Saturday, December 27, 2008

Sharing the Christmas Story in Taiwanese Schools II

 lorne xmas4This year provided many opportunities for all of us here to share about the meaning of Christmas in the different settings where we volunteer on the western coast of central Taiwan. For me personally, I shared different parts of the Christmas Story over the course of 3 weeks at the Flying Sands Elementary School. We also talked about the cultural aspects of Christmas, and played Christmas Bingo.

For three weeks we've read Christmas stories, played games, and (as of earlier today) talked about New Year's at the English Class that meets in my home on Saturday afternoons.

I was especially happy to welcome team member Lorne to my class at the Mouth-of-the-Lake Middle School, where he shared the Christmas Story with application, taught other vocabulary, and led Christmas charades.

I was also happy to join Lorne and his wife for a celebration in their home in Baojhong last Saturday night. Forty (!) of Lorne's students attended for a good time of games, food, and singing (Lorne had previously shared different parts of the Christmas Story spread over several weeks in the classroom). Coworker Fungyee, gifted in evangelism though soft-spoken, had the opportunity to share Christ at length to a couple mothers who attended.

On the morning of Christmas Eve, I accompanied Pastor Mike of the Beigang Conservative Baptist Church to a small elementary school in a remote village in his home county. Very few of the students had ever met a foreigner before. There I shared the cultural aspects as well as a powerpoint Christmas Story prepared by coworker Penny (including the rest of the story) to the entire student body of 130 split into halves over two hours.  Since we were there not just to celebrate a birthday party, Pastor Mike (who is also related to the principal) shared the Good News even more directly, homing in on the meaning and effect of Christ's birth to all men, with personal application in Chinese. Before the noon meal, I was invited to say a prayer of thanks, with Mike translating.

On a sidenote, the most unique aspect of that last appointment was witnessing an intense emotional outburst by a young, high IQ but low EQ male teacher in the principal's office while we were having tea after lunch. The reason for his being upset had nothing to do with us, and it seemed very strange for us to be there witnessing it. The Chinese have a proverb about airing one's dirty laundry in front of outsiders -- - 家醜不可外揚 jiā chǒu bù kě wài yáng -- so his outburst was all the more unusual. The whole time I sat there wondering why God had arranged for us to be there during that time.

That wasn't the only unexpected event in my Christmas activities calendar. My final event for Christmas -- having the English Club at Four Lakes Elementary School over for an Open House at Don and Rachel's home on Christmas Eve-- had to be canceled that very day due to their son Mark' s acute shunt-related headache forcing him to be hospitalized several days leading up to Christmas. In their prayer letter today, Don and Rachel thanked everyone for praying: "an unexplained shunt blockage, and an unexplained clearly flowing shunt....God gave us our Christmas "miracle. " As of Christmas day,  their son was home and fine, and now they now have a much better plan in place for the future should the need surface again to seek medical treatment in this remote area.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Off for Mandatory Military Service

sakray Tonight my neighbor's 20 year-old son dropped by to say goodbye before he heads off for 3 weeks of basic training as he commences his mandatory military service. For basic training, he'll be in nearby Chiayi County, but he doesn't know where he'll be stationed after that.

I asked a blessing for God's protection and the peace of Jesus for Sakray.

Sakray feels lucky because he only has to serve for one year. When I first came on-island 11 years ago, the term was for 2 or 2 1/2 years and before that it was longer. When Sakray's brother Ben, an elementary school student, reaches age 20, Taiwan will probably have already done away with its mandatory service obligation.

Hiking with Formosa Plastics on Mount DaDong

 hike1 Last Saturday I joined my neighbor Wu Hai Qin to hike again with some of his coworkers from Formosa Plastics. This time we went to Mount Dadong, elevation 1975 meters, very close to Ali Mountain, and almost just as high an elevation (so I don't feel like I need to go to Ali Mountain quite so much now).

The weather was much cooler than my last hike last spring, and we hiked a little farther (though still only 9 km). hike3 With a some kids along this time, and some of the men who usually hike tougher trails absent or out of shape, I hiked faster than most of the folks this time around. But one guy was really "li4hai4": he carried his baby the whole way on hihike2s back both up and down the  mountain and finished in front of most of us!

