My apologies

If only I had realized how bad the mixture of 18 students, lesson plans, public transportation, more malls than I count using my fingers on one hand, teammates, planning cultural activities, eating meals, devotions, teaching, traveling, and sightseeing are for blogging. So I must make my apologies and my promises for updates once I get home.

Just a quick update: As I write this, I am sitting at Starbucks in the airport. We leave in less than a half hour for Cambodia. Teaching was fabulous, although not without its rough spots. I received a grade from my student, A-, since it was my first time teaching. Not bad, I figured. I will add pictures once I get home as well.

Keep me in your thoughts this week as I go on to Cambodia. Some of it is going to be very difficult to process after spending so much time in a materialistic and wealthy place (Hong Kong is so well-off). Also, there are some spots we are visiting that will be difficult to see since they deal with the Khmer Rouge, Pohl Pot (sp?) regime. (One school turned prison/torture chamber and possibly the killing fields). That will be around Wednesday. Also Cambodia is possibly 2nd only to Tailand for sex slavery and prostitution. The culture shock could be very difficult. Please keep my team in your thoughts and ask that we might be protected from the darkness around us… that our eyes will be open and our hearts prepared to hear and feel what He has for us there.

Much love,

Liz

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A Day Out

[I learned the importance of being aware of my surroundings yesterday while we were traveling. I went into a small open air bakery to buy chocalate cake (not nearly as satisfying as it looked) and when I came out, I could not find my wallet anywhere. It wasn’t in my purse (which was unzipped) and it wasn’t on a shelf in the bakery or the counter. It was gone. I alerted people around me as I started to freak out. It didn’t have my license or all of my money, but it still had a lot in it. After about 3 or 4 minutes, I realized, however, that it had been under my arm with my tourist brochures. Yes, I had stolen my own wallet. Funny now, but not at the time.]

Yesterday  I went sightseeing with a group of about 70 other teachers. It felt as though I might as well have been a carnival barker yelling at the bustling crowd around us, “look at all the tourists!”

But so it goes.

We traveled by foot to a nearby park, then walked to the Walled City in Kowloon, where the old city of crime and poverty had been torn down and a park had been resurrected in 1995. It was a park/garden/museum. It was one place I had really wanted to go, so I was very excited about reading all of the plaques and trying to grasp the fact that less than twenty years ago, 30,000 people lived in this area that equaled 6.6 acres.

We were told about the woman, Jackie Pullinger, who had done so much to revive the city and to reach out to the broken drug addicts and the gangs, at the price of all she had. She wrote a book called “Chasing the Dragon,” which was highly recommended to me by another student who has read it.

After the park, we hopped on a bus which took us to the MTR (the public subway system) which took us to the temple. However, due to circumstances of people getting lost and separated from the huge crowd, we didn’t make it in time and we missed the opportunity to peruse the temple grounds by 15 minutes. 

After that we went back on the MTR to Diamond Hill exit, which had the most beautiful gardens with a golden building surrounded with water and red bridge on either side, and pagodas scattered throughout. It echoed with the strains of active waterfalls which lent a natural soundtrack to the gardens. Anywhere you looked up, however, you could see verdant mountains and towering buildings.

After the garden, several of us went to a mall where we shopped and ate dinner. Food has been interesting so far (we eat in the cantene here on campus, and let’s just say that cantenes are the same all over the world), but we opted for Pizza Hut (yes, the American Experience pizza has corn on it).

Hong Kong so far has proved to be a city of contradictions. Of spiritual and secular, of malls and gardens, of history and modernity, of mountains and 100% luxury tax on cars, of harbour and towering skyscrapers.

An Excerpt

[Here is a short excerpt from an email I just sent to my dad.]

I’m doing well… staying plenty busy with preparing lessons and seeing the city… which is HUGE! there are 7.5 million people living here.

For the first 4 days, we stayed at Cheung Chau island, a beautiful tropical island about an hour ferry ride from Hong Kong. The first night, after traveling by plane for at least 18 to 24 hours, we had to walk our suitcases straight uphill in darkness in the thickest humidity I have ever felt. It was an experience that I don’t care to repeat again. The island was absolutely idyllic, but the many ramps and stairs nearly killed me. (Hong Kong is actually built on mountains.)  

