LAMsLINKs #1, 2021
Epiphany (Jan 6) to Chinese New Year (Feb 12-15)
Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising (dawn), MEV
Dear Friends and Family
How was the Feast of Epiphany for you on January 6, the twelfth day after Christmas? Epiphany centers on the stories of the Magi, the wise men who were led through their mysterious stargazing to Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus. The Magi represent the nations or the Gentiles, as the promise of Isaiah 60:3 is fulfilled in Christ: “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn”. Light is beautiful, and it is also revelatory. Also called Theophany in the Eastern tradition, Epiphany focuses on the revelation of Jesus and his true identity in the world; his baptism where he is named God's Beloved Son, and the wedding at Cana (Jesus’ first miracle). The gospel stories capture how his followers gradually came to know Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah -- the light of the world who had come to all people and to all ethnic groups. Epiphany reminds us that we do not just receive the light of Christ. We are charged with sharing it with the world.
In its general sense, epiphany stems from the word reveal and gestures toward a realization of the truth. To have an epiphany is to grasp reality, to receive insight. The shocking reality that reverberated throughout HK during the early hours of that sacred epiphany day was the arrest of at least 53 people, including pro-democracy activists, politicians, campaigners, and a U.S. lawyer. Around 1,000 police officers were deployed to carry out the arrests. The undercurrents of despair and disillusionment in the community, especially amongst young people, are running deep. With many major upsets in one year, local churches require spiritual insight to be beacons of truth: (1) ministering remotely during the pandemic with a handful of dedicated people; (2) wrestling with the potential impact of the National Security Law;1 and (3) still healing from the divisions in congregations and families which erupted during last year's political conflicts. These major upsets have clipped our wings, with a realization of 'new' reality! May the journey of the Magi inspire us to look beyond immediate occupations, to gaze heavenward in the darkness, and be guided by divine light to the Saviour.
MAGI or MAGA? An article in Christianity Today2 describes Epiphany as the day to celebrate the light of Christ that spreads to all nations. It also writes of the shocking MAGA riot (Make America Great Again) in Washington D.C. on Epiphany, where some people even waved flags that read “Make America Godly Again.” By marching to and storming the US Capitol with flags, weapons, and other dangerous materials in an attempt to destabilize the certification of the US election, the evil destruction caused by the MAGA rioters/insurrectionists is a stark contrast to the journey of the MAGI across the desert; surely the antithesis of the wise men worshiping the newborn king, and kneeling in humility before the glory of God incarnate.
Looking ahead, the Year of the Ox will be ushered in at Chinese New Year (Feb 12-15). Traditionally, the ox is regarded as strong, reliable, conscientious, methodical, and fair; but also stubborn, opinionated, hates to fail or be challenged. The usual Lunar New Year festivities, such as the flower fair in Victoria Park and the fireworks display over Victoria Harbour, will be cancelled because of the pandemic. On the bright side, the HK government has ordered over 22 million vaccines (3x more than the population of HK) from 3 suppliers, including 7 million from a China supplier; hopefully to begin rolling out the first vaccines this quarter. A leading HK epidemiologist stated on RTHK today that Covid cases have dropped by 20% recently (around 40 daily infections), and may be down to zero by CNY. This is great news as schools have been closed for the last six weeks. May Spring 2021 bring streams of hope, and the Year of the Ox strengthen us with resolve, resilience, reliability, patience, trustworthiness, etc. -- and the calm to face our shadow and stubbornness!
Looking back with gratitude … looking forward in hope …
We share a few updates and prayer requests, thankful to God for your long friendship on our life journey:
101% support level: in spite of the economic downturn in 2020, our YTD support level has amazingly reached 101% - we're stunned and humbled! Hallelujah! Heartfelt thanks for your faithful contributions and cheerful sacrifices. Before end January, our Sector Council will consider members’ needs in order to assist those who are in deficit. Please pray for our field ministries during the uncertainty of the pandemic; several members have not been able to return to the field because of Covid; the struggle/grief/loss for those who would prefer to be in Asia but have no choice but to remain in their home countries; adjustment of families with children to the unexpected turn of events and re-orientation to their home cultures; etc.
SZ Ministries: the two groups Meilin English Fellowship and Agape Christian Church have been able to meet via Zoom throughout the year. While Rod was on home assignment, two colleagues undertook to lead and mentor the groups, and developed their leadership potential so that they are able to lead the studies. Hallelujah! Please pray for: (1) Meilin, as they resume online and in person Sunday services after securing government permission, that the sermons/teaching content would provide spiritual nourishment and stimulating discussion for the groups; (2) Agape: their spiritual development is encouraging, PTL. Do pray also for Mr. and Mrs. E who host the Zoom studies, as they have lost a lot of business during the pandemic, necessitating large bank loans. They also request prayer for their adult daughter who has a romantic relationship with an older man and an unbeliever, which has left her depressed with life and demotivated.
Medical wonders: Rod’s three eye surgeries were successful (end Oct, Nov, Dec). Hallelujah! He is grateful for excellent doctors, accurate diagnoses, expert medical advice, concerted prayer, and all expenses paid through insurance cover and generous gifts!!! The next two months will keep him under tight internal scrutiny : post-op ophthalmologist consultation (Jan 12); eye scans at public hospital (Jan 21); and urology tests at public hospital (Jan 18) for possible kidney stones and possible gall bladder removal.
PhD research: Judy had a nasty fall, flat on her face, near the bus terminus in Kowloon Tong (Nov 12), which resulted in visits to A&E for x-rays that night; to the clinic for several weeks to dress the wounds on the right side of her face and both hands; and later to the ophthalmologist to check on the pain and bruising around the right eye, the Chinese bone doctor for lower back pain, and finally the optician for new specs. Hallelujah! No broken bones and no damage to her sight! She did, however, lose about a month of writing time but filled it with soulful reading. Pray for firm ox-like determination to complete Ch 3 by CNY!
30th birthday (Dec 10): Mikaela's big birthday present was a painful mouthful -- root canal treatment -- and she will be 'crowned' on Jan 14. Hallelujah! Unexpected and timely gifts received in December covered the costly dental bills! Please pray as Mika completes the third module of her Masters in Education (due Jan 15); upon passing, she will need to register for the fourth module in Feb (total of GBP 2,200/USD 2990/ZAR 45,000). By Feb 8, she will also vacate her apartment when the rental contract terminates, then probably stay with us temporarily. Pray that God will open the right doors for teaching jobs, which will provide financial stability, a stimulating challenge, and the necessary practicum for her studies. Do pray that her 30's will be characterised by wise grounding and beautiful blooming!
Covid-19 hit home: Josh in London tested positive for Covid on Dec 12. His symptoms were mild; and he recovered quickly after his 10-day period of isolation; was able to enjoy Christmas with his 'support bubble'. Hallelujah! After Christmas he moved to a rented room within 10 minutes’ walk from his workplace (with shared kitchen and bathroom). Furloughed since mid-Dec, and probably till the end of January, please pray that he will be productive and stay healthy; and also be able to encourage his friends who are feeling depressed at this time. He is thankful that he is receiving 80% of his salary, which covers rent and food. Based on an excellent job appraisal in November, he hopes that his 6-month contract will be reviewed in March, though business has been low under the lockdown restrictions.
May God bless and keep you, and saturate you with peace, patience and presence during this long pandemic.
Rod and Judy
Monday, Jan 11, 2021