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Where’d they go now?

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Most of you know by now, we’re moving back ‘home’ (to Asia) in a few weeks (Aug 2019). We’re making another move this week – OFF OF SOCIAL MEDIA – and back over to this long neglected blog! In fact, … Continue reading

ramblings of Encouragement in the real world

Do you ever have moments where the words you speak to encourage others end up being just the ‘life breath’ you needed to get you through your own day? This has been happening to me a lot lately. What gets me is the truth I speak to others came out of me… but I needed to hear it… again. So often we learn things, even well enough to internalize them & live it out… but we forget that we know them when we are discouraged & we simply try to ‘journey on’ feeling worn out & pulled down by the weight of ‘toughing it out’. I’m not sure I’ve learned to do it differently, just that today I am acutely aware of the truth that is IN ME & I’m choosing to allow it to encourage MYSELF in the Lord today. One day at a time, we all are learning new things, & then some days we are re-learning all over again. Like reading a favorite bible verse & suddenly getting completely new & fresh revelation from it… Today I choose to learn good & beautiful things, not forgetting the ugly & evil I have learned – but rather replacing it & vowing to leave it behind me. “Not turning back, moving ahead – I’m moving, moving forward!” (love that song!)

My recent Facebook musings that were meant to encourage others & have also encouraged myself:

Encouraging yourself in the Lord-

Last night someone asked “What do you do?” My answer is simple: I do the things that I have heard/seen with my Father in heaven. (John 8:38) (ie. serve the poor, care for widows & orphans, etc.)

“And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, “ Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word.” -1 Kings 18:36

Know that your Father has gone before you & made every way straight, including this one…

Yes, the price of a life (cost of adopting our daughter from China) – but the truth is… she’s worth that & so much more to her Father in heaven. We know that He wants to give her good gifts, we know that He led us to her & so we trust that He will also provide the ransom for her rescue!

Encouraging others in the Lord-

When talking with others about their faith walk (or lack thereof), it’s important to hear them out & get a feel for where they’re coming from. A person’s background tends to really color how they think & what approach will either interest them or turn them off the topic completely. Listening to them also give you time to pray & wait on the Holy Spirit for the right words – a critical step! Usually it helps the other person to relax & know that you are a trustworthy friend that will love them unconditionally, if you interrupt at every turn they will begin to feel like it’s the ‘all about YOU’ show instead of you & them sharing together… Never come right out & tell people they are wrong about their faith/theology unless you already have a long standing & trusting relationship – like a best friend… Anyone else you are ministering to will immediately shut down. Conversation over, no second chances. Try a more gentle way of showing them new ideas, allowing them to choose them for themselves.

It helps me a LOT to think of people as children who have never been taught. If I can choose to be gentle & loving in everything I say, then I will get through to them faster & with more impact than any other approach. Not sugar coating, but affirming the things they DO get right & suggesting new ways to think, as a new concept… like “have you ever considered what God was looking for when he created man? Do you think maybe he wanted companions that would be in relationship with him?” That might help a person rethink their idea that if they are a ‘good person’ they don’t need to really worry about reading the Word, praying or even knowing God enough to have any kind of relationship with Him.

It’s also very important to “speak life” into & about the situation. Especially when you talk to people you want to encourage & edify (teach). If they feel preached at though, they will say forget it, & then your conversation (& opportunity) is over. Listen to the spirit for the balance. Sometimes not talking & just hearing them out will give you so much more insight, for your prayers & for the next conversation. Treat every conversation as a divine appointment. Assume that God’s been working on their heart & that He will provide you with the right words that THEY need to hear…

I often think we over complicate talking to people. If we can simplify then we can hear the holy spirit telling us how to get to the heart of their issue. Rather than debate or argue… choose to teach in love… People get defensive & shut down when they think we are correcting them, but they listen when they feel affirmed because we are approving of something & then we slip in new ideas, challenging them to think for themselves & search the Word out for answers. Teaching them to apply God’s truth & Kingdom principles to their own lives. In essence, you wouldn’t spoon feed your 10 year old, you teach him to do that himself when he’s young. Likewise, you hope that the lessons you teach your 16 year old will help him choose wise actions when he’s working his first full time job at 25. What if he couldn’t choose well, because he had never learned to think it through for himself? Would he know what to wear? How would he wake up on time & find his way to work? Would he forget to get his lunch?

