Monday, October 5, 2015

Conference on Forgiveness & Reconciliation in Cambodia

Wayne and I spent nearly a week in Cambodia, including three days of the Mekong Mission Forum Joint Theological Consultation on the topic of Reconciliation and Forgiveness.

Out and about in Phnom Penh:

Mekong Mission Forum "Joint Theological Consultation" on Forgiveness and Reconciliation:

Large group and small group discussions:
The conference folks took a field trip to the S-21 Toul Sleng Genocide Museum and the "Killing Fields. Just overwhelmed again by the horror that took place in this beautiful country:

For many of the conference participants, even those from the Mekong countries, and even one or two from Cambodia itself, it was the first time to go to the Genocide Museum and Killing Fields. It was a moving experience. How is forgiveness and reconciliation possible, in a land which has undergone this kind of horror? How can we speak about this history, and how can we speak about God who Himself underwent and still undergoes the worst of human nature, the worst of human violence?

And yet we end on a life-giving note...

Cambodian children, Cambodian "Life with Dignity" ministry, Cambodian family ministry. 

17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 
-- II Corinthians 5: 17-19

Monday, August 10, 2015

Summer 2015: Contrasts USA and Hong Kong

Another "working summer", visiting and sharing with congregations in the USA is drawing to a close. One of our favorite things to do -- Children's Talks!

How is life different in the USA and Hong Kong?

2.A. Wild life in Wisconsin
2.B.Wild life in Hong Kong! (ok, not really wild)
3.A. Umbrellas in the USA (Usually for the rain)
3.B. Umbrellas in Hong Kong (for rain, sun, and to show hope for full democracy in Hong Kong) 
4. A. Snacks in Hong Kong... all natural, chewy, bony chicken feet!

4. B. Snacks in Wisconsin... artificial everything sno cone (so bad but so good)
5. Church life in Hong Kong... a little bit different than in the USA

Nepalese Congregation in Hong Kong.

Worship in Southeast Asia (YOUTHFUL Myanmar Lutheran Church) 

Worship in the USA tends to be.. newer hymnbooks, comfy-er chairs, a little older, a little emptier.


No matter the color of our umbrella or the way we eat our snacks,
we are "blood relatives" with sisters, brothers, aunties, grandpas all over the world, through Jesus, our Savior and Lord and Friend. And so,

"So, whether we are at home, or away, 
we make it our aim to please the LORD."
(St. Paul in his 2nd Letter to the Corinthians, 5:9)

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Theology, tourist attractions, friends and alumni in Myanmar

Alumni follow-up is one of the sweetest rewards of teaching at the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Hong Kong. Along with serving Hong Kong and Mainland China, LTS is also instrumental in theological education for the Mekong region.

Wayne and I thoroughly enjoyed a "Moving Theology" event for Hong Kong-educated theological alumni in Myanmar (a.k.a. Burma) in May. Many of the LTS and Chinese University alumni now serve as leaders in their home churches and seminaries, including Baptist, Presbyterian and Anglican. 
Dr. Saw Christopher with his siblings. 
Since we were in a relatively remote part of Myanmar - Wayne and I became something of tourist attraction ourselves. These Buddhist monks were delighted to snap photos of themselves with Wayne... a different kind of inter-faith dialogue!
Lutheran Theological Seminary (Hong Kong) -  Myanmar alumni

Theological Sisters!
LTS alumni, family and friends!

Wayne became the tourist attraction for a group of monks.

Christian theology in a Buddhist context - what can we learn from one another?

Prayer Mountain, Karen State.

Beauty I

Beauty II
8Among the gods there is none like you, Lord;
no deeds can compare with yours.
9All the nations you have made
will come and worship before you, Lord;
they will bring glory to your name.
10For you are great and do marvelous deeds;
you alone are God.
  -- Psalm 86

Thursday, April 16, 2015

God graced us in Cambodia!

Fields of hope with Lutheran Church of Cambodia outreach ministries.

God graced us in Cambodia the week before Easter!

