Time for a Break

30 03 2011

Like many of you back in North America, March is a time for a week-long vacation for students, and here in Hong Kong (at least at most international schools) that is also the case.  This past week was spring break for students and teachers at International Christian School – a chance to catch their breath and get some rest before the final push towards the end of the school year.

But what do we do as a couple now that all three of our children are back in the USA?  In the past, we would plan family vacations – whether it was heading off to the beach in Taiwan or a trip into China to see the sights – but now as empty-nesters, what do we do with our week off?

Fortunately for us, this year the decision about what to do was made for us a couple months ago as our son Nathan and his wife Jasmine planned to come to Hong Kong for a 9-day visit.  There’s a Chinese proverb that says: 有朋自远方来, 不亦乐乎 – “How delightful it is to have friends come from far away to visit.”  And it was indeed a delightful time for us.

It was a great privilege for us to host Nathan and Jasmine, and spend time with them during the past week.  They spent the week exploring the many areas of Hong Kong – Nathan was able to introduce Jasmine to many of the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Hong Kong, not to mention the various forms of transportation here.  We were able to join them for several outings, had many meals together, and had good competitive fun playing games together at our apartment.

For Nathan, it was extra special to be able to return “home” and introduce Jasmine to the life and environment that contributed to his personality and way of thinking. He was also able to see how life has changed since he left in 2004, and how some of his friends have changed in the past couple of years.  He also had the opportunity to reflect on how God has led him over the past years since graduating from high school, and of course, there was the tour of the new school which was built in 2007.

For us, it was more than just having family come for a visit.  When you live overseas as long as we have, any time that you have together with family is regarded as a special gift.  Being able to spend a whole week with our son and new wife marked the longest length of time we’ve had together with them. We have come to value times like this to be together with the two of them, to hear what is happening in their lives and how God is leading them.

The time slipped away all too quickly, and they have already flown back to their apartment and jobs in the Kalispell, Montana area. Good-byes are never easy –but as we hugged them and said goodbye before they boarded their airplane, it was with the hope that we might be able to see them again this summer when we return for a visit to the USA and Canada.  We’re already looking forward to that opportunity to re-connect with family and friends.  After all, 有朋自远方来,不亦乐乎 – “How delightful it is to have family and friends come from far away to visit.”  Who knows – maybe we’ll be able to see some of you!

Until next week,

Joel & Debbie Chute


The Japan Earthquake & Us

22 03 2011

By now everyone has heard about the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11th.  Hong Kong is more than 3,000 miles away from the earthquake zone, but we have felt its’ impact.  Here’s what we mean.

While the tsunami never hit the shores of Hong Kong, the fallout of the ensuing radiation leakage from nuclear plants has been felt throughout China and down to us here in Hong Kong.  As news of the nuclear reactor crisis in Japan spread across China, radiation-scared shoppers began buying up supplies in their local supermarkets and stores.   This panic-driven shopping spree was often driven by phone calls and text messages on cell phones circulating a rumor that plumes of radiation from the nuclear plants in Japan were spreading throughout Asia and into China.  As a result, shoppers in every major city from Beijing to Hong Kong began buying up as much salt as they could find, in the mistaken belief that the iodized salt would protect them from any radiation sickness.

It wasn’t just the people in the large cities who began emptying the store shelves of iodized salt or other uncontaminated condiments like soy sauce. On Thursday, Joel was traveling in rural Guangxi and had stopped in a village with church leaders for lunch.  One of the local believers had a bakery/restaurant where they had planned on eating. Those plans were disrupted when they discovered that all the merchants in the village had sold out of salt as well, so they had to find other ingredients for the noon meal.

The news of this tragedy in Japan has seen a varied response from people across China.  In light of the deep ambivalence felt toward Japan at many levels of Chinese society, there were some Chinese who felt that Japan was being paid back for the past atrocities inflicted on the Chinese 60 years ago. But still, most people across China remember the support Japan provided after the devastating 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, and supported China’s Premier Wen as he offered condolences to Japan on behalf of all of China.

The first Sunday after the earthquake, Joel attended a church service in Guangxi, where the pastor alluded to these mixed feelings many Chinese have for Japan.  But now, in light of the horrible devastation many Japanese are facing, the pastor encouraged the Chinese believers to be in prayer for Japan – for God’s peace and His strength in this time of recovery.

In closing, we share with you the words from a prayer handbook put together by a church here in Hong Kong. “Lord, the destruction caused by the earthquake (in Japan) is truly shocking.  Lord, besides calling out to you, what can mankind do?  May the Lord bestow grace and mercy.  May the Lord lead mankind not only to think of ourselves, but to intercede for one another.  All recent and past hatred is to be wiped away, and in one heart and mind may we pray to the Lord in heaven.  In the Lord’s name, may we bless nations and people to hear the gospel of peace of our Lord Jesus.”

Until next week,

Joel & Debbie Chute

PS – If you would like to contribute those who are providing aid to help Japan recover from this disaster, here are some links to several organizations:

C&MA in Canada
Samaritan’s Purse

Pictures Along the Way

15 03 2011

Joel is half-way through his week long trip into south central China.  So here’s a few pictures of the people he has met and the sights he has seen along the way.  More about his trip in a coming blog!

