[ ‘SHARE’ Nov-Dec 2013 – Life Impacting Life ] FOCUS ~ INTERVIEW
Interviewer> Lam Wai Shan
Gandhi said, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’ Making changes may seem easier said than done, but there are bound to be things that you and I can do.
Mok Hing-luen is the Chairperson of CEDAR Club; he was a former frontline social worker and has 25 years of experience in social work education. Set to retire next year, Mok is waiting for God to make clear the way for him.
Mok is one of the founders of CEDAR Club. After seeing pamphlets of CEDAR’s exposure trips in 2002, he joined the next two trips to Cambodia and Bangladesh where he got to know more about world poverty. These two trips also gave him the idea of setting up ‘CEDAR Club’, and since its establishment ten years ago Mok has been meeting regularly with a group of like-minded members.
Whether at work or otherwise, Mok maintains and practises his beliefs, pursues justice and human rights. Whenever there is an imbalance between the ideal and reality, Mok would go hiking to regain that balance.
Hardship – preceding brilliance
Mok has loved hiking since he was young; he gave it up for a while to spend more time on work and family but returned to this hobby in 2001. Now he goes hiking at least once or twice a week, and up to four or five times a week during the summer holidays. Mok takes all necessary precautions although he had a brush with death once, ‘About seven years ago it was raining as I went up Kau Nga Ling; when I reached 400m it became blustery and foggy with heavy rain, greatly reducing visibility. The trail itself wasn’t difficult but the weather made that experience unforgettable.’
In January this year he went for To Kwun Cliff, ‘There is no hiking trail and one can only climb the cliffs. I spent over an hour and still could not climb up, so you can imagine the difficulty. I began to wonder if I should continue but two friends behind me said, “Of course, as you are here now it does not make sense to stop!”’ Eventually Mok prevailed and reached the peak; the breathtaking view was exactly what fascinated him about hiking.
Hiking – rediscovering values
In the realm of nature man is tiny and it is that Mok has more reflections on life’s meaning and values, ‘The beautiful views make me think what it is that we seek in life? We live not only to chase after material things, rather we should cherish and esteem the value and significance of being a human.’ And yet the reality is very different. After being involved with social work half his life, Mok understands this very well.
‘Social work is people-oriented and has high regard for human dignity, values and basic rights, and also for social justice. However, social work is often market-driven and affected by bureaucracy, and as a result human needs are neglected.’ It is difficult to persist in one’s beliefs when social justice and human rights are abused, but hiking helps Mok rediscover their importance, making up for the discrepancy between reality and the ideal.
In fact, Mok has been mobilising the younger generation to uphold core values, and some results can be seen. People often ask him how he keeps this passion, and his answer is, ‘let life impact life’. Says he ‘I hope to be a role model and impact others. Whatever we do, we need to hold on to our beliefs, otherwise they turn lifeless and die out eventually.’
Retirement – turning a new page
As the second-half of life was about to begin, a ‘warning’ two years ago made Mok stop and reconsider his future. ‘Two years ago I kept falling ill, and that was a sign for me to stop for a moment, take better care of my health, and consider changing jobs.’ He has after all taught in the university for 25 years. After some serious consideration, Mok decided to resign. ‘I am no longer young and also tertiary education is getting more restricted and routine, I do need to change and grow differently. One door must be closed before another can be opened.’
So, what lies behind the other door? Mok says with a smile that recently many people have asked about his retirement plan. ‘There isn’t a concrete plan yet although there are a few basic criteria: Firstly, it won’t be a paid job because not many paid jobs allow for personal freedom. Secondly, it will have direct contact with people such as students or marginalised groups. Thirdly, it will involve participating in reforming local social movements, mobilising students to actively care for our society and bring about changes.’ So it seems that, just as Mok says, his post-retirement life will be even busier than before!
‘Gong sheng’ – experiencing living together
Apart from hiking and education, Mok is also involved in taking his students to Taiwan for ‘gong sheng’ (‘living together’ or communal life) experience. ‘“Gong sheng” has been going on there for over twenty years, where groups of local Christians live together in a self-sufficient and environmentally friendly life; they devise their own education and have created quite a few inspiring songs.’ Those songs and the experience have moved Mok.
In the past six years Mok and his students having visited the ‘gong sheng’ community have shared with people in Hong Kong. ‘It is difficult to carry out the Taiwanese model in Hong Kong, so we have adopted a fellowship-style gathering where about a dozen of people meet once a fortnight, mainly to share and bond together, making this a starting point to practise the essence of “gong sheng”.’
Mission – passing the torch
Mok admits that meeting once a fortnight is not truly ‘living together’ sufficiently to bond. Similarly, the occasional sharing held by CEDAR Club hardly helped members grow a sense of belonging. ‘A few years ago we collaborated with Mong Kok Kai Fong Association Ltd. Chan Hing Social Service Centre to visit low income families and through this kind of sustainable participation a sense of belonging was built. However, because of constraints on time and resources, it is difficult to run these programmes sustainably.’
Despite the limitations, we can find our place and mission in life if we are sensitive to God’s leading. Mok has found his mission and is actively practising and promoting it. He encourages his students, ‘Do not overestimate yourselves but do not think of yourselves as useless either.’ He receives and he relays, ‘Man is like a drop in the ocean – our predecessors were here, we received the baton from them, and when we leave, other people will take over.’ Thus is mission passed to the next generation and changes will follow.
Have you found your place and mission in life? We invite you to be a member of CEDAR Club, and through monthly meetings learn about poverty, reflect on life and faith, and care for the poor in practical ways.
(Photos 1-4 are from Mr. Mok)