Friday, August 28, 2009

New Doorways

I promise to take pictures next time I go, but meanwhile, let this photo (of Wayne in our neighborhood of Tai Wai) represent the new opening in my life here in Hong Kong.

This week I went twice to "my" new school -- the Ma On Shan Lutheran Primary School... once to meet the teachers, the second time to meet parents.

I found out that a significant percentage of the kids are from the Mainland of China and make the hour or so commute every morning by bus.

I will be going once a week (at first) to teach English studies and the Christian faith to six and seven year olds who may or may not have ever heard anything about Jesus before... and who may or may not know any English. This is not an ideal situation of course... I don't want them to associate Christianity with a nasty experience of English phonics and grammar... on the other hand, it's too good of an opportunity to pass up, and this is something which the local Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hong Kong has asked me to do. The schoolkids and their parents really want to study English, and this is a skill I can teach! So in addition to "A" is for apple and ant... our first lesson might include.... and God is the Creator of all things: alligators, asteroids, and Australia, too :)

Anyone know of a great version of the old hymn, "All Creatures of Our God and King, suitable for 6 & 7 year olds, which you'd care to recommend?

By the way, I did "M" is for monkeys, music, and Mozart with my 2 year olds at my "Hoppy Palace" English Phonics Centre job this week. You should have seen those two year old's playing "pretend pianos" to the Piano Sonata in C Major. Not the whole thing of course, but I'm not kidding these little Chinese kids quieted down and paid attention with their whole beings, as if there was a direct connection between the musical chords and their brain wiring. I was in awe. I must admit, they enjoyed jumping to that obnoxious "Three Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" song too.

"All Creatures of our God and King,
Lift up your voice with us and sing:
Alleluia! Alleluia!

O burning sun with golden beam
And silver moon with softer gleam:
O praise him! Oh praise him! Oh praise him!"

(hymn text: Francis of Assisi 1182-1226)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The hobbit hotel

This past week we had a couple of college students from Ohio State stay with us for a few days. They are friends of our niece. First they were just going to stay one night, but then their luggage was lost and we got to host them for a couple of extra days. They were the first to try out the deluxe accommodations of the "hobbit house"... the little loft in our living room, built by previous inhabitants of this house.

For a college-age perspective of life in Hong Kong, check out their blog at:

By the way, notice that little air-conditioner in the window? We thank God DAILY for air-conditioning, which we use sparingly, but gratefully. Ever so gratefully.

Even at night the temperatures have not dipped below the 80's for months now...

"I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint" -- God (in a dream to Jeremiah 31:25)

It was refreshing having a houseful of "boys" again!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Perspectives from the Peak

This past week we went to The Peak (highest point in Hong Kong) with our German colleagues & their young family. We took the famous, 120 year old Peak Tram. Although it was a cloudy day, the perspectives, as you can see, were fantastic. It's fun exploring places with little ones. They make us slow down, and take notice of the turtles in the pond and the splashes of water from the fountains, how sturdy the cables of the tram really are (quite strong, dear, we'll be safe) and how quickly the clouds roll in the sky, painting the skyscrapers white, then gray.

For those of you who sent me English language children's picture books... just wanted you to know that they are a HUGE hit with my kids at the Hoppy Palace. It's amazing how good art and funny stories can transcend cultures. The youngest children can enjoy just the colors & the sounds of the words, the slightly older students love discovering new details in the pictures & actions of the stories.
Please ask all the Pray-ers you know to pray for the success (in God's eyes) of the Ma On Shan Lutheran Primary School... where I will be going for the first time on this next Monday afternoon to lead devotions for the staff! I've only met the principal so far, and he's just a lovely, older Chinese man. The school is quite small by Hong Kong standards and this is a pivotal year... there are new housing projects going up in the area and this school would be a natural place for folks to send their kids... and most of them will be families that have never heard the Gospel. However, the projects are not yet finished, and this year enrollment at the school is so low that there is a danger of the school closing before these new neighborhood kids even move in. So the idea is to have a superb English-language program at the school (which would make it a magnet school) to attract area kids and parents, who would then also get to hear the wonderful story of God's love for us through Jesus. I am in awe of the way in which God is using my "tent-making" experience... tutoring small children (from wealthy homes) at the "Hoppy Palace" English language center ... to train me for this "free" work in the Gospel with children from more modest backgrounds here in Hong Kong...

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
-- spoken through the prophet Jeremiah ca. the year 628 BC !

Sunday, August 16, 2009

kittens, lizards, mold: the letters K,L,and M

Next week's letter for my 2-6 year old's at the "Hoppy Palace" is the letter "L" so we are doing lambs and lions and... lizards maybe? This beauty was sunning himself near our home recently.

My work at the Hong Kong Hoppy Palace English Phonics Center is always interesting. My teacher's aid doesn't speak much English but she does the scheduling (and most of the talking to parents). This past week, she told me there would be a maximum of 6 kids in my two year old class (yes, you are reading it correctly, I have Chinese two year olds... and younger!... whose parents sign them up for hour-long sessions of intensive English lessons)... so I carefully prepared 7 sets of materials just in case... only to have 8 babies actually show up. I felt quite self-righteously indignant with my aid, & ran out through the little lobby in my stocking feet (no shoes allowed in the classrooms) to scramble for an 8th set of kittens with mittens (last week was the letter "K") and slipped and fell, splat, right on my rear end, which thankfully is ample enough to cushion the fall, but it still hurt. And yes, there were enough witnesses to hurt my sorry little ego as well.

