LAMsLINKs #4, 2021
Autumn (Oct - Dec)
New Normal or Normal New?
What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
Dear Friends The phrase ‘the new normal’ has been tossed around almost daily over the past two years, invariably with regard to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic: quarantine measures, vaccinations, mandatory or voluntary mask-wearing, working remotely, Zoom or virtual meetings, no frequent flying, etc. As our prayer letters have recently shown, the new normal in Hong Kong also includes adjustment to the National Security Law (NSL), and with revised implementations of the One Country Two Systems policy, the city has seen a massive exodus of nearly 90,000 people this past year. By mid-2021, almost all prominent pro-democracy legislators and activists had either been arrested or imprisoned, while several fled into exile. Several major pro-democracy organisations, trade unions and media outlets also disbanded under the pressure. HK is fast becoming 'One Country One System' in principle, though not officially. For example, the new stipulation that the legislature needs to be served by 'patriots', only 1 of the 1,488 members is not a pro-Beijing member. Please pray for the 2021 Hong Kong Legislative Council election scheduled this Sunday (December 19). The book of Ecclesiastes (1:9-11) states that there is nothing new under the sun; and that all the activity of a person’s lifetime will soon be forgotten and lost in the grander scheme of things. Yet, within our daily reality, God is present doing a new thing (Is. 43:19).
Paradoxically, in the ‘nothing new’, God is making ‘all things new’. Redemptive analogies are aptly woven into the tapestry of Scripture: a new creation (2 Cor 5:17), a new nature (2 Cor 5:17), a new covenant (Heb 8:13), a new name (Rev 2:17), etc. Thus we treat each day as a kairos moment, within the midst of chronos time and linear thinking: watching the clock, filling the time, yet having ‘no time’. In the apostle Paul’s ministry (2 Cor 11: 25ff), perplexities, stresses, trials, and dangers were considered ‘normal’; he lived in the realm of the 'normal new' of everyday life; his spirit renewed day by day. Living the paradox opened his eyes to the mystery of faith: that life is dynamic, not static; both unchanging and transforming; waiting and unfolding. Paul never considered himself having arrived, but pressed on eagerly to know Christ, to share in Christ's sufferings (Phil 3:10) – experiencing strength in weakness (Phil 3:14-16), music in imprisonment (Acts 16:25-34), beauty in brokenness (2 Cor 4:7), fullness in emptiness (Phil 2:5-9), mystery in knowing (Col 1:26-27), etc. Oh that we would realise more fully the profound mystery of the Gospel and be awakened day by day to the ‘normal new’ within the chaos of this prolonged pandemic.
What are some of the challenges of living both the 'new normal' and the ‘normal new’ here in HK/China?
A Call for Courage
At our monthly staff and prayers meetings, our China and Beyond Director keeps us abreast on key movements and political observations. Please pray for China as President Xi’s legacy seems to focusing on power and socialist reform with Chinese characteristics. Also for the Winter Olympics in Beijing (February 2022), which will be a gauge on how China handles the pandemic both domestically and internationally. Locally, HK churches are still in healing mode since the 2019 protests and the enactment of the NSL in 2020. The little energy that remains is expended on waiting and seeing how the China scenario will play out politically and in reality. Would church leaders eventually be required to sign documents pertaining to the NSL and church policies? Is it feasible for local churches to purchase property? Would large ministries need to be scaled down and switch to small discipling models similar to the early house church movements in China?
Please pray for the following concerns:
HK churches and Christians to be beacons of hope during these uncertain transitions Unbelievers to seek the eternal and search for true hope beyond the visible and the tangible Christians serving in the HK government to have a strong and viable witness Local churches and Christian organisations to move forward in faith and courage, to broaden their vision for the southern part of China (the Greater Bay Area)
A Call for Patience
At our Urban Cities Ministries (UCM) Sector mini conference on October 10 (with colleagues spread across different continents and time zones), common effects shared of this prolonged pandemic are grief, discouragement, and fatigue; on the other hand, positive signs of new beginnings, new openings, more fervent prayer, deeper trust, etc. Many colleagues are still unable to return to China because of the strict zero Covid policy. Here are the latest stats for our UCM Sector: in China: 24 adults / 16 children; in HK: 11 adults / 2 children; in waiting: 23 adults / 13 children; remaining on the home-side: 13 adults / 15 children; and resignations and transfers: 4 adults and 2 children. Do pray for all of us, that we may not grow weary in watching, waiting and praying.
