I fell into the program in the midst of a headlong sprint having just completed my Master of Divinity degree in 3 hard years and passing the 5 required ordination exams for my denomination. I figured; ‘Why stop now? Might as well keep pushing and get the doctorate knocked out too.’ In hindsight a brief pause for air was probably in order.
The LGP program fell out amongst several other options as the one that seemed to be leading in the direction I felt I desired to head. That sentiment has proved to be salient as the initial advance in Cape Town, the connection with the LGP #8 cohort, the weekly Zoom meetings, faculty advisor correspondence, guidance of the lead mentor and even the uncomfortable introspection required to complete the PLDP have coalesced into an experience that has helped alter my perspective toward ministry, broadened my understanding of the world God created and shaped my own spiritual growth in unanticipated ways. (more…)
I’m alive and well – albeit tired – and still functioning fairly well four semesters after my program start. Unlike most of my cohort, I didn’t have formal theology/divinity education prior to enrolling in George Fox so I started leveling classes the summer prior to the program start (summer 17). I knew from reading bios/facebook introductions and synchronous initial introductions our first week that I would have a resource of amazing colleagues within the elite 8 cohort. What I didn’t know then, that I know now, is how significant the friendships would be – how much I would enjoy both social and academic banter with each member of the group. I’ve grown to respect every member of our cohort – even through our philosophical differences – and to value challenging feedback through synchronous and asynchronous discussions. One year later I feel transformed in my friendships, learning, and capacity to function under pressure. (more…)
What a year to step back into studies and begin my education once again. I will admit that entering into a doctoral program after 20 years of not writing and studying like a graduate student was a little intimidating. I did think I had an edge though because I currently live abroad. Living abroad sometimes can be fascinating and challenging at the same time. So beginning this LGP program I had the idea that I would come with leg up on the “global perspective” side of the discussion. Boy was I wrong, as time and time again I have seen God teach me and stir my heart in understanding common ideas in new ways. Even though I have grown up abroad and have worked overseas for more than 12 years, the books, professors and guest lecturers have been able to challenge me to think in new and creative ways about subjects that are very relevant to the teams that I lead. (more…)
I first read Chasing the Dragon in the 1980’s. At the time, Jackie Pullinger was a superstar among missionaries as far as angsty New Zealand teenagers were concerned. She spoke plainly, unreservedly and often confrontationally. Jackie was a force majure to institutional faith, and she got away with it because few clerics were prepared to tackle the courage of a young, educated woman who, in following Jesus, chose to make a life in the notorious Walled City of Hong Kong. Whenever she spoke in New Zealand, Jackie managed to keep most Christians on the edge of their seats. She was, and remains, a remarkable person of faith and hope-filled humanity. (more…)
“What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”All of us have mulled through this question and dared to live a life of significance. We count the risk and drudge through the barriers that separate us from our victory. However, we bravely face trials because we know that there’s the promise of success around the corner – we understand that perseverance births purpose. As I stepped off the tarmac, I was greeted by a new Hong Kong – a culture that was facing the genocide of their traditions, customs, language, culture and freedom. Martin Luther King captured a nation and revealed his heartbeat through his deceleration, “I have a dream…”He had a dream of equality because he had hope for humanity. (more…)
Hong Kong is a city that I have enjoyed going to for many years. It is a place our family has seen as a vacation spot full of wonderful western food and fast paced shopping. It has a convenient subway system, orderly and on time bus and tram system as well as a beautiful harbor to enjoy. We have seen what many see when they come to this fast paced New York City style city; wealth and power. I prayed that coming to this advance I would have my eyes opened to new experiences and see this city from a new perspective. (more…)
Hong Kong is known as a port city and a historic drug haven, and more recently, as being given back to China by the British, with a fifty-year process of re-integration. Steve Tsang’s, A Modern History of Hong Kong helpfully informed us of the setting for our upcoming trip to this city in transition. But even the most accurate history only does so much to acquaint one with a new place. It cannot depict dynamics or smell, or really any of the senses well: they merely describe what is or was. In my recent experience of the country (with my two-month-old daughter and my mother in tow), I will attempt paint a picture through the impact of the places and people I encountered. (more…)
