As this weekend ends, we awake to the realization that too many lives were taken this week. Lives that should have continued. By now, many have heard of two separate incidents that have happened to question what we believe about human goodness. First of all, the life of a beautiful, godly young woman was snuffed out at a concert that should have touched and entertained many. Instead, we are left with a soul-crushing realization of the brevity and frailty of human life. Then another tragedy, also in Orlando. A man decided that his religion dictated that he forcefully take the lives of those who were involved in a lifestyle of debauchery. Now, 50 people are dead and 53 are wounded, all because one man decided to play god (yes, lowercase “g” because Allah is not the true God). But there is another element to these stories. What happened at that nightclub and the death of Christina Grimmie may have happened in the same city, but they are worlds apart.
What happened to Christina Grimmie is a shame, to be sure. It’s a shame because she was only 22 years old. It’s a shame because that man shouldn’t have had a gun at a concert and the security guards for some reason didn’t find it. It’s a shame because a man, whose reasons are unknown, decided to take a life that he had no right to take. It’s a shame because while Christina stood before her Lord and Savior and heard those words all we true believers will hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”, Kevin James Loibl had to hear, “Depart from Me into everlasting fire”. But what happened to Christina was not a tragedy. It’s not a tragedy because she is in a better place. It’s not a tragedy because she touched the lives of many, including many celebrities who will hopefully remember her love of Jesus and realize their own need of Him.
What happened at that nightclub was a tragedy. It’s a tragedy because 50 people are in hell tonight because one evil man decided they needed to die. It’s a tragedy because they didn’t show Jesus because they didn’t have Him either. It’s a tragedy because their lives were snuffed out before they had a chance to repent. And here we are, in a country of subjective morality, pointing fingers at guns or ISIS or what-have-you. When maybe, we should point the fingers at ourselves. Our country has decided that there is no such thing as objective morality: that transsexuals can use whatever bathroom they wish and babies’ lives are less important than a gorilla’s and can be taken because someone “isn’t ready”. Then we get angry at people’s deaths, but say that morality is “cultural”. Well, the Muslim culture says gays must die and not be shown mercy. If morality is cultural, then what is wrong with Muslims killing gays? I’ll tell you what’s wrong. Morality is not subjective or cultural. It’s very objective and based on God’s Word. Killing gay people is wrong because God extends mercy to ALL sinners and murder is wrong. Killing young singers is wrong because God is the only One with the right to decide anyone’s fate. This is also a tragedy: that we have decided that we know more than God. We can point fingers based on what we believe and ignore what God wants. We have decided to play God and this is where it gets us.
Now we all have a decision to make. Will our deaths be a tragedy? All death is a shame: a result of man’s sinful decisions. But not every death has to be a tragedy. “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.(Romans 10:9)” This verse changes death from tragedy to a shame. It gives every death dignity because we know that all those who repent of their sins will be saved when they believe in Jesus. “O Death, where is your sting? O Grave, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.(1 Corinthians 15:55-56)” Christina Grimmie’s death has no sting. The death of countless Christians all over the world holds no sting because we are free from sin and the law. The deaths of those nightclub patrons sting. The death of Kevin Loibl stings. But our deaths? Death has no sting. The grave has no victory because Jesus won the victory over death when He rose from the dead. There is no tragedy in that.
So I finally decided to add another entry to my blog. I have got to be the worst blogger ever! But I have finally decided to make another entry.
I have made it to my first full year of Hong Kong teaching life! The hottest part of the summer was my entry point into this beautiful city. This city where sometimes I find myself being so proud that this is my city. Of course America is my country and Delaware is my state, but I have never had a CITY that I felt was my very own. This is a beautiful city with beautiful people and sometimes on a bus ride to the main part of the city I think to myself, “My beautiful city.”
Teaching has also become MY job, one that belongs to me. I always said I would never be a teacher, but I now I find myself in the midst of the calling to teach. I find myself smiling despite myself even when 10 children dive-bomb me when I enter the classroom. And nothing is more satisfying than when a child comes to give you a hug just because they love you. I have children calling my name when they see me and children who will come in the door only when I ask them to.
It’s been a year of ups and downs: times when I knew exactly what was going to happen and times when I wasn’t so sure. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. So here’s to another year of good times yet to come!
It’s finally the end of November (I started in November, I promise) and the beginning of the best part of the year. This was a very full month. In the beginning of November, my roommates and I were told that our rent would be increasing significantly and that it would be better to move out and find somewhere else to live. Our lease was up anyway, so we decided to move out of the place where we were and to move closer to town. The Lord was good to provide me with a place with another Christian school teacher closer to everything. I no longer have to travel 20 minutes into the countryside to our flat. We couldn’t buy any frozen food that would thaw before we got home and it was difficult to make several trips into town (expensive, as well). It may have been inconvenient and sudden, but it was better in the end. I found another Christian teacher in the area who needed to share the costs of her flat, so I was able to move in pretty soon after we heard the news.
