“So how was Hong Kong, Mary?” When people ask that inevitable question, I’ve struggled to find an answer that is unique to Hong Kong. The iconic skyscrapers set the city apart from most other places; the price of square footage for a flat seems outlandish; and even though there are crowds of people, those who live in Hong Kong are kind, helpful, and hospitable. However, after traveling in a few different countries over the years, I find Hong Kong’s impact similar to other places: a satiated curiosity as I listen to another language and/or accent; a greater confidence as I learn my way around an unknown territory without an initial sense of geographic reference; and that scary yet welcomed disorientation in an effort to adapt to another culture with an acute sense of “I’m different yet the same.”
So what is the value of Hong Kong for me? If I’m honest, it may have nothing to do with Hong Kong itself. While I’m certainly grateful that I visited a city in Asia (a first for me), I’m not sure Hong Kong itself had a new kind of impact on me. Upon my return, I wanted to be able to say that I loved Hong Kong, and anticipate a visit in the future. But that’s not my sense. Yet, something of value did occur while I was there.
That something may have more to do with the place I found for myself while in Hong Kong, rather than the place of Hong Kong. Perhaps it could have happened anywhere, but I believe God used the timing for this discovery in a city finding it’s identity, one that is transitioning from a British colony to a Chinese province. As Hong Kong seeks to find its voice, I discovered a place of agency for me.
It has only been in this year that I’ve heard the word “agency.” Forgive me for those who have used this word often. I didn’t realize the value of the word, until this year. That’s when I heard Alison, my daughter, speak of her UW class that described the “agency for disadvantaged women.” Having agency means having a sense of control in the value within oneself. As I explored Hong Kong, learned about various ministries within the city, interacted with my cohort and others on the Advance, and spent time listening for what God would ask of me during this time, I discovered that I have a responsibility with the voice that God has given me. I am to offer it to others and use it. Last year, I would characterize the Advance to Cape Town as a place where I found I have a voice. This year, I discovered I have agency in that voice, a power in speaking the story God has given for me to tell.
Over the course of this semester, we’ve jumped into topics around the measurement of success, nerve vs. empathy in executing directives, voice and loyalty around a brand, emotive as well as courageous leadership, Spirit led movements whether in social action or visual arts with a finale on how to live as a follower of Christ. All mixed together, I find the common theme of expanding the mind and heart long enough to let the Spirit move us towards transformation. Pulled in different directions forces me to sift out what is relevant from that which distracts. All the while, something sinks deeper into the core of who I am creating something more in my story. Cape Town, Hong Kong, the cohort chats all serve to not only “teach” me about my world, but how to live into this world as a person who has influence and voice.
While in Hong Kong, I told my story by using my voice in a myriad of situations. Making requests of my cohort, asking the hard questions with my advisor, speaking with others who might need to be heard, I exercised my new sense of agency with my voice. The stories I told did not necessarily always revolve around myself, but it required me to live into the dance God invited me before I even began that trip. The stories involved my past, my present, and my future with all the rhythms and bumps along the way. I discovered how alive I can become when I can step into the agency of my story, recognizing that God works in and through me with the gift.
A couple days after returning from Hong Kong, I stood in front of my TCC students for the first time that quarter. While a bit nervous on the first day, I had an empowered sense of what I could offer. I credit my time in Hong Kong for that new place. I wanted to share myself in order that others might share themselves. That’s what I got from Hong Kong. I went from a fragile state this summer to sensing a desire to dance to proclaiming my story so that others can also tell their story. What did I get out of Hong Kong? I found a bit of myself there in the agency of my voice.