Easter 2017 @ Advent Church!

Christ is risen, Alleluia!

Our Easter celebrations started with the Easter Vigil last night, Easter Eve at 8:00 pm, and the lighting of the Easter fire outside in front of Advent Church.

The service started in candlelight….

And then all the candles were lit, and the Gospel reading was accompanied by 3 of our tallest students and church members as servers and carrying the cross…

The flowers were looking beautiful!

We were delighted to have 4 baptisms, 8-year-old Bo-Chang, whose aunt is a member of our church ~ he himself comes every day after school to do his homework, accompanied by one or two of our students…

And one of our alumni from 30 years ago, with 2 of his children – he attended our student fellowship at the time, and always regretted not being baptized before he graduated….

And here they all are with family and friends….

And so to Easter Day, and the big egg hunt after the service!

Happy Easter everyone, Christ is risen, Alleluia!

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Holy Week 2017

Maundy Thursday started at Advent Church with a special meal in the new church center.

After the meal we had the service of Holy Communion, including the washing of feet. Advent Church Rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang washed the feet of 2 of those preparing for baptism on Easter Eve, including 8-year-old Bo-Chang.

Rev. Wu Hsing-Hsiang celebrated Holy Communion, the Last Supper.

Good Friday 12 noon – a service of prayer and readings with a dramatic presentation of the Crucifixion Story….

‘It is finished’.

Today is Easter Eve – and we await with anticipation for Christ’s resurrection. Tonight we will have the Easter Vigil and baptisms, starting with the lighting of the Easter fire….

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鄭陳愛美姊妹追思感恩聖餐禮拜 R.I.P Mrs. Cheng Chen Ai-Mei

Our beloved church member, Mrs. Cheng Chen Ai-Mei 鄭陳愛美姊妹 (known to us as Cheng Mama 鄭媽媽) died on March 14, and this past Saturday was her Memorial Service in Advent Church.

Her cremation and burial of ashes took place a week after her death and this Memorial Service was for the church community and her wide circle of friends and colleagues to say goodbye.  It was also a Holy Communion Service, as is fitting for a family where all are Christians.  And what a service it was!  Advent Church was so full of people that we had to bring in extra chairs.  So many people had come to pay their last respects, to grieve, to bring comfort to the family, and to thank God for her wonderful life. And what a life it was. Cheng Mama was much-loved by everyone – and is much missed.

Cheng Mama came from a very big and very well-known Tamsui family. Her father Mr. Chen Ching-Chung 陳清忠校長 (1895-1960) was principal of TamKang High School, Tamsui and was responsible for introducing the sport of rugby into the school – and into the whole country.  The TamKang schools and colleges were founded by the first Presbyterian missionary to Taiwan, George L. Mackay.  Cheng Mama’s paternal grandfather, 陳火 Rev. Chen Huo (after he became a Christian he changed his name to Chen Rong-Hui 陳榮輝) was one of Mackay’s first students and converts, and became the first pastor of Xindian Presbyterian Church, Taipei.  Her great uncle, Chen Rong-Hui’s elder brother married Mackay’s elder daughter, Mary Ellen.

Cheng Mama spent most of her life worshiping in Tamsui Presbyterian Church, but her son, Paul and his family have been members of Advent Church for many many years, serving on the Vestry and in many leadership roles.  In recent years, his sister, Carol has joined us too.  We love them all so much!

Cheng Mama’s testimony is amazing.  She prayed faithfully for her husband for 49 years that he could become a Christian.  49 years!  Suddenly in 2009 at the grand old age of 86, through the ministry of our rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, Mr. Cheng made THE decision – yes, he was going to be baptized!  The Cheng parents then both started to attend Advent Church every week as long as they were able.  Mr. Cheng died on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2013 and his funeral was held in Advent Church a few weeks later (see that blog post here). Cheng Mama continued to come to Advent Church along with her family, until she became sick a few months ago.

Cheng Mama is lovingly remembered for the way she showed such great care and concern for all those in her family, and her friends, colleagues, classmates, church members and so many more.  Even when she couldn’t go out and meet them all, she would call up and keep in touch by phone.  Always smiling and giving thanks to God for his many blessings, she was a gift to us all.  One of her great friends was Tan Mama – this is the best photo I took of them both in Advent 2015, Cheng Mama on the right, Tan Mama on the left.

So we give thanks to Almighty God for Cheng Mama’s wonderful life and witness. We pray for her family and friends, and for us all, that the faith of those like Cheng Mama, who have gone before us, will continue to inspire and challenge us afresh.

May she rest in peace and rise in glory, Amen!

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Penghu 澎湖 ~ a great place for Children’s Day 兒童節 ~ and birthday celebrations!

Greetings to you all from Zhuwan 竹灣 Village, Penghu!

And Happy Children’s Day 兒童節 for April 4 from us all in Xiyu Presbyterian Church 西嶼長老教會, Penghu too!

