聖方濟安老院開幕慶活動 Grand Opening Day @ St. Francis Care Home, Toucheng, Yilan!

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An amazing morning spent at an amazing place, at the Grand Opening Celebrations of St. Francis Care Home 聖方濟安老院 in Toucheng, Yilan County 宜蘭縣頭城鎮 YES!

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Last Christmas, under the leadership of Rev. Lennon Chang, the charity bazaar and fundraising efforts organized by St. John’s University Chaplaincy raised NT$ 340,000 (US$ 10,350 / £ 6,985) for St. Francis Care Home.  At the end of December, a large group of us from the chaplaincy and Advent Church went there to present the donation to Sr. Betty, who had kindly come to visit us to share about their ministry.  For my blog post about that visit, and the amazing way in which all that money was raised, click here, the background story is quite inspiring!

Sr. Betty is from the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, who serve at the home. Today she was with a group of students from Fu-Jen R. C. University in Taipei, who are helping Sr. Betty with the computer classes, held in one of the classrooms in the day centre, and here we all are!

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The actual consecration service of the new St. Francis Care Home is on Sunday August 21 at 5:00 pm.  Today was the Grand Opening Celebration, with the local mayor and community leaders, church leaders, volunteers and the general public.  There was a bazaar going on all morning, run by different community and church groups, selling all sorts of delicious things to eat and drink, plus sales of second hand clothes etc etc.  Starting at 9:30 am, there were the official opening celebrations, with performances of drums, lion dancers, local choirs, kindergarten children, church groups; each group was presented with a certificate of thanks.  Somewhere in the middle of the morning, VIPs from St. Francis Home (including Sr. Isobel) and local dignitaries gathered at the main entrance to do the ribbon-cutting ceremony ~ YES, it was OPEN!

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To get to Toucheng from here in time for 9:30 am requires an early start ~ the first bus out of Sanzhi at 5:30 am, MRT to Taipei, then on the fast train going to Hualien – it stops at Toucheng, but as there were no seats left, I had to stand all the way. 90 minutes standing actually wasn’t too bad, and worth it to get there on time.  I arrived at the church and care home exactly at 9:30 am, just as the convoy of drummers and lion dancers was arriving – behind them was a whole line of the world’s largest motorbikes and the world’s toughest-looking bikers, and behind them were tons of cyclists. They had all ridden over from Yilan to show their support for the care home on it’s opening day.

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I’d only been there 5 minutes when I was amazed to be recognized by a family whose children had been with me at St. James’ Kindergarten, Taichung many years ago ~ how’s that for a small world eh?!  Nadia is now 25 and just finished graduate school, she and her mother could remember all the teachers from St. James by name, and Nadia goes back there every Christmas for the scholarship presentations ~ and here we are!

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And how come Nadia and her family were there today?  Well, it turns out that Nadia’s mother comes from Toucheng and their family home is just behind St. Francis Care Home! St Francis Home does a lot of outreach ministry with local seniors, and Nadia’s aunt is one of the volunteers at St. Francis.  Nadia’s grandmother, a very sprightly 85-year-old, was on the stage performing with the seniors group, she’s the one here in the stripey shirt, right in the front!

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St. Francis Care Home is beautiful.  Really beautiful.  It’s very functional, spacious, and with lots of artistic and creative touches.  The large wall painting of Jesus at the resurrection with the empty tomb is spectacular.

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So are the glass doors at the main entrance.  Just outside the main entrance is a wall painting of the local area, with a list of donors on it, including us – St. John’s University Chaplaincy.  That’s what I’m pointing to here, with the administrator….

As we walked round on the guided tour, all we could hear were exclamations of ‘wow’ and ‘oooh!’ and ‘aah!’ as we saw all the facilities.  Not everything is finished, but most it.  The building will eventually be home to about 40 residents, 4 of them have moved in so far.

And so, a few photos of the day!

We pray for God’s blessing upon the ministry of St. Francis Care Home as they care for the poorest of the poor in the Toucheng area, for the residents, the staff, Sr. Betty and all the church workers.  Thanks be to Almighty God, may His name be praised!

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