Here and There – Part II

30 10 2013

Previously, we shared some insights about living overseas, and in particular dealing with the daily issues of getting around a mega city like Hong Kong. In this blog, we’re going to talk about what it’s like to stay in ‘one’ place, your place of residence.

Where to Live

Our current dining-living room.

Our current dining-living room.

If you don’t like tight and tiny places, Hong Kong is probably not the place for you.  There are some beautiful homes and luxury apartments in Hong Kong, but unless you (or the company you work for) have deep pockets, you’re not going to be able to afford something like that.  With limited land space, most people live in apartments – and most tend to be small in size (by North American standards). Living in Hong Kong requires most of us to learn to deal with living in smaller spaces – on average, a Hong Kong family of four will live in an apartment that is 540 square feet or less in size. [The prices for apartments continue to rise, with the average price of a small 400 square foot apartment here in Hong Kong now at $635,000 US.]  If you and your family are intent on finding a ‘nice sized’, three bedroom apartment, be prepared to spend at least $2,300 US a month in rent.

Pictorial Garden Kitchen

This is our ‘large’ kitchen – & yes I cook!

Once you find an apartment to live in, there are some other issues to deal with.  You will have to be creative if you want to fit everything into your small sized apartment. Our fridge is currently sitting in our dining/living room area (right next to the kitchen), since there wasn’t enough room in the kitchen for both it and the stove.  It’s not just a matter of figuring out where to put the major appliances that will demand your attention, but where will you put all of your other stuff? Most apartments do not have built-in closets, nor is there a lot of extra room for storage, so we bought a queen-sized hydraulic bed with storage underneath.  In addition to using every available space, you will also need to learn how to downsize on a regular basis – usually every time you move.

Once you have become accustomed to your new living space, you will begin to realize something else.. With anywhere between five and seven other apartments on the same floor where you live, you will get to know a lot about your neighbors.  For instance, due to the poor ventilation in most kitchens, you’ll often be able to smell what they’re cooking for supper that night.  Sound travels well through the concrete walls, so you’ll be able to hear what piece your neighbor’s child is playing on the piano, or the music they’re playing on their sound system.  Learning to adapt to neighbors has a different spin in the context of close quarter apartment living.

We acknowledge that Hong Kong is anything but a ‘hardship’ posting.  The standard of living here is quite high, and compared to so many other places in the world, it is a very comfortable and easy place to live.  However, I will admit that it has been a challenge at times to live in an apartment, and there have been times when we’ve missed the large open spaces of a house and yard back in North America.  But we’ve learned over these years not to expect life in Asia to be the same as what we grew up with – to accept the fact that it’s just different.  We have learned to adapt to whatever the circumstances might be in each new apartment – whether it be a small kitchen, little storage space, noisy streets, little room for children to play or some other challenge. So until the time comes for us to return to North America, we will make the most of wherever we live here in Hong Kong – to be thankful for God’s provision and to be in the place He has called us to.

Until next time,
Joel & Debbie


Earlier in October Debbie’s dad fell and fractured his hip and shoulder.  He was returning from a Sunday church service, and fell after getting out of the car in his driveway.  He has already undergone surgery on his hip, but all they can do for his shoulder right now is keep it stable.  PRAY with us that he would experience God’s healing as well as His comforting presence as he undergoes rehab in the coming weeks.

There has been a small outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease at ICS, particularly in the middle school.  PRAY for healing and protection, especially as these MS students prepare to leave in less than two weeks on Week Without Walls trips.

We PRAISE God for Joel’s safety during his recent trips into China. One of the main focuses of his trips was connecting with church leaders who oversee Sunday School programs in their churches.  The response to the training session for SS teachers this summer that Joel helped plan was very encouraging – PRAY that Joel would have wisdom and discernment as he works with these leaders to find resource materials for teachers, as well as for partner churches who would come alongside these needy churches.


