China Snack Attack

28 09 2011

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, along comes something else!  At least that’s what Joel was thinking last week when he walked the aisles of grocery stores in the south central province of Guangxi.

He was looking for some snacks to take with him on his travels across the province by both bus and train.  At first he was just looking for some of those things he was familiar with – but soon discovered some other interesting items alongside his favorite Snickers bar and Oreo cookies.

After all, North Americans aren’t the only ones who like their bite-sized treats to munch on.  Anywhere you go in China you will find a wide assortment of small snack items being sold by street-side vendors.  Everything from a skewer of flame-broiled squid, to a small serving of stinky tofu, or a bag of freshly roasted chestnuts.  But that’s another story.  That isn’t what Joel found on the shelves of these grocery stores.

Right alongside of the rows of ‘plain’ and double chocolate Oreo cookies were a few other options to choose from, including some flavors Joel never thought he would see.  I can only assume that they are trying to appeal to the local taste buds with some of the following flavors: Green Tea (pictured); Blueberry and Raspberry; and Mango and Orange. I bought a package of the Blueberry & Raspberry Oreos to take back to Hong Kong and share with Debbie – she wasn’t too excited about my present!

I wondered if this trend of new flavors was also being packaged in other snacks, so I made my way down another row to see what kind of salty snacks were on sale.  I wasn’t surprised to see the potato chips – both Pringle’s and Lay’s chips have been on the market for some time now, but I was surprised to see a new selection of flavors.  We’ve seen both regular and seaweed flavored chips in stores before, but this was the first time Joel had seen tomato; blueberry (yes – you read correctly) and ‘cool cucumber’ (pictured)!

In many ways, we shouldn’t have been surprised by these products.  After all, not everyone is going to have the same food preferences that we have – every culture, every country has their own unique palate. But blueberry chips – that’s just wrong!

Many years ago as we were struggling to adjust to life and the new smells and flavors of food here in Asia, someone shared this thought with us to help us adjust to the new culture and surroundings we found ourselves in.  They reminded us, when you see something different from what you grew up with back in Canada/USA, just remind yourself – “It’s not wrong – it’s just different.”  It hasn’t always been an easy process adjusting to life in Asia – there are so many things that are different here than what we grew up with, but we are thankful for what we’ve learned over the years.  God has used our time here to open our eyes to a world that is so much bigger than what we once thought, and helped us learn to appreciate the diversity He created all around us.

So, while we probably won’t make a habit of eating seaweed flavored chips, we will probably try some new flavors and items.  After all, most things are worth trying – at least once!

Until next week,

Joel & Debbie

Thank you for praying for Joel as he traveled in China last week.  He had many good conversations with church leaders in key cities across the province, and was encouraged by the opportunities to partner with them, particularly in the area of leadership training. PRAY for God’s leading in the coordinating  and planning a training session for lay workers in the coming months.

This Friday (September 30) secondary Bible teachers from ICS will be meeting together for an all-day retreat.  We will be taking time to pray for the school, our students and one another. We will also be narrowing down  essential parts of the curriculum in order to plan for next year’s high school course offerings. PRAY that we would be led by the Spirit and would be an encouragement to one another,


What’s Your Story?

18 09 2011

Last week International Christian School middle-schoolers (grades 6-8) enjoyed three days of camp in the New Territories of Hong Kong. It is a common practice for schools in Hong Kong to set aside a few days in their school schedule for students to experience outdoor activities at one of the local camps. ICS has been in session for about one month, and having a few days of camp early in the year is a great opportunity for students and teachers to get to know one another beyond the classroom. Participating together in group activities, games and spending two nights together in cabins goes a long way in developing relationships, both between students and with their teachers. This year we have expanded both six and seventh grades, so there are a larger number of new students. Camp provided time and specific situations for these students to become more familiar and comfortable with fellow students and teachers.

