoman, 1988)…

Before the service at the chapel, Archbishop Justin introduced me as working for Church Mission Society (CMS).  In fact, the Archbishop of Canterbury is the patron of CMS.  During the service, we prayed for our CMS executive leader, Philip Mounstephen, who has just been appointed as the next Bishop of Truro, Cornwall, and for the CMS trustees as they start the search for a new leader.  Archbishop Justin also mentioned that before I worked in Taiwan, I had been in Mwanza and Dodoma in Tanzania, places he knows well.  Ah, yes, I was just so happy to hear the Archbishop of Canterbury mention Mwanza and Dodoma!

Y’know, many of my closest friendships date from my years in Tanzania, and I’ve spent this weekend in London catching up with some of them, including Tim and Sarah and their family ~ and I’m grateful to them for their generous hospitality this weekend.  They are long-time members of Brandon Baptist Church, Camberwell, S. London….

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The minister of Brandon, Steve, kindly invited me to speak at their church on Sunday morning – and I showed the congregation the artillery shell cross that I was about to present to the Archbishop of Canterbury the following day.  Steve followed up my sermon by sharing how this artillery shell cross and its message, of hatred transformed into peace, is so relevant for their local community, struggling with unprecedented levels of knife crime and violence.  And many of the prayers of the congregation during the service were also related to their desire for peace on the streets of London. The words written on the wooden artillery shell cross stand say in English and Chinese, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9.  Yes, indeed.

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The Brandon Baptist Church congregation were so lovely, and those originally from Nigeria, Ghana and Jamaica in particular were wearing the most amazing variety of stunning outfits. Had to take some photos. Loved them all!

After the service, Tim and Sarah took us on a wonderful outing and picnic to the Horniman Museum, in Forest Hill, where we had a very lively and colourful carnival to entertain us as we ate…

The museum is really incredible. There is THE very huge and very famous walrus in the centre, and all around are a real mix of interesting things from all over the world. Highly recommended. And it’s not often that I recommend museums, or even go in them to find out. So make sure you go. Just make sure you don’t touch the walrus or sit on that iceberg! 🤣🤣🤣

The walrus even appears on the street art sign (by Lionel Stanhope) of Forest Hill under the railway bridge, he’s a local celebrity!

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Actually my London weekend got off to a really lively, exciting and fun start, when I had the chance to meet up with Eshita and her parents, who I knew from Isamilo Primary School, Mwanza.  She was one of my pupils there when she was, well, just 5-6 years old! Y’know, not everyone feels really comfortable meeting up with their former primary school teachers, but Eshita is completely delightful and I am honoured that she arranged to meet me, at a delicious S. Indian restaurant (Sagar in Hammersmith).   It was the first time I’ve seen her parents since I was in Mwanza, so we had much to catch up on.  Thank you Eshita!

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Also visited a few more friends over the weekend, and the rest of the time, I spent walking round London. And on the underground. And on the bus. Seeing all the sights. Catching up after 3 years away. Seeing what’s new. And what’s not. Loved it all!

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So, here goes.  I went to Southwark Cathedral. There was only one other person in there, a lady taking photos of the cathedral cat. The cathedral is free to go in. Make the most of it, guys, this is a cathedral, and what’s more, it’s FREE!

And across the Millennium Bridge….

To St. Paul’s Cathedral, where the Bishop of London was in the middle of rededicating the cathedral bells…

Along by the river…

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Past the Globe Theatre…

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The Houses of Parliament, under restoration and renovation…

The London Eye…

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Westminster Abbey..

Methodist Central Hall (good coffee shop in the basement)…

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Around Buckingham Palace…

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St. James’ Park…

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Kensington Palace…

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The Round Pond and Hyde Park – swans and geese everywhere!

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The Albert Memorial and Royal Albert Hall…

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Christo’s beautiful art installation in Hyde Park, called ‘The Mastaba’, and made out of over 7,000 oil drums…

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And more art at Carrie Riechardt’s mosaic house out at Chiswick, ‘The Treatment Rooms’…

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Piccadilly, St. James’ Church and Piccadilly Circus….

And not forgetting Trafalgar Square, and St. Martin-in-the-Fields….

And finally on Monday afternoon, the last place to visit was my most favouritest shop in all of London, Stanfords in Long Acre, near Leicester Square where they sell maps of every kind and every place and every style. Go there if you want to travel. Go there even if you don’t want to travel, and maybe you’ll get inspired. Could have spent a fortune, but restrained myself.  Had tea instead, lol.  Ah, I love that shop!

‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life’, so said Samuel Johnson in 1777 and it’s been true ever since. And for women too, of course. Tired of London? Ain’t gonna happen, I’m sure of that. As long as you have legs that carry you, you can walk around that great city seeing everything. And on a sunny September weekend, with blue skies, friends and fellowship to enjoy, what more can London do to make us smile?  Thank you London, and all my friends in London, you’ve done it again!  YES!

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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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!

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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…

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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.

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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…..

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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.

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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.

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

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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!

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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!