God has commanded that we make disciples, that can also go out and make disciples… He didn’t say to go out & correct people all day w/o teaching them how to self-correct. We don’t have time to be everyone’s Mommy right? So let’s remember to point to Jesus & teach them how to read the map, rather than being their personal guide while they sit in the backseat & stare out the windows of life, never learning to navigate or drive on their own. Don’t worry about reaching the masses, speak to people one on one, build relationship & walk through life together WITH them, in doing so you will make a disciple who will do the same. This is how we reach the world with Jesus’ hope & truth, by loving & teaching one by one. {1×1}

One last thing, an important thing I learned many years ago: If you feel you are in over your head with a conversation, like it’s gone beyond your personal training or knowledge of God (or the other person’s theology has you caught w/o an answer… ie. talking with a Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness or Muslim person etc.)… PRAY silently, find a graceful exit & seek Godly counsel from someone you trust! Take this as a chance for YOU to grow & seek out wisdom & training for the specific kind of conversation needed… We don’t send soldiers to the front lines without serious & extensive hands on training from masters of their skills… why would we try to fight a spiritual battle without the right tools & weapons or without excellent training? We are talking about the life/death of people’s souls. Let’s take it seriously friends!

Serving Others/Getting Hurt –

Q. – How is it that you can walk with people through the death of a child and siblings, the death of parents and in-laws, adoption of children, disabling injuries, marriages that are almost destroyed, drug and alcohol addictions, and when as soon as you say something they do not agree with, you are suddenly their ‘former pastor’??? How do we inspire loyalty?

A. – I know people that are living this daily, they are called to a community that didn’t ask them to teach them, doesn’t want to be challenged & pretty much thinks they have all ‘arrived’… being new in a town/country is lonely/hard enough, but each time they think Father has finally sent a true friend, they’ve been mistaken…  —  I have experienced this at times myself. In the midst of it, I was so blessed in growing even closer to Him. Looking back, I am blessed now, in how He is able to strengthen/protect our marriage/family in EVERY season, despite the adversity set up against it/us! As for loyalty, we need to point others to Jesus, not ourselves or our programs. If we can model loyalty to Jesus rather than man, then we are already halfway there. Like you would redirect a child, constantly be redirecting the people you serve. Remember to be a SERVANT leader as Christ is, & remember that if it is Christ they should be loyal to, then you can take it a little less personal when they walk away from you so easily. Let’s just pray they don’t completely walk out on HIM! We all need to be constantly re-learning to KEEP HIM as our BFF, our source & the only one we strive to please & be loyal to! Be encouraged friends, He SEES our struggle & He’s walked it Himself, He gives new grace for each day… Amen?!!

Bear with me friends, feel free to add your thoughts in the comments. I’m still learning all of this, I have certainly NOT ‘arrived’ yet! – So, it’s good to repeat it to you, as that helps me do it better myself! – I’d love to hear from you all, the truth is “Iron sharpens Iron”, we are meant to encourage & strengthen one another – just not made to depend on each other for our entire faith walk!

-JK

reaching, touching, Loving {1×1}

Mr. and Mrs. Au (sounds like “ow”) live with their 4 children in a room that is less than 40 sq.ft. Mr. Au works 6- 12 hours day, 6 days a week at the vegetable outlet nearby to earn about $1100 USD a month. That’s what keeps the Au family off the streets, this is how many families in Hong Kong survive. Their rent and utilities often take about 50% of their monthly income. On top of that, Mr. Au has the burden & duty of supporting his parents financially in rural mainland China. We met Mr. & Mrs. Au last November, nine years after they moved to HK. Some of our elderly friends from an older sub-divided flat had moved into the flat where the Au’s live. It was during our weekly visit with these friends, that we met the Au’s & others living there.

Mark & his volunteers took the Au Family to dinner one night last year for their weekly visit.

Mark & his volunteers took the Au Family to dinner one night last year for their weekly visit.

The whole unit is about 700 sqft, divided into 11 cubicles with plywood walls & doors. Each unit fits 1 or 2 bunk beds & a mini-fridge, with about 3 feet of floor space left over. The bathroom, kitchen & laundry ‘rooms’ are all ‘common area’ shared by all 11 units. The Au family is blessed with one of the larger units. Still, they manage to squeeze 3 small children, a teenage boy, mom & dad all into their 30 sqft cubicle, which is almost twice the size of their neighbor’s. They pay a pretty penny for the space too. The average sub-divided unit costs about $1800 HKD/m ($230 USD), which comes to approx. $6.60USD per square feet. To put that in perspective, the rent for our home in HK (about 680 sqft) is only $2.50USD per square foot… Our house in California is currently rented for less than $1 USD per square foot…

