Sunday, March 29, 2009

Hong Kong video

Write comments with your impressions of this video from the Al Jazeera network!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Job Interview

"[your Father in heaven] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." -- Jesus (as quoted in Matthew 5:45)

I may have mentioned that I’ve been looking for a part-time job to supplement Wayne’s ELCA Global Mission salary (and a huge thanks to churches & individuals who give to ELCA Global Mission… without you we could never be here!)

So while Wayne is working full time as a professor of Pastoral Care at the Lutheran Theological Seminary, I’m looking for a part-time job for these reasons:
a) to help pay our bills including two college tuitions
b) to use my God-given talents and experiences to make a difference in the world
c) to be able to give generously to God’s work here in Asia and back in the States
d) to learn about, and become more a part of the local community here in Hong Kong

(the order of importance of these four things vary greatly, you understand, depending on the circumstances!)

And so it came to be this week, that I, a middle-aged matron, holder of a Master’s degree in a not so very sought-after field, have managed to snag an interview at a children’s center.

It is drizzling a bit the morning of the interview. I meant to leave early, yet somehow it is still pretty much the last minute when I discover my fabulous new umbrella won’t stay up. Fortunately, Wayne has seen to it that we are well supplied with umbrellas, and I find an extra. Off again in the now driving rain, I walk very quickly to the metro station, only stepping in one large puddle on the way.

The train has just left which means waiting precious minutes for the next one. In the train, out of the train, then I’m racing up the steps of the MongKok station with ten minutes to spare. Has the rain lessened? No, actually, it's a mini-monsoon now. I have to flag down a taxi and actually get one, only to discover the driver speaks no English. "Waterloo DOE" I proclaim, proud of myself for remembering that "doe" means "road" in Cantonese. I show him my damp map. He grimaces, but takes off. I just pray, religious person that I am, just pray he will know where to go. He drops me off at a huge seven- way intersection, pointing down one of the roads. I see no street signs, but splash through the puddles in trust until, voila, I am at 1117 Waterloo "Doe". Enter a little elevator up to the 53rd floor. Breathlessly into a minuscule room, two of the cutest little kids you've ever seen are playing on the floor, anxious looking moms hovering over them, awaiting their child’s turn with the “English tutor” (job I’m applying for). I practically have to step over the children to get to the receptionist's counter, only to realize I have dripped rain all over the floor. The receptionist is kind. She takes my umbrella, shows me where to place my shoes, and says, "You can wait long time."

Not sure what to make of that, I look around for a place to sit. None. I observe the kids and smile, wondering if this is a test to see how well I interact with kids. I am ignored.

Finally after several painful minutes of standing in my stocking feet in the puddle I have just created, I am ushered into another teeny room, the office of the interviewer, where I am given a half hour lecture on the importance of RESULTS and PROGRESS and rigorous TRAINING METHODS (Did I tell you... these kids are 3,4,and 5 years old?)

I nod enthusiastically at what I think are all the right places. The interviewer tells me there is an opening in our area of town for just one day a week, which is beginning to sound like plenty enough time for me with this particular organization.

The interviewer warns me I will need an additional interview if I am to get the job. I find myself wondering what his topic will be for the second interview.

I think I will take the job, if offered, as it pays a very impressive sounding $250 an hour in Hong Kong dollars, and will give me some great opportunities for getting to know families and beautiful children from the “real Hong Kong” instead of just the expatriate community.

The rain has slowed when I leave, and I am able to walk in leisure back to the Mongkok Station. My umbrella works perfectly.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Lent 4

Sunday night at Christ Temple (up the mountain at Tao Fung Shan)

The preacher is Chinese, from Hong Kong. Her face radiates love as she tells about the circle of poor women she tutors, who struggle to learn... not to "get ahead" for themselves, but to be able to help their own children with their homework. So that their children might live a better life. "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works," (Ephesians 2:10) we hear from St. Paul, and in Josephine's gentle sermon, we can see how this is true.