Hong Kong is really beautiful… it is surrounded by massive mountains which are covered with beautiful green trees, and the buildings are REALLY tall… I think there are some 60 story buildings. I live on the 13th floor of my dorm and I have a beautiful view that looks out on mountains, the harbor, and the city lights. It is incredible.  

The temperature is very hot! It is not uncommon to see people walking around with sunbrellas. I think the temperatures are often in the 90’s, but I try not to think about it.  

We start teaching on this Wednesday, then we teach for the next two and a half weeks (including Saturdays). We toured our school last Friday, and found out that we have air conditioning and computers with projectors in our classrooms. Very high tech! Our students will be 7th graders to 9th graders.

Plans Change

[side note: we have been challenged to spend only one hour a week online while we are here in Hong Kong (and by challenged, I mean highly encouraged, and by highly encouraged, I mean strongly instructed), so I will probably not be writing as much as originally thought. But I will try to write now and again and share little things that happen as I go. A lot of updates may come after I return home.]

I will soon post another blog address that the organization will be keeping on our behalf that you can all read and keep up with what we are doing in Hong Kong. I’m very excited about it!

Away we go!

From Grand Rapids to Chicago to San Francisco to Hong Kong and beyond!

Watch and See…

[It always surprises me how much strength can be caused by tension. Bridges can hold tons of pounds based on the concept of tension. for more information on how suspension bridges work, see http://science.howstuffworks.com/bridge1.htm. It is a mixture of compression and tension. This past month, I’ve experienced plenty of both.]

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After making my commitment to go to Hong Kong and Cambodia, I have spent hours, agonizing hours, deliberating whether to go or not. Wondering whether I was clearly stepping out of my Father’s will. Wondering whether I was even willing to stay in Michigan if I was supposed to. Wondering why I would go when clearly I’m too weak to be useful. I don’t know enough, I’m not bold enough, I’m not qualified, I’m too qualified… I can go on, but I’ll restrain myself for your sake.

But then I realized that I was too afraid to actually go because I didn’t believe that I could do anything. I knew that I would make mistakes, perhaps terrible ones. Perhaps, I would even not be as good as someone else, God forbid. My pride was afraid of being hurt. I was afraid that my Father wouldn’t use me.

Now I know that I can expect Him to show up. And I do.

As I leave for Hong Kong in a bit over 24 hours, I expect crazy things to begin happening. Things I cannot do on my own. Things that I can’t explain.

Of course, there is a lot that I can’t explain. This is the tension between expectation and what will actually be. And this tension really is the best exercise for learning how to trust. It is utterly out of my control what will be, but by trusting, there is space for my Father to work. It isn’t even about me.

And work He will.

Just watch and see…

Predictions

[What I remembered today: Predictions have a tendency to be wrong. Especially after I get upset or angry at the predictions before they happen.]

All week my friends and I have been messaging back and forth on Facebook about traveling to the beach today, but yesterday when I checked the weather, the predictions all said THUNDERSTORMS.

I was so angry. Every time that I have planned to go to the beach, it has rained or, at the very least, been overcast. We decided to wait until this morning to make the final call.

When I woke up this morning, there were some clouds in the sky, so I looked up the current weather in Holland. It was 78 degrees and clear. Though, of course, thunderstorms were still predicted for all day.

But I thought to myself, “It would not be the first time the weathermen were wrong. In fact, this is Michigan. I’m surprised that the weathermen even keep their jobs. I can’t think of many people who can keep their jobs with only 50% accuracy.”

So we went to the beach today.

And as I lay on the beach near Camp Geneva in Holland, I looked up into the blue sky with only wisps of clouds for decoration and admired the perfection of the day. The waves licked the shore and splashed my fellow beach bums while I read a book written by a Chinese man about his experiences in Beijing as a college student in the early 1980s.  Whenever I became warm, I waded into the water which was heated to a perfect 72 degrees.

I could not think of a more lovely day to spend at the lake.

My friends and I also made a trip to my favorite ice cream place in the world, Capt’n Sundaes, then my friend Hannah and I made a trip to Holland beach. We walked down the pier, and then we walked all the way to Tunnel Park, talking and sharing about what our Father is doing in our lives and what we hope to do in the next few years. It was such an encouragement, and I enjoyed every moment, withstanding the cramping in my calves and toes from walking in the sand. (Between my sunburn and all the walking, this day has definitely left its mark.)

Watching the sun set over Lake Michigan at the end of a wonderful day was such a gift. I could not have asked for a better last Saturday in the states.