29 February 2012

Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori's visit to HK + Busy Week!

Sunday I served at the 9AM service and got to hear The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, preach the first sermon of the Lenten season. After the service she came up to the Mission for Migrant Workers and I had a few minutes to tell her about our ministry and thank her for her support of mission work and the YASC program.

Her sermon was amazing, as usual. I heard her preach a few years ago when she visited the Diocese of Tennessee. Here is the text of her sermon which I hope you will enjoy as much as I did.

Lynette Wilson, of the Episcopal News Service, has been traveling with the PB on the last leg of her trip through Asia. She stayed on a few days in Hong Kong to do some stories on the migrant workers here and the Mission to Seafarer's.

I am still finishing up work on the Statistics booklet this week and then I will move on to other projects. It is important to have this done as soon as possible so I am devoting my time to it. Hopefully I can produce a document that is informative and inspires those who read it to act.

Questions/comments/thoughts? Please share!

Grace and Peace,

24 February 2012

David's Visit

Me & David
 Wednesday afternoon I met up with David at the airport and after a smooth ride on the Airport Express, got him checked into his hotel (The Mariner's Club, actually) and then went for a stroll around Tsim Sha Tsui. We had a great time catching up and I loved hearing about his recent travels in Japan and Korea with the Presiding Bishop. She is arriving Saturday afternoon and will be preaching Sunday morning at the 9am service. So excited!

Around four o'clock we met with Rev. Catherine and Rev. Stephen for a lovely chat and then took Rev. Catherine to dinner at the same Vietnamese place that I went to with Peter and Margaret. Second time around did not disappoint! The food and conversation were amazing and lots of good things are afoot for the future of YASC in Hong Kong.

Egg Tart!
Thursday morning we attended the 8:30 service and breakfast with the clergy, then headed off to Macau. I had a bit of a hiccup at the ferry terminal--for some reason I thought I didn't need my passport since I have an HK ID card. Wrong... luckily my apartment isn't far from the terminal so I sprinted home and back, and as we were running to the berth where the ferry was docked a girl came over the intercom to say that the ferry would be delayed by 20 minutes due to the weather. Ha!! I have incredible luck. (Or, as I like to think of it, Someone looking out for me.)
Morrison Chapel

The ferry ride was slow going due to all the fog and rain, but we eventually made it and checked into the Holiday Inn in Macau. It was a nice hotel, centrally located near several sites downtown so I think it was a good choice. We walked to several cultural/historic sites and enjoyed the afternoon despite the chilly, rainy weather.

Included in our site-seeing was Morrison Chapel, site of the Anglican Mission in Macau. In the early days of Macau as Portuguese colony the Catholic church was very prominent and Macau was a launch-point for not only trade but also missions to Asia. In the early 19th century the chapel was built to serve the employees of the British East India company, and adjoining the property is the Old Protestant Cemetery. Because Macau was considered to be a sacred place by the Roman Catholic Church, burial of Protestants there was forbidden. The Chinese weren't too keen on burials outside the city walls either. In 1821 they were finally granted land to bury their dead.  Many of the burials there were seamen from the many trade ships that came through Macau. 
David in the Old Protestant Cemetery
 After much site-seeing (and egg tart eating!) and a meal at a Portuguese restaurant, we headed back to the hotel and spent a few hours chatting in the lobby. It was so great getting to spend the day hanging out with David in Macau!!


We got back to Hong Kong around 11:30 on Friday and met with Cynthia at the Mission. We talked about the projects I am working on and future things going on at the Mission. After a good visit we went to the Citibank tower to see the Church Pension Fund office (which has a great view of the Cathedral, actually). They were really surprised to get a visit from us, and thrilled, so it was a good connection to make.

We went back to TST to re-check david in to the Mariner's Club, then went to the Jade market to look around. David got some things for his wife and daughter, and we had dinner at one of my favorite restaurants--Tsui Wah! Sooo yummy.

Since David had an early flight we called it a night at that point and I headed home. It was a great visit and I'm so glad I got to spend time with David here in HK and Macau. Next up is the visit from the PB and I am hoping to snag a few minutes with her while she is here! (and, hopefully, a picture!)

Grace and Peace,

19 February 2012

The Joy of Grace and Upcoming Awesome

There are days when I find myself sitting on the Star Ferry, making the slow journey across the harbour between two of the most vibrant skylines in the world, thanking God for my time here and all of the amazing people I have met. 

My breath catches and tears sting my eyes because I know that despite all of the frustrating, reprehensible, despicable things people do to each other, there still exists kindness, compassion, and grace in the world. I see both sides here, sometimes in the space of an hour.

The other day I witnessed an employer threaten my client ("It would be really bad for your health if you were to continue to stay in Hong Kong.. do you know what I mean? Do you understand me? Very bad."). The anger and rage that I felt well up inside me were hard to contain, but at that point we just wanted to be done with it. She ended up accepting a settlement that was less than a quarter of what she was owed, but she did it with dignity and grace.

