Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Students and gifts, and more than a wee little bit of jet-lag...

Myanmar coffee, Myanmar mug, Myanmar t-shirt
gifts of the heart help me to overcome my jet-lag!

I have TOO MUCH work and I'm still jet-lagging, which means I've been waking up at 3:30 a.m. and can't get back to sleep. But today been I made it until 4:30 a.m. so that's progress. It always takes me two weeks. I've tried all the remedies, thank you very much for your concern, it still takes me two full weeks!
But the students, new and old, are intriguing, beautiful, incredibly devoted. Just yesterday I spent time with these graduate students from Myanmar and Indonesia:
  • --Two new  students who need to go to the hospital for medical attention - one with a huge boil on his face  who joked it's the devil attacking him trying to dissuade him from seminary studies -- neither of us is convinced that's only a joke!  Thankfully, two local Hong Kong students will help them to negotiate the intimidating queues and triage systems at the public hospital.
  • -- A woman who told me about the last month of her mother's life this summer, and how hard it was for her, the student, to return to Hong Kong and give full concentration to her studies. How does one do that? 
  • -- Another student whose 30 year old brother was in a terrible motorcycle accident this summer, which left him half paralyzed and unable to walk, talk, or feed himself. There's almost no therapy available for him in that part of Myanmar. So the hospital just sent him home for the family, mostly his ageing mom, to take care of him. 
  • -- Another new student came to my office deeply worried about his scholarship fund, which is suddenly way reduced because it comes from Great Britain and the British pound has undergone a big devaluation since Brexit.
And all of that was in addition to the small mountain of financial documents I'm trying to cough up in time for my October meetings for the Mekong Mission Forum in Myanmar. sigh.
But as an unexpected grace to my work,  I've received a dizzying array of "welcome back!" gifts from students including: one bead necklace, one woven purse, two packets of coffee, an angel candle, two "longi" or pieces of cloth to use as a skirt, one bag of peanuts, and a bunch of amazingly delicious red bananas. 

So life is pretty okay back at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Hong Kong - 

Except for the getting up at 4:30 a.m. part. One more week to go.
New seminary graduate students from Myanmar exploring Hong Kong with one of our LTS faculty colleagues

Abundant Life Christian Church has recently become
one of our local sponsors and prayer partners with S/E Asian students

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!

I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
    I would fly away and be at rest.
-- Psalm 55:6

I've been silent a long time on this blog! I'm alone in the house in Wisconsin. The countdown is on, I return to Hong Kong in less than two weeks. I'm in daily touch with Wayne, his evening to my morning, my morning to his bedtime. The old Biblical understanding of husband and wife as being "one flesh" is true for us... when we are far apart like this, we each feel something material is missing from our very selves. Not to be sentimental - we have plenty of crankiness when we are together! Nit-picking, long-standing irritations, and loud arguments do occur, our sons can vouch for it! But there's also this strange emptiness when we're apart. 

After Martin Luther got married (at the rather ripe age of 42) he wrote, “There is a lot to get used to in the first year of marriage. One wakes up in the morning and finds a pair of pigtails on the pillow which were not there before.”

For me it is currently the opposite, I wake up and immediately notice an emptiness in the house. Nobody is making coffee in the kitchen, nobody is reading in the living room, nobody to ask me how I slept in the night.

in USA
in Hong Kong
I find these two weeks before leaving the US are the hardest time... I've been in regular communication and doing distance work through the internet the whole summer, so my heart has never really left Hong Kong. At the same time, HERE is where my mother, our sons, our extended family & grand-niece, and okay some of my favorite foods (butter burgers! just-picked sweet corn! Little Debbie bars - I admit it, they have no redeeming nutritional value, and I love them!) all these are HERE. 

And more -- I understand the language here. I can call up any business on the phone and expect to receive a comprehensible answer here. I can drive a car here (too chicken & too poor to own a car in Hong Kong!) I breath the fresh Wisconsin air and can walk barefoot on the grass with no fear of snakes! (No poisonous ones in this part of the State). And then there's the heat & humidity of Hong Kong. Ugh. I won't even get started on that one.

But... then there are those students waiting. Those international seminary students who have also given up their homes, their moms & dads, in some cases spouses and children, their language, foods, culture; their positions as highly regarded church leaders - in order to come and study and grow with and among us, faculty, staff and community of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Hong Kong.

In so many ways I can't stand the thought of leaving my US home, and in so many ways, I can't wait to get back again, to my Hong Kong home, and those who await me there.

"If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
-- Psalm 139:9-10

Thanks to Kin Tharo for this photo of new international seminary students at LTS,
together with a few of my favorite people in Hong Kong!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Chinese New Year of the Monkey... and the beginning of Lent!

