Friday, June 6, 2008

Snorkeling After All

After four days of rain, this morning the sun finally came out! Not only was I able to enjoy an hour walk down to a park in the neighborhood of OASIS before breakfast, after breakfast I was able to drive over to a spot  150 yards or so just north of MaoBiTou which leads down to a beautiful cove just off the beaten tourist path. It's a wonderful spot for snorkeling with a variety of living corals (though colored by pollution) and larger fish than I seen in this area for a while (schools of fish where several were larger than my hand and forearms). I also saw a number of long brown and white striped creatures along the bottom which I could not initially tell were dead or unmoving sea snakes (most were about 2-3 feet long, and about an inch in diameter) or just pieces of colorful rope. Finally, I brought one up with a stick and the water came leaking out of it. Apparently they are some sort of living creature but I forgot to bring my Kenting fish book with me so an identification will have to wait until I get home....

Compared to previous trips, I didn't snorkel for long, and didn't skin dive at all. In all, I was only in the cove for an hour and a half or so. I'm getting more safety conscious as the years go by when it comes to skin diving in isolated locations all by myself. Plus, time to check out of the room and leave this place.

Definitely worth going back to that cove again sometime. Would also be a great place to bring a book and lunch and hang out on the beach for a day.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Team Retreat

team3 This past Sunday after finishing up a speaking engagement in central Taiwan, I drove down to the southern tip of Taiwan to join Western Yunlin teammates for a 4 day team formation and planning retreat.

We stayed at OASIS, a wonderful rest house for international Christian workers that we have all stayed at many times before. We kicked things off Sunday evening with dinner at a local Tex-Mex restaurant and walk through downtown Kenting. I believe it's fair to say the extended times of sharing beginning from this night and stretching over the course of our retreat were encouraging for each of us.

Each morning started with a short devotional or prayer-worship time before breakfast.

Though it poured cats and dogs almost without a break the entire four days, on Monday morning we managed to get out to White Sands beach for a couple of hours of sunshine between rain showers. it was the only time we saw the sun. The  undertow was too strong to go far into the water, however.

Monday afternoon we discussed different team player styles, evaluating ourselves and affirming one another. That evening we watched half of the movie "Amazing Grace", but I had a bad headache due to being out in the bright morning sunshine without shades and went to bed early. 

markkenting Umbrellas in hand, we spent Tuesday morning walking around the Kenting National Forest Park. We had virtually the whole park to ourselves because of all the rain. It was still beautiful though.

That afternoon and late into the evening we continuing developing our team's Memorandum of Understanding, reworking the vision statement we came up with last month as well as our philosophy of team ministry.

Wednesday morning we got away for another team-building exercise as we enjoyedteam1 some of the beautiful sights of God's creation at Taiwan's World Class Aquarium, located in this neck of the woods. There's even a section for computer-generated prehistoric fish which come chasing after those viewing them through 3-D glasses. We got soaked getting back out to the car as the rains continued to pour.

team4 At the aquarium "flashing" is expressly forbidden, but people were doing it all over the place anyway. I also enjoyed seeing all the "crownfish" who live in symbiotic relationship with the sea anemones around them. Funny how their appearance reminded me of Nemo and other clownfish.

In the afternoon and evening we continuing 030 reworking our Memorandum of Understanding, making significant progress in our articulation of core values.

We spent a few hours Thursday morning sharing and praying. Trusting in God, we hope to finalize an early version of our ministry plan the next few weeks before  my teammates return to Canada for the summer for their son's wedding.  We realize our utter dependence upon God as at the present time our team only has 3 members, but we are hopeful for the future.

I'm sticking around down here for an extra day of personal vacation, but so far the rain is coming down harder than ever and I've been spending my time studying language and reading... I doubt I'll be able to get in any skin diving on this particular visit to Taiwan's most famous oceanside resort, but I thank God for a great 5 days all the same.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Appendum on Wedding Tent Feast

Two days ago I shared about the huge volume of pots and pans which I came home to see dropped off in front of my house. I actually dreamed about it and have recorded what little I can remember  in my dream blog.

Back in real life, that night at 1:00 am, I awoke with a frightful start to hear the loud bang of firecrackers directly below my window... the family was paying traditional respects to the gods.  Then, the cooking crew came over around 4:30 in the morning and it was loud chaos after that. They used the entire front porch area for the cooking preparation area.

It probably would have helped me make huge inroads with those particular neighbors if I had stuck around to attend the feast. But having only known about it the night before, and having other things to do before leaving town for a week today, not to mention not being in the most celebratory of moods, I begged off. I do know, however, that one thing God wants me to prioritize is befriending these people somehow. He spoke to me on that point clearly today as I shared again in another of our locations about the elder son in the parable of the kind father in Luke 15. 

In Luke 15, the image of partaking in the joy of others (eg. God) is a recurring theme. Yet I was not able to enter into my neighbors' joy because of my feelings of boundaries not being respected. I even used the story of my weekend as an illustration and asked the people to hold me accountable for taking the next step whenever I go back there to share again in a few months. I think God was speaking to them also.