‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer Our spirits by Thine advent here Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight
2019 – a tsunami of disaffection washes over HK Dear Friends and Family During these final weeks of the decade, we wait in expectation for God's Advent here; to come and cheer our spirits, disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death's dark shadows put to flight. O Come, Emmanuel!
Heartfelt thanks for your prayers and special concern during these six months of political unrest. One positive outcome was the surprising results of the district council elections on Sunday, Nov 24. The SCMP captured the local mood correctly (picture on top left):1 ‘Tsunami of disaffection washes over city as pro-Beijing camp left reeling by record turnout and overwhelming defeat’.2 It continued: ‘The anti-establishment reverberations from almost six months of street protests swept through polling stations across Hong Kong … The tsunami of disaffection among voters was clear across the board, as pan-democrats rode the wave to win big … in both protest-prone and non-protest-afflicted districts and, in downtown areas as well as the suburbs.’
The few weeks after the election were calmer, but violence flared up again this past weekend. The build up to Christmas and New Year is precarious, when people normally gather in huge crowds around Victoria Harbour area for the festivities and fireworks. Sadly, HK is no longer the valued ‘Pearl of the Orient’ or the safe ‘Fragrant Harbour’ of the Far East. The truth is that the bubble has finally burst. Psychological façades have been shattered and cultural foundations shaken, exposing deep wounds and family conflicts. Having reached the point of no return, most HK people are fearful and feeling vulnerable about the future. Please pray!
Recollections of a deep, dark, desperate and daring decade!
The past decade has been unprecedented on every level; thus the one tried and tested truth is: 'My grace is sufficient for you; My power made perfect in weakness'. As we share a few milestones of our family story, may it also be a testament to your investment of love, time, prayer and money. Revolving door: Rod sums up working in an international organisation as follows: it is more like a revolving door than an evolving process. In 10 years, our organisation has gone through at least 4 leadership/structural changes, and he has worked with 5 different leaders at the church in SZ. In 2007, he completed his tenure in Finance and Administration, then spent 3 years in Candidate Coordination and Serve Asia programme. From 2011, with the new structure (of dividing the China field into six sectors), we were incorporated into the UCM (Urban City Ministries) sector, travelling to Thailand for annual conference around Chinese New Year. Cross Border Ministries: since 2014, Rod has ministered steadily in SZ, engaging in bible teaching and discipling of young believers. The 'Cross Border Ministries' comprises three groups, ranging from middle management, a small house church group, and a large IT Company (Marketplace Ministry). He has also enjoyed occasional preaching at the Sunday afternoon English Service at a large government registered church. In total, he has exhausted two passports before they reached their expiry dates, which is a practical concern as it can take up to 9 months for the SA passport renewal in HK. A few meaningful highlights include: (1) At least 8-10 people have given their hearts to Christ; at one retreat where Rod was the speaker, 4 people professed their faith in God. We rejoice with the angels in the highest! (2) Being a referee to two Mainland Chinese men for further studies – one in the USA, currently in his 2nd year at a seminary in Los Angeles. Another is doing his seminary training distance learning through a US seminary. Both men want to fulfil leadership positions in local Chinese churches. (3) Befriending a Singaporean brother who has become a close friend and a regular financial supporter over the past 5 years. Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel!
Health: during the hottest decade on record, we are so thankful for generally good health. After our recent medical review, no major issues to report. Just need to continue with regular medications, maintain a low-fat, low-sodium, high protein, balanced diet, and do more exercise. Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel!
Money: HK has jokingly been referred to as the ‘land of milk and money’; certainly the supermarkets carry many more local and imported brands of milk than when we arrived in HK in 1992 (we bought large tins of KLIM powdered milk as it was cheaper). Speaking of money, we are truly grateful for your untiring support! We stand amazed as we reflect on ten years of financial details. In 2010, the exchange rate was USD1=HKD7.84=ZAR7.50; the rate is currently ZAR15.00. Despite the drop in the Rand, our support level has averaged 98% for the past 9 years. Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel! The lowest was 88% (in 2012), when we moved house and incurred a rental increase of almost 64%. For 8 years our kind colleagues rented their apartment to us at way below market rate. In a dense city like HK, property is premium! In the last 8 years, our rent has increased between HKD1000 and 1500 (USD128-193/ZAR1913-2870), which equates to 6.7%-13%. Our highest support level was 124% (in 2014), when Joshua was at boarding school in India. At the end of November 2019, it stood at 91%. We wait in Advent hope as we close off the year, trusting God for 100%.
