A lot can happen in a year…

A lot can happen in a year…

It’s now been over a year since we moved into St Stephen’s Society’s new man houses in Hong Kong. In this time, we have learnt so much about so many different things from living in community with people from other cultures, different aspects of parenting and learning a new language; to developing patience, trying to meet the needs of the poor and learning more about what it means trying to live by faith. Although we’ve already learnt so much, we’re sure we will probably spend the rest of our lives finding out more about all of these things.

Over the last week, we have had to practise a lot of these things. Our patience, in particular, has been tested this week as two typhoons and a bout of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) have kept the boys and Joelle locked away inside. The first typhoon was a T10 (hurricane force winds) and happened to fall on our only day off, leaving us stuck indoors without any hope of escape. Unfortunately for Asher, the next day he fell victim to the dreaded hand foot and mouth disease and was covered in itchy and painful blisters. His feet in particular were so irritated from the blisters that he couldn’t sleep, which meant that we also didn’t sleep. Some friends from the UK happened to be in Hong Kong and brought us some British chocolate (infinitely better than HK chocolate) which helped to ease the pain of the week a little. Unfortunately for them, the second typhoon happened to hit just as they were due to fly back to England. This time it was a T8 typhoon, which came very close to HK.  The good news is Asher’s virus seems to have passed now and he is back to his energetic self, keeping us on our toes.

We have seen a lot of brothers come and go from the New man house in our time with St Stephen’s. Our hope is that once they have finished their time here, they move on the next stage houses. However, sometimes they will decide they don’t want the help and will leave. Often these brothers find themselves back in the same situations that they left to come to receive help in the first place, but are not ready to make healthy choices to avoid making the same mistakes.

Recently, we have begun to see a lot of brothers returning because they know that they can receive the help they need here. Whilst its sad to see some of these guys returning having taken drugs again, we have come to realise that each time a brother returns, he receives more and more healing and grows his relationship with God. The more time we spend with the brothers here, the more we realise how similar we are, but we just have different struggles. The main difference being that the brother’s struggles with drugs can be so damaging to their bodies. But we too, just like the brothers here, are on a journey to experience more of the freedom that knowing God more intimately brings.

The forecast is for another typhoon to hit Hong Kong this weekend so we would appreciate your prayers for safety.



Snippets of the last few months

It feels like such a long time since we last updated our blog (mainly because it has been). Everything in Hong Kong seems to be so busy and fast-paced and it’s easy to keep doing day to day things without finding time to stop and reflect. Most of our week is spent helping with quite an intense programme designed to gradually bring healing and release people from the bondage of addiction, but its so easy to get stuck in to doing ‘stuff’ that you don’t always notice the things that you’re learning or the ways that you are changing.

For both of us, the biggest thing that we are learning is how to love people more. When you look at the Bible, its obvious to see Jesus caring for everyone he meets, but particularly those in need and those on the edge of society. Living amongst the brothers here gives us the opportunity to practise loving people even when we don’t feel like it or they aren’t behaving in a ‘loveable’ way. We will often get it wrong, but the truth is that our hearts are changing to be able to care for these guys more and more. Seeing the brothers change as they are set free from addiction to drugs and receive healing for the roots of their addiction is very special. Living here, away from the comforts of our life in the UK is often hard and there have been times when we have thought ‘what are we doing?’, but seeing the faces of the brothers soften and become warmer as they are gradually healed is a constant and amazing reminder of what God is doing here (if only we would notice more often!).

Since we last blogged, we’ve celebrated Easter where we enjoyed a little piece of home with everyone in the congregation enjoying some hot cross buns- many for the first time ever! It was a great day with family visits for some of our brothers. Their families were able to come onto site and catch up with them since their last visits. They also get to share with their families how things have been here and how God has been working in their lives. One of our current brothers’ families were so amazed at the way he had changed that they all believed in Jesus.

There are many other festivals in Hong Kong that aren’t so familiar, many of them to worship idols or appease ‘ghosts’. Last month many people from Hong Kong celebrated Ching Ming festival, which is traditionally where the graves of the dead are swept clean and sacrifices burned. They believe that whatever is sacrificed will make its way to the after life with their ancestors so its not unusual to see flat screen tv’s, ipads and computers made out of card being sold and sacrificed. During these festivals, we often have more difficult situations with the brothers in our block and they tend to be a lot more

Recently, we’ve been reflecting on how we can continue to support Micah and Asher through the beginning of their education. Will continuing our training here in Hong Kong mean that it will be more difficult to find a pre-school that can meet their needs? The answer is yes. But the truth is we know that God called us out here and he has the means and ability to provide everything that we need.  So we’ve recently started to look around Kindergartens for Micah and are praying for and trusting God’s provision to find a place in the right kindergarten for him.

Thank you to everyone that has messaged us, prayed for us and/or sent goodies from the UK. We really appreciate it! This coming weekend is Joelle’s 30th birthday so we will try to post another blog soon.

We’ve had some trouble saving photos on our computer so we’ve just posted a few photos of the boys this time.


