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*





how the [ Other Half ] live

“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him,

how does God’s love abide in him?” -1 John 3:17


Many new & often strange food surrounds me in this land. From steamed chicken feet to cubed pig’s blood & of course, the bird’s nest soup! That last one definitely fell in the category of “Eating Ministry” adventures… Every now & then you take a risk that pays off, as I did with the Parma Ham with Melon a few weeks ago. Of course, this is not a big risk, unless you’re an avid ham avoider like myself… Turns out to be my new favorite fancy Italian dish & I’m sure I will find a way to make it for Thanksgiving! I am so grateful to our new friends for introducing me to it over a lovely meal at the beautiful Italian Restaurant, it was great to relax with them & enjoy the view of the city…

Parma Ham with Melon @ the Regal Hotel in HK.

Our friends happen to Manage the hotel where we ate with them. Many of our new friends & co-workers here seem to live in a different world – ‘On the other side’ as my grandfather might say… At first we didn’t quite know how we would fit or where, among people who clearly did not live like us. Didn’t we expect that? you ask… Sure, we expected to serve the poor & homeless, we hadn’t thought much about ‘the other half’… God is teaching us new things every day. – How can a housewife from California relate to a working mom who employs a live-in Nanny/Maid?? Well, I try to be real & genuine in everything I do & say. When I’m asked how can I possibly cook, clean AND homeschool my kids each day – I tell them the simple truth, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” I even share my failures, the times I lose my cool & yell at a kid… but I tell them how I’ve learned to ask for forgiveness from my boys as well. Sometimes we take for granted that an educated or wealthy person already has everything they need.

Our view from the Regal Hotel in Causeway Bay.

Lamborghinis parked in front of ‘box collectors’ (local elderly often recycle cardboard to pay their rent), church secretaries with their own private drivers; meanwhile, just down the street, Mark & I brought a box of flea collars to a man in a ‘cage home’. This city is one of contradiction & hypocrisy. Poor & wealthy share the same sidewalk without a glance at the other. The poor are often eager to hear our stories of Hope & Redemption… the rich are not as interested… So how DO you offer that which cannot be bought to someone who truly thinks they CAN buy happiness?? I don’t have the answers, but God does… I live my life unto Him. I trust that He will guide my relationships. Many of the people I come across cannot imagine simple daily tasks without paying someone to do it, they cannot fathom raising their own kids or making sacrifices in order to BE with their kids… I find it isn’t always just because they CAN, but sometimes because it’s the only way they know HOW to live. Those that are already grounded in a firm faith in Christ, like our friends at the hotel, they know the truth of God’s generosity & the purpose for their blessings… they give it away & they serve with their time in prayer & with their hands to heal & help others in the name of Jesus.

Boxes collected & waiting in North Point, HK.

The other day in our home group, one friend was sharing with another about how spending time doing devotions with her kids has brought them closer together. The other mother smiled politely & said she was sure it had, but she wouldn’t know how to begin. The first friend told her, “Well I learned from watching Joy with her kids – she will help you too & we can all do it together!” Thank you Lord, for showing me why you placed me here among people who don’t ‘look’ like they need anything I have to give. Thank you for humbling me everyday & reminding me how you work in the very simple & mundane tasks of washing dishes & sweeping floors – which is when I do devotions with my kids. So these ladies don’t have to wash, but they see the need for teaching their babies about Jesus. For that I am so grateful.

May my heart be tender & my ears open to the Holy Spirit every day I spend with my new friends. May I continue to trust Him more, serve Him better & walk humbly among both rich & poor – wherever He may lead me.


Joy & Jo with their English Students

a day in the life… Fridays in Hong Kong

Joseph & Wesley’s favorite building in HK.

I woke up feeling stuffy, realized the dehumidifier tank wasn’t emptied before bed last night. I kiss the hubby & oldest boy goodbye while I grab a quick cup of coffee. Having a long day ahead, I decide to actually eat breakfast today… Only to find out the milk was left out last night (not gonna work for cereal) & there’s NO TIME for eggs. Can’t do toast either on a ‘wheat free’ diet. So it’s time to get dressed then.

