Saturday, December 17, 2011

Waiting for Christmas....

Five weeks of Truth English Bible Club, count them FIVE long weeks. 

We went from this in October to
these in November

So here's the grand finale in December

Almost all of the kids came back every week.  They LOVED the crafts  and didn't want to leave. In fact I think we might be in trouble with the school because they were late for their bus back to China so often.  I think.  I don't actually know.  Sometimes it's good not to know.

You can't help but love these kids but they are ROWDY!!! Maybe, for just a moment, they contemplated the God of the universe who created jewels of all colors, and children with all kinds of interests, curiosities, and capabilities...  maybe, maybe.

So that's what I did on Thursdays these past coupla months. We had twenty-four kids enrolled, six adults, and bedlam.  It makes me appreciate my "real" job (or my paying one, anyway :) which is now with international seminary students, who are calm!  interested!  glad to be at school! and they don't jump on the chairs and tables (or at least not as much)!

from L to R: an American visitor from California, two grad students from Myanmar and one from Mainland China.

The 2 students from Cambodia have finally gotten their student visas after waiting and wondering for more than three months and have arrived!
bringing our Cambodian student population up to three!

Lao students huddled against the cold (55F) which seems very cold indeed when you've just arrived from Laos. But they're happy to be here anyway!

Who knows which of the things we work for are worthwhile, which are of lasting significance, which are worth our time and talents and treasures?  I love the season of Advent (Yes, we've got another whole week of it, folks!) because it reminds me, in the midst of the world's frenzy, that there's power and strength in toughing things out (for a season), waiting them out, watch and see, which things show signs of fruition...

"Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God."
-- I Corinthians 4:5

And on a very personal note, did I mention the BOYS are arriving next week!!!!!!!    Waiting.... waiting..... oooh it's hard to wait!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My job is fun except when it's not.

My Coordinator of International Student affairs job AND my Mekong Mission Assistant Coordinator job is a lot of fun... except when it's not.

The not fun parts include excel spread sheets.  
I'm terrible at them.
Last week I was preparing in a frenzy for my first ever meeting with the Mekong Area "Network Implementation Committee" people who were flying in from Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and... Germany this week.  My duties included counting the number of Mekong area students at the seminary (28!), and reimbursing everybody for their airline tickets.  

So I was running around calculating exchange rates, converting Thai baht, Euros, and Hong Kong dollars into US dollars, ever so carefully counting out those greenbacks ... reminded me of my first job as a grocery store check out clerk.  Hmmmm. Some things don't change as much as one might have hoped....

Part of my nervousness is that I'm dealing with a whole host of expectations and different cultures in this job.  (For Saturday I was in charge of dealing with everything from giving reports on the academic presentations of faculty members who went to Myanmar to deciding what size bananas should be served for the afternoon snack- seriously, I got a phone call on Friday afternoon from the seminary President's secretary asking me about the bananas!!!!! Big ones or small ones?????....!!!!!!!! There is NOT a tradition of delegating decisions around here.)

But then I get to sit down with the students.  I talk with Rodion from Indonesia who's the first pastor getting a doctorate in something like thirty years. I talk with Sondang, also from Indonesia, dressed in a gorgeous beadwork dress.  Last week her church in Indonesia celebrated its 150th anniversary.... and over 100,000 people showed up for the event!

And then there's Mnai from Myanmar who has nine daughters to support at home. Nine. Daughters. Today one of the scholarship donors asked me if it was all right to give him a small extra gift for Christmas, because of his nine daughters.  Yes, I said. By all means. 

And there's the bishop from Thailand who was the first in his family to become a Christian. And he told the story of a witch doctor in the hill country of the Mekong, who is at the brink of converting.  And if he converts, then there are 300 of his tribes people who will be converting, too.  And the bishop and his  Church are scrambling to come up with some catechesis for these folks. (This is a novel challenge for the Lutheran Church to face... it's not the Lutheran Church as we usually know it from Germany, Scandinavia, or the USA!)

So it's amazing.  And maddening (when I'm dealing with those Excel spread sheets).  Occasionally, for a moment here and there, wonderful.
Wayne with a group from Myanmar.  Can you spot the American?

Stripes, zigzags, smiles

The Indonesians!

Can you tell where he's from?

Add caption

A future student... homegrown in Hong Kong!

I survived Saturday's meeting, by the way.  But I'm still not totally finished with the accounting for it...

"Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies."

               -- Mother Teresa

  “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones..."  -- Jesus in Luke 16:10

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Hong Kong Wedding and What we did NOT eat for Thanksgiving

Sunday we went to the first wedding I've been to in Hong Kong. One of the members of the Cantonese speaking church where I am the sacramental pastor was getting married.  Luckily for me, marriage is not considered a sacrament in the Lutheran Church, so I got to sit and enjoy the ceremony. The bride was beautiful, the church choir sang, and some of the children from the Ma-On-Shan grade school where I lead the Truth English Bible Club were present (the bride is one of our volunteers for this ministry)

A couple of other things that made this wedding different -- at the reception the bride changed her dress a whopping five times!  Turns out these dresses are rented for the occasion.  She was totally gorgeous, and the hoots and hollers were fun to listen to.

