Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Catching Up

It has been seven months since we arrived here in Hong Kong, and even though we knew this would change our lives I don't think we ever could have imagined the ways that these changes would occur. Adapting to a new culture is something we have done before when we moved to Shanghai, China for six months; and it was, as promised by our Father, a very good time of training for the future assignment He had in mind. The confines of language and cultural differences were quite a bit tighter there than they are here, but Dad eased things considerably by setting us in a position where I was earning twice the income that I was used to making in Canada. This allowed us a a very reasonable comfort zone, not to mention Western comfort food. Further to this, we were told in very clear ways that we were not to be witnessing verbally to people at work or elsewhere. This particular stipulation gave me more discomfort than I would have anticipated, but I followed it as best I could at work.

Here in Hong Kong we have not had the same intense feelings of culture shock that we experienced in Shanghai, and at times this has almost been disorientating in itself. There has been an abiding expectation that we should have these weird and wonderful sensations all the time. The truth is that I have been somewhat disappointed by the lack of wonder I have felt being here. Even seeing the sights and such, while it is cool, and I dearly love photographing all the back alley scenes that are so commonplace here, does not excite me the way it did on the mainland. In fact I am currently enjoying a week off of work and have no plans to go sightseeing at this time simply because it really doesn't do that much for me. The planned excursions have been replaced by a series of accidental tourist outings where we stumble upon some local area we have not seen yet, and this is by far more enjoyable than the trips we have made to the "expected" tourist destinations. I think it is part of our desire to not be tourists, but to rather be people who experience a place by actually living there.

Much of the culture shock that we are experiencing has come in the context of the school that I work at. This is doubly strange because it is a Christian school for recovering drug addicts, youth offenders, and the like. The Christian context of this work all within a foreign context can really throw us some strange curves. In Shanghai I was working for a secular company in a decidedly secular setting. This made my time there make a little more sense and it pressed fewer buttons in me. Overall I had a very deep sense of purpose while I was in Shanghai, but the purposes of my Father were the source for me, and the secular setting made it all seem a little heroic. Here in Hong Kong it can get a bit more scrambled because of the ministry context, and the expectations this always brings with it. Most often it becomes akin to a special forces unit where you are all on the same side, but there is an underlying current of competitiveness where it concerns sacrificial living. This standard is the high-water mark for anyone in a labeled, organized, administrated ministry. How much can you give up and still keep smiling? How much abuse can you take and still say ,"Praise the Lord!"? How much? It's Gold's Gym on your knees, if you know what I mean.
We had hoped that things would be different here, but it seems Christendom is what it is wherever you go above ground. I say above ground simply because I have no context for the below ground church. I have always hated the machinations of the organized church, even though I have mostly fought the good fight from within its sometimes suffocating confines. Don't get me wrong here, though, working with God's people is also an immense pleasure as well, simply because there is still an abiding awareness of who the Boss really is. If this did not exist here we would have already applied for an exit visa!
The main issue for us always seems to come down to two things. Firstly there is far too much mirror gazing as we admire all the things God does through us. It seems that we cannot put down our mirror long enough to see that we are not alone in all of this, and when we see someone else with a mirror we very quickly become defensive, elitist, or obnoxious (Lord help us if it is all three). This has been a longstanding issue with ministries, and yet when Jesus' disciples tried it on Him He told them to take a pill and check what was really important. Secondly is the way that ministries always end up making families come in second place to the ministry. If you are giving your all for Jesus then He will babysit the little darlings while you are off saving the world. This is probably why Paul had to tell people to restrain themselves from joining his ministry when he came to town. He told them that if they had no wife and kids then they were free to do whatever, but if they did have a family then there were concerns they needed to address that would make his lifestyle impossible for them. It really seems to be a no brainer, but if God felt it needed to be in the word then I guess we need to hear it, right?
These are the two main fronts that I feel the most pressure on, especially since they both cut across some of my most core beliefs. If you feel led to pray for us personally please include these issues as the Lord leads you. As you do this please remember that these concerns come in the midst of great joys as well. Please remember that we love the people we are serving with, and if it is Gold's Gym I do see them as far buffer than I. We want to temper all our concerns with an overarching love for the people of our Father.

The Brothers of Zheng Sheng!

1 comment:

Amrita said...

It is very interesting to read what you are saying as a cross cultural missionary.

Some missionaries expressed sisilar feelings here too. Keep going brother God has taken you to the Orient for a purpose and He will acomplish it.