A Second Chance

21 02 2011

I have played many different sports over the years, and have also learned many great life lessons along the way.  The sport that I have enjoying playing the most is hockey.  I’ve played it on frozen ponds, in back yards, Quonset huts and all kinds of rinks. And when there wasn’t any ice to play it on, I joined my friends to play a game on our driveway or out on the street. For the past 2½ months, when I haven’t been traveling in China, I have been helping coach a ball hockey team at the nearby international school (ICS) here in Hong Kong.  The athletic director at ICS knew of my Canadian hockey background, and enlisted me to help him coach the 35-40 students who signed up to play this year.

Two thirds of the way into the season, one the players on the HS team got into trouble with the head coach – Coach T.  I don’t know all of the details that led up to the following incident, but one day after practice, Jay (a pseudo name for the student) began yelling and complaining to Coach T in front of his teammates.  Coach T was able to de-fuse the situation for the time being, and met with Jay the next morning to talk about what had happened.  The coach gave Jay the opportunity to explain himself and his actions, and together they were able to resolve their personal issues. Coach T helped Jay understand that while he was not going to cut him from the team, there would be some consequences for his actions – not only sitting on the bench for the next game or two, but also apologizing to his teammates for his outburst.

Although he initially had some reservations about doing this, in the end Jay agreed to follow Coach T’s direction and at the next practice apologized to all of his team mates and other coaches for his outburst.  Over the next couple of weeks – Jay’s attitude and work ethic during practice improved greatly, and while he didn’t score any goals in the games where he played, Coach T began to give him more playing time as his effort improved.

At the end of the season, the ICS High School ball hockey team made it to the championship game.  In anticipation of a tight game against a good opponent, Coach T decided he would ‘shorten his bench’, and give the majority of the playing time to the top 8-10 players.  He wanted players who he thought he could count on to follow his instructions and the game plan that he had drawn up for this game.  The first couple of minutes of the game were close as the teams traded shots on goal and goal scoring opportunities.  As the game progressed, the ICS players pressed forward, putting pressure on the other team, until they got their first goal.  And believe it or not, the first goal was scored by none other than – Jay.  While his teammates cheered getting the first goal, Jay pumped his arms in celebration as he made his way back to the bench.

It wasn’t until after the game had ended (which ICS won by a score of 3-1) that I mentioned to Coach T the significance of that first goal and who had scored it.  While it was great that the team had won the league championship, maybe the more important thing that happened was the opportunity these young people had experienced seeing what can happen when we’re given a second chance.  Coach T could have kicked Jay off the team for his actions – but instead offered him a second chance as a member of the team.  Jay could have walked away from the team after the incident with Coach T, but he accepted the consequences and took advantage of this second chance to not only contribute to the team, but also grow as a young man.

We all mess up – like Jay we’ll make mistakes either with teammates, family or friends.  I am so thankful that God is One who believes in giving us a second chance (and for some of us it has been a third, and a fourth, maybe even a fifth chance) at redemption.  He never gives up on us – waits for us – encourages us along the way.  I am also thankful for those people in my life who have given me that second chance – who never gave up on me, in spite of my shortcomings and mistakes.

In light of the grace we have received, may we be people who God uses to extend grace to others who need that second chance.

Until next week,

Joel & Debbie Chute


My Life in Six Words

14 02 2011

Several years I started received something called – the Monday Memo.  Every Monday I would get a brief email that contained a word of encouragement or a challenging thought related to our spiritual journey or involvement in ministry.  And often, the words in this Monday Memo got me thinking about how to apply that particular truth in my life. This past week was no different.

We had just returned from a week long break, and were trying to get back into the rhythm of life and ministry.  And on Monday morning I opened my in-box to read the Monday Memo’s latest offering – something entitled: Six Words.

I won’t re-type the article – you can read it for yourself at Monday Memo.  But the idea was very simple – how do you sum up your life in only six words.  It was based on the book Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure, where various people wrote their own six-word memoir, and now has its own web page for people to submit their own six word story.