Here and There – Part I

15 09 2013

Many of you have probably traveled outside of Canada or the United States, and seen what it’s like in a foreign country – at least for a week or two, or maybe a bit longer.  While those short term trips give you a glimpse of what life is like outside of North America, you know that it’s only a couple more weeks before you head back to the comforts of home.  But what would you do if you were called on to live here in Asia for the next couple of years?  With that in mind, I have jotted down a few thoughts to go with some pictures from here in Hong Kong to give you another insight into what it’s like living overseas.

Out and About
Whenever we’re back in North America, we’re used to driving just about wherever we want to go – but here in Hong Kong it’s a different story.  As we have said in previous blogs, Hong Kong has a great public transportation system – so most people don’t own a vehicle (the density of cars is among the highest in the world, with 530 registered vehicles per km²). With gasoline at $2.18 US/litre ($8.25/US gallon), and parking spaces at a premium, it’s more practical for most people to use a variety of public transportation (mostly buses, trains and subways) to get around.

However, if you do decide to drive a vehicle here in Hong Kong, you had better make sure you know where you’re going.  The roads do not have large shoulders to pull off and park – even just for a minute.  Even if you’re aided by a GPS device, you should be aware of two unwritten rules of the road here: (1) the bigger the vehicle, the more right of way you have; (2) fight to be first – fear to be last.  The first rule is pretty self-explanatory, while the second one is more of an attitude by some of the drivers (especially taxis).

Trying to walk through a mall in Hong Kong

Trying to walk through a mall in Hong Kong

Public transport is convenient, but getting around Hong Kong still requires a lot of walking.  For us, we have a 5-minute walk from the front of our apartment complex to the nearest bus stop – that’s just the first leg of anywhere we want to go.  In North America, it was a 10-second walk to the car in the driveway, and then a 30-second walk from the car to the mall – depending on how close a parking space we could find!  So if you plan on moving to (or even visiting) Hong Kong, you’ll need a good pair of walking shoes, and make sure you’re in good enough shape to walk from where public transport lets you off to your eventual destination.

One major aspect that everyone deals with sooner or later here is the crowds. Most North Americans are used to having their own ‘personal space’ when they’re out and about, but here in Hong Kong you have to find a way to contend with the crush of people. Whether you’re just walking down the sidewalk, shopping in a store, strolling through the mall or traveling on any of Hong Kong’s mass transit systems (bus, subway or train) – sooner or later you’ll find yourself trying to work your way through the mass of people.  As we mentioned before, people have their own way of walking, and the challenge is to safely and quickly work your way through the crowd – something that will most definitely test your patience.

The reality is that getting around Hong Kong is quite different than most cities in North America.  It is easy (and common) for expats to become exasperated with the way locals move from place to place.  Being constantly pushed out of one’s comfort zone can sometimes drive even the most patient person to the point of frustration.

Traveling on the KCR (train) in Hong Kong.

Traveling on the KCR (train) in Hong Kong.

For instance, you will have to face the ‘fight to be first – fear to be last’ attitude when traveling on Hong Kong’s train & subway system.  There you will encounter people trying to get to the front of the line (one way or the other, even if that means cutting in front of you) so they can be the first one onto the subway car (to find one of the few empty seats). Or they will push to be at the front of the door when it opens to exit (so they can be the first one to get to the nearest escalator), which will allow them to be the first person in line for the next train or bus!

The sooner you realize, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, that you’re not in Kansas anymore, you can start learning and adjusting to the local customs and habits. The challenge (as I see it) in getting around Hong Kong is not so much being prepared to do more walking, or learning how to negotiate the crowds to get on the bus or train, but it’s to be willing to adapt to a different mindset and a different way of life.

We have lived here in Asia since 1989, and while I would like to think I have adapted to the Hong Kong lifestyle, there are still days when my annoyance with cultural differences reminds me of my egocentric nature.  Learning to exhibit grace under pressure is something we all need to practice – whether it be as we are jostled in getting on the subway here in Hong Kong, or when you are cut off by someone in traffic on your way home today!