1. A Call to Press On 1. Rental (Hin Tin Village, Tai Wai, since December 2011)
Hallelujah! Our rental contract (renewable every 2 years) has just been negotiated, and the increase is once again below market rate. This is a huge answer to prayer and confirmation to press on! The land price in our area escalated after the Hin Keng MTR station opened in February last year, about 5 minutes’ walk from our home. We are thankful for the stability, quiet surroundings, good landlord, and convenient travel to the office and libraries -- and close proximity to Mikaela’s apartment. Praise the Lord also for a HK couple who prayed with us and was led to increase their support from Jan 2022 to make up for the increase!!!
2. Bible Study & discipling (Rod) Despite the HK-China borders still shut, Rod is glad to be able to conduct his cross-border bible studies through Zoom. PTL for the continued interest, spiritual growth, and lively discussions of the two groups: on Monday evenings (the Epistle of John), and Tuesday evenings (Paul’s letter to the Philippians). Please pray for the following requests: Ms. C works for the Communist Party and has been bold enough to share the gospel with her colleagues, despite opposition, even threats of bribes and sexual harassment. One colleague resigned, but has agreed to attend church to “see who Jesus is” – the One of whom Ms. C has been testifying. Do pray for an encounter with the Living Christ.
The same Ms C will write an exam this weekend, hoping for a promotion. She is also waiting for her husband to be transferred back to China from Germany after his doctoral studies, but is unsure to which city the German company will assign him. Please pray for wisdom and courage for Ms C, as she has been taking care of her parents while her husband has been studying abroad.
Mr J (the leader of our Monday evening group and a good friend to Rod) just heard this past week that his work contract at a university in HK has been extended till July 30, 2023. Hallelujah!
3. Spirituality Research (Judy)
Judy’s PhD research is progressing steadily and slowly. She is currently on ‘The Exchanged Life’ (Ch 4), which provides a personal context for Hudson Taylor’s commentary on the Song of Songs, entitled Union and Communion (Ch 3). Please pray that she will complete Ch 4 by year end, and synchronise and finalise both chapters before Chinese New Year (Feb 1-3, 2022). Once final year registration is completed in Feb/Mar, she will be focused on Ch 5 (spiritual journey), the Conclusion (Ch 6), and the date of submission (Nov 30, 2022) to the University of the Free State!!! Also pray for good health, daily exercise, adequate rest, steady pace, mental agility – and power/joy/anointing from the Holy Spirit.
Not directly related to Judy’s research (but synchronous), the movie project on the life of Hudson Taylor is making good progress. You may be interested in praying for or donating to the project. The website is now bilingual, in English and Chinese, and very informative: www.halfcrownmedia.com
4. Education (Mikaela, in Hong Kong)
Hallelujah! Mikaela’s homely 31st birthday celebration (Dec 10) was a happy occasion (all smiles!) At the end of an exhausting year of healing and recovery, she is definitely more energised. Please pray that she will search for and find more work (private students or tutorial centres) – and also be disciplined in her part-time/long-distance studies (registered last week for the second semester, MA in Education, University of College London).
5. Law (Joshua, in London)
Hallelujah! 2021 has been a productive year for the young paralegal. He is thankful for a steady and challenging job with interesting cases, and a supportive supervisor/team, even though he works remotely. In spite of ongoing applications for a training contract with a law firm (including one in-person interview in London), he has still not landed a contract – but is positive, patient and persistent. Thank you for praying for God’s will to be done! Joshua recently enjoyed a family reunion with relatives in London, just before the new UK Covid/Omicron cautions re: social gatherings.