1x1 logo copywrightGetting to know new families in need is a regular part of life for us. It’s wonderful to bring groceries & deliver hot meals, but to really know someone & show them you care about them is to really make an impact & offer hope that brings new life! We want to impact our world, one family, one person, one SOUL at a time. {1×1} We have lived in HK for over a year, but we are only now beginning to see tiny, life changing moments that come from years of prayer & faithfully chasing after the dreams placed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Ours is not a swift journey nor a race for sprinters, it is a long & meticulous trek… meant to be run with endurance, patience & diligence. Paying attention to details & knowing people by name, caring for the individuals – which one day will make all the difference in the world, even if only to that one special person that God chose YOU to reach, touch or love for Him! We may not be able to save them all, but as “The Star Thrower” reminds us: “It made a difference to THAT ONE!

This family was fairly friendly from the start & the little ones looked forward to the little treats Mark brings on his weekly visits. In conversation with Mr. Au, Mark learned that Mrs. Au had struggled with depression when they lived in China. Part of her husband’s decision to move his family to HK was her health. He needed to go where he could earn enough money for his wife to be at home with the kids, where she wanted to be most of all. Instead of needing for both parents to work, only to never have enough to live on in China. It was clear to Mark, this man wanted the very best for his family & he loved his wife & children very much… So now we pray together for the Au’s often, the Lord puts them on our hearts 3-4 times a week. I enjoy hearing the updates after each of Mark’s visits, since I have only been out to their house once so far.

A couple months after meeting them, Mark invited Mr. & Mrs. Au to bring the whole family to a field trip & banquet day that he had organized through our work. They all came to the Pun Choy event in Jan., except for Mrs. Au who was not feeling well that day. I was excited to see them again & as we went through the different tours, I watched the kids laughing & playing with their dad. Over 300 people that we serve attended the outing, Mark & Kum Gee (“Gum Gee”), his co-worker,  had over 40 volunteers to help keep things in order. (The boys & I were there trying to help, but we certainly need to work on our Cantonese before the next time!) We toured a bakery that specializes in a Chinese specialty called “Wife Cake”. Then we took buses to an older area of HK where we had a walking tour of a “Heritage Village”. It was very neat to see a bit of Hong Kong’s colonial days through the old buildings that connect to each other with tiny, intertwined alleys.

Mr. Au & family eating at the Pun Choy with volunteers & other guests.

Mr. Au & family eating at the Pun Choy with volunteers & other guests.

Last stop for the day was the main event, the Pun Choy Dinner. Basically, it’s a huge pot of enormous amounts of food all cooking together over a small table top burner. While everyone ate, we had our team entertaining & teaching them. There were games & raffles, worship songs & prayer, & then a testimony of God’s faithfulness in the life of someone who had been part of our program in the past… This all ended with a time of fellowship while finishing the meal. Then came the opportunity for anyone that wanted to pray, for anything at all. Mr. Au prayed for his family & he prayed for Christ to change him & his life. He was instantly adopted into the family of God! What a wonderful day for the Au family!!!

Mr. Au prayed over his son & made a decision to follow Christ!

Mr. Au prayed over his son & made a decision to follow Christ while a volunteer prayed for his daughter.

When we go out in the world, we hope to make a difference. When we go home to our families, we hope to make a difference. The difference Mr. Au’s decision is making for his family is eternal. We are excited to walk with him through this time of change & growth. He will need support & encouragement, just like you & I do. This story is not the first of it’s kind, but it is one that touches my heart to the core. So many husbands & fathers make tough choices to help their families, thinking they are doing all they can. Striving in their own strength to get things right & make ends meet, wanting to teach their children right from wrong… Only to find out that it wasn’t enough. It’s never enough without Jesus. But now Mr. Au is getting the help, the peace, grace & power he’s been needing all these years. We’re so happy & excited for him, we’re blessed to be walking this journey with him! You might not think knowing this family is a big deal, but them knowing the Savior IS! When you & I make the time to love others, He makes ALL the difference! And He usually does it ONE BY ONE{1×1}

Recently we brought a Chinese children’s bible to the Au kids. On a later visit, the 5 year old told Mark that they had been reading it together (the 3 younger kids), & sometimes Mom was reading it too. What a sweet family they are! Will you join us in praying for the Au family? We just KNOW that God is doing a miraculous work in our midst, what a great day to be alive, a day when lives are changed & Christ is glorified!

-JK