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.
Planning for the New Year
For our students, January is a month for last assignments, exams, and a different school schedule. As a result, Ruth didn't have her regular class load. This meant we did a lot of different activities, but also that we had ample time to plan for the next semester. Our school's semester is divided around Chinese New Year, not around Christmas.
Having a less defined schedule was a bit of a challenge, as without clear structure it can be hard to know exactly what needs to be done on a given day, but by the end of January, we were excited for all the great stuff we'll be doing in the spring semester. In brief, we've launched a new Christian Leadership Club, ramped up the level of support we provide to the domestic helpers who gather at our church, and are helping out 2 weekends a month with Sunday school at church in the morning; the trade-off is that we will no longer do our afternoon Sunday school, which has had low attendance.
Finishing Sunday School
After seeing our numbers for afternoon Sunday school progressively drop each week last term, we decided to switch things up in hopes of better meeting the needs of our community. Instead of doing a weekly VBS type program, we have switched to helping in the already-existing morning Sunday school program twice a month. It is our hope that consolidating efforts to this one program will encourage more families to attend the full church service each week. In addition, we will keep doing quarterly Sunday School parties around the major church holidays. These were Reformation and Christmas last term and coming up will be Easter and Pentecost!
Kowloon Community Caring Party:
Carol Halter, a deaconess and nearly 40-year missionary veteran based in Hong Kong, works closely with some of the homeless people in the city, known as “Street Sleepers.” Part of this effort is an annual holiday party held in January for a group of 100+ Street Sleepers that she knows. Members of the Lutheran congregations here in Hong Kong have assisted Carol with this event for many years, and this year we got to join in the fun!
At the party, Street Sleepers receive a special meal, clothing, and a bag of food and basic necessities to take with them. They also see and hear the Gospel as it is shared through song, dance, and a message by a Chinese pastor. We got to share some traditional Lutheran and Chinese hymns, with Ruth providing music on her violin to lead the crowd in singing, supported by our friend Mary who sang on the mic.
Happy Year of the Pig!
February began with EXCITEMENT - New Year's festivals, family dinners, fireworks, dumpling-making parties, traditional Chinese clothes .... and of course, Ruth's sister Rachel and nephew Kaleb came to visit us! Having family around for the holiday made it even better.
New Years Festivities
Chinese New Year began on February 5th, and ended on February 19th. We spent most of our two week holiday visiting and spending quality time with friends here in Hong Kong and enjoying the traditions of the season. Many of our local church members, school colleagues, and others invited us to share special holiday time with their families: to come for shared meals, go out for dinners, watch fireworks, and any number of other activities. It was a wonderful chance to spend time together, deepen relationships, and see how God is working providentially to open so many doors to ministry here.
English Worship Support
Have we mentioned just how much we love the domestic helper community in Hong Kong? We have had the privilege to fellowship with anywhere between 4-20 Filipina sisters each Sunday following the worship service. This is their one day off each week and they choose to gather together for food, fellowship, and devotion...and we are honored to be included in this special time.
Starting in January we also distributed the first ever English Service Guide at our Church, in order to make it easier for English-speakers, like ourselves or Filipina domestic helpers, to follow the service. This was a lot easier to produce than one might think, given that the liturgy and order of worship for Lutherans is nearly identical in every language. And in addition, Lyman has also started to meet with the sisters during the sermon time to discuss the scripture text for the day.
What a blessing it is to worship with believers all around the world!
Christian Leadership Club
One of our new programs we're VERY excited about is Christian Leadership Club! We have a group of about 30 students who we are working with for a program centered around Christian service, vocation, and leadership. With music, team-building games, competitive activities, and service-learning, we're really excited to see these kids grow!
Visit From MCN Support
Also in February, one of our supervisors from Mission of Christ Network came for a visit! Pat is an experienced educator, and came to observe Ruth in the classroom, and help her explore ways we can both continue to grow in our abilities as teachers: of English, and of the gospel. It was great seeing a familiar face from the US, and getting some continuing education in the process!
Wait, Who is MCN?
Good question! We actually want to take a moment to talk about Mission of Christ Network, the organization that sent us to Hong Kong. They have sent scores of missionaries to over a dozen countries, focusing on sending laypeople to places where they can proclaim the gospel through their regular vocations. From our friends the Huttons who run a youth center in a disadvantaged part of Costa Rica, to our friend Angie helping manage a home for orphans in Asia, to Melissa Karges, providing counseling services in Ethiopia, or Hannah Brown, who supports a Lutheran Bible Translators team in Sierra Leone.
And then of course there's our wonderful Hong Kong-area team members, on whom we daily depend for support and encouragement, like the Carters who teach in the Lutheran seminary and school system here in Hong Kong, or Emily Belvery who does church work nearby, or Iantha Schiewe, who is basically our "fixer": whenever we have no idea how to get something done, Iantha knows how to make it happen. MCN is enabling, supporting, and advancing sound, faithful, Lutheran mission work around the world.
Meanwhile, the team at MCN HQ helps train us, and those other missionaries, and dozens of others not mentioned here, and provide us with resources for our work. They check in on us regularly to make sure we're doing okay, they provide guidance and mentorship to help us grow in the work we're doing, they advocate on our behalf with our sponsoring and hosting organizations, and they connect us to necessary resources to do our jobs well. Without the faithful support of MCN, quite frankly, we couldn't do the work we're doing.
We mention this because several of you have asked us in recent weeks if we needed more funding. The answer is complicated. We are currently fully-funded for our current commitment, and for our currently-undertaken activities. We are always looking for new ways to participate in the work God is doing, and we may have additional expenses in the future, but at the present moment, we've been blessed with more than we need for the day. But, if you're looking for another way to support us, we would encourage giving to MCN itself to support the people who make our life here possible, or giving to any of our friends serving alongside us. For our work to be possible, the whole organization needs to be healthy.
We have so much to be thankful for! God has richly blessed us. Lyman's work has been going extremely well recently, our Chinese New Year experiences revealed to us how deeply-rooted we have become in a short time here, and we have seen our relationships with students, friends, and colleagues grow. We are especially thankful for the faithful support of our supervisors and mentors at MCN, Holy Word Church, the Hong Kong Synod, and Siu Leun School, who have been enthusiastic about helping us find the best way to serve. They have been incredibly flexible, supporting us as we experiment with different ways of reaching our community!
What you can pray for:
1. Continued prayers for our visas. We continue to await a long-term visa so that we can be useful supporting work done in Shenzhen, and not have to leave Hong Kong regularly to reset our short-term visas.
2. Growth in ministry. We have a lot of new ministry opportunities opening up in our new schedule, and elsewhere. For example, in the fall, Lyman will be teaching an English Writing Workshop at Concordia Theological Seminary here in Hong Kong! We have many other possible opportunities opening up: discernment for how to best use the time God has given us here is needed!
3. Health! Ruth, as always, has an immune system of steel. Lyman does not, and has repeatedly been sick this winter season: flu, strep, and a stomach bug, all in the space of 30 days. None of these are severe illnesses, but they are frequent irritations interrupting the work here.
4. Peace amid good busy-ness. We have so many good things in our life, with so many worthy tasks to be done! Pray that we find peace and rest amidst it all.