Filling the Void

28 02 2016

It wasn’t all that long ago that China was seen as one of the weakest, poorest and most backward countries in Asia.  My how the times have changed!

Ever since Deng Xiao Ping’s visit to southern China in 1992, where he indicated a willingness to revolutionize China’s economic planning, the country has been furiously playing catch up to the economic prosperity of the western industrialized countries.

The fact that China has lifted so many out of poverty and become so powerful so quickly is remarkable.  But in the process, China may be in the process of becoming one of the most materialistic countries in the world!  If you don’t believe me, consider the following.

A few years ago an online survey was done to study what the important things in life are to people in countries around the world.  When asked to respond to the following question, “I measure my success by the things I own,” seventy-one percent of the respondents from China agreed.  Interestingly, 68% of Chinese respondents also agreed with the following statement, “I feel under a lot of pressure to be successful and make money.”  Most people in China are no longer concerned about where their next meal is coming from (although that problem still exists for many, especially in rural areas), but rather they’re more concentrated on making money.

For many young people in China, the Chinese New Year holiday period (also known as Spring Festival) is a time for them to travel back to their hometown to visit with parents and family friends. Earlier this year, on the Chinese version of Twitter (Weibo), the question was posed:  “What questions are you most dreading for Spring Festival?”  It didn’t come as much of a surprise that two of the questions had to do with finances: “How much money are you making?” and “Do you have a house and a car?”

Chinese shopping habits

Shopping for luxury goods – Image Credit: China Daily

And that drive to buy continues, as evidenced by an e-commerce survey in 2015 which showed that “Chinese consumers – especially younger generations – are less price obsessed … this opens new opportunities for full price e-commerce for premium and luxury brands.”  As one analyst noted, “Chinese consumers have a significant propensity to spend, they are technology savvy and want the best quality.

Not far from where we live is one of the busiest shopping malls in Hong Kong – Shatin Town Plaza.  Over the past several years we have noticed an increase in the number of high-end stores in this mega-mall. Stores such as Coach, Lacoste, Armani, Burberry (the list is extensive), all geared to attract visitors from China to come in and shop.  From clothing, to electronics, to women’s make-up, to jewelry, they can’t get enough.  And if you thought the crowds at your local mall were bad around the holidays, you would not believe how busy this place is on an average weekend.

Some in China are taking this ‘grab for things’ to a whole new level.  Last fall, on China’s largest retail holiday – also known as Singles Day (November 11th) – Alibaba, the Chinese online shopping platform, recorded $8 billion USD in sales in the first 8 minutes of the day!  I’m presuming it was mostly single men and women who indulged in a self-centered shopping spree that day, with Alibaba raking in a record $14.3 billion USD.  And they had a lot to choose from, with Alibaba reporting that they were able to attract more than 40,000 merchants and 30,000 brands (such as Macy’s, Apple, and Estee Lauder) from 25 countries.  With Daniel Craig, Kevin Spacey and various Chinese celebrities as part of the marketing push for this day, who couldn’t resist the buying spree!

One of the most popular TV dating shows in China is called “If You Are the One” (非诚勿扰).  The creator of this widely-popular program has said that its success is due to the fact that “the show is a window into Chinese society at large, and that through it, you can tell what China is thinking about and chasing after.”  If that’s the case, then China has some serious problems. One of their earliest contestants gained notoriety when she turned down an offer for a date with a contestant on his bicycle by telling him, “I’d rather cry in a BMW car than laugh on the backseat of a bicycle”.  If you think she’s the only who thinks like that, check out these stories.

Single's Day Shopping 2015

Rushing to fill Single’s Day shopping orders – Image Credit: Reuters

So how did China get here?  How did China go from being one of the more backward and poor countries in the world, to a country whose people are doing their best to “buy up” everything as quickly as possible?

Someone, I don’t know who, made the following astute observation that just might explain it all: “Mao set out to destroy Confucianism and succeeded; Deng set out to destroy Maoism; and succeeded. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to replace it with anything.”