Until next time,
Joel & Debbie

In her role as Bible class teacher, Debbie has 90 seventh graders to work with – all with their own personalities and unique characteristics!  PRAY that Debbie would take the time to listen to the Holy Spirit’s prompting, and be given wisdom in preparing for classes, as well as in those “teachable moments” with her students.

Thank you for praying for our daughter Janelle.  We are thankful that she was able to find an apartment in the LA area to rent with a college friend, and they were able to move in at the end of August.  Continue to PRAY with us that she would be able to find full-time work related to her area of studies – exercise science.

We PRAISE God that Joel’s application for a new China visa was approved without any delays.  Joel will be traveling to Guangxi this coming week (September 16-22) to meet with church leaders in two key cities.  PRAY for wisdom and discernment as he follows up about recent leadership training sessions and has the opportunity to share with them on a deeper more personal level.

A View from the Curb

31 05 2013

On a recent trip into China, I watched as a group of young students on their way home from school, nonchalantly and safely made their way across a busy street. There wasn’t a crosswalk for them to use, but they carefully navigated their way from one side of the street to the other – as a variety of vehicles made their way down that same road.

Crossing Guilin Street

Students trying to cross a street in Guilin

It’s a scene that is repeated on a daily basis all across China, and if you’re not used to it, it can be a little unnerving. Growing both up in residential & more rural parts of Canada, I was taught & learned the rules of the road – when and how to safely cross a street – and that served me well until our family came to Asia. But upon our arrival in Taiwan, and on my subsequent travels into China, I quickly discovered that what worked for me in Canada and the USA wasn’t going to work here.

At first everything seemed some chaotic – there didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to why people were driving the way they were, or how people could safely cross the busy road without being run over. (If you want an idea of what it’s like to cross a street in China, imagine a real life version of the old arcade game – Frogger!

But as time went by, I began to see more than just the cacophony of cars and people and instead saw the rhythm – the ebb and flow of walking and driving in Asia. It’s hard to explain on paper all that’s involved (I guess you have to be here to experience it) but part of that rhythm involves having patience and being willing to wait for the right moment to move forward.  (Maybe that is why it has taken me 24 years to learn this particular lesson!)  But learning some patience and waiting for the right moment to step out has helped me survive the past 24 years on the streets of Taiwan, Hong Kong and China. Now, when traveling in China, I know how to safely make my way across a busy intersection without being run over by passing cars.

Crossing Nathan Road

Crossing a busy intersection in Hong Kong

As I reflected on this the other day, I realized that I have had to apply these same principles to my personal life and ministry.  Life and ministry is different here in Asia, and living in a culture where everything is go-go-go, and constantly under pressure to produce results, it’s not always easy to be patient.

As much as I would like to rush forward with all the great ideas I have gathered over the years – I need to bide my time and wait for the right moment before stepping out.  Peter Marshall said it best: “Teach us, O Lord, the disciplines of patience, for to wait is often harder than to work.” When the moment is right, we need to step out in faith, and move forward.

So whether it’s just a matter of us trying to cross a busy street safely, or trying to determine the next step in life or in ministry, remember – ‘Have patience with all things, but, first of all with yourself.’ (St. Francis de Sales)

Until next time,

Joel & Debbie


PRAISE God that students and staff were able to move into the new Guangxi Provincial Training Center building the middle of May.  Classes for this year’s students will be completed the end of June. As they complete their studies PRAY that these graduates would be both an encouragement and a help to the ministries of their local church.

We are thankful for recent improvements in Debbie’s dad’s overall condition.  He is on a new medication, which has helped to improve his recall and focus.  He is doing a bit of exercise again, getting out to church and making plans for our summer visit.  We are encouraged by his hopeful outlook.

We are thankful that we were able to attend our daughter Janelle’s graduation from Azusa Pacific University at the beginning of May and celebrate this milestone together with her.  PRAY for God’s leading both for summer employment and plans for the coming year.

