Rally to Remember

Sunday afternoon there were two rallies held back to back to remember Vicky Flores, one in Vicky’s community of Discovery Bay and the second on Hong Kong Island.  The rallies were to call the Hong Kong Police and Philippine Consulate to act with the same amount of respect and concern they would show in the investigation of the death of any individual, regardless of nationality or profession.  The mere fact that it took 10 days after Vicky’s disappearnce for the police to even begin to question her friends and neighbors is an outrage.  Thankfully, it is not something Vicky’s community is going to let slide.

A petition has been circulating not only among the migrant workers community, but also among employers both in DB and Hong Kong Island.  I have been proud and sadly amazed to see so many employers give so much time and effort to making sure Vicky’s case receives the care and thoroughness it deserves.  Copies of the petition, containing over 3,000 signatures gathered in less than a week’s time, were presented by representatives of the migrant community and Vicky’s family to both the Philippine Consulate and the Hong Kong Police.  We are not pointing fingers at anyone.  We are not blaming her death on a single person.  We are just asking that the police conduct a “thorough, impartial and transparent investigation.” (Paraphrased from the statment of Eman Villanueva, Secretary-General of United Filipinos in Hong Kong, during the Hong Kong rally). We are asking that Vicky’s family and community be kept informed of updates, that the police continue to interview potential witnesses and to take her death seriously.  There are 3,000 signatures saying that every life counts, and every death is worth mourning.   

After the rally Sunday afternoon, my black ribbon of remember still pinned to my shirt, I headed out to Sha Tin to my church community.  During dinner, no less than half a dozen people questioned my pin.  Every time I shared the story of Vicky, I got the same response.  “Really!?  How have I not heard anything about this!?”  Because the Hong Kong papers have been slow to pick up the story, is why.  The police had supposedly closed the case even before our office, The Mission for Migrant Workers, even heard about Vicky’s unfortunate death.  It has taken the sorrow-filled efforts of friends and family to push the media to look at the story.  Even then, reports have been sparse or even incorrect.  (One paper stated that the candle light vigil held in Vicky’s memory last week only gathered about 50 – 60 people, while pictures, videos and actual attendees speculate a total closer to 1,000!)  And I have to admit that were it not for the amazing work and dedication by the employers community to finding justice for Vicky’s passing, the media may have never picked up this story.  Sad, but true.  “We know the penchant of (our) government to dismiss deaths of OFWs especially the mysterious ones. Instead of pursuing an investigation, the tendency is to rush the case without regards for justice and then repatriate the body. Vicky’s case should not suffer the same fate,” Dolores Balladares, Unifil-Migrante-HK chairperson said.”  The main medium of communication on this story has come from word of mouth and personal blogs.  Yet, whether the media ever gives decent coverage to this tragedy or not, will not diminish the power behind the people that knew and loved Vicky.  Or of those who may not have known Vicky personally, but are still outraged and saddened by such a tragic loss.  We will continue to call for the police to fully investigate Vicky’s death.  And may the strength of a rising community show not just the police and government, but all communities here in Hong Kong, that no death should be filed in “Miscellaneous Inquiry”.  Our strength comes not in the numbers on the petition or gathered at the rallies, but in the number of tears shed, for Vicky and for all lives lost too soon. 

For more information and updates on Vicky’s case, please visit: www.adeathinhongkong.wordpress.com

Overseas Missions – part isa

There have been some great thoughts and discussion on the idea of Overseas Missions coming from Valerie and Lane.  Seeing as how I have a Master’s in World Missions and am currently employed by the United Methodist Church as an actual-for-real Missionary (that’s my official title), its seems appropriate that I post my own blog of thoughts on overseas missions.  Even though 98% of the time I still don’t feel qualified.  

When I started writing this post, I realized, I actually have a lot of thoughts on this. (Who knew?)  So I’ve decided to break it up into a series post.  This will now officially become: Part Isa (we’re gonna count in Tagalog, just to keep me on task to my language lessons!)

Last summer, I joined with 16 other young adults in the Mission Intern and US2 program for a three week training in New York.  We talked about issues ranging from poverty to church politics.  The underlying, understood, overstated theme was, “We are not working FOR, we are working WITH.”  It was important to remember that we were not bringing in anything that the receiving community didn’t already have.  Rather, we were going to join in the work that was already being done – to help expand the Church Universal by joining in the struggles in various communities around the world.  For some communities, the struggle is in finding identity, finding one’s voice in this world.  For others, the struggle is hunger, or fresh water or fighting for a liveable wage.  Whatever the struggle, whatever the journey, it is important to know that there are communities around the world, bound together through the Church. 

