I began the year 2014 with an adventure. Invited by my friend Zoe, I traveled to Keelung, a city on the northern coast of Taiwan. There Zoe, two other friends and I saw the harbor and a night market, enjoyed a meal of hot pot (meat, vegetables and noodles that you cook at your table in boiling broth) and watched fireworks. This was fun, but the excitement really began during the next leg of our trip, a journey to Fulong Beach on Taiwan’s northeast coast to watch the first sunrise of the new year.
The trip to Fulong itself was an adventure. Twice we were asked to wait for later trains because the earlier ones were too crowded. The train we did get on was hot and packed full of people. After a 50-minute train ride we got off, and the station was so full of people that it took us about 40 minutes to get out. And all this happened at the time of night when I was feeling most tired.
But finally we arrived at Fulong. Zoe and I rented bikes at the train station to travel to the place where we would watch the sunrise, while our third friend, Belinda, decided to take a shuttle bus and meet us at our destination. (The other friend had gone back to Taipei to rest.) All my frustration and tiredness melt away as I glided out of the station and down the slope toward the seashore. Taipei has too much light, pollution and cloud cover for stars to be visible there on most nights. But Fulong is far smaller, and it was a clear night, so I was delighted to see stars scattered above us.
Street lights and windows on some nearby buildings provided some illumination, but the path was quite dark. At several points, I couldn’t see the road itself, so I had to steer by looking at a wall that ran beside the bike path or by Zoe’s head as she rode in front of me. At one point it became so dark that we rode by the light of Zoe’s smartphone flashlight.
Even when the path ran next to the highway and our road was illuminated, the ocean lay in a field of blackness to our left. The utter lack of even a distant lamp or a faint star made the water appear as a shadow within a shadow. I found myself thinking of Genesis 1:2. “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” I took comfort in the knowledge that God’s spirit is still hovering over Taiwan and all the earth, ready to bring light and hope out of the darkness that blankets our world.
After what I think was about 40 minutes of riding, we reached the spot where the shuttle busses dropped people off to walk up a mountain where they would watch the sunrise. But police officers blocked our way and told us we couldn’t bring our bikes up. We didn’t want to leave the bikes because the rental shop hadn’t given us locks. Belinda had already started up the mountain and was left without a cellphone signal. Zoe sent her a text message, hoping it would get through, and we continued on to look for another place to watch the sunrise.
Then we saw another, smaller path up to the top of the mountain. This path had fewer people, so we walked our bikes up the hill. This worked well for about five minutes, but then the slope changed into stairs.
Zoe and I walked on the concrete stairs, rolling our bikes up the muddy slope beside us. There were a few points where we had to lift our bikes over obstacles or move them to the other side of the stairs. People coming down from the top kept telling us that there were too many people and we couldn’t bring our bikes all the way up, but we were determined to try. When the path finally got to steep, we hid the bikes in the bushes by the trail.
We were hot and tired when we reached a plateau overlooking the ocean. Hundreds of people were gathered there to watch the sunrise. Singers were performing on a stage, and several representatives from the local government spoke. By the time we arrived, it was around 5:45, and the sun was expected to appear at 6:37. So we stood listening to the music and watching the sky grow lighter.
Soon pink and purple clouds appeared in the eastern sky. They then faded as the light grew and the whole sky turned silvery gray. The crowd waited eagerly as the set time came and went. The sun was still not visible because the horizon was covered with clouds.
Finally at around 6:45 the sun rose above the clouds, and the crowds cheered. We had reached the goal of our adventure. Zoe and I found Belinda and enjoyed the view of the sun rising over the ocean. The road back was incredibly beautiful, once it was light enough that I could see it. When I returned to the Fulong train station, I was tired but happy.
When I watch the news, I often become discouraged at the amount of violence, suffering and evil in the world. The Earth is a dark place, and sometimes it seems like it’s just getting darker. But just like the crowds waiting for the first dawn of 2014, we know that light will come into the world. God has promised to bring a new day free of darkness, confusion, war and pain. We may not know when it will come, but we can be as certain that God will fulfill His word as we are that the sun will rise each day. He is present in our darkness and will move decisively to bring an end to it once and for all.
None of us know what 2014 will bring. It may be a year full of toil and struggle, or it may be full of sunlight and beautiful views. But we can take courage, because we know how our adventure will end: with the defeat of the darkness and the dawn of a new, perfect day.