We will be back in North America again this summer (June 16 – July 31st) – spending time with family and sharing with some churches about our ministry.  PRAY that in the midst of all our travels that we would have time for rest and rejuvenation.

When All is Not Well

26 04 2013

Recent events here in Hong Kong and China have brought back a certain level of unease, tension and fear for many people.

Next month will mark the 5th anniversary of China’s Wenchuan (汶川) Earthquake (May 12, 2008) where nearly 70,000 residents were killed, 375,000 injured, another 19,000 reported as missing, and nearly 5 million people left homeless.  Included in this number were thousands of school children, who died when the school buildings they were in that day collapsed on them.  And now just as many of these families were trying to move on with their lives, disaster has struck this province in central China once again.

2008 Wenchuan earthquake

Last week (April 20th) another devastating earthquake wreaked havoc on the people of Sichuan, hitting the rural county of Lushan (芦山), south of the provincial capital city of ChengDu. While this earthquake and the resulting aftershocks have brought back memories of the terror and destruction of the Wenchuan earthquake, it appears that it will not be as deadly – latest reports are 193 killed, and more than 12,200 injured.

But now, as Chinese soldiers have arrived and begun assisting people in this latest earthquake area, the questions have started again in China.  This time, the questions are not about corruption leading to collapsed buildings, but rather, whether local officials can be trusted to properly handle the influx of relief funds. Here in Hong Kong, local legislators have delayed sending a $100 million HKD ($13 million USD) donation for relief efforts in Lushan, over fears that funds might be misused. One Hong Kong lawmaker was quoted as saying “The mainland does not lack money but lacks a system. It would be wrong to hand over money if some of it is pocketed by corrupt officials.”

The other event drawing increasing attention from both Hong Kong and Chinese government officials is the recent spread of the H7N9 virus – another avian influenza (bird flu) virus. It seems that Hong Kong and China have been dealing with a long term ‘bird flu’ problem for several years, but now that the WHO has stated this new bird strain is ‘one of the most lethal’ flu viruses, it has gotten people’s attention.Riding the Hong Kong subway during SARS

In light of what happened back in 2003 (do you remember SARS?) health officials in Hong Kong are keeping a close eye on any new outbreaks of this bird flu virus in China.  With China’s ‘Golden Week’ national holiday coming up next week (May 1), government officials are concerned about the influx of up to 350,000 mainland Chinese tourists who will visit Hong Kong, and the possibility that one of them will inadvertently bring this bird flu virus to Hong Kong.  Hotels and tour agencies here are on increased alert to pay attention to the health of these tourists, so they can notify the health department should anyone become ill with bird flu-like symptoms.

As reports come from China each day of new cases of the H7N9 virus, health officials are doing all they can to try and prevent an outbreak here in Hong Kong.  I have seen an increased number of people on the subways and trains wearing a surgical mask – either out of fear that someone might pass the H7N9 virus onto them, or that they might give their cold or flu bug to someone else.

So how do we respond in light of our fears and worries – whether it be about earthquakes, deadly viruses, or something else?  As I was wondering how to conclude this blog, I came upon the following devotional thought that seemed so very appropriate.

George Muller said, “The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.” It has to be one or the other. You can’t yield to both, because the two are incompatible.

In Mark 5:36 Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” Jesus spoke these words to Jairus as if they involve a choice. They do.

Faith and fear are often categorized as emotions, but they each come down to what you choose to think about.

Worry-driven thoughts chip away at your confidence in God’s ability to provide. Faith-driven thoughts have the power to knock fear off its feet.

You may not have to worry about the after-shocks from an earthquake rattling your home today, but it’s possible that you and your family may be facing another kind of disaster – financial or otherwise.  The spread of the H7N9 virus may be far away from where you live today, but it doesn’t mean that you or one of your loved ones isn’t facing another health problem.  So how should we respond?

