By Chung Tsang – When I first started helping with the local outreach ministry, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I knew one of the events at St. Barnabas to serve the elderly at their Mid-Autumn festival dinner, but I didn’t know much beyond that. Actually the main reason I moved to Hong Kong was to spend more time with my grandmother, so I always had a heart for the elderly and that’s why this event appealed so much to me. But later I found out that the outreach team also regularly goes to visit different families in their subdivided flats in the Central and Western district. On the visits, the team brings some donated food and toiletry goods as gifts to our friends who live in these tiny dwellings. But most importantly we talk with them and care for them, and try to show God’s love to them.
On my first visit, I got to meet an old lady who lives by herself in her tiny flat in Sai Ying Pun. I went in a group of four, but since her space is so small, only two of us were able to enter. Even though her living condition wasn’t the best, she is in good spirit and was offering us fruits to eat. Later that night, we went to visit the Xie family that lives in a similar size room. This is a family of four that has two young daughters age 6 years old and a baby that’s 9 months old. They all live in a room that is very small, it’s even difficult to step inside without having to crouch down. But this family is very friendly, and their 6 years old daughter name Nana is very outgoing and generous. She loves stickers, and she was nice enough to take out her own stickers and stick them on us. After this first visit, we visited the Xie family a few other times on subsequent visits. Through the visits, we got to know this family more and more.
After work one night, I was rushing to a 6:15 doctor’s appointment in Sheung Wan from central. While in my hurry, I noticed the Xie family on the street near the Central Market. I was running late, and I wasn’t sure if it’s appropriate to approach them on the street, so I walked on. I felt a bit uneasy not saying hi, but on the other hand, I thought I dodged a possibly awkward moment. I thought I can just let it pass and carry on with my night, but God had other plans.
I made it to my appointment in Sheung Wan on time, and afterwards I left to looked for a place to get dinner. I wondered further into Sheung Wan and ended up near the wet food market and walked passed Cafe De Coral. While I was walking away from Central, I was thinking there’s no chance for me to see the Xie family if they’re still back in Central. Then low and behold, I spotted Mrs. Xie inside the entrance of Cafe De Coral. So I knew I had to say hi since I missed my chance earlier. But before I went in I was deciding if I should offer to buy them dinner. I felt that it would be a nice thing to do, so I said hi to the family and asked Mr. Xie if I can buy them their dinner. He graciously declined and out of respect I did not insist. It was a bit awkward and I didn’t want to embarrass Mr. Xie, so I went ahead first to order my dinner while Mr. Xie was still deciding.
I went and picked up my meal and saw that Mrs. Xie and her daughters already reserved a table. I saw an extra seat there and I asked to sit down at the table. Nana sat next to me and even gave me another sticker, this time a red Canadian maple leaf. Since Mr Xie was still buying the food, Mrs. Xie asked me to start eating first. I was ready to eat when Mrs. Xie asked me if I pray before meals. It was a good thing she reminded me, and even Nana jumped in to show me to pray since she learned to pray for her meals at her Catholic school. I really need to change my bad habit and pray at each meal, it was a bit embarrassing to be reminded to pray by someone who don’t know God yet.
Since Mr. Xie had not brought the food over yet, I offered some of my food to Nana and Mrs Xie. I told them they can try a taste, so I set aside a piece of pork chop for them which Mrs. Xie accepted. But later when Mr. Xie came back, with two meals which he shared with the whole family. He sat down and we all started eating and talking and we were just chatting about a few different things. Somehow my Cantonese suffice that night; I don’t chitchat well, and really not well in Cantonese. But the conversation was good; it was great to learn more about their background, and their life while breaking bread with them. At the end of the meal, that piece of pork chop I offered was still there, and the Nana actually already had some from the meal that Mr. Xie got. So in the end, when I was trying to offer them some food, Nana took a food from her plate and just gave it to me. It was again humbling to have that happen. I thought I had something material that I can offer them to help them, but in a way I felt it was wrong to only see their needs and not seeing them as equal. In the end, I learned to really see this family at the same level, as fellow creations of God. It was definitely humbling and it brought me new awareness. It is not key for us to help provide a meal or some food for families in need, it may be necessary or right in some situations, but the best thing we can offer is the love and care that flows out from the love that God has given us in our hearts. I prayed that this family can sense God’s love in the time I spent to talk to them as a friend, and that they can feel the concern for them in the conversation. At the end of the meal and after all the food was gone, I continued talking a bit and encourage them to attend St. Barnabas’ outreach services Saturday afternoon. They said they may be busy earning a living on the streets, so will be hard to make it. I pray that the Holy Spirit will lead them to Jesus and the Truth of the Gospel at the right time.
Serving in the local ministry had been a blessing, and I’ve learned a lot. Most importantly, I learned that I can’t do this alone. I got to experience that what I do is for God and His purpose, and it’s not me alone that’s serving the needy. What we do alone might be limited, but if we see that we’re serving God, we get to experience and share God’s love. It may be hard to convey all that I experience in a testimony, but I hope that my experience above will inspire you to take action and serve. It may be serving by going with the local outreach ministry on the home visits, or providing donations to the needy people in our community. But either way, remember that we’re doing this through God’s love and not just by your own power, and you will get to experience what God is doing in our local community.
Picture of folks from SP with Pastor Benny of St. Barnabas