Seeing It with Our Eyes | Sandy LAM

[ ‘SHARE’ May-Jun 2013 – Seeing It with Our Eyes ] FOCUS ~ AN EXPOSURE TRIP

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMan-yin says, ‘Once more the Lord calls me, “Go, retrieve their lost image as God’s children so that they may regain dignity in life.”‘

Writer> Sandy LAM, Education and Promotion Officer

In January this year, thirteen of us (two staff with eleven team members) spent twelve days in Ethiopia. During this trip, fresh-faced and friendly children welcomed us, the women’s situations shocked us, family struggles for survival moved us, farmers’ abundant harvest delighted us, and the churches’ loving ministry filled our hearts with joy… All these were beyond our understanding and expectations.

Jessica’s sharing leads us to ponder: ‘This trip has made me reconsider why we go on exposure trips. Is it for something to boast about, or to gain travelling experience, or just to be there and have an easy holiday? I thank God for making me think from the start so that the trip would not be taken in vain.’

Yes, the 12-day-trip took us out of our comfort zone, but bit by bit changed our outlook.

Beyond our imagination…

Like many people in Hong Kong, we thought of Ethiopia as impoverished and undeveloped. When friends and families heard of our trip, they worried that we might suffer hunger amidst harsh conditions.

But when we arrived we saw a different scene. Wendy tells us: ‘I was wrong to think that Ethiopia was lagging behind; I was surprised to see that the country has a modern airport and new cars driving on wide streets.’

High-rises being constructed in the capital Addis Ababa

Similarly Ah Wai observes: ‘There might still be starvation in Ethiopia but on the whole it has moved from “relief” to “development”… The locals commented on the capital’s speedy development in recent years and Ethiopia appears to be undergoing a “China-like” development…’

We were impressed by the airport, streets, buildings and motorcars, but how about the everyday life of the people?

Beyond poverty…

Poor people may seem isolated and helpless and need outside help to improve their livelihood, but we who think we are ‘rich’ are also very ‘poor’.

One day, as we walked up a hill to a rural church at the project point for an hour, Ah Ting said self-mockingly: ‘None of my knowledge was useful in the situation. I even needed a child to help me walk down a slope, and I was breathless after a short while. To the locals I must be the “backward” one.’

Villagers and children help team walk down hills

On our way up, Milly walked with a 10-year old boy. During that half-hour she learnt that although material life was meagre, their internal resources, wealth and strength was superior to ours. ‘In all situations, all lives are equal and that is the same with the relationship between donors and beneficiaries. The poor do not need things which you might see as lacking but then everyone has equal value and status.’

Fiona says, ‘How wonderful is Father God’s creation; in this harsh environment farmers can still grow a variety of produce!’

The villagers’ self-sufficiency and simple lifestyle impressed us city-dwellers.

Beyond our souls…

We witnessed how a local church acts as God’s channel in the cities and villages, serving with love to help improve lives. ‘I thank God for the work done by Addis Ababa Guenet Church (AAGC, CEDAR’s partner). It does not simply preach the gospel but actually cares for the poor outside the church building, giving them practical assistance and services. I saw a community who walks with the poor in Christ-like love and care,’ says Celia.

The church actively responds to social issues and practises mercy and justice. When we visited a programme on stopping female genital mutilation (FGM) we heard tales of suffering from the church and women that shocked us.

Ah Wai says thoughtfully: ‘FGM is obviously oppressive to women and girls, causing them grave physical and psychological damage. The church organises volunteer teams and small groups for young girls to oppose female circumcision, combining bible teaching to change social values (or the society’s unreasonable system/traditions). The church is not only concerned with religious faith but also [heavenly] values that the gospel represents. The church is bold in objecting to the society’s existing inhumane traditions.’

Women speak on breaking the bondage of genital mutilation

We will always remember the testimonies, lives and faces of the church, families, villagers, women and children we met.

Beyond awareness…

This exposure trip not only helped us understand more about Ethiopia’s development and needs, but also challenged our faith as we heard impoverished families speak and saw how they continued to rely on God in their difficulties.

Viola reflected deeply on the matter: ‘The family we visited wrestled between daily living and their faith but they were serious and persevering believers. Their child drew a picture entitled “Jesus is Lord” – a very familiar statement and yet so powerful and difficult to grasp. I searched my heart: What would I do if I were in their situation? Would I choose security in life or my faith? Do I really know Whom I believe? How real is my confession in the Lord? Who is rich and who is poor?’

Poor families within AAGC ‘dance with suffering’ and face life with joy – Rachel

‘None of the people we visited cried; on the contrary they spoke in the power of their faith. Suffering remains but their faith is also very real, as if life could not be lived without God. I may sit in an air-conditioned room contemplating the theology of suffering, but these people dance with God in their daily suffering, supported by hope – and they themselves live out hope.’ Ah Wai shares with us.

Through real life accounts God speaks to us, changes our mentality and renews our lives.

After our return…

We left Ethiopia with precious memories which have brought much reflection into our lives.

Some members have resolved to re-examine their lifestyles to reduce unnecessary consumption; some have joined CEDAR’s Carbon Fast 2013 and are learning to live an environmentally friendly low-carbon life.

