Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Post Post

First time to see the ocean..or see the sea...
It is now Tuesday, a little more than two days after Sarah Heins, Audrey, and I left our friends and teammates at Hong Kong International Airport. When we arrived a little before nine on Sunday morning, we knew we'd have plenty of time to check them in and get back to my parents' side of the city for church. However, their flight was delayed...by five hours.

Travel, let alone international travel, is not easy. Most of our team is not accustomed to being at the whims and wills of others - a.k.a. airlines - in order to travel. Most of us are not used to 15 hour flights. I don't think that's something that you ever get used to. It's something that you learn to embrace.

One of the defining characteristics of this team is that we've been able to sustain each other throughout this entire trip in order to make the most out of every situation. Whether it was nature or nurture or by the grace of God, every meal and every large assembly and every new meeting of people was treated as an experience to embrace and not a reason to complain.

Last night in Hong Kong (Star Walk)
Hannah Uden liked to quote Russel from "Up!" We'd be sitting on the top of a double-decker bus and hear a voice say, "Adventure is out there!" That's the kind of attitude that surrounded our group during the trip, and it served us well as we served others.

And when our time of service was over, we learned that adventures sometimes come to us...in the forms of five-hour delays and needing to rebook flights from Chicago to Kansas City after the flight landed in the States. (Time-zone complications. If I knew how to explain it, I would.)

As in everything else, the team took it like champs. Over two hours in line just waiting to check in the bags and the prospect of hours sitting in an airport weren't the reasons that tears were shed when we finally said goodbye. We'll just miss each other.

So now I'm sitting in at my father's desk in my parents' apartment, looking out across Repulse Bay on the south side of Hong Kong Island and musing about how different worlds are. This is true across the city as well as the ocean. We were told by some of the career missionaries during our dinner on Wednesday that they've had teams who come here and wonder why they had to travel all the way across the ocean and speak to the students about Jesus to realize that their neighbors at home need the Gospel just as much.

We won't all end up permanently overseas. We won't all live in our hometown in the USA for the rest of our lives, either. Still, no matter where we are int he world, we are missionaries to those around us in the way we act and speak and talk to people about Jesus. And career missionaries or not, we can take short term mission trips to keep reminding us of our constant mission at wherever home might be.

Saying goodbye to our hosts
Joel Scheiwe, one of the career missionaries in Hong Kong, said that he hopes that our experience in Hong Kong will be a commission to us as we move on with our lives. I pray that it will.

Thank you all for your support.


Give the glory to God.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

J-E-S-U-S Yes!

It finally felt like we had found a rhythm. We woke up and ate breakfast as usual and made our way down the step to great the students with enthusiastic waves and smiles. It was encouraging to see the waves and smiles that we received in response, even if the kids looked as tired as we felt.
The teachers have been urging the students of LCK to start conversations with us.  We love it because we know that they are just as interested to learn about us as we are interested in them. During the course of a short recess period, I had asked two boys, Harry and Terry, if they had walked to school or if they had ridden a bus. Both boys said they had come on foot. For some of the kids, it takes up to ten minutes to get to the doors of the school. Even so, others ride a bus for an hour before they arrive sleepy eyed to wave and smile and learn. We, as a missionary team, are blessed enough to be able to stay in a wonderful air conditioned room with more than enough amenities to keep us happy. All we have to do is walk down the stairs to start the school day.
Lydia, Rachel, Julie and I have had the opportunity to teach music classes. We learn songs like Alleluia/Praise Ye The Lord, So Much to be Thankful For and Father I Adore You. Two assemblies were held before lunch and we sang some of the songs a select few of the the students body had learned. It was great to see how much energy could be generated from yelling, "J-E-S-U-S. Yes!"  Later on, we were participated in some video taking. We informed "the audience" that if they wanted to learn English fluently, LCK was the place to go! Being camera shy was not an option. We loved it. By the time the school day wound down, we left to eat supper with the missionaries currently working in Hong Kong. We were able to see Uncle John and Aunt Susan (Mr. and Mrs. Mehl of course) and a few other teachers and church workers. We all had two helpings of ziti and salad. It was a cool evening so we went to the roof and took a picture with the skyline in the background. It was the end of a full but enjoyable day.

