Thursday 23 October 2014

Updates ... Oct 23

Well now that Jo's done a post it's time for some other updates on our house/block (we're in block 2, there are 5 blocks in the St Stephens complex).

First of all, the guy who I talked about (Sept 14th) who was struggling physically decided to leave after 10 days. This was a real sadness as 10 days was enough time for the drugs to clear his system but not enough time for him to really 'turn around' in his thinking and his behavior. Though it's not what we would want, the chances are he'll take again without some external help. He really needs to ask for the Lords help to 'turn around' spiritually as well as in his thinking and behavior.

  • Please pray for him.

On a more positive note 2 other new guys have come into the house who have not suffered any pain during withdrawal from hard drugs. This is the peculiar/particular kind of miracle that we see here and we thank God for it. No new boys right now though - so no night duties which is a nice break!

  • Praise God for what he continues to do in the lives of these men and the many others that live here.

The challenge in the house at the moment is that we have a 50:50 split between guys who've just come in recently (since we've been here) and those that have been here for nearly a year. Some people come in with a 9 month 'court order' to be at St Stephens. As it happens that's probably an average time to be here. This is a challenge as many of the guys have a prison mindset where there is a lot more equality between the 'inmates' - but we're more like a family where brothers and sisters are given different responsibilities and freedoms depending on their age and maturity. It's not always easy to hold all those differences together ...

  • Do pray for wisdom for the house leaders Nick an George to know how best to plan things in our day to day activities so that these issues don't become bigger than they should be.

From a Cobb family point of view: 

The boys continue to amaze us in how they are coping ... but as half term approaches they are getting tired and emotions are heightened. We have had many tears especially from Samuel after talking to his old class (and best friend) at Nelson School in Whitton. Not an easy time but we know God is faithful and today I really experienced that faithfulness. It was a reminder and reassurance that He holds everything in his hands. 

We went to play volleyball down at the sports hall which has a large open air multifunction hard surface. Reuben took his football down for himself, but as we played volley ball two of the guys took his football (they didn't know it was 'his' ball and just viewed it as a ball to play with) and started kicking it around. I quickly checked with Reuben if he was OK with that, but at the moment he said 'no', and I was about to ask the guys to give the ball back, one of them kicked the ball hard and high. It cleared the netting and went for miles down into the 'jungle' below (it's a steep hill down away from the hard court and it really is a bit of a jungle as the complex is surrounded on every side by woods). I looked and it really was impossible to imagine finding the green ball let alone getting down to where we thought it might be.

I'd love to say that at this point I prayed and hey presto ... but I didn't. First I talked to Reuben who burst into floods of tears saying that he hated the people who'd kicked the ball. I then took Reuben back to the house as he was so upset. You could say that this is a lot of fuss about a ball ... but this was a prized possession (and much loved birthday present). At this point I don't really know why but I got really upset too! Not with the people or anything but for Reuben - and Samuel, they have given up so much and I felt the weight of Jo and my decision heavy on our wonderful boys (our decision to walk away from all that's comfortable and really follow Jesus in the call we felt on us!). Loosing the ball was the straw on the camels back and it broke me.

So what did I do at this point ... pray? Still not - when will I learn! Instead I wanted to solve the problem! I went down to see if there was anyway I could get down there and find the ball. I looked and even tried a little but just couldn't do it. No-one else was looking, they were carrying on with their games. So what next! Daddy will solve this problem so I go back to the house and look online see if I can find an exact replica to get shipped over.

But God's ways are not our ways! They are much better Isaiah 55:9. Just as I did find the exact same ball online there's a knock at the door. They guy who kicked the ball is there with the ball in his hands. It turns out the Lord even knows what to do when it comes to lost balls. Someone else had kicked their ball over after I left. They went searching and found Reuben's ball immediately. Any cynics among you may say that clearly I should have just tried harder! But I'm telling you it would have been like a needle in a haystack (it was a green ball in a jungle remember). 

So what did I learn? Stop trying to be the hero! Jesus already has that job.
  • Please pray for Samuel's homesickness! And for friends their own ages.

Much love from us all!

Monday 13 October 2014

Jo's turn to write!

Hi, It's Jo ...

Reuben shows the size
of the kitchen!
Wow! We have been in Hong Kong for 6 and a half weeks!  AND we have survived!  The first few weeks were really quite challenging.  We felt like fish out of water and came into a situation where things were in transition, so it was a shaky start with lots of unknowns and not so many people around to answer our questions. However many people had worked hard to make us feel welcome including preparing our apartment and allowing us to move in and make it our home straight away.