Along those same lines, is this quote from Blaise Pascal: “What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace?  This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”

With nothing to fill this void, increasingly over the past 30 years, the people of China have tried to fill it with “material things.”  I would not want the people of China to return to the days of starvation and economic backwardness of much of the 1900’s, but I’m not sure that the path they’re going down will bring them what they’re really looking for.

King Solomon wisely noted in Ecclesiastes 3 that, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven,” which I believe even includes buying things.  But Solomon goes on to note that “God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).  God has given each of us an awareness that there is something more to this life than what we can see and experience in the here and now – something more than just the latest gadget, or the most expensive item on our wish list. We’ve been created with a spiritual thirst that nobody and nothing can satisfy … except God.

A Beijing professor may have summed it up best when he said: “The worship of Mammon (in China) … has become many people’s life purpose … I think it is very natural that many other people will not be satisfied … will seek some meaning for their lives so that when Christianity falls into their lives, they will seize it very tightly.”

Pray with us that Christ-followers in China will be instrumental in leading their family members, friends and neighbors to personally experience the truth of 1 Timothy 6:17 – “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”

Until next time,

Joel & Debbie Chute

ICS middle school camp will take place from March 22-24. Please PRAY for our speaker, who will give messages based on Christ’s death and resurrection, as well as what God’s purpose for our new life in Him. PRAY for the times of interaction that students have with teachers and fellow students. Nightly devotional times provide times to share openly. PRAY that teachers would have wisdom and insight (and energy!), and that the Holy Spirit would be guiding during all of these times – that walls will be removed and God’s Spirit would break through to students’ hearts.

With the extended Chinese New Year holidays coming to a close, students in Guangxi have returned to renew their studies at training centers across the province. These training classes are great opportunities for these men and women to go deeper in their understanding of Scripture, and also learn skills that will help them give leadership to evangelism and discipleship ministries in their local churches.  PRAY for God’s anointing on each of the teachers who lead these classes, as they not only share information with their students, but also help them apply what they have learned in their lives and ministries.



What a View!

7 10 2015

I have had the privilege over the past 16 years of traveling around the province of Guangxi, and one of my favorite places to visit there is in the northeastern corner of the province – the city of Guilin.  At the end of September I was able to travel there with a family friend (and grandson of a pioneer missionary to Guangxi), and show him the amazing scenery there, including a trip down the Li River from Guilin to YangShuo.

With that in mind, we thought it would be nice to share some of our pictures from that area as well as a few other parts of Guangxi with you here.

Tour boats sailing down the Li River (Guilin to YangShuo)

Tour boats sailing down the Li River (Guilin to YangShuo)

Terraced rice fields and mountains in central Guangxi

Terraced rice fields and mountains in central Guangxi

Cattle grazing along the Li River between Guilin & YangShuo

Cattle grazing along the Li River between Guilin & YangShuo

Bamboo raft floating down the Li River

Bamboo raft floating down the Li River

Mountains surrounding the town of LiGao—central Guangxi

Mountains surrounding the town of LiGao—central Guangxi

Mountains on the Li River outside of YangShuo

Mountains on the Li River outside of YangShuo

If these photos whet your interest in the scenery of the area, check out this amazing video.  If you’re interested in making your own plans to visit Guilin, contact us – we’d be glad to show you the beauty of the area, and what God is doing in this part of Guangxi.

Often when traveling across Guangxi and seeing these magnificent mountains and amazing scenery, my mind goes back to the words of King David in Psalm 121:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains — where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip — he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you — the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm — he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

Pray with us that the people of Guangxi would come to experience the personal love and care of the God who created these amazing mountains.

Until next time,
Joel & Debbie Chute

PRAISE God for providing leaders for all 15 discipleship groups within the middle school at ICS.  These groups will involve 100+ students (approximately one third of the middle school). Some of these are continuing from last year – new groups will start to meet the first week of October. PRAY that relationships of trust will be developed, the Holy Spirit would guide conversations and that faith would be encouraged and strengthened.

