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4. January 1989 – June 1993: Hong Kong

Chapter 4

January 1989 to June 1993: Hong Kong

Launch out into the missions field

We left our secular jobs in Canada and went to Hong Kong for our Full Time Ministry Training in Janu­ary 1989. We knew that God will con­tinue His refining work in our lives through many trials and testing. I would like to convey to you one point though: Our God is a compass­ionate and loving God. He can shape our lives to with­stand any life challenge.

Isaiah 46:3-4 …You who have been borne by Me from birth, and have been carried from the womb; even to your old age, I shall be the same, and even to your gray­ing years I shall bear you! I have done it, and I shall carry you; and I shall bear you, and I shall deliver you.

Walking with God and serving Him is the best thing in our lives. I would like to share with you about our life in serving God. May all honor and glory be given to Yahweh, our Most High Eternal God.

Goodbye Canada

Once we got the confirmation that Kathleen was admitted into the Full Time Ministry Training, we made immediate prepara­tions for our exodus to Hong Kong. Kathleen was very much attached to her close-knit family. When all our family and friends bade us farewell at the airport, the atmos­phere was very emotional and touching. No one wanted to say the last good­bye as we lingered on until the final call for boarding. It was like send­ing soldiers to the front line of the battlefield. Indeed, the song “Onward Christian Soldiers” was in the back of my mind as we slowly made our way to the boarding gate. We knew we would not return home in the foreseeable future. I held Kath­leen’s hand firmly as we proceeded to the boarding gate. Words were replaced with tears when we turned back and waved goodbye to our loved ones. On our way to Hong Kong, we would stop over in Vancouver to bid farewell to my side of the family.

I want to note here that although the term “Christians” properly applies to both Catholics and Protestants, in this shar­ing, I will sim­ply use the term “Christians” for “Protest­ants” (this is the termino­logy used by many Chinese). My side of the family is Catholic. I was the first one to leave the Catholic church to join a Christian denomination. In those days, there was still a rift between Catholics and Protestants (Christians). Though my siblings were open minded enough to accept us as Christians, they were puzzled as to why we would go to the extent of for­saking our professions and ser­ving God in the full-time ministry. Out of their love and deep concern, they cautioned us about our decision, asking whether this is really what we endeavor to do for the rest of our lives. We took this as an opportun­ity to testify of the work of God in our lives, and reassured them that we would never regret our decis­ion because we deem it as our privilege to serve the Most High.

Roadblocks

Having no knowledge of church history and the Reform­ation that led to the split of the church, my mother was told that be­lievers who depart from their Catholic faith are “Protest­ants”. Irrespective of the reasons for the split from the Catholic Church which led to the establishment of different denomin­ations, all “Protestants” are consi­dered bad because they pro­tested against the Catholic Church. My mother was simple-minded, and all she knew was that “Christians” were Protestants who split the church. When I became a Christ­ian, she labeled me a traitor or turncoat from the Catholic Church. When we told her in Vancouver that we were going for the Ministry Train­ing, she was so upset that she disowned me as her son. I was deeply hurt but I knew that my mom still loved me very much. I prayed quietly to God and tried to ex­plain this to my mom one step at a time:

I asked my mom, “Do you want your son to love God whole­heartedly?”

“Certainly!” She affirmed.

“Do you think that among believers, the priests are the ones who are the most devoted to God?” I continued.

“Of course!” She replied.

Then I said, “Now there is a dilemma! I want to love God whole­heartedly and you want your son to love God. But since I am already married, I cannot be a priest because all priests are celibate. There­fore, in order to love and serve God, we have no alternative but to go into the Full Time Minis­try and serve in the Christian church!”

She was speechless momentarily, and then uttered, “I don’t want to talk to you about this anymore!” But the tone of her voice indi­cated that she had softened her stand.

(Actually, we left for Hong Kong at the end of 1988. In July 1992, it was my mom’s 80th birthday. During the interim per­iod of over two and half years, we only occasionally com­muni­cated with our family members in Canada by correspond­ence and long-distance calls. The family held a ban­quet for my mom and invited us to attend. We took the opport­unity to visit Cana­da for the special occasion. Just before the banquet, my second eldest sister approached me and said, “Mom wants you to give the blessing before the banquet commences. Would you like to do that?” I was so dumb­founded by the privilege to pray and give the blessing, considering that in my last conver­sation with my mom just before we left for Hong Kong for the Full Time Training, she disowned me as her son. But now she asked me to give the blessing at her 80th birthday banquet. This was unbe­lievable! With tears of joy, I heartily accepted the invit­ation to pray before the ban­quet. We thanked God that He had changed my mom and my family miraculously and mysterious­ly. Just before we left Vancouver, my mom’s attitude changed dramati­cally. She gave us her blessing to serve God and told us she will pray for us daily!)

Just a couple of days before we left Vancouver for the training in Hong Kong, we received a phone call from Kathleen’s mom who sounded very worried as she told us that Kathleen’s step­father fell ill and was hospitalized. Kathleen comforted her mom and encouraged her to trust in God, and said we would commit Kathleen’s stepfather to God in fervent prayer. All along he had been well with no major health issues. But just when we were about to leave for Hong Kong, he suddenly fell very sick. We immed­iately perceived that it was Satan’s tactic to obstruct us from going to Hong Kong. Satan was aware of the close bond within Kathleen’s family such that if anything should happen to any of the family members, it would have an emo­tional impact on her. But the Bible passage in Luke 9:62 (“No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God”) vividly reminded us not to pull back. We knew that once Kathleen returns to Toronto, this would be the death-knell to her opportunity to move forward again. By God’s grace and comfort, Kathleen suppressed her emo­tions and pressed on to our exodus to Hong Kong. Shortly after we arrived in Hong Kong, we re­ceived the news that her stepfather was released from hospital and was on his way to recovery. That brought great encourage­ment to us, knowing that our God cares and protects us from the Evil one.

