Thursday 24 December 2015

Christmas Greetings!

Dear Friends and Family,

This comes with our very best wishes for a wonderful peaceful and blessed Christmas and our love and prayers for 2016!

That just shows how long it's been since we sent an update! (our apologies) we hope you didn't think we'd dropped off the face of the earth. We are still here - on the face of the earth and here in Hong Kong! It seems like only a few weeks ago that we were in the UK, but in fact it's been about 4 months! We had a really wonderful time. If we managed to see you thank you so much for making the time amazing! If we didn't manage to see you we really hope that we'll be able to see you next year ... or maybe out here!!??

Well since the last time we wrote there have been some big changes in how we are doing things here. The biggest change is that Samuel is now in School. We really have so much to thank God for in this. Samuel got a place at ICS (International Christian School), we got a bursary and provision of funds for the remaining part, and the school is wonderful. After so much transition and a year of homeschool Samuel is doing amazingly well. His grades are good. Perhaps surprisingly Mandarin is his favorite subject at the moment - he's even learning to write the characters (though it's slightly odd that they learn Mandarin in Hong Kong ... where the main language is Cantonese). He's enjoying being responsible as he get's himself ready every morning at 6am! But most importantly he's happy and making new friends - something that was lacking last year. 
He's also had an amazing school trip to Vietnam!

Reuben is also doing really well. We're still praying for him to get into ICS but while he doesn't have a place there, Jo is continuing to do an amazing job. Reuben is growing so fast in confidence and is adding reading to his list of things he enjoys (phew!). The great thing is that Jo also has some help now (one morning a week we have someone come in from outside to teach maths, music and Cantonese). Another family also came to Sin Mun Springs this year. They have a son aged 11 and a daughter who's 8 - this is just perfect as Reuben and Ian have found each other as friends. It's such a blessing to have other families with kids Samuel and Reuben's age here.

  • Do pray for Reuben's schooling - For Jo to have the resource/patience and/or others to come in to help. And the possibility of him joining ICS sooner rather than later.
With the friend coming in once a week to help teach Reuben it means that Jo has a little more time in 'block2'. We are trying to make other changes so that Jo can be more involved over in the men's first stage house. It's been great to be able to work together a bit and are praying for ways to make that happen more.

In 'block2' we have had 3 baptisms in the last few months. We had one guy come in who just mocked us when we prayed for him (or especially when we asked him to pray). It's wonderful to see a 180 degree turn around in him. He's given his life to Jesus, received significant healing from past hurts! and is now sharing what he's received with others. He's tasted and seen that the Lord is good and was one of the ones who got baptized. Our desire is not just to see that turning and healing but also to help them become disciples.

We try to have plenty of fun with the guys, part of this is practically experiencing the things God has made them to be and do. For example we recently took a group of guys on a 10k run. For some of them persevering through to the end of a training program and doing a race is a first, and something they can really look at as an achievement! Added to that as a 'house parent', it filled me with a real sense of pride that they all completed what they had started! But even more simple things like having a pizza night (Jo's pizza dough is amazing!) or playing Jenga can bring a significant 'family' feel to the house. These things make a difference - but ultimately if Jesus isn't healing the brokenness that leads to addictions in the first place, then we won't see the changes we hope for in the guys. This is an ongoing battle.

You probably want to know what our ongoing plans are like. Well at this stage we're still unsure. We are learning so much here - but also see so much need. There is desperate need for workers in all sorts of places along the opium trail and the Philippines and we hear many stories of the harvest being plentiful ... but the workers few. 
  • Do pray for our ongoing vision and clarity of calling as our desire is to serve wherever God would send us ...
This comes with so much love at Christmas from Alec, Jo, Samuel and Reuben.

Sunday 31 May 2015

Summer is here!

Dear Friends, 

We thought we'd do another installment a bit sooner this time - but the weeks fly past, and before we know it another month has gone! Time is a funny thing!

We are doing well. It's been half term so things for me (Jo) and the boys are a bit more relaxed. Phew! Only 5 more weeks of school to go -  I haven't counted the hours and minutes but it will be a huge relief to complete the year.  I really thank God that He gave me the faith to home-school. It's been super challenging, some days have been absolutely dreadful, but we've got through them and are a lot closer as a result. I think I know my children a lot better now and they tell me that they still love me which really is a miracle! We're so proud of how they've adjusted to such massive changes. They still miss their friends a lot but SKYPE is a wonderful thing, and that's coming from Jo the technophobe!