2010 (Year of the Tiger) -- SOUTH AFRICA
South Africa: on home assignment in wintry SA, the Song of Songs Retreat at St Benedict's, Rosettenville, was memorable - frozen in time! The power had been cut off (not because of load shedding), but because thugs had stolen the
cables of the retreat centre. Candlelight shed light on our darkness, but not enough to keep us warm. Seated in a circle in the chapel and wrapped in blankets, scarves and thick coats, the retreatants looked like Eskimos - an indelible memory. At the time, Judy was enrolled at UNISA, Pretoria (M.Th. in Christian Spirituality), working on her dissertation, entitled: The Canticle of Spiritual Direction: A Transformative Approach to the Song of Songs. While immersed in spiritual direction and retreat ministries, God graciously provided her a part-time job as Case Officer for a local charity -- at a rather desperate time when our funds were very low. It was a steep learning curve with new challenges, a taste of professional work experience in HK, and encounters with a wide cross-section of people. Since September, the steady income has helped to keep our support levels afloat, especially with the high cost of international education. 12-year old Joshua was in his second year of high school at CAIS (Christian Alliance International School); and Mikaela had begun her first year of long-distance study - B.Sc. in Politics and International Relations at LSE (London School of Economics and Political Science). Self-study was far more stimulating and motivating than high school. Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel!
2011 (Year of the Rabbit) -- INDIA
Ooty, India: in August, Joshua headed off to Hebron School - a new experience for our family! The father-son adventure took them on a Singapore Airlines flight to Bangalore, then the long and winding taxi drive up to Ooty in the Nilgiri Hills. The multinational atmosphere of teachers and students was fascinating, flavoured with local Indian food and friendly staff. Mikaela turned 21 on Dec 10; she decided to share an apartment with a friend in Wanchai, which began a drastic chapter of learning and experimenting with life. Thankfully, our children are supported by the Everlasting Arms and we had to learn to find God in pain and struggle. Meanwhile, Judy's research in the Song of Songs continued, though a heavy academic exercise. Then the bombshell! Find a new apartment! Our gracious landlord decided to sell his house; we were so grateful for the 8 years of stability that this home provided (the entire duration of Mikaela's high school years and Joshua's transition to Hebron). Prior to that we had moved 4 times in 14 years, which was traumatic in hindsight. In December, in the nick of time, the Lord provided us with a 700 square foot apartment in Hin Tin Village - at reasonable rent, with balcony, windows to every bedroom, plenty greenery in the village, and a view of the Tao Fong Shan hills (pic on the right). It was heartening and humbling, as we had spent 3 months specially praying to return to Tai Wai where we had lived when we first arrived in HK in 1992. Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel!
2012 (Year of the Dragon) -- INDIA & SOUTH AFRICA
Ooty, India: In February, by sheer grace and so shortly after the house move, Judy submitted her Master's dissertation (total of 200 pages including bibliography). In April, she and Mikaela made the trek to Hebron during Parent's Week - completely enthralled by Indian hospitality, the tea plantations of the Nilgiri Hills, the best cups of cardamom tea ever, and the home of Amy Carmichael. In July, Judy published her first academic article, entitled 'Ancient Poem, Ancient Practice', on the Song of Songs in Spiritual Direction - through Vinayasādhana, the Dharmaram Journal of Psycho-Spiritual formation, in India. On October 8, she graduated Cum Laude with the M.Th. in Christian Spirituality, at UNISA, Pretoria. Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel!
2013 (Year of the Snake) -- SINGAPORE, US & CANADA
Singapore: in March, ZA OMFers met at OMF IC to resurrect OMF-ZA after 7 years of hibernation; later that year, Nick and Trish Bekker returned from Singapore to take up the position as OMF ZA Executive Director.