We also had several chapel times during camp, which include times of worship and the sharing of God’s Word. This year we happen to have quite a few new middle school teachers, so we decided to ask our teachers if they would be willing to be the camp speakers. At each of 4 sessions, three different teachers shared a part of their story. Each session focused on a different question – “What used to drive me?,” “What made me decide to change,” “What happened as a result of my decision,” and “What’s next – how has God continued to lead/teach me?” Hearing 12 of their teachers’ stories had a powerful impact upon the students, helping them to realize that following God is a process, and that the decision to be a God-follower is only the beginning of a life-long journey. As they heard more teachers share, they were able to make connections with their own story, realizing that if God could change their teachers He could change them as well. At the end of the final session, students were given about 10 minutes to pray alone, or with another student or a teacher – to have a dialogue with God about what they had heard throughout the chapel sessions. Following that, students were invited to come to the front and share with their peers what God had shown them the last couple of days. One student shared, then in a couple of minutes another, then two more, and a few minutes later a line of several students formed. Through this act of faith, students were able to testify about what God had shown them and how He had begun to set them free from thoughts and feelings that had been weighing them down. The verse Jeremiah 29:11 emerged as a theme for many students, that God indeed has a good plan for their lives, which may be different from what they have had in mind.

Thank you for your prayers for this event. God’s Spirit was definitely at work. Please pray for these students in the coming days and weeks, that they would have a continued desire to grow in Christ. We will be forming discipleship groups in the coming weeks. Pray that the Lord would lead specific students and teachers together for the purpose of strengthening their faith and encouraging one another.

Until next week,

Joel & Debbie


Joel is traveling China this week – meeting with pastors in the south central province of Guangxi.  PRAY for God’s leading in each of the conversations and times of discussion Joel will have these church leaders on matters related to the growth of the church in Guangxi.

Moon Cake Delight!

13 09 2011

We have just finished celebrating the Chinese version of Thanksgiving- or at least that’s how we think of it.  Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节), also known as Moon Festival, was originally a harvest festival where farmers celebrated the end of the fall harvesting season. Traditionally, Chinese family members and friends gather to admire the bright mid-autumn harvest moon and to enjoy a special meal together.

In North America, most families will try to get together with family members to celebrate Thanksgiving and enjoy a meal together of roast turkey with all its’ trimmings, finishing off with some pumpkin pie.  Here in Hong Kong, families follow a similar pattern as they celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival, but with different foods.  The highlight for most people is, of course, moon cakes. The other festive tradition that adds to the celebrations are brightly colored lanterns – some that are small and can held by children, or larger ones that are hung outside apartment complexes or in public areas as part of the holiday’s displays.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to try a moon cake, be aware of one thing – they are an acquired taste.  Traditional styled moon cakes are round (of course – they are ‘moon’ cakes), and are filled with a lotus seed, red bean or black bean paste.  At the center of these traditional moon cakes is a salty egg yolk – representing the full moon.

More recently, bakeries have experimented with new varieties of moon cakes, with such ingredients as nuts, ham, fruit or coffee flavors.  This year we bought ourselves some snowy moon cakes – frozen moon cakes with mango, chocolate and blueberry cheesecake flavored centers! Maybe next year we’ll ‘sample’ some moon cakes from either Starbucks or Häagen Dazs – we’ll see if they too have an egg yolk at the center, or maybe a sweeter surprise.

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival – wherever you are!

Until next week,

Joel & Debbie


After returning from summer ministry in Cambodia, our daughter Janelle has started her 4th year at Azusa Pacific University this past week.  Praise God for His help in finding housing off-campus for her.  Pray that God would continue to guide her in finding work, for ministry & service opportunities and in finding balance between these areas and her classes.

Our sons Nathan (& his wife Jasmine who live in Marysville, CA) and Ryan (Tacoma, WA) have still not been able to settle on a home church.  PRAY that God would lead them to the right community of believers in the areas where they live.

Students at International Christian School (ICS) have already been in session for one month. This week’s middle school camp (Sept. 14-16) is an opportunity for students and teachers to get to know each other better.  Throughout our camp chapel times several teachers will be sharing parts of their spiritual journeys with the students. PRAY that the students will connect with these stories, and be challenged to dedicate their lives to the Lord.  PRAY that the Holy Spirit would work and move in the student’s hearts, and that they will find freedom and peace in Jesus.