In one of our sessions during training, we sat through a session with self-proclaimed “Meth-o-geek” Rev. Dr. John Nuessle.  Dr. Nuessle talked about how Mission should start from the Universal Church and move out to the local church.  “The notion that the local church is what is most important, is what is killing the Church Universal.  The Church, Scripturally speaking, is connectional.” And that is something that I am discovering more and more every day.  I am incredibly blessed to come from a loving and supportive church family in Florida.  I grew up in the same church as my father; and while it can be hard for a young girl to find her identity in the midst of tight community, I wouldn’t trade it in for the world.  Since arriving in Hong Kong, I have been flooded with emails, cards and even the occasional pound cake from my church back home.  And I am always asked the same question, “What can we do here, for your community there?”  Prayers, money, manpower and food items have been sent to the shelter here not just from my church, but churches in Sweden, Korea, the Philippines, even Arkansas!  The work that is being done here isn’t done by a single, self-enclosed community.  The struggle for justice would not be possible without the support of the Church Universal.  THAT, to me, is Missions.  Working together, for the common good, in all communities.  Not just our own.

We see in Acts great growth in the Church.  The disciples are constantly on the move.  They are growing up new communities everywhere, not just in their hometown.  “Then Peter replied, ‘I see very clearly that God doesn’t show partiality.  In every nation He accepts those who honor Him and does what is right.'” (Acts 10:34-35)  The amazing thing to me through Acts is the way the Church stays connected, even in midst of exponential growth.  There is joy when new communities are formed.  (Acts 8:14, 11:18, 11:23, 14:27 to name a few)  When there is struggle, everyone pitches in.   When there is a famine in Judea, other communities sent relief (Acts 11:27-30).  When someone was imprisoned, people gathered quickly to pray and work for their release. There are so many examples of the Church growing together, helping one another, praying for each other.  When Barnabas and Saul are commissioned, it is with the blessing of the Church, knowing that they were going out to build new communities.  They were entrusted with relief supplies for those struggling.  Never do we find one church standing alone.  Never do we find one missionary taking all of the glory. 

Personally, I like the idea of a global community.  Of going to new and strange lands, to find God already present.  It takes a lot of the pressure off.  It is a beautiful feeling to know that, even when I am sleeping, my fellow missionaries in Tennessee and Colorado are working hard in the middle of the day.  That when I am getting off from work in the afternoon, I have friends in Germany and Israel struggling for peace in their own ways.  When I am waking in the morning, there are friends in Grenada and Chili who are ending their day of work in communities where they both stand out and blend in at the same time.   At the risk of re-appropriating a beautiful sentiment shared by a fellow MI, there are times that in our own personal moments of struggle, our little community has surrounded us, singing and marching alongside of us in solidarity and love.  And I know that it expands beyond the 17 young adults who merged together for three weeks in New York.  It extends to my community here in Hong Kong, to the communities I’ve left behind in Florida, Alabama and Kentucky.  When we send missionaries out overseas we are in essence extending the arms of the Church.  We are making connections from one foreign land to another.

In the words of the great Meth-o-geek himself, “There is no such thing as foreign mission – all mission is local mission.  Where you work is someone’s local community. Mission may be functionally or geographically different; but mission is mission is mission.”

 

 

Dangerously Prophetic

Tonight found me sitting in the the gymnasium of an elite international school on one of the more wealthy islands in Hong Kong.  The air conditioning conveniently wasn’t working on the warmest night we’ve had yet this year, and any breeze that was being offered by the humble fans in the corners was promptly sucked up into the blue carpet.  It was standing room only by the time the service started, so as I fanned myself with my program, I felt lucky to have a seat.  As I scanned the room, I was pleasantly surprised to see more than just Filipino faces.  The occasional white face dotted the scene, fanning themselves with similarly folded programs.  This was the first Mass I’ve been to in Hong Kong that was in English.

