Sunday, December 26, 2010

Bursts of Joy - Christmas in Hong Kong Part II

Christmas Day - 4 adult baptisms and an 81- year old man making his affirmation of faith;
beautiful church choir, adorned with voices of the youngest among this growing congregation...

The Christ Child is a gift for all ages!

Sunday -after-Christmas, a full house at Wayne's church, where the very talented minister, Daphne, had prepared eleven people for baptism, including one baby, four people in wheel chairs, and several young people who gave very moving testimonies of coming to faith.  One of them even shared her experience of having a father who committed suicide when she was a child of ten, the grief and turmoil this caused, and the comfort and hope she received from the cell group at this church.

Who knew a Lutheran Church could have so many adult baptisms, such a depth of outreach, and cell groups in Asia!!!??!

The Christ Child is a gift for all nations, all peoples, all backgrounds, all abilities.

Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning; 
Jesus, to thee be-- glory giv'n!
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing; 
O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, 
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord! -- O Come All Ye Faithful vs.4

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bursts of Joy - Christmas in Hong Kong Part I

 Bursts of joy:

I. This is the second Christmas that I got to tell the REAL Christmas story to Hong Kong first & second graders. They listened wide eyed as if they'd never heard it before. For some of them it WAS the first time hearing it. 

II.  At the prison, we watched the film version of The Nativity Story with the prisoners, and they seemed fascinated as well.  Even though it got mixed reviews from the critics, I like this 2006 version of the story & I highly recommend it to families everywhere.   It was terrific joining in with the prisoners to belt out "Joy to the World" from the ugly yellow cement walls of our meeting room. We aren't allowed to give gifts or bring in any special snacks, so the Christmas story was really "stripped" down to the bare essentials.  And it still works!  It's Good News!
III.  And our personal good news is that the boys are on their way!  As I write, the older two are en route over the ocean somewhere, ready to join the third "wise guy" brother for our family Christmas celebration.  Last year their flight was delayed because of snow in Chicago and Wayne and I missed Christmas Eve services for what may have been the first time in our lives.  This year we are looking forward to worship at Union Church  at 8 p.m. (what a civilized time for a Christmas Eve Candlelight service :) and on the following 2 days of Christmas Wayne and I are participating in Lutheran Church services... and between us we will be doing 16 baptisms!  (Baptisms on Christmas are a tradition here in Hong Kong, as they were in Africa... who knew?)

Come back for more reports soon on Christmas 2010 in Hong Kong!

Very Merry & Rowdy third-graders at the Ma On Shan Lutheran School with their St. Nicholas and angel tree gifts in hand.

Angels announce with shouts of mirth /  him who brings new life to earth.

Set every peak and valley humming /  with the word, the Lord is coming,

People look east and sing today/  Love, the Lord, is on the way.

                   -- ("People Look East" French Advent Carol, verse 4)


Friday, December 17, 2010

Advent 4 - Peace!

I woke up this morning -- no water!
I went for a quick run -- still no water when I got back!
I have to go to work this afternoon, so I guess our bottles of drinking water will have to be used up for an alternative purpose.
 Informal poll... if you had to make do without running water or without electricity, which would you choose?  Me? This morning?   No electricity would be fine if I had running water.  Well, if I had WARM running water :)

 Mary & Joseph had neither of course;  neither on that dusty road to Bethlehem, nor in that stable where they had to spend the night. Maybe the star of Bethlehem shone brightly enough for light, but there's no mention of who did the washing up in preparation for the birth, not to mention after the baby was born!

Some of Wayne's seminary students here in Hong Kong will be going back to their home countries, and serving in places where electricity & running water are not available, or sporadic. 

It kind of makes us think, this last week of Advent, as I wait for the water to flow again!

Here are a couple of end-of-the-semester photos of "Dr. Wayne" with the students from his "Post-Modern Therapies" and "Pastoral Care in dealing with addictions & abuse" courses.

One more quick note... I'm considering making an Advent donation to a water project such as the one mentioned on this Advent Conspiracy site, which someone told me about recently.  What do you think?

Advent Peace!

“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”  Jesus, as quoted in John 4:10

Friday, December 10, 2010

Advent 3 in Hong Kong - Joy!

 I don't think the road to Bethlehem is quite this hilly, but I did think of the pregnant Mary and (presumably) worried Joseph walking their weary way to the manger this week.

Wayne & I started among the monkeys of Monkey Hill, climbed up the 1,284 steps to Needle Point (yup, we counted them!), paused often enough to breathe deeply (well, to breath at all actually, and to quiet our pounding hearts) and admire the view.  Unfortunately we took a few too many stops so that our last 20 minutes were literally in the dark.  Good thing the path was paved with white rocks and had a railing for the more treacherous parts.

Next time, we'll get an earlier start.

(I wonder if that's what Mary and Joseph said, too?)

"The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.

Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come..."  -- the prophet Isaiah 35:1-4

Saturday, December 4, 2010

/a/ is for Apple, /k/ is for Cake!

Thursday was Apple Cake Day at the Lutheran Primary School, apples chopped & cake lovingly baked from scratch by yours truly, for primary school kids learning English, and hopefully something about Advent and the Christian understanding of preparing for the birth of Jesus.

Unlike many American kids, these students don't go for super sweet, so I made an easy apple bundt cake recipe I found on the web, substituted whole wheat for some of the flour to make it even healthier, baked it for the THREE hours my oven takes to get anything done... and lugged it over on the metro, then walked through the warren of public housing buildings to get to the school.

I forgot to bring forks so the teacher handed out toothpicks for the kids to eat with (since apparently eating anything with your fingers is verboten in Hong Kong culture). ok.  But toothpicks?  I thought there was maybe some special Chinese technique for eating with toothpicks but the kids struggled with it as much as I did, and I wondered whether some may have thought this is an American way to eat cake, one toothpick crumb at a time. 

I did make a big show of washing my hands before handling the cake to cut it, carefully demonstrating and enunciating, "Now, I am washing my hands", only to be greeted by squeals and hoots as I began drying my hands on the towel placed above the classroom sink.  Turns out that towel is for wiping floors and... whatever else needs wiping in a classroom.  But not hands.

The kind teacher then gave me toilet paper to dry my hands with.  Toilet paper??

There is still lots to be learned about this world of Hong Kong.

 "People look east, the time is near
of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
trim the hearth and set the table.
People look east, and sing today --
Love, the Guest is on the way."  -- Advent hymn (text: Eleanor Farjeon 1881-1965)

These are the towels NOT to be used for drying hands.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Just when we start forgetting we live in the tropics...

Wayne & Swedish colleague Dieter meet up with a python!!!!!

The red stuff is not blood... it's a red rope used to capture this beauty alive.
Actually it was Christopher, one of Wayne's students who met up with this amazing creature.  "I've seen bigger back home [in Myanmar]," he says nonchalantly.  The students dutifully called the Hong Kong police who turned the snake over to the wildlife management people... who did exactly what with it???

"Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a "Python spirit", by which she predicted the future..."   Acts of the Apostles 16:19

Acts 16:19 is the only mention of pythons in the Bible, to which my NIV Archaeological Study Bible says: "The python was a mythical snake worshiped at Delphi and associated with the Delphic oracle.  The term python had come to be used of the persons through whom the python spirit supposedly spoke.  Since such persons spoke involuntarily, the term ventriloquist was used to describe them To what extent this young woman actually predicted the future is unknown."