Hong Kong Advance: A Phenomenal Experience
My participation in the George Fox Evangelical Seminary 2015 Advance in Hong Kong was a very unique and rich experience, enhanced by preparatory reading/discussion assignments before arrival. The experiential factors involved using all my sensory and mental faculties to take in Hong Kong society in order to know and understand the culture better. The Advance agenda was played out in the midst of this learning process which entailed: daily worship service in chapel, guidance and support sessions by Seminary faculty leaders, education through the various field encounters and guest speakers, presentations by Seminary advisors on excellence in Christian leadership, academic research perspectives through the presentations of the dissertation students, building relationships and general camaraderie, and discovering ways to engage the Hong Kong culture.
I visited mainland China in 2000, but still did not know what to expect of Hong Kong proper and its environs. Unlike mainland China, Hong Kong has a Western feel although with predominantly Chinese signage, images, and symbolisms. Hong Kong is a beautiful, clean and safe commercial city. It is cosmopolitan in the sense that it is quite Western in infrastructure, food, dress, conveniences, services, and technologies. In this environment I was able to observe how the world is increasingly shrinking and progressively being interconnected through advanced communication media technologies and the global economy. However, Hong Kong did not appear to be as cosmopolitan as I expected in terms of racial, ethnic, cultural and international diversity in the population.
One of the first things I noticed about Hong Kong is that it is a populous city. I was often in the presence of large numbers of people occupying public spaces in the streets, stores, and subways at any given time of the day and into the night. This means that there is not a lot of room for private spaces between individuals in public spheres. The scarcity of land is evident and also the way the Chinese resolve that problem for their living and working spaces. The contemporary architecture of Hong Kong is on a vertical or linear plane, that is, skyscrapers are everywhere. The sights and sounds of new construction are also common.
I was disappointed that Chinese leadership was not the norm for the Christian churches. I was expecting to see the indigenous population in key leadership positions in the churches. I was also disappointed that only English was spoken in the services of the Island ECC church. I thought the services would be conducted in one or more of the indigenous dialects and that we would need interpreters to understand the services. But, everything was in English and the worship service was likened to a Western service of the same denomination including the songs that were sung. I expected to see multi-racial, multi-national, multi-cultural, and multi-lingual communities of worshipers. In my opinion, church leadership reflects Western domination, rule, priorities and values as was true of the society at large.
New Knowledge and Synthesis
From Dr. Philip Wickeri’s overview  of the long history and development of Christianity in China, I learned that China is currently undergoing an astonishingly rapid growth in interest, study, and belief in Christianity. The number of converts is in the millions among registered and unregistered churches. Chinese Christians are responsible for this rapid growth among Protestants and Catholics, especially among the young. Instead of Bibles being smuggled into China, as was the case when I was there fifteen years ago, China in now printing the largest amount of Bibles in the world. But, the government is still partial toward traditional Chinese religions, and “folk religion” is not acknowledged as true religion. Folk religion or folk theology is, “believing based on blind faith in a tradition of some kind without critical reflection.”  This informative lecture shows that the persistence and sacrifices of faithful believers over the years are reaping great rewards. China is now ripe for the evangelism of a new generation.
Inspired by the presentations on leadership, after returning from the Advance I immediately began to investigate the possibilities of expediting a new ministry that had been previously under consideration. I was highly motivated to get this project underway. I contacted my sources in Namibia regarding the launch of this ministry geared toward the spiritual restoration of young girls and women who have been traumatized. This is presently a ministerial work in its initial stages of development.
One of the Seminary advisors, Dr. Stephen Garner, had the most words of wisdom to meditate on, to contemplate in doing research, and for application in everyday living. He quotes from Richard Bolles, ‘Your first mission is to love, worship, and serve God. Your second mission is to love one another. Your third mission is to do that which you have been uniquely gifted to do and enthuses you while carrying out your first two missions.’  I like the relevance Garner brings to this quote. He states, “My first mission in life as an academic and researcher is to love, worship and serve God. My second mission as an academic and researcher is to love one another. My third mission is to do that which I have been uniquely gifted to do as an academic and researcher and enthuses me while carrying out my first two missions.”  I agree with Garner that research is worship and praise to God. I believe research in seminary is God inspired, God oriented, and God empowered. These quotes put things in perspective for me and sustain me during tough times in life and with academic course work. I have to do all I can to persevere because I realize it is not about me. It is about demonstrating my love to God by glorifying, worshiping and serving Him.
George Fox University’s Doctor of Ministry, Leadership and Global Perspectives (DMINLGP) program is so valuable because of the holistic approach it takes to excellence in learning. The triad of Spiritual Formation, Academic Education and Global Experiences in the real world is dynamic! The faculty leaders are a coordinated team who form a support system for students throughout the degree program, and this makes the synthesis of the coursework possible. At the Advance, I witnessed sincere, humble and personable faculty leaders committed to the success of students in fulfilling their God ordained missions in life, under their guidance, direction, and supervision. In the DMINLGP program students are not taught what to think, but are trained how to think by developing critical thinking and analytical thinking skills to arrive at informed and intelligent conclusions.
The faculty leaders are aware of every student’s personal profile and the Spiritual paths they are on. The Advance gives them an unusual opportunity to personally interact with the students on a formal and informal basis. The Advance also gives students on three different levels of degree completion in the program to interact and network with one another, and to form lasting bonds.
- Wickeri, Philip. “Christianity in China: Pathways, Problems, and Prospects.” Lecture for George Fox University, September 29, 2015. HKSKH Ming Hua Theological Seminary, 2015.
- Grenz, Stanley, and Roger Olson. Who Needs Theology? An Invitation to the Study of God. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 1996.
- Bolles, Richard Nelson. How to Find Your Mission in Life. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press, 2000.
- Garner, Stephen. “Research as Worship, Doxology and Vocation.” George Fox Evangelical Seminary, DMINLGP Hong Kong Advance, 2015.