Chunking & children

We survived the typhoon! Just a bit of wind and a lot of rain…

Tuesday & Wednesday we headed to Chungking Mansions, a massive crumbling building in the heart of downtown TST. The bottom floors are packed with South Asian and African immigrants selling everything from curries to cell phones. We joined a group that daily opens its doors to the down-and-out, offering them a home-cooked meal, a listening ear and a chance to discover more about God. Dan just sat and hugged a homeless Indian man high on drugs.

Thursday we painted a flat at the YWAM Hong Kong base, where we’ve been staying. They are in a little village way out in the New Territories of HK. It’s a whole different world from the HK I’m used to. The village mostly consists of ugly tiled pink or yellow apartment blocks about 4 stories high. For a village, it’s still quite densely packed, with a maze of narrow concrete pathways. But lower down, often in ruins, are beautiful old traditional houses of black brick with terra cotta roofs. It’s tragic how many of them have been left to crumble, but thankfully about 10 historic buildings in the village were recently restored. The contrast of old and new and the values placed upon tradition versus modernity bring up so many questions. Questions of beauty versus utilitarianism and how tourism intersects with cultural traditions… But I love exploring these crumbling ancient abodes as I ponder these issues.

Saturday was a crazy day working with a group of about 20 Nepalse children that ranged in age from 3 to 13 (and two autistic teenagers). We were crammed into the tinniest room and managed to keep some semblance of order to our actives for 2 hrs until chaos broke out and we headed to the nearby playground. Let’s just say the Nepalese aren’t known for their discipline. It is so different doing children’s work here, as opposed to the States or UK. In the UK you need a background check (CRB) before you can begin working with children. Then there are a million rules you must follow: never be alone with a child, never leave the children unattended, only their parent can pick them up and the end of the session, and on and on. Here, the kids are on their own all day Saturday since their parents are working. Most of them drop themselves off and come and go as they please. A 7 year old girl was in charge of her 6 and 3 year old brothers for the day. So when I announced we were going to the playground, some ran out the door immediately. And when we headed back up to the room, the youngest of them remained on the playground unsupervised, which was fine with me because it was a lot easier just working with the older kids!

Later that evening (after a slurpee & some retail therapy), we joined up with the ministry again to pass out food parcels to the homeless. We had a really tremendous time, visiting the 30 or so men who live under the overpass in the Jordan area of HK. The men were all very receptive and despite the language barrier, we enjoyed a pretty good level of communication. We also got a chance to pray with some heroin addicts who live on a filthy mattress in a dark stairwell. The best part of the evening, though, was when a Chinese woman saw what we were doing and was so touched she came and joined us. None of us spoke much Cantonese but she introduced herself with a huge smile and then exclaimed, “Let’s go!” I haven’t seen so much energy & enthusiasm in a long time!

And tomorrow we head further east for 4 weeks! Do keep us in your thoughts & prayers!

The peak, dancing & a typhoon

The view from the Peak

The view from the Peak

It’s hard to believe we’ve just been in Hong Kong a week now! It’s been an eventful time, although not much like what I anticipated. Rather than doing work with prostitutes & the homeless, most of our ministry has been with children! There’s a number of Nepalese and South Asian immigrants in Hong Kong and many of the parents work late, leaving their children to roam the streets unattended till midnight. A lot of the teens are also into drugs. We’ve done several programmes for these rambunctious kids in partnership with local ministries, as well as sharing our stories with immigrant teens & adults.

Getting dance lessons from the Filipinos

The largest number of immigrants in Hong Kong, though, are Filipino women who come on special visas as domestic workers. On Sunday – their day off – parks, the pavement and underpasses are chock-a-block full of Filipino women. They sit on cardboard boxes on the ground socialising, playing cards, dancing and re-connecting with each other. We hung out with them on Sunday and were touched by their stories (and learned some fly dance moves!). Most have left behind husbands and children all for the sake of economic survival. It is so tragic when a person is forced to leave their family and homeland because they can’t make a descent living. And it seems even crueler that they are in Hong Kong working as live-in maids – a luxury in my book.
Monday we had a day off, so Dan & I headed to the Sai Kung Peninsula – the closest thing to wilderness you’ll find in Hong Kong and a world away from the skyscrapers and neon lights. Of course, heading there was a 3.5 hr ordeal of travelling on foot, underground, bus and taxi…but it was worth it! We were the only hikers on 12kms of trail through lush jungle and secluded white sand beaches.

After hiking in agonising heat and humidity, swimming in waves of the crystal clear sea was heavenly. We saw a snake, water buffalo and an enormous warthog. We also walked through villages that were almost entirely abandoned. Most of the residents of these remote areas left for the cities in the 1970s. They left behind gorgeous traditional houses that are slowly being engulfed by vegetation. I can’t imagine how much their lives would have changed – moving from an isolated seaside jungle to a crowded skyscraper in a densely packed city. Abandoned houses always hold such mystery – what circumstances would cause someone to leave his home & belongings and never return? I’ll probably never know… but I do know that I for one want to return to this area!

Meanwhile we’re enjoying a category 8 typhoon, but at least it’s warm

Hong Kong here we come!

On Monday we head to Hong Kong & East Asia for 7 weeks! We’re so excited, although I don’t think our imminent departure has sunk in yet. I must confess I’m especially excited about shopping & seeing friends in Hong Kong. I was there in 2005 for work and also stayed w/friends and got to properly explore the intriguing city. Hong Kong is such a juxtaposition of class and culture. Alongside sleek modern skyscraper are open air markets selling dried shark fins and herbal remedies. The smell of rain on fresh pavement blends with fragrant incense shopkeepers burn for their ancestors. During our time there we’ll be doing work downtown with the homeless, drug addicts and prostitutes. Hard core, eh?

The history of Hong Kong & Britain is quite ironic. Basically, by the late 1700s the UK was buying loads of tea from China, but there wasn’t much that the Chinese wanted from the Brits. That is, until the UK began sending shiploads of opium to HK. Opium sold like hotcakes! However, the Chinese emperor wasn’t too pleased with this trade & outlawed it, but to no avail. The illegal trade flourished and in 1839 when the Chinese tried to use force to stop the trade the Opium Wars began. And the Brits won and got a loan on Hong Kong until 1997. Bizzare, eh?

This tale reminds me of the story of Joseph from the B-i-b-l-e. Something horrible (his bros selling him into slavery) is transformed into something advantageous (Joe having food during a famine). It’s not a perfect analogy but it is remarkable how such a shameful beginning has had some beautiful benefits. Because HK was British-run for 99 years, it had greater freedom of speech and religion & later served as a haven for refugees from mainland China (not to mention economic prosperity). In 1997 HK was returned to the People’s Republic of China, but it’s “one country, two systems,” meaning many of the former democratic policies remain. So…. all this is not to justify the illegal sale of opium, but just to muse over God’s miraculous up-side down ways of working despite man’s less-than-perfect ways

P.S. This is a deeply simplistic and brief historical overview