I was eager to go to Hong Kong and had my expectations of what the city looks like but was not sure what to expect in terms of immigration officials and the hospitality of the people of Hong Kong. I was excited and really looking forward to meet my cohort LPG 9, other cohort members and the George Fox faculty, most for the very first time. One big surprise was the fact that I did not require a visa to enter Hong Kong which is quite unusual and all along I was apprehensive thinking I would find a different situation at the port of entry. Additionally, I expected that traffic would be very slow and the streets would be crowded with people walking, riding motor bikes and bicycles as is typical of other Asian cities. I had previously visited Bangkok in Thailand, Varanasi and Mumbai in India and Seoul in South Korea. Seoul was different from the other Asian cities and was similar to any typical Western City. Some of expectations were met while the others were not but there were surprises as well. At the port of entry, I did not need a visa but it was a long process of interrogation before I was allowed in; on traffic, I was obviously surprised at the good flow of traffic and very organized public subway transport system, with very few motor bikes and bicycles and minimal numbers walking along the streets. Hong Kong is definitely different from other Asian cities that I have visited except Seoul whose transport system is equally efficient and organized. The surprises were many: like the number of tall towers across the city being more that 8,000 within such a small area of land to cater for the high population of over 7 million people; I had expected to see seafarers from the Hong Kong harbor but you could hardly recognize them from the crowd; The existence of churches like saddleback and the freedom of worship was a welcome surprise but I could sense a lot of caution and uncertainty about the future, especially after the end of the 50 years extension period after the 1997 takeover by China.
New Knowledge and Synthesis.
I was comfortable with the theme of Finance, Democracy and Mission, especially because my background is in Finance having previously worked as a CPA and a finance expert in the insurance industry before my full time involvement in ministry. I focused more on the mission aspect, especially because I had read the book by Steve Tsang, the modern History of Hong Kong where he has given details about Finance and Democracy in Hong Kong. Rev. Stephen Miller of Mission to Seafarers talked about the outreach to seafarers which was added knowledge of this unique group of people who spend most of their time in the sea. The mission to these seafarers is limited in time and cannot be based on relationship building but its unique how Rev Stephen is able to love on them and give a listening ear to them in communication the unconditional love of Jesus Christ. This is a group that I previously was not thinking about and will be praying for them and the missionaries that work with them.
Visiting the Wang Tai Sin Temple was both interesting but also very emotional. This was interesting because of my curiosity about their idol worship and the massive resourses devoted to building and equipping the temple. This was emotional because of the missional aspect of how our Lord and master Jesus Christ bleeds for this massive population that is still trapped in idol worship, the sacrifice made by the missionaries that have ventured to reach the Chinese population. It felt weird being a ‘tourist’ and standing there as I watched men and women take incence and worship idols, consult fortune tellers and do all other forms acts of worship, part of me wanted to just walk out but I also felt compassion for them and was silently praying for their salvation.
It was encouraging to listen to social worker Annissa Lui from the Lutheran social services and how they reach out to the people in Hon Kong and respond to their needs, especially those caught up in substance abuse. From my reading of Jackie Pullinger’s book, Chasing the Dragon, I expected that substance abuse and other social challenges affect a significant part of the Hong Kong population and its was encouraging to know that the government devotes resources to cater for these issues. It was particularly interesting hearing about the creative ways that they use to engage these vulnerable groups of the population. Our visit to the St Stephens Society was such a spiritually refreshing experience, especially the worship session. Seeing the people that had been transformed and hearing their testimonies was such an inspiration to me since we work in similar circumstances in Nairobi, Kenya and witnesses similar dramatic transformation of criminals and drug addicts. I had obviously hoped to meet Jackie Pullinger herself and hear her speak about her experiences and what she hopes for the future of the ministry and her perspective of the imminent takeover of Hong Kong by China but that did not happen. Their approach to ministry is unique and awakened a new perspective of practically living by Faith and allowing The Holy Spirit of God to lead in the work of ministry. This was an experience that I will keep remembering and that will keep influencing how I continue in doing ministry to the vulnerable members of society.
