Every few weeks I try to write an update, for those who like to stay in touch!
Our 2019 Blog ⇔ (Clicking on photos reveals the entire caption and often makes pictures bigger)
Jan-Dec (click here for 2018)
Dec 8, 2019
I can’t remember a time when I’ve had so much to do (and I can remember many times when I’ve had TOO MUCH to do!). Merry Christmas! Thanks for your interest in our lives.
Since we’ve been in Asia for two decades, this was the first time this part of our family could be together for Thanksgiving in a long time!
We drove from S Carolina to near Washington DC on Wednesday, with LOTS of other motorists. As the sun set, we saw this TV reporter beside the road (at a rest stop in VA), telling viewers how busy the roads were.
This advent calendar was made by handicapped people in China. This is the first year we’ve been able to use it with our family.
Back in S Carolina, Grandpa and the kids enjoy a library book together.
To learn about “Advent” or Christmas, visit our educational website:
http://eflsuccess.com/advent/ (or see the drop-down menu at http://eflsuccess.com/holidays/)
Nov 20, 2019
Thanksgiving is almost here, and soon it will be Christmas. How time flies! Here are a few photos with captions for our friends.
In October, I put a lot of miles on my car, visiting family (like my sister, here) and taking speaking invitations in VA, PA, and OH.
On my Oct trip, I found this historic train station in Virginia, and stopped to look around, and fill my empty gas tank and tummy! If you know what to look for, you can see video of this station on YouTube: https://youtu.be/3I6fJaSUt_U
My grandfather had worked on the railroad, and I enjoyed model trains as a kid. It was fun to see the exhibits.
Another reason for my trip was to attend Homecoming at Eastern University. The left inset is a “class reunion”; the right inset is my favorite professor, Tony Campolo. While there, I also had a table, inviting people to teach in China or serve in a similar way around the world.
After I got back to Columbia, Vivian and I attended Homecoming at CIU, where I earned my MA 20 years ago.
Music played a big part at CIU’s Homecoming. Here, we join students to listen to bluegrass music. Coincidentally, Vivian was sitting next to a student who we knew as a baby, because we knew her parents!
This display invites people to learn more, and encourages them to pray for me and my family as we are involved in a variety of service projects.
On occasion, people or groups ask me to speak about China, or about opportunities to work abroad like I did for two decades.
While in Ohio at Mom’s house, I found this “Bicentennial” bulletin board, which I had made in Junior Achievement during high school (1976). It now hangs above my desk, and looks great–considering that it is over 40 years old!
We finally got around to filling our Ikea display cases. This one has puppets on top, family photos, and many curios from our years in China.
Today I put up another special decoration. When Vivian retired from public service to move to China, City officials gave her a “Mayor’s Key” to the city, and a proclamation naming June 7, 2000 as Vivian’s Day in Columbia!
Yes, we’re still spending a lot of time with our grandchildren. The oldest had made a frame of plastic toys, and wanted me to take pictures of her and her young sister. You can see Vivian on the sofa, enjoying the fun.
Oct 5, 2019
To presumptuously expand Proverbs 30:15-16: “There are six things that never say “Enough!”: the grave, the barren womb, land (which is always thirsty), fire, your “unread email” count, and your blog’s “update” button–they all never say “Enough!”
So, there never seems to be “enough” time to get around to a blog update, and thus I’m just throwing up a few photos at the moment, hoping to add captions later.
During the short two weeks that Vivian was back in HK, we said many goodbyes, packed, mailed, gave things away, and finally headed for the airport in mid July.
I have no idea how many times we crossed this ocean! When we lived in China, it normally took 36 hours door-to-door, shortened to about 24 hours between Hong Kong and Columbia.
Upon our arrival, we flew to Indiana for a Retreat. It was a beautiful place. The “glow” is coming from a cross atop the church around which it was built. (see Aug 31 post below)
Among sessions designed up help us transition back into life in America, we enjoyed this campfire, with inspirational singing led by Marc Imboden (with the guitar).
