27 October 2011

Reflection: Romans 8:26-28

"But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:24b-28)

Every day I hear the Babel-like cacophony of languages burbling up from the massive crowds that merge and converge all over Hong Kong. Simply walking down the street I hear Finnish, French, German, Hindu, Cantonese, Tagalog, and many other language I can't quite identify. I love it. This morning on the subway a man and a woman got on and I heard them speaking in French. They stood next to me and the man reached out to hold the handrail I was also holding on to. I smiled shyly and said "Bonjour." (digging deep into the 4+ years of French I had in high school/college...) He said something to the effect of, "Oh, you speak French?" to which I responded "Un peu!" (a little). When they got off in Admiralty we said "au revoir." (side note: I was actually listening to my Pimsleur Tagalog lesson for the day so it was strange speaking French, thinking in English, and listening to Tagalog.) 

I love it when simple interactions like that creep into my day. Connections waiting to be made in all sorts of places and with all sorts of people. As I was walking home on Tuesday a girl stopped me to talk about Save the Children and through our conversation I found out her brother is in Nashville studying Law at Vanderbilt. (and playing music.) Small world!!

Yet there are times when language fails. 

Not only because I may not know enough of someone else's language to communicate effectively (or they may not know enough English to understand me), but sometimes even if we do speak a common language words can be hard to find. What do you say to someone who has been ripped off by their employment agency for thousands of pesos? How do you comfort someone whose employer treats them like an animal or manipulates them into thinking they are worthless? What about when you are sitting in a courtroom, she is in the dock (the partitioned area where the accused sits), and the judge pronounces a guilty verdict? You cannot physically comfort her nor can you say anything to her. For someone who longs to 'gather her brood under her wings' (a la Luke 13:34) it is very difficult for me when I am unable to express solidarity, or empathy, or comfort to those suffering injustice.

Yet I have hope. In the same way that I hope for what I cannot see (justice, someone's well-being) the Holy Spirit is there to guide my heart. I don't know what to pray for, what to hope for, but I trust that the Holy Spirit does. My own desire to have the right words to say, to know the right thing to do for someone gets in the way. But God has this great way of taking bad situations and using them for good--I look to the story of Joseph, whose brothers threw him in a well and sold him into slavery. When his brothers realized who he was, years later when they had come to Egypt to escape famine, they fell before him and proclaimed themselves his servants. "But Joseph said to them, "Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." (Genesis 50:19-20)

Simply being there is enough. Bearing witness, holding a hand (if you can), sitting in silence. Listening. Job, that sufferer who bore so much, even had friends that came and sat with him. “When Job's three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.” (Job 2:11, 13) 

When we let go of the desire to be the source of someone's comfort, to say or do the 'right' thing, we make room for the Holy Spirit to move through us. The Holy Spirit can connect us with words (like when I practice my Tagalog and the whole office laughs and cheers "Angaling!") and through silence (like when I sit with someone who has just been terminated unjustly). 

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Grace and Peace,

24 October 2011

Busy Bee!

I have had a busy few days!

Saturday I went up to Tuen Mun to the Immigration Centre because I got a letter from my client (the one who was convicted for poisoning) saying that is where she is and asking about her claims. I brought her some clothes and a few other things, and we figured out a way to ask if she could be released into our custody before she is deported. She still has claims to file against her employer (wages she is due for the last month she worked, travel allowance, her personal belongings) so while her labour case is going on we are hoping she can be released into our custody. We would take responsibility for her until her case is concluded and she can go back home.

After that I went to the house of a couple of my friends, Mark and Kyle, to bake cookies. They live in Yuen Long which is not far from Tuen Mun. I have been itching to bake and since I have no oven they let me borrow theirs. I baked pumpkin bread (according to a recipe my mom gave me) and then we had beer bread and broccoli and cheese soup for dinner. Beer bread is a favorite of mine to make because it's so easy and so yummy! Our friend Becca came over and had dinner with us and then we went swimming in the apartment complex's pool. It was great to spend time with friends but after that long day I was ready to be home!

Sunday afternoon I headed to Victoria Park to teach English to Indonesian migrant workers. This has been in the works for a while but Sunday was the first opportunity I had to make it happen. Apparently 40 people signed up! So we broke the classes up into groups of 13 or so to make it easier. I only taught one class that day but in the coming Sundays I will be teaching two groups. (So, groups A and B will be on one Sunday one class after the other, and groups C and D the next Sunday.) They were all so eager to learn and I was a little nervous because I have never done it before. I have always loved English and when I was younger thought about becoming an English teacher but instead I majored in Global Studies. Now I am really considering becoming an ESL teacher (of either adults or children) and have applied to a few graduate programs back home.