Colorado, Vancouver, Hamilton, Toronto, Boston, Washington, D.C., New York: sadly, on April 20, Helen Christensen passed away in Colorado, US after a long struggle with Huntington's disease. How marvellously God provided for Judy to attend Helen's memorial service at the end of May, where she shared a tribute on behalf of former Rosebank Bible College students, stayed at Pam's home, experienced first-hand some of Ralph and Helen's retirement, and finally got to meet many of the Christensen clan. Such a poignant moment! After Colorado, Judy enjoyed reunions with former Kuo Ting High School classmates in Vancouver and Toronto - and a close friend in Hamilton, ON. While in Vancouver, a long-distance call to Joshua at Hebron, was disconcerting to say the least. Life is short! Seize the moment! Rod was on the plane the next day to India, and the rest is history. In Boston, Washington D.C., and New York, visiting Carmelite monasteries and the Institute of Carmelite Studies was epic, a rare privilege to meet Fr Kevin Culligan (a spiritual director and author), and more especially, Fr Kieran Kavanaugh (the English translator/editor of the Collected Works of St John of the Cross). In August, through much grace and admirable determination, Mikaela graduated from LSE with a BSC Hons in Political International Relations. 2013 ended with all four Lams in HK, beginning a sobering reconstruction of our family. Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel!
2014 (Year of the Horse) -- SOUTH AFRICA (HA) before UMBRELLA MOVEMENT IN HK (Sep)
South Africa: on home assignment (APR-JUN), Rod celebrated his 60th in April, with his family in PE. It was a double joy, as Mikaela joined him for about 10 days. Her last visit to SA was in 2007. She spent a lot of time observing and chatting about SAn history, and wrote a full research paper for her own purposes. Joshua and Judy joined later. A milestone for Judy was her first attempt at reading an academic paper, at the annual conference of the Spirituality Association of South Africa (SPIRASA), held at UNISA. Her topic was 'Reading the Song of Songs through a Spiritual Direction Lens', which was published through HTS in August 2015. A special memory of that home assignment was a 4-day visit to the Kruger Park with close friends when we saw the Big-5 -- our first ever! Joshua mumbled and grumbled the first morning having to set out at 5.30 in the cold: 'This is the worst day of my life!' (We still chuckle about that with our good friends). It is memorable because a few hours into the drive the grumpy, dozy little Lam spotted three black rhino lying under a tree way in the distance. He was also the first to spot three lion across the river shortly after we arrived at our lodge -- both sightings without binoculars! This is the boy who needed 12 years of regular visits to the optometrist at the Nethersole Hospital in Tai Po to have his lazy eye corrected. Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel!
2015 (Year of the Sheep): CIM/OMF's 150th anniversary / CONFERENCE in JOHANNESBURG
Johannesburg: in May, Judy was invited to read a paper at the Spirituality Conference convened by SPIRASA and SSCS (the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality), at St Augustine's College, Johannesburg. 'Holiness' was the theme, and her paper was on the influence of the Song of Songs on Hudson Taylor. (Though the title of 'The Holy of Holies Text: Mystic and Missionary' was rather cumbersome, it started a search to explore Hudson Taylor's spirituality, and began a process of integration on mysticism and mission). The paper was timely, presented in the same year that CIM/OMF celebrated 150 years since Hudson (and Maria) Taylor founded the mission. Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel!
Judy's visit to SA informally introduced us to 'prison ministries', indirectly through a church contact at Brackendowns Baptist Church, Johannesburg who asked us to visit two young SAn women imprisoned in HK for drug trafficking. Since our initial visits (now once/month), it has been a joy to watch their transformation happening before our eyes! They will only be released in 2026. One is studying Bookkeeping and Business English; the other Psychology. This arrangement is through the Open University of Hong Kong; the Social Welfare finds financial sponsors. Daytime routine includes prison workshop, like sewing bedsheets for a hospital, or pyjamas for other prisoners. In spite of restrictions, they have adapted well, enjoy learning about
Chinese festivals and Chinese characters; and interact with other prisoners from SA and other African and Asian countries (a total of about 1000 in the prison in Sheung Shui). They learn different skills like art taught by a local HK prisoner (picture on the right is a homemade card by one of the women). Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel!
2016 (Year of the Monkey) -- LONDON London: in June, Joshua graduated from CAIS (Canadian curriculum) with good results, partly pushed along by peer pressure as his classmates were high achievers. Two years of British curriculum at Hebron helped him to become more 'bookish', more independent, and more responsible. During his gap year, he taught English privately, and at a learning centre and a primary school. Through much searching and discernment, he settled on Law; and began saving money toward his studies, and made application to Warwick University, Coventry for the 2017-2018 academic year. In July, Judy registered for the Ph.D. in Christian Spirituality at University of Free State (UFS), Bloemfontein, and was grateful for the timely bursary. Funds from her published article covered her first research trip to SOAS, London, in October. While there, she started on her PhD proposal which was accepted in the first half of 2017. She also put the final touches to her paper: 'From Holy Striving to Wholly Abiding: Mystical Transformation in James Hudson Taylor (1832-1905)', which was published through HTS in November. Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel! In 2016, we needed to find a church where our adult children could identify and connect with people of diversity. We started to attend Kowloon Union Church, an international, ecumenical English speaking church (while Judy continued to join the evening worship at Christ Church Temple Congregation, Tao Fong Shan). KUC's strong social consciousness touches the marginalised, asylum seekers, refugees, and disadvantaged peoples of HK; and their mission projects extend to needy Asian and African countries. We enjoy the liturgical services, keeping us attentive to the church calendar, and the rich variety of perspectives/preaching topics -- often challenging the status quo and presuppositions. The congregation is less than 200 people, with two women pastors (one local Chinese, the other from Scotland), and one younger male pastor who is unordained.
