Friday, July 31, 2009

Checking out the fruits and veggies:

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Making friends.

Faces of Taiwan.

Most of my photography has been plants, animals, mountains, and other nature shots. With the telephoto lens, it is possible to photograph people from a distance with them unaware, and it became apparent that one of the most interesting subjects for photographers is the human face. Among the creatures that God has created, only humans have such a wide range of facial expression that I know of. Perhaps this has something to do with verses like this:

"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace." - Numbers 6:24-26

A relative is waiting on a scooter to take a child home after school.

Junior high boys seem harder to photograph than the girls. My current theory is that most of the time the guys are being silly and teasing each other so that I don't much care for the expression. This was not one of those instances.

I think this young lady is suspicious of my camera.

Here is another one who was vigilant and escaped my lens for a day, but the camera keeps searching for a victim and it is getting faster as it practices. The calm face turned to panic exactly .32 seconds after the button was pushed, but she and her friends had a lot of fun looking at the pictures immediately afterward. It was a good way to establish friendships.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Having spent six years teaching Sunday School to junior high school kids, I have the greatest respect for the teachers who choose to spend a career with them. At this age, the kids seem to have all of the vices of both young children and teenagers, while not yet having developed any of the virtues of adulthood. Can there be a more difficult age group? In Taiwan, discipline is a bit easier, but still a challenge.

A hero is supposed to identify the enemy, go out and conquer, and then celebrate. For the junior high teacher, however, things are different. They live on the edge of defeat by their children, but to consider the children as "enemy" would be an admission of failure. No, these children are the next generation. They will be the teachers and workers of the future, so neither defeat nor conquest are options. Instead, we must persist in teaching those who struggle to pay attention. Thankfully the children do learn and grow in maturity, although the teacher may never see this. The junior high school teachers I had as a child made a positive impact on me, yet I can't even remember their names. Could there be a tougher and more important job?

Some of the time these teachers can be quite fierce as they grab the attention of the children. Other times, they relax and smile as our college kids provide some entertainment for the children. This one is trying to grab a little time to grade papers during a spare moment.

Heading for Kaoshiung ...

It is sad to leave all of our team members and the children to head off to Kaoshiung, but onward we must go. Here are some shots of the new high speed rail system in Taiwan which looks almost identical to the Japanese Shinkansen train, but with a different color scheme.

Sallust (86BC - 35BC) regarding the love of money

The airplane trip to Taiwan gave me some space to read. Here is something curious.

"Growing love of money … engendered every kind of evil." - The Conspiracy of Catiline, Chapter 1, by Sallust.

Compare this to the writings of the Apostle Paul:

"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." - 1 Timothy 6:10

Given that Sallust died in 35BC and wrote his statement perhaps a century before Paul, this should intrigue any Bible student. Why is it that Paul seems to be borrowing from this earlier Roman writer? As I have quoted the two so far, the similarities are highlighted. Now let's add some more to the same quotes and compare again:

"Growing love of money, and the lust for power which followed it, engendered every kind of evil. Avarice destroyed honor, integrity, and every other virtue, and instead taught men to be proud and cruel, to neglect religion, and to hold nothing too sacred to sell. Ambition tempted many to be false, to have one thought hidden in their hearts, another ready on their tongues, to become a man's friend or enemy not because they judged him worthy or unworthy but because they thought it would pay them, and to put on the semblance of virtues that they had not." - Sallust


"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." - 1 Timothy 6:6-10

Both statements are true, but there is a difference of emphasis. I should note that the introduction to this book by Sallust claims that Sallust became quite wealthy through money acquired by unscrupulous means. Sallust, however, is nostalgic for the earlier generations of Romans who lived during the wars with Carthage and had not grown addicted to the wealth of the later empire. Certainly his is the perspective of a wealthy, upper class politician.