As Agnes says, ‘Living a stable life and enjoying religious freedom in Hong Kong makes me think of poverty as a faraway matter. But through this trip God has taught me that He has not forgotten the world and that His blessings are global. He will raise us up to work together and learn to love others as we love ourselves, and through the ministry of caring for society His mighty kingdom will be revealed, that people may practise integral mission.’

Ethiopia may be distant and unfamiliar, but at least we have taken the first step to bridge the chasm.

Further Action

Support Community Development with Slum-dwellers in Bangladesh

[ ‘SHARE’ May-Jun 2013 – Seeing It with Our Eyes ] STEP INTO THE WORLD


CEDAR’s partner SATHI conducts an integrated community project in the slums of Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, which encourages dwellers to participate in community development. After several years, different resident groups are set up to organise and mobilise community development planning, gender equality promotion, improvement of community health and caring for underprivileged children.

Mukta is a member of the women’s self-help group. As a female she previously had little opportunity to express her views or get involved with issues such as community health, violence, alcoholism, drug abuse and child labour, but through SATHI’s women’s group and community health volunteer work, Mukta can now express her concerns on these issues and learn how to help families in need. ‘I am now studying a course for paramedics, with the hope of helping more people.’

Please support Bangladeshi slum dwellers to actively participate in community development:

  • HK$260/month> provides advanced training for 24 community health volunteers
  • HK$380/month> provides literacy education for 20 illiterate adults
  • HK$700/month> helps 10 women receive occupational training and start their small businesses

Donate Now! Click here.

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Please send a completed Donation Form, enclosing with cheque or pay-in slip, to CEDAR FUND, G.P.O. BOX 3212, HONG KONG.

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Being Peace Makers | CHOW Tze

[ ‘SHARE’ May-Jun 2013 – Seeing It with Our Eyes ] TAKING ACTION


Author> CHOW Tze

‘When I first came to Hong Kong I was very shy and dared not talk to anyone. Now I am keen to share my culture and story with others, and I have made many friends here!’ Refugee Jim (fictitious name) tells us excitedly.

Before coming to Hong Kong, Jim had fled two countries with people trying to track him down and kill him. In his hometown the dark-skinned Jim was hospitable to all visitors regardless of their race and ethnicity, so he expected the same friendly treatment when he arrived in the cosmopolitan city of Hong Kong. Sadly it was not so: no one would rent him a flat, and nobody would take the vacant seat beside him in a packed bus. For the first time Jim felt what it was like to be ‘discriminated against’ and realised that he was ‘different’.

I love drama and in my free time I would join ‘Playback Theatre’. The Theatre believes that everyone has a unique story to tell and that story is worth listening to. In this Theatre a story-teller gets to review his own story, and people in the community are connected through ‘one story inspiring other stories’.

In the past couple of years, refugees who are ‘Peace Maker volunteers’ of Playback Theatre share their experiences with churches, schools and community centres. From these stories the audience figures out that during the refugees’ stay in Hong Kong, what they need most is not material assistance but the community’s acceptance and inclusion.

Accepting someone may mean taking a moment to humbly listen and give support. Oftentimes Christian ‘peace’ requires one simple step, and it is up to you and I to take that step.
Chow Tze, a Christian social worker works at ‘A Generation’ which promotes caring for the needs of refugees and asylum seekers in Hong Kong. CEDAR has often invited ‘A Generation’ to share with secondary and tertiary students about African refugees in Hong Kong.

When Caring About the Community Becomes a Job | TANG Po Shan

[ ‘SHARE’ May-Jun 2013 – Seeing It with Our Eyes ] CEDAR’S BLOGGER


Author> TANG Po Shan, Education and Promotion Officer

I often ponder this question: As a staff in a relief and development organisation that mobilises and encourages community concern amongst Christians, how deeply do I actually care about my society, or am I merely doing a job?

Indeed, it is wonderful to have work that combines one’s interests and ambition. It is a good thing if a person cares about his society and is able to work in a civil group or NGO, that promotes social changes through different channels such as education, services, community development, policy initiatives and social actions. Of course, caring for the society is not a privilege of a select few because it is our civic responsibility. In that face of various issues of modern society, we need skilled and able people, such as social workers, to act as frontline promoters and executors. My question is, when our work becomes routine, or when caring about society becomes a livelihood skill, would we be confusing means and ends?

I frequently ask myself, am I someone who cares about society? Outside of work, how much do I care about the society’s current affairs and how much am I concerned with the weak and disadvantaged groups? Do I keep silent in face of unrighteousness? Am I interested in spending time to listen to the poor? Am I willing to contact marginalised groups? I ask these questions not to set criteria, nor to imply anyone who fails to meet them would show that s/he is unconcerned, for I am against legalism. I believe that this is a kind of self-confrontation, to face my own life honestly, admit my self-righteousness and weakness and ask God to watch over me and have mercy on me when I fail.

Truly, concern for society is an attitude and one focus in our lives, and it should flow naturally from life. Caring about society is not about what we do but how we become someone who cares about other people and practises righteousness. I believe that, as Christians, caring for society is a spiritual discipline leading us to see people and the world as the Lord sees them, and in all areas of our life ‘to act justly and love mercy and to walk humbly with God’.

When we have been at our daily task long enough and are so familiar with certain methods and teaching, things can become habitual, and even more alarmingly we ourselves do not believe what we say or do. This reminds me to reflect often on my work, challenge myself to leave my comfort zone and be courageous in walking the path of faith.