A Call for Change
Since 1992, we have been full members of OMF International (our parent organization); and, in 2003, we were seconded to our current NGO to serve in China-related ministries. With the potential negative impact of the NSL, our NGO is proactively preparing to scale down the operations in HK; yet, at the same time, exploring new ventures in ‘The Greater Bay Area’ (southern China) through ‘income-generating’ services (or ‘tent-making’). The practical concern has been to determine the safest way for our operations to be funded in the future, including channeling of monthly support. Our leaders and finance team are sympathetic to the difficulties we as South Africans face in terms of international banking, so we are grateful for the following resolutions:
1. 2022: for the first six months, we will continue to receive our monthly allowances as normal via our NGO; and the second half of the year, through an advance or a ‘loan’ – in faith! We anticipate this year’s support level to be around 91-92%, and are trusting God to provide abundantly in 2022 to offset the large deficit!
2. 2023: our monthly support will be received in our personal (Nedbank) account in Johannesburg, via the OMF-ZA home-side office. By such time we will be able to figure out the most cost effective way to TTF the funds to our HK bank account. Most colleagues are already using this system and able to draw internationally from their homeside bank accounts.
3. South African and overseas supporters may continue to send regular donations through the existing OMF home-side channel. No changes!
4. HK donors (as of Jan 01, 2022) will need to send their support via OMF Hong Kong by means of the following methods, and clearly indicating ‘Support for Rod & Judy Lam’: Cheques: to be made payable to ‘OMF Hong Kong’, and posted to the following address: Unit 707-708 7/F Midas Plaza, 1 Tai Yau Street, San Po Kong, Kowloon; Fast Payment System (FPS): instant transfer using the email address: email@example.com Then email the screen cap confirmation, and your personal and donation details. Direct Deposit: HSBC 580-176873-002 (OMF-HK account): then scan and email the Customer Advice to firstname.lastname@example.org
A Call to Celebrate
Several local Chinese Christian friends (mainly professionals and homeowners) have a strong conviction to remain in HK. They still consider HK to be a viable/safe option for work, expansion, investment, low income tax – and excellent public hospital services, social benefits for the elderly, etc. They are committed to working with disillusioned youth, helping the vulnerable, donating to the poor and needy, etc. -- and are convinced that large denominations and large congregations will adapt sooner than later. Smaller networks will begin to form – and the ekklesia will be called ‘back to basics’ – a cause for celebration? At Kowloon Union Church (KUC), we try in small ways to support ministries to refugees and asylum seekers. Their complex/traumatic stories of political oppression and persecution for their faith are often harrowing. Yet, for some, experiencing God's love is ‘a many-splendored thing!’ Imagine fleeing Africa to one of the most expensive cities in the world, to then fall in love! In October, a brother (7 years in HK from Egypt), married a local Chinese woman at a sung Coptic Church ceremony. We call him 'Superman' because of his extraordinary strength when moving furniture to Mikaela’s apartment. Please pray for God's blessing on the newlyweds and that 'Superman' will find a steady and suitable job now that he is married (HK law does not permit asylum seekers to be employed).
A Call to Return and Retire? Life is a journey of faith! After serving in HK for nearly 30 years (since April 1992), retirement is looming. This is normal and new! In 2024, D.V., Rod will turn 70 -- the golden age when several of our colleagues are returning to their home countries. In 2023, on our 3-4 month home assignment (between Apr-Aug), we intend to assess retirement options in South Africa. Rental in HK is astronomical, but it might be possible to apply for public housing (at least a 5-year wait). Rod's medical insurance expires in April 2024, but he could continue to use the public hospital system. Retirement ministry? Rod would wind down and find a new role; while Judy hopes to return to her spiritual direction/retreat ministries, and do some publishing (finally!). Only God knows where our children will eventually settle.
Thank you as always, from the bottom of our hearts, for your love, support and sacrifices throughout another ‘pandemic’ year. Wishing you a very blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year! Rod and Judy