Two Busy Weeks, 13 Boring Stories

January 11 Author, Author! 

The Theological English course that Dave has been teaching at Tainan Theological College this term came to its close with an author visit. The class had been using Blog postings instead of a textbook. That gave immediacy to the course contents and made it easier for the students to run things through translation software, short cutting the process to understanding.

The author of the final piece, Ms. Cindy Brandt (a graduate of Wheaton College and Fuller Theological Seminary) resides only 30 miles from Tainan, so Dave invited her to visit and address the class on her recent post, “Pop Goes The Christian Bubble.” Cindy spoke in Mandarin, facilitating communication, and after talking about her article asked the students questions before they got to ask her anything. Discussion was lively and there was a lot of laughter.


January 13 Closing Worship 

The semester at Tainan Theological College drew to a close with worship in the chapel on Friday afternoon. The liturgy was well led, the preaching was average, but what was out of this world was the music. This term seems to be one of those when the gifts of the musicians and the willingness of the student body to try anything and give it their all have really come together.


January 13 Finals Finish

Chang Jung Christian University drew to the end of its term with a sigh of relief for Char, who held individual appointments with each of her 240+ students in the last 10 days of class. She had done 40 of those appointments the previous week, and the other 200 between the 9th and 13th. Our neighbors Juan and Ruth joined us for a meal at a nice restaurant to celebrate.


January 14 An Invitation to Write

Even large international organizations can operate at the last minute when doing long-range planning.  The Christian Conference of Asia will celebrate its 60th anniversary in October, and scheduled a planning meeting of experts for the end of January, to be held in Myanmar (Burma). But it wasn’t until mid-January that they sent notice to Dr. Ito Loh, whom they want to head up the worship planning committee. Part of his commission is to create a theme song for the big event in October.  Dr Loh is an expert at world church music, and especially at its Asian incarnation. But to write both text and tune on such short notice was a big order. He invited Dave, and sent the conference plans.

The following Monday (the 16th) Dave sat down with the materials and discovered a well-detailed set if plans, including scripture passages designated for themes about testifying to the truth, prophetic life, servanthood, Kingdom values and the spirituality of the cross. Using these as guides and a Chinese hymn tune as a template, he quickly knocked out a draft of a 4 verse hymn with refrain.

We all know that “fast food” is not necessarily nourishing, so whether or not the hymn gets past the planning committee is “a whole ‘nother thing”. No matter, it was fun to do.


January 15  Three Trips to Church

Since Dave took over leadership of an English language congregation that meets Sunday afternoons in the facilities of Dongning Presbyterian Church (where we worship on Sunday mornings), he’s become accustomed to walking over there and back twice each Sunday (that’s in addition to the walk he takes on Saturday night to attend a music class). The 15th called for an additional trip. Each year the church holds a big cleanup prior to the Chinese New Year (which falls on January 28th this year). So, after getting home from church at about 12, he was out the door again at 1:15 for the cleaning session, back home again by 3 and out the door again at 3:30.  Home felt good when he finally got back around 7.


January 16 Consultants

The term was over and the students had gone home, but Char still had to grade exams and compute final grades. In the middle of it all, though, she had to go to a conference room at the Department of Translation Studies for a faculty meeting. These are held in Mandarin, and Char is a Taiwanese speaker. So she mostly just endures.  There were some strangers in the room, though. They turned out to be consultants from other schools and employers who wanted the faculty to hear what the job market wants of graduates as curriculum is adjusted.

It used to be that scholars determined curriculum and decided what is best for students. The university’s new president is a graduate of business school. He’s brought in the business guys to give direction.


January 18 In Costume

Tainan Theological College was founded by a Scot, Rev. Thomas Barclay. He led the college for 60 years and died in his house on the campus. His grave is just across town.  There’s a bronze bust of him on a plinth and a few big pictures of him adorn places like the board room and the dining hall.

Dave looked at those pictures and that bust recently, and grew a mustache to match the founder’s. He put on a black clergy shirt with Geneva collar, donned his black robe and a red stole and stuck a pair of round-framed reading glasses on his face. The college is on winter break, but he still caused a minor stir among the staff. Several photos went up on Facebook.