Also, I had just recovered from my fall the previous week from the slippery green slime on the sidewalk in front of our house. Because of all the rain, heat & humidity, everything outside is covered with the most astonishing array of green molds . A few things inside too: I was horrified to open the closet in my office and find my black leather jacket covered in dusty rings of gray fungi.

Tropical molds provide a good parable I think, for the creeping sin of self-righteousness, and the slippery sin of a "better than thou" attitude.

So anyway, I'm grateful for my calcium-laden ice-cream habit which I'm sure helped me not to break any bones... I'm thankful for ibuprofen, which helps get me moving these last few mornings... and I'm indebted to Church tradition which leads my family & me through weekly confession of sins...

16 For I said, "Do not let them gloat
or exalt themselves over me when my feet slip."

17 For I am about to fall,
and my pain is ever with me.

18 I confess my iniquity;
I am troubled by my sin.

-- Psalm 38:16-18

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Rain, a pigeon head, and the camera I left behind...

Remnants of another typhoon hit us on Wednesday night just as we were heading off to our favorite local restaurant (a.k.a. "the pigeon place"), making us grateful for the refuge of the many underpasses of the Tai Wai area (where we live).

I wanted to take pictures to record the way the streets turn into rivers, and yes, that's my husband, the professor of Marriage and Family Counseling, directly behind me, and our son trying, in vain, to pretend he doesn't know us.

A big thanks to our friend Danny for these photos -- make sure to look closely at the second picture. Can you tell what I'm eating? Yes, it's a pigeon head but I have to admit that though I nibbled the neck, I stopped short of sucking out the brain... I'm not a real Hong Kongian yet...

I'm can't show you the pictures I personally took, however, because I lost my camera on the Hong Kong MTR (metro train) yesterday. I was on my way to my new "once a month" church which meets in a school. I was excited about it... and worried about finding it in the maze of buildings of the "Heng On" housing project... and slightly late (as usual)... so when we got to the church and I wanted to take photos of some of the most beautiful people in the world (really! There was a Dad with his three year old daughter in matching pink t-shirts that would've knocked your socks off )... I hoped I had merely left the camera at home.

Many hours later (after an after-church excursion for lunch and happily discovering a new kind of cream puff at a Sai Kung bakery) we got home and my heart sunk to realize I had obviously left my camera on the busy train to Heng On.

After eating two more cream puffs to console myself (even though, as my son helpfully pointed out, I've been complaining about that camera for years and wanting to get a new one) I summoned up the barest bit of hope to call the MTR headquarters and ask if perhaps someone had turned in a black camera bag.

Indeed someone had, and the camera is waiting for me whenever it's convenient for me to come and pick it up at the station.

I love this city.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Summer nights, pizza, and the bishop's wife

For weeks now the temperatures haven't gone below the 80's F. (28 or so Celsius) even at night and yesterday we reached 99 F. with about 95% humidity. For some reason I thought August might be better than July but au contraire.

In the evenings we shut the windows (there is rarely a breeze to speak of) and turn on the air-conditioner (we tried going without it but found that our crankiness with each other was in direct proportion to the heat of the day. With the air-conditioner on, we like each other again :)

And with the more flexible summer schedule, we've been having more people over in the evenings for Wayne's Wonderful pizza! This photo is from Sunday night when we had our Bishop over with his beautiful family.

The previous night we had invited three students from the mainland of China. I won't show you their pictures because two of these students (a married couple) aren't "supposed" to be studying Christianity. They told amazing stories of their lives and the lives of their parents and grandparents, living through years of the persecution of educated people and the hardships... and joys of being believers in Christ's Way in China.

Among other things, I was sad to be reminded of the fact that young people such as these are only allowed (by law!) to have one child. How rich Wayne and I are, to have three sons, even if two of them are far away!

The third of our guests, "Esther", told how her family faced years of hardship because her family had adopted a second child. If I understood correctly, for years this adopted younger brother was not allowed to go to school or receive regular medical care because as an "illegal second child" he was a "non-person" in China. Last year, however, he received his official identity card . "What a wonderful feeling that was" exclaimed his big sister, "I went to chapel and just thanked God that day when I found out my little brother is recognized as a real person and can now go to school like any other child."

Esther's parents are not particularly pleased that their eldest daughter is studying for the Christian ministry, but in their love for her, seeing her happiness, they are supportive of her decision, even though there may be ramifications for Esther's father in his own job. Officials still often look with suspicion upon family members of avowed Christians. "Will your daughter devote herself to this Christian Church?" an official may ask, using the same verb in Chinese as the verb that is used to express what a citizen's attitude is supposed to be toward the Chinese state: devotion.

Esther is the first in her family to become a Christian, and is looking forward to the day when her family members are also ready to embrace the good news of Jesus.

When the Bishop came, we found out from his wife that she is a first generation Christian as well, and her father had just become a Christian a year ago. How beautiful to see the smile on her face as she told us the story of her father's coming to faith.

Wayne and I sometimes feel like we are getting to see and hear first-hand, as the Book of Acts unfolds around us in new ways, in Hong Kong and China.

"I will pour out my Spirit on all people, Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy."
-- God quoted in Acts 2:17f