With the end of a week-long holiday in China for their Mid-Autumn festival and National Day celebrations, students attending training classes at numerous locations in south central China returned to the classroom on October 5th. These training classes are focused on training and equipping local believers to give leadership as lay leaders and pastors for the church in southern central China.  PRAY that these men and women would not only develop a deeper understanding of the Scriptures through these times of instruction, but would also move to a deeper level of commitment in their walk with God.

Many of heard of the deadly explosions in LiuCheng, Guangxi at the end of September that killed seven people and injured at least another fifty individuals. PRAY that believers in LiuCheng and surrounding areas would be messengers of God’s peace and compassion to those who have impacted by these terrifying events.

I Need a Nap – Now!

1 09 2015

Back in the day when he was crossing the oceans by ship, Benjamin Franklin is credited with writing the following: “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”  If he were alive today in an age where long distance air travel is common, I think he just might add one more thing to his list of certainties in life – jet lag!

If you have ever done any long distance air travel, you will know what I’m talking about. You’ve left your home and have sat on a plane for several hours, crossing several time zones, and by the time you’ve collected your luggage at your destination, your body begins telling you that some things are out of whack.Jet-Lag-Asleep

Over a seven week period this summer, we had four such flights – two within the continental United States, and two between Hong Kong and Portland, Oregon. As is often our experience, it takes some time to recover from flying across the Pacific Ocean, crossing 8 time zones, and enduring the 11-12 hour flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco. By the time we arrived at our final destination, Salem, Oregon – the local time was 12 noon, but our inner clock was telling us it was 3 am (the time in Hong Kong)!  All we wanted to do was sleep, but we knew we had to stay awake as long as we could, to try and get our bodies to adjust to our new time zone.  Each night it was a battle to stay awake as long as we could, and then hope we would sleep through the night, and not wake up at 3 or 4 am wide awake and ready to start the day!

It always takes us several days to fully adjust to being in a new time zone, but it’s different for each person, and for each trip.  NASA has estimated that you’ll need one day for every one-hour time zone crossed to get back to your normal rhythm and energy levels – which may explain why it can take us up to a full week before we feel we’re back to ‘normal’.

Different people have different ways of dealing with their jet lag – some take a pill to sleep during the entire flight, others try and adjust their sleep schedule ahead of time to match the time zone at their destination – there are all sorts of different methods that people try.

Recently I asked our world-traveling friends on Facebook for their ideas on how to get over jet lag. Included in the responses was this somewhat humorous reply – “don’t travel!”  There has been many a time when I considered taking that option!

But as I considered this, I quickly realized that if I didn’t travel … look at all that I would miss out on!  This summer, a good friend of ours shared her story of a short-term missions trip to Russia – with barely enough time to deal with her jet lag there before it was time to return home.  And yet, in the midst of having to deal with different time zones, sleeping schedules, and people speaking a foreign language, she was able to be a part of and see God at work in the lives of the people she was visiting.  Like her, we would not have wanted to miss all that we have seen God doing in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China over the past 26 years, just because of the ‘inconvenience’ of jetlag.Int'l Air Travel

We can tell you from personal experience, that no matter how many times you deal with jet lag, it never gets easier.  But if we just stayed put – if we never ventured out our door and past the borders of our city, province, state or country – we would have missed a great opportunity to see God at work in our lives, and in the lives of those he brought us into contact with. Even with all the jet lag we’ve been through, it has been worth it.

So the next time you have that opportunity to travel overseas – whether it’s as part of a short-term missions team, for leisure, or to visit friends, don’t let the certainty of jet lag stop you – you just might be surprised at what God has in store for you!

Until next time,

Joel & Debbie Chute


We know that it has been a ‘while’ since we last posted on our blog – thanks for your patience and your prayers for us during this time!

PRAY for positive relationships to be developed between students and teachers and parents at International Christian school this school year.  Classes began the middle of August, and students will have the opportunity in the next few weeks to join a discipleship group, led by faculty or staff.  PRAY that students who need this type of encouragement would be willing to step out to be part of a group.  Also PRAY that God would lead specific teachers or staff to become leaders of these discipleship groups.