The Monday Memo quoted some of these six-word submissions, and I’ve added a few more from the web-page to give you a feel for some of the unique perspectives on life.

I am ten minutes late. Again.
Trust me, I did my best.
Too many goodbyes. Few hellos. Lost

Wasted my whole life getting comfortable.
Four weddings, three kids, then cancer.

Doubted parents, teachers, bosses, politicians, myself.
Days are long when you’re alone.
No happy endings. Only happy moments.
Not quite finished, tell you later.

But then the Monday Memo took this idea to a different level, and brought a spiritual perspective for the reader to consider.

Following this same idea, Jesus might have summarized his life this way:
“To seek and save the lost.” [Luke 19:10] or …
“To give abundant life to all.” [John 10:10]

Paul might have summarized his life:
“Tough fight, long race, won both.” [2 Timothy 4:7]

Peter might have said:
“Took chances, failed often, experienced power.” [Matthew 14:29; Mark 14:71; Acts 5:15]

King David might have said:
“The Lord is all I need.” [Psalm 23:1]

How would you summarize your life? How would you summarize your ministry?

What a question!  As I reflected on this question, I had a couple of ideas on my six-word memoir: “From the Yukon to Hong Kong!” or “An amazing wife, three great kids.”  But how could I sum up where we’d been and all that we’d experienced and seen over these years?  Then the words of an old hymn came to mind.  In Fanny Crosby’s hymn “All the Way, My Savior Leads Me” the very last phrase is: Jesus led me all the way.  I realize that God is not done with me yet, but if I were to use six words to summarize our life, I would say: Jesus led.  We followed. He blessed.

If you only had six words to use, how would you summarize your life?  Drop us a note if you’d like … we’d love to hear your story too, even if it’s only six words long.

Until next week,

Joel & Debbie

Rest and Renewal

9 02 2011

One of the drawbacks to living in Hong Kong is that if you need a break or some time off, you can’t just hop in your car and drive a couple of hours to a vacation spot.  Because of Hong Kong’s limited space, there aren’t too many places here where you can just ‘get away’ – it usually requires traveling by plane to another country to find a quiet spot to rest and be renewed.

Like many other cities in the world, Hong Kong has a hectic pace, and it’s easy to get caught up in it.  We believe that while it’s important to be involved in what God has called us to do, it is equally important to have those times where we can slow down – be refreshed and renewed physically, spiritually, & emotionally. We have seen what happens in others when they don’t schedule time to be together with their spouse or take time away from their work.  That’s why this past week was such a blessing for us – a good time of rest and renewal for both of us.

This year we were able to combine our participation in a week-long conference with a time of rest and recreation – being renewed in every aspect. We enjoyed times of worship and fellowship with others attending this conference; times of laughter, relaxation and fun with friends; quiet times alone for reflection; and a couple of times where the two of us were able to go golfing together.

Of course by traveling out of Hong Kong during the Chinese New Year, we missed out on some of the celebrations here, including a 23-minute fireworks display over Victoria Harbor. While we missed not being able to watch the amazing light show, we didn’t miss having to dealing with the other 500,000 people who made their way down to the harbor 2 hours ahead of time to find a place to stand and view the fireworks.  Having some quiet time this past week – with very few distractions – made for a worthwhile time away for both of us.

And so now we’re back in Hong Kong and getting back into the rhythm of life and ministry. We are thankful for the opportunity to get away, but are also thankful for the opportunities God has set before us.  It was a good break and a great time away – but there’s work to be done.  We’re back in Hong Kong now with our suitcases unpacked and returning to the schedules of our work and ministry.  Pray with us for the following needs:

Joel has several trips planned into China over the next month and a half – pray with us for his safety on the road & in the air on each of these trips

Joel will be meeting with church leaders in several locations across southern China – pray with us that God would lead in all of those conversations to help strengthen the ministry of their local churches.

Debbie needs wisdom and energy to teach and motivate students who have difficulty with math.