There are a church and a park named for Barclay in Tainan. Though people at the church know whose name they carry, the citizens of Tainan are somewhat at a loss as to why the park has a foreign name.  During the New Year Holiday (January 28-31) Dave will visit the park in costume, and tell stories.


January 18 Char’s Day Off— Surf ‘n Turf

Her grades weren’t yet submitted, but she could see the light at the end of the tunnel, so Char took an entire day off and spent it with her friend Peggy. They first went down to the southern end of Taiwan and walked on a beach before having lunch, then drove back homeward with a side trip to the mountains for a cup of coffee and some snacks. It was a lot of time in a car, but Peggy did all the driving and Char did nothing having to do with students for an entire day. Bliss!


January 19 A Confusing Turn of Events

Dongning Presbyterian Church, where we worship and participate in congregational life, began “small groups” a few years ago. One of the elders, Johnson Lee, who speaks English well and has a heart for international students, created a group specifically for English speakers and invited us to join it. Since then we’ve stayed after church once a month for fellowship.

In 2016 Tainan Theological College decided to end its international student course, and took in only 3 students for the final year. Two of these didn’t show up. Since the international students formed the “core” of the English small group, things have sagged this fall. Mr. Lee wanted to drop the group, but the elders insisted that it be kept going. Some confusion, partially fueled by Dave’s having taken charge of the English language church which meets at Dongning, ensued. It all got worked out eventually, but we’re all having to learn how to sit down and talk to each other over a table to work things through as decisions are made.


January 20 Grades Submitted

She kept at it, number by number, page by page, web page by web page, until the final afternoon. Grades were due at midnight on Friday the 20th, and Char had them in by 4PM. On to other things!


January 21 Engagement

Working with graduate and undergraduate students, we find ourselves in the middle of many people who are not only of marriageable age, but who may be intently seeking out someone with whom to spend the rest of their lives. Every year there are several wedding invitations, and we accept as many of them as we can. On Saturday Dave went to what he thought was the wedding ceremony for a guy he had been teaching last semester to a woman whom he had taught a couple years ago. Turned out he was at an ENGAGEMENT ceremony, which was just as high toned, but without the vows. Since the bride and groom are from towns about 100 miles apart, the engagement (in HER home church) precedes the wedding (at HIS) by 4 months.  It was a good time, and, at the last minute, Dave was asked to say the prayer just before the banquet.


January 22 Human Rights History

Gerrit van der Wees spoke at the international small group at Dongning Church on Sunday. He and his wife, Mei-chin, have been active in the cause of Taiwan Human Rights since the late 70s, when they met at graduate school in Seattle. Gerrit’s career was in the Dutch foreign service. Until his retirement they lived in the Netherlands and published an occasional newsletter about Taiwan political issues for distribution to government leaders in Europe and America. After he retired they moved to Washington D.C. and went to work with the Formosa Association of Public Affairs, a Taiwan Human Rights lobbying group in America. Now they’ve doubly retired and have taken up residence in Tainan for a few months while Gerrit researches the 17th century Dutch colony here. We met them at church on New Year’s day.

In his presentation, Gerrit shared extensively about the history of the Human Rights struggle here, as seen from far off.  He ended things with a few questions and answers about that topic before moving back to the 17th century and talking about colonial history in the Tainan area. It was a great privilege to have such a distinguished speaker at this little group.


January 22 Preaching with a Prop

As Dave gets ready for the coming semester, in which he’s teaching courses on “Leading Public Prayers”, “Interpreting the Hard Words of Jesus” and “Pulpit Skills”, he’s putting together course plans. As he was “googling around” for materials to use with the last of those 3 classes he happened on some Youtube videos about using props when giving speeches. We’ve all seen people use things in childrens sermons, but Dave hadn’t thought of how this might work with adults. So, he tried it out.

This is the season of Epiphany, and most of the assigned texts for preaching have something to say about light. Dave had already chosen to preach on “the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light” for Sunday afternoon, so he brought along a flashlight to get things started.

Next week’s sermon will be based on I Corinthians 1:18-25, and is to take up the topic of “foolishness”. What prop can he bring for THAT?


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