I started on this journey of missionary stories from my youth a little while ago. It began as a short entry on Facebook and then I realized it was better written as a full-on blog. The first part has already been “aired” on FB” but there’s a second part at the end of this so if the reader will permit, keep on reading. I regret that I don’t have pictures to post about these adventures. It happened in the days before digital cameras (and perhaps before photo legal rights stuff came to bear). But they happened and they were very real. I’ve done my best to capture images that accurately depict the situations.
I spent a two month summer of service in Hong Kong when I was younger. We congregated in the home of a hospitable Episcopal church in the center of Kowloon as a team of about 16-20 people from just about every country on the globe. We slept on the floor, girls in one room, boys in the other.
Desperate in the heat and humidity of the Hong Kong climate, we took showers with a garden hose outside in the back yard, wearing swimsuits, while neighbors from incredibly close high rises peered down on us. At night, safe within the walls of the church, we all laid out under the ceiling fans, our heads in the center, our feet splayed out, like spokes on a wheel.
The team leader was a tall woman from Sweden. I think her name was Emma. I felt close to her because I am of Swedish descent and we just seemed to understand each other. We both slapped our knees when we laughed out loud about something funny.
We were in the heart of Kowloon but occasionally had to take the ferry over to Hong Kong Island to meet up with other team workers. The fare was cheap. If you took the lower deck, it was about 50 cents. If you wanted to ride on the top deck, you had to cough up 75 cents. Being poor missionary workers, we always took the 50 cent ride.
One day, on a whim, Emma said to me, “Let’s splurge. Let’s do the 75 cent top deck ride.” So we did. And we sat up there in the sunny open breeze with all the other executives, dressed in their business suits, briefcases by their sides. We rode along, looking this way and that, enjoying the fresh sea air of Hong Kong harbor.
When we arrived at our destination, Emma looked at me and said, “You know? I think this WAS much faster!”
I loved Emma. Our ancient roots have the same humor.
I also spent a couple months in Hawaii on the island of Maui, a garden island lined with Banyan trees…. as part of an outreach team. Our mission was to preach the gospel and hand out sandwiches to the homeless and hungry. A team of about 20 of us housed in a rented home in Lahaina on Front Street, right across from the ocean. Pickins were slim, we were all missionary kids, we just knew we had something to do that was important.
Because the house was a low-rent, scrabble-roofed, barely sustainable structure, the main team leaders, a young married couple with two small children got one bedroom, the girls were stacked three to six high in bunks in another room and the boys had to stay in the chicken coop outside on the property. There were always free-range chickens on the property. I don’t know who owned them. If the boys got the chicken coop for lodging, I don’t know where the chickens went for the night.
In our youthful gusto, we’d meet daily for prayer, meditation, guitar-strumming, singing, building up, prayer and so forth. Outside, we’d hear, “Cluck…cluck…cluck..CLUCK…CLUCK!” and then we’d hear a “PLOP” sound. When the meeting ended, we could go outside on the porch and observe the smashed egg that one of the roaming chickens had laid on the roof (not in any particular order) that had fallen through the shingles to the ground. This happened on a near daily basis.
We were thankful for the chickens though. Since we lived at the beach, we were always in and out of swimsuits and trunks and had a clothes line to hang them up to dry. One day, the team leader took his trunks off the line, put them on, started to feel an uncomfortable scratching in his groin area so he shook a bit and out fell a scorpion! The chickens kept a pretty good vanguard on the ground for these pests but they couldn’t reach the clothes lines.
There were also regular calls from the local piers with “We have a 700 lb marlin here, do you want it?” Sports fisherman from around the world regularly gathered in their trophy catches of tuna, marlin, shark, what-have-you. All they wanted was maybe 30 lbs of the meat and a good photo. The rest got donated.
The boys from the chicken coop had to jump in a truck, drive down to the pier, haul the other 670 pounds of fish into the back of it, bring it back to our shanty, haul it onto a picnic table and carve it up. If it was a marlin, we had marlin soup, marlin fish burgers, marlin steaks, marlin egg sandwiches, marlin guacamole for the next two weeks. If it was shark, well…..I think the chickens got most of that.
But back to my story about insects in Florida. I hate the ants in Florida. But In Hawaii, the worst pesty insects were the cockroaches, and they abounded. In Maui, we called them “Maui Wowees” because of their sheer size. There was no getting away from them. In our shanty on Maui, you could get up in the middle of the night, turn on the light and see hundreds of them scatter. I might understand trench warfare after living with these monsters for two months. There were nights when I would be sound asleep in my 3-pile-high bunk, feel one crawling on my chest, and in a split-second reflex, grab it and throw it across the room. If my aim was good, it hit the wall and was stunned or killed and I’d find it the next morning.
There are so many other stories I could tell. They’ll have to wait until the next chapter.