Light in the Gloomy Darkness

 road2Yesterday afternoon after completing prep-work for this month's English classes in Western Yunlin, Taiwan, I emerged from hiding to discover that what has passed for a road (mostly dirt) in front of my house the last few months is even  less passable than before.

 

 

road3They've removed 3 feet of dirt, not leveling what remains, so that now it is impossible even to drive my scooter  back to my house at night, not to mention a car. To say the least, things look rather bleak outside, especially at night, since even the  street lights have been out of commission in recent weeks.

road4

To brighten up the gloomy-looking neighborhood, xmas lightsI've decorated the small tree in front of my house, put up a string of Christmas lights on my second floor, and have another small tree inside. Although they're not much, may God use the colored lights to impart a sense of the hope we are reminded of in Christ every year this time of year:

 "But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish....The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined." Isaiah 9

Monday, December 1, 2008

Another Good Day of Community Interaction

Sunday provided another good time of informal interaction with various residents of my town here. First, in the morning, I visited the breakfast shop run by the parents of Chris and Jerry (renamed himself as of last week), two of the new kids that started coming to my Saturday English activity 2 Saturdays ago. Two other boys who visited for the first time Saturday were also there. Since their parents run a rice shop right next door to the breakfast shop, I went back in the evening for a bowl of chicken rice and a serving of seaweed, supposedly good for the hair!

Before coming home, I stopped by to say hello at the seafood restaurant, where the Laoban told me for the first time himself that his wife was in the hospital. I'm hopeful that God will provide our team an opportunity to pray with her for divine healing in the name of Jesus Christ. On the way back over here, I passed by Lily (another of my Saturday kids) and her mom on their scooter and chatted with them at a couple of red lights.

Arriving back at my front door, Da2Guan1, the middle school son of the beef noodle soup shop I visit the most frequently, was waiting by my front door. He wanted to borrow a bag for his school camping trip. He also asked me to give him a bible in addition to the bible portion he picked up last time, so I gave him a 300 NT Chinese bible translated into modern Chinese. We also went through the first lesson of a evangelism/ discipleship/equipping course I've been taking recently but I don't think he was really tracking well with it.

Last but not least, Sakray came back over when he got off work from the seafood restaurant. In addition to asking me to listen to a few songs on his IPOD, he brought over some venison soup to share (I didn't tell him I had been to the same shop just the night before). He shared a few personal things and also invited me to join a group of his friends for dinner this Saturday before he heads off for basic training. Sakray also dropped by again Monday morning on his way to work as well, but we were having our team meeting.

Anyway, weekend visiting opportunities are more frequent than Monday to Thursday, so I'm thankful for the touches God gave me with different acquaintances again yesterday. In addition to our community service, proactively taking advantage of those kind of opportunities is pretty much the "main event" for us right now since we don't actually have a church at this time.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Good Day Interacting with Community People

Living in the Taiwanese Countryside is truly something I wouldn't exchange for the big cities here.

This afternoon 17 or so neighborhood kids came over to my house for an English lesson in two separate classes. I open up my 1st floor on Saturday afternoons to neighborhood kids (plus a few parents) as a means of sharing the love of God in Jesus Christ in a practical way with no strings attached.

Amongst the kids today were several who were new. Today we spoke in a little more depth about American Thanksgiving, sang a song, read a story book on an unrelated topic, and played more Simon Says. One of the kids was really disappointed I didn't visit their breakfast shop again this past week, so first thing in the morning that is where I want to go.

After the informal English classes ended, I chatted with my neighbors on the left hand side, who just moved in about a month ago. It was the first extended chat I've had with the wife, who works with pigs when they are sick.

After that, I drove my friend and neighbor Mr. Wu on the back of my scooter over to a small shop across from the town temple which specializes in venison (they only open in winter). The venison noodles as well as venison hot pot were both very delicious! We were disappointed that another friend as well as Mr. Wu's family were not able to join us (he forgot to tell them this morning before he went to work not to eat dinner). However, now we have an excuse to go back again very soon!

