50th Anniversary Celebrations @ St. John’s University, Taiwan 聖約翰科技大學50週年校慶!

An amazing week of 50th anniversary celebrations ~ and many many congratulations to St. John’s University.  This is the grand blowing out of the candles and cutting of the cake!

But first a bit of history….

‘St. John’s University, Taiwan (SJU) is the successor institution of the former St. John’s University and St. Mary’s Hall in Shanghai, two well-known education institutions founded in 1879 and 1881 respectively, by Bishop S. I. Joseph Schereschewsky of the American Episcopal Church.  St. John’s University, Taiwan was founded in 1967, initially as a five-year Junior College of Industry named in Chinese after its location, Hsin-pu (新埔), and in English known as St. John’s & St. Mary’s Institute of Technology (SJSMIT).  In 2005, it was upgraded to university status and became known as St. John’s University.  Its foundation was in large part due to the untiring effort and vision of Rt. Rev. James C. L. Wong, Bishop of Taiwan 1965-70.  The university chapel, ‘The Bishop James Wong Memorial Chapel’, also known as Advent Church, is located on the campus, and Bishop James Wong is buried under the altar. St. John’s University is an active member of CUAC (Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion) and the only such Anglican / Episcopal university in Taiwan; in fact it is unique in being the only Anglican / Episcopal Chinese-medium university in the world’.

On April 26, 1967, the Ministry of Education officially notified SJSMIT that they could start to recruit students for their 5-year junior college courses. The school dates its foundation from that day. Bishop Wong’s death on April 27, 1970 means that the last week of April is always a special week of celebration, remembrance and thanksgiving.

So we warmly welcomed a group of very sprightly and energetic alumni, all aged over 85, from the original St. John’s University, Shanghai, and the first group of alumni from SJSMIT, now mostly aged about 65, and also a reunion for those SJSMIT alumni who graduated 30 years ago this year.   We welcomed representatives from our sister schools around the world too, many from Mainland China and Hong Kong.  It was a special honour for us to welcome the Archbishop of Hong Kong, Paul Kwong (鄺保羅) who is also currently the chair of the Anglican Consultative Council, and Rev. Canon Edmund Der 謝博文法政牧師 and his wife Margaret, Mrs. Chee Ming Lee. Rev. Der was  SJSMIT Vice-President from 1972-76.  They are originally from Hong Kong, and their son, Rev. Matthias Der is dean of St. John’s Cathedral, Hong Kong.  They have so many friends in Taiwan!  Here they are, Archbishop Paul Kwong, Rev. and Mrs. Der seated, with 3 of their (and our) good friends, including Mrs. Chao and Ms. Liang…

The 50th anniversary celebration week was launched on Tuesday April 24 with a lecture by former President of Taiwan, Ma Ying-Jeou, who started his visit by planting a cherry tree at the SJU main entrance….

On Wednesday, a special Thanksgiving Service was held in Advent Church, in thanksgiving for the SJU 50th anniversary, and for the life and dedication of our founder, Bishop James Wong.  The service is an annual event, but this year was extra-special as it was our 50th anniversary.  Bishop Lai unfortunately was unable to come, so he was represented by Mr. Richard Hu, chair of the diocesan standing committee.  We invited clergy from northern Taiwan to attend ~ Rev. Peter Chen and Rev. Elizabeth Wei, Rev. Philip Lin and his wife, and Rev. Lily Chang all came; as well as students who receive scholarships given in Bishop Wong’s memory, plus some members of Advent Church, faculty and staff. Our student fellowship choir sang and helped in the service….

After the service, in the Advent Church Center, our rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang hosted the grand opening of a special 50th anniversary art exhibition ~ paintings and calligraphy of his Fu-Jen University classmate in the maths department, Ms. Tseng Hsiang-Yun (曾祥雲).  She came with her husband and many friends and classmates for the service and opening. Her paintings are beautiful, in traditional Chinese style, so colorful and exquisite, and people were particularly enthusing about her calligraphy skills.  Lennon had also invited our friends from neighboring Xian-Xiao Junior-High School to come too ~ a big welcome! Here they are with Ms. Tseng and SJU President Ai.