Towards the end of my first month here, I was sitting in a wedding for one of our volunteers that I honestly didn’t even know.  One of the guys from the office leaned over to me and said, “Now you’ve been to a wedding, a birthday party and an anniversary celebration.  Let’s just hope you don’t round it out with a funeral during your time here.”  Unfortunately, tonight, I did.

While I did not know Vicky Flores, I went to show support to the migrant community for their loss.  The Migrant Workers, particularly Domestic Helpers, often live in daily fear of their jobs.  Employers are often abusive: verbally, physically or sexually.  They are underpaid, overworked and grossly mistreated.  Their cries are ignored by their sending agencies and shut down by their own Consulate.  And now, one more fear is floating in the minds of Domestic Helpers in Hong Kong – fear of death.  The shady circumstances in which Vicky’s body was found floating in Tung Chung should have prompted the police to an in depth investigation.  Instead, just short of a week, the case was closed, ruled a “Drowning” and filed in Miscellaneous Inquiries.  No interviews were done with neighbors or family members, even though they have offered statements of the strange occurrences surrounding the day of her disappearance.  It was only after the Migrant Community took a stand, spending 9 hours in the police station refusing to be ignored, after a candlelight vigil with an attendance of over 1,000 people and the scheduling of two rallies that the police have started to offer to look “more closely” into the case.

As I sat in that stuffy room, unashamedly blotting my own tears for a woman I didn’t know, the reality of death and loss became very clear to me.  I have attended my share of funerals in my lifetime.  I have lost family members to long illnesses.  I have lost friends to car accidents and suicide.  But never have I been so close to loss at the hand’s of another person.  The thought that Vicky’s death was not accidental shakes me to my core.  I watched her sister, one of 7 remaining siblings, thank the community for their outpouring of love and support.  After the mass, the crowd around her was a circle so thick I could barely make out the top of her head.  Announcements for the rallies given over the loudspeaker were met with cheers and a feeble, but thankful, smile from the sister. 

I came home to an empty apartment, at once thankful for the silence in which to weep, and weary from the need of comfort. 

Leaving on jet planes and typhoons

Tonight we had a going away party at the Bethune House for Julie and Kelli – two Global Justice Volunteers from GBGM who have been here for the last 6 weeks.  Getting to know them, work alongside of them, watching them learn the lessons in the BH and make relationships with the women there has been an absolute joy for me.  They quickly became good friends and we spent many evenings playing cards and more afternoons being silly with the camera.  It will be very sad to see them go on Monday.  Tonight was a true testament to how much their short time has meant to the women in the BH.  There were tears, fits of laughter, lots of dancing, plenty of food and some very strange pineapple drink.  Listening to the women thank Kelli and Julie, through their tears and giggles, got me worried.  I was already tearing up tonight – how in the world am I going to survive leaving in December!?  I am so in love with my job – mainly because of the women I work with everyday.  They are the kind of women that, even though we speak different languages, somehow can get me out on the dance floor.  ME!  Dancing!  I know.  Scary.  I spend so much of my time listening to stories, writing statements, asking about their families back home, learning new recipes from them, laughing over the way we stumble through the language barriers; I’ve never thought of having to say goodbye.  It just hit me tonight that its not going to be easy.  Good thing I don’t have to say goodbye yet!

Also, tonight there is a typhoon in Hong Kong.  Its my first typhoon.  Its kinda like a hurricane, I think.  It even has a name, like a hurricane.  Typhoon Neoguri.  Right now its a level three, which means that winds are blowing as high as 38 mile per hour, and its thought it could move up to a category 4 during the last night.  So far no major problems or anything, just noisy wind. 