 Jo has also become school hairdresser.

Alec has been working extremely hard ... nothing new there!  Rotas, duties, leading worship, maintenance, driving the van and leading meetings (in Cantonese!) are a few of the things he gets up to!  It's full on. Although rewarding, some days are just a hard slog and exhausting.  However, it was really encouraging when a lady visited recently who had been here as a helper 18 years ago.  She saw guys whom she had cared for when they were broken teenagers who were now transformed men able to hold down jobs, lead congregations and are married with children. It's really important for us to keep this in mind - we are planting seeds and God reaps the harvest! We may not always see it straight away. However, small things can make a world of difference. A guy we had round for dinner can look us in the eye now and have a semi-normal conversation!  Before, he was all over the place! (He used to call me 'Lazy Monkey Girl!' but now calls me Jo!)

As we've said in the last couple of blogs we meet people whose lives are in a total mess. A few weeks ago a Nepalese guy came in. Basically, he'd drunk a chemical in order to harm himself in front of his wife who was wanting to leave him and go to a refuge with their two young children.  During surgery to fix his insides he then had a stroke which left him weak down one side of his body.  He'd then started to take drugs to help with the pain. As he went through withdrawal the pain became worse than ever and he got very agitated.  However, when he allowed people to pray for him he simply fell asleep.  He saw this as a miracle! Despite all this he decided to leave after 10 days to 'rehabilitate' at himself.

PLEASE pray for him - it is literally a life and death situation.

The same day another Nepalese guy decided he wanted to leave too. We'd hoped the two Nepalese guys might encourage each other, but both began demanding to leave at about the same. Each needed attention and it stretched us to the limit. Obviously reasoning is difficult for someone in withdrawal. This second guy became physically aggressive. All hands on deck! As we prayed we saw moments of softening in him but then we'd see the walls go up and he'd ask to leave again. Eventually after some of the helpers had been hit a few times we decided that we had to let him go. Everything we know tells us that this was the drug addiction making him act this way, but in the end we are also trying to keep a house full of people safe. As he left, and we stood with him waiting for a bus, his reason seemed to return. We had a good conversation, we were able to forgive him, tell him that we loved him and that we would welcome him back when he was ready.  

This was a tough day at the office ... but God can bring good out of any situation! Firstly there was a miracle related to one of the blows stuck by the Nepalese guy.  Because of the blow, which perforated an ear drum, it showed up a problem that hadn't been detected in one of the helper's ears!  In fact he'd been suffering for a while with related symptoms. The doctor himself said that it was a miracle that it showed up this underlying problem.  He's since had an operation and the hope is that his general heath will be much better.

We also had the privilege of baptising 2 of the guys from the house and one helper. It's really exciting to be involved in this especially when one of the guys has gone from being an atheist to being pro-active in telling his family what a difference Jesus has made in his life. Amazing.

We thank God for His amazing provision. Funds at the centre were running low ... this is not something we tend to worry about as we know that if God wants this place to keep going he will provide all that's needed....and he does - because yesterday we were blessed with literally tonnes of rice! It's everywhere and 'we will not go hungry' (Psalm 34:10). Praise God! 

Thank you so much for your prayers and interest! Much love from Alec, Jo, Samuel and Reuben.

 Philippians 4:19                       

P.S. We found Sha Tins 'Richmond Park' ... hilarious! Plastic grass on a roof 'garden' with pictures of dears on the walls.

And Jo has made the online publication of the 'South China Morning Post'. Check it out on this URL:

Or there here is a snapshot off my phone if that easier for you!

Tuesday 21 April 2015

Keeping on keeping on ...

Well its been about three months since our last post! So sorry for not even managing a monthly photo :-(

Today is our rest day and we started with an IKEA breakfast.  Comfort food (English breakfast!)....not rice.... and cheap! ANNNNDDDDD RELAX! Unfortunately there's not much else we can do as Alec badly sprained his ankle playing football and is hobbling around. He's had a number of accidents since being here: a dislocated finger, a piece of wire jabbing his eyeball and a dodgy knee to name but a few. Please pray for safety!!!! 

Over Easter we were visited by both our mums which was a real treat.  We had lots of trips out and tried to show, especially Jo's mum, the 'real' Hong Kong.' Alec managed to get two extra days holiday so that was great. Both mums came with loaded suitcases....we even got English sausages and Cheddar cheese (but don't tell customs!!!!) Janis (Jo's mum) stayed on site here at Shing Mun and enjoyed her time with 'the boys.'....not just her grandsons!!