Our visit with Alex Fung’s Medical manufacturing business, was such a challenge and inspiration in using business as a means to do mission. His obedience to God literally giving the profits of the business for mission and using the business to reach the employees with the Gospel was unique and opened my eyes to other possibilities of doing mission work. It was also great to hear David Wong and his market place experience as a believer setting a great example and doing mission in the market place. I had previously visited companies in South Korea with similar business as a mission model but Alex Fung’s story was unique and very inspiring, I keep praying for his business especially because of the current strained business relations between the US and China.
Visiting church at the Vine was a great experience at the service and our session back at the Hotel talking about our different experiences in the two churches that people attended. It gave me a good introduction to visual ethnography and raised my interest in research using visual ethnography. Our visit to the saddleback Church was also very inspiring on how to apply creativity and leverage knowledge and experience gained in the market place for mission. The excellence of doing church at the saddleback church was unique and eye opening at how I can leverage the skills and knowledge gained in the market place for mission.
As mentioned above, there was a lot that I learned in Hong Kong but there are experiences that will live with me and continue to influence the way I do ministry. Alex fung’s business as a mission model was a big inspiration for me and an affirmation of what we are doing in our holistic ministry to empower the poor economically as we also do business to sustain our organization, Missions of hope International. Our visit to St Stephens’s society and reading Jackie Pullinger’s story was a spiritually refreshing experience that made me long for more of The Holy Spirit experience in our ministry to the vulnerable. Their total reliance on God and allowing The holy Spirit to lead in their work is something that will continue to inspire me and will have a definite impact in my prayer life. My hope and prayer is that God will give me another opportunity to visit Hong Kong again and especially to meet Jackie Pullinger and visit Alex fung’s ministry.
 Steve Tsang, A Modern History Of Hong Kong (London, I. B. Tauris, 2007).
Andrew Quicke & Jackie Pullinger, Chasing The dragon, (London, Hodder & Stroughton, 2006 Feb 16.)
 Missions of Hope International, www.mohiafrica.org.
 Andrew Quicke & Jackie Pullinger, Chasing The dragon, (London, Hodder & Stroughton, 2006 Feb 16.)
When reflecting on my time in Hong Kong, the first thing I noticed upon arriving was the incredible multitudes of people in a very small space. From the subways to the 50 story high-rise apartment buildings, people were stuffed into every nook and cranny of the city. The interesting part was the fact that everyone living there seemed perfectly fine and comfortable with the situation. I actually enjoyed being able to experience these crowded situations to better understand and experience a little of what life in Hong Kong is like. (more…)
Traveling from the United States to Hong Kong was a daunting task. The long flight to what seems to be the other side of the world and the language not based on European romance languages makes the trip to Hong Kong seem even more frightening. From the non-stop flight from Chicago to Hong Kong, everything was different. The seats were smaller; the meals were more like American Chinese food, and tea was the beverage of choice by most. Once in the Hong Kong airport, changing US dollars to the colorful Hong Kong dollars created even more of a sense of being away from the US. (more…)
Most of my days are spent finding ways to more efficiently move data from one place to another. In website development we live and die by the reality that if our site doesn’t start to load within 3 seconds people move on to the next site. In this light processing data faster becomes an obsession. Complexity slows things down, so programming is all about making a complex thing as simple as possible, but not too simple, to get the job done. The computer scientist David Gelernter is quoted as saying, “Beauty is more important in computing than anywhere else in technology because software is so complicated. Beauty is the ultimate defense against complexity.”1 (more…)
November 2016, I get a message from Stu Cocanougher about his work on a Dmin program. He wanted me to read his blog post and see what I thought about it. He then started sending me different videos of Dr. Jason Clark describing the Leadership and Global Perspectives program through Portland Seminary. I remember thinking to myself, yeah no chance I have no desire to work on a Doctorate, even thought for the past three years my mom and God have been harping on me about just such a thing. Two weeks pass and I cannot get the idea out of my head so I decide to start praying about this program. It became pretty clear God wanted me in this program and who am I to argue, a few interviews later and a bunch of emails and I was on my way. I had no idea this year would so radically affect my life and my walk with God. (more…)
I have always had a fascination with Asian culture as far back as I can remember. I have always loved the movies, the art, the languages and the history. Going to Hong Kong was an amazing experience that I will never forget. I will also never forget the mass of humanity that is Hong Kong.
