It was a fittingly fun ending to a fun evening.
I’d been in touch with Rob & Glenda Rufus who lead a church in Hong Kong; I wanted to attend their Sunday meeting but also asked if they had any midweek events as I wanted to experience as much as I could while on sabbatical. They replied that the church had one home group which met in their home and they kindly invited me to the meeting that week which would be a prayer meeting.
Glenda had emailed me directions to their house which was in the ‘New Territories’. It looked a little complicated to get there from the city: Taxi, then several MTR metro and train changes and connections, then buses. When I showed the directions to Graham he thought there would be an easier way to get there.
Hong Kong Island is not large – at 31 square miles it is only about 6 square miles bigger than Guernsey – in fact nearly 7 square miles of Hong Kong has been reclaimed in the last 100 years, so originally it was geographically about the same size as Guernsey. But with a population of 1.3 million this is over 2000% bigger than Guernsey’s. Nevertheless, they still remarkably have a lot of green areas, one of the first trips we made was to Stanley Market on a bus, passing through leafy hills and pleasant open bays. The built up area of the island in terms of population and buildings is concentrated in the Central & Western District measuring just 4.8 square miles – about the size of Guernsey’s “urban area” of St Peter Port and St Sampson, but with a population density of 52,200 per square mile compared to our 2,200 per square mile! Based where we were living in the Mid Levels of Victoria Peak as I got up each morning and looked out of the window I reminded myself that the area I could view from our window, Central, was actually smaller than St Peter Port and yet it looked like this…
…which is why I always maintain that we are not over-populated in Guernsey; after all my grandfather apparently used to think we were over-populated when the population reached 35,000 decades ago. Now, not that I want to see an increase to Hong Kong levels but another 10,000 wouldn’t be noticed! It may feel over-crowded to some, but that is a subjective assessment. Personally I like people, even more now that God’s doing something new in me, so I say ‘bring them in, the more the merrier!’ And our cheapest and easiest building space is air; let’s build a tad higher guys, and build it beautifully of course.
Anyway, back to Hong Kong and directions to the Rufus home. Naturally the Special Administrative Region includes all the other islands (hundreds of them), the Kowloon peninsular across Victoria Harbour and the ‘New Territories’ to the north where Rob & Glenda live. It was the latter area which was leased to the UK until 1997. Strictly speaking the British Government did not have to relinquish Hong Kong Island which according to the treaty of 1842 was given in perpetuity, but they uncannily and prudently saw that it would be wrong and in any case almost impossible to divide the colony effectively. Thus Hong Kong SAR remains today a motley collection of islands and fragments of mainland thrown together by history, and as such it was both smaller and larger than I’d imagined.
I decided to take Graham’s directions in the end, partly because the bus for the latter section was identical to the one Glenda had suggested but also the first part of the journey was simpler, just a metro ride with one change. However in the event, partly because I missed a bus connection – just watched it depart as I ran off the metro, and then had to wait twenty minutes for another; and partly due to road works and diversions on the final bus route, the journey to the Rufus’s house in Sai Kung from the Hong Kong city where we were staying took two hours and would have taken longer if I’d not had my trusty iPhone with me to check on GPS when we started on the diversion. The stop I was meant to get off at was on the section we were diverted from so I had to walk back from a further stop! I really had not realised it was possible to travel for so long and so far within the territory.
When I got off the bus it was pitch black. There were hardly any street lamps. I could see that the area was actually a small fishing village – there were signs that indicated this – but it was very very hot and humid and now I was late for the meeting. I walked to the stop I was meant to have got off at and retraced my steps. No road signs! Was this the road for the Rufus residence. No-one about to ask. This was a very quiet and fairly unpopulated spot. The road was unlit and it was a steep incline. My GPS indicated that I was roughly in the right area but the road is a very minor one and sufficient detail was not possible. How would I read the numbers on the houses? Ah! Thank God for my trusty iPhone flashlight torch. But there didn’t seem to be many houses anyway.
I cautiously walked up the unmarked, unlit hill, about the width of a Guernsey ruette. I was starting to smell strange smells when it immediately dawned on me that I was walking into the municipal rubbish tip. Hmm… that can’t be right. Lord, please help! And he did. I walked another fifty yards up the hill and began to hear singing. Christian songs.