Wisdom on the wall at the Indianapolis airport
From mangy carpet (bottom left) to beautiful wood-like vinyl. We did the same to our own apartment, after fixing up this Studio-rental. SamsClub is a beautiful thing.
Reconnecting with leaders in Columbia’s various ethnic communities, in preparation for helping with next year’s Columbia International Festival
Columbia’s Filipino-American Gala
Columbia’s Filipino-American Gala
As time permits, Michael is also helping again with International Friendship Ministries–it is wonderful to meet and serve students and their families from all over the world.
The youngest doesn’t quite understand “Pizza Twister”, but wants to be like the big kids!
Vivian is now with our grandchildren almost every day, so that our daughter can work. Michael makes the trek to Gaston as needed, and especially enjoys taking the kids to church on Wednesday evenings.
Three good reads. I’m so grateful for audio books!!
All of the boxes mailed from Hong Kong have now arrived in S Carolina (PTL for the lack of significant damage, and for nothing getting lost!). Getting the stuff unpacked and organized (especially decorative items) will take time.
It has taken a lot of effort and money, but our “new” apartment in SC is finally taking shape. We’re grateful for the friends and relatives who have helped, and for the convenience of buying things online or at Sams/Walmart. The place still has significant needs (you can’t see out of 6-of-8 windows), but we’re making progress, and grateful for a safe space to live in.
And if you are curious about the authentic version of Proverbs 30:15-17, here it is in the New International Version (NIV)
(15) “The leech has two daughters. ‘Give! Give!’ they cry.
“There are three things that are never satisfied, four that never say, ‘Enough!’:
(16) the grave, the barren womb, land, which is never satisfied with water, and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’
Sep 10, 2019
Our boxes have started to arrive from Hong Kong. We expected them to take six months, so this is a pleasant surprise. We just wish the flooring was finished, so we could buy the needed bookcases and what not to put things in! (We have to leave a wide space all around the room so that the workman can someday put in our baseboards.) Even though the floor isn’t really “done,” we moved in over a week ago. A gas leak had been discovered at our temporary residence, so there were no hot showers for two weeks; thus, we were pretty anxious to get into the new place, ready or not! Fortunately, my brother is a wonderful handiman, so he spent a few days helping us. One step at a time….
Aug 31, 2019
After Vivian and I left Hong Kong in late July, our first stop in the US was a “debriefing” retreat for people who have been working abroad. One interesting exercise was to “mend” broken pottery, adding gold paint to the cracks, reminiscent of the Japanese art of Kintsugi. One article said: “While the general Western consensus on broken objects is that they have lost their value, …the kintsugi method conveys a philosophy not of replacement, but of awe, reverence, and restoration. The gold-filled cracks of a once-broken item are a testament to its history.” Yesterday, it seemed appropriate, therefore, to let our kintsugi cups be the first decorative items introduced to our still-not-ready apartment in South Carolina (right photo). Our transition is taking longer than expected, and while being uprooted from HK due to our daughter’s crisis has left us feeling somewhat “broken,” we try to be filled with awe and reverence for the God of restoration, grateful for our 20 years in China and looking forward to the future He has planned for our colleagues, for us, and for our family. Thanks for your prayers.
Aug 19, 2019
We’ve been in the US for about a month, and we’ve been constantly busy or on the move. We’ve been in “Limbo” since we left HK, first attending a conference, and then in Columbia where Vivian cares for our grandchildren while I (mainly, so it seems) deal with upkeep on the studio apartment we rent out and the 2-bedroom unit we will live in. Today I’m trying to paint “our” apartment, which is also having the flooring replaced (among other things). So, I don’t much have time to make comments, but here are a few photos with captions.
Imagine being away from your home for half a year, and returning with just two weeks to pack, ship, AND train someone to do parts of your job. That’s pretty much what Vivian was facing this evening (July 1) as we took the bus from the HK airport to our Mongkok apartment.