2017 (Year of the Rooster) -- SOUTH AFRICA, SWITZERLAND & UK
South Africa: our first ever home assignment in SA summer (Jan-Apr): the highlight for Judy was the Song of Songs day retreats in JHB, CT, and P.E - though the drought in the E & W Cape was quite severe, but kept us 'grounded'. Sadly, on March 9, while in PE, we received news that Dr Ekman Tam, a dear friend and spiritual director/teacher/mentor, had passed away in HK of lung cancer. Ekman was deeply instrumental in Judy's journey and training as a spiritual director. On that home assignment, we were thankful for the quality time spent with elderly prayer partners. Shortly after our return to HK, Rev Peter Holgate passed away in Cape Town - indeed a shock as he had looked his usual sprightly self when we visited him and Mary in Cape Town. Peter was the OMF-ZA National Director who was instrumental in processing our application to OMF, which brought us to HK (with Friends of China) in 1992; not to Taiwan as we had originally hoped.
Switzerland: end of June, Judy made a 'dream trip' to read a paper at SSSC in Switzerland, on 'Song of Songs as Poetic Paradigm for Contemplative Prayer'. She also visited close friends in Zurich who served at FOC when we arrived in HK; as we had observed their adoption of 3 local Chinese children, their positive influence encouraged us in our adoption of Joshua in December 1998. Judy reworked her conference paper for a five series radio broadcast on RTHK's Minutes that Matter (November) -- a first (and hopefully not the last). Rather than publishing the paper, she is reserving it for the final chapter of her PhD. Coventry: we were blown away when God provided a sponsor (a close friend) who pledged to cover 60% of Joshua's tuition over 3 years; so, in September, Joshua enthusiastically took a solo trek to Warwick University. Oh you of little faith! May God forgive our unbelief! As parents we confess that his faith was greater than ours
in the comings and goings - and when he rejected the offer for Public Health at Chinese University of HK. God's continued provision has enabled us to cross every hurdle along the way. Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel!
2018 (Year of the Dog) -- ZHENJIANG, NANJING & SOUTH AFRICA
Zhenjiang & Nanjing: in the beginning of June, Judy was able to attend the opening of the Hudson Taylor Memorial, along with other colleagues from HK, Taiwan, the US -- and special guests from Barnsley, Yorkshire. It was very relevant for her research, as it was in Zhenjiang that Hudson Taylor experienced the 'Exchanged Life' (entire chapters devoted to this moment in the official biography, in the condensed/centennial biography, and in Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret). Judy will also devote a whole chapter to the transformation that Hudson Taylor experienced - which she terms as a movement 'From Holy Striving to Wholly Abiding'. It was also a privilege to visit Nanjing Jilin Theological Seminary, especially to meet author Dr Abraham Chen and to engage him on Chinese contextual theology. Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel! Mikaela was accepted into the PGCE (Postgraduate Diploma in Applied Leadership and Management Education, University of College London, long-distance programme). She also enjoyed sharing personal reflections on RTHK's Reflections, and occasionally playing piano at KUC's morning service. 'Mikaela Gordan' (her alias for professional reasons), edited the English translation of the book Cantonese: Two-Part Allegorical Sayings, published in Hong Kong, and was credited as 'Language Consultant'. The second book should be published next year. Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel!
South Africa/deaths: in September, Rod took annual leave to visit his elderly mom and prayer partners in SA, especially Albert and Barbara Koeslag in Hermanus; it was sad to hear that they both passed away months later. On our last home assignment in 2017, they specially drove all the way to Cape Town and treated us to seafood at a beach café in Fish Hoek. Lasting memories! Then, on November 1, Dr Ralph Christensen passed away in Colorado, after a long 6.5 years after his beloved wife Helen's passing. Since Judy's studies at Rosebank Bible College in 1978-79/1984-85, Dr Ralph has been a remarkable missions mentor and spiritual elder, accentuating that 'the true and living God is a missionary God.' His teaching is engraved on our hearts.