Remember again and again what God has done before. Choose faith-driven thoughts. Sing again and again a favorite hymn. Recite again and again a promise from Scripture. These will open the door to a faith-filled perspective, driving fear out of the way.

Faith or fear. It’s a choice. One eventually overtakes the other, so let’s choose our thoughts carefully.

Until next time,

Joel & Debbie


Construction on the new Guangxi Provincial Training Center building was completed last fall, but to date, church leaders have been unable to move into this new facility. PRAY that both church leaders and training center students would have patience as they wait for final inspections to be completed.

The health of Debbie’s dad has continued to fluctuate over the past couple of weeks and we have noticed some signs of memory loss and confusion. However, he continues to remain at his home, and we are thankful for Debbie’s brother (Stephen) and his wife (Linda) who have been the primary care givers on most days.  PRAY that God would give them strength and wisdom for this responsibility each day.  PRAY that Debbie’s dad would have a sense of security and peace as he faces changes in the time ahead.

March Madness Hong Kong Style

26 03 2013

Hong Kong is much more than a global financial center, and if you need any further proof of that fact you need to visit here in the month of March.  For whether you live in the USA or here in Hong Kong – the end of March signals one thing – March Madness!  The US version of March Madness focuses on NCAA collegiate basketball and runs for 3 weeks.  The Hong Kong version of March Madness takes only three days when the city hosts the premier rugby sevens tournament – the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens.

It’s an action packed weekend, on and off the playing field (pitch).  This year a record number of teams – 28 men’s teams in total – played a record 70 matches in just one weekend. Rugby sevens is a fast-paced version of traditional rugby, with most games lasting no more than 15-20 minutes (two 7-minute halves).   With only seven players per side on the field at a time, quickness, discipline and tackling skill are important keys to success.

Expat fans at the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens

Expat fans at the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens

But if you have ever attended the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens tournament, then you’ll know that for many people it’s about more than watching the rugby games.  The Hong Kong Sevens has earned a reputation for its carnival-like atmosphere in the stands, where fans not only proudly wave the flags and colors of their home or adopted country, but they also try to dress up in the most outlandish outfits and costumes for the weekend.  Expats from all around Asia and as far away as Great Britain travel to Hong Kong just to be part of the excitement – and it makes for a very international-flavored weekend both in the stands and on the field.

If the games ever get slow or too boring (not likely!), you can always watch the antics of the fans in the South Stands (known for their creative attire and raucous behavior) – never a dull moment there!

This year’s tournament was not only about winning one of the four trophies handed out (1st tier – Cup; 2nd tier -Plate, 3rd tier – Bowl and 4th tier – Shield), but it took on greater significance as teams are looking ahead to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, where rugby sevens will make their debut (do you know the last time rugby was an Olympic sport?).  The teams seemed more evenly matched this year, as evidenced by three of the final four games:  Shield Final – France (19) Argentina (14); Bowl Final – England (42) Hong Kong (7); and Plate Final – Samoa (12) Canada (7).

Action from the Fiji - Wales Cup Final

Action from the Fiji – Wales Cup Final

The heavily watched Cup Final featured returning champions Fiji up against a young and dynamic team from Wales.  With Wales jumping to a quick 19-0 lead by the end of the first half, the Hong Kong stadium roared in anticipation of an upset for the mighty Fiji team.  But from the start of the second half, Fiji showed their experience as they forced the younger Wales team into turnovers and penalties.  They tightened up their attack and half way through the second half the match was tied at 19-19, with Fiji getting the winning try in the final minutes to win the game 26 – 19.

Not to be outdone by the men, Hong Kong also hosted a women’s rugby sevens tournament this week as well, with Canada soundly beating Australia in the final game 29-0!