And with thoughts of goodbyes and swirling winds named Neoguri, I’m off to bed!

~~~~~~~~~~Update~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Its now raining sideways.  Not slanted.  Sideways.  Crazy.

New Favorites

Still struggling with the dream world.  The book I am reading isn’t helping.

Here’s my version of “The Good Life” – New Favorites.  Except, this probably won’t be an ongoing thing, just a list.  And, what the heck, with bullet points.

  • Skype: God’s gift to international relationships.  No kidding.  This online phone service is free as long as you call skype to skype and has some of the cheapest international rates I’ve ever seen if you wanted to call landlines.  For graduation Kris’ parents gave me a webcam, and now Kris and I can see each other a few times a week.  We spent Thanksgiving and Christmas together over webcam.  Very sweet.  Even my, um, technologically-impaired family (I mean that with all the love in my heart dad) have signed up, and I get to see and talk to them fairly regularly as well and also spent the holidays with them via the webcam.  SUCH a great idea!  Now, if only I could convince certain people with babies and other certain people with a special dog to sign up, life would be good.
  • Dried Fruit:I know that we have dried fruit in the States, but I had never given it a second thought until about a week ago, when I was sitting in a 7 hour meeting starving, and someone pulled out a bag of assorted dried fruits.  Now I can’t get enough.  Particularly dried mangos.  YUMMY!
  • Honey Lychee Tea: This is a drink I reward myself with at the end of a long day.  It combines the perfect amount of sweet and smooth.  Such a treat.
  • Saturdays: For the last four years I had a job that pretty much required that I work on weekends, which I didn’t mind, because that is where the money was.  Now, Saturdays are guarded carefully.  Being my only day off (I’m not as special as to earn a two day weekend yet), I have to be sure to balance it well with sleeping in, but not too late, and doing something enjoyable, but not too strenuous. Its hard to cram a week’s worth of relaxing into one day!
  • Skirts: I am by no means a girly-girl, I think we’d all agree.  But I love skirts.  Especially the flowy kind.  I don’t really have to dress up for work, except for the days I’m in court, so most days jeans and a tshirt suffice.  But its about to get H-O-T.  This week has already been in the high 80s with no lower than 80% humidity.  Ick.  So sometimes, jeans are just too much clothing to be wearing.  Skirts are perfect because I can still pair a tshirt with them, slip on my beloved Rainbows and I’m good to go!
  • Dunaguan: I know, the word looks funny.  It kinda sounds funny too.  (pronounced “Dune-ah-goo-An”)  It is a traditional Filipino pork dish.  I am not going to bother telling what goes into it, because you honestly do not want to know, but it is my new favorite food.  SO tasty.  It will be something I crave when I get back to the States.  One of the Filipinas spent an afternoon teaching me how to make it last week.  I was very impressed, if not a little grossed out, but man it was musarap! (that’s delicious in Tagalog)
  • Reading Time: Its like I’m back in 3rd grade with a reading corner and an egg timer.  Only, I’m 26, the corner is really the MTR (subway) and there’s no egg timer, just a recorded voice over the loudspeaker announcing my stop.  I am rarely found without a book in my purse (which of course, warrants carrying larger purses than I ever have, see next bullet point).  After years and years of assigned reading, I can finally choose a book for myself.  And I am just eating them up!  I’m averaging about 3 books a month.  I absolutly LOVE having time to read for pleasure again!  So if you have any recommendations, send them my way.  And for all of you who have sent books my way, you are amazing!!
  • Big purses: Let me say it again, I am not a girly-girl.  But there are certain things that I just love, such as funky earrings, skirts, and now, big purses.  I NEVER carried a purse larger than my wallet in the States.  I had no need to.  As long as it could hold my money, my keys and phone, I was good to go.  Now though, well, the contents of my purse are a lot more complicated.  I used to catch my old roommate Nathan constantly digging through my purse – usually looking for quarters for the pool table.  If he were to dig in there now though, he might get lost, and he would sure be surprised at what he would find.  On any given day, inside my purse there are the following items: A book (see above), a water bottle, my phone, a calender, my wallet (usually containing at least two kinds of currency), my cell phone, a calculator, a variety of pens and probably a highlighter, a notebook, case files from work, my camera, my keys, my ipod and peppermints.  Always peppermints.  So, you can see why I need a larger purse, right?

Ok, that’s all.  That’s a lot of favorites actually.  Maybe I will continue this post later, and follow Nick’s lead with New Least-Favorites.

The weekend in dreams

So the theme this weekend seemed to be dreams.

Friday night and Sunday afternoon I went to an art exhibit where a friend of mine works – and the theme for all of the art was “In Your Dreams.”  The artists ranged from 4 years old to 40 – and there was some pretty interesting work in the studio.  There were the typical buildings made of chocolate and flying ponies.  There were also some really deep and thought-provoking paintings.  This was my favorite:

