Regarding Transitions…

“Before you go, will you teach us… ?”

Two years ago, this time seemed very far off and possibly beyond our reach. How did we manage to journey long enough down this road of language learning to be ready to leave our language school, our first launching pad? Did we really learn all the things? Can we truly say we speak Mandarin? Can anyone ever fully speak a second language though? It seems to be a never ending task of tweaking and perfecting. Absurdly, my teachers are confident that I have reached the point of being sent off on my own to continue the learning, out in the world, haha! (Mark, being a native Cantonese speaker, graduated over a year ago and has been patiently waiting for me to hurry up. *smile*) So in just six weeks we will be waiting for my final exam results and packing up the apartment – preparing to start a new chapter,  in a new city and province, in Southern China. The place we have told you about, you’ve shared our hopes and dreams and joined with us in our vision for helping people while learning about them and their culture. Sanya, the beautiful and tropical place that we’ve longed to plant our roots in, where we hope to live for many years to come, with a new and one day thriving business that brings light and love to all who enter!

But in order to get there, we must first leave here. Xi’an has been a place of growth for our family. It has held many treasured memories of firsts and friends that became family. This giant city (twice the size of Sitka, AK, the largest city in the USA) has been a place of learning, both language and culture, as well as some harder life and spiritual lessons. And it’s also been a difficult place, so very overwhelmingly so at times that we could hardly catch our breath. The kind of place that forces you to hold tight to those that will still love you when the fires go out and the flood waters fade. We have learned to be brave and strong and to love our family fiercely. Thankfully, we have also learned to be gentle and vulnerable and to be more lovable when others come alongside us… In the midst of these reflections, my thoughts are interrupted by the pressing needs. Packing, organizing, purging, cleaning, studying, grading, doctors (oh so many doctors this year!), translating doctor reports, newsletters, work reports, charging the scooter, buying groceries, cooking, bathing, etc, etc. 🙂 How does one simply pack up their whole life and family and start fresh in a new place, in a foreign country… all over again?!

This is our ‘normal life’ friends. Although we hope this is our last BIG move for a long while, we have grown accustomed to it over the last eight years. Eight years of constant transition. What I know for sure about it is, we must leave well in order to start over well. Our race isn’t over, but our time in this place soon will be. So how do we manage that time? It starts with preparing our hearts and our spirits to say a lot of “See you later”s to dear friends, neighbors, classmates, and teachers that have become family. This can take a lot of prayer and it can hit you by surprise when the ones you least want to leave start to, as great friends will, become excited for you. They ask you questions and talk about a time when you will be practically on the other side of the country and doing new things. They want to hear all the plans – and all you can think is “But then I won’t see you every single morning. Maybe not for many months… or even years! I will miss you dear one!”

That’s about how my week was going, rather by the book so to speak. Then came the new line of questions I had never prepared for. ~~ “Before you go, will you teach us more about raising kind and helpful kids?” “We want you both to help us with pre-marital counseling while you’re still here, do you have time?” “Maybe you can write a book or come back sometimes to teach *Word & *Truth classes?” “I can gather some friends, I think it’s very important that you give us a marriage seminar. How about after the holiday – but before you move?!” ~~ You see, most of our language teachers like to ask us questions during class. Things they really want to know, but also to get us to answer in Mandarin using new vocab and grammar. We never expected that they would miss those talks or that those conversations were much more than curiosity about the foreigners’ ways. Yet, over the months of daily classes, some of our teachers have really poured out their hearts and in turn we have shared ours freely. Not only will we miss those precious moments with these very dear ones… but we desire to grant every single request we possibly can before we make this big transition from the big city (Xi’an), to Sanya (Which is SMALL by Chinese standards, but still about the size of Jacksonville, FL (the 5th largest city in the USA by landmass).

And how to finish well? We are choosing to be purposeful and loving in how we prepare ourselves, our kids (their transition stuff is a whole other post full!), and our dearest friends for our departure. Between the travel, phone calls, emails… amid rental agreements, class time, grading papers and doctors… we have scheduled time out of packing and studying for special lunch visits, game nights, play-dates and even a friend’s wedding. We have plans to take our kids on one last adventure trip with friends during the upcoming school break (although not together – half of us are going north and the other half south). And yes, we will teach a marriage seminar, we will counsel other friends in preparation for their wedding (which we hope to come back to attend next year!), and we will take time to pray and fellowship with many more beloved ones that have become our “China family” these last two years!

