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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Taiwan's Landscapes (A Picture Post) {台灣的風景(圖片)}

This weekend I went up to Taipei to visit a friend of mine. On the way back, I took pictures from the window of the bus. Here is what I saw:

Leaving Taipei (台北) but before Hsinchu (新竹)





 

 





Taichung (台中)

Taichung (台中)

 


Nearing Chiayi (嘉義)
 
Nearing Chiayi (嘉義)

Nearing Chiayi (嘉義)

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Living and Serving in Christ: Spring Retreat 2015

Last weekend, after classes were over, team Taiwan loaded into two large vans and started the drive down to Kenting for our spring retreat.

Since we never arrive until late, Friday night usually just consists of a short devotion and then a run through of the game plan for the next day. This year was no different. After handing out room keys and setting our backpacks inside, we gathered in a the courtyard between the rooms. Emily was in charge of designing and leading the Bible times this year. And that first night, she came out and sat down holding a stack of envelopes that looked like letters. She explained as she passed them out that often times, with the verses and headings in the Bible, it can be easy to forget that the epistles were all originally letters from one person to another person or group of people. So she had put together Colossians as a letter. No verse numbers. No headings. Folded it up. And put it into an envelope. She asked that we all find time to read it at some point on our own before Bible study the next morning. Session adjourned. The next day's schedule was laid out for us, and we were all dismissed. It was a pleasant night out, so I quickly stole off for a quick glimpse of the moonlit sea. Others headed into town. Some headed to their rooms. And a few sat in the courtyard chatting.

Usually on retreat I wake up extra early to go exploring before we meet as a team, but this year was different. I decided to just take it easy (and let's face it, I've already explored a lot of the strip of Kenting around the youth hostel since we have retreat there every spring and it's not all that large of place). After waking up, I ambled out to my favorite rock jetting out into the sea. It was still early enough that a few fishermen (and women) could be seen either out on other rocks or in their boats off the shore. The weather this year was probably the nicest it's ever been. Not too hot. Not too humid. And a lovely, playful breeze to keep the temperature just right even with the sun shining. Sitting on my rock, I pulled out the letter from Paul to the Colossians and read through it. It's interesting to me how much the formatting of something written can effect how you read it. Then I climbed down and did a quick loop through the town. Most of the places were still closed since it was before 9am and Kenting (as does most of Taiwan) has much more of a nightlife than a morning one.

The team was all supposed to gather together at 9am to start our morning activities of Bible study followed by a team session on purpose and mission. Our mornings study was entitled "Christ is All and in All" and we talked about what it means to be in Christ, which Paul talks about a lot in this letter. As Christians we are not only in Christ, but then we also hope to share Him with those around us. (It made me think of the passage: "I [Jesus] am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5). Someone pointed out that this is an ongoing process not something you just do once and then can check it off your list. It includes daily sacrificing our will to God's. And this brought up the idea that it is in Christ that we are free. Which then brought up a quote from C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters where Screwtape writes,  

“Of course I know that the Enemy also wants to detach men from themselves, but in a different way. Remember always, that He really likes the little vermin, and sets an absurd value on the distinctness of every one of them. When He talks of their losing their selves, He only means abandoning the clamour of self-will; once thy have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever. Hence, while He is delighted to see them sacrificing even their innocent wills to His, He hates to seem them drifting away from their own nature for any other reason.” (65)

Through Jesus we are free from sin. We are free to be the creatures that God designed us to be. After our Bible study we had a brainstorming session about our purpose and mission here in Taiwan. Who are we [as Team Taiwan]? Why are we here [in Taiwan]? What do we do? How do we do it? These were some of the questions we were looking at and talking about. The goal was to come up with some sort of a vision statement specifically for our team. We were broken into groups and started there. As time progressed our groups continued to be combined until we were just one large group sharing and combining ideas. It was good opportunity for discussion. And before you knew it, it was time for lunch. 

Singing some songs before having our Bible study

Looking at what individual groups came up with for answers to the questions: Who? What? Why? How?
 Although we were assigned to different groups for lunch, after we were done eating, the afternoon was ours to do with as we pleased. Some people napped. Others walked. Some read. And we all met up again around 6pm to head over to Smokey Joe's (a spring retreat tradition) for some Tex-Mex (or as close to Tex-Mex as you can get in Taiwan). The sky was threatening rain, so some people walked (bringing along umbrellas) and others rode in one of the vans. Kenting actually has three Smokey Joe's restaurants, so there was a bit of a mix up as to which one we had our reservation at, but it was easily cleared up and a nice night for a walk, so it all worked out alright in the end. After dinner we returned to the hostel to toast and share memories about the people who will be moving on to other activities next year. And then again the evening was ours. 

