Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Fourth Week of Advent...

Early morning view from the Tao Fung Mountain on which the
 Lutheran Theological Seminary in Hong Kong is located.
Not many people get a view like this from their workplace!

We celebrated graduation for two Lao, one Cambodian, two Mainland Chinese students...
and one very proud American student... who happens to be
our pastor's wife at Union Church!
After many many work hours in front of computers, books, and lecture notes,
it was wonderful to get out into God's creation...
and smell the flowers! (yes- many
flowers blooming in Hong Kong
in December)
Sunday Wayne had the privilege of baptising four young people.
the newly baptised were given gifts wrapped in red
 - the color of celebration and the Holy Spirit!
I think it's cool to see Chinese characters written
on Wayne's forehead when he's celebrating communion!
The youngest member of the Tin Yiu Life congregation - ready for
her first Christmas.
"That's what baptism into the life of Jesus means... 
Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we're going on our new grace-sovereign country." 
[Romans 6:3-5 The Message remix]

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Photos from the First Ever (I think) Lutheran Women's Conference in Myanmar

The view from my hotel window.

Close up view from the same window.... I'm not in
Hong Kong any more... nor in Wisconsin!!!

Up the rather steep steps of the apt.
building which serves as church
and church headquarters of
the Lutheran Church of Myanmar.
With the organizer of the conference,
Rev. Dr. Philip Tan from the Lutheran Church of Malaysia.
This is church networking through the Mekong Mission Forum!
Here are two of the women servant-leaders from two different Lutheran
denominations, and a future woman leader! Their names are
Mary, Miriam, and Elizabeth. Pretty apt for a Biblical women's
Just call me the multi-media queen. And yes, the
projector did work, praise the Lord :)
The heart of any women's conference -
women with women...

studying and interpreting Scripture together.
I didn't take the greatest picture, but this is
one woman's hair, adorned with sprigs
of fresh flowers. I love it!

No conference would be complete without food.
I love the fresh ingredients... Burmese food
is among my very favorites. I ate so much at lunch, however,
that I couldn't eat any supper!!

Day is done.... down those same steps
and the dog was in no way bothered by
my stepping over him.

Back to the hustle and bustle of the Yangon streets.

 Coming soon... more photos from Yangon.

Here's something amazing.... I was able to access all the internet sites I usually access.... something not possible only ten months ago on my first trip to Myanmar (this is my 4th trip this year).

 Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.  
---Psalm 34:8

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Heading to Yangon

Leaving for Yangon -- Lutheran Church Women's event - - A Wise Woman's Way: Walking through Seasons of Life with Mother Mary and Other Women of the Bible -- should be great except rumor is I'll have a male translator :( Nothing against males, but really?)

Also, they say there's a keyboard but no keyboardist.

Also, I'm not sure if my carefully prepared keynote slides will work (It's my first time using keynote instead of Powerpoint. Also, electricity is sometimes an issue, as is the quality of the projector.)

Also I think my luggage is overweight because I told the students to go ahead and bring me stuff to bring home for them because I wasn't carrying much. Well, now I am :)

I ask for your prayers. But what better place to spend the first full week of Advent than in this amazing city, where the people are, indeed, waiting for all kinds of new realities -- political, material, developmental, spiritual.

-- Christa

Birds of the Table, Birds of the Air, Birds of Different Feathers...

This is our street -- come visit us sometime! It's been a busy time in the von Zychlin & Nieminen household... as you can perhaps tell by the lack of blog posts!!!

BIRDS OF THE TABLE - The end of November was filled with Thanksgiving themes... among other things, we introduced our three Cambodian students to the wonders of Thanksgiving turkey with a decidedly international flair at Union Church, where rice, sausages, ham and egg rolls supplemented the traditional turkey, stuffing and as my personal contribution and among my personal Thanksgiving favorites -- pumpkin pie!!! 

BIRDS of THE AIR On the way home from church we walked through the Hong Kong Park Aviary where Cambodian M.Div student Pisa got an up-close look at a fine feathered friend. Since the sermon topic had been "Consider the birds of the air..." it was a good way to continue the Sunday theme!

BIRDS OF DIFFERENT FEATHERS... [An old English saying, "Birds of a feather flock together" becomes subverted through cross-cultural Christians who embrace a whole variety of feathering types!!!]

Because Cambodia doesn't have a good system for theological education, we are hoping that LTS, as one of the preeminent seminaries in all of Asia,  can do even more in the area of "Forming cross-cultural servant-leaders, with a heart for local church ministries. (Okay, okay,  the "tagline" is a work in progress! Let me know if you have a better/shorter one in mind!)

To that end, our seminary teachers try to expose students to a variety of books, thoughts, ways of Biblical interpretation, and to a variety of practical experiences in ministry. For example, in his Crisis Counseling Class, "Dr. Wayne" recently took a whole group of students over to visit the "The Samaritans Befrienders Hong Kong" to learn about local suicide prevention right here in Hong Kong. For several of the international and local Chinese students, this was a very new and innovative idea for ministry. Besides the ministry itself, one student told me how eye opening it was to find out that those who serve as "befrienders" are volunteers, and most even pay for the privilege of undergoing the thorough screening and training necessary for those who would like to serve.

To further discuss Cambodian and Mekong-area ministries and the need for sound theological and practical education, we had... what else! Another of Wayne's Famous Pizza Dinners, with Cambodian, American, British, Hong Kong and Danish connections.  It does seem that pizza is truly and profoundly an "intercultural" food :)    (As is wine, which has the advantage of also being Biblical :)
Birds of different feathers...
feast together!

Cambodian inter-cultural servant-leaders
under construction in Hong Kong :)
So that takes you through November. Meanwhile I've also been preparing for a big meeting of the Mekong Mission Forum/Network Implementation Committee here in Hong Kong - a big name for a rather small group with a humongous task -- networking church ministries of the Mekong, with an emphasis on theological studies and Lutheran/ecumenical partnerships.   I was getting rather stressed out by the preparations (just ask Dr. Wayne, he'd be happy to tell you exactly how stressed out I was!) so it does me good to remember the sermon from the last Sunday in November...

"Don't worry!...Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" --  Jesus, quoted by Matthew 6:25f