Coming home, I chatted with my neighbors on the right hand side for about 15 minutes before declining an invitation to go with them to the night market in BeiGang.

From there, I helped my neighbors and good friends 5 doors down (the Dings)  install an old scanner I gave them earlier in the day. Mr. Ding, a wood carver by trade, only has an elementary school education, but he is very intelligent. I enjoyed some good guava and pear while we chatted and learned how to use the software.

Finally, coming home and having shut the steel door, I looked at the answering machine to see I had two calls. They were from my neighbor's 20 year old son three doors down, who works in a seafood restaurant across from the temple. He had dropped by a half hour or so earlier to tell me he's been told he will go to Chiayi on Dec 12 to start his mandatory military service.

Sakray wanted to come over and chat in person, but I told him I was about to turn in for the night. I'm looking forward to a good time of catching up with him tomorrow in the late afternoon over in the seafood restaurant, or in the evening when he gets off work. The boss's wife at the restaurant, the mother of one of our English students at Four Lakes Elementary School, has been hospitalized for over a week so I'm also hopeful to have a chance to visit with him as well.

Would I have had so many chances for spontaneous, friendly interaction with so many neighbors in Taipei, Taichung, or other larger localities where most people live in apartments? Not likely at all. This Thanksgiving weekend, I thank God again for all the interesting people and friendships He is giving me  in this neighborhood.

One Puppy Back

With reference to the last entry, one of the puppies also made the 10 km hike back. Amazing.

Seriously, I've got to choose some more enthralling topics to write about. However, this blog has been mostly about life in the Taiwanese countryside the past year...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Puppy Dogs Dumped

Last week one day when I was out of town, a young man passed by in front of my house on his scooter, at which time he was chased by the dog described below in a previous post, as is her habit.

With all the mud and dirt from the construction outside, the road is sometimes slippery, and the young man's scooter slipped out from under him as he evaded the dog. Evidently he was hurt badly.

His father came over and angrily scolded the owner of the dog and the puppies. That night, one of the owner's sons angrily bundled up the dogs, hopped on his scooter and deposited the puppies in different places out in the middle of nowhere well outside of town. Although they were eating food on their own, they were also still nursing, so it's doubtful they'll ever be heard from again.

He dumped the mother dog off about 18 kilometers and several towns away. You have to pass through several towns and also cross a river to get there. However, 3 or 4 days after it was dumped, it reappeared again, her internal compass guiding it back (unfortunately) to her territory. When I last saw it yesterday, it was happily chasing passing scooters and bicycles again.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Puppy Dogs

In earlier posts I've raved about the dogs which run loose around here, barking all hours of the day and night.

Just before I left for Australia, one of my neighbor's dogs which runs around the neighborhood had puppies again.... she nursed  the five of them just to the left of the front door in front of what was then an empty unit. Thankfully, someone moved in and the neighbor forced them temporarily into cages.

Unfortunately, they've long since been let out of the cages. They bring their bones, trash, etc. to my house front, where I sweep them up in the morning. I've been reminded that I need to leave my outside trash can elevated on top of the bird cages or else they'll get to them.

In my weaker moments, I've contemplated kidnapping the puppies in the middle of the night in order to drop them off in a remote location far from here, or leaving them some steak laced with something to make them go to sleep (to facilitate the dog-napping) or worse. Thankfully, I never acted on those thoughts.

Last week the 20 year old son of the neighbor in question came over to chat with me at my house... the very first time. He works in a small local seafood restaurant. Soon he'll be leaving home for the first time as he does his compulsory military service. He's been back two or three other times since. In one of our talks, he shared about how a dog he raised over by his restaurant was kidnapped and killed by someone in order to enjoy the dog meat. This saddened him greatly.

If I had acted out on my thoughts and been discovered, I would certainly not be in the position I find myself now of being able to share the hope and love we have in God through Jesus Christ to this young man as he moves off into what he feels will be an uncertain period in his life. May God give us additional opportunities to interact. Maybe I can even gracefully approach the topic of the stray dogs and the havoc they cause for the rest of the neighborhood again... However, they do provide an important security service in this area where thieves break in wherever they feel they can make a quiet get-away.