Seeking residency in Hong Kong

Kathleen and I were both born in Hong Kong. I migrated to Canada at the end of 1970, Kathleen in 1972. Both of us had not been back to Hong Kong since we came to Canada. The city changed so much over the years, and when we arrived, it was like settling into a new city. Apart from the main roads on Hong Kong Island which did not change much, it was like a face lift with all the old resid­ential structures replaced by modern high-rise buildings.

We entered Hong Kong with a tourist visa because we had long lost our Hong Kong identity cards. But since we still had our birth certificates, we just needed to go to the Immigration Department to reapply for our HKID cards, which would grant us permanent resid­ency in Hong Kong. We did not expect any problems, so we waited until our tourist visa almost expired be­fore we went to the Immigrat­ion Office to change our residence status.

Meanwhile, after settling into our new abode, we started to get ourselves reacquainted with the roads in Hong Kong. I had a brother who was living in Hong Kong. He and his family had moved back to Hong Kong a few years earlier. We had always main­tained regular contact with one another. As for Kathleen, her half-mother’s fam­ily was in Hong Kong. Previously we only got to know one of her half-sisters when she and her hus­band went to Toronto some years ago. We became good friends. But Kathleen hardly knew the rest of her half-mother’s family. The last time she met them (apart from the half-sister whom we be­friended in Toronto) was at her father’s fun­eral when she was a child. This time around, she really made it her goal to know all her half-mother’s side of the fam­ily. She phoned her half-mo­ther, and a family meeting was finally arranged for a meal at a restaurant. It was a friendly meet­ing that paved the way for a miracle to happen.

Our tourist visa soon expired. We went to the Mong Kok branch of the Immigration Office to change our status. After queuing for a while, we submitted our application for obtain­ing our HKID card. An immigration officer reviewed our applica­tions. He had no problem with mine, but there was a problem with Kathleen’s because the birth certificate showed her maid­en name. When we got married in Canada, she changed her sur­name to mine. Therefore her surname in the passport did not match that in her birth certificate. The officer asked us to show our marriage certificate as proof that Kathleen’s surname had been changed.

But when we left for Hong Kong, we stored everything in boxes in our Toronto home. It nev­er crossed our minds that we might need our mar­riage certificate in Hong Kong. Even if we asked Kathleen’s family for help, it would be a daunting task for them just to search for the marriage cert­ificate from about 80 boxes stacked to the ceiling. By the time they found the marriage cert­ificate and send it to Hong Kong, Kathleen’s tourist visa would have long expired. The immigration offi­cer indicated that Kathleen might not be granted visa renewal and she would have to leave Hong Kong. We knew that once she returned to Toronto, it would be another uphill battle for her to return to Hong Kong. Also, the training had already started and she would miss the training sess­ions during her absence. Out of desperation, we showed the immigration officer our wed­ding photo as proof that we were indeed married, but that didn’t resolve the issue.

While we felt helpless and didn’t know what to do but cry out to God for deliverance, I suddenly saw a person walking by at the end of the corridor. From a glimpse of his profile, he looked like Kathleen’s half-brother. I immediately told Kathleen about him. We speedily ran to the end of the cor­ridor and looked around. We saw the men’s washroom on one side of the corridor and presumably the half-brother or his look-alike had gone into the restroom. Minutes later, he came out, and indeed he was Kathleen’s half-brother. He was surprised to see us too. Actually, he was also an immigration officer at the Mong Kok branch. He won­dered why we were there.

When we met Kathleen’s half-family in the restaurant, we heard that her half-brothers and sister were working in the Immigration Depart­ment. We did not ask which branch they worked in, because it never occurred to us that we would need to seek their help. His presence was like the presence of an angel sent by God. What better proof could there be of Kath­leen’s identity since she was his half-sister and shared the same sur­name. Glowing with hope, we told him about our problem and asked him for help. He agreed to testify on our behalf, and asked us to go back to the immigration officer’s counter while he visits his colleague in the office to resolve the pro­blem. In the end, as a matter of proce­dure, we were told to take an affidavit as proof of our marriage and of the change of Kathleen’s sur­name. The matter was resolved and Kathleen was granted her HKID card. Once again we could see God’s outstretched arm, this time removing the obstacle that could have barred Kathleen from staying in Hong Kong for the Full Time Training. Our God is indeed the living God, our Rock and Refuge.

Team life, team love

Our Full Time Training Team consisted of brothers and sisters from dif­ferent back­grounds and cultures. Some of us came from Canada. Others were from Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and Australia. Some of us had been in the work force for many years, others were fresh university graduates who had the zeal to serve the Lord. At the beginning of the training, our mentor Rev. Chang admonished us to practice what we preach. The main essence of the Bible is to uphold the two great command­ments:

1. Love our God with all our heart, all our mind, and all our soul.

2. Love our neighbor as ourselves.

Rev. Chang admonished us to serve God wholehearted­ly since we have all joined the full-time training. If we could not even love one another as teammates, how could we teach the congregation to practice loving one another? In other words, if we fail to love our teammates and to live in unity and harmony with one another, we would have failed the Full Time Train­ing. We would be disqualified in serv­ing God. This warn­ing was imprinted in our hearts as we embarked on the training. We were divided into house­holds. And because of our different backgrounds and cult­ures, we had to learn to live harmoniously in communal living. The Bible reminds us:

Proverbs 17:3 The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the Lord tests hearts.

Proverbs 25:4 Take away the dross from the silver, and there comes out a vessel for the smith;

Isaiah 1:25 I will also turn My hand against you, and will smelt away your dross as with lye and will remove all your alloy.