Audrey Mehl

The Mission House

This evening the team went to the LCMS mission house and met some of the missionaries that work in Asia and learned about all the work that is being done by the LCMS. Pasta and salad was served for about 20 people in the home of Joel and Iantha Scheiwe where missionary kids played with team members as everyone relaxed and enjoyed casual conversation. The sun began to set at about 7 pm and everyone went onto the roof to watch the city lights go on. By 7:30 everyone was back on the bus and headed back to the school.

Mrs. Wong's Wings

 His name is Jason, a 9 year old P3 student - or 3rd grader - here at LCK. A few weeks ago Jason's teacher asked his class who would like to host some missionaries for dinner one night during their stay here. He shot his hand up and said, "My mom is a great cook, we would like to have them over for dinner." Come to find out, Jason's mother, Mrs. Wong is a fantastic cook.

As soon as we arrived to their home which was on the 21st floor of a 26 floor building, the children, Jason and Bonnie, offered us water as we waited for the rice to cook. We were surprised to see that Jason and Bonnie had a baby sister who is 11 months old and not shy at all. She gave us lot of smiles and during supper; she giggled a lot.

Jason and his teacher had gone over some questions that we might have, and he said his favorite food was fried chicken wings. Can you guess what we had for dinner? Yep, you got 
 it, fried chicken wings. Yummy! :) There were many other things Mrs. Wong prepared for us as well, such as dumpling soup, tofu with beef, a vegetable similar to asparagus, and fish.  It was all so delicious!

After dinner Sarah H., Louisa, Hannah and I sat at the table with Jason and his teacher Mrs. Chu. He showed us his school books and talked about how someday he would like to go to America. We said we had lots of professors with kids his age he could stay with. He just giggled. He really wants to see snow, and I think Nebraska is the  
perfect state for him to see that in, or in Minnesota with Julie.

The Wong's were such generous hosts and it was a great honor that we were able to have dinner with them and meet such an amazing family of God. 

Peace and Blessings,
     Lauren Aufdembrink

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Superstars, Saving Energy, Chicken. We're Not So Different After All.

Yesterday was our first day at LCK Lutheran primary school. The transition from schools went smoothly, but the change in size and atmosphere was surprising at first. LCK has 700 students and people in charge of taking pictures and video-taping our classes and interaction with the students. One little girl told me I was a "superstar". I have to partly agree; I feel like we're being followed by the paparazzi. Our team is seperated into Group A and Group B. Group A has grades 1-3, and group B has grades 4-6. Our groups joined together for lunch, as we ate with a select group of students. I talked with Janice, Hannah discussed mature topics such as marriage and divorce with Kent, while the other girls made interesting conversations as well. One little girl gave us a speech about saving energy, all in English. It was better than I could do.
Eating dinner with our host family
After a long day of teaching and interacting with students in the classroom and at recess, we were able to relax at our home visits. Group B was escorted by Mr. Tam. Mr. Tam lived in Canada for over 10 years so his English is very good, and he has an accent as well. We were graciously invited to join a family in their home. The apartment home was on the 21st floor of one of the many complexes in Hong Kong. We ate a homemade Chinese meal; I can't tell you the names of anything besides chicken. The apartment was near the size of our dorm rooms back at Concordia University. We ate around a table that sat snug in the corner, as we sat on stools. The apartment had a piano which took up some space. The visit enlightend our perspectives on the Chinese way of living, as well as our own. Reflecting on the different cultures on our journey home, we came to the conclusion that the two cultures, Chinese and American, are not so different.

