By Joy Prim
Like most of the rest of the world, it has been a hotter-than-normal summer here. With August being our “hottest” month traditionally, this year it was about finding commuting routes with air conditioning and other ways to stay out of the humid sun that has become Hong Kong. This year, these were too common activities. For me, August also brings my arrival in Hong Kong anniversary.
As a United Methodist Missionary and United Methodist Deaconess serving overseas, working with Filipino migrant workers here in Hong Kong and working alongside our UMC Filipino siblings in the Philippines to uplift the worsening human rights crisis in the country to others. I was blessed to be able to visit communities in the Philippines to learn more about the current conditions there and why there are so many migrant workers leaving the Philippines every day to find work abroad. This was also a time to visit fellow UMC Deaconess and friends from my work in the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines before the pandemic.
I was blessed to co-lead a team from here in Hong Kong of young people alongside one of the Filipino migrant worker leaders for a one-week visit. We learned more about the current conditions of everyday Filipino people and learned more about the impacts of climate change and environmental destruction on beautiful lands and people. Understanding more how these conditions combined with no jobs at home force them to look overseas for work as they worry about how their families will survive.
We had first-hand updates on the worsening human rights crisis from impacted communities. We heard first-hand testimonies of how the increased US military “war games” in the waters around the country forced fisher folks to sacrifice weeks of work and, thus, weeks of livelihood with no support. We learned how the attacks on progressive organizers, church leaders, human rights workers, and many others had continued to worsen since President Marcos, Jr. took power. Meanwhile, we also met long-time activists who were students during the dictatorship of President Marcos Sr, who shared their first-hand testimonies with us so we could learn the history.
We also got to spend time in communities outside of the city. I spent time on an urban farm that has been fighting for their land for over three decades. When the company that claims they own the land tried to displace them to build housing, they stood up for their rights and together have been farming the land and supporting not only fellow members of their organization but the surrounding community since 2017. Remembering how God calls us to care for and protect creation, the farmers here had been doing just that for generations. Hearing how, at the height of the pandemic lockdowns, they were blessed with bountiful harvests they used to provide 10 free community distribution outreach events over 10 months of “take what you can, leave what you can” of fresh vegetables, fruits and other harvests for their neighbors. The leaders joked that compared to their 10 times over 10 months, the local governments only provided the community with support two times in that 10 months.
This trip was both a learning trip but also a reminder to slow down and be present. As the world has reopened post-pandemic shutdowns, everything seems to be running at a faster pace. For me, this trip was a time for being outside of the urban life of Hong Kong and being able to connect with nature and creation as we engaged in planting and community learning and conversations. Personally, it was also a time to see a few dear friends who I hadn’t been able to see in person since 2019. To hug, to sing karaoke, and be present to process the past four years together, and did I mention to hug?
So, in the week that fell around my anniversary, I enjoyed hitting pause on the to-do list to be present and learn. To slow down like Jesus did and learn from those in our midst. Reminded of what Wesley in our Methodist roots teaches us about building community, like the early days of the church caring for our all-around needs and health, learning how to support and journey together into whatever the day was bringing.
Now, as we enter the last few months of 2023, I’m thankful for the time to connect with community, creation, and dear friends. I can’t believe it was just a few months ago, in April 2023, I was with you all in the Greater Northwest Area for a few weeks on my itineration. So even as our to-do list runs long, I’m thankful for the continued prayers, smiles, donations, and reminders we are in this together from my friends and community both near and far. Reminding me while I may not know everything the future holds, I’m serving right in the mission field where I am supposed to be.
To learn more about my ministry & how you can support me, send me an email at email@example.com or to donate: https://umcmission.org/missionary-bio/3021344/
Joy Prim is a United Methodist missionary and Deaconess serving in Hong Kong. You can learn more about her and her ministry on the Global Ministries website.