We were jumping into a melting pot to be refined into pure gold. God was purging any dross of wicked­ness and selfishness in our lives. Needless to say, although every one of us meant well in practicing loving one another, it was never easy to live in a harmon­ious way. For example, Kathleen and I used to live alone in a big house, but we had to share a two-bedroom unit with another couple. We had been in the work­force for many years, yet we had to learn to listen to team­mates who had no working experience at all. Differ­ences in back­ground, edu­cation level, culture, age, and life experience contributed to different approaches to doing things. There were different opin­ions and occasionally tense moments in dis­cussions, but at the end of the day, it was all resolved by the grace of God. The time spent in team life was most memorable and rewarding. Whenever I recall those days during the Training, they would lin­ger on with bitter­sweet moments which I heartily embraced and cher­ished. By the grace and loving­kindness of God, we succeeded in loving our teammates des­pite diff­erences in back­ground and cult­ure. It was a stepping stone for us to proclaim and practice loving God and loving one another, with deep con­viction of heart as we began to serve God in the church.

Launching our first mission

To complete our full-time training, we separated into small groups to ven­ture out into the mission field: China. Just the thought of explor­ing this vast and uncharted territory thrilled us, for many of us had never been to China. Yet at the same time, we were approaching this mission with fear and unease. We teamed up with another coworker and started sur­veying where we would go for our miss­ion. After much consideration and prayer, we marked our destin­ation and launched our mission right at the time of the Qing Ming Festival. Little did we know that multitudes would be travelling inland during the festival.

We took the train to Lo Wu station to cross the border. When we boarded the train there were not many people. But as it moved from one station to the next, people carrying similar tricolor (blue-red-white) canvas bags started to flock onto the train. By the time we reached the terminus at Lo Wo stat­ion, the people were packed like sardines. When the train finally stopped and the doors opened, people just dashed out and rushed to the exit in order to be the first in line to go through customs. We were among the first to board the train but ended up being the last to exit. As we strolled along with our luggage, we saw in front of us a Western couple with two kids. People pushed and shoved their way past them carrying heavy canvas bags either at their sides or on their shoulders. The kids were stunned at the rush­ing traffic. They froze and cried. Their parents who were walk­ing right behind them quickly came to their rescue. The kids held tight to their parents crying and screaming hysteri­cally. But nobody took notice and people just continued to speed along. By the time we reached them, the kids were settled and they continued to move on. We were saddened to witness such an unfortunate incident. People did not care about the others but only them­selves. At first I was annoyed with these people, but suddenly I was reminded that these were exactly the people who need God. It made our mission even more focused: We were to proclaim the Good News to “the lost”.

Crossing the border

There was a long lineup at the customs counter. We waited for about two hours and finally crossed the border and stepped into Shenzhen, China. We planned to go to two destinations. We took the train from Shenzhen to our first destination, where we exited the train station and tried to cross the street. Being law-abiding citizens, we waited at the crosswalk for the traffic lights to turn green before we crossed. When the lights turned green, as we took our first step to cross the street, lo and behold, we were intercepted by droves of cyclists passing by non-stop even though we had the right of way. We tried a second time and failed to cross the road again. Finally, we gave up and decided to go with the flow, that is, follow the locals. When they moved, we moved; when they stopped, we stopped. We quickly learned our first lesson: To cast away our legalistic ways and learn flexibility in adapt­ing to the Chinese culture.

Searching for the household church

We spent a few days at our first destination visiting people who were introduced to us by our friends. We shared our testimon­ies and some of them responded well. Before head­ing to our next destination, we were thinking of visiting a household church. But we did not know exactly where the place was. Before exploring the area, we committed the mat­ter to God in prayer. As we strolled along the crowded streets trying to exper­ience the leading of God’s Spirit, suddenly we saw some­one carrying a book that looked like a Bible, hastily passing us. We quickly followed him and indeed he led us to a house­hold church. We were so happy to know that God had led us to the right place. Little did we realize that more grace and the won­derful leading of the Holy Spirit were in store for us.

Mysterious lead to our next destination

After the church meeting, we were introduced to the leader of the house­hold church who welcomed us warmly. While he was sharing enthusiastically about God’s wonderful grace work­ing in his years of ministry, suddenly Kathleen over­heard someone talk­ing with another person about the place where we would be going to as our next destinat­ion. She immed­iately turned around and joined their conversat­ion. A sis­ter told Kathleen that she had traveled a long way from that place and arrived here just in time for the meeting. After the meeting, she would have to rush to take another long train ride back to her home­town. She hoped to make use of this window of opportunity to con­vey to the church leader the needs of the household churches there. Kathleen immediate­ly sig­naled us, and we promptly joined in the conversation. We intro­duced ourselves to the sister and told her that we were planning to visit that place. Since we had no contact there, we asked if she could provide information for visiting the household churches. First she was taken by sur­prise and expressed seeming disbelief, then she beamed with joy and praised God that her effort in coming to this meeting place was not in vain. She was so happy to know that we were mission­aries and were heading to the same place. She declared with tears of joy that the fervent prayers of the brothers and sisters had been answered. They were hungry for the word of God, and had asked the sister to appeal to the household church lead­er to send able teachers of the word of God. At great incon­venience to herself, she made a stopover to convey this mess­age on behalf of the churches before heading home. Now she sensed that God had led her to meet with us. We too were over­whelmed by God’s leading. We were to visit that place the next day even though we had no contacts, but this sister appeared out of no­where and stood right behind us talking about the very place we were going to visit. What perfect timing! How mysterious is the work of God! Indeed our God cares for all who hunger for His word; so we were privileged to be sent out to bring relief to these hungry souls.

Heading to the next destination

Before we went for our mission trip, we had already planned to visit a couple of destinations. The first destination was a city we had already marked out to visit. The second destina­tion was a province we wanted to explore. We did not know exactly which cities we would visit in that pro­vince. In any case, we just chose one city as a starting point to land in, after we have been to our first destin­ation. And now, after meeting with the sister, we knew exactly which city we should aim for in our mission. But it was actually quite a distance from the city we had planned to visit.