It was too expensive to ship much to the US, so we sold the big things and then just gave lots away. Actually, it was a lot of fun to bless people with our “give aways”!
There were many smiles as more and more free stuff appeared on this conference table, as we cleaned out our little apartment and packed the most “valuable” stuff in postal boxes and suitcases.
It’s always hard to part with good books, but they are “heavy”! This box was given to a local seminary library. It felt good knowing that these treasures will help future students grow in their faith.
Here are the books we decided to keep. In the end, we shipped 14 boxes & one suitcase weighing 225KG total, for about $1300USD (plus $400 for 2 extra suitcases on the plane). They are now somewhere between HK and the US, with arrival expected (at our new apartment) within 6 months. (That would be a good thing to pray about!)
After working for hours to perfectly pack this Christmas tree and suitcase, the Post Office said the tree’s box was too tall to ship to the US, and the Suitcase had to be wrapped in their special paper and labeled in an odd way (shown). We sold our beloved tree, and packed the rest in boxes. Due to special packing instructions and malfunctions in their software, it took untold hours to prepare the shipments–but it was much cheaper than hiring an international moving company, and then dealing with customs at a US port.
Remembering how difficult it was to find and pay for a fridge, sofa, bookcases, kitchen stuff…., we filled a “spare” office with stuff for the couple who will take our place in leadership….once they are found!
Here’s one of several “goodbye” dinners; it’s rarely easy to part with colleagues and friends!
In the midst of our packing, I took an afternoon off to sightsee with a friend from the Mainland. It was a good excuse to see this interesting city one more time.
My friend is an officer on a ship like the one shown bottom left, so I took him to the HK Maritime Museum. I had a lot of fun listening to his professional explanations and stories (I also enjoy getting his email from around the world).
Here’s a nice picture of the main business district, taken from the Maritime Museum.
I was working until 2 am almost every night that Vivian was there. In the wee hours of our last morning, my office had never looked cleaner! (Normally, there were several piles of papers to deal with, and shelves full of books.)
As we walked “one last time” to the office, where colleagues would escort us to the station, this prophetic “work ending” sign caught my attention. You can see a piece of our office in the upper left corner.
To make the journey easier, friends checked in our six suitcases at the Airport Express station; then we said goodbye again, boarded the train, and only had to deal with our two carry-ons (and backpacks) until we reached Columbia SC.
This view at the HK airport reminds me of all the workers who make a journey possible. Two decades ago I had the privilege of teaching English to the staff of an airline catering company in Shanghai.
I’ve slept on this floor in Chicago before, where is seems like my flights are always delayed!
We finally left Chicago as the sun went down, and were met by family in Columbia after midnight (about 30 hours after leaving the office “that morning”).
In early August we celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary at a steak-house in Columbia. On the right, you see a cute reminder (in our optical shop in HK) that every door provides new opportunities to grow closer to the Lord, and to find new ways to bless others.
Jun 24, 2019
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’m spending June in Hong Kong, trying to help my staff prepare to run things with me working from the other side of the world. That means packing, selling and saying goodbye. The days just never have enough hours to get everything done. But I was “out and about” yesterday morning with friends, so I thought I’d post a few photos.
Over the years, we’ve posted many pretty photos of HK, but it isn’t always warm and sunny. Here’s a view through the rain, from our apartment window. The inset also reminds us that it’s a very expensive place to live!
Hong Kong’s historic electric trams are popular with tourists and locals alike. It’s hard to imagine that they’ve served the city for 115 years.
One of the least fun things about preparing to leave is saying goodbye to friends. “Parting is such sweet sorrow.”
Yesterday was World Refugee Day, and I was very impressed by the way The Vine church celebrated, while giving great information to visitors.
I read somewhere that 20,000 people are in HK, seeking refugee status. This graphic shows how long and difficult the process is. I know people who have been “waiting” for a decision for over ten years.
We’re busy packing boxes and suitcases, but the next step is to sell our bed, this Ikea sofa-bed, and some other things we don’t want to pay to ship to the US.
