Changing course

Changing course

It’s been such a busy few months that we haven’t found time to update you all on our plans. Since around Christmas we have been exploring whether it would be possible to continue sharing our lives with the brothers (recovering addicts) here in Hong Kong. It has been clear for sometime, however, that Micah and Asher’s needs for schooling and good friendships cant be met here at this time and so we decided to move on to the UK to make sure that their needs are being met. We really feel that God has been leading us throughout our time in Hong Kong and is continuing to do so as we change the course of our journey, hence moving on to the UK and not back to the UK.

A few weeks ago, Joel sadly came back to England for his grandma’s funeral but, on the one day that he had available in the short time he was back, was asked in to interview for a teaching role to start in April and got the job. We really felt clearly that God was with us in making the decision to go home and that he was yet again faithfully providing for our needs. The situation reminded us of Romans 8:28 (And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose), and coming to England for a sad reason was transformed into God’s amazing provision for our future.

Over the last week we have been packing our things down to fit into 5 suitcases and cleaning up our little apartment. Then, yesterday we said a sad farewell to the brothers and helpers at Shing Mun Springs to head to the airport and made our way to Hanoi, Vietnam, where we will spend a day or so before changing course to London. Our time in Hong Kong has been challenging but we have learnt so much about how to care for those in need and also how the God’s love can truly transform lives. We have met some amazing people and made memories that we will always treasure.

In the next season of our lives, we will be staying in Croydon and are now looking forward to getting home and trying to work out how to live out the things we have learnt in Asia back home in England.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us; we are so grateful!

 

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Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas

It seems that every time we write a new blog post it feels like it’s been such a long time since the last one. Since the last update, quite a lot has happened on site. There has been a lot of changes in the houses here with other helpers moving around and people leaving. Whilst changes like this can sometimes be uncomfortable, for the most part, things have been good. As per usual, there have been ups and downs but, in general, the last few months have been a good time of learning and growing for us.

In that time we’ve taken more responsibility in the house and learnt a lot more about how decisions are made and the input and organisation which goes into seeing the brothers develop and grow. On some levels, this is a very specific and unique environment but we can really see how what we are learning here could be transferred into other settings with different people.

We have been in the same house with the brothers since we arrived here and it has allowed us to see them go through some very significant changes in a relatively short space of time. There are such a variety of brothers that come through the doors here and we have learnt that having a range of different personalities and characters really is so valuable when living in community such as this. Each brother brings their own unique personality with them which gives us so many opportunities to understand a wide variety of people and the needs and difficulties that they have. We really value this opportunity to live in such a unique environment, with such amazing people who come here to change but also allows us the opportunity to learn and change also. Although there are challenges and difficulties at times, we really enjoy the highs and lows of this journey we have embarked on, so much so that we wish that all of our friends and family could be part of this and understand more about what God is doing here.

We are in an very exciting and busy time with Christmas only a few hours away. Although we really miss a lot of the Christmas familiarities we had in the UK, having a simple celebration allows us to be reminded of what Christmas is all about.  This time of year, celebrating with the brothers, can be such a joyful time but also can be difficult and lonely for many. Although we feel like a huge family, there are things and people that the brothers are reminded of and miss which can make this an emotional time in the house. Our main role in the house is to love and serve the brothers and so this is especially important at times like this. We are learning to love people in a way which can often be challenging but knowing the power of God’s love in their and our lives, enables us to see them like they are a member of our family.

We hope you all have a fantastic time over the festive period!

Happy Christmas from Hong Kong!

Joel, Joelle, Micah and Asher

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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

Love,

The Lanes