We decided to stay home and watch the games in the safety and comfort of our apartment this year, as one of the local TV stations broadcasted the games live.  At least they did that up until the penultimate moment of the Cup final between Fiji and Wales. With the game tied and both sides pressing for the winning try, the live broadcast was cut off as the local TV station began their evening news report!  By the time we found the web site for the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, the game was already over – lessening our excitement a bit for this year’s grand finale.

The anticipation of rugby sevens at the next summer Olympics has only increased excitement for next year’s Hong Kong Rugby Sevens – we’re expecting it’ll be another thrilling weekend for all who attend.  In light of that possibility, we may need to start booking our tickets for next year – anyone interested in joining us for some March Madness – Hong Kong style?

Until next time,

Joel & Debbie
(Go Canada! / Go USA!)
Canada US Flags

Hong Kong by the Numbers

10 03 2013

It is the mark of a truly intelligent person to be moved by statistics.
George Bernard Shaw

In the pursuit of sharing some insights into the city where we now live, I thought I could use some statistics to give you a glimpse into Hong Kong.  There were many different areas I could have researched and mentioned here, but I came up with a list of 6 factors that I believe are somehow all inter-related.

Hong Kong is not a large place area-wise, and isn’t all that populated compared to many other major cities in the world.  But when you put the two together – 7 million people living on 407 square miles (1,054 sq. km) of land mass, it makes for one of the most densely populated countries in the world.  That means there is an average of 18,000 people per square mile, compared with Canada (9 per sq. mile) USA (84 per square mile). If you are a little bit claustrophobic you might want to prepare yourself before coming here for a visit! You’ll especially notice this when you get up close and personal with all the other people riding the elevators with you.

Hong Kong Skyline

Some of the skyscrapers on Hong Kong Island

So it makes sense that in a city where land is limited, you will need to build taller buildings in order to meet the demand for office and living space.  Hong Kong continues to hold the # 1 ranking as the city with the most skyscrapers – for the 6,593 high rise buildings (100 meters / 25 stories or taller) and for the 1,316 skyscrapers (200 meters / 50 stories or taller). All these skyscrapers make for a wonderful view over Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor – but at what point will they run out of land on which to build these impressive buildings? One of the latest proposals for dealing with housing needs in Hong Kong is something called the Bionic Tower, which if it is built would be 300 stories high and house 100,000 people.

With land at a premium, most families are unable to afford to buy a single-detached home, and instead live in one of the many multiple residential dwellings scattered around Hong Kong.  But it doesn’t come cheap – whether it’s buying an apartment or some other form of residential real estate, Hong Kong has one of the highest home prices per square foot .  A recent report had Hong Kong ranked as the city with the second most expensive real estate – an average of $4,570 – $5,050 USD per square foot of property.  When compared to the most expensive city in the USA (San Francisco – an average of $421 USD per square foot) it’s no wonder that a high percentage of people in Hong Kong live in apartments smaller than 700 square feet in size.

If the place you live in is relatively small in size, you probably won’t want to spend a lot of time there. But in order to get wherever you want to go – work, school, shopping center – you need a way to get there.  Most people in Hong Kong do not own their own vehicle, but rather rely on public transportation to get around.  I believe that Hong Kong has a world class transportation system – with more than 11 million passenger journeys made every day on either railways, trams, buses, minibuses, taxis or ferries. The centerpiece and probably most frequently used of transportation here is the MTR/KCR – subway/train system with 82 stations covering 108 miles of track.  In 2012 it was ranked as the 10th busiest subway in the world – 1.444 billion riders in 2012 – an average of 3.96 million people per day. Again, if you are little bit claustrophobic, I wouldn’t recommend riding the subway here during rush hours – it can get a little crowded!

Hong Kong Subway

Hong Kong Subway

Many of those who use public transportation on a regular basis are students, as they make their way to one of the primary, secondary and post-secondary schools scattered across Hong Kong. Education is highly valued in Asia, and Hong Kong is no different.  There is much pressure on students to excel at their studies, and a good amount of their time is given to education. Recently primary students in Hong Kong were recognized for their academic prowess, ranking #1 in the world for reading/literacy, # 3 for math, and #9 for science.  And if that wasn’t sufficient to swell the heads of most Hong Kongers, then a recent (but yes, controversial) study has Hong Kong ranked #1 with the highest national IQ – (107).

