Our love for Hong Kong… and the incredible birthday reunion!
For over five years, we have been connected with incredible people in Hong Kong. I am so thankful for them because they have continued to graciously and patiently teach me about the diverse and wonderful cultures in Asia. Because of them, we both continue to learn more about the history of the world and the impact of global missions on this world. God has given us relationships here that are not contingent on where we live or what we do but are genuine connections of the heart. For that, we are so thankful.
Our visit to Hong Kong was so incredible, starting from the day we arrived, that I could not describe it in an Instagram or Facebook post! I felt like I needed to share in a blog about the time there, and about how our hearts continue to connect with others here. We are also thankful to God for the way He has made Kingdom connections in relationships there! This trip continued to cement friendships and passions and spark creative ideas about future connections and resources within Cambodia.
Getting to Hong Kong
We decided to travel to Hong Kong this past month for two reasons. First, it was my (Melissa’s) 50th birthday! Secondly, this past month in Cambodia was the Pchum Benh holiday (also known as the Hungry Ghost Festival, where people bring rice to feed the ghosts of their dead ancestors at the pagodas). It is celebrated for approximately one week, with most businesses closing and people returning to their hometowns. For most of our years in Cambodia, we have chosen to leave the country for rest and decompression during this time. Because my birthday was on the primary day, we chose to take a short 2.5-hour flight to Hong Kong to celebrate my birthday with people we absolutely adore and have missed these past few years!
We are thankful for the solid friendships built in Hong Kong through the years.
The friends in Hong Kong that God has blessed us with hold such a dear place in our hearts. Their support, encouragement, and involvement in many things we have done and experienced together have been unshakable. The depth of our conversations inspires us. The drive that they have for missions to the unteach is inspirational, especially hearing testimonies of so many in their families who are believers because of missional work in Hong Kong. The love of family and their elders is also touching to observe. The value of family and time with family is strong and admirable.
On this trip, we had the opportunity to hear one of our dear friends preach. It was special to go and support him as a Pastor and spend time with his family members, as well as connect with new people they brought into our lives.
Friends and food!
Hong Kong is a city of fantastic food, and so we are eating the entire time we are there! These fluffy Japanese pancakes were so incredible that you did not get a chance to see them and will have to try them yourself!
Family meals together
In 2019, we celebrated our friends’ wedding in Hong Kong earlier in the year. Then, at the end of the year, we took a great photo together when they were expecting their firstborn! We were supposed to be in Hong Kong in January 2020 and would have met him soon after he was born! It has been an exercise of patience to wait until now to get to meet him and his little brother, but it was so special to have a meal and talk, laugh, and cry through so many things we have all gone through since that point.
Tea at the Peninsula was stunning and a special gift from our friends here in HK. We left with a delightful chocolate cake they had also arranged to show up during our afternoon there! What a gift!
It has been a gift this year to have been blessed by several friends who know I have such a passion for enjoying good tea with good company. I was given several opportunities in Hong Kong to experience afternoon tea, and I felt utterly spoiled and appreciated! This city knows its’ tea and serves it well!
Are you starting to realize how many photos I have on my phone now from that week!? We are so thankful to know so many people who connect so profoundly with us and share similar passions for ministry. Their love for family and their levels of family connection continue to inspire and encourage us. We thank God for the ways He continues to connect our hearts.
Enjoying tea at the Rosewood, thanks to a dear friend in Cambodia who appreciates the tea experience as much as we do! It was such a surprise, and it was exquisite! We felt spoiled and blessed by this time to sit and talk and process life’s continued adventures together!
View from the top!
Our dear friend took me on a hike one day to overlook the entire city. It was beautiful, and considering there was a typhoon not even one week before we arrived, the weather was incredible! We hiked and laughed our way up and down the mountain! The women pictured here have supported our work in Cambodia, and it was a fantastic way to catch up and get quality time together. OF course, we did some dreaming and planning for 2024 together! I am so thankful for the incredible and passionate people that God continues to bring into our lives!
This was at the end of our hiking trail after we came down from the “hike” portion (all stairs!) before we grabbed tea together. Look how high we still were!
We wandered around the city on my birthday, enjoying incredible views, great food, and time together. We were so thankful to see different areas of the city that we had missed so much. We also went to an immersive digital art museum and wandered around, taking many photos!
Birthday wanderings continued
From our morning hike (with donuts and coffee, we didn’t take ourselves too seriously with the “hiking” bit…) to other special times this week. SO thankful!