Maybe after the move I will think about writing that book. Let’s start with just getting back to writing here on this blog once a week. Or even once a year, that would be good! Guess I don’t have to tell you what being a full time language student and homeschool mom living in China has done to my “free time” or rather, my “writing time”. *grin*

 

-JK

 

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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

growth for Christmas {a transformed life}

Pain. Fear. Ambulance. Patience. Humility. Hospital. Heroes. Knight. Boredom. Frustration. Disappointment. Peace. Rest. Swelling. Bruising. Quiet. Study. Worship. Lonely. Immobility. Crutches. R.I.C.E. Delegate. Acceptance. Teamwork. Dependance. Creativity. Laughter. Innovation. Decorating. Loud. Messy. Love. Christmas. Courage. Growth. Trust. Shopping. Silly. Antics. Careful. Rehabilitation. Exhausted. Sore. Word. Spirit. God. Husband. Wife. Kids. Family.

HK ambulanceWhat a week. These words are only a few of the moments & feelings we have come through. Last Wed. as we prepared for an afternoon shopping trip & then meeting Dad for a nice dinner out… I fell & sprained my ankle! It was horrible because I couldn’t stand on it & my three boys were at a loss for how to help me… I hated that moment, feeling like I had let them down, scared them & put them in such a hard position. I was afraid it was broken too. Don’t really remember the last time I did anything that hurt that much, other than childbirth & kidney stones I guess. Dr’s called it a ‘severe ankle sprain’ (no break), Mark says it’s like a Grade 2 ‘high ankle sprain’ which is worse than the norm I guess… Turns out you’re NOT supposed to walk on your foot (or your ankle) when it’s fallen asleep! Go figure!

busted ankleNeedless to say, I’ve been laid up on the couch for the last week! It’s been a time of major stretching & growth for our whole family. I’m sure it’s not over yet – since I have one more week of no walking (except with crutches) & likely another 3-6wks of healing to go after I start putting weight on it. In all, I’m proud of my family – we’ve started to really pull together & work as a team. Maybe we’re learning more about what it takes to be a strong family, or maybe everyone else is just finally realizing all that Mom does around here! Ha ha! Now that I can’t get up & just do stuff, they have to HELP ME in addition to all of their responsibilities… what’s more is they have to do all the things I would normally do around here – or be frustrated when it isn’t done! Everyone has to help pick up the slack, but isn’t that the point of a team?? Isn’t that the point of the Body of Christ?? Aren’t we all part of both, this family Kwong & the family of God?! Taking time to talk about it with the kids, so they will actually GET the lesson while they live it, that seems important to me… & yet so hard to do! Seems crazy, since I have no where to go, stuck on the couch! But there is much to do while I sit here, besides icing my ankle. {grin} Like catching up on correcting/grading homework that has been on my desk for weeks, emails & scheduling for the US Team that will be here right after Christmas & helping kids with math! (oh yay, how fun! LOL)

mom on crutchesAs for the personal lessons God has brought for me, I’m praying & working through each of them. From patience & humility to showing my gratefulness & giving grace to others… & allowing my feelings of disappointment over missing out on things/activities that I just can’t go to right now – but then choosing to rest in the Spirit & enjoy the extra time I have to be in the Father’s presence rather than dwell on what was missed! The biggest lesson so far, the one I haven’t ever had many chances to work on, was trusting my 4 guys with taking care of things that are normally totally up to me. Specifically, shopping for Christmas decorations! It took a lot of soul searching to really be ready to “LET GO” of the control on this one, but the only other choice was to not have it done until I can walk well enough to go out on the train again (maybe 3 weeks). Well, we’d already be past Christmas by then, & if not – everything would be sold out anyway, like it was last year when we arrived in Hong Kong, just 9 days before Christmas! This is my favorite time of year, I love to focus on Jesus & the Father’s gift, & family shopping & decorating time is all part of setting the tone… We didn’t have room to bring many decorations with us, & last year we arrived pretty low on funds & too late for buying things – so this was the time I’d waited all year for – to go out & stock up on great decorating treasures (& great deals on prices too!)… Waiting on Mom to heal first was simply NOT an option this week!

door wreathSo… I sent them off with my list & a prayer. Then I called my Gramma & told her how “My plan is to be prepared & at the very least, to say ‘Thank You!’ & NOT CRY no matter what they bring home!!” — But I was worried for nothing! My amazing Husband, my hero, actually called & skyped with me from the store so that I could still help decide on things!!! I was nervous when it sounded like the kids were fighting, but later I found out he got them all Root Beer (very hard to find in Hong Kong) & they were angels the rest of the day! When they came home, the treasures found were just right, they all did a GREAT job!

decorating the treeNow here I am, delegating cleaning, cooking & laundry jobs, as well as explaining where all the decorations should go… It’s beginning to look a ‘little’ like Christmas in here! We’re gearing up for our Home Group Christmas party this Friday. It will be a big TEAM Kwong effort to get the house looking great while Mom is couch-bound. But I’m confident that we can do it! between the shopping adventure & our home-made decor (thanks to Pinterest ideas!), we’ve gotten a lot done already! I can’t wait to be up & running again, but I’m so grateful that God is always growing us & teaching us through every little bump in the road! My family is stronger today & I am going to be able to release them into even more new adventures as we come up on our 1 year mark since moving here… Our next year in Hong Kong is already looking to be even brighter than the first! Can’t wait to see what lessons Jesus has for us in 2013, it’s gonna be epic I’m sure!!

laptop crafting  blue starflakecrafting

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, [even] as by the Spirit of the Lord.” -2 Corinthians 3:18

“Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” -2 Corinthians 5:17

-JK

DON’T LEAVE me daddy!