The Inspector is Coming!

fence1 A few months ago I wrote about the ongoing road construction in front of my house and some of the resulting inconveniences. Since returning to Taiwan's coastal countryside a month ago, progress has been slow. As we continue to battle the dirt, mud, and noise, we'll be lucky if the project is completed before Chinese New Year's.

However, what happened yesterday especially deserves to be mentioned.Because the inspector is coming, the road workers erected fences across the other side of the street (beginning with a bang at 6:00 am no less). The only reason they've put the fence up is to pass the inspection. This probably doesn't fool the inspector, who can simply look up the street to see the unfenced construction a few hundred yards away, but at least provides an opportunity to snap a picture to say everything was done properly. The day after the inspector leaves, they'll probably take the fences right down again, just as they did earlier once last summer already.

A little over a month ago, my elderly next door neighbor fell into the ditch in front of her house when trying to move her scfence2ooter across. She got cut up badly and had to make several trips to the doctor.

There was no official attempt on the part of the local government or the safety crews to provide safe crossing boards for the residents; we go and borrow some boards or ask them to drop them off (Having said that, the workers are friendly and helpful in an unofficial capacity-- when I came back from Australia they piled dirt over the ditch in front of my house in order to allow me to pull my car out from inside).

Early yesterday morning the work crew without warning took all our boards away again as they evidently need them for their unit's work elsewhere. So I went off to fend for myself and came back with the best I could find.

The safety concerns of the construction companies and local government seem about as complete as the concerns for justice of Taiwan's fledgling democracy, what with all that has been in the news about the jailing, handcuffing, etc. of the former president and others these past couple of weeks. Thankfully though (and here I take the optimistic view) things will continue to move forward and not backward.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Aussie Rules!

oldtimers match Besides being asked the question "Do you like Vegemite?" (I find that I do, spread very thin on buttered toast but not every morning), one of the most unique aspects of Australian culture I've come into frequent contact these past 3 weeks in WA is "Australian Rules" football.

Two weeks ago I chose to go for an afternoon walk rather than watch most of the AFL Grand Final. That was mainly because I didn't have a clue when it came to understanding the game. After all, I'll always be first and foremost a diehard NFL fan. Needless to say, the streets were nearly empty as everyone else in Kalgoorlie was glued to their TV sets.

However, yesterday afternoon, the couple I've been staying with this past week here in Perth, Russell and Coralie, provided me with a unique opportunity. Russell, an avid player and fan, first showed me DVD highlights of marks, long bombs, other goals, etc.  Then last night, I went with them to watch an Old Timers' Exhibition Game.clip_image002[5]

There we saw Russell's 48 year-old brother, a retired AFL multi-millionaire player, who played for the the West Coast Eagles, battle against their foes the Fremantle Dockers.

We also saw Rick Arden, a newsreader and amateur player,  participate in the game. In spite of the fact that Rick stands at about 6 feet four inches, Russell joked that he had bested Rick in their own veterans' competition 3 months ago ("he'd never score a goal like that on me, ha ha!).

clip_image002Although this entry is on Aussie Rules, let me also say here that I thoroughly appreciated the chance to observe and participate in what God is doing in Russell's church. Russell and Coralie spent several years as Alliance Workers in Vanuatu in the South Pacific prior to returning to Perth (Coralie was an MK whose parents worked with aboriginals), where God led them to start the church. The meeting on Sunday was lively and truly a pleasure to participate in.

After the church meeting, we enjoyed the traditional Australian meringue desert Pavlova (another new experience for me), had gourmet pizza at an Italian restaurant, and tea (Australian term for dinner or supper) that night after the match at an outdoor steak/hamburger joint by a roaring fire.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Viewing The Heavens in Kalgoorlie, WA

Whether it is Australia or back in the United States, the most unique aspect of of traveling from place to place to share about our team's work back in Taiwan is the opportunity to stay in different homes and get to know lots of different people.

Last week in Kalgoorlie, WA, I stayed with Denise and Peter. Some years ago, Peter built a huge telescope from scratch (pictured in foreground below). It took him nearly a year to plan the design and several months after that to build and fine-tune. He's made it available for the community to come to view from time to time.