Like the picture to the side, there were always people, always a crowd. I have heard that New York City is the city that never sleeps, well I have seen empty streets in New York, I never saw one in Hong Kong. I am not sure I could live in a city like Hong Kong, my head would never shut down. (more…)
I have always found that low and slow is the best way to explore a new city. Eschewing the well-trodden paths to the shopping centers or tourist attractions I prefer to discover a place by bicycle. So, while others are negotiating their way around purchases to take home to loved ones or visiting popular tourist locations I am using Google Translate to negotiate renting a bike, getting directions, and ordering food in a place unaccustomed to English speaking tourists. I find in these adventures are opportunities to experience people and places in the midst of everyday life, going about their business, not pandering to my needs as a guest in their city. These initial experiences frame the remainder of my time regardless of what other pursuits I take up in the ensuing days.
I have travelled to several parts of Asia but never to China or Hong Kong. I anticipated hordes of people, immobile traffic, high rise offices and residences, and limited green space. What I found both met my expectations but also surprised me. Yes, there were lots of people, apparently the most densely populated city in the world, and long shadows cast by tall buildings, but traffic flowed surprisingly smoothly and there was ample green or recreational space if you knew where to look.
Catching up with my roommate, Jay, and other members of the cohort was a blessing. The past year has been personally challenging and I doubted that I would even be in Hong Kong. Were it not for these amazing people I am certain I would have given up. I was reminded that this group of people, scattered all across the globe are there for me even when I feel isolated.
The Cape Town advance dealt with issues about which I am particularly passionate – justice and racial reconciliation. The theme for Hong Kong was ‘Finance, Democracy, and Mission’, things I felt less certain would resonate with me. However, right from the beginning there were presentations that challenged my preconceptions, demonstrated new ways to be in ministry, and helped me reframe and reevaluate some of my own biases and personal challenges.
Rev. Stephen Miller opened my eyes to a ministry that I had never considered when he shared about the Mission to Seafarers. A crucial mission to men and women who spend the bulk of their time at sea and away from family and friends at home. Most people frame ministry in terms of relationship and discipleship yet, here was a ministry that was geared toward meeting the needs of people in the brief time they are in port. There is no opportunity for meaningful long-term connection, but the mission provides a respite from the routines of sea life while some of their physical, social, and spiritual needs.
Alex Fung opened my mind to business as a means of ministry. Alex uses his medical manufacturing business as a means to positively influence laborers, giving them the opportunity to work in a caring environment while also encouraging their spiritual growth, all occurring in areas closed to missionaries. He was a man full of grace and humility and helped me reevaluate my notions of what constitutes mission and ministry.
It was also interesting to hear about and experience some of the tension between Hong Kong and the mainland. The nervousness about the end of the 50 year commitment to ‘1 Country – 2 Governments’ and the evident disdain many of the native Hong Kong residents feel toward those coming from the mainland. They have had two very different experiences in relating to government as demonstrated in Jung Changs book ‘Wild Swans’.Yet, they still know how to throw a party, celebrating China day in Hong Kong which retains a very different memory of Mao and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, still embodied a sense of pride if possibly mixed with uncertainty.