Several different training classes are schedule to start up again the middle of September at numerous locations in south central China. These training classes are focused on training and equipping local believers to give leadership as lay leaders and pastors in this needy part of China. PRAY that those teaching these classes will be empowered by the Holy Spirit to clearly present their materials in ways that will strengthen and encourage these students.

Here and There – Part II

30 10 2013

Previously, we shared some insights about living overseas, and in particular dealing with the daily issues of getting around a mega city like Hong Kong. In this blog, we’re going to talk about what it’s like to stay in ‘one’ place, your place of residence.

Where to Live

Our current dining-living room.

Our current dining-living room.

If you don’t like tight and tiny places, Hong Kong is probably not the place for you.  There are some beautiful homes and luxury apartments in Hong Kong, but unless you (or the company you work for) have deep pockets, you’re not going to be able to afford something like that.  With limited land space, most people live in apartments – and most tend to be small in size (by North American standards). Living in Hong Kong requires most of us to learn to deal with living in smaller spaces – on average, a Hong Kong family of four will live in an apartment that is 540 square feet or less in size. [The prices for apartments continue to rise, with the average price of a small 400 square foot apartment here in Hong Kong now at $635,000 US.]  If you and your family are intent on finding a ‘nice sized’, three bedroom apartment, be prepared to spend at least $2,300 US a month in rent.

Pictorial Garden Kitchen

This is our ‘large’ kitchen – & yes I cook!

Once you find an apartment to live in, there are some other issues to deal with.  You will have to be creative if you want to fit everything into your small sized apartment. Our fridge is currently sitting in our dining/living room area (right next to the kitchen), since there wasn’t enough room in the kitchen for both it and the stove.  It’s not just a matter of figuring out where to put the major appliances that will demand your attention, but where will you put all of your other stuff? Most apartments do not have built-in closets, nor is there a lot of extra room for storage, so we bought a queen-sized hydraulic bed with storage underneath.  In addition to using every available space, you will also need to learn how to downsize on a regular basis – usually every time you move.

Once you have become accustomed to your new living space, you will begin to realize something else.. With anywhere between five and seven other apartments on the same floor where you live, you will get to know a lot about your neighbors.  For instance, due to the poor ventilation in most kitchens, you’ll often be able to smell what they’re cooking for supper that night.  Sound travels well through the concrete walls, so you’ll be able to hear what piece your neighbor’s child is playing on the piano, or the music they’re playing on their sound system.  Learning to adapt to neighbors has a different spin in the context of close quarter apartment living.

We acknowledge that Hong Kong is anything but a ‘hardship’ posting.  The standard of living here is quite high, and compared to so many other places in the world, it is a very comfortable and easy place to live.  However, I will admit that it has been a challenge at times to live in an apartment, and there have been times when we’ve missed the large open spaces of a house and yard back in North America.  But we’ve learned over these years not to expect life in Asia to be the same as what we grew up with – to accept the fact that it’s just different.  We have learned to adapt to whatever the circumstances might be in each new apartment – whether it be a small kitchen, little storage space, noisy streets, little room for children to play or some other challenge. So until the time comes for us to return to North America, we will make the most of wherever we live here in Hong Kong – to be thankful for God’s provision and to be in the place He has called us to.

Until next time,
Joel & Debbie


Earlier in October Debbie’s dad fell and fractured his hip and shoulder.  He was returning from a Sunday church service, and fell after getting out of the car in his driveway.  He has already undergone surgery on his hip, but all they can do for his shoulder right now is keep it stable.  PRAY with us that he would experience God’s healing as well as His comforting presence as he undergoes rehab in the coming weeks.

There has been a small outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease at ICS, particularly in the middle school.  PRAY for healing and protection, especially as these MS students prepare to leave in less than two weeks on Week Without Walls trips.