It’s been a while…

It’s been a while…

It’s been a while since we were last able to write a blog post and it feels like a lot has gone on in the meantime:

We had a very different Christmas here compared to what we are used to back home and it wasn’t just the warmer weather. Even though, growing up, both of our parents would welcome people who couldn’t be with their own family to share our Christmas dinners, spending this years festive season with 15 recovering addicts and their family was quite a change. All in all there were around 60 people sharing a traditional layered Chinese Hot Pot (a bit like a meat fondue) called Pun Choi.

Everyone on site met for a celebration on Christmas morning and it was a great opportunity for the family of the brothers in our block to see how much they had changed for the better as they receive more and more healing. The celebrations were simple and understated with only a few presents shared. Whilst we missed sharing the time with our own family and friends,  it was refreshing to have such a simple time without the commercial distractions to celebrate Jesus’ birth.

After Christmas, there were further celebrations with New Year’s Eve and Micah’s 3rd birthday, both of which were quite low key and, being honest, were times when the presence of family and friends from back home from back home were missed.

It hasn’t just been celebration after celebration here; there have been quite a few changes in the house that we work in. Previously, we were only working with the second stage brothers: Men who have been here on site for a while (6 months +) and get more responsibility, freedom and also opportunities to train in helping others. Recently, we also began to welcome into our block addicts who are in the process of coming off drugs (New Boys). They will have someone with them at all times of the day and night ‘dutying’ them to help meet their physical needs and to pray for them whilst they go through withdrawal.

This has been inspiring and challenging.  We have seen both sides of drug withdrawal here- brothers going through almost unbearable pain as they come off heroin and also miraculous answers to prayer as other brothers have come off the same drug pain free after unsuccessfully attempting to ‘get clean’ many times before. It has been really encouraging to see the brothers change and their hearts soften as they receive healing and deal with the roots of their additions.

Speaking and understanding Cantonese is still very hard, although we have recently began a course at a language school near my parents house. We will let you know how that goes and if it makes any difference another time. Finally, we’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who has sent us gifts, cards and letters. We really enjoy hearing from you as it keeps us going and is really encouraging. We are very grateful!

The years go by…

IMG_1762.JPGA week of celebrations has just come to an end.

Asher has just turned 1! This year has flown by so quickly. We started the packing up process to move to Hong Kong when Asher was only weeks old and now he is a year. It was a different type of celebration here. He was born at the end of November when it was fairly chilly in the UK but, being in Hong Kong, we celebrated on a lovely warm day with a group of recovering addicts who have quickly become part of Asher’s family and some of his best friends. We had a small party with the brothers in our block and a few others from on site. As he was surrounded by his friends who are mostly grown up men, we decided to throw him a ‘little man’ party with a moustache theme. Although we had bought stick on moustaches for everyone to have a bit of fun with, Asher decided a chocolate moustache would be much more suitable for him at his age. He had a great day, but of course we missed being able to share it with our friends and family from home.


Asher’s birthday wasn’t the only celebration we were a part of. Fifty years ago was when Jackie decided to leave the comfort of her life in England to serve the poor. Fifty years ago Jackie arrived in Hong Kong. Fifty years ago the St Stephen’s journey began.

Here is an article in the newspaper about Jackie’s work in Hong Kong.

To mark the anniversary of working in Hong Kong for fifty years, St Stephens organised fifty hours of non-stop worship and amazing musicians from around the world flew in to celebrate with us. A huge tent was erected next to Kowloon walled city park (the site where the walled city used to stand) and people gathered to worship God together. A monsoon arrived on the Saturday night and cut out much of the sound system, but the people just sang louder and our spirits couldn’t be dampened.  It was a really special time and we felt privileged to be even just a small part of that journey. A group from St Stephens also performed a musical, retelling Jackie’s story from her book ‘Chasing the Dragon’, which was incredibly moving, especially to see the impact that serving the poor and those in need can have on their lives.


Small Steps (but lots of them)

Small Steps (but lots of them)

It’s been a while since our last blog post and whilst not much has changed in terms of our day to day schedule, it feels that we are in a different place to when we last wrote.

Gradually, Micah is becoming much happier and more settled. He is still not quite himself, but he is feeling much more comfortable in his new surroundings and growing in confidence with the guys (mostly recovering addicts, known on site as ‘brothers’) who live in our block. In contrast, Asher has loved being here in Hong Kong and thrived in the extra attention the other helpers and the brothers give him. It’s been amazing to see how much the brothers care for him and love to spend time with him, especially when you consider that many of the guys have been in Triad gangs and/or prison. These relationships are so positive for the brothers, many of whom are learning to relate to children in a positive and healthy way. Our prayer is that these relationships would help our kids to grow in confidence and resilience, but also that they would help to bring healing to the brothers that they spend time with.

Over the last few weeks, Asher has begun to walk and is now confidently waddling around our home. Watching him learn to walk and begin to take his first tiny independent steps mirrors our experience of adapting to life, language and culture in Hong Kong. We know what we need to do and have an idea of how we want to go about doing it, but are not yet at our most effective. We’re sure it will become much easier when our language skills have developed further, although we are finally getting to the point where we can have very simple conversations with the brothers in the house.