The room where all of the children’s paintings were exhibited was tiled especially for the occassion with blue skies and white, puffy clouds.  The walls of the whole studio were lined with cupcakes and there was a whole table up front dedicated to wine and cheese.  It really was like a dream-land.

Then last night, I had a really awkward dream.  I have never been good a describing my dreams – but they are usually pretty vivid, and its not usual for me to carry a dream-feeling with me throughout the day.  Unfortunately, my dream last night left me worried all day.  I was worried that I had offended someone very important to me, that I had let him down and I had that pit-in-the-stomach feeling.  I couldn’t shake the dream all day.

At church tonight, the lectionary reading was from the first chapter of Genesis.  And don’t you know the sermon was about dreaming?  Dreaming of a cleaner, healthier earth – something closer to what God had in mind what it was said, “And it was very good.”  Our speaker tonight talked about how we shouldn’t just dream of clean air and clean water, of a land not in danger of being mined or logged, or of people living in harmony; rather, we should live out this dream.  We should work for it, one little step at at time.  Because while we may not be able to change the whole world with our actions (like recycling, just for example) we can change our small piece of the world.  We can live in such a way as to live out our dreams for a cleaner, more beautiful world – in our environment and in our hearts.  Something that will make God say, “Yes, it is very good.”

Also, I had pink rice today.  Seems like something you should eat only in a dream, only it was for real.

Name that movie

Sometimes I feel like I’m in a movie.  The scenery seems like elaborate props and I’m waiting for the dramatic music to cue.  Only, I feel like I’ve forgotten my lines.  How did I even get this part, and who is out there watching?

Sitting on a dirty tarp, breathing in the exhaust, listening to the Cantonese, Vietnamese and Indonesian chatter floating around my ears, watching children chasing bubbles, laundry drying as high as 10 stories up, honking cars blend with the hip-hop music for the impromptu dance lessons playing out before me.

I watch a man walk into the town circle where we were gathered.  He is wearing a chocolate brown sweatshirt that’s tucked into his navy blue sweatpants that are hiked far above his waist, which are tucked into his starch white socks that are pulled up to his calves.  He puts his  bulk of bags and clothes on an open spot on a bench a few feet away from our tarp.  He carefully removes both of his shoes, then folds his socks into the shoes.  His navy blue sweatpants he crumples into a ball into his bag.  In his green boxers with cartoon fish he struts into the center of the circle, tucking his sweatshirt deep into his boxers, so the ends hang out the bottom.  Legs like toothpicks make awkward movements, his face contorted with thought, large ears looking misplaced on a head too small.  In his bony hands he holds the bulb of a flame flower.  He kicks it around like a hacky sack, an imaginary soccer game being played out before anxious mothers who keep their children too close and laughing teenagers who act like they hadn’t been taught not to point.  This goes on until the street sweeper unknowingly sweeps up his next shot.  He snatches the bulb from the dust pan, then throws it on the ground in anger, flattening the bulb.  The laughing girls are still pointing.

Then a couple of the girls in our group turn on their music to dance.  Out of my side-view I see the man, a young boy in an awkwardly grown man’s body, meticulously putting his pants back on, tucking each leg into the starch white socks, velcroing his shoes tight.  Then he makes his way towards us.  And starts to dance.  Mimicking every hop, twist, thrust, shake and jiggle with exact precision, the laughing girls stop pointing, mouths slightly agape.  And then he improvised, spinning on the ground, looking as though he belonged in a dance video instead of the noisy town circle of Macau. 

The camera moves to focus behind the new dance hero to find Kelli and Julie crouched by the lamppost, blowing bubbles for the little Chinese children to chase.  The mothers were okay with the bubbles.  Just not the imaginary soccer game.  With each bubble that was chased to its doom, laughed rings out.  Julie is playing a small game of tag with the bubble wand and two little boys.  Kelli is firmly planted on the ground, children floating around her with giggles and outstretched little fingers. 

As I’m writing these scenes furiously down in my journal, so as not to lose the moment that is already captured in my camera, the soccer playing dancing hero is suddenly standing over me.  I notice his shadow fall over the words I had just written about him.  “Um goy.  Ni homa.” (Excuse me.  How are you?)  I smile and nod, not knowing how to answer the greeting in Cantonese, and shake his hand instead.  He grins and looks down in my journal, even though my script must look as foreign to him as the characters on the neon signs that border the circle do to me.  Then he shrugs his bony shoulders and goes back to dancing, following the drumbeats of the traditional Indonesian folk songs echoing on the concrete.

What’s the name of this movie, and who’s watching?