I helped facilitate the first "Beloved Daughter's" Biblical empowerment workshop for women. I'm doing it as part of my work with the Mekong Mission Forum, and partly as research for my Doctorate of Ministry program at Lutheran Theological Seminary Hong Kong. I'm studying how Christian women in the Mekong might be experience empowerment by listening to (often long-neglected and marginalized) women's voices in the Bible... and by listening to each other's (also often long-neglected and marginalized) voices today.

"This is my beloved daughter... listen to her!" Women's Conference, Cambodia
I met with the some of the very beautiful missionaries who are serving in Cambodia - a lively bunch! Christianity is clearly not a Western religion, it's embraced, contextualized, and spread by missionaries from Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong, the Philippines -- and now in the LCC and elsewhere -  from Cambodians to Cambodians.

Waiting eagerly for treats, stories, music, love.

Buddha smiles at the community center where
children gather. Maybe he's listening to the
stories about Jesus, too!

Songs and stories and snacks. It's a treat
on a Sunday afternoon! 
After Sunday services in Phnom Penh, I was invited to go with a group of the LCC leaders to a small village about an hour or so outside of the city. 

In this place, I watched the Cambodian pastor faithfully walking and talking with groups of village people.

A woman whose side had been paralysed since giving birth to a child 13 years ago -- Will you pray for her, her friends asked the Pastor V.

He would and he did. And the next time there is a medical team coming from Hong Kong or Singapore, they will be visiting with, and listening, to these women.

We talked with a group of young men getting ready for a wedding. We could see the beer cooling in a big tub -- Will your Jesus help make me rich? -- one young man laughed. Pastor V. had a good response: Maybe not, but he can guide you to make your marriage be a faithful and happy one. That's a better way of being rich.  (The LCC has a marriage and family outreach ministry)
And then suddenly, Pastor V. and I were called to the side of an old man who said he wanted to be baptized. Now. Today. Pastor V. had met this elderly couple before.  He had told them about Jesus. The man was frail. Last week he said he wanted to become a Christian... but now I can see he cannot wait until we have our Baptism Day at the church.

Someone brought a basin of water. We asked him, and the old man loudly said YES, he believed in God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. YES, he renounced all other gods and spirits except God alone.

I heard the old man's voice.
I saw the tears streaming from his wife's eyes.
I felt the splash of water.
I saw the gentleness of the young Cambodian woman from the Lutheran Church, who, after the baptism, together with the old man's wife, used the rest of the baptismal water to gently wash the old man's head, his shoulders, his feet.

Palm Sunday 2015 Asking for new birth of Christian baptism!

"Benediction" washing after the baptism.
God graced us in Cambodia the week before Easter! 

"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called Children of God! And that is what we are!"  
(I John 3:1a, TNIV)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Juxtapositions: Ash Wednesday and Chinese New Year of the Goat

This year Ash Wednesday and Chinese New Year Eve came on the same day. Chinese New Year celebrations are so important, even the Roman Catholic cardinal in Hong Kong gave his flock an official "dispensation" from Ash Wednesday fasting.

At the Lutheran Theological Seminary (Hong Kong) we had the imposition of ashes in the morning followed by Chinese New Year feasting in the evening.

On the first Day of the Chinese New Year (it's the Year of the Goat) we combined traditions by going on a 14 mile wilderness hike (walking with Jesus), scaling the steep climbs of the Hong Kong hills (almost like mountain goats). LTS students from Myanmar are much better climbers than their international professors from the flatlands of the Midwest (USA) and the Netherlands!

Our hearty friends and colleagues from the Netherlands.

Happy we can still climb mountains together!

Definitely the last hike for this particular pair of shoes!!!

"These hills remind us of home" Seemed to me
they weren't even breathing hard.

We did it! Here's to a great start to the Chinese New Year of the Goat...
and the Holy Season of Lent...
18The high mountains belong to the wild goats...
24How many are your works, LORD! In wisdom you made them all; 
the earth is full of your creatures...
30When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.
- from Psalm 104