We PRAISE God for Joel’s safety during his recent trips into China. One of the main focuses of his trips was connecting with church leaders who oversee Sunday School programs in their churches.  The response to the training session for SS teachers this summer that Joel helped plan was very encouraging – PRAY that Joel would have wisdom and discernment as he works with these leaders to find resource materials for teachers, as well as for partner churches who would come alongside these needy churches.

Here and There – Part I

15 09 2013

Many of you have probably traveled outside of Canada or the United States, and seen what it’s like in a foreign country – at least for a week or two, or maybe a bit longer.  While those short term trips give you a glimpse of what life is like outside of North America, you know that it’s only a couple more weeks before you head back to the comforts of home.  But what would you do if you were called on to live here in Asia for the next couple of years?  With that in mind, I have jotted down a few thoughts to go with some pictures from here in Hong Kong to give you another insight into what it’s like living overseas.

Out and About
Whenever we’re back in North America, we’re used to driving just about wherever we want to go – but here in Hong Kong it’s a different story.  As we have said in previous blogs, Hong Kong has a great public transportation system – so most people don’t own a vehicle (the density of cars is among the highest in the world, with 530 registered vehicles per km²). With gasoline at $2.18 US/litre ($8.25/US gallon), and parking spaces at a premium, it’s more practical for most people to use a variety of public transportation (mostly buses, trains and subways) to get around.

However, if you do decide to drive a vehicle here in Hong Kong, you had better make sure you know where you’re going.  The roads do not have large shoulders to pull off and park – even just for a minute.  Even if you’re aided by a GPS device, you should be aware of two unwritten rules of the road here: (1) the bigger the vehicle, the more right of way you have; (2) fight to be first – fear to be last.  The first rule is pretty self-explanatory, while the second one is more of an attitude by some of the drivers (especially taxis).

Trying to walk through a mall in Hong Kong

Trying to walk through a mall in Hong Kong

Public transport is convenient, but getting around Hong Kong still requires a lot of walking.  For us, we have a 5-minute walk from the front of our apartment complex to the nearest bus stop – that’s just the first leg of anywhere we want to go.  In North America, it was a 10-second walk to the car in the driveway, and then a 30-second walk from the car to the mall – depending on how close a parking space we could find!  So if you plan on moving to (or even visiting) Hong Kong, you’ll need a good pair of walking shoes, and make sure you’re in good enough shape to walk from where public transport lets you off to your eventual destination.

One major aspect that everyone deals with sooner or later here is the crowds. Most North Americans are used to having their own ‘personal space’ when they’re out and about, but here in Hong Kong you have to find a way to contend with the crush of people. Whether you’re just walking down the sidewalk, shopping in a store, strolling through the mall or traveling on any of Hong Kong’s mass transit systems (bus, subway or train) – sooner or later you’ll find yourself trying to work your way through the mass of people.  As we mentioned before, people have their own way of walking, and the challenge is to safely and quickly work your way through the crowd – something that will most definitely test your patience.

The reality is that getting around Hong Kong is quite different than most cities in North America.  It is easy (and common) for expats to become exasperated with the way locals move from place to place.  Being constantly pushed out of one’s comfort zone can sometimes drive even the most patient person to the point of frustration.

Traveling on the KCR (train) in Hong Kong.

Traveling on the KCR (train) in Hong Kong.

For instance, you will have to face the ‘fight to be first – fear to be last’ attitude when traveling on Hong Kong’s train & subway system.  There you will encounter people trying to get to the front of the line (one way or the other, even if that means cutting in front of you) so they can be the first one onto the subway car (to find one of the few empty seats). Or they will push to be at the front of the door when it opens to exit (so they can be the first one to get to the nearest escalator), which will allow them to be the first person in line for the next train or bus!

The sooner you realize, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, that you’re not in Kansas anymore, you can start learning and adjusting to the local customs and habits. The challenge (as I see it) in getting around Hong Kong is not so much being prepared to do more walking, or learning how to negotiate the crowds to get on the bus or train, but it’s to be willing to adapt to a different mindset and a different way of life.