He did a great job in the construction---  Peter was able to clearly point out to me  3 of Jupiter's moons as well as the twin stars Alpha-Centauri, not to mention the densest section of the Milky Way.

denisepeter

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.  Psalm 19: 1-2

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Gold Outback, A Dog Movie Star, The School of the Air, and a Reunited Mother and Daughter

bush Today returning from the Gold Outback Bush Country to Kilgoorlie, WA I visited a different kind of school, and witnessed two other unique opportunities.

From Kilgoorlie to Marapoi Station is about 150 km (two hours?) of driving in which one encounters maybe a dozen oncoming drivers at most. With the exception of a single town of about 80 people and dozens of kangaroo road-kill carcasses on the side of the road (at least!), there is absolutely no one dwelling along the way.

Day before yesterday and again this evening, I had the chance to greg visit a spring camp sponsored by a so-called "School of the Air", so named because its students, mostly kids belonging to sheep-herders and aboriginal kids who live in remote locations, have their classes via chat on the Internet (in markfly previous generations, radio). This week the kids have actually been face-to-face in a end-of-school camp and today were their field day activities, a performance, and BBQ. Here are my host Greg and I are wearing a fly mask used in a song the kids had sung earlier.

 

Now on to the so-called chance encounters. First, back at dog2Marapoi Station in the bush, in the morning at a community meeting I was introduced to a dog movie star who will be appearing in the upcoming movie "To Hell and Back". A full fifteen minutes of the movie occurs at the station, and the dog's owner, Gary, is an half-aboriginal actor who has appeared in a number of movies and who plays a priest in this one. Anyway, check it outdog celeb in a few months when it hits the theatres.

Back in Kilgoorlie (population 30,000) again in the evening, I was sipping a Latte at McDonalds looking at page one of the local newspaper which showed the picture of a mother and a 14-year-old daughter who had not been seen or heard from in 5 days.

As we were preparing to leave, my host Greg commented that a lady who walked by looked like the mother featured in the paper. As he was gathering his own kids from the play area, he asked her if in fact she was. There they were: reunited and talking through the events of the past few days. Without being a nuisance, my host commented that a lot of people had been worried about them, that he was very happy for them, and that the girl's mother really loved her daughter.

Well, I'm pretty bushed tonight, not from being out in the bush, but from dealing with cultural differences and being around lots of people all day. I think I'll call it a day.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Superpit

Yesterday afternoon I arrived in Kalgoorlie, WA after a short flight from Perth. In the evening, Greg, my host, took me over to Boulder to see the so-called Super Pit, which stretches more than 3 km long, 1 km wide, and (eventually) 500 m deep. The Super Pit is a bunch of old mines where as early as the 1890's miners began digging for gold. Now it's a big open consolidated pit in which the goal is to glean 2 kg of gold from every 1 ton of dirt. I watched for a few minutes as the trucks slowly made their way down the road into the pit, were filled with dirt, and made their way up again.

My host has a vision for community development among his own people, the Aboriginal peoples. In earlier years, Greg started up a health services facility for his people in Kalgoorlie. Presently, he's working out in the bush.

From what I've seen in the two days I've been around, the lot of indigenous peoples here is worse than the indigenous peoples of Taiwan, who have also been marginalized, have chronic drinking problems, etc.

Earlier this afternoon we left Kalgoorlie and drove north 180 km out into the bush where Greg has started his latest community development endeavor in Morapoi Station. Many of his family are here, as well as a few from another indigenous people group who have come 1000 km from the central desert. He calls his place here Beulah because God has given him a vision here for his people to be married once again to the land.

Earlier this afternoon we drove further off into the bush to do some gold prospecting for a few hours with gold detectors.  Anyway, I came back empty-handed. We'll head back into town tomorrow morning sometime.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Wrap-Up of Pinjarra Visit

  kang

God is good. Tomorrow morning wraps up the first stop of my visit to West Australia-- Pinjarra, WA. Aside from my powerpoint locking up yesterday during the morning meeting, things went smoothly logistics-wise although I wish content-wise it could have gone better.