Happy New Year of the Monkey, everybody! One of the great advantages of life in China -- a ten day break for Chinese New Year! However, as everyone knows, when you're in the education "business" your work is never done, so Wayne was still working on the big questions: seminary education for Hong Kong and China and Southeast Asia... what's a seminary for? How can we be God's agents for the world? How can we best live together with all the challenges and opportunities of being an intercultural community of Hong Kong, Chinese, Southeast Asian (Myanmar, Cambodian, Laos, Indonesian), European and American students and faculty?

It's been COLD here in Hong Kong this spring. 55 F. may not seem
much to you hearty Midwesterners, but when it's a damp cold
and there's no central heating system anywhere, it's bone-chilling.
Good thing you can see in this picture, we have a small layer of winter fat to help insulate us...

Luckily all that hard thinking about the future of seminary education in Asia didn't keep us away from a couple of gorgeous walks in the Hong Kong hills, and a couple wonderful New Years meals with students and other faculty.

The last two weeks I (Christa) have been slaving away on an academic paper on diakonia (for my D.Min. degree... I hope to graduate by the end of 2016!) and also getting ready for a two week trip to Myanmar, where I'll be interviewing applicants to our seminary, conducting a women's bible study workshop and taking what for me is an extremely exotic trip out to a remote spot in the eastern part of the country where our school has an alumnus who is the head of a small Baptist seminary there. Should be fascinating! He said this will be the first time an outside non-Burmese has come to their place to speak (hard to believe there are still such places left in the world) and he expects about a thousand people to show up (????) but maybe he got his 100's and his 1000's mixed up (!!!)  

This will leave Wayne with nearly two weeks "on his own" but I suspect he will get in a coupla more hikes, and find other things to do in my absence.
A nap in the mountains of Hong Kong - ahhhhhh!

Peace and spiritual deepening to all of you during this Lenten season.

"Should thy mercy send me   
Sorrow, toil and woe,
Or should pain attend me   
On my path below,
Grant that I may never
Fail thy hand to see;
Grant that I may ever
Cast my care on thee."
("In the Hour of Trial", verse 3)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Blessed 2016!

Wayne and I began 2016 with a holiday trip to Singapore -- just the two of us -- thrilled to meet God's creatures great and small at the Singapore zoo, including
Singapore white tigers

happy orangutans
Wetland park mudflats - fun!
One of my favorite weird creatures - mudskippers! 

When we came back from Singapore, it was time to celebrate Wayne's 60th birthday, which involved wonderful church friends and seminary colleagues completely surprising him with an afternoon on a gorgeous Hong Kong junk. Our eldest son had made it just in time - along with his girlfriend, whom we had met last summer.
Really, it was more than a little taste of heaven, with old friends near and far sending good wishes, poems, limericks, jokes, songs and prayers. Languages included Spanish, Finnish, Old Scottish, Mandarin, English and Kachin (one of the ethnic groups of Myanmar (Burma). Here's the Kachin group:

At our chapel Eucharist this week we were each given a candle, which I share with you today, along with an Epiphany prayer:

Opening Prayer for the Epiphany of Our Lord

Let us pray,

[grateful for the glory revealed today
through God made human.]

Father of light,
unchanging God,
today you reveal to people of faith
the resplendent fact of the Word made flesh.
Your light is strong,
Your love is near;
draw us beyond the limits
which this world imposes,
to the life where Your Spirit
makes all life complete.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Change of seasons (at last!)

Hello again from Hong Kong! The weather FINALLY turned a little bit cooler. Some of the students are wearing warm jackets already, whereas we "northerners" are just happy to trade in our sandals and thinnest shirts for more substantial shoes and (still short-sleeved!) shirts. I was also inspired to bake a pumpkin pie this weekend. Most of the Chinese faculty and international students seemed to like it, but maybe they were just being polite. My husband can't stand the stuff, which is all right by me since it means I get an extra helping!

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to lead a delightful group of LTS Mekong students  in a "Biblical women" seminar, looking at some of the lesser known texts about particular women in the Bible. It was marvelous, getting their insights. It turns out that to this day, boys in Myanmar are favored with the "fish head" (considered the best part of the fish for eating!) whereas the girls get the tail. Hmmm! It was great for us to listen together to God's Word, which sometimes comes to us as a female voice -- in the voice of a Biblical woman... or as an insight from a sister in Christ! 

On a very different note, the monkeys have been making very regular visits to our home (backyard) and also like to dive in the pond up at the seminary. Here's a couple of photos from the back roof of our house, where the monkeys enjoyed some ripe starfruit. There was also a recent stand-off between the monkeys and a troop of semi-wild dogs which have been cavorting in the neighborhood, and seem to especially like our yard. The dogs had a grand tiime, madly chasing the monkeys and barking up the trees. The monkeys screeched and shook the branches at the dogs. Thankfully, it seems it was all noise and warnings and no actual violence took place.

 As I said, the weather has turned cooler, so that means it's finally hiking weather again. Here's a photo of one of my favorite hiking companions!

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
 who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
 who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. -- Psalm 103

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)