The weather outside is gloomy. It’s dark. Wet. Another T8 (typhoon signal 8) is upon us. Unfortunately, this typhoon came a bit early for some of us teachers. We probably would have preferred the typhoon to arrive during school and not on staycations or cruises. However, I won’t complain because I am thankful for the time to relax, stop from our usual school routine, work, lessons, and more school, work, lessons. At times, change is good for us. Change is much needed when we are still trying to figure out what the heck is going on in our lives. Change can be positive. Some of our good friends have seen changes in their lives. Some of our friends have recently become parents. Some have lost loved ones. Others find themselves in a season of uncertainty. As I look out the window, the weather pattern has changed even as I write.
We have been living in a time of change over the past 20 months. I won’t even go into it anymore because I think most of us are tired of it. So what’s on my mind lately? Quite a bit. I have been praying, and the word “change” has come up more than a few times. I do have to wonder what the Lord is saying to me. Do I need a change of heart? Do I need to change my perspective on life? Do I need a career change? Is it time to move on? Where? Back home?
Recently with my Grade 4 class, we went through the book of James – this is something that I have done for the past few years. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Do you notice anything from this passage? It says every good and perfect gift comes from God, who does not change like shifting shadows. God’s character is constant. He is the same today, yesterday and forever. I said to my class, what would it be like if God’s character changed all the time? It would be brutal. One day He forgives; the next, He punishes. We would constantly be living in flux, living in fear. The other aspect is that God provides good and perfect gifts. God has provided us with much over the past five years. Don’t get me wrong, and I am most thankful that He is faithful. Grateful that He sent His son to die for my salvation. Grateful that He has chosen me to be His own. Thankful forgiveness. Thankful for the material possessions that we have. For my family, for friends.
As we enjoy the remaining few days of Fall Break 2021, I will remain hopeful. I will continue to hold on to the Lord, trust in His sovereignty, trust in His plans for my family and I. If I can trust God for salvation, I can certainly trust Him during this season of my life. And most of all, trust in a God who does not change like shifting shadows.
The apostle Paul writes, “I press on toward the goal for the prize for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phillipians 3:14 ESV), and what is that goal he is talking about? I believe that Paul is talking about salvation. He is reminding the church at Phillipi about their role in his ministry, that “He who began a good work in them, will bring it to completion on the day of Jesus Christ.” I believe that we all have goals. Some of our goals may be minute, while other goals may be lofty and may present a challenge. There are days, when our goal is simply to find space for our belongings. Where do we put our backpacks, how does Gloria prep for dinner with limited counter space, how does one teach online during a pandemic, how do we successfully pull off Secret Santa with my class? Just a few challenges / goals we have.
This Christmas, we bought our boys a number of gifts, one of which was a trumpet for Malachi and a Tamiya RC 4×4 Racing Truck. The latter is going to take us some time to figure out with Timothy. The goal is to finish by the end of January so that he’s able to drive it around our village. If I were to put my teacher hat on, I would say, it’s the process that matters not the end product, but my dad hat will say, persevere, buckle up and work through the challenges and get it done.
Paul says that he “presses on toward the goal,” notice that he doesn’t look back, have regrets, or slows down – it is constant, forward movement, there is momentum. I believe that there is an urgency on Paul’s part to reach this goal, get there at all costs, no matter what the situation or circumstance. Mind you, he is writing this letter from jail. This past year some have experienced quarantine, others had the wonderful pleasure of experiencing political unrest, others, are still on the rollarcoaster ride of online teaching, face to face, back to online, back to face to face. And then others are on lockdown for the second or third time. I think you get it. And yet, through it all, God has been, and continues to be faithful. This is who our God is. This is His character. God began a good work in you, in me, in our family. God is not finished with us yet.
As for our family, some reflections on what God is doing in our lives.
Timothy. Timothy began the year in Grade 5 (yes, you read correctly) online for 6 weeks. In school, he continues to grow and mature and he is learning the value of hard work. Because of covid, there is no after school activities, however, he has picked up the Alto Sax at school and he’s been taking Hip Hop Dance lessons for the past year. Timothy is being more tech savvy, maybe too much. Our son has so much energy, constantly thinking, constantly talking. What a joy it is to watch him grow. He’s definitely enjoying life to the fullest.
Malachi, is now in Grade 8 at ICS. Who would have guessed? Recently, Malachi completed his Grade 6 Trinity College London Drum exam. He continues to excel with his Trumpet at school, and we bought him his own instrument this Christmas. Hard work is paying off. Malachi continued to be involved in Island Youth and was playing on the Youth Worship team again this year, until covid restrictions were put in place. He is becoming a young teen … along with all that entails with that. Pray for us! We are so proud of this accomplishments.
Both of our sons are learning to adapt, to be flexible and definitely more resilient this year – experiencing political unrest, online / face to face school and now covid. Lessons you cannot learn when life is “normal.”
For Gloria, it’s been quite the year. 2020 has been challenging and yet a blessing at the same time. Gloria has been involved with Young Lives, Hong Kong. She has been given the opportunity to mentor a couple of young mothers. She has also been blessed with the opportunity and privilege to serve alongside such an amazing team. Around mid September Gloria experienced a health scare, which caused us to pray more, read more, depend on God more. The medical staff was so concerned that they asked to get an MRI done immediately to rule out any possible health issues. As a result of this situation, we truly experienced God’s love and care, as well as the love from friends here and back in Canada. Back in March, Gloria and I attended Marriage Counselling which helped reset our relationship and marriage. It brought to light areas that needed to be looked at, areas that need to be worked on. We are by far from being perfect, but by God’s grace and goodness we will continue to grow. And more recently, Gloria has been provided with extra time to spend with some women and to cultivate deeper relationships with those in her circle.
As for myself, well online teaching / learning has provided an unique opportunity for myself and the boys to have extended time together. We go to school together, have lunch, snack and usually go home together as well, unless our boys have a lesson. Online teaching has provided me with professional growth, to expand my wings a little, take some risks, and to push myself. I would say that, covid has provided the best professional development as a teacher, and for that, I am grateful. I still struggle with knowing where to serve at church, and whether we participate in a small group, however, I do meet with a couple of men each week, and for that, I am thankful. Living in Hong Kong has shed some light on areas of priorities, and how me ought to manage our time well. As a father and husband, I need to continue to trust in the Lord, lean into Him more and realize that I have so much to work on. Pray.
Friends, 2020 certainly was a challenging, exciting and unpredictable. The one constant that remained? God. He is sovereign. God is always good. God is still on His throne. He is the author and perfector of our faith. I truly believe that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion on the day of Christ.” As we enter a new year, I pray that as a family we would continue to fix our eyes on Jesus. To be reminded daily, to pick up our cross. Pray that we would humbly accept what God is calling our family to, and that we as individuals, would listen to God’s voice as He leads us, as He shepherds our family, and as He continues to grow in us. Growth takes time as we have learned over the past 4 years of living in Hong Kong. God is not done. God is still at work. May this encourage some of your hearts today.