Jun 9, 2019
May sped by because I was in the US, participating in various meetings (I think I counted about 25 meetings and appointments!), but also spending a lot of time with Vivian and our family. Last Thursday night I returned to HK. Here are a few photos from the busy month.
Just before I left HK I got the chance to hear Ravi Zacharias. (I took the top photo; the other is a picture of the TV monitor!) I’d heard recorded messages of this wonderful speaker many times, but it was a delight to hear him in person.
My first stop in the US was Pittsburgh. Vivian flew up to join a night of fun with our son and his wife.
Next, we drove our new Kia (used, but new to us) from Ohio to SC, stopping for this photo at the Welcome Station before my reunion with our grandchildren.
“Grandpa duty” can be a lot of fun, and a lot of work! My grandson and I love trains and Lego. But I’m not used to spending so much time on the floor anymore!
One of my meetings was in Newnan, GA, where I grew up. It’s always fun “going home” to see this beautiful old courthouse.
I remember visiting this Carnegie Library (shown below the courthouse) many times as a small kid. I’ve always loved libraries, and even worked as a reference librarian for a while.
My brother and his wife still live in Newnan, and they always treat us very graciously when we get the chance to visit.
Here’s the newest member of the family: my brother’s newest grandchild, along with two proud parents! It’s always a treat to visit my nieces and nephews.
By brother is a retired Coca-cola executive, with several interesting collections of Coke memorabilia, including this train set (such villages are popular Christmas decorations in the US).
Notice how even the Chinese restaurant features Coke signs!
Another meeting was in Dahlonega, GA. Here’s our Kia with the north Georgia mountains in the background.
As a kid, I spent part of my summers in Dahlonaga, so it’s fun to return. A friend now teaches at this university. The “gold steeple” is on the old Mint, where gold coins were made after gold was found in these hills back in the early 1800s.
On most of our visits to North GA, we get to see classic cars, like this 1950 Ford. My Dad always said this was his “favorite car.”
Here’s another beautiful classic automobile. Many movies have been filmed in N Georgia. Maybe that’s because many towns look “historic” and because so many people love old cars.
Here’s a cute photo of “Grandma” with our smallest grandchild. She has a pleasant personality…until you start talking about her need for a rest!
I found this fun game at a thrift store. The goal is to combine words (made into puzzle pieces) into “silly” but grammatically-correct sentences. It’s great when play-time is also educational!
I snapped this over my shoulder in the car. The youngest has fallen asleep, and the two older children are enjoying electronic games. The adults are enjoying the peace!
Here’s a picture of Columbia SC. The skyline is very “tame” compared to what is outside our bedroom window in Hong Kong, but Columbia is a nice city.
I took the last photo above at Columbia’s Finlay Park. The view was even better when we left 20 years ago, as it featured a pretty fountain. I hope it is just shut down temporarily! Vivian and I met and married in Columbia in the 1980s, and lived here for 11 years before moving to China. When we met, Vivian had always called Columbia “home” (though I’d already lived in many places). Because of special needs in our daughter’s family, we’ve decided to move back to Columbia, especially to help take care of the children. I’ll still be working for the same charity, but with a different role. I’ll probably have the chance to fly back to Asia on occasion, too. But we’ll miss being close to all of our friends in China after our next “big move” in July.
Apr 30, 2019
April has been a busy month of work. I did hire a new Office Manager, Martha, and much of my time was spent trying to fill this position, and then helping Martha get used to things in the office. She kindly invited me to meet her family for a “home cooked meal” (her husband is a great cook!), and that’s when I got this month’s only photos…
Martha with her wonderful family. It is a pleasure to have her working in our office now!
Near Martha’s home, I saw this man walking his turtle! I’ve met others who raise exotic tortoises, but I’d not seen one this big, nor had I seen one “being walked.” One never knows what you’ll run into in Hong Kong!
