From Whirlwind to a Quiet Whisper
Eight days of intense immersion into the Hong Kong culture had left me exhausted and even frustrated. It had been nonstop with six speaking engagements, meetings, touring, and that was before the cohort arrived. The environment of small spaces in the hotel room, elevators, buses and trains with so many people in extremely close proximity constantly in a flurry of activity was draining for this introvert.
Mong Kok was a fast paced, densely populated area of diverse stories. As we walked the streets I attempted to look into the eyes of those I passed. In most of the adults there was a somber expression and I realized I was reflecting the expression I was seeing. The only souls that were uniquely set apart were the children. Every group we passed going to and from school still had a face of wonder and laughter. This was in stark contrast to the countenance of most of the elders I observed.
On the ninth day of our journey we moved to the Panda Hotel which provided larger spaces yet more people filled them. As the cohort arrived a different type of whirlwind began, seminary. After the first day of learning about each other and an introduction to research, the immersion experience re-engaged. Presenter after presenter, location after location, stretching my mind, and frankly, my comfort zone, as we left little time for reflection and processing. We ran from early morning to late night and I found myself exhausted and unable to contemplate what we were hearing and seeing. With each day that passed I was more weary, and at times feeling as if it were an exercise in futility as I could not bring my best self to this environment. I was convinced I was not learning and the frustration was heightening.
On the final day of the whirlwind we boarded a bus and headed out of the city to the side of a mountain where we entered a new world, St. Stephen’s Society. When I stepped onto the pavement I literally took a deep breath and sensed everything within me begin to unwind. The atmosphere was serene, the city was in the distance, and the quiet was a welcomed sound. As we worshiped with the men that called St. Stephen’s “home,” tears were flowing all over the room. Jackie Pullinger’s Chasing the Dragon was tangibly before us. The stories she narrated of the power that set people free was in the room. As we walked the grounds, listened to our host, and saw the faces of transformation before us, the holiness of the moment began to put things in perspective. A quiet whisper began interpreting the last eighteen days.
I tried journaling on the flight back to the U.S. but the exhaustion overtook. It was not until I returned home and began sharing my experiences with others that I realized how much I had retained from each speaker and experience, and how it had affected me. I saw the genius in our leaders’ pedagogy, there was a method to the madness! I reflected back on the history of Hong Kong we had read from Tsang and pondered what it meant to these people to have their history. Who are they: Brits? Chinese? Or Hong Kongers? It was then I understood and heard that quiet whisper once again, the immersion encounter had given me an inside perspective to their world. The vexation I was feeling is the everyday lifestyle for many. Could it be the somber faces I encountered had little hope? This was profoundly striking at the temple we visited where fruit was offered, incense burned, even money placed in the fountain all with faith, no doubt. And what about the children? Was it that their innocence had kept them from the reality around them? Would their worlds become bleak with time? There were lights such as Nana, Pastor Stephen at Saddleback and interestingly, the women caretakers at the Filipino church where I spoke. They radiated with a different spirit and with smiling faces. I remember Nana and the other young adults making an impassioned plea that we pray for Hong Kong and I was reminded of what ignited the yellow umbrella revolution. Will the tension produce another revolution as the fifty years of the treaty pass?
Though my inner whirlwind was unsettling, I am grateful for the experience. In a moment I can be taken back to Hong Kong through a fragrance, a Chinese face, or a scene on the internet and I am listening again for the quiet whisper, and I pray. Now that time has passed, I am looking around me in my country and I discover the same look in the people here. Faces of despair and drivenness, working longer, trying harder, grasping for more and I realize there were important lessons in Hong Kong. It was not in the hectic, wind force activity where God was seen, it was on the quiet mountainside and in the faces of the children and in the light of those who listen to the quiet whisper.
 Jackie Pullinger and Andrew Quicke, Chasing the Dragon (South Bloomington, MN: Chosen Books, 1980), 61.
 Steve Tsang, A Modern History of Hong Kong (New York: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, 2004), 228.
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Nice and deep post, Tammy. I have spent 8month in HK earlier..