“Love people and use things because the opposite never works.”

The Minimalists

I used to move. A lot. Since college, I’ve schlepped my possessions from one place to another. The longest time I spent without moving was for 13 months, right before I (once again) moved… to Hong Kong. With a different address every few months (my Global Entry application was a nightmare), moving became almost second nature. As friends and family (God bless them, especially that time we moved with only bicycles) helped me pack and unpack my stuff, I realized how much I had but never used. When I left for college, I kept most of the things I owned at my parents’ home, and it became my storage unit. It might as well been called the dump because I never used those items again. That cheerleading/fencing/team t-shirt/sweatshirt from high school/college/church? Never wore it again. The [insert item] that I will someday use? Nah.

My goal in the last couple of years was to own 100 items; if not, plan B was to be able to fit ALL my possession into a sedan car. I began that process last year with my roommate. We tried Kondo’s magic of tidying up, which was a great first step. I got rid of some things that didn’t bring me joy, but it wasn’t what I was hoping for. I wanted to let go of more; I wanted a purge. If you don’t know God, I’ll let you on a little secret; God’s got a great sense of humor, and this time was no exception. My purge came with one of the biggest changes of my life – moving to Hong Kong. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to leave behind much with my parents selling my childhood home and moving to a smaller place. This was the perfect opportunity to cut down on my possessions, and I did. I came to Hong Kong with everything I owned in 3 suitcases, knowing it will be cut down to less when I leave.

But it’s about more than cutting things out of my life; it’s about adding value to it. I may not own much, but what am I doing with my time? What about the things I cannot hold? I watched Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, and it made me think about how I use my time. Since arriving in Hong Kong, I’ve been in search of a social life, which, by the way, doesn’t exist. I wanted to fill my free time with things to do; I wanted to keep busy. Essentially, my time needed to be cluttered even if my closet is not.

I have a problem with being alone. As an extravert, it is extremely difficult for me to sit by myself for hours (don’t even mention days; I’ll have a heart attack). As I began to be uncomfortably comfortable living alone, eating alone, hiking alone, traveling alone, I realize this chapter of my life’s story is to learn how to love myself, to be okay with my own company. And it starts with finding joy in the things and people I’m surrounded by. This means to stop filling my life with meaningless crap (physically and metaphorically), to start being intentional, to pursue my passion, to live simply.. kind of like Jesus!

Now what? Let’s start doing! Inspired by the minimalist movement and my friend, Ivanna, I’ll continue this simple living journey by starting small – clothing. Using Project 333 as a method, I created a capsule wardrobe! For 3 months, I will wear 33 items. Good thing to start now since my birthday is in 3 months! JK.

Project 333A.JPG

33 items, 3 months: 13 tops, 2 button-downs, 2 sweatshirts, 5 pairs of pants; (not pictured) 1 jacket, 5 pairs of shoes, 3 bags and 2 bracelets

Who knows what will happen in 3 months? But I’m excited to see how God uses this experience to mold me in my journey. Lastly, I invite you to join me!

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be fearless.

I’ve struggled in the last month to post because I was afraid – fear of judgement, apathy, debates. I wanted to appease my audience whether it’s on my personal social media accounts or on the ones I manage; I cared too much about what people thought. I felt God’s nudging in the last few weeks, but I ignored it. It wasn’t until a week into 2017 when God spoke. My job isn’t to appease culture, no matter how scary it is. My job is to tell my story because it’s part of a much bigger story. It means being countercultural and true to what trusting that the 5 loaves and 2 fish I bring will be multiplied by God.

So, here’s to a year of courage to speak the truth, to adventure, to trust God in this part of my journey as I’ve done in 2016, which has led me here in Hong Kong. I’ll bring the fish and bread; God will do the multiplying.

extraordinary God in my ordinary days.

Schedule for Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays
8:00/8:30 – wake up
9:00/9:30 – leave home
10:00 – arrive at work
14:00 – advocacy cluster meeting (Tuesdays only)
18:00 – leave work
18:30/19:00 – errands/cook dinner/events/gaming

Most days, I don’t feel like I left New York. My schedule here is very similar to the one back home – work 5 days a week, find things to do on my days off, cook, grocery shop, attend Bible study/church, etc. Work is similar to my last agency’s – casework, event planning, and documentation… lots of documentation. Always documentation in social services. Most days, I wonder if I’m doing missions correctly because it’s been ingrained in me to see missionaries as people who preach the Gospel, and that’s not what I’m doing. I’m not going up to migrant workers and asking if they know about Jesus as their personal Savior; instead, I’m sitting in an office 8 hours a day listening to workers’ pleas for help, encoding client files, learning Tagalog, and planning events. How is that missions?

…How is it not? Didn’t Jesus listen to cries for help, for healing? He probably didn’t have to document everything He did or had to keep track of spreadsheets, but I would like to think that Jesus had meetings with His disciples. Sometimes, I wonder about Jesus’ daily life. What did He do during His free time? Did He have to go to the market, too? What kind of friend was He? Did He joke around with His bros? Or was He super serious and super focused on His work on Earth? #questions!