Paul, on the other hand, seems to be talking about how a desire for wealth affects the common man. I am reminded of the truth of this every time I go to a store and see people buying lottery tickets. How many things are there tempting the common man to deviate from a wise course of action with promises of easy wealth? How many have have given up what is precious to them in the pursuit of wealth, only to be scammed or worse, but never enjoyed wealth or power of the sort that Sallust talked about?
The not very Fast and not very Furious: Taiwan Thrift.

Every young man has to modify his wheels. The addition here looks to be appropriate for Taiwan, given the precarious condition of driving a motorcycle in Taiwan. It also fits within the budget.

I wonder what the police in the US would say about this.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Last Supper.

Things are finishing up so quickly and this is our last dinner that we will enjoy at the Zhudong Church. Pastor Fan is on the left and pastor Zhou is on the right. Mrs. Zhou and some helpers have worked incredibly hard these days to feed our group. There is much to learn about hospitality from this family.

I took more than 1,000 pictures, of which a few actually turned out nicely, so there will be several more updates related to this part of our trip.
Some people look at the panorama below and see a very large Buddha with a huge temple next to it being renovated. Pastor Fan, however, saw a Christian retreat for prayer. Yes, it is the two buildings to the right.

Beipu Junior High School.

I wasn't expecting any entertainment, but that is what we got from all the children. They started with this well done lion dance.

Next, they gave us a kung fu performance.

Yes, there were 160 kids here.

The second morning, we had a performance from their band. They played pretty well for a junior high school band. Most of the time our job was to entertain and inform then in ways that would have the ACLU howling in the US, but this Buddhist nation is much less anti-Christian than America. For me, getting to wander around a school with a camera is a real treat that may be once in a life time.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Jurassic Park?

That was the impression gotten by the two young men who joined me to go running through the jungle. I thought my eyes were good, but apparently not. They spotted this along with several other monster spiders that I ran right by - until I ran directly into one of their webs! Now if only it could be a bit cooler.

This flower caught my attention with all the strange and delicate parts.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Internet went down ...

I will update things a bit later when I get more time on the internet. We were in EMei (峨眉) today checking out another church that we are working with. EMei really does look like a village in the countryside.

Our church was on the 7th floor of a building and not nearly as conspicuous as the Zhudong building, but not in any way lacking in enthusiasm due to all of the young people.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Some local stuff.

This is a top view of what they call "countryside".

This is behind the church. Perhaps this was countryside in 1948.

The local butcher is a bit more convenient here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

House Guests.

Awkward Situations ...

For an engineer who works with computers all day and seeks out lonely trails during my free time, joining in to a mission trip working with kids is certainly awkward. This situation has proven an opportunity for the organizers as I was hung in yesterday's skit and crucified in today's skit. No worry, it is all for a good cause! Being an American hanging out in Taiwan means that there really is no way to avoid the awkward, so we might as well embrace it.

One thing that has surprised me is the degree that these children already know the gospel message. The pastors and helpers are very sincere and systematic in their teaching in a way that reminds me of earlier generations of American churches. Could it be that they will be that the Taiwanese children will be better educated in Christianity than Americans? Mission trips are always a two-way learning thing as those who go are usually as changed from the event as those that the missionary sees.

I have been too busy to keep up on the blogosphere activity, but a never ending debate has reappeared over "Who's Qualified" to teach the Bible. It does seem to me that the heavy lifting in Christian teaching is being done by those who aren't sufficiently sophisticated or pretentious to be participants in this debate.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The place where we are at is Zhudong (竹東).

This town is what they consider "countryside", which simply means smaller urban enclaves interspersed with tiny farms. We are also on the edge of some hills and there are some trails going up into them. This area isn't near any major employers, so it is poorer. We were told that it was an area where the Hakka dialect was spoken, but the real story seems to be a large number of the mothers come from places like Vietnam or Indonesia and are having trouble adjusting. Most of the young people head off to the city after growing up, so there are plenty of children at the church but not so many helpers.

Luke 10:2 - "He told them, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."


I always feel that it is a sin to leave these uneaten, but there was simply too much food.

Monday, July 20, 2009