As we were walking out, about to part ways, she turned to me and said that even though what had happened was not good, she was thankful she had come to the shelter and to the Mission because she came to know God through the people there. She thanked me and blessed me for being there with her, that I was God-sent, and all while I am feeling impotent and sad that I could not have done more. I could not help thinking that her employer could have all the money in the world, but she doesn't have the heart of gold like this woman standing next to me does. 

And then there's Reverend Catherine and Reverend Stephen, who invited me to come and stay at their flat this week while they are on vacation. They opened their home to me, have shown me so much friendship and love since I have been in Hong Kong. They live at the Mission to Seafarer's, which is right on the harbour in Tsim Sha Tsui--suffice it to say there is an incredible view. I have been able to have my friends over and entertain, something I miss terribly and wish I could do more often but my apartment is too small. I keep trying to think of a way that I can repay such kindness and I keep coming up short---like God's grace, there is no way I can repay it, so I accept it with grateful humility and try to be a good steward of what has been entrusted to me.

This week I begin working on a few projects for the Mission. My position is changing a bit--I will not be handling cases like I have been, but instead will be lending my other skills and abilities to support the work of the Mission and of the Anglican Refugee and Migrants Network. I think it is important to know how to assess a situation and be self-aware enough to know your own strengths and weaknesses. I am much better in a supportive role than I am in confrontational situations (when fight-or-flight kicks in, I almost always choose flight), so in discussions with Cynthia and others I'm changing things around a little to help the Mission operate more effectively. I will also continue helping Reverend Catherine in setting up the Anglican Refugee and Migrants Network. I think these projects will keep me pretty busy and I can support the work of serving migrant workers here in Hong Kong in a way that is successful and meaningful.

This week the amiable David Copley, Mission Personnel Officer, will be visiting Wednesday through Saturday. We have plans to go to Macau and a few meetings as well. The Presiding Bishop arrives Saturday night and will be preaching on Sunday (squee!) and then she's off to Macau. Lynette Wilson, of the Episcopal Digital Network, will be with her and is staying on a few days in Hong Kong to work on some very interesting stories for Episcopal News Service.. I look forward to spending time with all of these wonderful people (including Peter Ng who will be with the PB!)

Ash Wednesday is happening this week, and I am still resolved to attempt an Islamic fast. This means going to bed a lot earlier... Please keep me in your prayers!

Grace and Peace,

12 February 2012

Recent Photos

Photo post of recent adventures!
Margaret, Me, Peter
Kiko smells something
yummy in the kitchen!

Group photo from the mosque


On the way to the Big Buddha

cloudy day, but you can
still see him!

Entrance to Po Lin Monastery

We are not the only ones
with red doors!

Joy, Matt, Me

Inside the monastery

Year of the Ox statue
on Bodhi Path


08 February 2012

Feasting, Fasting, Culture, and Religion (..and Lent)

Kowloon Mosque
Tuesday I went to the monthly meeting of an interfaith dinner and discussion group with Rev. Catherine. This month's meeting was at the Kowloon Mosque, which is quite near to where I live. I have passed by it many times since my arrival in July and it has always looked like a very vibrant and bustling place. We observed the prayers at 7:50 (the call to prayer is one of the most beautiful sounds on earth) and then enjoyed a delicious (and very spicy!) meal before settling into a discussion.

There were representatives from Taoism, Confucianism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Islam, Anglican, Lutheran, and some unaffiliated. We had an informative time of sharing about the different traditions of feasting and fasting and general attitudes towards food and hospitality cross culturally. The Imam told us about Ramadan and the general rules for fasting during that holy month, and about Islamic beliefs of food and hospitality.
Starving Buddha

We have many examples of feasting, hospitality, and fasting throughout the Bible. Abraham at the oaks of Mamre, Jesus feeding the five thousand, the fasting of the prophets. Jesus in his 40 days in the desert. The Buddha also fasted. There are also many cultural traditions of honoring a guest in your home or taking care in how food is prepared and served. (You could probably spend hours on Google and Wikipedia researching this.)

Just like mama makes!
In my own Christian (and Southern) traditions, hospitality is very important. We want folks to feel warm and welcome when they come to our home, and it is part of my Christian duty to welcome the stranger. We don't always know how to be a good guest though---we turn down offers for beverages or refreshments because we don't want to be a bother. But if you think about someone coming into YOUR home and rejecting the hospitality you offer them... I think back to last August when I went to the Idul Fitri celebration with the Indonesian migrants. I initially felt bad taking food from them, even though they encouraged me to eat and share with them. But when the Imam explained that sharing your food with a guest is a big honor, something expected in their tradition, I understood that if I hadn't accepted their hospitality it would not have been good. Accepting hospitality honors everyone involved.

In the West we don't typically think of fasting in the same way we used to--even Catholics don't always observe fish Fridays and Lent practices vary from a denial of alcohol, caffeine, or chocolate to the taking on of spiritual disciplines. Some are more diligent in their Lenten practice than others, but as a whole, it is not as expected  as it once was, and certainly not as much as one is expected to fast during Ramadan. We are more likely to do a juice diet or go for a 'detox' than we are to fast for spiritual reasons. While there are some holistic aspects to doing a juice fast or detoxing the underlying reasons are more health than spiritual.

