Welcome the Chinese New Year
in the right spirit…!
It’s the 40th anniversary of my first and last taste of whiskey! I remember because it was Chinese New Year and it was offered to me with a warm smile from a Vietnamese woman in a joyful songful voice:
“Chúc mừng năm mới! “ How could I refuse?
It wasn’t just the words, that mean ‘Happy New Year”, but the smile that accompanied them and the sincerity of the welcome that embraced me in another culture and tradition to which I was a stranger. I was being offered a cup as if I was one of this woman’s family and I accepted it as if we were brother and sister. It was like a communion that brought us together as one and I was filled with the spirit that had to be drunk in one gulp! It was my first and last taste of whiskey! Never again.
When I stood up to leave I fell back into my chair and when I did manage to say goodbye the door wasn’t where I thought it was and my words didn’t seem to synchronise with my mouth. Half a cup of whiskey in one gulp was drunk in the right spirit, but wasn’t what Jesus breathed into me a couple of years later! I was drunk on this spirit given by a child of God, but drunk the Holy Spirit when it was offered by Jesus. There are some common factors though as I remember the whiskey from a Vietnamese woman and the wine that reminds me of Jesus: The true spirit of welcome, love, thanksgiving and trust are present in such experiences and encounters, with the giving and receiving.
I don’t know what happened to that woman with a beautiful smile who welcomed me into her family, but God will know and it was a moment when Jesus crossed boundaries of faith, race and culture in a profound exchange of love. I worked with hundreds like her, some who will have since died while others will now be in their 40’s and 50’s and serving God in their communities as doctors, nurses, teachers, scientists and carers with the same sincerity as that woman 40 years ago.
I hope they now feel that they belong in the communities they have settled, but I do know there are many people who have been in our country for much longer who are still longing to belong because what they have to give is not received with the spirit in which it is given! A welcome expressed in words doesn’t always reflect what is in the heart so immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers and visitors are made to feel that they don’t belong, and never will.
So as I remember the Chinese New Year of 40 years ago I pray that the Vietnamese Boat people I was working with then now feel that they belong; that the many Chinese who will arrive from Hong Kong will find a warm welcome; that the ‘ boat people’ of today will be met with compassion and the Windrush Generation and all who have followed will know that they belong in the great family of God. “ Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me,” says Jesus as he teaches the nations the great lesson of love. So, “Chúc mừng năm mới” and may you be filled with the right Spirit as you see love reaching out from other cultures, faiths and traditions and find the strength of an ox to do the work of the Lord. (It is the Chinese year of the Ox!)
Just imagine what it must be like to leave family behind in another country with the possibility of never seeing them again? Imagine having to adapt to a new culture and language on your own with all the challenges of visas, low income, poor housing and constant questioning? I hope you will join us on Saturday for the next Zoom Talk on Saturday organised by the Church in Society Committee. Margaret’s brother, Brother Benedict(SSF), will talk about his work with asylum seekers in Leeds. ThIs will take place at 2.45 for 3.00 in the afternoon and the CIS committee will be listening in with any others interested invited to join them. Please contact us if you wish to participate.
Pray for Margaret’s grand-daughter Emma who has Covid and for her mother Sara.
Also pray for John Graham Vicki Pam Peters Kath Hancock Michael Eden June and John Frank and Christine Shirley Caddy Susan Nuttall
Our future ministry at Broadway United Reformed Church and for the Elders and officers who work on our behalf.
Give some prayer time for the next Church Meeting on Thursday February 18th at 7pm.