A Memorable Weekend for Hong Kong

28 03 2012

The Hong Kong Sevens is an annual event held on the last weekend of March and is without a doubt the biggest sporting event held here each year.  As one of the premier stops on the IRB (International Rugby Board) World Sevens circuit, the Hong Kong Sevens attracts teams and fans from around the world.

This year 24 teams from five different continents took part in this fast-paced sport, which sees seven players Hong Kong Rugby team in actionper side playing two 7 minute halves on a normal-sized rugby pitch. The Hong Kong rugby squad was hoping to be one of the three teams to secure a spot as a core team in next year’s IRB World Series, which would allow for some much needed exposure and development of the Hong Kong rugby squad.

The Hong Kong squad went into the final day of competition with the best record (3-0) among the 12 teams in this qualifying bracket, but unfortunately were the first ones to be knocked out.  They lost in overtime to Japan 10-5, only after losing two of their top players within the first two minutes of play – one to a red card, and the other when he was (literally) knocked out of the game.  While Fiji beat New Zealand 35-28 in a thrilling cup final, Canada won the qualifying round, and together with Spain and Portugal secured their berth in all of the rugby sevens tournaments next year.

DID YOU KNOW? Baseball and softball, which were dropped from the summer Olympics in 2005, will be replaced at the 2016 Olympics by golf and rugby sevens (a seven-man version of rugby union).  All the more reason to come visit us next March and attend one of the great sporting events in Hong Kong – the Rugby Sevens!

The other significant event that drew the attention of most people here was the election of Hong Kong‘s Chief Executive.  It wasn’t your typical election, as only 1,193 Election Committee members were allowed to cast votes for one of three candidates.  Two of the three candidates that were able to secure the required number of nominations for the chief executive position (Henry Tang and CY Leung) had the backing of Beijing, but the process got messy when they both had to address various substantial accusations that were made against them.  In the end, CY Leung was able to win majority support of members from the election committee to be named chief executive elect, even though only 35% of Hong Kong people said they would vote for him, if they were given the chance.

In fact, this election was not just about electing the next top leader for Hong Kong – it also focused attention on the issue of universal suffrage for the citizens of Hong Kong. In 2007, Mainland China’s National People’s Congress ruled that the earliest that the people of Hong Kong could elect their Chief Executive by universal suffrage would be 2017.  Not only did many citizens protest their exclusion from this year’s election of a new chief executive, but some have questioned whether Beijing or the new chief executive will keep their word and allow the citizens of Hong Kong to truly have a voice at the ballot box in the next election.

While many believe there are still improvements to be made in the process, this election highlights the notable difference between the transition of power here in Hong Kong and what will take place later this year in Beijing when Hu JinTao steps down as the President of China.  As one commentator wrote, “In Hong Kong, citizens can see and hear the competition for political leadership but not participate in it; mainland Chinese, like the outside world, are mostly in the dark about the sides and the stakes in the fight for power. In both places, the system is showing signs of cracking.”  In many ways, what happens in Hong Kong has the potential to impact the political scene in mainland China.

All is not lost.  There will be further opportunities to learn from the experiences and events of this past weekend.  The question is “will these opportunities be taken advantage of”? Will the Hong Kong rugby team be able to rebound from this devastating loss and regroup in time to prepare for the next rugby sevens tournament? Will the people of Hong Kong be granted the opportunity to vote in the next Chief Executive in 2017, or will Beijing find a way to delay the implementation of universal suffrage?  We will keep you updated as events happen here.

Until next time,

Joel & Debbie


Can You Read This?

11 03 2012

Not surprisingly, after last week’s blog with my story about encountering a rat in a restaurant, I haven’t received many inquiries about joining me on a trip into China!  However, when you are brave enough to try a trip to China (or even if you go to a truly authentic Chinese restaurant) you will need to be able to recognize some basic Chinese characters.

Since many places in China do not post their signs in English, you’ll want to be able to know the difference between the characters for man & woman (think bathrooms), push or pull (think doors) to name just a few. Being able to make the right decision at those times will help you avoid some embarrassing situations, or even impress the people you are with!

