A Stone's Throw: November Update from Mr. and Mrs. Stone

Responding to a call from the Lutheran Church - Hong Kong Synod, former ILS Manager of Operations, Mrs. Ruth Stone, along with her husband, Lyman, are now serving as missionaries in Hong Kong. Mrs. Stone serves as a missionary and English teaching assistant in a local Lutheran school, and she and Mr. Stone together volunteer their time to support school extracurriculars, church functions and Sunday school classes, Bible study, and evangelism with the Mission of Christ Network.

Throughout the year, we’ll be sharing regular updates from the Stones as they embark on their work in Hong Kong.

Please join us in praying for Mr. & Mrs. Stone as they live and serve in the Lutheran Church-Hong Kong Synod, and especially the children, faculty, and parents in its’ associated school system.

It is also Mrs. Stone’s birthday this week, so please join with us in wishing a very happy birthday to her!

Completely Stuffed!

Our life here is officially FULL! Social events, parties, activities, travel, work.... we are finally feeling like we are using our time here up to its full potential. November was a busy month with three Thanksgiving celebrations, parties, work, the beginning of Christmas preparations, travel, and much else.

But beyond our day-to-day life, what's really been happening is that we are seeing God make us STUFFED: full of people to love and care for, full of communities to be a part of, full of the good things He has given us. This often leaves us in the "post Thanksgiving dinner posture" we're all familiar with.....passed out on the couch, mouth wide open and a happy heart.

Home & Hospitality

You all know how we love to throw a party. Well, November was a full month! We hosted 2 different Thanksgiving meals: one for local Hong Kong friends, and one for fellow Lutheran missionaries. It was a wonderful chance to share some special time together, talk about Thankfulness and God's goodness in life, and use the wonderful hosting space we have.

But as some of you also know, our kitchen is not a full American-style kitchen. So we made Thanksgiving dinner, twice, complete with a whole turkey, creamed corn, homemade pumpkin pie (even homemade crust!), green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, raspberry pretzel salad (with homemade cool whip!), coleslaw, and all the other fixin's.... all with just a TOASTER OVEN (three actually)! You might find this hard to believe, but it turns out that you actually can cook a whole (10.5 lb) turkey in a (slightly larger than average) toaster oven!

We've also already decorated for Advent and Christmas, filling our home with lights for this season when we remember how the light shone in the darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it. We had some help from some of our local friends here, of course: you can't decorate without friends, homemade Christmas cookies, and movies on in the background! We give thanks for these many opportunities this season offers to share our home, family traditions and faith with others.

Music & Ministry

God continues to work in wonderful ways through the church and school here. We've had opportunities to talk to other teachers about Lutheran education and catechesis and are incorporating more of the ancient music of the church into our teaching. The kids, of course, love the liturgical music, since it's totally unlike any other music they hear or sing. Our 3rd grade homeroom class gets to do a short order of service with us every afternoon, and thus is memorizing a lot of liturgical music. For Advent, we're working on learning the Magnificat, Mary's Song. They've been learning the refrain throughout November, and will learn the verses over the next few weeks.

Ruth has also had opportunities to play her violin in the church, we're teaching the kids songs in Tuesday morning assemblies, and we teach many songs in Sunday school and in Ruth's classes. For November, we taught the kids "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" for Tuesday morning assembly: the kids love all the hand-motions we came up with, since they mostly involve swords, weapons, fortresses, and battles. For Advent, we are teaching them, "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus." Some of the older kids act too-cool-for-school during the song... but then we hear them humming the tune in the hallways!

God Is Opening New Doors!

When we came to Hong Kong, we assumed our ministry would be, fairly straightforwardly, to the people of Hong Kong. And that has happened. But God works in remarkable ways, and we have found another field to work in here! Hong Kong is home to hundreds of thousands of women from the Philippines and Indonesia who work as domestic helpers in the homes of middle- and upper-class Hong Kongers. These women work hard jobs for modest pay, and then only get one day off a week. But on that day off, some want to gather for worship. Specifically, the Lutheran church in the Philippines has a number of its members working as domestic helpers in Hong Kong, and several Lutheran churches, ours among them, open up for them to use the space for fellowship and worship together. Our church has a small fellowship group for these women on Sunday afternoons.

However, because their shared language of worship is generally either English or one of several languages from the Philippines, they aren't always able to participate in the local Cantonese-language services. For several weeks, we have been joining these ladies for their English-language fellowship times, helping lead bible studies and worship times. We hope soon to see this ministry grow, and are working on ways to provide additional services and support to these remarkable women who, after essentially 24-hour work for 6 days, spend their day off in prayer, fellowship, and further service to the church. The truth is, as much as we see God opening a door for us to work with and help these women, their faith, courage, and sacrifice serves as an inspiration to us.

How You Are Helping

Especially as November is a season of Thanksgiving, we wanted to again thank YOU all for your generous support of the work we do here. Thanks to your support, we never have to think twice about purchasing the necessary supplies for crafts or events. You'd be surprised how much of missionary work basically boils down to crafting! What we wouldn't give for a good Hobby Lobby!

But aside from routine purchases like that, we also hope to spend the next 3 weeks working with a group of students to learn to play some Christmas songs on handbells! Thanks to your support, we have been able to purchase a set of 20 handbells so that the kids can not just sing, but play the music for some great Christmas songs. THANK YOU!

Travel & Visitors

As our temporary visa was expiring, we did a short weekend trip to Viet Nam at the end of November. The tickets were cheap, we had to leave Hong Kong anyways, and we wanted to explore the highlands of northern Viet Nam. We had a lovely time for a good price (sleeping on the overnight train to and from the highlands helps save some money!), and now have 90 more days on our temporary visa while we await our long term visa. We expect to do some more regional travel in the future.

But in the meantime, we hope you'll come to visit us! Our available times to host visitors in March have pretty much been booked up now, but we still have some availability in February, April, May, and June! If you'd like to come to Hong Kong just to visit, or with a short-term group from your church, let us know! We'll help with logistics for your trip and force you to stay with us.

What you can pray for:

1. For the Fellowship, Prayer, Sharing, and Caring (FPSC) ministry among Filipina domestic helpers in Hong Kong, that it would grow and be of benefit to the women, and especially that God would provide ways for us to be of assistance to the group that meets at Holy Word.

2. Relatedly, for opportunities to expand this work to include Indonesian domestic helpers as well. Indonesia has over 5 million Lutherans in it; we would love to be able to support any who come to Hong Kong as domestic helpers, and reach out to nonbelievers among them as well.

3. That we would speedily receive our Hong Kong ID Cards, and then that we would speedily get our visa into mainland China. Our visa has taken a bit longer than anticipated, and we very much hope to receive our China visa before January so that we can be of help to friends working over the border as well.

4. That God would put it on the hearts of Lutherans in the United States to come to Hong Kong to serve as missionaries, either short-term in a team, or longer-term as a teacher.

5. That God would use this Advent season, and Christmastide after it, to touch the hearts of people in Hong Kong, that they can see and know what a great gift God is giving to them.