Camping in the “Middle” of Hong Kong

26 09 2010

ICS middle school camp was held just over a week ago at a YMCA camp in the New Territories of Hong Kong. Although it had some of the usual sights you might expect – playing fields, archery, tennis, basketball, ropes course, etc., there was one part of the landscape that seemed out of place, at least for those used to a North American camp context. Surrounding the camp on all sides were 30-story apartment buildings – a reminder that we were still in the densely populated city of Hong Kong.

God gave us three days of beautiful clear skies and hot (low 90’s F) weather. (What’s camp without sweat?) The schedule was packed full, with virtually no free time for students (or teachers), but it’s a great time for them to expend energy and get out from behind school desks for a while.

There were a host of group and individual activities to participate in. We started off with a giant CLUE game, with teachers dressing up as characters in the game. Students worked in their advisory groups (12-15) to find clues as to who “murdered” the camp speaker, with what weapon and where. This year my character – Ms. Frizzle, happened to be the murderer (don’t I look innocent?)

Can you figure out who is Ms. Frizzle (Debbie)?

Then there’s the 8th grade hunt – conducted at night with flashlights all over the campground. Sixth & seventh graders find 8th graders and bring them in for points (some positive, some negative). The kids look forward to this every year. One of my 7th graders proudly told me that she already had her hiding spot picked out for next year, and she found it last year!

Besides the physical activity, our camp also includes four chapel times. I had the privilege of participating in the teacher’s worship team, where I was able to see some students freely participating while others seem a little more tentative. Thursday night’s worship was especially marked by the Spirit’s presence. I was overwhelmed to hear the students’ voices as they sang with gusto their apparent favorite song of the week – “In Christ Alone.”

Our speaker was a youth pastor from Alliance International Church, who connected with middle schoolers extremely well. Our chapel theme this year is “Made to . . .” based on Eph. 2:10. He spoke on four related themes – made to belong, to move, to hang out, and to give up. All of these connected to living as a community under God, and made relevant to the daily life of middle school students. Teachers led small groups in breakout sessions, and it seemed like many kids were quite open to share. We also had devotional times at night in our cabins to be able to share with our kids. I was encouraged by the sincerity and honesty of the girls in my cabin.

Although these 2 ½ days are exhausting for teachers, they also pose a terrific opportunity for us to get to know the students on a different level. The students have a new take on teachers as well, which I noticed when we returned to school this past week. Please pray that the seeds that were planted this week would take hold, then begin to grow, continue to be watered throughout the year and bear fruit.


PRAY for students who are weighing their decision about being a Christ-follower.

PRAY for Christian students who were challenged to be active in reaching out to others – with lowliness, patience, longsuffering, peace and bearing with one another in love.

PRAY that the Spirit of God would continue to work on our campus, building a community that shows the love of God to one another and to those outside our walls.

Until next week,

Joel & Debbie Chute


Lessons Learned on the Road in China

20 09 2010

This past week I had a late night flight into Nanning – the capital of Guangxi, arriving shortly after midnight.  I was able to get a taxi to take me to my hotel arriving a little before 1 am.

China $100 bill

As I got out of the taxi I reached into my wallet & gave the driver what I thought was $100 RMB (China’s currency) for the fare.  I headed into the hotel to check in, and there was nobody else around except the two desk clerks.

I had just started checking in, when another lady walked up to the counter.  In my tired state, I thought I heard her asking the hotel staff if they could give her some RMB in exchange for a $100 Hong Kong dollar she had.

When the lady turned to me and asked for my help with her problem, I mumbled something about it not being my problem and to have the hotel staff help her.  I was so tired that I didn’t realize that this lady was the taxi driver who had driven me from the airport to the hotel!

Hong Kong $100 bill

That’s when she told me – but you rode in my taxi & you’re the one who gave the $100 HKD bill!  Ooops!
I apologized, and as quickly as I could, exchanged the Hong Kong bill with the RMB $100 bill.

It was about that time that the clerk told me, “By the way, the water & electricity will be turned off tonight from 1 am to 3 am”.  When I asked, how I was supposed to get to my room on the 5th floor, she replied, “Well, I think the electricity will be on for a few more minutes – it should be okay”.

It wasn’t.  Even though it was a minute or two before 1 am, by the time I got to the elevators, they weren’t working.  So I walked up the five floors with my suitcase.

Just as I arrived on the 5th floor, the electricity went off!  The hallway was dark, and my room was the very last room at the very end of the hallway – of course! I didn’t know if the hotel key card would still work with the electricity turned off, but I was able to get the door open and into my room.

But with no lights on inside my room I wondered how I was going to even going to be able to find the bed without killing myself.  I used the light from my cell phone to find my way around – got my suitcase unlocked and opened before finally climbing onto the bed.

By now I realized that no electricity also meant no air conditioning to cool down my room.  Somehow I was able to get to sleep – it wasn’t too hot in the room, but it wasn’t a very restful sleep.

You can imagine my surprise when somewhere around 5 am I was woken up by the air conditioner working and the lights that had come on. I was too tired to get up to turn off the lights as I didn’t even know if I could find the switches, so I just went back to sleep.

All of this was a good reminder for me as I resumed my travels into China.  Be flexible – be patient – and leave the rest to God!