If we are all called into missions and to make disciples, then what we do daily is missions. Our work places are our mission fields, whether we are in social services or in business. Each moment is an opportunity for us to be a testimony of God’s love. Therefore, I reject the notion that not all of us can go into missions or fight for justice. It is in our ordinary moments, in our daily encounters, in our mundane tasks that we demonstrate who we are as children of the most high God. For me, my missions field is in a non-profit organization to advocate for migrant workers’ rights, and that does entail administrative tasks, whether I like it or not. It is in my ordinary days that I encounter and worship an extraordinary God.

sojourner (n.) – a person who resides temporarily in a place

sojournerIt’s been a month (October 27th!) since I arrived in Hong Kong with everything I own in 3 suitcases and a backpack. I came as a missionary to serve with migrant workers, sojourning in Hong Kong for 2 years. A seemingly simple sentence with many meanings and stories packed into them – missionary, migrant workers, sojourner. I am a missionary because I am responding to God’s love for me, resulting in my call to love others, whether through charity or justice work, whether in New York City or in Hong Kong. I am a sojourner because this is temporary and voluntary; I can leave whenever I want and will leave in 2018 when my service ends. The community I serve with are not sojourners; they are migrants, leaving home to find work and better financial opportunities for their families. There are similarities in our stories – leaving our communities, arriving in a foreign place, settling into routines; but, there are differences in our journeys – reasons for leaving, how we arrive, the way we are viewed.

chater-road

If you’ve ever been to Hong Kong, you’d notice the sea of Filipinos on the streets, under walkways, and in public areas on Sundays. It’s quite a sight and sets Hong Kong apart from other cities. Sunday is migrant workers’ day off (for the most part). Foreign domestic workers are cheap to hire (HK$4,210/month = ~US$543) and in constant supply. Why? Poverty. Most Filipinos have college degrees, but with no employment prospects back home, there is no choice except to find work abroad. This vulnerability leads so many to leave their spouses, children, and parents for an uncertain future in a foreign country where they are seen as disposable workers, less than human.

There are 2 types of Hong Kongers – locals and expats. Due to the affordability of migrant workers, almost anyone can hire a worker; however, depending on who the employer is, migrant workers’ stories differ and fall between two extremes. The lucky ones have private rooms, are paid their salaries, have paid holidays and annual leave, and treated like members of the family; the not-so lucky ones are forced to sleep under furnitures, are underpaid, forced to work on holidays and denied annual leave, and treated as slaves.

My friends were excited to learn of my placement site. “You’re moving to Hong Kong! I am so jealous!” “You’re going to be fluent in Cantonese when you come back!” I’m not sorry to say that it won’t be better when I return. I speak Cantonese in the area where I live, but English and Tagalog are spoken at work. A constant tension for myself is my social identity here. As a person of Chinese descent, I am seen as a local, part of the majority, contrary to my social location back home in the United States. I am expected to speak Cantonese fluently and read Chinese, but I choose not to. Instead, I choose to learn Tagalog; I choose to be in solidarity with migrant workers.

I am excited to be on this journey, but I am also scared. Mostly, I am afraid of how I will connect my community at home with my work in Hong Kong. Will people even care? Is it even worth it to write about the work I’m doing? They’re going to wonder why I’m not preaching about Jesus dying for our sins and reconciling us with God, and I’m going to have to explain what a missionary is!

Then, I remind myself that Jesus didn’t care what others thought; He told it as it was. He went on just doing His thing, crossing all types of boundaries – talking to prostitutes and tax collectors, chilling with lepers, and advocating for the oppressed. THEN, He died on the cross, rose again, told His apostles to make disciples of all nations, and ascended into heaven. I’m 200% certain of my current status as a missionary in Hong Kong, and I trusted God’s plans for me last year, so why am I doubting it now?

God, grant me courage to write, to share, and to connect.

 

“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”

Dumbledore (J.K. Rowling)

Election 2016 will undoubtedly go down in history. After the election results, I lamented. I cried not because Trump was elected president but for everything he represents, the reasons why he was elected, and what is known as #Trumpageddon. I fear for my brothers and sisters of color, who identify as LGBTQ+, who are Muslim, in poverty, and those who don’t fit into the groups that Americans deemed as “good” or “right.” I pray for those who take actions against oppression but especially for those who sit back and say, “God is in control” without doing anything. Yes, God is in control of everything, including this election. But, God also created us, you and me, to do something about injustice. Let me say that again.

God created us to do something about injustice.

Jesus not only talks about injustice and oppression but does something about it. He challenged those in power, inspired others to take action, advocated for the marginalized, and created a movement based on justice and love. That is the Savior I serve – an organizer, a protester, an advocate. What would it looked like if Jesus sat back during the political and social unrest of His time and said, “Nah, God’s in control. Everything will work out according to God’s will”? I doubt Christianity would be what it is today.