Yes, April 1-4 this year was a 4-day weekend for us in Taiwan, officially for Tomb-Sweeping Festival and Children’s Day, and Penghu was THE place to be!  Sitting way out there in the middle of the ocean between Taiwan and Mainland China, the Penghu Islands are just screaming out to be visited ~ from the air they look like beautiful pearls glimmering in the blue sea.  Must-go, must-see!  The islands are volcanic basalt, all low-lying, and now that bridges connect the main central islands, they form a kind of horseshoe shape.  If you can get tickets (quite an achievement – much in demand), it’s only a short flight from Taiwan, flying into Magong (Makung 馬公) – the main city and administrative centre. Magong is also famous for the beautiful Rainbow Bridge….

Xiyu is the westernmost island of Penghu, and until 40-50 or so years ago, it was not connected to the other islands, so it must have been kinda isolated out there.  And windy. It’s still windy. Even on our visit it was windy.  Penghu is very famous for its winter N.E. monsoon winds ~ the kind of wind where motorbikes get blown over and you have to hold on to your hat – and children – to stop them blowing away!  Penghu is also famous for its military bases, for saying ‘no’ twice to casinos in referendums, for its firework festival in the summer, and for its tourists – it’s THE place to go for a few days in spring or summer – sun, surf and sea all in abundance.

My good friends, Feng-Mei and her family have been at Xiyu Presbyterian Church 西嶼長老教會 for the last 6 years, and this was my third visit to see them.  My first visit was in late summer of 2013, coinciding with 2 typhoons (my blog post of that visit is here – also an account of the history of Xiyu Presbyterian Church), and the second one was in July 2014 with my friends Mike and Harriet (blog post here) when the weather was wonderful!

Here we are, Feng-Mei, her husband, Rev. Lai 賴志泓, 2 daughters, a church member and us – that’s my good friends, Miao-Shia and Chung-Peng, from St. James’ Preschool, Taichung.  Feng-Mei was also one of our beloved St. James’ teachers until she left to join her husband, first in Tainan, now in Penghu… yes, we love her so much!

Miao-Shia and Chung-Peng arranged our visit, and managed to get air tickets for last Friday evening, flying from Taichung to Magong, a 40-minute flight.  Except that I live 5-hours away from Taichung Airport ha ha – so it took a while to get there!  A cold front arrived that afternoon and we took off in torrential rain.  Fortunately by the time we arrived in Penghu, the rain had gone, and by Saturday lunchtime, the sun was out and it was blue skies for all the rest of the time – with wind, wind and more wind.  Fun!

There are 11 villages on Xiyu Island and Xiyu Church is located on the hill above Zhuwan 竹灣 Village, and that is where the main services and Sunday School are held, it’s also where the Lai family live.  Being on a hill, it’s very windy on the north side, but the village itself is tucked away down the hill, out of the wind.  From a distance, the church looks a bit like a large snail!

Zhuwan Village is famous for it’s temple and for growing peanuts, hence Mr. Peanut Man sitting at the main entrance to the village.  I went down there early on Sunday, and we all early went on Monday.  Feng-Mei’s daughter goes to the village school, she came too and gave us a little tour!

There is another church building not far away, where they hold the youth group.  This church is 小池角禮拜堂 and this is the village nearby…..

And so began a busy weekend! We were honoured to help Feng-Mei with their youth group on Saturday night – some who come are church members, but most are not. It’s a great outreach. We shared with the youth about mission, and about our trip to Tanzania – Feng-Mei and Miao-Shia came with me to Tanzania in 2005. Feng-Mei’s testimony about that trip is quite amazing – and so are the photos!  The youth group were great, and the worship leader had even prepared a prayer in English!  We finished with a group photo, that’s me trying to get them into a ‘mission pose’ – whatever that might be!

And so to Sunday at the main church in Zhuwan Village. The children who come with their families for Sunday worship go upstairs for a Sunday School session after the Praise and Worship down in the church – so we sang a few songs with the children, while downstairs there was a communion service…

Every Sunday afternoon, there is a really great Sunday School outreach program in the church – with games, praise songs, prayers and activities – we shared about Children’s Day, making little people cut-outs, like I had done at Laomei Elementary School last week – and Feng-Mei shared about how God loves all the children of the world.  Our teacher, Chung-Peng is the St. James’ Preschool Most Amazing Dancer, she is just so natural, so she led the children in praise dance.  Ah, it was such fun!

Also on Xiyu Island is Erkan Village 二崁 where the houses are beautifully preserved and much visited during the summer by tourists. Many of the local people open their homes to the visitors and make the most of the business opportunities available!  This was the scene on Sunday late afternoon…. Feng-Mei’s daughter was delighted to show me the small statue with his bare tummy and bare bottom on show!

And in-between, we had a lot of meals, coffee, paddles, chat and fun, and a delicious meal on Sunday night, kindly hosted by Rev. Wu!  The family rabbit was happy too!