God Bless You, Everyone.
Lydia Pomerenke
Hannah helping Sunday School students with their craft

Some photos from past days:

Lauren helping students

Audrey helping a student with her craft
Sarah Mack with some pleased students

Rachel with a student
Lou with a student

The entire Sunday school class!
Julie with a student's keychain craft.
Sarah Heins helping students

We made her a card, because we will struggle to survive without her...and because we LOVE her!
Hilda left us on Monday afternoon

Monday, May 14, 2012

Teaching the Macarena to Chinese Kids

Monday May 14

Angelica: "God blesses us!"
                Today was our last day at Sui Leun Lutheran Primary School, so why not go out with a shout?! After all an entire school assembly, with 300 students, can get pretty loud! That's right, we had to develop a lesson that was applicable to grades 1- 6... at the same time. Challenge accepted. To start out we introduced ourselves and told the kids one thing we liked with pictures of that thing on the power point. For example Louisa would say, "My name is Louisa, and can you guess what I like?" Then simultaneously 300 kids looked at the power point and shouted "BANANAS!!!!!" We all knew this was going to be a good assembly from that point on. Our theme was Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be terrified! Do not be discouraged! For the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” We asked what courage was, and we found out that it is doing the right thing even when we are scared. But EVERYONE gets scared.For instance; some of the children were afraid of chickens, crocodiles, spiders, babies.... babies? Well its middle school folks. We shared the story of Daniel in the Lions den and why he had courage to not be afraid. Because, as a first grader Angelica puts it "God blesses us!"
Leading songs in morning assembly
                 There is now (at least) one more student at Sui Leun that knows the good news about our saving Lord! That moment is a highlight for our team. After the assembly we talked to the kids at recess and what better thing to do at recess than... that's right , we taught the macarena! Sarah Heins and Julie Marquardt started to explain the macarena but soon discovered the best way to teach is by example. Soon two became three, and three four! I'd say something those children won't easily forget, at least I wont!
                The staff at Sui Leun were very appreciative. They and some of the students taught us how to make Chinese lanterns and how to write our names in Chinese. They were very helpful and didn't laugh too hard at our American attempts at writing Chinese. They also presented us with gifts such as a Chinese hand fan. It was sad to say goodbye to our friends at Sui Leun; however, we now have the opportunity to meet even more children and Lutheran teachers! We are very excited and I can't wait to see what God has in store for us at LCK Lutheran Primary School.
God's Blessings,
the Mehl Team
-Julie Marquardt

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sunday: The day of rest! However, this Hong Kong Mission team was as busy as ever.  The nine of us set out at 10 a.m. to Sui Leun Lutheran Primary School to attend church service and teach Sunday school.  This church service held quite the experience for us English-speaking-only folk.  The service was, of course, given in Cantonese.  However, language was not a barrier in worshiping together with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  They provided accommodations for us, such as Bibles in English, and hymnals with both Cantonese and English.  They even sang a verse to one of the songs in English with us!  We also had the opportunity to commune with our new friends.  It is so exciting to know that wherever we go, no matter what we look like or sound like, we serve the same God.  We may be from entirely different cultures, but we are brought together by one purpose, to serve the One that has blessed us with all things.  We are a family in Christ, and we felt like a family with the Sui Leun congregation. 
Midway through the service children are excused for Children's Church.  We, as a team, were in charge of Children's Church for the day.  Because of Mother's Day, we based our lesson on parents.  We discussed how our parents provide for us and how we should honor them by what we say and do.  We compared our relationship with our parents to our relationship with Jesus and how we need to honor him with our actions, and this can be done by serving and honoring our parents.
Sunday School is offered in the afternoon on Sundays from 1:30-3:00.  This time very much resembles Bible School.  We taught a lesson (the same one from the morning), sang songs, and made a craft.  The craft, of course, was a present for their mothers, a key chain. 
We continue to embrace our time here in Hong Kong by taking a plunge into the local cuisine.  This evening we experience tofu, sweet and sour pork (the fav of the group), eggplant, seafood rolls, and the ever-safe fall back, fried rice.  A surprise was found on the way to the restroom: aquariums of fish awaiting their slaughter. At least we know the food was fresh!
It feels as though we have been here for weeks, but we are very excited to start a full week of teaching and service with these kids.  There are times when we worry about whether or not they are grasping and understanding what we are teaching them, but we find comfort in these words from Isaiah: "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth; it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."  Isaiah 55: 10-11. God is the one working here, and we are his messengers.  It is not up to us to change hearts.  We just have to trust in him and his words and he will work in ways far beyond what we can comprehend.  That is just pretty neat!