And then there was the thirteen course banquet.  Thirteen.  Courses.  We bravely tackled the first 5.  Slowed down on 6 & 7.  Slowed way down on #8 which is featured here:
Webbed goose foot.
Which is what we did NOT eat for Thanksgiving this year.

 1 I am a rose of Sharon,
   a lily of the valleys.
 2 Like a lily among thorns
   is my darling among the young women.
 3 Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest
   is my beloved among the young men.
I delight to sit in his shade,
   and his fruit is sweet to my taste.

-- From the Song of Songs, a popular wedding text from the Bible

Saturday, November 19, 2011

I thought about quitting

No reason for this picture except that I like it.  The view from a boat out in Sai Kung last week.  Give me some of that inner peace which this picture conveys!
This week I thought about quitting.

After hours of trying to straighten out scholarship documents, hours of trying to scan, copy and file documents, hours of figuring out unfamiliar office equipment

[like hole punchers.  hole punchers are different here.  notebooks are different here.  filing system are really different here. or maybe they don't exist.  i'm not sure.]

hours of trying to decipher the notes and notebooks left by my predecessor [don't get me wrong, he knew what he was doing.  he did a great job.  but there was a several month gap between his moving on and my taking over.  Also, this is such a unique job I'm not sure anybody ANYBODY could possibly  explain it to somebody else. Or maybe they could.  Maybe it IS just me.

For example, most people would probably not need three hours to merge two lists of students only to discover that the carefully merged master list now alphabetizes people by first names.

So this week I thought about quitting.

I've been dealing with nine student visa applications: 2 from Myanmar, 2 from Cambodia, 2 from Laos, 1 from Indonesia, and 2 from Vietnam.  Other years, apparently things ran ever so smoothly, but THIS year, now that it's me doing this job, the HK government does not seem to be keen on allowing these students into HK for studies.

I now have a file about 8 inches thick (no exaggeration, I swear) of documents faxed back and forth exploring such fascinating issues as:

  • letters of proof regarding financial support
  • discrepancy in the spelling of the name Soumphayana Okomenokhe on one document and Soumpayana Okomenokhe on the other document.
  • reference numbers in all documentation, such as: PT056000789721-11osd, formerly PT16270977312-270nso
  • discrepancy in birth dates:  10-03-1978 and 03-10-1978.
  • photographs which measure no larger than 55mm x 45mm  and no smaller than 50mmx40mm [yes, on that last one I was squinting thru my I-need-a-new-prescription-bifocals to measure the picture with my little plastic ruler, then running down to the lower floor to locate the paper cutter, which is also unlike any paper cutter I've used in my ahem 50+ years on this earth]

I really thought about quitting.  And it's not like dealing with these student visas is the only part of my job.  Oh no, no indeed.  There are also... lets just say LOADS of other things I should, could, need to do.

This week I got an actual phone call from an actual real live immigration officer.  It was a nice change of pace after all the faxes. He wanted to know why the student couple from Vietnam, who have a 2 year old, needed to bring their kid WITH them for the three years they will be studying in Hong Kong.  Can't they just leave him with a relative?

As a Mom myself, an American mom, that one kind of threw me.  Why not just leave the two year old behind for three years??????

But I contained myself.  I assembled letters of documentation from the scholarship donor and the young couple themselves,  carefully explaining that they had no close relatives who could care for their child, and yes, the scholarship money provides for housing and food for the whole family for their three years of study. And by the way, (I found this out myself through their letter) yes they had an older child, and that child died.  So this is their only child and they are both pushing 40. Is that a good enough a reason to explain why they want to bring their two year old with them for their study program?

Stories and real people are behind all this paperwork.

I dutifully faxed it all in.

We're still waiting on those last two applications, but seven out of the nine students have now been approved to enter Hong Kong, and they are beginning to arrive.

2 from Myanmar, 2 from Cambodia, 2 from Laos, 1 from Indonesia, and hopefully soon, 2 from Vietnam.

Can't quit now.  It's not a sprint, it's a marathon.

Two of the newest arrivals (on the right) from Myanmar, with their student guides. SO happy student visas have finally been granted!!!
A glimpse of the global church: here conferring with a visitor from Germany, LTS students from Myanmar, China, Indonesia, Cameroon, Norway

1 Corinthians 9:23-25

23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Flat Stanley in Hong Kong

I've got a little interlude on this blog... an enterprising kid from my church in Hartland, Wisconsin sent us a Flat Stanley. Flat Stanley, for the uninitiated, is a school project based on a book about a kid who gets flattened through an accident but makes the best of the situation when he discovers this enables him to travel the world cheaply and easily by being mailed in a regular postal envelope.

Generations of 3rd and 4th graders now draw "Flat Stanleys" to send to distant friends and relatives for recording adventures. This makes learning geography a little more fun as the kids then make a school presentation of the photos taken with their own Flat Stanley.

What follows is Flat Stanley's adventures with us in Hong Kong.