2019 (Year of the Pig) -- UK, IRELAND, & SOUTH AFRICA
London, Coventry, Stratford-upon-Avon, Barnsley, Dublin: in April, Judy and Mikaela's first visit to Warwick University was exciting, touring the extensive campus grounds, meeting several of his flatmates, shopping at Tesco, lunching at the local pub, bussing around Coventry -- in bitterly cold weather! However, no complaints about the UK weather when reaching magnificent Stratford. The young Lams thoroughly enjoyed Much Ado About Nothing with their mother -- a memorable first! Judy could not resist King Lear in 'Shakespeare-land' -- once-in-a-lifetime treat! Of course, Joshua's 21st on April 20 was the highlight of the trip, thanks to Judy's sister and brother in law for the simply wonderful celebration - and to God who provided unusually warm weather and plenty sunshine that Easter weekend. Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel! The Manleys were present at Joshua's homecoming in HK on Dec 24, 1998, in Tai Wo; so hosting his 21st at their home in New Malden was very significant. Judy's second research trip to SOAS, London was capped by a visit to Barnsley, Hudson Taylor's birthplace, and Dublin.
Judy and Joshua end the year in Johannesburg; Rod and Mikaela in HK. Joshua's first ever Christmas holiday in sunny SA. (Dec 13-30) will also involve loads of outstanding reading. Judy arrives on Dec 20 (return to HK on Feb 10); looking forward to a special birthday, family reunion, Christmas and New Year with relatives coming from the USA, Canada and UK. May these rare gatherings be filled with God's loving presence and conversations seasoned with grace and gratitude.
Please note new address for Lam's updates: firstname.lastname@example.org
PRAYERS FOR 2020
-- Year of the Rat (Chinese New Year: Jan 26-28) -- and a leap year!
O come, o come, Emmanuel! As we journey with friends and colleagues in HK, we enter 2020 in a state of deep unknowing; yet holding onto the death-resurrection reality, knowing that in Christ we are empowered by the Spirit to be fully present and fully consecrated in our place of calling - to the glory of God!
The new decade finds Rod and Mikaela in HK, Joshua in Coventry, and Judy in Johannesburg; so please join us in prayer for God's protection on our family and also for the following matters:
1. Judy: please pray for quality time with family, friends and churches, the Song of Songs retreat (Cape Town, January 18-19, with the Chinese Christian Fellowship), meeting with Prof Celia Kourie in Pretoria, a few days in the Kruger Park with two good friends/spiritual directors, and hopefully time for writing, etc.
2. Rod is scheduled to arrive in JHB on February 1 (returning to HK on April 30). As churches in SA plan their 2020 schedules, please pray for many invitations for Rod to share on HK and China. Responses have been rather slow thus far. We pray for rest and renewal; and for fresh vision and input, as we approach the latter years of our ministry. While cementing old friendships and partnerships, may God also raise up new workers full of dynamic energy and vibrant spirituality.
3. Cross Border Ministries: while Rod is away, please pray for the three bible study groups, that they would stand firm in God and grow deeper in their knowledge of the written and living Word. We are thankful for colleagues who have offered to assist with the studies during Rod's absence.
4. Mikaela: following the submission of her final paper on January 2, which counts 50% toward her final mark, she will begin preparing for her second semester exam – awaiting confirmation of date. Please pray for God's clear guidance for the next step after the PGCE; she feels she has outgrown HK and needs to expand her horizons by studying abroad, possibly a Master's in Education, trusting God to provide a scholarship. 5. Joshua: has submitted applications to various Law firms in the UK for an internship either before or after graduation (June 2020, D.V.), and is trusting God to open the right doors.
6. Seekers: many friends, including unbelievers, are wrestling with deep spiritual questions brought on by the prolonged protests and their sense of vulnerability; please pray that this will be a kairos time for a softening of hearts and healing of wounds, and of turning to the One who alone is the Eternal Light in human darkness.
With love and gratitude at Advent and looking to Epiphany,
Rod, Judy, Mikaela and Joshua
(Dec 18, 2019)
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer Our spirits by Thine advent here Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death dark's shadows put to flight
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel