Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lutheran Primary School Days Resume!!!

My weekly English language and Bible classes have resumed at the Lutheran Primary School.

Today I got to teach the two first grade classes separately (an attempt to put them together last time was an exciting disaster) so I first got to teach the group of 12 boys, most of them with special needs, and then the somewhat larger group of more "typical" first graders, although this group too has at least one student who is completely non-verbal and mostly enjoys turning the classroom sink faucets on and off.

It was fun!

Last time I had introduced them to God's name (since the English part of the lesson was "My name is") and I think in another few, um,  months they will be very solid on God's name is "God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit."  I have them make a modified sign of the cross as we say the words.  I wonder what they are really thinking as we do this :)

Then I started teaching them the song that was a huge hit with last year's first graders: "God made the world".  They loved it when I modified the song to ask each one their name (for example, Wing-Wing) and had everyone sing: "God made Wing-Wing, God made Wing-Wing, in my Bible book it says that God made Wing-Wing." It's got a catchy tune to it, and Wing-Wing and each of the other kids I called on was all smiles when she or he was serenaded.  We'll try and make sure each one gets a turn in the coming weeks.

Then it was on to the Second Graders, who swarmed me with great shouts of "Pastor Christa!".  This may be because they remember the colored pencils, sesame ice-cream, and sticker treats I gave them last year, but that's ok 'cause I'm a big believer in teaching God's Word in a way which reflects Psalm 119:103

"How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth."

Anyway, it was very sweet to MY taste to be back in school with them.  Thanks to all of you out there supporting us with funds and prayer.  Make that, prayer and funds, 'cause that's the order we need it in, teachers and students alike :)

By the way... one of the Lutheran Theological Seminary students told me recently that she became a Christian believer during her Christian Primary School days here in Hong Kong.  Her family was not Christian and she ended up at a Buddhist High School, but something in those early school years clicked for her, and she has since helped bring several of her family members to hope and freedom in Christ as well.  So who knows what the Holy Spirit may be up to with and through the teachers and kids of the Lutheran School at Ma On Shan??!!?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Teacher, Preacher, Cook

She preaches, she translates between Chinese and English, she cleans the candle wax off the altar... and she makes a mean red bean cake for after-church dessert.  What's not to like about this woman?

Meet Josephine, one of the students at the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Hong Kong, who has also graciously agreed to tutor me in Cantonese.  

She was  the preacher at tonight's worship service at Tao Fung Shan. As a woman personally acquainted with the chasm between academic Christianity and people of the local church communities, the chasm between the rich and the poor, she aptly pointed out that the poor man hoping for crumbs under the table of the rich man in Jesus' famous parable (Luke chapter 16) would never have had even that chance here in Hong Kong... the rich man's guards would surely have escorted the poor man away well before he got so close.

We don't usually even SEE each other, we rich and we poor of the world. 

But Josephine opened up that story for us tonight, and we were convicted... and given great hope that we can live lives differently, in Jesus Christ, who is both the poorest of the poor and the richest of the rich.

It's cool having a Cantonese tutor who's also a preacher.  And who feeds me red bean cake from time to time, too!

There was once a rich man who wore expensive clothes and every day ate the best food. 20But a poor beggar named Lazarus was brought to the gate of the rich man's house. 21He was happy just to eat the scraps that fell from the rich man's table. His body was covered with sores, and dogs kept coming up to lick them.                       -- read the rest of this story in Luke 16:19ff

Friday, September 17, 2010

All Creatures Great and Small: The MacLeHose Trail Stage 4

Yesterday Wayne & I hiked another segment (stage 4) of the MacLehose Trail.

Hiking these sharp little hills was a challenge.

What we had planned on as a 3 hour hike, and what the sign at the start informed us was supposed to be a 5 hour hike, actually took us 7 1/2 hours.  

We only encountered 3 other hikers the whole day. Maybe most people realized that it's still too hot in Hong Kong for climbs like these.

Two water bottles each was not enough.

We encountered hundreds if not thousands of butterflies... 

climbed hundreds if not thousands of steps...
Among other things, we saw the biggest spider either of us had seen in our entire lives.  In fact, Wayne walked right into its web which was spun over the path, but high enough so that he only tore the bottom part of it... but then I was afraid to go under it (I was following Wayne) because I was afraid it was mad and would jump on my head... I summoned up energy I didn't know I had to run very quickly under the web, after taking a couple of photos for the benefit of you, my loyal blog readers.  (Since you can't really tell from the picture, let me tell you, the spider was about as big as the spread of my hand).

You can see the landscape was breath-taking.

And at the very end of the trail... a field of golden lilies.

To be utterly honest, we would have preferred finding a taxi, or a vending machine with ice cold water. 