We have lived here in Asia since 1989, and while I would like to think I have adapted to the Hong Kong lifestyle, there are still days when my annoyance with cultural differences reminds me of my egocentric nature.  Learning to exhibit grace under pressure is something we all need to practice – whether it be as we are jostled in getting on the subway here in Hong Kong, or when you are cut off by someone in traffic on your way home today!

Until next time,
Joel & Debbie

In her role as Bible class teacher, Debbie has 90 seventh graders to work with – all with their own personalities and unique characteristics!  PRAY that Debbie would take the time to listen to the Holy Spirit’s prompting, and be given wisdom in preparing for classes, as well as in those “teachable moments” with her students.

Thank you for praying for our daughter Janelle.  We are thankful that she was able to find an apartment in the LA area to rent with a college friend, and they were able to move in at the end of August.  Continue to PRAY with us that she would be able to find full-time work related to her area of studies – exercise science.

We PRAISE God that Joel’s application for a new China visa was approved without any delays.  Joel will be traveling to Guangxi this coming week (September 16-22) to meet with church leaders in two key cities.  PRAY for wisdom and discernment as he follows up about recent leadership training sessions and has the opportunity to share with them on a deeper more personal level.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

19 08 2013

I’m not sure who wrote it, but someone once said “Every summer has a story”. It may seem early to some of you for us to be writing “how I spent my summer vacation” before the end of August.  But for many of the ex-pat community here in Hong Kong – including ourselves – our summer vacation is already over.

School ended mid-June, and we took advantage of the 6½ week break to travel back to North America again this summer.  It was an opportunity for us to visit family, friends and to speak at a couple of churches in the Pacific NW.

Having fun on Lower Table Rock - Medford, OR

Having fun on Lower Table Rock – Medford, OR

The highlight for us was seeing all of our grown children – spending a few days with each of them, even if that meant some extra travel for us. Spending a day & a half with our son Nathan and his wife Jasmine exploring the sights in southern Oregon – attending a baseball game in Detroit with Ryan, Janelle and Debbie’s dad – it was great being able to have the chance to catch up with each other face to face.

While it seemed that we were more busy than we would have liked with all of our traveling, there were definitely some aspects that helped us relax, including the wide-open spaces, fresh air, green grass and slower pace of life.  Life in Hong Kong is so different in so many ways than what most people in North America experience – and the break from the more hectic pace, the densely populated small area and humid climate was worth it.

But for those who stayed in Hong Kong over this summer – what was there for them to do?  When the majority of people live in apartment buildings, there’s no backyard for the kids to go hang out in. With most parents already placing a strong focus on education, many students spent part of their summer attending a summer school program. The ICS summer program welcomed 1,200 students from ages 3-15 who attended during the month of July, with a variety of courses offered – all using an English language base.

It’s not only international schools that offer these summer programs.  Earlier this year we received a flyer in our mailbox that asked the question: “Is your child being left behind in math?” They were offering a summer program focused completely on math, and in this flyer, this learning center provided a series of questions parents could use to assess their children’s aptitude in math.  The questions were designed for children ranging from 3-4 years old, right up to those in their teens!

In ways I was a little amazed that parents here would be concerned about the math skills of a 3 year old – but then again, with such a strong focus on education here in Asia, parents want to give their children as much of a head start as possible! I have included two sample math questions for you (grade 7 & 8 level math) so you can decide if you should consider attending a math learning center this summer!

#1:  Given that x + y = 6 and xy=5, find the value of x2 + y2
#2: Solve the system of equations 2x + 4y + 3 = 3x – 2y – 12 = 3x + 4y

After reading through those math problems aren’t you glad you decided to spend your summer working around the yard or relaxing at the beach with your family this summer?  While our summer vacation is over for another year, we are thankful for time together with family and the good memories we have.

So however you spent your summer vacation this year – even if you’re still enjoying it right now – cherish the memories of time together with family – “The tans will fade, but the memories will last forever.”