So while Joel is on the road again this week traveling in China, we have put together a very simple quiz to test your ability to recognize 10 primary Chinese characters.

See if you can match the English words on the left with the correct Chinese word on the right.

English Word

Chinese Character (pinyin)

1. Up / Top A. (dà)
2. Down / Bottom B. (lā)
3. Push C. 狗肉 (gǒu ròu)
4. Pull D. (nán)
5. Man E. (nǚ)
6. Woman F. (shàng)
7. Large G. (tuī)
8. Small H. (xià)
9. Pork I. (xiǎo)
10. Dog J. 猪肉 (zhū ròu)

Once again we will use the honor system – no peeking at the answers below!

Now that you have made your choices, here are the answers!

English Word

Chinese Character (pinyin)

1. Up / Top A. (shàng)
2. Down / Bottom B. (xià)
3. Push C. (tuī)
4. Pull D. (lā)
5. Man E. (nán)
6. Woman F. (nǚ)
7. Large G. (dà)
8. Small H. (xiǎo)
9. Pork I. 猪肉 (zhū ròu)
10. Dog J. 狗肉 (gǒu ròu)

How well did you do?  The good news is that you don’t need to score 10 out of 10 to come travel with us in China – but it just might help you make the right choices at the right time!

Until next time,

Joel & Debbie

“Tails” from the Road

5 03 2012

For anyone who has traveled in China, they know that eating Chinese food is all about the experience.  It’s more than just enjoying the different flavors or quickly devouring the food that is served – it’s also about enjoying the company of those sharing the meal with you.  I had one of the most amazing experiences at a restaurant on my last trip into China that brought new meaning to this concept.

One of the restaurants in Nanning City that a pastor friend introduced to me several years ago is a place that specializes in cuisine from northeast China – 东北菜.  Their menu tends to have more noodle dishes instead of rice, and one of their specialties happens to be dumplings 饺子 (in North America you might call them “pot stickers”).  Two of the other items that my pastor friend had introduced to me at this particular restaurant were guo bao rou (deep fried sweet & sour pork), and tu dou si (potato slivers with vinegar).

As I walked into the restaurant that night, it was only half full, so I had my choice of tables to choose from. It had been a full day already and I was hoping for a bit of privacy.  I have learned that being the lone foreigner in a restaurant usually attracts a bit of attention, so this time I chose a table that was closer to the back of the restaurant.

After my food arrived, I silently began eating my food as I observed the different people at the surrounding tables and the dynamics of each of their conversations. Suddenly out the corner of my eye I noticed a blur of some sort.  In the next fraction of a second, I felt something run over my foot and then scurry on past me.  I immediately looked to my right to see what it was, and out from under my table ran a 5 – 6” long rat!

In ways I’m thankful that no one else was at the table with me that night – who knows how they might have responded (especially my wife)!  I’m not certain why I didn’t jump up and move quickly away from the table – but I just sat there and watched as the rat headed over to a surrounding table, and disappeared from sight.  Needless to say, I finished up meal as quickly as possible, paid my bill, and left the restaurant.

It’s not uncommon to see rats in China – we have even seen them in Hong Kong – I just didn’t expect to have one run over my foot in this particular restaurant.  I’m not sure how long I am going to wait before I decide whether to return to this restaurant – even though they serve delicious food.  I may just need to check their menu first to see if they’re serving any ‘Ratatouille”!  It’s never dull traveling in China!
Until next time,

Joel & Debbie

On his last trip to south central China, Joel met with church leaders who had recently held a 3-day training workshop focused on training lay church workers in the area of Christian education.  Both pastors and lay workers were introduced to new concepts they felt will assist them in their ministries.  PRAY that God would use the instruction these lay workers learned in this workshop to impact many lives for the glory of God.

PRAISE GOD that the first middle school monthly outreach event, “The Thing,” had a great kick-off with lots of energy and 10 volunteer teachers participating in fun events with over 70 of our students.  One of the teachers shared a short testimony and breakout groups discussed practical questions about faith & daily life.