How many are your works, O LORD!      In wisdom you made them all;
    ... teeming with creatures beyond number — living things both large and small...     --Psalm 104

Sunday, September 12, 2010

3 Worship Services + 2/3 Blessing + 6 Continents = 1 Family of God

After practicing, practicing, practicing my Cantonese for Sunday's liturgy, I was ready to lead worship with gusto on Sunday.... only to stumble and stutter who knows what language into the microphone.  For a grand finale, I stood up to give the closing blessing... and promptly forgot one whole person of the Holy Trinity (All were blessed in the name of the Father and the Spirit only... so, my good theologian friends... did the congregation  receive a whole blessing or only two thirds of a blessing?) It reminded me painfully of my earliest days as a seminarian, when I would garble the invocation and forget whole parts of the liturgy.

Afterwards, instead of giving me their usual lovingly exaggerated compliments, "Oh your Chinese is getting so good!",  my kind Chinese parish members instead said, " Oh, you are working so hard on your Chinese!"


But here's an amazing thing I realized on Sunday night... this weekend I worshiped with people from all six (inhabited) continents!  At the prison worship on Saturday we had prisoners from South America and Africa, on Sunday morning we had lots of folks from Asia and one from North America (yours truly) and on Sunday night (at Amazing Grace in Kowloon Tong) a couple of Germans and an Australian couple joined in with the mostly Filipina congregation, to make the intercontinental worship complete.

In God's house we need not be segregated by our language abilities, or lack thereof.

7Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 8The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." 9So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.   -- Paul writing to the Galatians, chapter 3

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Friends, companions, and cheerful angels for the journey

In the middle of some frustrations last week (I can assure you you do NOT want to hear about them) I had the good sense to knock off for an afternoon and go for some sightseeing back at the Buddhist Nunnery at Diamond Hill.  I went with my Japanese friend, Yoko, who laughs at all of my jokes (feeble tho they may be) and seems to actually like my company(something that, for rather good reasons, my family has not necessarily been able to do.)  
In addition, I just received this note from the lead teacher at the Lutheran Primary School where I'll be visiting tomorrow, and starting the phonics and Bible story programs next week:

"Thinking you can come to our school next week, my heart is singing."
Wow.  How can I not believe that God has some special stuff coming up for me/us this coming year?

A cheerful heart is good medicine... 
-- Proverbs 17:22

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New semester begins at LTS - Hong Kong

This is how the semester begins at the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Hong Kong. With Word. With the Sacrament of the Altar.  With the Communion of Saints including students and professors from Hong Kong, Mainland China, Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, Germany, the USA, Sweden, and more...

The semester begins with  radical trust & hope: we are here for a purpose. We will be given what we need to succeed.

The sermon is punctuated by a real live illustration:  We are not like monkeys!  the preacher says.  In the animal kingdom the fittest survive, the strongest get ahead, those with power are the first to eat and only then do they let the subordinates get to the leftovers.  But those who walk with Jesus are learning to be strong servants who serve the weakest ones first, and well.

Just then a monkey comes tumbling off the wall next to the seminary chapel windows.  He was pushed off the wall by a bigger monkey.  He shrieks, and everybody smiles.  It is as if he has said, Listen! This is important!

We move forward with open hands, needing this bread given for those who are weak.

"I am the Bread—living Bread!—who came down out of heaven. Anyone who eats this Bread will live—and forever! The Bread that I present to the world so that it can eat and live is myself, this flesh-and-blood self."   -- Jesus  (as translated by The Message version of the Bible, John 6:51)

No climbing

I'm feeling a little bit like this little boy at the Chi Lin (Buddhist) Nunnery... can you see the "no climbing" sign?

I was ready to "climb" into teaching a new course at the seminary... a class on Christian Saints... only to discover that not enough students have signed up for this particular class.

Is it because the class is scheduled for 8 a.m.? Is it because it's a course that doesn't meet any graduation requirements? Is it because Protestant students have already been trained to be utterly skeptical of "saints"?

Or is it because everybody in my last semester's course passed the word, "Whatever you do, do NOT take a course from this teacher..."  :)     :/
(pathetic smile, or grimace)

Did you know the Bible spends a whole chapter telling us to think about the lives of those who have gone before us as part of the great "cloud of witnesses" who surround us, and (I would say) cheer us on, like the support teams who stand along the side of the road, cheering on marathon runners?

Christian Saints include Mary, Peter, the Desert Fathers & Mothers, Augustine, Francis, and one of my personal favorites Teresa of Avila -- she who is famous for praying to God with such intimacy that she crisply told Him one day: "If this is the way you treat your friends, it's no wonder you have so few!"

Ok, thanks for indulging me in a posting of self-pity.  I'll report a bit about Wayne's classes soon (yes he has some amazing classes he's starting today, in pastoral care, and everybody is flocking to take those classes.  I'm very happy for him, I really am,  (more pathetic smiles and grimaces)  :)  :/

I, meanwhile, re-started my paying job at the Hoppy Palace Phonics Center yesterday (yes, my little students were thrilled to see me which did my pathetic ego some good) AND I get to start with the Lutheran school kids in two weeks, so I'm looking forward to that, too.

Blessings to YOU in your work and callings, with all of the ups and downs, and "no climbing" signs we all seem to endure.

  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.   --  Hebrews 12:1