Sunday morning was another beautiful day! We walked over to a spot behind the hostel near the sea to take some team photos and have our final Bible study. This one was called, "Ministry has a Ripple Effect." We learned a bit about some of the other people that Paul mentions in the letter. Then we discussed what the function of each of those people were with in the idea of a group. How does that look in Team Taiwan? Each of us have different gifts and different strengths. Are we using them to the greatest advantage? Are we supporting one another? After a brief lunch, we loaded up the vans and started the drive back to Chaiyi. Before ending at campus, we stopped at church for a short service. Then it was back to the PH for pizza. And the retreat concluded. 



"Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long suffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." Colossians 3:12-17



Friday, April 17, 2015

God's Love Remains: The Story of Jonah

For O.S.F. last night, we looked at the story of Jonah. And we did this in a variety of ways.

Watching the video
First, the kids watched a short LEGO video telling the story of Jonah. The sound wasn't perfectly balanced, and sometimes the dialogue was hard to hear over the music that was playing, but it got the main points of the story across. After watching, I asked the kids what they remembered. Answers included: A man was eaten by a fish. He went to a city. [There was a] Pirate ship. And this allowed us to discuss a little about why these things happened in the movie. Why was Jonah eaten by a fish? How long was he in the fish? Which city? Why was he supposed to go there? Why was he on a boat?

Then, as a group we read through "A Whale of a Tale", a skit by Bob Latchaw. I divided the students into groups of two to five kids, so that no one was stuck reading by themselves. And then we started. The narrators did a great job reading! So did one of my Jonah boys. As we read, we stopped to talk about what was happening in the story. But all in all, they did well. After reading as a group, we tried reading through it with one or two kids on each part, and when it was their turn to speak, they'd stand up.

Jonah and the sailors

Our narrators.
Once we'd finished reading and discussing the skit, we listened to "One Thing Remains" by Jesus Culture. We talked about how God loves us and is compassionate.

We ended with snack, and then the kids were free to return to their dorms. It's been great this year to see so many faces at O.S.F. They're a good group of kids always willing to participate. I'm thankful to be a part of the group!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Why Do We Celebrate Easter?

Why do we celebrate Easter? 

(or... in the cases of multiple days/classes this week the even simpler question of: What are we celebrating today?)

This has been a question that I've asked a lot this week as we've been celebrating Easter with our students at school. No. Easter isn't a Taiwanese holiday. It's viewed as an American holiday and therefore a fun way to share American culture. But it's also a great way to share some very good news!

This week K1, K3, E1, CE5, CE6, and E6 have all had their Easter festivities. The kindergarteners dyed Easter eggs, participated in an Easter egg hunt, and had a craft. E1 talked about the Easter Bible story as well as all the aforementioned activities. And CE5, CE6, and E6 dyed Easter eggs along with reading the Easter story and watching an Easter movie. In E6 we were also able to talk a little bit about how Jerusalem is a real place - the temple, the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane. These are all places you can visit. It makes the story more tangible.

So, sure it's fun. And yes, Easter is a "traditional American holiday." But why do we celebrate Easter?

Well, my younger students had a variety of answers:

"Candy!"

Well, yes. Candy is involved. In the States we often have Easter baskets or eggs filled with chocolate and jelly beans.

"Eggs!"

Students knew that they'd be dying eggs. They were also familiar with Easter egg hunts. So surely eggs must be the reason we celebrate.

"Jesus died!" 

That's half of the answer. 

One of my first graders, after saying Jesus died and seeing from the look on my face that he was close, but now quite there added, "And three more days and He [Jesus] was okay."

It's no real surprise to me that my younger students don't really understand why Easter is a holiday. I wonder if I were to ask American children the same question if their answers would be all that different. But it was nice to be able to share the real reason we have Easter as well. Jesus is risen!

Jesus, God's Son, was born at Christmas (another holiday that here in Taiwan is recognized for things like Santa, trees, and presents, but not so much as Jesus' birthday). He lived perfectly - which we can't do. He died for our sins on the cross. Because of that we have a direct line to God now. Being God's Son though, Jesus didn't stay dead. He conquered death for us. Three days after being put in the tomb, Jesus was alive again! And He'd go on to ascend into heaven to prepare a place for all those who believe in Him. That's the reason we celebrate Easter. Through Jesus all of us have new life.

Some of the CE6 girls coloring on their eggs before dying them.

Interestingly enough, yellow and red were very popular colors this year!

Some of the finished CE6 eggs

Dying eggs with the CE5 students

Some of my K1 students drawing on their eggs before dying them

Dying their eggs!

E6 students dying their eggs


Their finished products

"The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay." Matthew 28:5-6

天 使 對 婦 女 說 : 不 要 害 怕 ! 我 知 道 你 們 是 尋 找 那 釘 十 字 架 的 耶 穌 。 他 不 在 這 裡 , 照 他 所 說 的 , 已 經 復 活 了 。 你 們 來 看 安 放 主 的 地 方 。馬 太 福 音 28:5-6