Praise God for the encouraging visit Joel had this past week with church leaders in three key cities in the south central province of Guangxi – Nanning, Liuzhou & Guilin.  Joel is scheduling a follow-up visit in October (after several Chinese holidays) with these pastors.  Pray for these pastors that God would continue to give them discernment and wisdom as they give oversight to several church development and leadership training projects.

Praise the Lord for relationships that were deepened between students and teachers at last week’s middle school camp. Debbie had opportunities to have some out-of-school fun with students, some personal conversations and times of sharing in small groups, both in chapel times and in cabin devotions. I have seen God at work answering our prayers over the years for more openness in our students toward godly living. I saw an openness and sincerity this year that was so encouraging – thanks for praying.

Pray that decisions and prayers that were made at camp last week would be built upon. Some of the speaker’s themes were: treating others above yourself, forgiving others, having a positive attitude and creating unity.

Until next week.

Joel & Debbie

Up Close & Personal

12 09 2010

Where did the time go?  It’s hard to believe it has only been two months since we returned to Hong Kong!

A good part of our time was spent looking for an apartment and then getting moved into our new place. While we still have a few things to take care of before we feel like our apartment has become our home – we are very thankful for God’s provision of an affordable place to live.

Since moving into our apartment, we have been kept busy most weekends either unpacking boxes, catching up on grading & lesson plans or keeping in touch with family members from back in North America. We are happy to report that our place is finally looking more like a home than a warehouse.

Since both of us have a full week ahead, we needed to go get a few things on Saturday in preparation for the coming week.  As you can see, going out on the weekend in Hong Kong is anything but a relaxing excursion. On the other hand, it’s also never dull, especially if you like to people-watch.

Not only is Hong Kong a fast-paced city, but often there’s not a lot of extra space!  Such was the case as we traveled by subway to an area called Mongkok. The ride there and back was a good reminder that we’re no longer in the wide-open spaces of North America!

While traveling on the subways and local buses gets us ‘up close & personal’ with our fellow passengers, we’re thankful for the relative tranquility of our apartment (there’s not too much noise on the 21st floor) and the beauty of the surrounding mountains and canal.


Joel will be traveling in China this week (his 1st trip since our return), meeting with church leaders in southwestern China.  PRAY that God would go before Joel, preparing the hearts of each of these pastors and directing their conversations. PRAY for the Spirit’s wisdom and guidance in knowing how to proceed for future ministry.

Debbie will be attending a school-sponsored camp for middle school students from Wednesday through Friday.  PRAY that God would use the chapel & devotional times, as well as the countless other interactions between students and teachers to draw these young teenagers into a deeper understanding and experience of Jesus Christ.

Until next week.

Joel & Debbie

Sunset view from our apartment

News You May Have Missed

5 09 2010

One of the things we’d like to do on this blog is keep you updated on recent news and events that have taken place either in Hong Kong or Mainland China. These issues have likely not been reported in the news you have received, but we think that these articles will help you better understand the area where we live.

Hong Kong Flag

We will be making use of the resources of a trusted webpage called  ZGBriefs (  They prepare a free weekly email news summary of China news items gathered from published sources. We will be looking through all the items they have found and share information which we hope will deepen your understanding of current trends in China.

The first two articles that we have chosen to share come from the ZGBriefs ‘archives. Both relate to issues that many of you have asked us about:  How involved is the Beijing / PRC government in Hong Kong; and what about the reports of Christians in China being persecuted?  We realize that these can be controversial topics, but believe that by providing information collected by those who are constantly watching the China situation, it will help you to at least appreciate the complexities for those living and working in China.

China Flag

We have provided a short summary from both of the articles below, as well as a link to the website where they were first published.  If you would like a PDF file copy of either of these articles, leave us a message and we’ll forward you a copy.

Beijing Continues to Meddle in Hong Kong
– by Ellen Bork – Weekly Standard

Beijing has had the last word on Hong Kong’s political development since the territory was returned to PRC rule in 1997. Whenever Beijing felt it necessary to curb Hong Kong’s democracy movement, it did. …  Yet Beijing has also had to be sensitive to public opinion in Hong Kong, and around the world. When it overstepped, for example, by trying to have a law enacted that would make political dissent more dangerous, the Hong Kong people resisted, marching by the millions.  For the entire article, go to:

Are Chinese Christians Being Persecuted? – by Dr. G. Wright Doyle – Global China Center

Are Chinese Christians still being persecuted?  If you are an average American, you will say, “Of course!” Evangelical Christians will agree even more emphatically. After all, didn’t, The Heavenly Man demonstrate conclusively that Chinese house church leaders are routinely hounded, hunted, and brutally treated by the police? … These claims of widespread persecution do not go unchallenged, however. Not only are they predictably denied by the Chinese government and the Three Self Patriotic Movement leaders, as well as by spokesmen from liberal mainline denominations in the West, but some evangelicals also dispute the accuracy of the usual story… What, then, are we to believe? Who is right? For the entire article, go to:

After you’ve read through these articles, let us know if they were helpful in better understanding the current situation here in Hong Kong and China.  Leave us a comment, or share your thoughts with us.  But most of all, we ask you to join together in prayer with us for China.

Until next week.

Joel & Debbie