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

Monday, February 16, 2015

Walking/dancing/playing/teaching with Jesus in Myanmar

One of the best things in my life is the chance to see and hear some of the ways in which LTS Mekong alumni are walking/dancing/playing/kicking out demons /healing /praying/ eating/sharing/ teaching with Jesus back in their home cultures, once they've graduated from our seminary programs.
Two of our LTS Myanmar alumni 2014
So in early February I had the chance to go and visit Falam Baptist Pastor, Cer Thlia, one of the graduates of our "Diakonia" program. Diakonia = a biblical Greek word meaning service, is a program which tries to build bridges between the needs, cries, and God-given gifts of all creation -- especially the incredibly beautiful, diverse, god-like creatures known as human beings... and the ministries of Christ's Church. Diakonia is the "gospel in action".
Two cuties - the design on their faces is "thanaka",
 a traditional natural cosmetic made from tree bark.
Tatooed Uncle - I just had to ask if I could photograph him,
so glad he said yes.
Mother and Child - the area was full of garbage
and standing water...  I could only marvel at this mother and baby,
clean and pristine, faces beautifully decorated.
Four Cuties - created in God's image
 It was a fantastic opportunity to see Pastor Cer Thlia and other Myanmar friends in action with Jesus, four different denominational backgrounds (Baptist, Presbyterian, Assembly of God, Lutheran) in six different children's centers, where children and their families receive tutoring and skill-building and just plain old FUN, in some cases working in areas where there is (otherwise) no schooling at all.

They let me do some of my favorite children's songs as part
of the English enrichment. Where
are your teeth???

I hope I'll see these children again. 

Cer Thlia's friend and co-worker is the "Pied Piper" in this remote and underprivileged
part of Yangon... barely accessible by motorbike in the dry season, I'm not sure how anyone gets around in the rainy season.

Lutheran Church in Myanmar "Hope Center" -- these Lutherans
are a relatively new "denomination"  in Myanmar, but eager
to find ways to put the Gospel into action.

See what kind of love the Father has given us: We are called God's children—and that is what we are!     -- I John 3:1 (International Standard Version)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Church Life over the Border in Mainland China

Last Saturday the Seminary faculty travelled into Mainland China.

It's a 15 minute walk, half hour train ride, then about a ten minute walk through customs, in order to travel from our home in Hong Kong to the great commercial center of Shenzhen.
Full Bible classes, held in an art center.
It was touching to see the eagerness and interest of the students at the Training Centre, their thirst for Christian education and their commitment to coming to classes all day, every Saturday for a whole year.
A toast with tea!

I've grown accustomed to having cherry tomatoes served as part of the fruit plate. They were delicious!
We were also touched by the hospitality shown wherever we went, and the evident pride in surprisingly large church facilities, which seem to be bursting at the seams every Sunday.
LTS Faculty with Mainland Chinese hosts in front of a huge Christian Church in Shenzhen,
which is said to host 9,000 people, spread over four worship services each Sunday.
Again and again we hear that there is a thirst for meaning and moral teaching in China. Outside an old church school which is being refurbished and turned into a museum (it's too small to serve its original purpose) we saw a variety of adorable kids playing. Hopefully the world we (together with our Chinese Church sisters and brothers) are working to help shape will be different, and better, for them.
Construction site.

Check out this little dude's haircut.

Cuties -- the image of the Creator!

These little guys were about to get in trouble for picking the dahlias. 
 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.   -- Deuteronomy 6:5-7