Sunday, November 13, 2011

Left without a choice

I have always taken a certain amount of pleasure in self-sufficiency. In keeping with how I was raised, I have often done without rather than ask anyone for anything – a choice which has led to detriment, on more than one occasion. Furthermore, I could usually find a way to figure things out, in difficult times; but 2011 has presented me with challenges of a different stripe

More than once this year I’ve found myself dangling by a spider web-thin thread, without so much as the price of a hamburger in my pocket. As you may by now be aware, this year the financial troubles I’ve been facing have forced me to abandon my lifelong taboo against asking other people to help me; and yet (If you’re not aware, read on below), out of 100 people I reached out to, none helped – except for one person who mentioned my situation to a friend and former co-worker – who hadn’t been among the people I’d asked for help, but who did come through with a gift!

Those have been the times when my wit was not sufficient to fix the problem. Those are the times when I’ve found myself left with no choice but to depend on God.

My visa expired on 11/11/11. Renewing it required a trip to Hong Kong; but I made a tactical mistake. The agency that handles my visa renewals is open Monday-Friday and half a day on Saturday, so I assumed I could come into Hong Kong on Friday, and get my visa on Saturday (I have classes on Wednesday and Thursday, .which is why I chose to wait). As I am just beginning to crawl out of the financial crisis of last spring, I only had enough money for tickets, the visa, and – possibly – one night in a hostel.

On arrival I learned that even though the travel agency is open on Saturday, the Visa Office is not. So I have to wait until Monday to get my visa. Furthermore, the one hostel I could afford for ONE NIGHT had no room. Add to that, I both forgot to charge my phone and to put money onit, before I left (there are no “phone bills,” here – you just put money on the phone, and use it until the money runs out).

What to do? I only know two people in Hong Kong, from over two years ago; and had no recollection of how to reach them.

FIRST: Try to find a phone charger, and a phone book. I go to the one mall I know, but NONE of the electronics stores have a charger. About to give up, I decide to ask about a phone book at the service counter – God’s hand surreptitiously guiding me. There is no such thing as a phone book; but the clerk offers to look up the church on the internet. Success!

Not only that, but they have chargers behind the desk which will give me power in about half an hour.

SECOND: Reach Revival Christian Ministries by phone. Give a synopsis of my situation. Neither of the people I know – the Pastor and his secretary – are in the office: in fact, the Pastor is actually in the States. Can I come by? Maybe you can help me figure out the next steps.

THIRD: I find the church, and explain my dilemma to Chloe, one of the church workers, and Matthew, one of the elders. The church finds a place for me to live for three days.


Fok Ying Tung Hall of Residence is an academic retreat on the Tsing Yi campus of Hong Kong’s Institute of Vocational Education (IVE). The campus overlooks Hong Kong’s most famous cargo docks, and Victoria Harbor. It’s a very serene setting; and I found myself thinking today how blessed it would be to bring a group here for a meeting.

On a walk looking for snacks I notice a church called Crossroads Community Baptist Church. I am amazed at how many children there are, hovering around the outside – as on the Mainland it is illegal to teach children the Gospel. In fact they have some lively music going on inside – which I’ve seldom heard a full complement of church music and instruments in the six years I’ve lived here – with good reason, but that’s another subject.

I was tempted to go to Crossroads this morning, as the stop for the us to Revival is directly outside it; but I’d promised Elder Matthew that I’d come to RCC this morning. God has been ministering to my spirit all weekend. Evangelicals usually don’t much care from Dr. Robert Schuller; but it’s one of the church programs available on TV here in Hong Kong – and I’ve never been one to reject a sound message from the Word, no matter the source.

This morning Dr. Schuller’s daughter, Sheila Schuller Coleman was preaching; but it was a layperson named Debbie Bonilla who testified, “Jesus says in Matthew 11:28: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” I just want to say not only will He give you rest, He will set you free. You will begin to see the miracles in your life. He’ll give you spiritual eyes so you can see those miracles happen, and you will activate the hand of God in your life. So I just want to encourage you to call out to Him and seek Him with your whole heart.”

Then, Sheila’s sermon continued to minister to me: “Some of you have prayed and you thought you would see it by now but you haven’t and your faith has become a little shaky. I know I’m waiting for our miracle. And the way that God has helped me keep my faith rock solid when it starts to feel a little shaky is to remember the miracles. And that’s what God tells us to do. Remember the miracles. Remember the miracles. Remember the miracles. Because when we remember the miracles, we remember that God did do this, God can do this, and then God will do this because God, who did this, hasn’t changed. He didn’t lose His power between the Old Testament and the New Testament, between the New Testament and today. God didn’t lose His power. God can, God has, and therefore God will. God will do His miracle, and that’s why, as we remember what He’s done, as we remember how powerful He is, as we remember the miracles, we are able to have strong faith while we’re waiting for the miracle.”

In fact I did remember.

Thirty-seven years ago I accepted Christ. Coming from 23 years as a Jehovah’s witness who didn’t believe in miracles, I received the message of the Gospel from a man who testified to me about his own miracle. Over the years I have faced so many impossible situations, and God has been there.

This past spring I came within a few days of being in China illegally, with no money, not very much food, and no one who would help me. Frankly, I had more than one conversation with God, asking Him why He wasn’t helping me. Then the parents of one of my students introduced a new student to me – just enough to get through that month. Today I calculated I have just enough money to pay for the visa tomorrow, but not sure how much for food. With the refund from the plane ticket I should be able to buy a train ticket home; but there are still miles to go before I get home, so I can’t rest easy just yet.

There was a guest pastor at RCC, today. Couldn’t totally follow him, the message was in Cantonese, and the translator didn’t translate the message 100% correctly; but his text was 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.”

After service I waited for Matthew – who’d been in charge of service, today – to finish ministering to a young woman, so I could thank him for the retreat. In the meantime I met a missionary named Rich, and a family from Sierra Leone. I told the father, Tony, about the visa situation. Chloe passed by and said a few words of encouragement about tomorrow. I responded things were looking promising, but I’ll feel better when I’m at home on Nanchang. Tony responded, it’s done, in Jesus’ Name.

I stood in agreement with him; but in my mind I thought I can only believe God for yet another miracle – I have no other choice!