Our Christmas play went phenomenally well. The parents enjoyed the end result and some said they were interested in maybe coming to church sometime. Since they were colonized by Britain, Hong Kong does celebrate Christmas to some extent. There were Christmas lights up and the malls had Christmas trees decorated. And of course, there were Christmas and after Christmas sales, as well. Most people only had a few days after Christmas off, with most people working Christmas Eve. A blessing of working at a Christian school is that we did get a week and a half off. The Christians of course celebrate Christmas as the birth of Christ, but not the Hong Kongers so much, as most of the locals are not Christians. With the busy Christmas season over, the regular schedules have resumed. We will have the rest of January for the first semester and February will start the second semester. However, we only have one week of the second semester before Hong Kong’s biggest holiday season: Chinese New Year. Christmas is celebrated more as a commercial holiday, while Chinese New Year is rooted in Chinese tradition and as such is more popular with the locals. This second semester is going to be busy, but I look forward to becoming more and more involved with the planning of the lessons. I had to do more work on the lesson plans for this upcoming semester. The first semester had been pretty much planned before I got there, but I was in charge of coming up with the lessons entirely on my own for the K3 class. This new principal seems to want the English teachers to be more involved than the previous teachers were. But I love my job and see this challenge as another way to prove myself and to do my real job: growing my students into the best English students they can be. So now as I start my eighth month here in Hong Kong, I look forward to the rest of the year until I see everyone in August. So Merry Christmas and Happy Western New Year for now!
P.S. I have pictures on Facebook.
November marks the beginning of my sixth month in Hong Kong! In October, I started my new schedule: Monday-Thursday and Saturday. I still teach both K1 (3 year olds) and K3 (5 year olds) English classes. But I teach several small classes on Saturday as well. My K3 students are in Cambridge University’s English program. The K2 and K1 classes are classes that I have come up with myself. We are getting ready for the busy season, and Christmas will be upon us soon. This was the last of our single public holidays until May. But we have a long Christmas holiday, Chinese New Year, and Easter: a full two weeks for Chinese New Year and a week and a half each for Christmas and Easter. For non-Christian Hong Kong residents, the 21st of October is a day to visit the graves of ancestors and leave offerings for them. Food, like dumplings, is common; but, the strangest thing a friend of mine saw was a Snickers bar left for a departed relative. It’s the days like these that make you realize that you are not in a Christian nation. Even though the control of England has brought Christianity to these people, most are still enmeshed in traditionally Chinese religions: Chinese Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. 49% of Hong Kong natives identify themselves as not belonging to an organized religion, preferring to adhere to Chinese folk religions. These folk religions are a combination of mostly Taoism and Confucianism, with a little bit of Chinese Buddhism thrown in. So while we work in a Christian school, it is driven home that teaching these children to be the voice of the true God is an important task that must succeed.
The 31st of October, I went along on our school’s picnic. Westerners, don’t think of it the same way we do school picnics in America. It’s more of a field trip. We went to a “farm” first of all. Once again, don’t think of our farms. There is little land and the even the flats are small compared to most American apartments, so it was more of a place for the children to run around. There was a big, grassy place for them to run, a small area for rabbits, a couple pigs, goats, and guinea pigs, bumper cars, motorized animals to ride on, and booths for them to make some small crafts, like sand art. Then it was off to an all-you-can-eat buffet in the basement of a hotel in the neighboring district of Yuen Long. By the way, Hong Kong schools are brilliant. The parents came with us for the whole day, and they went to get the food three tables at a time, while the teachers waited with the kids. Lastly, was a factory where they made pastries that really have no English translation. The Chinese words loosely mean “life cake”, but if you Google it, you won’t find it. The kids had fun and so did we.
So as I embrace this new month, many things will continue to change, mostly for the good. Keep praying for me as I keep up with these very energetic children. I love my job, but look forward to the long holidays coming soon as well. I’m sad to say that I will not have time return (jetlag, ughh!) to America, but it will be good just to have a break. I do look forward to seeing everyone this August, though. So, I will keep everyone updated. Miss you all!
Well, it seems as if the 110 degree weather is almost over. October, we are told, is the start of much cooler weather. And by “cooler” they mean, 70 degrees. Not that I mind, as one of the things I hate about living in the Northern U.S. is the cold weather. I loved my years in Florida and South Carolina and dreaded returning to the North (at least for the weather). Also, cold weather and migraines don’t mix.