Comfort food for birthday lunch
It was fun to grab a birthday lunch while we were walking around at a very “American” restaurant . . . as burgers are one of our favorite things! Thanks, Dad and Mom, for sending us to get a birthday burger from you! It was super special!
The BIG SURPRISE!!!
I thought we were going out for dinner together, so I chose a cute outfit with some killer heels and took off with Matthew to be surprised. . . and boy, was I ever! I walked in and saw some friends at a table, and thought—how special, they will have a birthday meal with me! I was so excited! AND THEN, they walked me into a room overlooking the busy outdoors on Canton Road, and there was a whole private room set aside for a party! People continued to show up, and I was so thankful, surprised, and blessed that they made such an effort! We captured some of them in the photo here; it was a beautiful and unexpected place and time to catch up and visit with them! I felt so valued that they would come from all over Hong Kong and the surrounding islands to celebrate my 50th birthday!
Let them eat cake!
I have never had a cake wheeled out to me before, and I can now say it has happened! It was all so much fun!
Here are a few more photos from the night of my birthday and one the day after, where I took a photo from the street perspective of where the party was! It was so much fun, and I was just blown away by the love and support I felt that night from so many people!
Reunions and conversations
Every day, we met with high-capacity and energized friends who love being connected globally and connecting resources with needs as we do. It was exciting to brainstorm about future projects, ideas, and ways they could learn about many other needs in Cambodia.
It was such a treat that our host took me to Disneyland HK for my birthday! I have never had the capacity to go there on prior trips, so it was a joy to spend the entire day there! I loved seeing Disney’s excellence and creativity in adapting to the culture and style of Hong Kong. It was a wonderful day, and the teacups are still one of my favorite rides!
I love the teacups so much I am happy to go on them by myself. . . multiple times!
God has connected my heart with so many amazing people in Hong Kong. I am thankful for the time and opportunity to see them this past month and get to reconnect with them through stories, laughter, tears, and much food!
Hong Kong Philharmonic
I am thankful for the opportunity to hear excellent music whenever I am in Hong Kong. Our dear friends have spoiled us with that opportunity every time we have been in the country, and for that, we are so thankful. I am in tears when the orchestra starts tuning, and I get an opportunity to process how much I genuinely miss music and the experiences in America.
It was a joy to go backstage during intermission to meet Poom Prommachart, the solo concert pianist from Thailand. His joy was evident during his brilliant and captivating performance of a Shostakovich piano concerto. I was introduced as a fellow musician to him and the conductor, and I let him know my professional career mainly involved sacred music. Two days later, I was able to connect with him over coffee and talk about life, music ministry (because he is a Christian!), and brainstorming for the future! I am thankful for how God connected us there, and for the great opportunities that might come up in the future!
Hong Kong Philharmonic backstage
Backstage moments with the conductor, soloists, and HK Phil Board Chair and our dear friend who is on the board of the HK Phil. Thankful for the honor she shows me, and truly humbled.
I am thankful for this new connection with Poom, who is Thai and lives in Malaysia. I love that we met in Hong Kong and that I’m living in Cambodia but am from the USA. Five countries and cultures were involved in this one meeting!
Tea pairing lessons and experience
Matthew headed back early to Cambodia to continue his practicum at the clinic and encouraged me to stay a few extra days to get time with friends. I had a fantastic opportunity to attend a tea pairing and learn more about the style, flavors, preparation, and execution of four types of teas. It was INCREDIBLE of my friend to find this and offer to take me, and I was fascinated by all I learned!
Dim Sum has become a meal that is precious to us, and we are fascinated to continue and try more styles and flavors when we visit. We also have some favorites, and our friend arranged a cooking lesson so I could learn how to prepare my absolute favorite “comfort food” Dim Sum dish from scratch- including how to make and roll the noodles! It was so much fun and such a special time with them!
The final result! They tasted so good, and now I can make them in Cambodia!
I am thankful for days of beautiful memories, meaningful connections, and inspiration on this trip to Hong Kong. I did not take a single moment for granted, and I am thankful to God for the opportunity. I am thankful for the people in Hong Kong who show such incredible hospitality, and I am thankful for how they continue to teach me about Hong Kong culture and share the differences. I love learning these things and love how they continue to strengthen our relationships. There are so many more photos I wish I could share. . . but I have not figured out how to add multiple photos together yet, so that will have to wait for another time or update!
To our sweet friends there, thank you for the value you place on our relationship. Thank you for asking us questions, for praying, for educating us, and for doing life together! I look forward to what this next season brings in our friendships and ministry! See you in 2024!