The last three months have been full of change. The number of helpers in the house has varied a lot and at times things have felt stretched to the limit. When there are plenty of helping hands, the guys feel protected and safe (although they often rebel against any authority). When there are less bodies around to 'hold the line' they get unsettled. However, as some helpers leave, others come to fill their places. Currently we have 5 full time helpers, which sounds like quite a lot, but with duties, days off and other responsibilities to juggle it is hard work.  In fact Alec has just had to go off to do an unexpected night duty 10pm - 2.30am due to a volunteer not turning up.  
  • Please pray for us (and the helpers in general) that He 'supplies all our needs according to His riches in glory' (Phil 4:19) 

Recently a few guys have left before they were ready. It's heart wrenching to see them choose to go back to their old lifestyles that in one way or another lead to death! Despite that we pray that seeds of hope were sown in the time they were here. An example of this was one guy who came in literally bent over double because of drugs and a chronic back problem. He was in his 50's and taking $2,000HKD of Heroin a day (about £200 and that's about 10x what we normally see the guys taking!).  He should really have been dead. After 10 days and much prayer he was walking straight and looking better... but still on the eleventh day he decided he wanted to leave. 
  • Please pray for the guys who've left early, that they should pursue Christ, or be pursued by Him!

A lot of the guys have not had good upbringings.  One guy sat sobbing during a meeting the other day.  His parents had not wanted him and when they separated the mum kicked him out of the house (aged 10).  He went to live with his dad who sadly mistreated him very badly. What an honour it was to sit with him, put an arm round him and cry with him.  God knows how deeply he is hurting and is able to heal those wounds.  


One big and new piece of news is that we decided to look at some local schools for the boys next year. It's most likely we'll be here (HK) for longer than we'd first thought. Jo does not feel able to homeschool at the secondary level (those maths equations are just too scary!), so we thought we would push some doors. We ended up applying to a school called ICS (International Christian School) just 15 minutes away from us. When we visited we found it to be a really wonderful place. The boys also loved it and have both passed the entrance test.  However we found out this week that while Samuel has a place, there isn't a place for Reuben at present. 
  • Please pray that a place become available for Reuben ... or that it would become clear how else we should proceed next year!

The boys have had a great time over the last month due to a family from the UK staying here.  Their three children aged 9, 7 and 4 have been great company for them.  It's been like an oasis in the desert! Sadly they leave on Monday :(

We're coming back to the UK in July (14th) so we hope to see some of you then and have a proper catch up!

Much love,

Alec, Jo, Samuel and Reuben.

Thursday 15 January 2015

Belated Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year!!

Well we've been here in Hong Kong for 4 months and we've had a full time in every way. 

Scary Alec (centre)
The Christmas period here at St. Stephen's society is full on. There have been all sorts of special events and parties to let people know what Christmas is all about ... celebrating the birth of Jesus, the only Son of God. Jo helped at a party for children and their families who attend something called Art in the Community (art/craft for the children whilst the parents attend a 'parenting' session.)  180 were expected, 300 went. 300 hundred hot meals were served including to all of the helpers who had been told there would't be enough food! On Christmas day families came in to be with their sons or husbands and about 400 of us shared the meal together ... the biggest Christmas meal we've ever been to and huge fun.  Just after Christmas we helped at the toddler group party.  About 120 families came and enjoyed face painting, bouncy castles,craft and some very scary looking clowns who made balloon of which was Alec!!!  (He only made a few children cry!)

We talked with the men in our house about what the festivities had meant to them. Some said they'd been touched to see what it means to be a family ; others said receiving a simple gift helped them understand the meaning of Christmas - Jesus being the MOST precious gift ; others just understood for the first time that Christmas was about Jesus. 

We still haven't had a chance to fully catch up after all that but the home-school holiday was good. We had some down time and the family times we had were really special, Not long enough though, and with the new-year begins a new term of home-schooling! But it's started well and the boys are getting back into the swing of things.

In the past we've done Christmas cards and a family collage. This year we're really sorry not to have had time to do the cards ... and the family collage is a bit different! But never the less, this comes with huge hugs and love from the four of us. We love and miss you and pray you have a peaceful and blessed 2015.

Alec, Jo, Samuel, Reuben (and all the house).   

(Isaiah 43:19)