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Day 1: God answers prayers.

For lent, I decided to “be more eco-friendly” and not use any items wrapped/sold in plastic/Styrofoam, plastic utensils/bottles/plates, etc. It’s day 2, and THE STRUGGLE IS REAL.

But God has shown grace yesterday when I was completely unprepared with food.

LUNCH
We had to get takeout (usually coworkers would bring some yummy Filipino/Indonesian dishes) because of an 8-hour meeting but found a place that serves its meals in cardboard. I wasn’t the happiest about using a takeout container, but it’s better than plastic… for now.

DINNER
I didn’t have any vegetables to cook dinner and was already late. I was prepared to get my veggies from the wet market and be super late when LO AND BEHOLD! What should appear in front of me but a random vegetable stand in the middle of the ferry lobby!? I turned to my friend and said, “SEE?! GOD ANSWERS PRAYERS!”

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disposable culture + lent = zero waste bound

img_20170225_153112707One of the first things I noticed when I arrived in Hong Kong is the amount of disposable containers used and thrown away (as show in this picture on a Saturday at 3pm in Mongkok). The abundance of delicious street food and cheap convenience store don’t help the case either. I’m guilty of this convenient, disposable culture – buying bottled drinks and packaged snacks, using Styrofoam containers for take-out/street food, clearance items on sale.. The list goes on.

As the months passed, I discovered that the disposable culture goes beyond the food industry but applies in the fashion and electronics worlds. Fashion changes so quickly! If we want to keep up with it, we have to keep buying. Then, there’s planned obsolescence, which is a fancy way to say “made to be broken/out of style”. The things I buy were never made to last longer than a year or a few uses. I have so much stuff, but am I happy?

It started with a minimalist movement, but I want to do more. I want to also minimize my carbon footprint. I want to leave a planet for future generations. I want to show that God loves people and the planet. I want to be a good steward of the gifts bestowed to me by my Creator – my time, my money, my earth.

hk-foodwastestats

It made me sad when I found out Hong Kong will run out of landfill by 2018. That’s NEXT year!

Zero waste has been on my mind since last year when I began to simplify my room and learned about Lauren’s journey to live waste free. It sounds all hippie-dippy, but it’s quite simple:

“Zero waste is not about consuming or producing nothing. It’s about carefully and intentionally designing, producing, and consuming without waste as an end product.” -Andrea Sanders

I will continue the zero waste journey I started in NYC here in Hong Kong by cutting out plastic for lent. I don’t fast a lot. I can count how many times I’ve fasted on one hand ..let’s be real – half a hand. “If you couldn’t do it in NYC where there are more options, how are you going to do it in Hong Kong where time (thus convenience) is money?” Honestly, I don’t know. I do know that I will fail, but there is grace. I know that it won’t be easy, but it wouldn’t be worth it if it was easy. I doubt Jesus was comfortable fasting in the desert for 40 days. So here goes 40 days without plastic bottles, utensils, bags, etc. If you want to join me, GIVE ME TIPS, or ask questions, feel free to contact me!

Remember when I started my my Project 333 last month? I wanted to minimize my life, starting with my clothes. Like most changes, it’s uncomfortable at first, but then, it becomes second nature. I didn’t even notice a month passed! Nor did I notice the “small” amount of options I have. Not only have these options become my reality but my wardrobe brings me joy. I don’t feel guilty when I look into my closet and see the massive amount of clothes I haven’t touched for years, waiting for that “what if” moment. However, I did cheat for my trip to Cambodia because I needed a tank top and shorts that I didn’t account for.

Lesson: Project 333 by season would be more ideal.. especially since winter is about to end.

riding the [cultural] struggle bus.

I had a donut last week. Thus began my downfall. That’s a bit dramatic, but that donut sparked something. If you know me, you would know I don’t get homesick, but I do have fond memories of people and places. I miss the small things – commutes and/or lunch dates with Ada, food ‘ventures with Jenn, hiking with Adam and Hailin – as well as the big things – roadtrips, exploring national parks, and cross-country visits. I miss the diversity of food, of people, of neighborhoods. It’s not that I didn’t miss my life back in NYC in the last few months, but that donut triggered something deep in my soul that I can’t pinpoint.

Perhaps my honeymoon phase is over. I didn’t even realize I was on the culture shock roller coaster we talked about at training since I didn’t feel as though I entered a new culture. In fact, I was a little disappointed to be placed in Hong Kong. I’m super stoked to be here and serving with migrant workers, but I wanted to be [culturally] challenged. I wanted to be placed in another country where I didn’t know the language, eat the food, understand the culture, or look like a local. Instead, I’m placed in a city that reminds me of Chinatown, has food I’m familiar with, and speaks my mother tongue. At first, I thought, “Augh, I’m not riding the struggle bus. I’m not even on a bus; I’m chilling in the back of a comfy car with the aircon on.”

At first, I was jealous of my co-fellows, placed in countries outside their comfort zones. I wanted that journey for myself (I know, I’m nuts), but it’s not my time to ride that cultural struggle bus. Instead, I ride another struggle bus – to slowly learn what it means to be an Asian American missionary in Asia while hearing about the struggles back in my passportland; to pray and trust God with the issues here in Hong Kong as well as abroad in the United States; and to love where I am placed because God’s plans are better than mine. And it’s not easy. It’s never easy to unlearn decades of ideologies and relearn them, but I trust God. So far, it’s been pretty awesome. (:

power of presence.

Every Sunday, I join migrant workers in Chater Garden. We eat, dance, talk, dance, sing, talk, dance, eat. Sometimes, I think, “I could be doing something else besides sitting here. I’m not even doing anything.” But, am I really not? Do I really need to be doing right now? If you know me, you would know that I like to keep busy. I like to fill my calendar with activities to do, which leads to a lack of rest and state of just being.

I’m Martha. But I’m learning to be Mary. God loves me for who I am, not what I can do. It was in that realization that I am loved despite my actions that has set my soul free – free from the burden of earning God’s love, free from the burden of changing the world. All I am asked is to trust and to be as I am.

Working and spending time with Filipinos taught me the power of presence (and presents – don’t even think about forgetting pasalubong when you travel!), contrary to the environment I grew up in. Yesterday, I almost missed a little girl’s birthday party because I once again put my work first. The internal conflict was real. I struggled to appease my inner voice that showing up means more than doing work. This tension’s also there Sundays when I sit with my Filipino friends in Chater Garden, not knowing what’s happening most of the time. I’m learning that the seemingly passive tasks of listening and being somewhere speak louder than doing. As an Ate pointed out, my presence (even if I don’t do anything) means a lot. It shows that I care, that I’m willing to listening, that I stand in solidarity.. while sitting.

a prayer for today.

God,

Today, I am tired –
Tired of the bullshit of yesterday,
Tired of the uncertainty of tomorrow.

But You are with me today,
You know my yesterday,
And You command my tomorrow.

So, I will trust and rest in You –
Trust in the sovereignty of Your plans,
Rest in the promise of Your love.

Tomorrow, I will get up,
And I will fight as You’ve taught me how –
With mercy, with grace, with love.

Lord, today I need Your Spirit;
Mine isn’t strong enough.

“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!

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.