Flat Stanley arrives in pretty good shape after ten days of traveling in his envelope. He then slept for a couple of weeks working off his jet lag.  The time difference between Hong Kong and Hartland, Wisconsin in the U.S.A. is 14 hours.

Last week, finally emerging from his jet lag, Flat Stanley took a trip on a Hong Kong bus to pick up friends from the Hong Kong airport.  Most people living in Hong Kong (including Flat Stanley's host family) don't have their own cars, so it's good for Flat Stanley to learn to use mass transportation.

Flat Stanley arrives at the Hong Kong airport to pick up his friends.

Flat Stanley makes his first Hong Kong friend.  It's mutual admiration at first sight.

Our friends have arrived from Wisconsin and Flat Stanley explains the Hong Kong subway system map to them.  The light blue line goes to his Hong Kong host's home.

Flat Stanley makes friends with German friends in Hong Kong.  He wonders if they will take him to the German Octoberfest a.k.a. BierFest held in Hong Kong every October-November.  They tell him, Sorry, he's a little too late.

Flat Stanley tries to make friends with the monkeys on "Monkey Hill" near Lion's Rock in Hong Kong.  They are not interested.

There are a lot of tall buildings in Hong Kong.  Flat Stanley tries to pose with the Hong Kong flag but the wind isn't cooperating today.  The Hong Kong flag is red with a white flower on it.

Flat Stanley in Hong Kong Park.

Trying to make friends with the long-tailed birds in Hong Kong Park's aviary.  The birds aren't interested.

Flat Stanley gets caught in a Hong Kong rain.  Good thing his friends have umbrellas.  It rains a lot in Hong Kong so people carry their umbrellas everywhere they go.

OOh, Flat Stanley takes an excursion to Macau.  He goes to the biggest casino in the world (the Venetian) but his host makes him stay in the backpack because nobody under the age of 18 is admitted into the casinos.
On his last night in Hong Kong, Flat Stanley goes for a pleasant boat ride in Sai Kung. He also checks out the sea food but after he takes a good look at today's selection, he decides he isn't hungry after all.
whoops I can't add the video just now... check back in a day or two and I'll try to get it attached here. GOT IT! click and watch to see why Flat Stanley did NOT order seafood tonight:


Friday, November 4, 2011

Scenes from ISF at LTS up on TFS

One of the crazy things about my new job is all the acronyms.  Here are just some of the ones I deal with on a daily basis:

but one of my favorites is the 
(Lutheran Theological Seminary - International Student Fellowship)

Here are some scenes from recent LTS-ISF activities:

This is actually just a scene from the celebration for the ground breaking for the LTS expansion project, but I wanted to tell you about it as one result will be a bigger cafeteria, with some outdoor seating.  yay!

LTS-ISF sponsors a monthly birthday bash! Those with birthdays are supposed to share some words of wisdom from the vast  treasure house of knowledge they are accumulating as they age.

The approach of winter means some colder temperatures than some of our international students have ever experienced before.  Thanks to a very kind anonymous donation, Chaplain Po Chu was able to arrange for jackets for all the international students to help them weather near freezing temperatures soon to come (kinda humorous for us snow & ice habituated  northern Europeans and Americans, but seriously affecting the health of some of the students from Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, or Indonesia)

LTS-ISF president Frans (from Indonesia) hunts for the XL size.  What, no XXL? Diminutive Chaplain Po Chu (from Hong Kong) found him the biggest jacket they make!

Mmmmm, apples, Asian pears and dragonfruit.  No fellowship event is complete without food for sharing.

Ooh, we can just feel all that vitamin C at work...

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.   -- Acts 2:42

Monday, October 31, 2011

Planning for some jungle bedlam...

The posters are up, the kids are primed, and Thursday will be the start of our 
Big Jungle Adventure Truth English Bible Club
with local Hong Kong kids and some Chinese Mainland kids 
at Ma On Shan Lutheran Primary School.  
Some of them come from Christian homes, but many don't, 
and their English is, let's just say, minimal.
The question is, can fun, games, a good deal of chaos, songs, snacks, art projects, and those basic Bible Stories from the Old and New Testaments, somehow convey the essential truth that
the God of the Universe 
wants to be in relationship with kids of every nation, culture, and tribe, 
including very specifically, these kids, 
as well as you and me?
They are loved.  We are loved.  
Can we believe it?

This should be interesting.  Last spring we did it with two separate groups of  six or seven children at a time.  This year we have FIFTEEN P3 kids and SIX P4 "helpers". 
(We had decided as a leadership group that we wouldn't have helpers, given their pretty terrible behavior last spring, and lo and behold I was just given the list of participants from the official school list and it includes... six "helpers".)

So, who wants to sing a big round of:

"Who's the King of the Jungle?  WHO? WHO?
Who's the King of the sea (bubble, bubble, bubble)
Who's the King of the universe and
Who's the King of me???????

Stay tuned, I'm gonna try making some videos. Only maybe not the first week.

"...there is that great beast, which you have made 
as a plaything. "-- Psalm 104:26 Bible in Basic English