Wearing the ‘full lin’ as our friend Andy Shilling would say, but still dripping with perspiration I opened the French Doors and entered the room in which about 30 people, a piano, guitar and amp were squashed together in a space about 12′ by 24′. Some older ones were sitting on sofas pushed against the walls, and there were a few chairs around. But generally people were standing singing worship songs, arms raised and not a few were shaking or manifesting in the Spirit in some way. I felt at home. In fact the evening was a mix between what sometimes occurs at our Newfrontiers Leaders Prayer & Fasting conferences and like going back to the 1990s Toronto Blessing days; there was some wacky singing in the Spirit about being drunk and out-of-tune, “I’m a wino for Jesus” etc., lots of holy laughter, noise and enthusiastic prayer. This was refreshing to experience and take part in, and I soon chilled in every sense of the word.
After a while we sat or slumped – depending on our state of inebriation, some people were prayed for and they said farewell to others as they were leaving Hong Kong, some announcements about Rob’s travels were made, I was warmly welcomed – Rob mentioning Newfrontiers and stating candidly that he had been introduced to the revelation of grace through Terry Virgo. It was clear then and talking with folk afterwards that Terry is well known, his teaching read and listened to, and loved amongst them.
The last hour or so was spent with Rob reading and expounding on a prophecy he’d been given that week whilst he was just going about his ordinary day’s activities, showering if I remember correctly! It concerned a coming greater revelation of grace and righteousness which would sweep through the world, and be embraced by many more people. Rob felt the Lord was saying amongst other things that some people and indeed churches were searching for more ‘signs’ from God, more revelation, but that God did not have more revelation to give them except that of righteousness and grace. In unpacking it further Rob shared how we need to live free from guilt and shame as Christians, not under burdens of the law which has been cancelled at the cross through the atoning work of Jesus. God wants to bless us, his children, and we should not be embarrassed when he does so. He is a father and loves giving gifts to his children. We should not be embarrassed or jealous when God blesses others either. He joked that if someone wanted to give him a gift – a trip to Guernsey for example – for no apparent or deserved reason, he’d say ‘thank you very much’ and take it as a gift from God, whether he felt he deserved it or not. I interjected that he’d be welcome anytime!
The people were attentive to Rob’s every word, submitted and eager. At the close we prayed again, then those who could stay had refreshments and enjoyed fellowship. I stayed for a brief chat to Rob and the guys sitting next to me, who, like perhaps the majority present turned out to be South African ex-pats. But, conscious of the time it took me to get there and the fact it was now well past 10.00pm I headed back down the hill to try and find the correct bus stop.
Now the funny ending.
I found the bus and my return journey was smoother than my outward one, perhaps because I recognised where to go this time. However it still took an hour and half to get back to Central Hong Kong. Now to find a taxi back to the appartment. It was nearly midnight and many taxis were booked and busy. Eventually I found one. Now, I was under strict educational instructions to give my address as “Old Peak Road Number Nine” and not “Number Nine Old Peak Road” which apparently no Cantonese speaker would understand. Neither must I be so English as to say “Please take me to…” before the address or please and thankyou after it.
So I duly obeyed. “Old Peak Road Number Nine” I said. The thirty-something taxi-driver looked at me blankly. “OLD PEAK ROAD NUMBER NINE” I repeated a little louder. He made gestures clearly indicating that I was speaking Double Dutch (or Double Japanese perhaps in this case) to him. I tried again slowly. No joy. I got my map out to point to it. He looked at it for about ten seconds then pushed it back to me shaking his head.
I was about to give up and venture to see if the Mid-Levels Escalator was still operating at this late hour, when suddenly I had a flash of inspiration.
My driver was looking suicidal in the front of the cab now.
“Oh Pea Roh Numma Lye” I said in my best mimic singy-songy Cantonese. He suddenly became animated, screeched into gear, “Ah! Oh Pea Roh Numma Lye!” he repeated knowingly, like it was some kind of secret mantra, and he drove off towards my destination.
Then he turned and smiled at me as if to say “Why you no say tha in firs place?”