Kids dressed, snacks packed, can’t find the umbrella but at least we have deodorant. Gonna be a hot & sticky/wet day! We’re out the door an hour later, walking the half mile to the subway. But only after the elevator stops three times on the way down from the 51st floor! Hurry, get to the train…. Iyaahhh, missed it – so we waited 10m to catch the next one. (Most stations have trains every 2-5m, but we live at the end of the line.) Two trains and 45m later, the lil’s & I hiked another mile uphill at breakneck speed to make it on time to our appointment at the US Consulate. Trying to renew Mom & Dad’s passports. hen we arrived, we saw that everyone ELSE has a printed confirmation letter for their appointment. Not us. Quick prayer that the guard speaks decent English & that my name is on the list… After a few minutes of back and forth- I notice my name at the bottom of the page. 10:45 appointment instead of 10:15! Sigh!!! Well, at least we’re not late then.

The next guard kept our phone & video games in a locked box & we got through the metal detectors ok. Up the stairs, turn left, stand in line… “I haft to use the bathroom Mom!”… uh, not until we’re done kiddo! LOL Fill out the forms, stand in line again, go pay the cashier & wait. “Don’t have to go now Mom.” ??? Is that good or bad?? Hmmmm… We weren’t bored in the waiting area, plenty of interesting people to watch. A newly married couple getting a passport for their son. A man with a 1m baby asking how to prove his citizenship. The standard screaming toddler with older parents that don’t seem to care if she screams. Adorable sisters playing with the blocks. An older man with his much younger asian bride… The African-American (I know this only because he had an American passport, I suppose that might not mean anything though!) with his large bag of files, probably on his lunch break… A bit refreshing to see a few ‘Westerners’ all in one room I must say. The boys enjoyed the posters showing scenes from various US cities as well. Finally our turn. Turns out they don’t have to keep our passports! A relief to me. But also turns out I can’t get Mark’s renewed, not because he’s not there – but because somehow his picture is not in the same envelope as the rest of ours & therefore not in my purse as I had thought. Guess he’ll have to hike up the hill on his own some other time. Time to head out, come back next week to get my new passport!

On the way back to the train, we stop for some fun pics with whatever strikes the boy’s fancy. They are thrilled to have the day off school! We found their favorite building, they call it “The X building”, the Bank of China in Central. They love that it lights up & changes colors at night! – We arrived in North Point too early for lunch, so we hang out in Dad’s office for a bit saying “Hi” to friends as they come/go. The boys never tire of being the welcome committee or the center of attention! 🙂 Once we leave, we decide to work through lunch – that means helping Dad, Tryston & Miss Kam Gee (pronounced “Gum Gee”) to pack some of the food bags for the monthly distribution at ICAHK the next day. As we begin, there are groans & moans because the kids are all hungry. Pretty soon though, their conversation reflects the job. “So glad we can give this stuff to the poor people here in HK… they need some help sometimes”, “I’d rather be doing this than playing video games anyway, that game never made hungry people smile, but this bag will.”, “Yeah, at first we didn’t want to help & we were going slow… but now we’re into it because it’s great to show people how God has helped us so we can help them.”, “Yup, we’re going faster now too – how many bags can you pack per minute?!” — Aren’t these boys wonderful! All three were loving it before we left for lunch! As for me, it reminds me of days spent helping out at the San Fransisco Rescue Mission with our friends from City Impact Church.Mark & I hope to raise our boys to be Servant Leaders with a Servant’s Heart. It’s our daily prayer that we can each humble ourselves to serve everyone around us as Jesus did…

After a very Chinese lunch (the usual when we go out, or when we cook at home), it was time to teach English. We met up with our co-teachers at Chan’s Creative School & headed up to the 5th floor & our two classes. I don’t love walking them, but the view of the harbor from the outdoor stairs is lovely! Of course, now i wish i had taken a picture to show you… Mark & John teach 4/5th graders while Jo & I teach 28 First graders. It’s a fun challenge & the kids are all so eager to learn, especially when we hand out candy! After class Tryston told me about his new assignment from his piano teacher earlier in the morning… Hugs & goodbyes again, won’t see him until bedtime because he stayed at the church for Youth Group. It’s such a blessing that we can adjust our homeschool schedule to make it all work!