Hearing from church historian Philip Wickeri about the history of the Christian church in China provided another context from which to understand some of our earlier readings. It informed the theological foundations as initially explained in ‘Grassroots Asian Theology’and reminded of the sometimes tense relationship between Christian missionaries and the people of China that was demonstrated in ‘Boxers and Saints’.There is a complexity to Eastern theologies and practices that is often dismissed by those in the West.
Upon returning from Cape Town I was inspired to develop a course at my University addressing issues of race and reconciliation. At this stage I have no plans to utilize experiences in Hong Kong in such a tangible way. However, I have spent the past 10 months unsuccessfully applying for new jobs. I know that I cannot remain in my current situation and since I am recently ordained I assumed that the positions I should be seeking would be in some form of full-time ministry. However, my personal circumstances have left me feeling incapable of working in that context presently. For too long my identity has been tied to helping and serving others out of a ministry context. (An unhealthy 2 on the Enneagram.) But, my time in Hong Kong with the LGP helped me reframe contexts for work and ministry. People like Alex Fung, David Wong and those working at Linklaters provided a glimmer of hope that I need not always be in full-time ministry and yet can still find ways to serve others. This may be a much healthier place for me at this point in time and relieves some of the pressure I had been feeling.
It remains to be seen what else may come of the experiences of this Hong Kong advance. I continue to be surprised at how these things often influence in unexpected ways, even long afterward. It has already provided me with fresh perspectives on what constitutes ministry, reminded me how God continues to use the people in my cohort to care for me and given me some hope in searching for a new job. Plus, I discovered that I was born in the year of the snake. Nana said that people born in a snake year are known for their wisdom, wit and humor. Maybe I’ll work on developing those as well.
Chang, Jung. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China. William Collins, an Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2016.
Chan, Simon. Grassroots Asian Theology: Thinking the Faith from the Ground up. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014.
Yang, Gene Luen., and Lark Pien. Boxers & Saints: Boxed Set. First Second, 2013.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain
Arriving in Hong Kong is a bit like stepping onto a moving sidewalk. Things flow at 1.5 speed and it’s a great place to watch everything and everyone going by. As I arrived in this amazing city, I was awe-struck by the sweeping views of the harbor, the glittering towers and the hum of activity all around. The sheer topography and physical parameters of Hong Kong make it appealing just to look at, even from a wide-view lens. (more…)
Mary and Steve have four adopted children and seven grandchildren. Visiting with the grandchildren is one of the chief delights of her life. She also loves reading, gardening, and cooking. Mary is a member of Seed Saver’s Society, a group committed to preserving heritage varieties of vegetables and flowers.
Though busy with a tree farm, a vineyard, various commercial real estate, and family timber company, Mary has been able to realize her dream of attending seminary. Mary graduated with a Master’s degree in Bible and Theology in 2015. Mary knows that it is a privilege to be able to study about God, but she began to wonder how she could use her education to serve others.
There is so much suffering in the world and Mary knows that she can’t solve every problem, but the Lord put a passion in her heart to work specifically in the area of encouraging women who have been physically, emotionally, or spiritually abused.
In his book on Visioneering, Andy Stanley said that your vision is what makes your heart break. Witnessing the suffering of women who feel trapped is what breaks Mary’s heart. While waiting for God’s specific direction in her life, Mary is actively involved in many ways to pursue her goal of becoming involved in helping women.
More Training in Leadership Skills:
Because of her love of research and writing, Mary originally wanted to pursue a PhD. At this time in her life however, she felt God’s call to be more actively involved with ministry. Many different seminaries have great programs, but Mary found that one of the top seminaries in the country, Portland Seminary, was nearby. She feels very blessed to be part of Portland Seminary’s Doctor of Ministry program in the Leadership & Global Perspectives track. This education is equipping her to gain knowledge, understanding in a global society, compassion, lifelong friendships in this Cohort-based program, and leadership skills that will enable her to serve wherever God is calling her.
