03410_000_008There’s a beach in Taiwan that looks like it’s part of another planet. But actually it’s a park where LDS Scouts practice their skills.
There’s a place in Taiwan where a piece of the moon dropped in the ocean. Or so it seems. Standing on a barren, wind-carved rock at Yehliu (yeh-leo) Park, surrounded by solemn gray, cratered stone, the small group of LDS Scouts looked more like refugees on an alien world than teenagers ready to practice semaphore signaling.
But they broke out their flags anyway. Two of the young men in the group scampered up outcroppings, unfurled the semaphores, and with rapid arm swinging began spelling out messages to each other. Even on rainy days, Yehliu is crowded with sightseers, and the Scouts soon had an audience cheering them on. The Scouts flashed the red-and-white flags over their heads, down by their feet, out to their sides. Hours and hours of practice paid off as the sentences made sense and the signaling drill was completed.
Business taken care of, the Scouts were now ready for some fun. Like Scouts anywhere, this group from the Taipei Stake loves songs with hand gestures. They sang several of their favorites as they walked along the rock cliffs that dip down to form the Pacific shore. Then, as they rested, they spoke about Scouting and about the Church.
“I’ve been in Scouts for about six months,” said 18-year-old Hsieh Mi-ch’un. “I have been able to make quite a few good friends, and I’ve also learned a lot. I have been taught how to tie knots and do first aid, for example, and I know how to set up a tent. These things are fun to learn for someone who has grown up in a large, crowded city like Taipei.”
Liu Tao-chih said, “I’m only 13, but I’m the second oldest Scout in our group. I joined the Scout program because I want to serve people, to do a good turn daily. The core of our Scout group consists of the young male members of the Church. We train ourselves and some of our nonmember friends to explore outdoor life, to appreciate nature, to learn about things we never had access to before. Especially in our group, we emphasize training our Aaronic Priesthood members so that they will grow strong in the Church and be strengthened for their lives.”
Once a month, the Boy Scouts join with the stake’s Young Women for some sort of outing, like a recent talent show held in the stake center. But on this particular Saturday, anyone interested in learning about semaphore signaling was invited on the trip to Yehliu. Scoutmaster Wan Chin Li and Young Women leader Chou Yu-Ch’ung came along to supervise and to teach the group about using flags to send messages.
“Our activities are separate for the most part,” Tao-Chih explained, “as they are for Scouts and Young Women in the United States. But every once in a while we share an activity where there is mutual interest. We hope the young sisters can become more active in the Church and learn the many skills to help our country and our society.”
Li Chiu-hsiueh, 17, said, “The Church makes me very happy. And I’m glad to learn the things I learn by associating with the Scouts. We learn manners and mottoes that remind us to do good for others.
“One of the wonderful things about being a young woman is to be able to live happily,” she added. “The gospel teaches us how to be happy, how to find joy each day in serving others.”
The members, from the Hsin Tien and Taipei Third wards and the San Ch’ung Branch, spent a fantastic day at the beach. They saw rock formations that looked like church bells, a beached turtle, an elephant, and a queen wearing a crown. They visited the vendor’s stalls along the sidewalk leading to the park and wondered over the dozens of varieties of shells for sale. They even talked to one of the ladies about the Church when she asked who sponsored their Scout troop. They told her how the Church has promoted Scouting in Taiwan and how proud they are to be a part of the program.
Finally the light rain that had drizzled all day long turned into a downpour. With their semaphore flags tucked under their arms, the Scouts and Young Women raced to the bus. They knew the ride home would be short. And they knew there would soon be other fun activities, thanks to Scouting and thanks to the Church.
(The relationship between Scouting and the Young Men and Young Women programs varies from one country to another.)