Friday, 14th June 1985
Reading: Matthew 26:36-46 Barbara
Jesus Prays in Gethsemane
36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here, while I go yonder and pray."
37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.
38 Then he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me."
39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt."
40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, "So, could you not watch with me one hour?
41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, thy will be done."
43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.
44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words.
45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand."
Reading: Acts 2:43-47 Elizabeth
43 And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.
44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common;
45 and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need.
46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts,
47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
I suppose you all know that today is my last day in the Hong Kong office. Although I plan to visit you just as often as I can, my main tasks in the future will be in the Australian office. I will retain general oversight of Hong Kong and Singapore work, but all the day to day management will be in the hands of Rev Law here and Mr Goh in Singapore.
It is tempting today to remember all the good and bad things we have experienced in the three and a half years since Barbara, Liz and I started the Hong Kong support office in the Peninsula Centre at the beginning of 1982.
There have been many good things. Two remarkably successful appeals for emergency relief - one in January 1983, and one starting in December last year. The first one especially was beyond our wildest expectations.
And there has been a succession of good staff. I remember interviewing Barbara in the lobby of the Peninsula Hotel! I think I wasn't interviewing her; she was interviewing me!
A small group of us visited projects in the Philippines in November, 1982 and that was a special time which opened our eyes to World Vision's ministry in a new way.
It was exciting to get control of our own sponsors during that first year. Si Simonson came with "our sponsors" in his suitcase!
We tried to learn how to use the media to best effect. There were interesting discoveries, even for those of us who thought we were "experts".
Dr Ted Engstrom came to our first sponsor's gathering. We held it at the YMCA in Waterloo Road. I think there were less than 200 people attending, but we were very pleased. I even tried to say a prayer in Cantonese - I think only God and I understood what I was saying!
Of course not everything has been wonderful. I recall having to say good-bye to some staff who I felt were able to make a better contribution to World Vision's work, yet they had found it impossible to give all they could. I felt that World Vision had failed them and let them down.
I remember some harsh words said by me about staff responsibilities. I was sorry I had been so stern.
I remember handling a senior staff appointment quite badly. Many people felt scarred by the events.
Yet, through it all, it has been quite obvious to me that God has continued to bless our work. It has grown from strength to strength. Income is up. Our skills are improving. The future is full of potential for us to communicate even more effectively that God cares about people in need.
Now it is time to move onto new things. New things for me; and new things for you. I chose the readings because they demonstrate the difference that God can make with people who are willing to trust Him and His power. I also chose the readings because, more than a year ago, I had already decided that this Hong Kong office was ready for local leadership. On April 3rd last year I talked with you about the time Jesus had made a decision to go to his death, and to leave his work in the hands of his disciples.
His disciples did not seem ready. They could not stay awake during prayer meetings. When Jesus was arrested, they all ran away. When put to the test, Peter said that he did not even know Jesus. Few managers would want to give responsibility to people as weak as this.
But our second reading is about these same people - and it is only two months later. Within two months, these irresponsible people have been changed into great leaders. Many miracles and wonders were being done through them, and the whole city was amazed and impressed.
Last April I suggested that there were three qualities which we would need - patience, determination, and faith. These are three qualities you will still need to help advance the ministry of World Vision in Hong Kong.
But more than any of these things, I think each one of us needs to be open to God's power. We call it the gift of the Holy Spirit and all Christians - Catholic and Protestant - believe this and can experience God working in our lives.
It is God Himself who gives us patience. Many of us are not naturally patient people. We want things done quickly, and our way. We easily get frustrated with trying to explain things. We want action, not questions.
But God is patient with us, and we should pray for the same patience with each other.
It is God who gives us determination. There are no higher goals than to do the will of God. It is quite clear that God is blessing World Vision. Let us be determined to do even better for Him.
It is God who gives us faith. This is something that is not well understood, even by Christians themselves.
Faith is a gift of God. We can be thankful for the evidence which gives us confidence in God's interest in our work. World Vision is wonderfully blessed with good staff, excellent resources, and many generous donors.
Praise God for this! We can be sure that God, who started this good work in us, will be faithful to see it through to completion.
Therefore I have confidence in the future of World Vision of Hong Kong. Firstly, you are far more skilled and able than the disciples of Jesus. I know you can achieve even more, if you will allow yourselves to be filled with God's own power and used by Him. That will be my continuing prayer for you every time I pray.
I guess I must have prayed for each staff member by name because hand-written on the bottom of my notes is a list of the staff present: Barbara, Gabrie, Fung, Herrick, Katty, Andy, Valerie, Margaret, Wai King, Liz, Julie, Cindy, Vivien, Franklin, Wendy, Elim and Irene.