LAMsLINKs #2, 2021
Palm Sunday / Holy Week / Easter
Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, ‘Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?’ Esther 4:13-14 (NASB)
Dear Friends and Family 'For such a time as this'! Dr Tony Evans, the first African American graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, comments that this phrase is 'tossed around frequently', even printed on t-shirts, often without much thought to its original meaning and biblical context. Since it can mean 'special, chosen or royal', many people quote the phrase as 'a life-verse representing power and favor.' However, in the book of Esther, Mordecai rebukes Esther for her self-indulgent, self-preserving mindset. As Dr Evans states in contemporary language, 'we might call that being “shot down” for her narcissistic tendencies! Esther was living extravagantly and embracing royalty over righteousness -- or 'selfies over service' -- therefore Mordecai reminded her that 'she had been chosen to set her own interests aside, let go of her own ambitions, and face an enemy full-on. She was to risk her life and her legacy with no guarantees of a positive outcome'.
Nearly three months since our last letter (Epiphany and Chinese New Year), we are approaching Holy Week. Perhaps it is apt to refer to this sacred week as 'holy weakness', or 'holiness in weakness', in contrast to self-righteous self-indulgence? How is the Spirit of God working among us here in HK/China (at such a time as this) to examine our selfish ambitions, step outside our comfort zone, and take risks in the face of uncertainty? Grief and loss This year our annual Sector conference was in the form of a virtual (Zoom conference). A common thread from the feedback was dealing with grief and loss. Many of our colleagues are unable to return to the Mainland, either because of travel restrictions during the pandemic, and/or no work/study visas issued at this time. In our Sector alone, 27 adults and 24 children are affected. Some have chosen to move to other sectors or remain in their home countries. Do pray for our leaders: for much needed discernment, wisdom, direction, encouragement, and compassion.
Trauma and hope Several colleagues have needed to re-orient their ministry strategies and cater to people whose needs have changed dramatically because of the pandemic. One colleague, who is participating in a 'Hope after Trauma' series, recently shared a devotion on the Emmaus walk. The two disciples experienced discouragement, despair, and shattered hopes; were even traumatized; and therefore did not recognize the Risen Savior. Jesus
took them through the process; speaking, revealing, and opening the Word to them; gently breaking bread together. They moved from a downcast state to 'their hearts burned within them'. With opened eyes and overjoyed, they ran back to Jerusalem to the other disciples and testified of their encounter with the Risen Lord. Our colleague shared with infectious enthusiasm of how Jesus helps to restore hope after trauma. Do pray that these conferences/webinars will facilitate our growth in holiness / wholeness, so that our relationship with the Triune God matures into fine wine, producing 'more human' and deeply compassionate people, with psycho-spiritual skills to supplement our biblical knowledge.
Self-care Another Sector leader organised a two day 'Self-Care' webinar with a trained professional psychologist in Canada. It covered topics for Christian workers such as burnout, depression, triggers of stress, suicidal tendencies, stages of recovery, anxiety, working in teams, accountability, pros and cons of medication, etc. A 14-stage work strategy was very helpful, where participants were divided into groups of 3 to discuss at least 8 points to assess our signs of stress, depression and/or burn out (ranging between low, moderate or severe). Rod has had mild depression for more than half his life and has been taking medication since 2003; he was therefore pleased to note that his stress and burnout levels were low. He tries to do at least 10,000 steps a day (averaged 9,044/day during March and 11,334/day in February). During Holy Week, from Palm Sunday to Wednesday (3 nights),
Judy will be taking a long-awaited and well-deserved personal retreat at Tao Fong Shan Christian Centre (pic on right). Please pray for deep rest, reflection, and recreation at such a time as this! TCK webinar A TCK (Third Culture Kid) webinar will be hosted for colleagues on April 7 & 8. TCK's are people who have spent more than half their lives in countries other than their 'home country'; often they do not feel at home either in their host or home countries. Though South Africa is considered our home/sending country, neither of our children have lived there for any length of time. Now that they are adults and able to process and articulate their childhood experiences, many deep and painful discussions have emerged on identity struggles, personality differences, cultural conflicts, conservative evangelical biases, ethnic minorities, marginalized people, etc. TCK families face many transitions, which might be traumatic for both children and parents. Do pray for meaningful engagement, meaty discussion and practical input for this important webinar.
Now for a few personal updates, celebrations, and prayer requests, thanking you in advance for praying:
SZ Ministries (Rod)
--- Mr. and Mrs. E have asked their church and others to pray for their 30 year old daughter who is in deep depression after an abusive relationship with an older man, an unbeliever. Please pray for the daughter to be delivered from suicidal thoughts, and for the parents as they try to cope with the emotional strain.
--- Mr. J is undergoing treatment after a recent biopsy to test for cancer cells. Pray that he will respond well to the treatment. He has a family with three young children -- and a demanding job, so needs much grace.
PhD research (Judy)
Judy has been granted a one-year abeyance on her PhD studies; the final date of submission will therefore be Nov 30, 2022. This is a relief, so she can work at a more reasonable pace -- and find time for some baking (pic on right: fridge cheese cake for colleagues). Please pray that Judy will be able to work steadily, commit at least 4 hrs per day to her research, and complete Chapter 3 by end April (on Hudson Taylor's Union and Communion, devotional commentary on the Song of Songs).
- moved to an old yet suitable G/F apartment (village house) in Tai Wai in early February, upon termination of her shared rental contract with a flatmate of 5 years. Mika is relieved to be away from that highly stressful living situation in a very congested urban area; and thankful to be within 10 minutes' walk from us. She comes over frequently for meals and to do laundry. Pray for grace, wisdom, stamina and provision as we journey with her -- also for inner peace, healing from past trauma, healthy lifestyle, and more tutoring jobs/income. Rent is a little steep for one person; but being alone provides 'space', as the protests and the pandemic dramatically increased her anxiety levels over the past 2 years. Praise God that all her second-hand furniture and home appliances were provided through friends and colleagues, and a Christian organization that supplies NGO groups with used household items. En route to her students, she enjoys taking pics of HK (left hand pic and first page). This weekend she is enjoying dog- & housesitting for church friends (view from their home on left).
- his recent online interview with a recruitment agency in London went well, PTL. Please pray that they would locate suitable (sideline) law projects to develop and diversify his skills; also for renewal of his current contract in mid-April, with a salary increase to match his excellent performance thus far. His boss dropped 23 new cases on his desk last week, so pray that he will know how to pace himself and practice wise 'self-care'. Recently he was impressed by his own homemade shakshuka for breakfast (right hand pic), which left us drooling ….
Thu, 01: Rod's birthday
Fri, 02 - Sun 04: Easter weekend
Sun, 04: our 29th anniversary of ministry in HK/China (1992)
Tue, 06: our 36th wedding anniversary (1985)
Tue, 20: Josh's 23rd birthday (1998)
As we celebrate these milestones, we wonder where we would be without God's unfailing love and your untiring support. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
Wishing you a very blessed Holy Week and wondrous Easter, as we each identify more deeply with Jesus in his suffering and death, resurrection and glorification.
Rod and Judy
March 28, 2021