Help from the unexpected

The next day we flew to the city of the target province to begin our next exped­ition. When we waited in the baggage claim area, we soon realized that we were the only ones waiting for the check-in lug­gage. All the other passeng­ers had long gone. My coworker went out to see if there was any trans­portation to the city center. He came back and told us that the bus to the city center had just left, and he didn’t see any taxis waiting around either. Just as we got our luggage, wondering how we were to go to the city center, a young man came towards us and asked us which flight we took. When we told him the flight num­ber, he mum­bled something and said he had just missed pick­ing up his friend. Then he asked if we were from Hong Kong because he perceived from our accent and our appear­ance that we were not locals. We said we were from Hong Kong and then he told us he was also from Hong Kong. What a relief! Now we could talk in Cantonese in­stead. He asked us where we would be going and what was the purpose of our coming to this place. Our original plan was to stay in this city for a tour before head­ing to the city where the household church was. But we did not disclose our plan and just told him that we were tourists planning to do some sightseeing in the city for a day and then move on to another city (for our mission).

He told us there was nothing much to see in this city but there was plenty of action in the other city we men­tioned. Knowing that we had only a few days to “tour,” he sug­gested an alternative which made more practical sense to us: skip all sightseeing in this city and go straight to our destina­tion. But it would take over 10 hours to travel directly from the city center to our designated city. So he sug­gested that we make a stopover in a city and stay overnight. That city was known as a tourist attraction and we could take a tour around that area before departing for our final destin­ation. We welcomed his suggest­ion but were puzzled as how to get to the city center. To our surprise, he offered to drive us to the city center bus depot, and told us which intercity bus we should take to get to our next destination. How could we refuse such a kind offer? Again we saw God’s grace in leading us to know this person. He promptly escorted us to his new air-condi­tioned car and drove us to the city center bus depot. It was a bit confusing at the bus depot because there were many counters and people did not line up. But our new friend led us to the correct counter before bidding us goodbye. We managed to get our bus tickets and were on our way to an exciting expedition.

Making a stopover

The bus took off in early afternoon but was soon caught in a heavy traffic jam. It crawled its way for over two hours before it finally got out of the city traffic and entered the intercity road. After sunset, the road was pitch dark and we did not know what was in store for us. It was almost 11:00 pm when the driver shouted to us that we had reached our destination. We were dropped off in a remote area. The place was surrounded by shoulder-high grass with not even a house in sight except for a dim lamp post. We wondered where we were going to lay our heads. It reminded us of the Lord Jesus’ experience, The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Mt.8:20).

Suddenly we heard the sound of a motor­cycle approach­ing. Out of nowhere, a motorbike emerged from the shoulder-high grass field and stopped right in front of us. The driver said he would take us to the accom­modation. We had no choice but to take the risk of accepting his offer. Our coworker hopped onto the motorcycle first and immed­iately it sped off vanishing in the thick grass field. Our coworker was the treasurer and he held all the money. We had no money in our pockets except for some spare change. But what if he was taken to another place and parted ways with us? Back then, there were no ATMs and no bankcards to withdraw cash from a machine. When we realized that, it sent chills down our spine. But we simply committed our anxieties to our loving Father who never ceases to watch over us.

Minutes later, another motorcycle came right in front of us. The cyclist bid us to ride with him. There was an ex­tended rack at the end of the biker’s seat which was for carry­ing luggage but could also be used as a passenger seat. We wondered how the bike could fit three people with both of us carrying knap­sacks on our backs. I certainly did not want Kathleen to ride alone with him. The cyclist assured us that the bike could seat all of us. I helped Kathleen get onto the bike, and she occupied half the extended “seat”. With her knapsack on her back, it did not leave much room for me to sit. The cyclist had to move forward to the tip of his seat to allow more room for us at the back. After a few attempts, I finally managed to sit at the edge of the extended rack with my hands gripping the rack for sup­port. When the bike accelerated, the sudden jerk pulled me back­ward, and the weight of my knapsack almost dragged me off balance and off the bike. I immed­iately yelled to the biker to slow down. He did and then we en­tered the dark shoulder-high grass field. I exerted all my energy in my arms and legs to maintain bal­ance and not to let myself be thrown out of the bike. A few minutes felt like eternity. Suddenly the surround­ings bright­ened up and we entered a resort area. When the bike finally stopped and we got off, my legs were shaking due to sheer exhaustion and I could hardly stand straight. But it brought us much joy and relief when we saw our dear coworker walking over to greet us. Our loving Father protected us once again and settled us in a nice resort at a bargain price. The two riders were nice people and they offered to come with one more biker to take us for sightseeing the next morning. After we checked into our room, we prayed together, giving thanks to God for His lovingkindness and protection.

Evangelizing the riders

We had a very good night’s rest. We said our morning pray­ers, com­mitting the day’s event to our Heavenly Father’s hand. Then we checked out. The two bikers with their friend were already waiting for us. They offered to take us on a tour of the surrounding scenic sites at a very at­tractive price. We felt that it was a once-in-a-lifetime ad­vent­urous ex­perience by bike, and took their offer. We enjoyed the scenic sites and at the same time we shared the word of God with our respective bikers. Despite our poor proficiency in Putonghua, we commu­nicated well with one another. They were open to the word of God. We soon be­came friends and they even invited us to visit their families.

After the tour, they drove us to the bus depot. We bid them fare­well while we waited for the bus. But they did not leave. They told us to look yonder where there were people standing beside their cars. These were tour guides. Our biker friends told us that these people would approach us and offer to drive us to our destination. They wanted to make sure that we would not accept these offers, for the place was not as safe as it looked. Many tourists took a tour with them and ended up being robbed. Some of the tour guides would drive them to a remote place, threatened to leave them there unless they paid more money for the tour. It was highway robbery! That was why our friends accompanied us to make sure that we got onto the bus. We deeply appreciated their kindness. They were like angels sent by God to protect us from evil ones. After waiting for about an hour, the bus finally arrived. We got on the bus and they waved goodbye as we departed. Although they faded out of sight, their faces still lin­gered on in our minds. We hope that we had sown the seed in their hearts and we pray that God will cause it grow in due time.

Arriving at our destination

It was another five hours by the time the bus arrived at our destinat­ion. It was late evening past 11:00 pm, and we tried to walk to the nearest motel for accommodation. We soon found out that the cheaper motels were strictly for locals. Foreigners were not accepted. We looked around and saw a more elegant building at the end of the street. By the time we reached there and took a closer look, it looked too grand for us even to step in. However there were no other motels near by and we were too tired to explore further. We took a leap of faith and entered the hotel. We reached the counter and asked the staff for the room rate. He told us RMB160. We blurted out in uni­son, “That’s too expensive!” It was indeed pricey when in those days the average local accommo­dation was about RMB20. The hotel staff inquired where we were from. We told him that we were from Hong Kong. He looked puzzled and told us frankly that tourists from Hong Kong never complained about the hotel rates. He asked us about our professions. We told him that we were teachers. He continued to pursue the matter, and asked what we taught. We just told him that we taught literature including the Bible. Suddenly he stooped down at the counter and pulled out a book. Then he asked, “Are you teach­ing this?” It was an English Bible! We were excited and asked whether he was a Christian. He quickly said no, but told us that a West­ern tourist had given it to him as a gift but he did not know enough English to read it. We told him that we can help him in learning English and reading the Bible. We were thinking of referring him to our coworkers for future follow-up.

A seeking soul awaiting

Anyway, it was already past midnight and we were too tired to look for accommodation elsewhere. While we huddled to dis­cuss what we should do, suddenly he interrupted and offered us a huge discount of 70% for a room of three. It was so unbe­lievable that we were speech­less. We accepted the offer and paid the discounted rate. He also asked us what we would like to do in the city and how long we would stay. We told him we would like to spend a few days here doing some sight­seeing as well as visit a friend. In fact, he told us that, coincid­entally, he had the next two days off. So he offered to take us around the city. He also wondered if he could discuss the Bible with us. We were amazed at how God had led us to him. God’s way is indeed the best way. We got a tour guide free of charge and at the same time, we had the opportunity to share our testimonies with him. We were de­lighted to ac­cept his offer, but we were also concerned that he might not get enough sleep since he had to work overnight until morn­ing. He reas­sured us that he could get some sleep during the night shift as there was hardly any late arrivals to the hotel. So we agreed to meet the next morning at 11:00 am when we checked out of the hotel. It was another un­usual experience, and we prayed with a thankful heart for God’s leading. We were so touched by His won­derful grace. Indeed, He cares about every minute detail of our needs.

It was already past midnight when we went to bed. It was an air-conditioned room and it felt so comfortable inside. Perhaps after a long journey and all the excitement, we quickly knocked out until the morn­ing. Kathleen and our coworker woke up much refreshed. Unfortunately, I felt like I had caught a cold over­night because of the air conditioning, but that did not deter us from meeting with our new friend and launching out on our mission for the day.

Mission with pleasure

When we checked out, another staff had already taken over. We saw our friend waiting in the lobby. Perhaps he didn’t want his colleague to know that we were acquainted, so he just nodded and walked outside the hotel. We met him there and he directed us to much cheaper accommo­dation before we headed out for sightseeing.

It was a wonderful day indeed. We thoroughly enjoyed the tourist sites, and he seemed happy with our answers to his questions about God and the Bible. Then he invited us to his home and we met his mother. She was a kind woman who treated us to a sumptuous dinner with local authentic food. Our friend told us that on the following day, he could take us for a morning tour, and asked where we would like to go after that. We told him that we would like to visit our friend (the house­hold church leader). After getting the add­ress, he said he would check the route to the place. When we called it a day, he accom­panied us to look for transportation back to our accommoda­tion. There were no taxis around. He hailed a three-wheel motor vehicle to stop. We did not know that it was some kind of cab. He bargained in the local dia­lect with the driver to take us back to our accom­modation. After he was satisfied, he asked us to get onto the vehicle and soon we were home safely.

Surprise: An old acquaintance

The next morning he came to pick us up and we spent the morn­ing on another sightseeing tour. While we were having lunch, he asked if we wanted to go for more sightseeing. We told him that we would like to visit our friend. “So you want to visit the household church!” he said. We were lost for words. Act­ually, it was his mother who told him about the church, for the whole neigh­borhood knew that this was the location of a household church, that is, a gathering of Christ­ians in a home environ­ment. We had to admit to him that someone had referred us to the place.

Right after lunch, we headed to the household church. When we reached the entrance, we courteously invited him to join us. He hesitated but eventually accompanied us to the place. There to greet us was a young man, to whom we intro­duced ourselves. When he greeted our friend, they held hands and fixed their eyes on one another. Suddenly the young man said, “Are you so-and-so?” Our friend replied, “Yes, so you are …!” Then they turned to us and said they knew each other because they were high school colleagues. What a small world! They embraced each other, and the young man escorted us to meet his mother, the household church leader. She greeted us warmly and we had a wonder­ful fellowship. She told us that there was only a small group in the evening for the prayer meet­ing, but she could arrange for us to go to a remote village where there was a need for the word of God. Since it would take 5 to 6 hours of travelling, we had to meet at her place at 6:00 am in the morning. We were excited to go, and requested the house­hold leader to make the arrangement. She was so hos­pitable. She wanted to keep us for an early dinner so that we could go back home to prepare for our mission tomorrow. But our friend had to leave because he had to run errands for his mother before going back to work the next day. But when he bid us good­bye, he was very worried, and advised us not to go to that remote village. He said there were lots of highway robber­ies, and some­times the bandits would turn violent and kill their victims. We reassured him that we trusted in our Father who is our refuge and hiding place. And we would go to see him at the hotel once we returned from our mission.

Jehovah Jireh (God Provides)

We got back to our lodging place and packed our bags for the miss­ion. We had a prayer together to seek God’s guid­ance and protection. Suddenly we heard someone knocking on our door. It was already past 9:00 pm. When we opened the door it was our friend standing there. We wondered why he came so late because he had to work the next day. He told us that he was just too worried about us going to such dan­gerous territory. All the locals knew that the road was treach­erous and unsafe. Once again, he pleaded with us not to go. We were so touched by his concern for us. But again we reassured him that God keeps us as the apple of His eye and hides us under the shelter of His wings. We invited him to pray with us. After that, he requested a Chinese Bible. I was more than willing to offer him mine, and he held it dearly, thanking us. It was already close to 11:00 pm when he departed. We asked him how he would get back home. He said it was too late to catch any transportation. It would take him about 45 minutes to walk back home but he had already prepared to do that. We were lost for words when we heard that he had to walk back home so late at night. We told him that perhaps God would provide transportation for him. He gave a faint smile. As we accompanied him to the major road, right at that moment a three-wheeler was approaching us. We waved at it, and our friend asked the driver if he could get a ride back home. Sure enough, the driver said he was about to finish his work and was on his way home, which was in the same direction as our friend’s home. We watched in amaze­ment as our friend got on the transport. He smiled and nod­ded his head as if to acknowledge that God had provided the transportation for him. Indeed “Jehovah Jireh” (God provides)!

A farm church

We got up early, and by 6:00 am we caught a transport to the house­hold church. The leader invited us for break­fast. She told us that she had tried many times to contact the remote village’s leader but could not get through. Finally she aban­doned the idea and changed the destination to another meet­ing place which was closer. She will take us to the place with another sis­ter who could speak Cantonese. After more fellow­ship time, we got on­to a delivery truck and were on our way to the meeting place. There was a bench seat on each side of the truck and we sat opposite one another. As soon as we left the city and entered a country road, it was bumpy all the way and we had to hold on to the wooden sideboard to avoid being thrown out of the truck. But it was an enjoyable ride because we could see beautiful scenic views of field after field of vegetable crops. It took over two hours to arrive at our destination. It was a vast field. We were greeted warmly by the farmer and his family and friends.

First message in a household church

Some of the sisters there were preparing lunch while the others were getting acquainted with us. It was a hot day. We entered a hut and sat in a circle for lunch. After lunch, the household leader introduced us again to the group. She said that some of the brot­hers and sisters were from other fields. They got a short notice of guest speakers coming for a visit. So they stopped their work and came over for the special meeting. We could see their desire for the word of God. Then the household church leader asked us to share. We were taken aback because it was our first mission trip and we thought we would listen to other people’s sharing instead of them listening to our sharing. There was a courteous ex­change be­tween me and my coworker as to who would share. But even­tually the puck stopped at me. I tried to excuse myself be­cause I could not speak Putonghua fluently, but the sister who accompanied us immediately volunteered to translate for me. Now I realized why she was invited to join us in the first place; she was to be our translator. I committed the time into God’s hand and it was one of my most earnest prayers, pleading to God for a message that would edify the group. After the prayer, I received a message from God, and I shared for about an hour, translation included. The group sat still as if waiting for more. Then the household leader gave thanks for my sharing and started her sharing. It was another hour and a half. We were not used to sitting on stools with no back support. In the heat of the day, it was extremely difficult to concentrate. We wobbled on our seats and sometimes stretched our drooping backs. Yet we noticed that the brothers and sisters around us remained attentive and none moved even an inch. They really impressed us with their hunger and thirst for the word of God. It brought us to shame. After the household lead­er’s sharing, we bid farewell to the group and everyone went back to their own places.

Farewell gift from the poor

By the time we got back to the household church leader’s place, it was already 6:30 pm. We thanked her for granting us such a wonder­ful exper­ience, and we left with our spirits uplifted. We immediately went over to the hotel to see our friend. He had just finished work and was about to leave. He was so thrilled to see us and we told him of our experience. We also told him that we would be catching the midnight bus back to the first city of the province. He led us to the bus depot and there he gave us an envelope. He said it was a gest­ure of his appreciation in knowing us. While he accompan­ied our co­worker to a gro­cery store, we opened the envel­ope. Apart from a letter full of kind and affectionate words, acknowledging that God had sent us like angels to open his eyes, lo and behold, it also con­tained RMB200. The letter explained that it was for our bus fare. We almost burst into tears when we received the money, being so touched by his genuine friendship. Back then, the average monthly salary for a hotel clerk was less than RMB400. He gave us half his salary. It was such a sacri­ficial offering. How could we, who were from affluent Hong Kong, receive mon­ey from a local who was not making much? Thank God that we had opened the envelope ahead of time, otherwise we would for the rest of our lives cer­tainly regret receiving his money. When our coworker and the young man returned, we told him that we had opened the envelope and we deeply appreciate his lovingkind­ness, but we just could not accept his money. At first he refused to take it back. But after we pushed the money back and forth, and after we gave him further explanation, he finally took the money back. Before we boarded the bus, we em­braced him and assured him that we would pray for him and would keep in touch with him.

We arrived in the city early in the morning. We planned to spend the day touring the city. Then the next morning, we took a ferry back to our first destination. We bought our ferry tickets and had a relaxing time re­counting all the excit­ing moments since we embarked on our mission from Hong Kong.

Trouble at sea

Early next morning, we made our way to the dock to catch the ferry. The ferry departed at 8:00 am for a 12-hour ride. We booked our tickets for the 4th level of the ferry which was right at sea level. We got acquainted with a couple from Shanghai who were sitting next to our bunk bed. After a couple of hours, my coworker felt the stuff­iness of the room, so he went up to the deck to catch some fresh air. Kathleen and I were sitting side by side while having a friendly chat with the cou­ple. I was lean­ing my head on a steel bar right under the upper bunk bed.

Suddenly without warning, there was a violent jerk. The force was so severe that both of us were propelled forward from the bunk bed. The sudden impact also caused the steel bar (that I was leaning on) to protrude and hit the Shanghai man. That caused a cut on his thigh with blood gushing out. When we looked at our bunk’s back, the steel frame of the top bunk bed collapsed into a V-shape right at the position where Kathleen was originally sit­ting. We thanked God for His deliverance. It was that force which propelled us from the bed that actually saved Kathleen from being hit by the collapsed frame. There was so much commo­tion and confus­ion that everybody at our level started to grab a life jacket and dash out of his or her cab­in. The Shanghai couple also ran for life and we were left alone in the cabin.

We peeked out the window and were horrified to see that the front hull of another ship, a cargo ship, had rammed into the side of our ferry. Looking from a distance, it seemed that the tip of the cargo ship that pierced our ferry was only meters away from our bunk bed, causing the complete collapse of the upper bunk steel frame. We did not know how to swim and if the ferry had capsized, we would surely drown. But somehow we maintained peace and I even took a photo of the col­lapsed bunk bed with Kathleen pointing at the V-shape steel frame. That was in case we perished and our bodies couldn’t be found; at least if they could fish out our camera and develop the film, they might be able to identify us at a post­mort­em examination.

While we were wondering what had happened to our coworker, he ran into the cabin, and was shocked to see the col­lapsed bunk bed. When he saw that we were not hurt, he shook his head in disbelief and praised God for His protect­ion. Then he told us what happened: When he reached the deck, it was very foggy. He stretched himself and caught a deep breath of fresh air. All of a sudden, there was a great commotion and people were yelling and rushing towards him. Some of them were pointing in the direction to his left. Before he could react, he became scared when he saw a cargo ship protruding out of the fog and heading perpendicu­larly towards our ferry. He immediately turned around and ran for life. Within a few seconds, the cargo ship smashed into the side of our ferry right behind him. The impact almost threw him off the ferry. In the nick of time, he grabbed the guard rail, main­tained his balance, and made his way back to the cabin to see how we were doing.

Divine intervention

After he told us his side of the story, we knew it was a mir­acle that we sur­vived the collision unscathed. The reason was that the cargo ship crashed right at the position between us and our coworker. We were both only meters away from the impact. Both ships were moving, and any slight change in the speed of either ship could have killed either us or our coworker. When we realized how crucial our posit­ions were that kept us unscathed, we were deeply touched by our Father’s deliv­erance from the jaws of death. We bowed our head in prayer with heartfelt thanks to our Almighty God who had shown mercy and grace to His unworthy servants. Then we packed our belongings and went over to where all the passengers gathered. There were hundreds of passengers packed in the lounge wait­ing for an announce­ment about the collision. But there was no announcement.

Tempers flared

Both ships were at a standstill in the open sea. We over­heard that there were two fatalities from the collision. One victim suffered a heart attack and died. The other was run­ning for his life behind our coworker. Unfort­unately he bore the brunt of the impact and was killed instantly. Everybody was waiting nervously as to what would happen next. Will the ferry cap­size? Is there any rescue plan? Initially the atmosphere was rather subdued and quiet. The silence could probably be attri­buted to our Chinese virtue of accepting ill circumstances with endur­ance and surrender. Although there were hush-hush com­plaints, no­body pro­tested aloud. But as time ticked on and we had waited for an hour, more and more people got agitated and grumbled because there was still no res­ponse from the ship crew. Soon the anger spread like wild­fire. The atmos­phere turned rowdy and nasty. People started to shout and demand a response from the ship crew. We looked around and saw the Shanghai couple. They waved to us to come over to their seat. They cleared some space for us to put our luggage. Somehow they observed that we were so calm and peaceful. We took the opportunity to share that we were in God’s hand and He will deliver us to safety. They immediate­ly responded and urged that we pray also for their safety. When the commotion had reached its peak without any formal announcement, the word spread that the collision had caused irrepa­rable damage to our ferry. It was incapaci­tated but there was another ferry coming to our rescue. At least the news calmed the crowd for a while.

New acquaintance

While we were sitting with the Shanghai couple, we over­heard someone speaking Cantonese. We turned around and joined their conversation. It was a group of six people from Guang­zhou. We soon became friends. One of them was a medical doctor, and he was called upon to examine the two dead per­sons. He con­firmed that one had died of a heart attack and the other was killed instantly at the deck while trying to flee from the direct hit. Our coworker quivered be­cause he too could have died if he was a split second late in escaping. He believed that the one who ran right behind him might have been the dead victim.

Rescue arrived

After a few hours of waiting, suddenly there was a great com­motion and the people picked up their luggage and ran off. Soon we found out that another ferry was approaching us. It made some maneu­vers and then parked by our side. No sooner had it stopped than ladders were mounted between the two ferries, and people were pushing their way to board the other ferry. After everyone was on board, instead of going to our intended destination, the ferry steered back to our orig­inal depot. We received word that this ferry was not equipped to sail long distance, and was called upon only for this rescue mission.

In any case, we arrived back at our original depot in two hours, and everybody rushed off to get their refund. It was hopeless for us to queue up because the people didn’t queue up. They all flocked around the only counter to get their refund. The Shanghai couple had already disappeared with the crowd after waving goodbye to us. But our newly acquainted friend, the medical doctor, was very kind to us. He told us frankly that we would not be able to compete with the locals for the refund. So he asked us for the ferry tickets. Then he and his friends jammed in to get the refund for all of us. Unfortunately, the counter ran out of cash and we were told to go to the main office at the city center to claim our refund. We hurriedly took the shuttle bus courtesy of the ferry com­pany to go to the city center. Again our friends helped us to get our money back.

We now had two choices: either stay for another night and then take the ferry the next day, or rush to get on the last cargo ship to the nearest port and then take the city-to-city bus to our destination. As did most of the passengers, we opted for the latter. It was close to 7:00 pm and time was running out. We had to rush to the dock hoping to catch the last cargo ship, taking whatever transport was available.

Cargo ship’s mechanical problem: A blessing in disguise

When we arrived at the dock, the cargo ship was still there. We ran as fast as we could and leaped onto it. Immediately the cargo ship set sail. We were literally the last group to make it. There we saw many familiar faces, the same pass­engers as on the collided ferry. Some of them were the early birds who got their refund right at the counter and im­mediately made their way to catch the cargo ship which was supposed to leave at 6:00 pm. But they ended up waiting for almost three hours by the time we arrived. That was because there were some mechanical problems which were only fixed just before we arrived. While the early birds were grumbling about the delay, we quietly gave thanks to God for letting us make it to the cargo ship. We marveled at God’s way. Time and time again, when we were in deep trouble, God never abandoned us and would always deliv­er us in an unex­pected way. Actually, there were more exciting adventures awaiting us …

Land route

When the ferry arrived at our destination, it was almost mid­night. As we disembarked, the doctor invited us to join his group. Altogether we had nine people in the group. While some of us were waiting, the doctor and another person went to inquire about which bus to take to get to our destin­ation. We finally boarded a bus that would drop us somewhere to transit to another bus. We felt at least we were progressing towards our destination. We were so exhausted after the day’s ordeal that many of us just dozed off despite the bumpy road conditions. Suddenly the bus stopped and the driver told us to get off. It was actually a wakeup call. When we got out of the bus, it was about 2:00 am. After the bus left, we heard the sound of roaring engines and then we saw a gang of bikers coming towards us. Our doctor friend immediately asked the three of us to stay in the inner circle while the rest of the group encir­cled us. The bikers also sur­rounded us and some of them got off their bikes, approached us, and tried to get our luggage. Our doctor friend immediately halted their actions and asked why they wanted to seize our lug­gage. They said they would take us to the motel for lodging. The doctor told them that we would not go anywhere but would wait for the bus. The bikers said there were no buses at this time of the night, and continued to hang around watching us.

All or nil

There was a shack nearby and the doctor went there to in­quire. It was a convenience store where we could get some noo­dles. We hadn’t had meals the whole day, and it was a God-sent to be able to have some­thing to fill our stomachs. Soon after we finished our noodles, a bus approached us. The doctor immediately ran out to stop the bus. It was act­ually head­ing to our destination. But the driver told him that the bus was over­loaded. At best he could take five or six pass­engers. But the doctor told him to take all of us or none of us. After some shuf­f­ling and juggling among the pass­engers inside, all nine of us got on board. We were not sitting on any seat at all, but were actually sitting on other passengers’ luggage and bags. As the bus took off for our destination, the bikers waved goodbye and zoomed off. In our quiet mo­ments, we thanked our Father for His safekeeping. He is indeed the Rock of our salvation. He had been with us all this while and had kept us under the shad­ow of His wings. We sank into a deep sleep as the bus wobbled along on the un­even bumpy roads.

At long last we made it back

We got on the bus at 3:00 am in the morning and arrived in the city at 5:00 pm. The long bus ride was not without its moments of let­down. The bus was like an antique vehicle by Hong Kong standards. In fact it stalled twice. The road was hilly with ups and downs. When it went downhill, it gained enough momentum at full speed to climb uphill on the next slope. It would crawl all the way to the peak of the slope before it sped downhill again. But at one of the uphill slopes, it came to a halt and could not make it all the way up to the top. All the pass­engers had to get off the bus. The driver had to crank the engine at the front many times before it could restart.

But we finally made it to the city. The bus was supposed to stop at the West Station; instead it ended its journey at the East Station without advance notice. We bid farewell to our doctor friend and his com­pany, thanking them with deep ap­preciation for their help. We did not exchange phone num­bers because we did not have our own private line in Hong Kong. Our phone number belonged to the church. They did not have a private phone number either. In those days, mo­bile phones weren’t so common. We just had to remember them dearly in our prayers. After they left, we asked the bus driver how to get to the West Station because we lived on the west side of the city. He pointed in a certain direction and told us it was only a short walking distance. We marched onwards carrying our heavy knapsacks. By the time we reached our lodging place, we had walked 45 minutes. It took us a total of 36 hours from the very beginning to finally ar­rive at our accommodation. Although we were sore all over, we thanked God for granting us such a wonderful and up­lifting spiritual experience. We had a good night’s sleep and the next day we departed for Hong Kong with a renewed mind and spirit that empowered us to embark on our future ministry.

To the Land Down Under

Apart from studying the word of God in the Full Time Train­ing, we also eventually participated in church service and ministry. There was a tran­sition period during which we coworked with the more ex­per­ienced coworkers. By the time we completed our training in mid-1990, we took full responsibility in serving the church as our more experienced coworkers were sent out to pioneer a new work in Hong Kong. This was the first time our team took full responsibility to minister in a church. We received this awesome mini­stry with fear and trembling. The church breth­ren welcomed us greenhorns and we established a deeper relat­ionship with them. We grew together as the church began to expand. Mean­while our church ministries had also expanded worldwide. A couple of our teammates were sent to Sydney, Australia, to pioneer a work there. After nine months, we were called upon to con­tinue the pioneering work in Australia.

We had lived in Canada in the northern hemisphere for almost 20 years and now we were going further away from home, head­ing to the southern hemisphere. It never crossed our minds that someday we would end up serving in the land Down Under (a.k.a. Australia).

We joined the Full Time Training in January 1989, and we left Hong Kong for Sydney in June 1993. It was hard for us to say good­bye to the church brethren after knowing them for over four years. However, our time had come to leave, moving on to meet the needs elsewhere. We learned a lot in serving full time in the church. We witnessed the seed sown and God caused it to grow.

Whereas in Hong Kong we worked with our teammates in serving the church, and could discuss things with them, now we would be all by ourselves taking up the new work in Sydney. Now we needed to rely daily upon the leading of the Holy Spirit to take up this awesome but exciting new assign­ment.

(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church