Ongoing Ministry in Everyday Life:
In order to encourage women in their daily lives, Mary has been posting stories weekly about women in the Bible and history for over six years. On her blog there are over 300 stories of women of courage who faced great challenges to follow God. Other practical ministries have included helping to fill needs at the local food bank, prison ministry, and speaking on the topic of Human Trafficking.
Support from Others:
Without the loving support of Steve and the rest of the family, Mary would not have the energy to pursue her vision. She also receives affirmation about her goals from a caring church and a committed staff at the Seminary. Daily spiritual exercises combined with emotional support help to keep her on track.
Even Jesus took His disciples off once in a while to rest. Nothing is more enjoyable for Mary than to get away for a weekend of racing with Steve. No TV. No phone. Just fast cars and lots of fun. It’s called Vintage Racing and the drivers are old like the cars!!! Yes, she does know how to change oil and check tire temperatures!! Steve and Mary have found a great community to recreate with. Occasionally they even get to serve Christ by participating in fund-raising races where the money raised goes to charities such as Children’s Hospitals.
Since the day that God met Mary, sitting on a playground wall in Kindergarten, she has loved nothing better than to study about Him. What a joy and a privilege to be able to go to Seminary. But Seminary is just a means to an end. People are what matter. Following Christ means to serve as He did – meeting physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Mary’s prayer for the future is that God will show her where she can work as she follows her Savior in love and gratitude for what He has done for her.
The end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started,
And to know the place for the first time.
This has been a year of intense spiritual exploration and discernment for me, and as I continue to walk the road on which I am walking, the feeling is that of a homecoming—a sort of discovery process of myself that is both new and old. This past year, my personal exploration and “journey home” (think Luke 15) has included body, mind, and soul.
We were on the tram lift in Cape Town heading up to the top of Table Mountain when Mary Pandiani and I struck up a conversation about my research. Then, she invited me to share my personal spiritual and vocational story. She expressed such gratitude and a sense that there has been a big part of my life story that has been kept hidden, and that is very useful for God’s project of healing of the world. She invited me into a deep place of authenticity, where I began to accept the likelihood that God is calling me to a different vocational space that has occupied my time and attention for the past fifteen years. She helped me to discover the constraints that suburban church ministry has been placing on my soul’s journey to be who God made me to be. Essentially, she invited me to become the wounded healer that is truly who I am because of my story and my personality profile.
The PLDP was one of the most enriching experiences of my entire formal educational journey. I learned much about myself and my passions and my loves and my multiple vocations. This is one of the most exciting parts of the program for me—to create a spiritual and vocational roadmap or compass that points me in a direction that is authentic, right, and good for who I am. Accepting my limitations and re-prioritizing my family has been one of the gifts of this process, for which I am very grateful.
The focus of my research at the intersection of xenophobia and spirituality has led me into readings that opened me up to new vocational opportunities. I find myself both invigorated by the readings that Jason has assigned, as well as what I have been reading for my research proposal, as well as bored in my job. This past year, with the doctoral program being one strong contribution, has deepened both my passion and my frustration – my longing for racial reconciliation and integration in our society, and my longing for children of under-resourced families to find pathways to flourish in my life.
Now that I have said “yes” to leave my post as Senior Pastor of John Knox Presbyterian Church to serve as Executive Director of my family’s foundation, I’m looking at all these readings with a new context in mind. Leadership in a 60 year old church is quite different than leadership for a social entrepreneur start-up organization. Off the top of my head, I can say that the readings from Jason have instilled in me a desire to be a “faithful presence” in our new space, to carve time each day for “deep work,” to be mindful of my consumer impulses around church, and to keep my spirituality and leadership integrated with one another.
I find myself grateful for having joined this cohort, and grateful that this doctoral program is helping me on my journey to return “home.”