You would think with all these high rankings and accomplishments that Hong Kong would be a happy place.  In spite of the fact of being one the world’s top three financial centers and ranked #1 for global competitiveness, it was only the 70th ranked city for worldwide quality of living.  The most recent Satisfaction With Life Index, that included Hong Kong in their report (2006), showed that people here weren’t quite as satisfied with life as a lot of other countries – Hong Kong was ranked #63.  So maybe it goes to show that being # 1 in economic and academic endeavors doesn’t always lead to happiness, and that a city is more than just all these facts and figures – there needs to be more than just these factors in place to bring meaning to life and to individuals within a city.

In the end, Hong Kong will be assessed by more than all of its accomplishments and world rankings. As someone once wrote, “Life it is not just a series of calculations and a sum total of statistics, it’s about experience, it’s about participation, it is something more complex and more interesting than what is obvious.”1 Whether you come to Hong Kong for a short visit or stay for a longer time to work, we think you’ll find it to be an amazing city – come see for yourself!

Until next time,

Joel & Debbie


Thank you for your prayers for Debbie’s dad.  We are thankful that he seems to be making some progress in the past two weeks, but PRAY for continued strengthening and that his one eye (re-attached retina) would continue to heal.  PRAY that Debbie’s brother and his wife would have wisdom and discernment for the decisions they are required to make as the primary care givers for Debbie’s dad.

Joel will be traveling to Guangxi this coming week (March 11-18) to meet with church leaders in three key cities.  PRAY for wisdom and discernment as he talks with them about various church construction and leadership training related projects and has the opportunity to share with them on a deeper more personal level.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

16 12 2012

How do those of us living in Hong Kong know that Christmas is approaching?  Well, since it hasn’t snowed here in over 37 years, and since the temperatures have been unseasonably warm recently (70-75° F; 20-24° C) we have had to rely on a couple of other indicators to remind us that it is Christmastime.

One of the first signs in Hong Kong that reminds Christmas-in-HK-2012-016us that Christmas is getting near is the appearance of Christmas displays around town.  It seems as though each of the countless shopping malls spread across Hong Kong go out of their way each year to put together the most unique Christmas display for shoppers to come and look at.  Over the years we have seen every imaginable color of Christmas tree, along with numerous characters in these displays that go beyond what we traditionally associate with Christmas.  In fact, this year at one of the malls closest to us, they have an orange Christmas tree with a Garfield theme!

But in addition to those Christmas displays and signs in shop windows advertising Christmas specials, there’s one more indicator that lets us know that Christmas is near: Christmas music.  In stores, malls, and just about any place where music is played, the songs and carols of Christmas (in English) can be heard across Hong Kong. It is true that many businesses use the Christmas season as just another marketing ploy, but when else can you hear music about Jesus played in shopping centers day after day?

Today as I walked through a mall, I stopped to see if I could hear any Christmas songs being played.  At first I couldn’t hear anything with all the noise from the hustle and bustle of people Christmas-in-HK-2012-004all around.  But then just when I thought that the carols had been drowned out by the sound of shoppers, I stepped into one of the many stores in this mall, and was greeted by the sound of beautiful voices singing “When a Child is Born”, followed by “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”.  Hearing those songs reminded me again of the real reason for Christmas – a time to celebrate the birth of our Savior.

So while those of us here in Hong Kong won’t be going out caroling in the snow this year, it still is the most wonderful time of the year – a time to share true joy, peace and hope with those around us.  Take time to slow down from the busyness of shopping and preparing for Christmas to listen to and maybe even sing some Christmas carols this year – celebrate Jesus and all that His coming to earth means to the world and to us personally!

Until next time,

Joel & Debbie