I wasn't sure what their level of English was so I used a lesson I had found online to try and determine how much they already know. We had fun talking about the future, the past, the present, and changing positive sentences to negative ones. I am really looking forward to next Sunday and will be planning out the rest of the lessons for the next few months. I think on the Sunday before Thanksgiving I will have a potluck with them and talk about Thanksgiving in the United States, and possibly have some of my English speaking friends come so they can practice their English.

After a very energizing afternoon I headed back to Central for a candlelight vigil in solidarity with migrant workers seeking the right of abode in Hong Kong. There were many groups present--both migrant groups and groups of local people--who support the right of migrants to have the right of abode.

This morning I went to Tai Chi with my friend Becca. While the class starts at 8 am in Central (and if I end up on the wrong bus I have to hike uphill for about 10 minutes) I find it is a great way to start the day. I always feel so good after class. Our classmates are really sweet and even though most of the time we don't understand each other we have a good time. On Mondays I don't have to be at the Mission until 1pm so we usually have breakfast at The Flying Pan. This morning I thought to try having beans on toast, a typical English breakfast fare. It was pretty good! David (director of mission personnel) would be proud.

So where is God present in all this? I feel him in my relationships with all of these amazing people here. My co-workers, fellow missionaries, friends, the women I am here to serve and random people met on the street. I am so grateful to be here, for all of the generous and kind friends back home who made this possible for me. I meet Christ daily and hope I serve him well. To everyone home and everyone here, thank you for allowing me to be a part of this.

I invite your thoughts, comments, questions, or anything else. (really guys, my comments section is abysmal. I know you're reading, blogger counts the pageviews. :P )

Grace and Peace,

17 October 2011

Busy Weekend! + The Week Ahead

I had quite a weekend!

I was off on Saturday, which I spent with various friends new and old. Ended up seeing a movie that started kinda late so I didn't get home til almost midnight!

Sunday I went to church at the Cathedral and then to the Mission. There was a forum in the afternoon on the Right of Abode with one of the lawyers who worked on the case. Well, is working--it is still going on. There were three cases and the lead case is the one that was just ruled on. The government has appealed to a higher court but I think the ruling will stand. HK doesn't want to look bad on human rights nor should it run to Beijing for a ruling on it--that would throw out the rule of law that HK prides itself on using.

After that there was a press conference down by HSBC (a big bank) with several organizations and one legislator (long-hair leung -- really interesting guy, you should read about him) about discrimination of foreign domestic workers. On the other side of the open air area, Occupy Hong Kong has set up tents (and sofas and tables and laptops) and the news media was having a field day. I walked by there today and they are still set up. I was wondering if they would have to leave because HSBC is private property but I was told the open air area underneath is considered public.

Around 6pm I left the Mission with Juvy to see if we could get Kiko the Dog to stay at my apartment until a better situation can be found. We got him up there and begged him to be quiet. He is usually a very quiet, sweet dog. He barked a few times and we did our best to shush him. After Juvy left he was so sad--he just sat by the door waiting for her to come back. Poor Kiko! I called my parents via skype to wish my mother a Happy Birthday and my dad wanted to say hello. I didn't have earphones in and I forgot that he barks at the sound of a man's voice... so I had to calm him down and get my mom back on the line.

This morning I went to my Tai Chi class in Central. I am getting pretty good at it although mostly I just follow the teacher (so I don't always know what is going on or why you move this way...) but there are a couple English speakers who help translate important things. (Like the fact that we still have class even if it is raining... doh)

The week ahead involves case files, writing letters to the Immigration Dept and Labour Dept, assisting an Indonesian with the retrieval of her passport and other documents, possibly baking pumpkin bread at my friend's house, maybe trying out that BBQ place (American Southern BBQ! In Hong Kong!)... Next week will be busy with preparing for the Michaelmas Fair and the Sedan Chair Race on October 30. Some other projects are in the work as well. It's almost November!! I have been here three months already--crazy!

Froyo with the Finns!

Thanks for tuning in. Please feel free to leave any comments, questions, thoughts, or anything else.