Things are practically challenging. We've moved from a massive house with a huge kitchen to an apartment with a minuscule cooking area (can’t bring myself to call it a kitchen!) where the cupboards have been placed so high you can’t even reach the first shelf ... and then there’s the cockroaches! Also, food hygiene here is 'interesting'!  Meat is left out for hours, uncovered, and 'cleaning' the tables after mealtimes was done with a filthy towel which I have vowed to burn!!!!!  I have bought some anti-bacterial wipes and the guys are now using them after meals even when I'm not there! Victory!

Shopping has been my biggest challenge though. Who would have thought that purchasing a shopping trolley (‘granny trolley’ as Reuben calls it) could change your life! After several terrible shopping ventures, (a couple of which actually made me cry!) I think I have now cracked it!  I now no longer view missing the bus, which only carries 16 people, as a bad thing.  It means I am front of the queue and can lug my shopping trolley to the back of the bus so as not to be in the way!!!! 
... and relax! 

UNO! The loser gets an arm written on
... so of  course Reuben plays to lose!
We are getting to know the 'boys' in our block really well (actually they range in age from 19 to the oldest who is in his 60’s) and we are becoming very fond of them. Our lives are very much shared.  We eat together, play sport and board games, worship and pray with them and study the Bible.  We have lots of fun, and although the language difference is still a barrier (for me anyway), we share a lot of jokes and laugh a lot. Samuel and Reuben can often be found next door playing UNO or other games with the guys, even when it’s one of our evenings off! We feel very safe and trust God that He will look after our family as we see these guys have their lives turned around by Jesus. However, the scars on their bodies - knife wounds from fights and masses of tattoos tell of their pasts which we pray will remain in the past as their lives are set on a different course. What a privilege!  

Our training started 2 weeks ago which was great. The downside is that it is not really set up for home-schooling families so Alec and I have to take it in turns to go. Cantonese lessons start next week and we are all going!!!!  Personally, I am really struggling with the language.  I can't quite tune my ear to the sounds and it becomes increasingly difficult when one word can have multiple meanings depending on the tone.  My attempts have been a source of amusement here.  I learnt how to ask, ‘how old are you?’ and was very pleased with myself, so I tried it out on a guy who speaks good English.  However, I said one word slightly wrong and ended up asking him when he was going to die!!!!!  Alec, on the other hand, actually stands and has conversations with people in Cantonese!!!! He is amazing!

Home school award day!
Apart from home schooling, which is actually going really well, (do I sound surprised!), I have started reading the story in the toddler group here once a week. (It's in English) I also do baking with the guys in our block, which they love!  Last week we made pizza which went down a storm! This week it was scones (sadly no clotted cream though!).  Also I have started doing an art session.  It's very basic stuff, things you'd do with kids, but the schooling system here in HK doesn't really do anything creative and a lot of the guys are very fearful of making mistakes, it's ingrained in the culture. So by doing an activity where there is no 'correct' way to do it is good for them. 
Art activity.
Pizza Frenzy!

Samuel measures the
amount of blood a human has! 
Another role I have found myself in is being a 'mummy' for the gap year students who arrived about a month ago.  Most are 18, and some are finding things more difficult than others.  Cups of tea, toast with Nutella, hugs, a shoulder to cry on and someone to pray with are some of things I have provided so far.  I love it.  They are so brave.  There is no way I could have come aged 18.

We have one day off a week and a couple of evenings.  Monday is our day off which is great because weekends in HK are horrendous! So far we have been to a beautiful beach on an island, been up The Peak, done Stanley Market and Ocean Park.  Ocean park is a big theme park with rides and animals. We saw some beautiful pandas and stood there taking photos when we realised that a group of Chinese tourists, who had probably never seen a white face before, were taking photos of US not the pandas!!!  Then they wanted to pose with Samuel and Reuben and before we knew it even kissed one of the boys! Bizarre! The boys thought it was hilarious!

Wonderful beaches ...


Ocean Park photo opportunity!
Our boys are doing incredibly well! We are sooooooo proud of them!  They have adapted really well in every area.  Samuel still struggles with some of the Chinese food though, so we make sure that on our evenings off we have western food!  I even managed to find chicken kievs in the supermarket.  They cost an absolute fortune and actually tasted as though they had been in the freezer section for a few years!!! Maybe we won't have those again!  

Please pray for us.  
  • Health  - A few of the helpers have had a nasty bug which has meant that they were out of action for a week. Pray that no-one else gets it.
  • Friends - We really need to find some like-minded friends for Samuel and Reuben.
  • Language - Not speaking the language really is a barrier, there is only so much miming you can do, so please pray that we pick it up really quickly.
  • New guys - There are two new guys at the moment are coming off hard drugs
  • Block 2 - The block/house we are a part of (there are 5 blocks) is going through a lot of changes that can be unsettling for the guys.
We are so thankful for this amazing time in our lives and are excited about what the future holds for all of us!

Thanks for reading!

Lots of love,