Next to me, a man who left his own family and his own country so that he can study to become a more effective pastor, counselor, community leader. In his home country the government claims that to follow Christ means disloyalty to your culture and nation. He doesn't know what awaits him when he returns, but he will return. He walks "by faith, not by sight." (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Next to him is the researcher from Mainland China, who seems to still be glistening from his baptism, here in this sanctuary, a few weeks ago. "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope... one Lord, one faith, one baptism..." (Ephesians 4:4-5)

Across the room is a tiny Swedish woman, an impossibly young pastor, with intense eyes. She sings with gusto and beauty. Speaking with her afterwards, she has a way of peering up at you when you speak, you have the feeling she hangs on every word. She explains to me how she counsels Swedish expatriates living in Hong Kong, via conversations on Skype. "Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you." (Ephesians 3:2)

We sing without accompaniment, the sound is full-throated.

Tonight's Eucharistic bread is dark, fortified with either molasses or squid ink :)

I leave church well-fed.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Suicide and Pastoral Care

"Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple... if you are the son of God, he said, 'Throw yourself down...'"
from the story of the Temptation of Jesus in the Gospel according to Matthew 4

Yesterday Wayne taught about suicide in his Crisis Counseling class.
A recent report states that China is the only country in the world where suicides among women outnumber those of men.
Another report states that Chinese youth are more likely to die by their own hand than in any other way.

And last Sunday's South China Morning Post gave the startling statistic that in Hong Kong, a city of 7 million, an average of three people a day end their own lives, most of them by jumping from one of the many tall buildings.

One of Wayne's students said his father had committed suicide, another student had an older brother who died that way. Even though it happened years ago, they each cried as they confided their stories.

We remember Pastor Orville Sanderson, a much loved visitation pastor back in Iowa, who freely shared the fact this his mother had committed suicide when he was a teenager. Even though Pastor Orville was well into his 70's when we knew him, he still carried the enormous scar of that self-inflicted death. With the simplicity of just telling his story, he was able to comfort others affected by similar pain.

May God strengthen those people (in many fields) working for suicide-prevention,
and the Church that proclaims the worth and love of God for every individual person.

"Then Jesus said, 'Away from me Satan!'... and the angels came and attended him."
from The Temptation of Jesus, Matthew 4

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pacific Adventure

Our kid got back from his 5 day Pacific Adventure & it sounds as though he had a really good time! I'm so relieved, esp. since I had a nightmare of him falling down a cliff. Actually come to think of it, that was me falling down the cliff. Anyway, it was a very scary nightmare, but Youngest Son is fine and in fact was one of the minority of kids who actually scaled one of the cliffs. There were only 16 kids, all boys, most of them from the rugby team who had gotten demerits for drinking or something and so couldn't leave Hong Kong, hahaha. Of course they were on a rugged island so it really wasn't much like being in Hong Kong. This is a picture of our son, taken by one of the other kids who had brought a camera. Our kid would not bring a camera because, "only girls bring cameras and take pictures of each other, Mom." In retrospect I did get him to admit it would have been nice having a camera.

The people who ran the program said these 16 boys ate 40 people worth of food for those 5 days!

"He will not let your foot slip --
he who watches over you will not slumber..." -- Psalm 121, A Song of Ascents

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Jailbird Part 2

You may or may not believe this. Remember how I just said, "I look forward to meeting some 'angels'" as I go to this prison to visit?

The prisoner I was assigned to yesterday, his name?


(Yes, I got goosebumps when he showed me his identity card with that name on it).

"I was in prison and you came to visit me" -- Jesus

Friday, March 13, 2009


"But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults"

--Psalm 19:12 (ironically the composer is said to be David, the murderer, adulterer, liar, and also one of the famous Old Testament "heroes")

I go to prison today. Ok, only for a visit. (Do you like my picture illustration of the day? Do you get it? We can't take cameras into the jail, so a jailbird is what you get today)

I'm going with a group from my local church here in Hong Kong. Some of them have been going for years.
Am I nervous? Absolutely.
And I'm looking forward to meeting some "angels" - messengers and "heroes" of the faith, going with me into jail... and waiting for me behind the barbed wire.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

lost coin, found money

From the Laughingbird translation of Luke 15:

"One screwed-up person getting back on the right track causes far bigger celebrations than ninety-nine respectable people who never left it...

...If you had ten coins — all collector’s items — and you lost one of them, what would you do? Like anyone else, you would turn on all the lights and go over the house with a fine-toothed comb until you found it. And when you found it, you would call all your friends and neighbours around for party, saying, ‘The shout’s on me, for I have found the coin that I lost.’