Grace and Peace,

16 October 2011

Verdict is in

Friday I went to the Tsuen Wan Magistrate Court to hear the verdict on the client who had been accused of poisoning. (you can read about the trial here and here)

I went to visit her in the Tai Lam prison a few times. The last time I saw her (last Wednesday) she was so distraught. Her eyes were bloodshot and baggy, and she told me she couldn't sleep because she was so worried. I tried to bring her a few items (there is a very restrictive list of items you are allowed to bring people who are in prison on remand) but a few of them were not EXACT (or, in the case of the toothpaste, "too fancy") so were not allowed. We were only allowed to talk for 15 minutes.

The Magister spent a considerable amount of time explaining the reasons for her verdict before she actually gave it. I brought a friend of mine and another Filipina with me to the court to support the client and we waved to her when she was brought into the dock. She was already crying.

Throughout the "reasons for verdict" speech she cried. When the Magister finally got around to announcing the verdict, she sobbed.

She was acquitted on four of the charges but convicted on one and sentenced to four and a half months in prison. However, since she has already been in prison for five months she will be released on 'time served.' I have not been able to find out when and where she will be released. I am sure Immigration and the Philippine Consulate are involved though.

A conviction means she will be repatriated back to the Philippines and not allowed back into Hong Kong. It means she will have to find another way to provide for her family. I'm just glad she is getting out of prison and will be going home to see her kids now.

I just received a letter from her, dated October 13 (the day before her trial). She thanks me for coming to visit her and trying to help her and ends with a verse from Revelation: "Do not be afraid of what will happen to you. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you and there will be ten days of trials. Remain faithful even to death and I will give you the crown of life." (Rev 2:10) And she drew a beautiful picture of a rose.

I am still working on trying to help her with her claims but time is short. Please keep her in your prayers, and the ministry of the Mission. I am so grateful to be a part of this.

10 October 2011

Five Marks of Mission

"Mission is, quite simply, the participation of Christians in the liberating mission of Jesus, wagering on a future that verifiable experience seems to belie. It is the good news of God's love, incarnated in the witness of a community, for the sake of the world." --David Bosch

For the Anglican Communion, God's mission is holistic, concerned for all human beings and the totality of a human person: body, mind, and spirit. It is concerned for the totality of God's creation. This holistic understanding of mission is expressed in the Five Marks of Mission:

To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
To respond to human need by loving service
To seek to transform unjust structures of society
To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

These 'marks' are by no means comprehensive but rather serve as a guide to help churches (and people!) within the Communion to live out the missio dei of reconciliation in a variety of ways.

So how does my work at the Mission and Bethune House go along with the Five Marks?

The primary work is in responding to human need by loving service and seeking to transform unjust structures of society. 

When someone comes to us with a need, whatever it may be, we strive to do our best to meet it with loving service. We counsel on a variety of issues, personal and work-related, and sometimes people come simply for fellowship. The Bethune House provides shelter, food, and counseling services to women in distress. The women there share their pains and triumphs, woes and joys. It is a community of loving service to one another. Sometimes a woman will come to us after she has been terminated, and we offer her a shoulder and an ear--and a sandwich too, if she is hungry. The ministry of presence, of just being with someone through her distress, is a vital part of responding to human needs. I may not always know the right words to say (in the right language) but my presence can still offer comfort. 

Political and social situations in their home countries cause college educated women and men to leave their families so that they can provide food, clothing, and educational opportunities for their children and dependents. The agencies that they go through to find work charge them fees and interest, portions of their wages, and some end up losing family farms or other property just so they can pay their fees. Host countries often have very exclusive immigration policies and strict or unregulated working conditions for migrant workers. These unjust structures are what we seek to transform when we unite for a rally at the consulate or attend court hearings with migrants. We sign petitions in solidarity with workers from other countries to help their situations improve. We must be relentless, tireless, always striving for equality. Domestic work is work and those workers should enjoy similar benefits as others--set working hours, minimum wage, a period of at least 24 hours rest.  The United Nations International Labour Organization recently adopted a historic set of international standards aimed at improving the working conditions of tens of millions of domestic workers worldwide. The Mission helps to disseminate information about these new standards so that workers can lobby for their countries to ratify them. Educating workers about their rights and standing with them to fight for better working conditions are just a few examples of how the Mission strives to improve the conditions of domestic workers and the unjust systems that exploit them.