It was followed by lunch for all ~ I couldn’t resist taking photos of all the delicious food!

And a farewell photo of our northern clergy and friends as they left for home…

On Wednesday afternoon, SJU held the annual fun run, 3.5 km – around by the sea.  A group of about 20 of us from the chaplaincy and student fellowship entered.  The heavens opened just as we were about to start, so we delayed about 20 minutes and then started the run. But half way round, the rain came down again and we were all well and truly soaked through.  Ah, but it was great fun!  This is the ‘before’ ~ with SJU President Ai…

And ‘after’ ~ all soaking wet, but still smiling!

And the ‘in-between’….

The rain continued all day Thursday, but suddenly Friday dawned bright and sunny.  It was beautiful!  All classes were cancelled for this special day ~ an all-day Sports Day to celebrate the SJU 50th anniversary.  The grand opening started with a lion dance performance from 2 local elementary schools, and then followed by processions of representatives from every university department ~ and the SJU flag presentation.

The faculty and staff sports events were held in the morning, the students in the afternoon. We entered in the dragon boat race and the 11-legged race (yep, that’s 10 people in a long line, legs all tied together!)  We came mostly last in every race ha ha!  Next time, we’ll know better – for an 11-legged race, make sure everyone is more or less the same height!

It was hot and sunny, and oh such a great day!

And so to Saturday, and the main official SJU celebrations.  What amazing weather!  Early morning there was a fun run for the local community, the same route as on Wednesday, but this time under blue skies and sun.  We didn’t enter that one, we were still recovering from the run in the rain a few days earlier!  The VIP visitors, all the alumni from St. John’s University, Shanghai and SJSMIT, plus the Deputy Mayor of New Taipei City, Mr. Hou You-Yi (侯友宜) and local community leaders, Archbishop Kwong, Rev. Edmund Der and his wife, Rev. Charles C. T. Chen and his wife, former SJU president Chen Jean-Lien, past and present members of the SJU board of Trustees, including former dean of St. John’s Cathedral, Rev Samuel Y. C. Lin and so many more, all gathered on the campus ready to start the main celebration event at 11:00 am.

Former President of Taiwan, Ma Ying-Jeou also came, and he was greeted by our SJU President Ai on arrival, who introduced him to his research expertise ~ solar-powered cars, which had been brought along for the occasion from the Kaohsiung University of Applied Sciences.   They are quite amazing!  Then followed the formal proceedings and the grand cutting of the birthday cake, and lunch. Outside the students were enjoying lots of stalls and food and fun and music.

The VIP visitors enjoyed a formal banquet on Saturday evening at the Grand Hotel, Taipei, but for us, the final event was our student fellowship serving in the Sunday morning service at Advent Church.  For some it was their first time to take part in a church service. They were so nervous, but so willing to help, and yes, did a great job!

Thanks be to God for such wonderful weather over this past weekend as we celebrated the 50th anniversary of St. John’s University ~ YES, it made all the difference!

Thanks for everyone who planned, orchestrated and joined in the celebrations from far and wide, including our visitors in this photo – sent to me by Bishop Lai, of him with Archbishop Kwong and President Ma.

And finally, in deep gratitude and thanksgiving to Almighty God for the past 50 years ~ and we pray for God’s guidance and blessing on the next 50 years too!

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Yes! Celebrating 10 Exciting Years of Sister-School Partnership: St. James, Taichung and Cambridge-Ellis, Boston!

Really quite amazing!  10 years of partnership!  YES!

Y’know, partnerships between schools in different countries are famous for lasting a few years and then dying out.  Sometimes they’ve just run their course. Sometimes they’ve depended too much on one particular person, so when that person leaves, it’s all over.  Or sometimes the money runs out.  Or the enthusiasm.  Or whatever.

So it’s really quite amazing that the sister-school partnership between St. James, Taichung and Cambridge-Ellis (CES), Boston is still going strong after 10 years.  Yes, it’s ten whole years this year!  During that time, lots of teachers have been to visit in both directions, and even I’ve had the chance to visit CES twice, most recently in May 2014 (see my report of that visit here).  So it was with great excitement that last week we welcomed 3 VIP visitors from CES, including their very lovely principal, Gerlinde, on her first ever visit ~ here to celebrate our 10 years anniversary!