Let me assure you that the angels party like that over each wayward person who turns their life back towards God.” -- Jesus

Our big news is that we sold our car!!! It's been for sale on Craigslist, Facebook, word of mouth, any free venue I could think of, for nearly two and a half months . Finally it sold... and just in time for us to pay taxes (yes, we owe this year) and a few other of our transition costs not quite covered by a missionary's salary.
I looked up our bank account online yesterday, and there it was. "Lost" money, and now it's found. And just think, we'll be getting a little refund from our car insurance company too!

So I've been walking on air for two days. We were so ecstatic that last night we walked to the store to buy treats for our neighbors. "We sold our car," we said! "Here, have some cookies!"

One of the (many) things that I like about Jesus is that he doesn't frown on our happiness over "finding" a sum money. Instead, he uses our joy to make us dig deeper.

Just think, he says, how much more than
that even, the whole Company of Heaven gets excited about "lost" people who make a turnaround.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Monkey Mountain

From Prayers from the Ark by Carmen Bernos de Gasztold
Translated by Rumer Godden

The Prayer of the Monkey

Dear God, Why have You made me so ugly? With this ridiculous face, Grimaces seem asked for! Shall I always be The clown of Your creation? Oh, who will lift this melancholy from my heart? Could You not, one day, Let someone take me seriously, Lord? Amen.

Just a few photos from our trip to "Monkey Hill" in Hong Kong (also known as Kam Shan Country Park), where Rhesus Macaque (Macaca mulatte) monkeys run wild. This is a non-native species, the multiplied descendants of escaped pets. It is forbidden to feed the monkeys, and stories abound of tourists getting bit and mauled by hordes of them, when they've brought food into the park and there wasn't enough to go around. Wayne went again last week with some students, and reported that it was a little like a scene out of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds". Definitely another unique Hong Kong experience!
Monkey Mountain

Monday, March 2, 2009

bug eggs on screen window

Big square beetle-like things crawl on the windows and deposit neat sets of pale green eggs on the screen. Do I watch & see what emerges, or simply sweep them away?

Eight days later, see what emerges. Life is an endless mystery in the tropics! I'm counting on the screen to keep them on the outside, looking in.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Snakes in Lent

"He was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan*. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him." -- Mark 1

*snakes are linked to Satan in the Bible (see Genesis 3 and Revelation for starters); however, they are also an instrument of God's power and healing and good

I've seen two snakes this past week, three if you count the one I think I saw, out of the corner of my eye, in the tangled bed of rhododendrons, ferns, and dry leaves by the house.

The first one Wayne & I saw at dusk, along the path down the hill. We thought it was alive, until we noticed it was upside down, and had a slit on its throat. Did a dog kill it, or one of the dozens of cats roaming the area? Had a gardener noticed it and hacked it with his hoe?

Snakes aren't bad, you know, unless they are. And how exactly do you tell them apart, the harmless mosquito or rodent eaters from the poisonous life extinguishers?

The second snake was half way down a crack in a rock on the side of the road, when he must have heard me coming, and froze. I couldn't resist, I stood about two feet away, leaned over, and blew on his back to see if he would move. No. Was he dead too? I walked about five steps away, then tiptoed back. He was gone.

The third snake, if I did see it, was quick, and very near my house. Possibly hidden by the rhododendrons, now in glorious bloom.

Lent means spring and Spring has come to Hong Kong. Lush flowers, cleansing rains, and hidden dangers. In the warmth of the spring air, microscopic black flies attack my legs. Do I go inside or tough it out in the interest of enjoying the breeze? Big square beetle-like things crawl on the windows and deposit neat sets of pale green eggs on the screen. Do I watch & see what emerges, or simply sweep them away? I remember something C.S. Lewis once wrote:

"For the Supernatural, entering a human soul, opens to it new possibilities both of good and evil. From that point the road branches: one way to sanctity, love, humility, the other to spiritual pride, self-righteousness, prosecution zeal. And no way back to the mere humdrum virtues and vices of the unawakened soul. If the Divine call does not make us better, it will make us very much worse." -- Reflections on the Psalms, 1958, p. 32

May the season of Lent find us "made better". And it's good to be wary of snakes, but not so wary that we fear the flowers.