And on Monday, it was my birthday and they had planned all sorts of exciting things – starting with a breakfast of long-life noodles (don’t break ’em and you can live for at least 2 centuries) and a visit to the Whale Cave on Xiaomen Islet 小門嶼. The nice lady gave me a free birthday egg with my noodles too.  Oh yes, and we had yummy red cactus fruit ice-cream at the end…

And so to the big birthday event – lunch at the White Bay Restaurant 白灣景觀餐廳澎 in 湖縣湖西鄉林投村 Huxi, Penghu, where the staff were wonderful and the food was great, and all followed by cake and grand present opening.  Feng-Mei supplied the outfit…..

I didn’t realise that Feng-Mei’s husband was filming me singing and distributing sweets to everyone in the restaurant, and then searching for a mirror to see what I looked like. This is a 53-second edited version of the whole 8 minutes!

Thanks to Feng-Mei for the 3 photos above.  And so to the beach – and a little shopping!

And Tuesday morning, yesterday, we were up bright and early for breakfast at Waian, the largest and southernmost of the 11 villages on Xiyu, and a visit to the lighthouse and a few scenic spots, finishing with coffee at Erkan…

By lunchtime, we were back at Magong Airport and on our way home to Taiwan – having had such a great time!

Of course it was the in-between times that were some of the funniest.  And one of the funniest was always Feng-Mei’s youngest daughter, who just loves to dress up and pose for photos.  The 2 children are so lovely!

A big big thank you to Feng-Mei and her family for their wonderful welcome, gracious hospitality, time and energy, and to Chung-Peng and Miao-Shia for their fun company on such a great visit.  Penghu is indeed a beautiful place, and such lovely people.  Please do pray for Penghu, for the churches, pastors, church members, outreach and especially for Xiyu Presbyterian Church and all the ministry there. There’s lots happening!

And thanks be to Almighty God for His many blessings – and a fun birthday!

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Spring has Sprung @ Sanzhi 三芝!

Yes, the cherry blossom is finally out, the azaleas too, and the swallows are back and starting nest-building.  The local council has planted 17,000 cherry blossom trees around and about, and after a slow start, yes they’re out.  Even more importantly, the sun is out too, and that improves things considerably!

We’ve had a slow start to spring, apparently due to the fact that the cold weather took so long to arrive.  Still, it’s here now, and we’re enjoying every minute of the sunshine ~ so wishing you all a happy spring!

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Happy Children’s Day 兒童節 in Laomei Village 石門鄉老梅!

Laomei Elementary School 老梅國小 is in Shimen Township on Taiwan’s northern tip, and on a sunny day in spring and summer it’s beautiful.  The rest of the time, sadly it is not. The rain lashes down in buckets, the wind blows in great big gusts, and the children are well-used to spending endless days indoors.   But surprise, surprise, after a very wet weekend, suddenly yesterday was beautiful, the sun was out and it was warm!

Laomei Beach is famous for its Algal Reef 老梅綠色石槽, formed from wave-cut volcanic lava and every year covered in bright green algae, especially in April – May, and best seen at low tide.

Yesterday morning was not low tide, but the algal reef was really starting to look very green! Great!

The village was also looking quite cheerful with the sun out.  Many of the residents are elderly, but the people are tough, and very committed to their village. It’s in the danger zone for the Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant, so there are notices all over. The centre of village life is the old people’s activity centre, located on the ground floor of the temple….

It so happened I was spending the morning at Laomei School…

The children were enjoying the weather….

In honour of Children’s Day, celebrated in Taiwan on April 4, we were learning a little about children around the world.  We used an excellent You Tube Video, Scenes From Schools Around the World and we learned the song, Hello to all the Children in the World – a great way to introduce the subject.  At the end we made some cut-out children with the greetings in different languages written on them, and got each class together for a group photo….

See how the declining birth rate is affecting Laomei School?  A few years ago, the top classes had 30+ children, now down to less than 20, and the younger classes have less than 10…. they are all so lovely, of course!

Happy Children’s Day to all the children of Laomei ~ and to all the children of the world!

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Happy Birthday Tan Baba ~ 97 or 98 or even 99?

Yes, big celebrations last night for Tan Baba’s birthday and I was invited too, yippee!  All the Tan family were there, plus lots of friends from far and wide.  The Tan family are members of Advent Church, ah, we all love them so much ~ and unlike other elderly people who go to bed early, Tan Mama and Tan Baba live life more like teenagers, often going to bed after midnight, so an evening birthday party just suited them fine!

And so we had a wonderful meal, cooked by all the different family members – and then the important question came with the birthday cake candles – exactly what birthday was Tan Baba celebrating?  He maintained he was now 99.  Chinese custom says 98, and western custom says 97.  Wisely the family had bought a cake with 2 candles, a ‘9’ and a ‘?’ so we could all celebrate whatever age we liked!

Whatever age, Happy Birthday Tan Baba ~ and many congratulations!

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