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.
The next thing I noticed were the vast resources and immense detail and effort spent on honoring and worshiping their gods. From the beautifully ornate temples, to the huge statue of Buddha, to the rather large and plentiful incense rods, I was slightly overwhelmed with it all. It was also a little uncomfortable being a tourist in their places of worship observing them praying with incense, bowing, and performing various other religious rituals. The worship I engage in towards my God is very different but it was enlightening to experience this aspect of the Chinese culture.
The experience in Hong Kong that had the most significant impact on me was the worship time at the St. Stephen’s Society facility. I wish I had pictures of that time to help relate my experience with others (but they asked us not to take pictures out of protection for the residents, so all I have are pictures of the facility). All I could do was weep uncontrollably while we all worshipped the same God in Cantonese and English. The Holy Spirit was powerfully present and I will forever be impacted by the experience of Spirit-filled worship and words from the Lord being spoken over the crowd. It made me crave this type of experience with the Spirit back home.
As I shared last year, my favorite part of the advance is getting to connect with and enjoy making memories with my cohort 8 peeps. They are all such amazing individuals and I have so much to gain from my time spent with them, and I hope I am sharpening them as well. As you can see in the photo, they are constantly making me laugh and adding richness to every experience. Wish we had more quality time together…guess I have to wait till London.
New Knowledge and Synthesis:
The new information that had some of the greatest impact on me were the stories and ministry shared by Rev. Stephen Miller from the Mission to Seafarers. It opened my mind and heart to an entire population of people needing ministry that I didn’t even realize existed. The most inspiring was his stories of just being a friend and a listening ear to these lonely folks and his focus on showing them the unconditional love of Christ. Also learning about the significance of the shipping port in Hong Kong and the volume of ships and containers coming and going added to my understanding of an entirely new aspect of Hong Kong.
It was also refreshing to hear from a social worker in a dramatically different setting than my own. Annissa Lui from Hong Kong Lutheran Social Service shared about the many unique programs they offer the residents of Hong Kong. The creativity and innovation involved in these programs were inspiring and the way they tailor-made their programs to meet the unique needs of different communities was brilliant. Being a social worker, I can relate to the broad demands of the people we serve, and I appreciated the out-of-the-box thinking that went into meeting these specialized needs in Hong Kong. Her presentation inspired me to use the same kind of innovative thinking when it comes to meeting the needs of the clients I serve.
Since my wife and I took an additional trip the Beijing after the advance in Hong Kong and have only been home for a couple days (barely coherent, I might add, due to the jet lag) at the time of writing this, I have not had much opportunity to put into practice what I learned and experienced. My intention is to take what I learned from Rev. Miller about the ministry of being present with people and the Spirit-filled experience at St. Stephen’s Society to the church plant I am working with called The Vine Church (which ironically shares the same name as the church I attended in Hong Kong).
Once again, what has and will always stay with me from my time in Hong Kong is the moving time of worship at St. Stephen’s Society. Standing with my colleagues and the residents with hands raised singing familiar worship songs but in Cantonese with tears streaming down my face will be unforgettable. This will stay with me mostly because of the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit in that place, and also because of the unique opportunity to worship in another language with the same spiritual connection as I have had in my own context. The experience is something I have never had before but hope to be able to adequately share with others to inspire them to be open to experience something similar in a cross-cultural setting. I can’t end my post without also mentioning the impact little Lucy Welstad’s sweet spirit had on me and many others during this advance. She was a welcomed addition to cohort 8.