Matthew was one of our Hope October volunteers who joined all three sessions of our ‘Travel around Asia’ kids’ program in which they creatively planned and prepared a virtual traveling experience at the Hope Centre in Sham Shui Po. Hope October is an initiative in partnership with Island ECC where the church encourages the congregation to get involved in serving the local community.
I still remember the very first day I went to the first session. The chairs were neatly aligned, and there was a stack of passports on the desk. The air was buzzing with excitement, and I was thrilled to do this. I missed Hope a lot in the time that I was away.
Saturday mornings were planned for ‘traveling’. We would pretend to go on a trip to different places around the world, with the goal being to facilitate bonding time between the mother and child. We would pretend to be on flights, take tours, and eventually learn to make yummy food from the place we had ‘traveled’ to. The first week we went to Thailand, learned a bit about the culture, and made pomelo salad. The second week, we went to Japan, learned a bit more about the culture, and made sushi. The third week, we planned a day trip around Hong Kong, requiring the parents and children to encourage each other and say positive attributes about each other. These three weeks were awesome experiences to watch families bond, grow, and really love one another.
One highlight I had was having fun with the families. I’m guessing that because a lot of them are forced to cram into subdivided flats, tensions ran high in the family, and having fun likely took a backseat to personal responsibilities like homework and chores. Giving the families this opportunity to spend quality time travelling the world was awesome. I loved how the parents laughed and played along, even though they knew it was all made up, and how the kids were so wowed by the passports, boarding passes, snacks, and their joyful screaming when the plane took off and landed. The parents and the kids were smiling and laughing with each other, and it made me so happy to see it. The joy was so raw and real, and watching it overflow was definitely the highlight of my whole experience.
The most memorable experience I probably had was on the last day, during the trip itinerary planning and appreciation time. The mom I was helping out with was extremely negative, and heaping loads of destructive, negative comments all over her child. These ranged from “she sucks at everything and is dumb” to “if I say anything good about her she just does worse”. But, when we did the encouragement activity, the mom and the kid had some nice things to say about one other. And it was encouraging to see the subtle realization that both of them had, that there was something good about them. I feel like this dynamic affects people far beyond this family, and by giving the families’ quality time, it was a really effective and moving for the kids and mom to communicate and understand each other better.
I’m very fortunate that my parents are mostly supportive, and we get in relatively little conflict. I’m grateful that we’re able to set aside our differences and make up, to find the humanity in each other and embrace one other in love. We’re not a perfect family, but it’s become a crucial part of my emotional, mental and spiritual life. Having my parents there to comfort me when I’m upset, encourage me when I’m stressed and cheer me on in my triumphs is so renewing and important in my life. Paul says to the church in Ephesus that “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” - Ephesians 2:19. I’m so grateful that God has welcomed me into His family despite not earning it or deserving it in any way; loved me unconditionally, regardless of what I’ve said or thought or done; encouraged me in my hardships through the awesome people around me; and have some incredible brothers and sisters in Christ to live and serve alongside. Thank you guys!
To sum this all up, family is such an important part of my life, and I really hoped that through having fun with the families, and through deep and meaningful conversations with them, that they are able to experience a type of family that builds each other up. I pray that they will come to God’s family and find joy and peace in Him that is bigger than all the hardships they go through. I’m very grateful for having the opportunity to serve these families. Thanks Hope!!