Although I didn't spend time with too many people outside of the scheduled meetings, those I did spend time with were kind and generous. Ian, ian and cherylthe pastor, and Cheryl were kind hosts throughout the week. They are a godly couple, and I really appreciate them opening up their home to me, taking me to a Rotary Club meeting, going to meet some of Cheryl's ESL students, etc. Ian and Cheryl are certified experts when it comes to Western Australia wildflowers. Tfl6hey tried to impart some of their knowledge to me, but I'm afraid I'm a slow learner.

Sunday evening they took me up to Alcoa Look-Out, which looks over the Alcoa factory and all of Pinjarra. On the way I saw my first kangaroos -- dozens of them and quite large according to Ian and Cheryl. 

 

winnings Bert, Lizzie, Rebecca and Alex were also very kind in taking me over  to Perth for some sight-seeing on Monday (Alex had earlier taken me to a local fitness center a few hundred yards away from the house here).

 

 

 

fl19The King's Park in Perth was beautiful with all of its wildflowers. Afterward, we drove over to the coast  where we had fish and chips on the beach, and continued over to Fremantle (WA's chief port), where we visited the Maritime Museum.

 

fl10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomorrow I'm off to Kalgoorlie, where there was a gold rush in the 1890's.

Some of the birds I saw during my time in Pinjarra (and Perth) included:

Butcher Bird

Black Cockatoo

Gallah (Pinkon Grey)

Kookaburra  (sound is just as incredible as in the movies)

Magpie

28 (Port Lincoln) Parrot

PeeWee

Rosella

Waterbird

White Cockatoo

Willie Wagtail  (extremely friendly bird)

Here are some pics of some of the above I took myself:

bird4 bird6 bird8bird10 

cuckaberra2

bird3

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Australian English 101

This morning is the beginning of my second full day in Pinjarra here in Western Australia. The people are great and from the minute I touched down in the airport I've been picking up on the easy-going, laid back, conversational nature of folks here. The pastor and wife with whom I am staying are sociable, kind, learned, and hospitable people, and the folks I've met so far at the meeting house (literally called that in this case) are also very friendly.

Yesterday morning when I spoke to the ladies' group I felt the time went reasonably well. I didn't feel as good about the meeting last night, however, as I stuttered and stammered throughout that particular talk, which I was giving for the first time (going too long in the process). Things will go smoother next week when i give it again.

I'm being exposed to a lot of  Australian English/slang already. Just a few of the dozen or more new terms I've begun hearing already:

Barrack - cheer or root for a sporting team or someone in general (eg. rugby league or Aussy rules football)

Biscuit: Cookie

Dinky-di : the real thing, genuine

Maccas (pronounced. "mackers") : McDonald's

Mob: Group of person or things (not necessarily unruly).

Rockmelon: Canteloupe

Tomato Sauce: Ketchup

Anyway, in spite of the obvious differences, it'll still be easier to learn some of these terms than my present task of learning the Taiwanese language, which I need to take a little time to tackle now that I'm finished with this blog entry.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Road Project Progress

You must be thinking by now: "Wow, life sure is exciting in Western Yunlin." Not. Before they starting breaking up things on this side yesterday, here's what's been happening on the other side of the road from July 6 to the present. Maybe it'll be paved when I get back. video

No Way to Have Team Meeting at My House This Week...

hole2 As I sat commiserating with my neighbors last night, I commented that it feels like a war zone here. In all fairness to all the places around the world where people are truly suffering,  including Odessa, India where Indian Christians are being mercilessly targeted now, actually, we're just dealing with a inconvenient construction project, but the ceaseless noise of drilling and shoveling has given me a headache that won't stop. And all the dirt and dust!

hole1 As of yesterday afternoon, I have no way to park my car or my scooter in front of or inside my house. To get out to the street requires a leap of faith (no dirt bridge for me yet). Sweeping and mopping is also a futile endeavor. Water is turned off during the day, and after they're done with the water pipes the electricity people will come for several days to turn off the electricity.  The road construction, which began a couple of months ago, is not scheduled to be finished until shortly before Chinese New year.

Thankfully, I'm scheduled to leave Taiwan on Monday and not be back for a month. And if before or after that time I need a place to hang out, our recently-relocated office is only 5 minutes away. But I feel for all my neighbors, especially my sculptor friend who works in front of his house.