And it all started 10+ years ago with Wan-Ching, a former student of St. James’ Kindergarten who grew up and moved to the USA, and actually worked at CES.  CES has a language program which includes Mandarin Chinese, and Wan-Ching suggested CES could connect up with St. James, her alma-mater here in Taichung, Taiwan.  She linked up the CES director at the time, Jenifer Demko and the then rector (now Rector Emeritus) of St. James, Rev. Charles C. T. Chen.  Thank you Wan-Ching!  And so the connection was made, and a partnership came into being, formally signed in March 2007. Charles and Jenifer are both wonderful people of huge vision and determination, with big dreams and ideas, and thrive on trying new things.  But even they could not have predicted that we would have had such a successful 10 years together!

And so to celebrate this great milestone, we invited Gerlinde to come and visit ~ and she chose last week to come.  YES!  She brought Qiaoling, in charge of the CES Mandarin Chinese program and a great friend and support for all our teachers who have visited CES. Qiaoling just loved all the Taiwan food and was invited to so many meals here that even she couldn’t keep up! In fact she arrived in Taiwan a whole 12 hours early, which meant she could fit in extra meals with everyone.  She is just so popular!  Gerlinde also brought along her very charming and handsome husband, who kept us so well-entertained, always with a story to tell, or a cool pose for photos ~ there was never a dull moment all week! For all 3, it was their very first visit to St. James, in fact their first visit to Taiwan.  We LOVED having them here……  aren’t they oh so photogenic?!

And what did we do all week?  A tour of the St. James’ campus, meetings, classes, a lecture from Gerlinde ~ and meals with Rev. Charles Chen and MaryJo, our senior warden Samuel and supervisor Luanne, Preschool principal Susan, Language Institute director Yu-Mei, language teacher Jerry and his wife Jean, and St. James’ rector, Rev. Lily Chang (and we met her lovely 90-year-old mother too!), plus so many others.  They met tons of people and enjoyed having fun with children of every age.  Smiles and fun and laughter and of course, photos.  Photos galore.  For sure! Everyone at St. James was so happy to welcome them, and they were so gracious and kind and smiled all day at everyone!  On Wednesday last week, Luanne also organised us all to go to Puli and Sun Moon Lake for the day, including the famous Puli ice-cream, mushroom farm and wine factory ~ and then TungHai University and Taichung City in the evening. Plus they went on a tour of the brand new theatre in Taichung (for Jerry’s account of that visit, see here).  And for the grande finale, there was a farewell party on Thursday night, followed by a very lively visit to the night market ~ just don’t ask about that stinky tofu!

And a group photo at the farewell party of most of the people who’ve ever been to CES and their families, and those hoping to go this coming year….

I had the honour of being with our VIP guests all week, and on Friday brought them to Taipei to meet Bishop Lai and Mrs. Lily Lai….

And then for some sightseeing all around the great city of Taipei over the weekend.  CKS Memorial, Taipei 101, JianGuo Flower and Jade Markets, Grand Hotel and National Palace Museum.  All checked off the list.  Mostly all in the rain too.  Ah, but it was fun! Extra fun was that we invited former St. James’ teacher, Tiger and her husband to join us, they actually met in Boston, all due to our link with CES!  And 3 of the St. James’ teachers came to Taipei too to join us on Saturday, and for some of them it was clear that they had seen more of Boston than they had of their own capital city lol!

So a big big thank you to Gerlinde and her wonderful VIP group for coming to Taiwan, for their gifts, their enthusiasm, their time and energy, their stories and their fun!  It was such a great week.  CES is having their own 10th anniversary celebration in a few weeks time, and Rev. Charles Chen and his wife, MaryJo are planning on being there, representing St. James.  YES!  Thanks to all at St. James for all their planning, their welcome and hospitality, it was all amazing.  And thanks be to Almighty God for his many blessings on our partnership with CES over these past 10 years.

And here’s to the next 10 years, YES YES YES!

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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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