Sailing. What do I know?

I really don’t know much about sailing. As a young child, my only “real” experience was going on canoe trips to Algonquin Park, learning how to portage, setting up tents and campfires. I distinctly remember one occasion when was a youth leader we took a group of youth for their annual canoe trip in the summer. This particular night, at the beginning of the trek, I was paired with an in-experienced kid, small and not physically strong. So, as you may guess, I would do the bulk of the paddling. The only thing was, a storm was on its way, the waves were already lapping into our canoe, and there was a chance of our canoe tipping in the middle of the lake. Thankfully, we did not and made it “safely” to our destination. Did I also mention that it was late evening, the sun was beginning to set, and we just had to paddle hard, fast and follow the rest of the group. My only other “sailing” experience? Having fish and chips at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club.

I was reminded of this recently because of what we are currently going through. Last night, we were caught off guard by the latest news regarding how Hong Kong will battle omicron. Numbers are high by Hong Kong standards, hospitals are overrun, patients have been sleeping outside, babies who have tested positive are separated from their parents, the youngest being 11 months old. So the latest news? School is cut short, and we will have Summer holidays, now listen, in March / April instead of June / July. I’ve done Christmas in July, but never in my 20+ years of teaching have I had Summer in March. As I write this, International School leaderships are having a meeting, and we are hopeful that some of the new restrictions do not apply to us. This, too, is tragic because Hong Kong literally has a two-tiered education system. Maybe I’ll write about this another day.

Thankfully God’s word speaks to this. In the Gospel of Mark, chapter 4:35-41, we read the story of how Jesus calms the storm.

“That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down, and it was completely calm.

40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!””

In this passage, Jesus suggests to His disciples to get into a boat and sail across the lake to “get away” from the crowds. These men are experienced fishermen, they know the waters, they know how to read the weather pattern, seasoned men who have been in numerous storms. In verse 37, a furious squall appears, and the boat is swamped. The men must have been doing their best to remove as much water as possible. They must have relied on their prior knowledge and understanding to overcome this particular situation. And what was Jesus doing? Sleeping. In panic mode, they wake Jesus up and question His care for them. Jesus gets up, rebukes the wind and says quietly, “Be still,” and IMMEDIATELY the storm dissipates, and everything is calm.

The disciples and Jesus had a destination to get to; unfortunately, the storm “came out of nowhere” and uncontrollable factors for the disciples. Their compass was thrown off, not sure if they had a steering wheel, and other boats were with them. We don’t even know what conversations were had on those boats, but I can imagine they were not highly positive.

Our current predicament parallels this example. Our school started the year as normal as can be. We interacted with our students, collaborated in groups, ate lunch, recess twice a day, etc. – and then BOOM, we get hit with Omicron, tighter restrictions, LeaveHomeSafe App, and then we are told that Summer is now moved up to March. I feel for those who are leaving Hong Kong at the end of the school year. I feel for those who have already bought tickets to go home and visit family. There must be a huge disappointment on their part. And then there are some families who are desperately trying to leave Hong Kong immediately. There does not seem to be an end to this madness. There does not seem to be a life ring at the moment. There’s nothing, for so many, to hang on to. Thankfully, as followers of Christ, we can hang on to Him, even if it’s by a thread. Not only is Christ our life-ring, but He is also still Lord of the storm. The storm that His disciples experienced, did not come unaware by Christ. He is Creator. He is omniscient.

My compass is off. My emotions and ability to think straight today and yesterday are not balanced. I don’t know where to steer anymore, and so I need to learn to hand over that to Jesus. Please don’t even ask where we are headed. I would say, “stay the course,” whatever that may mean. I have other boats with me as well – my family. We need to head in the same direction. Christ is our sail, He is our strength. Jesus calmed the storm for His disciples and the sea became still. This storm that we find ourselves in, cannot last forever. Jesus, if we allow Him to, is with us in our boats, if we allow Him, give Him the steering wheel. Jesus will calm this storm too. After all, He is Lord. He is the King of Kings. May we not live in fear, may we not doubt but rather live out our faith and continue to be obedient to what God has called us to.

You are loved.

Lessons You Cannot Learn When Life is “Normal”

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.

So much growth happening.

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.

Brothers forever.

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.”

Growing up.

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.

Opportunities are endless.

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.

One of my favorite pics this year. You can write the caption.

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.

Happy New Year from us to you.