Friday, August 30, 2013

19 out of 19 visas approved!

Flower arrangement courtesy of my friend Carol
who helped me clean, cook, and then
gathered this glorious bouquet
for the table in our
Wisconsin home.
Just received word this morning: the nineteenth international student visa has been approved! Joy!

Meanwhile, the international students have been arriving at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Hong Kong... they just experienced the annual Student-Faculty retreat, and for sure some of them are deeply homesick and wondering what they've gotten themselves into.

My husband-the-professor reports having a "welcome back to Hong Kong" stomach virus which thankfully didn't attack until after he'd nearly completed the retreat...

 and I'm packing to rejoin him in Hong Kong... where I'll at last get to MEET those 19 students whose names we've been keying in over and over again, whose lives will be changed by studies and the relationships they'll be building at LTS.

Still, it's hard to say good-bye... again... to our three sons -- one of whom just moved to New York City... one suitcase and one job offer in hand...

A last breakfast of Al Johnson's Swedish Pancakes
and it's always hard to say good-bye to my 89 year old mother... plans for a big celebration are underway for her 90th birthday party next summer.... something to look forward to!

Changes are in the air... maybe a good time to remember that none of us belongs wholly to any particular place - not Door County, Wisconsin, nor Hong Kong, China, nor New York City, nor Yangon, Myanmar, nor a village outside of Phnom Penh, Cambodia (two of the places the new international students are from)... 

Maybe a good chance to think about these words (paraphrased) from St. Paul nearly 2,000 years ago:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. 

Romans 12:1-2

The Message (MSG)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Pray and fax. Fax and pray.

The great news is we have 18 of our 19 new international student visa applications APPROVED!!! Yee ha! Only one Laos student to go and I do hope our final pleas for her will have been heard by the end of the coming week. "Fax and pray" has been my and my co-workers motto for the summer months... a play on the (Catholic Christian) Dominican's motto of Ora et labora (work and pray... the two go hand in hand)

Please indulge me a moment as I explain a little bit about the kind of work this has taken:  about five months worth of mind-numbing paper and computer screens work. Dozens of faxes. Hundreds of pages of paper files. Folders within folders of scanned documents. Dates, student transcripts in eight different languages, extraordinarily complicated names including:


[ BONUS: Can you identify the above names by nationality? Hint: Nationalities at LTS include        Cambodian, Indonesia, Chinese, Myanmar, Norwegian, German, American, Laos, Australian. Answer on  the bottom]

One of our professors, watching me carry a stack of folders to the scanner inadvertently sent me into a near mild seizure when he told me how glad he is there are people in the world who just thrive on this sort of detail work, implying (I thought) that I was one of these people.

I'm not. 

I did very occasionally remember the following quote from the seventeenth century Carmelite kitchen worker, Brother Lawrence:

“We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.” 
― Brother LawrenceThe Practice of the Presence of God

I certainly didn't send all these faxes with love, although the colleagues working with me may have. But, I did and do remember that there are real students, real lives being impacted by these visas, giving precious permission for (in most cases underprivileged) pastors and Christian teachers from Southeast Asia to experience (and enrich!!!) the inter-cultural Christian community life and solid theological education to be had at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Hong Kong.

Here's my anecdote about Z. D., one such student, from Myanmar:

-- he came to a Mekong Mission Forum meeting last year in Yangon (the largest city and former capital of Myanmar) and it took him FIVE days to arrive from the northern part of Myanmar: bikes, motorbikes, mini-bus, overnight bus. "Oh, but that wasn't so bad," he said, "it used to take us almost two weeks. But then we got those bikes."

That's commitment, eh?
Z.D. is the guy in the middle, and he should be landing in Hong Kong this week to work on a doctorate in New Testament.
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord..."
-- St. Paul writing to the Colossians 3:23

ANSWER to Bonus Quiz:

Simorangkir   (from Indonesia)
Lervaag   (from Norway)
Nghilh   (from Myanmar)
Xaychou   (from Laos)
Touch   (from Cambodia)