The good news is that there are plenty of opportunities to practise speaking cantonese as we work with the brothers from before 8am to after 9pm. This involves prayer, bible study, worship, outreach into the poorest areas of Hong Kong and learning to take responsibility by working around the site 2 days a week. The brothers also attend training in working with the poor and those in need during the mornings twice a week. It really has been a privilege to see how the guys have changed, even in the short time we have been here. Some of their testimonies about how God has changed their lives are truly incredible.

We just want to finish by saying thank you to all of those people back home who are thinking and praying for us. It was really hard to leave the comfort of our school, friends, families and church, but the way we have been supported has really encouraged us. Thank you. Here are a few pictures from the last few weeks.

The boys up to mischief again.
Micah excited to sleep in his new bed.
Asher walking in his first pair of shoes.


The Lanes

It’s not how big the house is…

It’s not how big the house is; it’s how happy the home is. This could be true for most of us. One of the challenges greeting us in Hong Kong was getting used to living in a much smaller space. Micah, who is full of energy, has found it challenging with less living space indoors. He has had to find other ways to use his energy including jumping in the fish pond and repeatedly climbing into Asher’s cot which is conveniently (or not) an arms reach away from his own bed.

We have been on various outreaches into different parts of Hong Kong, where we have discovered that lots of families also have challenges with space, amongst other things. To put it into context, one estate that we visited officially housed around 20,000 people (Chichester has around 23,00) but was on a site only marginally bigger than Priory Park, in Chichester. This number is likely to be much higher as many workers commute from mainland China and stay in small rooms unofficially.


Whilst on the estate, we met one family who had 11 month old twins. However, the parents decided to keep one twin and gave the other to the grandparents to look after, only to see the child every few weeks. There were many reasons why these parents felt that they needed to give away a child, including: lack of space, limited understanding of children’s needs and lack of confidence in their parenting skills. Speaking to some of the leaders of the outreach, this sort of arrangement is not uncommon.

We often hear about children who are left to be looked after by domestic helpers, or even left at home on their own as parents go to work. St Stephen’s is hoping to encourage and nurture a more positive view of parenting and childhood by running parenting sessions alongside play groups and art groups, coaching the families of the teenage brothers who live on site and demonstrating how to have fun with children in a messy, energetic way. Our Cantonese is coming along slowly, but not quickly enough to be able to have in depth discussions with anyone whilst out on the streets and so we have been hoping to demonstrate both Gods love and positive parenting through playing with the boys in public.

Thank you to everyone who has been praying for us, in particular for Micah to feel more at home. Thankfully he is feeling a little more settled and managing to get himself involved in all sorts of mischief.

Settling in

Around three weeks ago, we moved into our apartment at St Stephen’s Society’s rehabilitation campus, near Shatin, Hong Kong. We have finally managed to get internet access and we can now fill you in on how the last few weeks have progressed…

Outside the block where our apartment is.

Moving in was quite challenging, especially as Micah and Asher were really unsettled and struggled to sleep together in the same room for the first time. This was mainly because Micah wanted to wake Asher up to ‘Say Hi’. It became even more stressful as we found a number of cockroaches and even a lizard scuttling around the flat on the first evening (thankfully we seem to have got rid of them now!). The first few days seemed to go really slowly as we began to find our feet and get accustomed to a different way of living, as well as trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to learn some of the language.

Since then we have begun to slowly  learn our roles and duties, as well as started training sessions for working with the poor and those in need.  On the whole, we feel more settled now, although Micah is struggling and, as well as not sleeping well, seems to be missing his friends and family a lot without really understanding why he cant see them at the moment. We are also missing our friends from back home and look forward to being able to communicate more now that we have internet access.

Some of you will remember us talking about a place called ‘The Walled City‘ which was standing in Hong Kong until the mid-1990’s. It was a small area in British Hong Kong that was outside of British jurisdiction yet not policed by the Chinese government and consequently became a place where criminals would go to escape the law. It became known as ‘The City of Darkness’ because without building regulations, huge buildings were erected without foundations and within meters of each other; the streets below were almost permanently in the shadows and the open sewers were a playground for rats. Some people estimated that around 50,000 people lived in the walled city and there were only two wells  and a few communal water taps to provide ‘clean’ water. All around were drug dens, brothels, illegal businesses and triad gangs. In 1993, the work to pull down the walled city began and in its place now stands the Kowloon Walled City Park, which has beautifully landscaped gardens and a museum about the walled city.

Last week, Joel had the privilege of being given a tour of the park by some people who had lived there when the walled city still stood. It was fascinating to hear first-hand stories about what it was like to live there and to be shown around the museum by them. The walled city was the place where St Stephen’s Society (or Jackie Pullinger) really began its work and to understand more about the place that Jackie went to work and live in was really inspirational.

Tonight the forecast is for an incoming Typhoon so everyone on site is busy taping up the windows and putting everything inside that could fly around. It could be rated a T10 which means it would be a direct hit with the eye of the storm passing over us. The last time there was a T10 was back in 2012 so they are quite rare, even though Hong Kong is regularly affected by typhoons between May and September.

We’ve really appreciated hearing from some of you and receiving some home comforts from back home so thank you for thinking of and praying for us.