This past month has been a new experience entirely. I have started on teaching my kindergarten classes, made up of both three and five year olds. Thankfully, the curriculum is done for us, but it is still up to us to work it all out. I have a mix of Hong Kong children and mainland Chinese with one international student. Some of the children struggle with English, while others are practically ready to start their own international business, so I don’t know what to do about them. Now, I’m starting three new classes on Saturdays, two of which are completely made up from my own head. We’ll see how that goes…
We celebrated the Mid-Autumn festival, which, we are told, is where you sit and look up at the stars while eating pure deliciousness known as “mooncakes”. They are very hard to describe so you may have to look them up. (And if you can somehow get some… go right now.) In reality, what we did was look at paper lanterns, both traditional and characters. Earlier in the month, we celebrated the day the Japanese surrendered in World War II. And yes, you history buffs, China had nothing to do with the Japanese surrender in WWII, but they hate the Japanese so they celebrate the Allies defeating the Japanese in WWII. And tomorrow is the day that the People’s Republic of China was founded. So we get another day off. The residents of Hong Kong might work six days a week, but they get public holidays galore, even if only for a day.
That is the gist of my September. Coming up we have our church’s anniversary at the end of October and a Christmas play in December. Pray for this event as there will be plenty of unsaved there to witness their adorable children. And they are ADORABLE!
Well, October is finally upon us! And this first week is Invisible Illness Week. I found a blog by a woman who suffers from Rheumatoid Arthritis who started this week in 2002. She is a Christian wife and mother and happens to suffer from an illness no one sees. This year’s theme is #myinvisiblefight and she has a meme that I filled out that I’d like for you to see. If you suffer from a chronic illness (chronic migraines, RA, POTS, etc.) feel free to visit her website here: http://invisibleillnessweek.com. Or her Christian ministry website here: http://www.restministries.com. It has the meme on it for you to share with anybody who will listen. Even if you don’t suffer from a chronic illness but you know someone who does… don’t be afraid to find out what the awareness ribbon for it is and post it on Facebook or wear it or put it on your car. FYI, chronic migraine is either burgundy or purple with a red stripe, depending on who you ask. (Personally, I’d go with purple and red; my two favorite colors. 🙂 ) But with no further ado… here is my 30 things you may not know meme:
30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know –
1. The illness I live with is: chronic migraine with aura.
2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: 2000
3. But I had symptoms since: 1995.
4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: trying to determine which days I can make it to work and activities and just how long I can stay there.
5. Most people assume: Where do I begin? That they must not be bad because I can cope if I have to? That having a few migraines ( or worse, just a couple) is the same as having many every month?
6. The hardest part about mornings are: not knowing if this will be a migraine day.
7. My favorite medical TV show is: Untold Stories of the ER. I always wondered what it would be like to work in an ER.
8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: I don’t really use a gadget for migraines, but I love my new smartphone. Never thought I would want one, but now I don’t think I can live without one!
9. The hardest part about nights are: if I have a migraine, it is simply sleeping; and if I don’t already have a migraine, it is worrying about if I will have one in the morning .
10. Each day I take 1 pills & vitamins. (No comments, please) Unless I have a migraine that day, then I take two Excedrin.
11. Regarding alternative treatments I: love essential oils! Peppermint oil on the forehead is a life-saver. And since I also have IBS, it helps when rubbed on my stomach. Also, I plan to try acupuncture from an actual Chinese medicine doctor while I’m here in Hong Kong.
12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: visible. It would be nice for people to believe you once in a while when you say that you are sick.
13. Regarding working and career: I can function. I love my job as a teacher and I wouldn’t quit for the world. Besides, as a single person I don’t have much choice, I kind of have to live.
14. People would be surprised to know: that I don’t say what I’m feeling because I understand that they don’t understand what it is really like to have an invisible illness.
15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: that I will never be normal. And that I will never live without some kind of stigma. Also, debilitating pain is not cool.
16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: move to a foreign country.
17. The commercials about my illness: make me wish that those medicines worked for me. I think part of the warning should be that they don’t work for everyone. Also, napping in the middle of a field? Really?
18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: doing things without having to worry that I will need to cancel.
19. It was really hard to have to give up: nothing really. At least with chronic migraine you can have pain-free days. I don’t envy people with constant pain. God was gracious to me in that there is no way I would be able to handle it and He knew it.
20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: I was a teen when I was officially diagnosed so all my hobbies started shortly after my diagnosis.
21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: plan 1500 things right after another knowing that I could do all of them for once.