Every year on Ash Wednesday we are invited to observe a holy Lent:

“I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church,
to the observance of a holy Lent,
by self-examination and repentance;
by prayer, fasting, and self-denial;
and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.” (BCP 265)

We are invited to the interior life, to discover and live into the life we are called to live. We are invited to look at the ways our fears, attitudes, successes and failures, and opinions of others hold sway in our lives; to look at the things that separate us from God, ourselves, and each other.

So every year I hear this call to observe a holy Lent, I either don't do anything or try to give up something, or maybe take on a spiritual practice. One year I gave up sodas, another I decided to pray the hours. (with varying degrees of success...) After the discussion the other night, I decided to do something different this year, something of an interfaith Lenten practice.

This year I am going to try and practice Sawm, abstinence from eating or drinking during the day, and generally abstaining from alcohol as well as "ignorant and indecent speech, arguing and fighting". I will make a niyyah (oath) on Ash Wednesday to do this intentionally for the sake of God from my heart. Each day I will get up before dawn and eat a meal and say a morning prayer, and in the evening break my fast after the sun goes down.

Sawm is intended to teach believers patience and self-control in their personal conduct, to help control passions and temper, to provide time for meditation and to strengthen one's faith. Fasting also serves the purpose of cleansing the inner soul and freeing it of harm. Some scholars, following the earliest understanding of the uses and objectives of the ritual of fasting strongly object to identifying mundane objectives of the ritual such as physical and psychological well being. To them the ritual of fasting is purely a worship and should not be treated as an exercise mixed with worship. The objectives of the fast is to inculcate taqwa (God-consciousness) in a believer.

Jesus retreated to the desert for 40 days to fast and pray. He was tempted and resisted. Can I also retreat from my life to fast and pray? Can I step into my interior life and reflect on the gifts I have been given? Can I examine my life closely, with compassion? Can I do it for 40 days? Could you?

We'll see... 

Grace and Peace,

05 February 2012

Peter's visit and Give Care Event

Friday night I received a call from Peter Ng and his colleague Margaret Rose asking if I would be available for dinner that evening. I was, so around 6pm I met up with them in the lobby of the YMCA (where they are staying) and we went to a Vietnamese restaurant in Harbour City. Spencer had taken him there on one of his visits and he has been mentioning he would like to go back there. I can see why!! It was a delicious meal, and I thoroughly enjoyed not only the food but the pleasant company as well. The lemongrass bread pudding was amazing!!

I updated them on what is going on here in Hong Kong and about how my service is going.We had a great discussion, and I was really excited to learn that there are 20+ people at the YASC discernment weekend right now!! That is so wonderful!! I can't wait to hear how it went. (And also to get my own deck of Episcopal playing cards...)

After dinner we wandered around Tsim Sha Tsui for a little while and I took them to Temple street. I asked if they had ever had their fortunes told and Margaret said no (Peter is from HK so he had been before), so we went to try and find the man who had told mine when I first got to HK. Every time I have been back since that first week I haven't seen him and was beginning to think he was a ghost---but he was there! He remembered me and he was all "long time no see!" and enthusiastically read Margaret's palms and face and did her Chinese astrology. He was such a sweet guy, and we had fun!

Saturday we met up and walked to the jade market. So many beautiful things for sale! We meandered through the stalls, not really knowing much about jade so we just made some small purchases. Around 12 we went to the Mariner's Club to have lunch with Rev. Catherine and Rev. Stephen. We had a great chat about other ministry opportunities in Hong Kong, and I may expand my role into doing things at some of the daughter churches of St. John's. Also, Peter mentioned the possibility of two YASCers coming to Hong Kong this year, which is awesome! I really hope that works out.

In the evening we went our separate ways, and I went with some friends to the World of Wearableart show in Kowloon Bay. It was really amazing!! This is the first time it has left New Zealand and I'm so glad to have been able to see it. It was a fun evening out with my friends and I feel so fortunate to have been able to experience it.

Today, Sunday, was the second Give Care to the Caregivers event and was held at St. John's. I got to put my years of experience working at Origins to good use--I set up a make up booth and spent the afternoon giving make overs! My friends Becca and Kyle came to help (and Kyle's friend Alexandra too!) and we had a great time. Peter and Margaret stopped by and I showed them around the event. They are heading to the Philippines tomorrow on the second leg of their trip.  Peter will be returning in two weeks when the Presiding Bishop makes her visit, and he is trying to find a time in her very tight schedule to squeeze me in. I might end up riding with her in a car somewhere for a little while and visiting with her then, but hey! personal time with the PB is hard to come by so I am lucky I get to hang out with her!

I really enjoyed Peter and Margaret's visit and I pray for safe travels as they go on to the Philippines tomorrow. This whole weekend was a flurry of busy-ness but it was all wonderful. I'm glad I have Mondays off--I need a day to recuperate and do some laundry! Looking forward to David's visit in a few weeks, it will be good to see him and spend time with him.

Grace and Peace,