Monday, August 30, 2010

"Sacred Week" in Hong Kong, pt. 1

“It took us 2 ½ years to get Gary here, but we’ve got him.”

With those words, pastor Tobin Miller welcomed Lisa and me to the Island Evangelical Community Church in Hong Kong on Sunday, for the beginning of what they are calling “Sacred Week.”

Lisa and I arrived late Saturday, picked up at the airport by Tobin and his wife Christina. Tobin had told me by email that due to the pressures of working in one of the world’s largest financial centers, Hong Kong families are perhaps “the most dysfunctional families” in the world. “It’s not uncommon when I’m doing a funeral to find out that a businessman had two other families that the first wife didn’t know about. And I’ve had Christian men do the same.”

The long hours at work, the tendency to have domestic help raise the kids, and the large amount of time spent apart all contribute to a sense of marital and family isolation. “I rarely find a single individual who tells me they want the marriage their parents had,” Tobin said.

On the trip from the airport, Tobin shared how, as a pastor who wants to reach Hong Kong, one of his greatest difficulties is that even Christians “use Hong Kong” instead of having a heart for it. “They’re here to make their millions in a few years and then move on. Hong Kong is something they use, not something they feel compelled to reach.”

After a fitful night of sleep, I woke early on Sunday and was the first customer at the Fit Fort Hong Kong Starbucks (doing my part to keep the international economy moving forward). Lisa and I visited the 11:30 service at IECC, and discovered that, apparently, worship songs are known around the world. Out of the six sang, we knew five of them by heart.

After church and lunch with the Millers, Lisa and I took a tram through the streets of Hong Kong, and then walked through Victoria Park. It was crammed with young women and virtually no men. About half of them had head coverings. Most laid out a piece of plastic on the ground, and gathered in groups, laughing and talking and lying around.

What struck both of us was the level of joy in that park. By and large, we were sobered by the somber mood that covers Hong Kong. People rarely acknowledge you, almost never seem to be smiling, and when I asked Tobin about it, he admitted that studies show the “happiness quotient” is about as low in Hong Kong as anywhere in the world. Since happiness has been directly connected to one’s personal relationships, it’s not a surprise that “the most dysfunctional families in the world” produce such somber people.

So why the smiles in Victoria Park?

“Those are the domestic helpers from Indonesia, enjoying their one day off a week.”

Domestic helpers are considered as having it worse than the families who hire them. Because they live with the families they work for, many will never marry, and most send all but their living expenses home to support relatives. Yet the level of joy in that park was off the charts compared to the people who hired them.

On Monday morning, Lisa and I went up above the city, to a trailhead at the top of Braymer Hill Road, where we found an amazing trail with some spectacular views of the city. I ran while Lisa walked, and we met back up about an hour later. The humidity level was high, but the climate felt much more conducive to running than anything I’ve experienced in Houston over the past month.

It has been a long summer, so today is meant to be an unusually slow day, getting ready for the teaching load that runs straight through from Wednesday through Sunday.

I so appreciate the many prayers that have already been offered on our behalf--ultimately, on behalf of the people of Hong Kong. Here's the schedule: (Hong Kong time, by the way, is 12 hours ahead of EST)

Wednesday evening: Sacred Influence (talking to wives)
Thursday evening: Sacred Parenting
Fri-Saturday: Sacred Marriage
Sunday: Pure Pleasure


  1. Dear Gary
    Hong Kong is dear to me because I was born there. Even though I live in Sydney but my parents are in HK. I see it is a blessing that you could share with the English speaking community. Hope you could reach the Contonese speaking community one day as there are great needs there. Hope you enjoy this trip. Keep praying for you.
    In Christ

  2. I really enjoyed reading your book Sacred Marriage. I have recommended it to all of my friends. I recently blogged about it as well. Thanks for writing it. It was so helpful to me.

  3. I notice that your very recent sermons at Second Baptist Church in Houston have been deleted from their website. Trying to distance yourself already. I warned you. Did you like how Ed Young insulted in 2011 the students at Stratford High School (boat/stern/back)?

  4. Wow, never heard that about Hong Kong. It's good for us to remember each culture has challenges of it's own and to pray. Thanks for this insightful article.