Hannah Uden

At the Peak

Fitting In

Hilda with fish balls


On the Star Ferry

On the bus

More shopping

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Peaking Point

At The Peak
Day Two proved to be just as enjoyable, though drastically different, than our first day in Hong Kong. Saturday was sightseeing day! From The Peak (the highest point in Hong Kong) to traveling "under the water" (an underwater tunnel/highway between two islands), our day was full of activity! The foggy morning started us out at The Peak where we enjoyed a bit of shopping. After all, we are "9 Barbie dolls" as one student at the school yesterday told us. John and Susan's company along with our leader Hilda enhanced our trip as they knew the in's and out's of the place. And they are pretty great company to begin with.

We thought we might need a little American in our system, so we got hamburgers for lunch. Forty-nine dollar hamburgers, might I add! Of course, HK to US dollars is an 8:1 ratio, so the burger was really only $6, but still. Seeing the prices still gives me a jolt every time; I always think I am overspending.
Audrey in the Ladies' Market

The history of Hong Kong was explored at the HK History Museum, and then we got to explore the Ladies' Market. The collective big purchase of the day was US $11 Toms. All nine of us got a pair. Hong Kong culture intrigues all of us, and Hilda is a pro at answering our questions. The closest comparison I have to the culture at the Ladies Market is like New York City busyness combined with Florida humidity combined with New Orleans shopping markets. Except that we're in Asia, and it's completely different.

From souvenoirs, to food, to great company and conversation, and an even greater God, the team ends the day in thanksgiving to a bountiful Father who continues to bless the trip.

Thanks for reading,
Sarah Heins

Friday, May 11, 2012

It is just after 7 AM on Friday in Nebraska, but it is after 8 PM in Hong Kong and the day is almost over. The girls had a big day and some are already heading off to sleep.

The day started with an early breakfast and then a bus ride to the Lutheran Tsang Shing Sui Leun School to “wave hello to the students.” It sounds a little silly, but the group actually stood on the street and greeted the Chinese children as they entered school. This very simple practice shows the community that the school is connected with Lutherans in the US and have “native English speakers” with whom students can interact. This is a real enrollment booster.

During the morning assembly, the group sang and acted out the wise and foolish man. No Chinese or English necessary. There were English conversations with children during recesses three times. The second graders loved the skit of the Biblical account of the healing of the blind beggar and the songs the girls sang.

Rev. Dr. Allan Yung, the president of the Lutheran Church—Hong Kong Synod, visited the school to greet the foreign guests from CUNE. He was very pleased to see them and expressed an interest in recruiting them to teach in Hong Kong after they graduate. Though the girls felt at times during the day that they were flying by the seat of their pants, the principal and President Yung told them that they all appeared to have years of teaching experience.

Sushi for lunch! Louisa and Audrey ate whole octopuses and Julie at the head off, while the rest abstained. Tea was drunk from traditional clay teacups.

Hilda is “superb.” This is a direct quote. We are sure you will hear more about her!

Saturday means seeing sights in Hong Kong, including a visit to the Peak and a ride across Victoria Harbor on the Star Ferry (see photo left).

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The plane hit the gate in Hong Kong at 9:22 PM and it was after 10 when everyone made it through passport control and customs and finally pulled their bags through the doors into the arrival hall. In the photo on the left you can see the 9 CUNE girls along with Sharon Owens and Hilda Ruan. Sharon and Hilda will provide orientation, be tour guides, and help during the whole trip.

Our school is in Tuen Mun. This is a part of Hong Kong that is on the peninsula at the far west side on Butterfly Bay. Orientation at the school tomorrow after everyone has a good nap tonight.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Preparation: Less Than 2 Days

"Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." - Philippians 4:9

Sarah Heins reminded our group of these words this morning. As we make our final preparations, our nerves may be getting high with nervousness and excitement. We may wonder exactly what it is that we've forgotten to do or need to remember. As the time of departure draws near, we wonder if we're really emotionally ready. 

Well, we're as ready as we'll ever be. 

God has been preparing us our whole lives for the readiness on this trip that will really make the difference. He's been teaching us and molding us, and He will give us that peace that passes all understanding and help us put it all into practice, not just when we get there, but every step of the way there and back and for the rest of our lives. 

Please pray for us as we make our final preparations.