Before you leave this post, enjoy a free headache on me by viewing the attached video of yesterday's fun.

video

Friday, August 29, 2008

Cowardly Indian Ringneck

Tonight I let all three birds (Indian Ringneck, which I previusly falsely identified as a Green Conure since I only knew the Chinese name, Monk Parrakeet and Yellow Lovebird who returned after a three month absence-- I am now virtually certain it is the same bird) out for a little exercise. The Ringneck likes hanging out on the ceiling fans, which I have been good at remembering to turn off first!

Pretty obvious from this clip which I took later which of these two birds is the boss, even though the lovebird is 1/3 the size of the Ringneck! Although it wants to come over to me, whenever the lovebird is on my shoulder, the Ringneck is too afraid.

More on Healer Songwriter

Here's a well-done video of the song I mentioned in my last post. video

And the sad story which broke earlier this week, as told on an Australian newscast.

video

I can see why so many of the deceived are angry. At the same time, it sounds like the father, the pastor of another large megachurch, might be going into protective mode as well. Hmmm.... father-son issues to be resolved here? Reminds me of what I've been reading lately in The Shack.

"When they kept on questioning him, [Jesus] straightened up and said to them, "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." John 8:7

"My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted." Gal 6:1

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Jesus is Still Our Healer

After recently reading Christianity Today's Mixed Review of Hillsong Australia's most recent CD, "This is Our God", I decided to buy a mere two songs off Itunes instead of purchasing the whole CD. No imagesooner had I clicked the purchase button on the song "Healer", a second search revealed a breaking story on the song's gifted writer. Not only has he this week just confessed to a long-term addiction, but the cancer from which he had supposedly been suffering as he's been singing in recent months also turns out to have also been a complete hoax. 

The response in the blogosphere has been considerable this week. Here's an entry from My Latreia I felt was especially poignant: "I felt saddened by the news but at the same time, the realization of how frail we are really came to me. No one but our Lord, Jesus, has resisted the Great Tempter...How fallible our sinful nature has made us. And yet, we should be encouraged by this incident and be reminded how God truly is graceful and forgiving." I encourage you to read the rest of the post here as well as some of the other posts linked above.

I didn't get around to listening to the song I bought until after I read a few blog responses, press releases, and a youtube video. Having now finally listened to the song a few times, I still have to conclude that, in spite of all the sin and self-deception which ensued, the song was God-inspired. Jesus Christ, our Healer, is truly alive!

I've been an occasional fan of Hillsongs Australia since before I first came to Taiwan back in 1997, and God has used several of their songs to comfort and encourage me in hard times, but this incident is just another reminder that as we come to God in worship, we lean not on fuzzy feelings or a high-charged worship concert atmosphere, but on our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our Solid Rock, lived out in a small community of relationships (not necessarily a megachurch) in which one can know and be known by others.

Yes, the writer was suffering from an illness as he penned this God-inspired song. Just not the illness he fabricated later as a cover-up. May God's people deal with him mercifully, and may Jesus heal him as he continues to heal and work in all of us who are broken.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

PengHu

 phbrPengHu, along with Orchid Island and Ali Mountain, has for a long time been on my short list of places here that I'd not yet gotten around to visiting. Well, I finally had a chance this past Monday through Wednesday for an initial visit. ferry

I drove my scooter an hour and a half or so down to BuDai in ChiaYi County, and took the 90 minute ferry ride from there. Cost is 900NT for economy; 1286NT for business class.

In PengHu, I met up with 40 some Chinese/Taiwanese/Vietnamese/North American coworkers for our annual get-together. They were mostly from Taipei, but two families traveled from Kaohsiung (4 hour ferry ride from Kaohsiung).

We stayed at the Youth Activity Center. The rooms were clean, cool, and spacious enough for the reasonable price, and included cable TV which was nice because I enjoyed watching the U.S. Olympic Redeem Team crush another of its opponents (this time Australia) in basketball. (No offense, Australian friends. I'm sure I'll enjoy my work visit to your country next month immensely!)

ph2Because there were a number of small kids along for the trip, our planned activities were not ideal for adults travelling alone,  but at least I was able to get a better idea of where I might go next time for skin diving and SCUBA.