As to the last three-- to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom; to teach, baptize and nurture new believers; and to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth... I pray that my actions speak louder than any words that may tumble from my lips, and that God's reconciling love be evident in all I say and do. I am a missionary, and I participate in reconciliation; in the bringing about of the Kingdom of Heaven, here and now. And that is Good News. As for the one about creation.. well, I live in a big city and I try to do my part. I take public transportation or walk when I can, and I try to take time to enjoy the green spaces throughout Hong Kong. A few weeks ago the Mission participated in a joint protest against a proposed naval base on Jeju Island in South Korea. Currently designated as the Island of Peace and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the naval base would endanger its natural beauty and the local people do not want it there. But, because of its strategic location, it is "ideal" for navy forces. We went to the Korean Consulate with a signed petition and someone read a statement. It was all very peaceful.

I invite your responses/thoughts/comments/questions/ideas/ramblings/rants. As always!

Grace and Peace,

Back on Track

Finally felt well enough to jump back into life today! What a day it was, too.

Friday I was supposed to begin taking Tai Chi lessons at the park with my friend Rebecca but since I was sick I missed the first class. It is a Monday-Wednesday-Friday so this morning I got up at 7 to make it there by 8. I ended up on the wrong bus though; it went the right direction but did not stop where I thought it would stop and so I ended up huffing and puffing from Pok Fu Lam several streets over (and up a really, really steep hill) to the park. We weren't sure where to go but when we saw a lady checking papers over at one end of the big soccer field (no grass, it's got a surface like a tennis court) we went over. She was actually taking attendance so we pointed out our names to her.

Our classmates were mostly older Chinese and one British guy, and his wife helped translate the class for us. There was another lady who also spoke English so she helped as well. We mostly stood kind of in the middle and tried to follow what was going on, and after a 'warm up' exercise the teacher separated the beginners off to one side. Everyone was really nice and very welcoming to these two young Western girls trying to do Tai Chi. It's quite beautiful and graceful, a lot of the movements remind me of when I took ballet, so it feels good to move like that again.

Since I have Monday mornings off, we went to Wan Chai to The Flying Pan (we have been to the one in Central, which is good, but the one in Wan Chai is bigger and has more 'atmosphere') for breakfast. I had Eggs Norwegian, grits, and fruit.. yum! We browsed around a few stores after, and ended up in Ikea. I have never been to an Ikea before so I was interested (plus I needed a few things for my apt.)... wow, what a place! I came away with a new mattress pad, a lamp, and a mirror for the bathroom.

I went to the Mission around 1 and set to work on my case files. I called a few clients for an update and helped an Indonesian client with her claims. By 7pm I was ready to for home!

Thanks for all of the prayers and well-wishes, I am glad to be back in the swing of things this week. Til next time!

Grace and Peace,

07 October 2011


Well, like I said in my last post, things can pop up and derail my plans. Looks like Tonsillitis has taken over for now. I started feeling kinda bad on Wednesday, but it was a public holiday so I had the day off. I had lunch with a friend and then tried to sleep it off in the afternoon.. my throat was sore and I had started to have a runny nose. Woke up on Thursday with a sore throat and felt a little feverish so I decided not to go into work in case it is contagious. Hoped it would go away by today but no luck. I went to the doctor this morning and he says I have tonsillitis. He prescribed me some medication and said to rest and drink lots of fluids, so here I am. Hopefully I will recover by Sunday! Until then, I'm drinking lots of tea and soup!

01 October 2011

The Week Ahead

Here's what's up in the week ahead! (Unless things pop up, which they generally do!)

MONDAY: In the morning my friend Becca and I are going to King George V park to scope out the location of our Tai Chi class that begins Friday morning. In the afternoon we are going to the Mission; she is interested in volunteering so she's coming with me when I go in for the afternoon.

TUESDAY: Morning at the Mission, most likely working on my case files and keeping them up to date. At 1pm I am going to visit my client at the Tai Lam Women's Centre and bring her a few things. She is on remand until October 14 when the magistrate hands down her ruling. There are only certain items that can be handed over to her so I had to track down a list of 'approved items'.

WEDNESDAY: A national holiday so I have the day off. Hooray!

THURSDAY: Accompanying a client in the afternoon to her MECAB hearing. She's so nervous! Prayers for her.

FRIDAY: Possibly visiting the Archbishop, but that has not been set in stone yet.

SATURDAY: My day off, which I think will be spent baking at a friend's house since I don't have an oven. I miss having an oven!!

posts to come: a post about my client who is accused of 'poisoning' and a post on how the work I'm doing here at the Mission fits with the Five Marks of Mission adopted by the Anglican Communion. Stay tuned!

Please feel free to leave comments, questions, thoughts, or anything else.

Grace and Peace,