Monday, September 24, 2012

Finding holiness in the mundane

Despite the fact that I've been in Hong Kong for almost two months, there's still so much I don't know about the neighborhood around my flat. True to my character, I've fallen into a routine that generally doesn't deviate much from day to day. I go to work the same way every day, I go to the same stores to pick up food or other essentials. In a volunteer position that is constantly changing, where each work day is only predictable in its inherent unpredictability, I seek constants where I can. 

It's my day off, so this afternoon I thought I'd try something different. I decided to venture to a grocery store I'd heard about that I was told was "just up the hill." (Side note: everything in Hong Kong is "just up the hill" so one never really knows what that means.) I looked up the location on Google Maps and was informed it was only 1km away from home. Right then, I thought, no problem. So off I went, with my shopping bag and some cash. (Another side note: if you're reading my blog in the hope of vicariously experiencing some sort of exotic adventure, I'd advise you to check out some of my fellow YASCers' blogs to the right hand side of this paragraph. This is a pretty boring post; it really is just some commentary about a mundane trip to the grocery store!)

As soon as I got downstairs, I felt a few light drops of rain. Also true to my character, I forged ahead without my umbrella. I started out on a road I walk every day. Then I veered off in the direction I knew I needed to go. After the third turn, I encountered an intersection I haven't ever seen before. Roads are not marked in Hong Kong the same way they are in Kentucky and for all those back home, let me say that this particular intersection would make Spaghetti Junction look as simple as a child's wooden figure eight railroad track. I stood on top of a foot bridge for a while, sweating from the humidity and trying to decide which way to go without a map. The rain was still falling lightly, so I didn't want to get too far off the familiar path. In a fit of indecision, I descended the stairs from the footbridge and went another way. After encountering a few dead ends, I returned to the footbridge, still unsure of my location relative to the illusive grocery store. Still I hesitated to move forward, just standing there trying to decide what to do. At length, I took three more steps, and I suddenly saw the grocery store sign in the distance.

If you're still reading, you may be wondering why I wasted the last few minutes of your life imparting a story about wandering around Hong Kong on a Monday afternoon. I have a point, I promise. As the grocery store came into view, I was struck by the analogy formed by the journey. How often does indecision, fear, exhaustion, or confusion keep me from finding and having good things in my life? When I'm willing to take those three extra steps in faith, without being sure of the outcome, I'm usually pleasantly surprised by what happens next. Christians are quick to quote Jeremiah 29:11 as reassurance of the good things God has in store, but I wonder how often I am able to undermine potential blessings with my own hesitation to move forward?

Again, you may be thinking that finding deep, philosophical meaning in a trip to the grocery store is quite a stretch. Maybe it is. But as I wandered up and down every aisle, just like my grandpa taught me when I was a kid, I found something holy about getting where I was going today.

Fish waiting to be purchased (and eaten) at the grocery store.
Sorry I don't have more pics to share today!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Blessing of a Shelter, a Refuge, and a Home

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." --Matthew 25:35-36

I recently attended the blessing, reopening, and anniversary celebration of the main Bethune House shelter.

There are many stories I could tell about the gathering, about the residents, about the reopened shelter itself, but I feel that being too specific might do a disservice to the general spirit of the place and the people who work so tirelessly for the rights and protection of domestic helpers.

Instead, I will share some pictures from the event and leave you with part of a prayer from the blessing of the reopened Bethune House shelter.

Residents and volunteers preparing food in the shelter kitchen prior to the celebration

A few of the current residents

Spending time in the common area before the festivities commenced

Everyone gathering outside as the blessing began

Holy God whose name is not honored where the needy are not served, and the powerless continue to be treated with contempt: may we embrace our neighbor with the same tenderness we ourselves require so your justice may be fulfilled in love. Bless and prosper Bethune House…that it may continue its ministry without fail: a shelter, a refuge, our home away from home.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A quick update...

...That has nothing to do with mission or ministry. Just a few people hanging out on the rooftop of a mall on a Wednesday evening.

Looking toward Central from the ifc mall rooftop.

One of the ifc towers, rising above the public rooftop space.

Monday, September 10, 2012

We interrupt the regularly scheduled programming...

In honor of my mother-in-law's birthday, I'm posting a picture of two of her favorite things: kids and choir. Happy birthday, Rhonda!

The Children's Choir of St. John's Cathedral did a wonderful rendition of The B-I-B-L-E yesterday to honor the incoming Dean of the Cathedral and his family at a welcome lunch.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Unexpected learning experience

I have an unfortunate tendency to giggle when I'm uncomfortable. It gets me into trouble. Laughing at the most inconvenient times- when someone gets hurt, when there's tension between people in a room, when I've embarrassed myself- is rude at best and extremely hurtful at worst.

Now that I've shared a humiliating personal flaw with everyone on the internet, take a moment to imagine my dismay when I felt giggles bubbling up into my chest when I witnessed a disgusting act of discrimination today, committed against my coworker. We were trying to enter a restroom, my coworker was in front of me. Several people had entered before us when the restroom attendant suddenly appeared and denied access to my coworker while welcoming me into the restroom. It happened so fast, I really didn't know what to do. It's one of those things that I was completely blindsided by and in hindsight, I had a thousand responses for the transgressor, but in that moment, I could only stand with my mouth slightly gaping, trying really hard not to giggle.

Never have I felt more useless. I should have defended my coworker, I should have fought for her rights, at the very least, I should have had a strongly worded response for the offender. All I could do was stare at the restroom attendant and ask "why?" when she refused my coworker entry and encouraged me to come on in. I don't think of my coworker any differently than I do myself. In fact, I probably think more highly of her than I do myself. So I was completely baffled when someone else looked at the two of us standing next to each other and determined that I was acceptable and she was not. I wasn't about to enter the restroom when my coworker wasn't allowed. That action confused the restroom attendant, who went back inside and locked both of us out. 

My lovely friend, whom I learn from and laugh with, the lady I called when I found a lizard in my hairbrush tonight, the child of God who was made in His image as surely as I was, the warrior who campaigns for the rights of domestic helpers, was denied access to a restroom simply because she looks different than I do.

I'm not naive enough to think racism doesn't exist. I know it's alive and well in all parts of the world. I know the fact that I'm a white American shields me from much exposure to it. Hong Kong bills itself as a "world class city." As long as behaviors like the one I witnessed today happen with any sort of regularity or acceptance, I think there's still a lot of progress to be made before that's an accurate title.