LOST.

ALONE.

LEFT BEHIND.

These are things I feared as a child & now have come to fear even more as a mother of three boys… in Hong Kong. The very thought of one of my boys being lost, scared & alone anywhere… much less a foreign city of 7 million fast paced people, few of which speak enough English to understand a young child… just rips through all my facades & shows my true colors!!! So much so that we have prayed through this concern & very real possibility & then we have put in place a safety plan.

Joseph giving an elderly homeless person a hot dinner & a blessing in Cantonese: 耶穌愛你 = “Jesus loves you!”

Last week, we almost had to test that plan. All 6 of us (including our house guest for the month, Stephani) went out to serve the homeless near Mark’s office. On the way there, we were rushing from one subway train to catch another across the platform. 4 of us made it on the train, I was almost in when the doors closed ON ME & I had to back out… As I did, I bumped into my precious 8 year old son, Joseph… I was stunned, instantly realizing that he had almost been LEFT ALONE on that platform with about 1,000 strangers & very far from home. I grabbed him & held him tight as we both watched our family leaving through the windows of the fast train… Once it was gone, Joey began sobbing & buried his face in my shirt. I knew that feeling overtaking him. I was feeling it too… SO CLOSE. TOO CLOSE! It became so much more real, the likelihood of being LOST in this foreign place. All I could do to comfort him was to tell him I was with him & that God hadn’t let Mommy get on the train, instead, God had protected Joe by keeping Mommy with him!!! Then we went over THE PLAN again (reminding him that God will NEVER leave him, even if Mom HAD got on the train!) as we waited for the next train & I texted Mark so he would know where we’d meet up with the rest of them.

Before moving here, we would take our kids to the California State Fair every year. We’d repeat the same talk we gave at Disney Land… “YOU are never LOST because you always know where YOU are – but if you can’t find MOM & DAD here’s the PLAN…” – You know the drill, stay put & look for a safe person to talk to. An employee with a name tag. A Police Officer. Or last resort, a Mommy with kids around. No strange men, no other strangers, no wandering off to find someone’s puppy!!! Right??

So what’s the plan in HK? 7 million people. No name tags. Very little English. LOTS of strangers. Lots of men… Well, to start our little ones have Dad’s business card on them most of the time (which is in Eng. & Cantonese). The second half of the plan is to STAY PUT!!! FREEZE!!! Because in a city like this where everyone is moving, the only way to find you is for someone to retrace their steps to the last place they HAD you. Only if you can SEE a “safe” person to ask for help are you to move! (Obviously we hope they will not freeze in the middle of the street. *grin*) But even then, stay very close so we can come back for you!

I believe all of us have felt that deepest of fears before. Fear of being left all alone, in a world that is often unkind & unforgiving. Even in your home town, you may feel everything around you is foreign… It is! We were not created to live in this fallen world. We are not OF this world friends! — I know I have had many moments in my life where I have felt like saying “Don’t leave me Daddy!!”… And I had TWO Daddies! But neither of them could be there always. Neither could save me from myself or from the world that closed in on me… I was very lost! — So how do we get “HOME”?? After all my years of striving to do everything on my own & do it right, or at least do the wrong things well enough to get noticed… I finally discovered the only Father who will never leave me. God loves each of us so perfectly & so completely, more than any earthly father & His love will never fail. He will never leave us alone. With God, we are never lost or forsaken. There are days though, that you simply need to KNOW THE PLAN of how to get back on track when you lose your way. I am here to tell you friends, JESUS IS THE PLAN. He is the truth, the life & the way – straight into the arms of your Heavenly Father who loves you!

eating Yu-Don

The guys enjoying Yu-Don (fish balls) on our outing!

If you ever want to know how Mark & I found our way through Jesus, ASK! We are more than happy to share our stories… & we are praying for your journey as well! Be blessed my friends & remember to talk to your kids about THE PLAN. Both a safety net for getting separated from Mom/Dad… & how they can always get back to God through Jesus! He’s always ready to lead us to our Father God – & right now is a good time!

“Jesus said unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life:

no man comes unto the Father, but by me.” -John 14:6

~JK