So what can you do during our time of political and social unrest? Yes, pray, but faith without works is dead. Learn about the [major] issues facing your local or global community, and ask questions. Dig deep into the issue(s) with an opened mind. If I learned one thing in graduate school (and missionary training) is to really ask questions. At first, I couldn’t understand why Trump won the election. When I began to ask why, not to blame others but to really understand the issues our country faces, I learned about the working class in rural areas who face unemployment, hoping that this president would be able to help. It is so easy to point fingers and say, “They’re the reason why Trump is our president”, but we forget to ask, “Why?” So often, we forget that our brothers and sisters are also suffering and want to see change, just like me.

Then, do something about it, whether it’s charity (i.e. volunteering) or justice (i.e. protesting) work. Support local charities who work with communities. If you need help, you can always email or message me, and I can see how I can help. For the aforementioned issue, it’s cheaper to move manufacturing companies abroad than to employ locals to do the same work. What’s the solution for that? Lastly, get out of your comfort zone. Learn about people who you wouldn’t normally talk to. Get to know them and love them as they are because God loves them as they are. We love because He first loved us.

finding community in the most unexpected places.

I moved back to my parents’ place, awaiting my visa and flight for Hong Kong, sitting and praying through uncertainty. I didn’t expect a rush of sadness as I went home last night, trying to process it with my roommate. Moving was never an issue for me; I’ve mastered the art of picking up and leaving in the last 4 years, but this time it’s different. I am leaving home. Unbeknownst to me, I’ve allowed myself to be comfortable somewhere, to be involved in a community (despite the size but a community nonetheless). It’s funny how I spent the first 2 years eager to leave, and now that I’m preparing to go, I don’t want to.

I thank God for the last year where I found community, not in the fellowship halls of church but in the small apartment in Brooklyn, the subway rides home, the coffee shops of Chinatown, and the group chats on Facebook. I found not one but multiple communities, not where I thought it would be but where God knew I would be loved, accepted, and nurtured in those surprising places. I thank those who made this year home for me, and my journey would not be the same without you. Salamat. (:

edu-ma-cation.

Today is my last graduate class. EVER. Facebook reminds me that 4 years ago today, I said good-bye to my undergraduate alma mater after finishing my first year of service with AmeriCorps. I drove the 3.5 hours home to start the next phase of my life, not knowing that 4 years later, I would finish grad school, that I would be preparing to serve overseas as a missionary. It’s funny how life turns out, isn’t it?

I find it amusing and ironic that I went to college for an education1 but received a different type of education2, one that has led me to examine oppression, to question systems, to pursue perfect love. I’m far from finished in my pursuit for social justice and in personal refinement, but college, graduate school, and everything in between has laid the foundation. There is much prayers to be said, tears to be cried, mistakes to be made, and lessons to be learned. Even if it’s not the type of education I wanted when I pursued higher education; it’s the education I needed.

#noregrats #Godsgotjokes

1 the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction
2 an enlightening experience

the in-between’s.

I stand in the in-between’s. In between Chinese and American cultures. In between conservative and liberal theological beliefs. In between new and old images of what a missionary is. In between but never fully immersed. “Who am I?” has been a question I’ve asked myself for decades. “You are a child of God, loved and forgiven,” is the answer I received. But where do I go from here? Where do I stand? As I am. In between two worlds. In God’s mission for the world.

Then, I ask myself: Do I even need an answer? Do I need to fully understand? To fully place myself in one place? Do I want to be labeled and put in a box?

Next Wednesday, my co-fellows and I will be commissioned as a missionary. Missionary. An old white man named Joe going door to door preaching the Gospel? Not at all. How about a young Chinese woman named Sushi going halfway around the world to serve and live in community with others? These are 2 very different views of a missionary, one more dominant than the other. So what does that mean for us? What will it look like when we, from different parts of the world, go to different parts of the world? We will stand in tension, navigating 2 different stories of a missionary.

Standing in the in-between has challenged and questioned my identity, my faith, my world views. I have grown and will continue to grow in both personal and social holiness as I accept this space and learn to navigate it.

end of an era.

Today marks the end of an era. #NSAadventures is taking a hiatus. Nisha and Adam are moving to San Francisco until October, which overlaps with my departure date for Hong Kong, so we had our last adventure today. It’s bittersweet. These are my first real-adult-lease-signing roommates and, more importantly, my adventure buddies. Without them, the last 3 years in New York would not have been the same. They comforted me through break-ups and encouraged me through crushed dreams. Together, we drove, biked, and hiked many, many miles; chased adventures; pursued new endeavors in our careers; encountered beginnings; and uploaded a lot of pictures on Instagram and Facebook. It is with them that I found a piece of home, and I will always be grateful for that. Until we meet again. (:

I want to linger,
A little longer,
A little longer here with you.

And as the years go by,
I think of you inside,
This is good night and not good-bye.