I shared a room with our coworker from TuCheng in Taipei County, whose wife didn't come because of their small child. I pitied the poor guy for having to listen to my snoring! The view from the balcony across from my fifth floor room was spectacular. At night, neon lights on the bridge brightened up the sky. 

Both mornings I awoke at 5:30. Ordinarily in Taiwan when you go the park at this hour you find lots of elderly people taking their exercise. But in MaGong, in addition to the park, they hit the water, specifically the man-made "beach" swimming area inside of the bridge above. The second morning from my vantage point on the bridge, I counted 93 swimmers inside the cove and another 24 swimming out several hundred yards outside. Some of the doggy paddle and "freestyle" strokes were so poor I wondered if the elderly folks  would be able to make the considerable distance back, but several of them had floats just in case, I guess. By 6:30 am each day, all but a dozen or so were gone. I admire them for getting out like that each day.

The second day we took a bus around the main me1islands -- all joined by bridges -- to see some of the main  sights. We started out with a swim off the fine sands of ShanShuei beach on the main island's southern end. The visibility was incredible. 

 

ho1From there, we drove to a place where we learned a little about historical architectural style and building materials. In the past homes were constructed out of coral and other objects from the sea.

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The tour guide also dropped us off by the windmills. Like many other places around the world (as well as Taiwan), PengHu has recently begun harnessing wind power in order to meet electrical needs. 

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Also that second day, we drove over to a lighthouse with a pretty vantage point on the southern end of SiYu, the western most island. Finally, we stopped off to see the so-called "Whale Cave". It was blazing hot everywhere we had to walk. me5

The third day we walked over and caught a boat which first let us down to see some coral. If I remember correctly, the tour guide said that of the 1500 different kinds of coral worldwide, over 500 are represented in Taiwan. The view wasn't all that spectacular though and I regretted again not being able to get away to skin dive this time around. Perhaps I can learn more about coral identification before the next time I go out.

barge2 After 10 minutes or so of that, we then went to a unique floating barge/raft with other floats stationed around it in the middle of the inner sea between the main islands. I'll call the place Karaoke Alcatraz. Because of the heat and the fact that I'm not a huge Karaoke fan, from the moment we arrived I couldn't wait to escape from Karaoke Alcatraz. But it really wasn't such a bad place.  oyst

The main events on the barge were BBQing all-you-can-eat oysters (very delicious, although I wasn't very  bbq hungry being as it was only 10:30 when we started), and singing Karaoke.

Off the barge they had different pools with netted squid, cuttlefish, and fish for kids and interested adults to fish in. However, there were no hooks on the lines and it was poolagainst the rules to land what you caught. Personally, I would have rather thrown my hook in to the open water outside of the floats as I saw tons of fish out there feeding off the oyster garbage, etc. pool2

There was another very small area for paddleboats. On a lot of the tourist literature you read how PengHu hopes to develops itself into a tourism/recreational area in the future, and it's obvious it's not there yet, but places like these are at least attempts in the right direction to attract families who might like to vacation without having to take additional ferry rides to all the other islands. If the government of Penghu ever gets its casino petition granted, I hope they will be careful enough not to destroy the island chain's natural beauty and resolve to keep crime checked as well.

On the return trip, because of an impending typhoon the 2 evening ferries back to Kaohsiung were canceled and 2 families were forced to travel to ChiaYi instead. But they easily hired a car to take them back down south.

Though this was far from my ideal vacation, in fact it was not intended as a vacation but as an opportunity to catch up with other coworkers and I'm very thankful to God for the opportunity. If you go to PengHu though, better to go in late May after the winds have died down and before the summer heat really starts to pummel you.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Monk and Indian Ringneck Growing Up...

The Monk Parrot I traded in the old unfriendly Indian Ringneck for (Ringneck previously misidentified as a Green Conure since I only knew the Chinese name) and the new baby Indian Ringneck are growing up.... My goal is to monk1teach them each a few English words so I can say to my students, "Look, learning English isn't so hard. Even these birds can do it."

 

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