July 16 Giving Something Away
After church on the morning of July 16th, in a conversation with friends, I grabbed a page of my sermon manuscript and wrote a note on the back of it for them. I was asked, “Won’t you need that later?” I assured them that it was all saved somewhere on a computer, so it was OK to give the page away as a scrap of paper. That overconfidence came back to bite me two weeks later. More below.
July 17-22 Blur
Though it is summer break, and I had no lessons to prepare, the week was the kind of busy time that clergy with two sermons and several other classes sometimes have. I was “on deck” for one worship service (without sermon) and two workshops for the annual convention of the Taiwan Missionary Fellowship, had a small group to lead at Dongning Church, and two weeks of worship services (with sermons) for Tainan International Community Church on July 23 and 30 to prepare. Office time went by in a blur.
July 17-26 Mansfield Park
For recreational reading I borrowed a volume that contains all of the novels by Jane Austen. First read Sense and Sensibility, and enjoyed it enough to skip to Mansfield Park, which was a bit too slowly paced for my taste, but I finished it. I started “Emma”, but put it down in preference for catching up with all the New Yorker magazines that had piled up since the beginning of the month.
July 23 Dongning Church
I was in the translation booth in the morning. Pretty standard stuff. Then led the international small group afterwards. In past years, the group had mainly allowed international students from Tainan Theological College who worshipped at Dongning a place to share about their homelands with people from Taiwan. But when there were no more international students, it became a place where members of Dongning who had gone overseas to show their vacation slides. When I was appointed to lead it, I was told that it was to be about faith development, so we began on a different tack.
So far we’ve had a couple of months when we did a game like “Jeopardy” on TV, where people got the Answers from the things we often use in church liturgically (the Lord’s prayer, the creed, the 10 commandments and the New Commandment) and had to come up with the questions. There was a lot of laughter as we worked out how to do it. In June we began using different Bible study techniques. The first one was to imagine our way into the context of a Bible story. In July we did “draw pictures”. To keep anybody from having to hold up and explain their own picture, after people had all drawn their contributions they were folded up and put into a bag, from which people drew them out at random and showed the beautiful picture they found. The verses were about the church. Curiously, even when the verse said, “you are the salt of the earth”, people tended to draw pictures of buildings with crosses on them.
July 24 Preparations and Promotions
It was a hot and sweaty morning. I mainly spent it cleaning and packing, because I was to be away for most of the week, and wanted the folks staying in the house to take care of the cat to be comfortable. I also put a box and several bags of books into the trunk of the car for a sale table I had planned for the lobby at the Taiwan Missionary Fellowship convention.
The books had been purchased new with the idea that international students might buy them, but 3 years ago the book allowance was handed out at the beginning of each semester in cash, so nobody bought books. The stuff on my sale shelf has just been getting older and older. So, I cut prices by half. Probably only sold 30 or 40 books during the week, but that is a bunch fewer books to dispose of next year when we depart.
July 26 Morning Worship
At the Taiwan Missionary Fellowship, morning worship is mainly about singing songs punctuated by a few Bible verses and spontaneous prayers. Sometimes the songs are contemporary choruses, and other times tired old hymns (not that hymns are tired and old, but the ones chosen for the group to sing are often both). I volunteered to lead worship one morning and was assigned Wednesday. I chose “new” hymns (from the 90s) and added one of my own (to an old tune). Arranged things liturgically, and enjoyed leading. No preaching, just meaningful worship and meaningful lyrics. I don’t know if anyone else noticed, or even enjoyed, but nobody complained.
July 26 Disability Discourse
Last December I attended a 3-day consultation on Disability Discourse sponsored by the World Council of Churches. It taught me that, being temporarily abled myself, I need to listen to people living with disabilities. So I offered a workshop on the topic at the Taiwan Missionary Fellowship. I don’t know what people may have been expecting, but what they got was opportunity to talk about their own experiences of living with and around the issues of Disability in Taiwan. About 20 people attended. Many spoke. All I did was moderate, and from time to time ask another question.
July 28 What are YOU reading, and why should WE read it?
Only 5 people attended the workshop on reading and books. It was a good talk. We might have spontaneously had the same meeting without a time and a place, but having both of those got some together who might have missed it otherwise. One guy who attended is really into comic books! You never know what to expect when missionaries gather.
July 29 Slip and Stretch
I was home from my week away at 11PM on Friday night. The house was dusty, but other than the floors that doesn’t bother me. I decided that beyond laundry I’d just vacuum and mop. I had the downstairs finished and carried the mop bucket carefully up the stairs to do the floors there. When I went back down for the mop, stepping on the damp floor my foot slid out from under me and I took a tumble, pulling a hamstring on the way. The next day I had to preach at two churches, so I imagined being called “Pastor Gimpy”. Whether anyone thought of me like that or not, it’s who I was.
July 29 Out Back
I was assigned to preach at a church in Pingtung on the 30th to do fundraising for the Taiwan Church Publishing House. Because I was gone the week before, all of my communication with the church was by FAX and mail. I received no responses, so on the 29th I phoned the mobile phone number on the letter I’d received from the publishing house. When speaking to the pastor who answered, I learned quite quickly that I’d called the wrong guy. He had no current connection with that church and was quite firm that he was now at the church “out back”. Since there’s a town in Tainan by that name, I assumed that sometime in the past he had left Pingtung and was now at the church in “out back”. I was wrong.
I got to the church early enough, and in sorting through my sermon manuscript I discovered the lack of the page I’d given away 2 weeks previously. I found a room and set about recreating what was missing. When I finished I met a man passing out bulletins, but they were a different color from the one I’d already received. I learned from him that he was from the church that met “out back”, a group that had split from the church “in front” that I was to address. No history was given.
Eventually I learned that the church had split a year ago, and the group that left was still meeting on the premises in a room at the back of the facility until they could move out to their own place. It makes you want to cry.
July 29-31 Natural Disasters
A typhoon came through on the night of the 29th, It was headed for central Taiwan but turned northward and landed on the Northeast coast. But the rain from it flooded low lying parts of south Taiwan. Then, on the morning of the 30th there was an earthquake in Tainan (4-points, but nobody hurt) followed by another typhoon (a mild one) that came through that night. The 31st was a day off because it was raining too hard in the morning for anybody to go to school or work. Cleanup will start in August.