About the time we arrived home (walk to train, 20m on train, walk to complex, elevator, etc.) I had a pretty good headache brewing. no  doubt thanks to the crazy drastic weather changes. Thursday was bright, sunny & clear… while Friday was muggy, rainy & the air full of all types of pollution. The 90% humidity sure doesn’t help when it’s already 84* too! So I declared a resting afternoon, since we had to be out again at Home Group by 7:30… I managed to get myself ready to go by 7:15, mark walked in as we were walking out… Walking to our Host’s home was the easiest part of the day, they live only 2 towers (buildings) away in our 8 tower complex, which is all connected by the bottom 6 floors made of a parking garage, lobby/clubhouse & observation floors. Once again running late, only to find the Host wasn’t ready for us yet. Seems like everything in Hong Kong has a bit of the Hurry Up & Wait element. But we are getting used to it… however slowly.

We enjoyed the evening with friends. The boys watched a movie with the other kids & the adults simply shared how their week was & their needs for prayer & support. This is what fellowship is all about. There are times when we teach & discuss scripture lessons, but then on nights like this – the Holy Spirit shows us that true fellowship is balanced well. After prayer, there was food of course! I headed home early because that headache had hit full-blown migraine. One of the ladies gave me a pain-killer & I hit the pillow as soon as I walked in. Thankful to be so close to home… Whatever was in that pill did the trick tho- I was up about an hour later (after mark had come home & put everyone to bed) working on email & this blog… Maybe I should get me some of those pills!??

*Whew* There you have it friends. An average Friday with the Kwongs in Hong Kong! Now it’s Saturday, time for school with the kids while Dad is working… the weekend starts at 4pm & we get Sunday/Monday off so we can be on Dad’s schedule… It’s an adventure every week & every day… I keep praying that we make the most of it, shining for Jesus & learning as we go.

Servant Leaders – World Changers – Men of God!

Mark praying with a friend that received a food package.







Hope you enjoy walking the journey with us. Tell us about the memories you’re family is making!Joy & Jo with their English Students

dinner & a show… with a side of HOPE

Don’t Cry My Child – Homeless Scene

Last April the church we attend presented a beautiful & professional musical for the local community, the event was free to all. They had a packed house for two Saturday shows. Mark was honored to help the Manna Ministry coordinate the volunteers, food and transportation for the 700+ invited guests that attended the musical. Here is a short summary and testimony from our friends at ICAHK:

On 4/14/2012, ICAHK hosted a Cantonese musical called “Don’t cry, my child”.  The musical displays the true life story of a local Hong Kong man whose life was overtaken by gambling and failure, but through God’s grace He was Born Again! Through his new relationship with Jesus not only his life, but also his marriage and family were all restored…

Pastor Fraun (left) with the couple that the musical was written about.

More than 1,700 people showed up from all over Hong Kong. They came from almost 20 different non-profit organizations and churches.  ICA’s Manna Ministry invited more than 700 people from many less privileged areas of Hong Kong, we transported them to North Point from Fanling, Yuen Long, Tuen Mun, Tin Shui Wai, and Sham Shui Po as well.  Manna also hosted a luncheon for 400 people while another 100 people joined us for a Western Style ‘Chinese’ Buffet Dinner.  And thru it all, more than 76 people gave their lives to the Lord, and another 300 stated they want to know more about Jesus.  To God be the glory.

More info and pictures of the musical: Don’t Cry My Child

More info & pictures of Manna Ministry: Musical Lunch/Dinner Guests

These guests came from the farthest edges of the city.

Disadvantaged Teens enjoying dinner before the show.