22. My illness has taught me: to look for other people’s pain. God gave me a disease, not to punish me or because He isn’t good, but because now I can see hurting people. Emotional and spiritual hurt is just as crippling as physical pain.
23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: “I thought you had a migraine.” (And its alternative: “You were fine this morning.”) Yeah. That’s how migraines work. Tomorrow may be fine. Tomorrow may be bad. I might have three migraines in a row or two weeks with nothing. I might have pain this morning and be fine by night-time after plenty of meds combined with sleep. I might suddenly have a migraine an hour after waking or five hours after waking. I might wake up with one or I might go to sleep with one.
24. But I love it when people: ask me if I’m feeling better after a migraine. (Granted that they are sincere. And yes, I can tell if you’re faking.)
25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: Philippians 4:13. Especially, the part about knowing that it is Christ that strengthens us. If He can create the world in seven days, my migraines are nothing to Him.
26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: “It will be hard. But you are more than your disease. God gives us nothing we cannot handle with His help.”
27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: how much mentally stronger I feel than others. Maybe it’s just me but I feel that I can do emotions if I can do pain.
28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: anytime they ask if there is something they can do.
29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: some things just need to be said.
30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: like my health is important to you.
I have officially made it to my two month mark here in Hong Kong. This summer has been a new and exciting adventure for me and I have had to step out of my comfort zone a lot these last two months. And there is more stepping out to come, as I will be starting my full-time job in September.
Our church finished a great week of camp last week. Although we American teachers didn’t get to help much, we were privileged to hear Mr. Ken Collier of the Wilds present a sermon on Sunday, as well as getting to know him and his team. We took a quick trip to the Central Island to see the beautiful Victoria Peak, as well as a light show in Victoria Harbor. At the top of The Peak, you can see pretty much the entire skyline of Hong Kong. And the light show is famous for its symphony of Western and Chinese music accompanied by building, lasers, and spotlights.
For now, I am continuing working at the tutorial school, as well as piano lessons for a child of one of our church members. It is my first experience as a piano tutor, but I have been enjoying it. I still teach three classes on Saturday at the YMCA, which our church as partnered with. My first class is with K1 students, which means they are 3-4 years old, teaching them their ABCs. My other two classes are more advanced classes based on the Cambridge University Press literature. There are three phases to Cambridge English and I teach the last two. These classes include grammar and more advanced vocabulary. I have really enjoyed getting to teach, and look forward to what God has in store for me next.
It has been more than a month since I came to Hong Kong.
In the just the first couple of weeks, I sold my car, moved half-way around the world, and started my first-ever time teaching. The trip itself was pretty eventful. But after a brief emergency landing from Montreal airport to Hong Kong due to a passenger’s medical emergency, it was pretty smooth. I arrived on the first Tuesday of June and was teaching by Friday.
I’ve taken a couple of part-time jobs. I’ve helped at the YMCA that doubles as our church, teaching English. My other part-time job is at a “tutorial school”, where children are signed up a class at a time as a supplement to their usual education. My full-time job will start during the school year, which starts in September. So for now, I’m gaining experience in teaching. The plan is to work at a Christian kindergarten as an English teacher. Plans will be finalized closer to the time.
School lasts longer here, with students still finishing up some courses even now. Children are admitted to kindergartens at three years old. Kindergarten is divided up into K1, K2, and K3. Then it’s on to Primary school for six years: P1-P6. Finally, all Hong Kong children go to Form 1-3, which is Junior High. But High School is not compulsory, although most do attend.
The church here is bilingual, with the first service of the month being a split service. We are together for singing and announcements, but then split so that Pastor Wong can preach in Cantonese, while someone else preaches in English. The next week is a combined service. I have been playing the piano for the combined service and the choir. Every other week, we have drama club for the children. We are doing a Christmas play, and I’ll be playing the piano for it.
The weather here is hot and muggy. But there is a nearby beach, which gives nice breezes from the ocean. And the air conditioning here is pleasant for a break from the heat. It’s a beautiful island and very busy. Sunday is the only day off from the work-week, unless there is a public holiday that week. The transit system is well-developed and everyone utilizes it. Buses and trains are plentiful, but there is still many places that it is easier to walk to. There is no shortage of places to eat and malls to shop in. The malls have European stores like Marks & Spencer, American stores like H&M, and Asian stores like Watsons Pharmacy. There are restaurants for every cuisine, both in the malls and in the markets. And of course some “fusion” restaurants, as well.
Hong Kong is a very international city, with many different people, cultures, and beliefs. Thank you for all the prayers, but continue to pray for me as I continue with this new and exciting work. I’m really enjoying it, but missing everyone as well.