Ubuntu eXplorers team journeys to Hong Kong and ChinaBy Jeanie Blankenbaker, Team Leader
Is (pronounced “Ease”) came from Indonesia, a young adult woman, seeking work in order to send money back home to help her family. Promised assistance from not only her government but a government agency in Hong Kong as well, she was provided domestic employment, but soon was abused, accused of stealing and threatened with deportation. She found the Bethune House and was given safe refuge and legal assistance.
We met Is and many others like her, when for three days and two nights in September 2008, we lived with and accompanied the Bethune clients to the Labor Department, Labor Tribunal, Immigration Department, the hospital, and the market to buy food for dinner each night. We were 12 United Methodist Women from four jurisdictions, bonded together through the Ubuntu Journeys Program sponsored by the Women’s Division and Mission Volunteers of Global Ministries.
While in Hong Kong, we were afforded the opportunity to meet with Rev. Dr. Lo Lung-Kwong, the President of the Methodist Church of Hong Kong; attended worship service at the Methodist International Church of Hong Kong; and had an afternoon sharing time and meal with the Methodist Filipino Migrant Fellowship.
Earlier that morning, we walked around the Central area on Hong Kong Island, where the Filipino migrants gathered and were introduced to a number of groups that interact with Mission for Migrant Workers, United Filipinos in Hong Kong, and the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrant workers.
Following that, we walked around the Victoria Park area, where Indonesian migrant workers gather. Both groups utilize Sunday, their one day off, to come to these general meeting areas for companionship and fellowship. It certainly opened our eyes to the vast numbers of migrant workers employed in Hong Kong as domestic workers.
When our Journey took us to mainland China, we were hosted by the Amity Foundation. Amity was founded in 1985, initiated by Christian leaders in China as a way to live Christ's gospel in Chinese society. It is an independent social service agency with projects in health, education, rural development, blindness prevention, special needs, relief and rehabilitation.
Our team saw many of these projects in the Guizhou Province and in particular, Puding County, one of the poorest areas in southwest China. We were privileged to visit a government-run primary school and talk with the principal; see a women’s bio-gas program and their pig project; speak with a medical doctor in her humble clinic; and learn about the reforestation project in the area.
One morning, we climbed for over an hour up a steep mountain path to visit a village inhabited by the Miao people, one of the largest recognized ethnic minorities in southwest China. At best, our narrow path was 12” wide and at worst, only 6” wide, with mostly sheer drops along the edge. God was certainly with us as not one of our group (ages13-81) tripped, fell or twisted an ankle.
That afternoon, we trekked up yet another mountain to visit a second group of Miao people and their Xianma Church. This church is called“God place in the clouds”. As we neared completion of this almost 2 hour hike we could hear beautiful singing. The Xianma Church choir, in traditional costume and standing at the top of the mountain, was encouraging us upward with their “Welcome Song.” We knew instantly theirs was the voice of God in our midst.
Our Journey’s mission was “to connect with our faith sisters in Hong Kong and China, expressing our solidarity in concern for women’s rights and well-being by witnessing through a quiet Christian presence”. Team member evaluations confirmed we did just that and surpassed our expectations. One team member wrote, “This was a brilliant grassroots mission experience. I was particularly happy/pleased with the spirit of Ubuntu – (its) mutuality, partnership, context, and learning”.
Photo credits: Tracy Jentzch