Until next time,
Joel & Debbie

PS: Here’s the answer to the math problems:   #1 (26)           #2 (x =  3; y = –2 )

Teachers at ICS reported back to school on August 1st, and classes began on the 7th.  PRAISE God for a positive start to the new school year, and that the students were ready to engage in learning after a shorter summer holiday.

Nathan & Jasmine moved from California to Indiana this summer, where Jasmine will be studying for a PhD at Purdue University.  PRAY for God’s leading as Nathan has yet to find a full-time job, and that they would find a church to call home.

Janelle has successfully completed her studies at Azusa Pacific University and has decided to remain in the Los Angeles area for the next year.  While she currently has a part-time job, she is still looking for full-time work related to her area of studies – exercise science.  She also needs to find a place to live by the end of August – PRAY for God’s provision for these needs in her life.

A View from the Curb

31 05 2013

On a recent trip into China, I watched as a group of young students on their way home from school, nonchalantly and safely made their way across a busy street. There wasn’t a crosswalk for them to use, but they carefully navigated their way from one side of the street to the other – as a variety of vehicles made their way down that same road.

Crossing Guilin Street

Students trying to cross a street in Guilin

It’s a scene that is repeated on a daily basis all across China, and if you’re not used to it, it can be a little unnerving. Growing both up in residential & more rural parts of Canada, I was taught & learned the rules of the road – when and how to safely cross a street – and that served me well until our family came to Asia. But upon our arrival in Taiwan, and on my subsequent travels into China, I quickly discovered that what worked for me in Canada and the USA wasn’t going to work here.

At first everything seemed some chaotic – there didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to why people were driving the way they were, or how people could safely cross the busy road without being run over. (If you want an idea of what it’s like to cross a street in China, imagine a real life version of the old arcade game – Frogger!

But as time went by, I began to see more than just the cacophony of cars and people and instead saw the rhythm – the ebb and flow of walking and driving in Asia. It’s hard to explain on paper all that’s involved (I guess you have to be here to experience it) but part of that rhythm involves having patience and being willing to wait for the right moment to move forward.  (Maybe that is why it has taken me 24 years to learn this particular lesson!)  But learning some patience and waiting for the right moment to step out has helped me survive the past 24 years on the streets of Taiwan, Hong Kong and China. Now, when traveling in China, I know how to safely make my way across a busy intersection without being run over by passing cars.

Crossing Nathan Road

Crossing a busy intersection in Hong Kong

As I reflected on this the other day, I realized that I have had to apply these same principles to my personal life and ministry.  Life and ministry is different here in Asia, and living in a culture where everything is go-go-go, and constantly under pressure to produce results, it’s not always easy to be patient.

As much as I would like to rush forward with all the great ideas I have gathered over the years – I need to bide my time and wait for the right moment before stepping out.  Peter Marshall said it best: “Teach us, O Lord, the disciplines of patience, for to wait is often harder than to work.” When the moment is right, we need to step out in faith, and move forward.

So whether it’s just a matter of us trying to cross a busy street safely, or trying to determine the next step in life or in ministry, remember – ‘Have patience with all things, but, first of all with yourself.’ (St. Francis de Sales)

Until next time,

Joel & Debbie


PRAISE God that students and staff were able to move into the new Guangxi Provincial Training Center building the middle of May.  Classes for this year’s students will be completed the end of June. As they complete their studies PRAY that these graduates would be both an encouragement and a help to the ministries of their local church.

We are thankful for recent improvements in Debbie’s dad’s overall condition.  He is on a new medication, which has helped to improve his recall and focus.  He is doing a bit of exercise again, getting out to church and making plans for our summer visit.  We are encouraged by his hopeful outlook.

We are thankful that we were able to attend our daughter Janelle’s graduation from Azusa Pacific University at the beginning of May and celebrate this milestone together with her.  PRAY for God’s leading both for summer employment and plans for the coming year.

We will be back in North America again this summer (June 16 – July 31st) – spending time with family and sharing with some churches about our ministry.  PRAY that in the midst of all our travels that we would have time for rest and rejuvenation.