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Until next week,

Joel & Debbie

Are You Mad at Me?

7 03 2011

One of Debbie’s fellow grade seven teachers shared this story with her this past week.

One of the 7th grade students who came to ICS this year from another school approached her with a question that had been bothering him.  He asked her “Are the teachers upset with me?”

She assured him that they weren’t, and then asked him why he felt that way.

He replied that there was a question that had been haunting him all night long. And the question was, “Why don’t the teachers ever get mad at us?”  He went on to say, “At my other school the teachers would always yell at us – when we weren’t trying hard enough or when we did things to aggravate them. But I just can’t understand why the teachers at ICS don’t yell at their students. I’m doing better this year, but I know I’m still not being my best work.”

So he asked her, “Aren’t you teachers ever frustrated with us?”

And the teacher replied, “Of course, there are times when we feel frustrated.  Do you remember us telling you  that there are things you need to work on, and when you didn’t, did we just ignore it?”

But the student said, “I guess I know that you’ve been frustrated with us, but the teachers never raise their voices at us. So it’s been really bothering me, because I just can’t understand why. The only thing I can come up with is that they’re really mad at me, and just not telling me or showing it.”

He wanted to know if the teachers were secretly talking about how frustrated they were with him. He couldn’t come up with any other explanation for why the teachers would act this way.  In this culture, teachers will often scold & yell at their students to try and motivate them.

Debbie’s colleague was able to explain to him that if a person has put their faith in Christ that their actions will show it.  None of us are perfect – we all have our faults and failures, but we’re being transformed through the love and power of Jesus working in us.  We also realize that yelling is not a good motivational tool, and that God’s life in us produces much more positive results.

Please pray for this student and his family, as he and his parents are not yet believers, but they are seeing the love of God demonstrated in very tangible ways. The parents of this student also mentioned at the parent-teacher conference in the fall that they were so impressed with the care shown to their son by his teachers.

“Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.” [2 Corinthians 5:14 – NLT]

Until next week,

Joel & Debbie


Pray for other students and their families who are not believers but have experienced God’s love being shown through the faculty and staff at ICS. Pray for students who are followers of Christ that their faith would be strengthened and deepened, especially those who will soon graduate and move into environments with less structure and support.

Joel will be traveling in China at the end of this week (March 11 – 18th).  PRAY for safety as he travels with two other guests to three cities where pioneer C&MA missionaries worked 100 years ago.

Joel’s mother just discovered that her lymphatic cancer has returned, and will need to undergo chemotherapy once again.  PRAY that she would continue to experience God’s presence and peace through each stage of this procedure.

Everywhere You Go

2 03 2011

One of the things that stood out to me while I was traveling in China this past week was that cell phones were literally everywhere. It didn’t matter where I was – walking down a city street, in a restaurant, store, on a plane or bus, or riding in a taxi –everyone had a cell phone (or so it seemed).  Statistics seem to affirm this – with the two top mobile phone providers in China reporting 859 million subscribers by the end of 2010.

When talking about cell phones in China, the numbers are astronomical.  For example, in 2010 the total numbers of new mobile phone subscribers was 92.44 million.  That’s nearly three times the population of Canada!  And that’s just the number of new subscribers in one year!  Approximately two-thirds of China’s population now uses a cell phone as their primary means of communication.

Another evidence of the popularity of cell phones in China can be seen in the number of text messages sent during the recent Spring Festival (Chinese New Year).  In the first week of the Chinese New Year (February 1-8th) there were a reported 26 billion text messages sent to friends and family members. According to government officials at China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), 15.6 billion mobile phone messages were sent in a one day period from Chinese New Year’s eve and New Year’s Day.

Along with the increased number of cell phone users in China, and the ever changing technological advancements in cell phones, there’s also a growing number of applications (apps) that can be used on your phone, should you ever visit China.  Here’s a short list of some of these helpful phone apps:

My Chinese Library – A digital phrasebook with built-in travel essentials. You simply click the phrase you need, and a native speaker says it out loud. You can even use the app to select from possible replies.

DianHua Dictionary – A dictionary that allows you to find the meaning & pronunciation of Chinese characters after using the touch screen system of your phone to write/draw the character.

Me No Speak China – It allows the user to point at what you want using their illustrated ‘language companion’. Their point-to pictures and phrases include audio translations, which can be used as talking flashcards.

There are many more phone apps – everything from timetables for inter-city trains; maps of the subways in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong; and China’s copycat version of Twitter – Sina Weibo, and of course, games!

But there’s one other phone app that is now available in China that I’m personally excited about.  It’s called YouVersion, and it is a phone app that allows you to download a Bible for free onto your phone.  This website offers 50 versions of the Bible in 22 languages, including a Bible using both traditional and simplified Chinese characters. This phone app also comes with a One-Year reading plan that helps the user choose a format for reading through the Bible. I have seen believers at church services in China read from the Bible on their phone – imagine the possibilities if every cell phone user in China were to download a Bible onto their phone!

In this 21st century, technology is making more things possible, and as a result, more avenues are opening for people to access the Word of God.  How exciting it is that taking the Bible everywhere you go is becoming more of a reality, even for those who once had to share pages from one Bible amongst themselves.

Until next week,

Joel & Debbie Chute