Mar 31, 2019
Today is the last day of a wonderful week in Israel, with friends from America. I think I took a thousand photos, and Vivian probably took as many, so it will take some time to get them sorted and ready to post on our blog. But here’s the first two….
Michael and Vivian on the Mount of Olives, with Jerusalem in the background.
Sunrise over the Sea of Galilee.
Mar 17, 2019
We always love having visitors. These dear friends from the US visited in mid March. We enjoyed meals together, and also got to enjoy Hong Kong’s annual flower show.
A selfie with Jim and Julie, on their visit to HK.
Indoors, there were many beautiful flower arrangements; outdoors, organizations (like HK’s transport system) set up displays. Indoors and out, we faced large crowds!
Feb 28, 2019
In Asia, we’ve just passed Chinese New Year, with its promise of new beginnings. For us, that means gathering with friends in Thailand for the annual conference of the charity we work for. Thus, it is an especially busy month, full of travel. As usual, I’ll give you a glimpse of our story in pictures.
The Hong Kong airport is a very familiar sight. I never cease to marvel at the engineering feat of constructing such a large, busy airport on a man-made island–because there just isn’t much flat space in mountainous Hong Kong.
Vivian and I get a jump on Valentines Day every year, as we celebrate the anniversary of our appointment to lead this charity–four years ago, Feb 5.
Vivian is very active in conference planning, but we have a great team helping so we don’t have to do too much during the event. Here, I’m singing one of the songs I wrote (see the “Michael’s Music” tab).
The conference resort is on the ocean, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen it rain during our visits. Here, we’re dining by the sea at dusk.
Attendees hear great speakers, meet in small groups, get useful training, and enjoy a variety of programs (for adults and kids). But there’s also time to relax and enjoy Thailand’s beauty.
The beach is beautiful, and there are usually not many people around. And this year, I saw only two jelly-fish! We’re grateful that our children have managed to keep from being stung over the years.
This is really why Vivian and I are here–to settle the bill!
The lamp on the right caught my attention on the morning after the conference was over. At first, it looks like the lamp is lit, but then you realize that it really just has light behind it. Christians believe this is what our lives are like. People can see light in our charitable acts and grace-filled behavior, but what they are really seeing is the light of Jesus, shining through us. I think that’s what Jesus meant when He said: “You are the light of the world.”
We flew back to Hong Kong on Valentines Day. Two friends sent me this cleaver acrostic, so I’m posting it here.
Soon after we were back in Hong Kong, we were back at the airport yet again. Vivian needed to fly to Carolina to deal with her mom’s estate and other family matters. And of course, we are always blessed to be with our precious grandchildren!
The other day I was standing on the sidewalk and was surprised to see a man suspended in the air on nothing but a bamboo pole. You can see from the photos that I wasn’t the only one who thought this was worth taking a picture of! Bamboo is a remarkably strong material that is still frequently used in construction and repair work in Asia.
After conference, I was exhausted, so just after Vivian left I spent many pleasant hours at these two special exhibits. A remarkable, centuries-old map of the Silk Road was the star of one exhibit, and historic clocks from China’s Imperial Palace were the other. I learned that missionaries first presented these technological marvels to the Emperors, starting in the 1500s.
This was the first plane in the Cathay Pacific Airlines fleet, purchased as war surplus after WW2. The fleet was upgraded many times, but someone spotted this piece of history in Australia over 30 years later, still flying! Cathay bought it back, and donated it to the HK Science Museum.
Under the Cathay airplane was a model of one of my favorite ships: the flagship for China’s most famous mariner: Zheng He. From 1405 to 1433 (60 years before Columbus sailed three tiny ships from Europe to America), Zheng He led seven missions of over 27,000 men and over two hundred vessels to more than 30 countries. It is believed that part of the fleet even made it to America’s Pacific coast!
These are some of the wonderful people who lead the charity we work for–or did in years past. One of the men who held my “Director” position years ago was visiting HK, so we gathered to honor him and present/former Board members.
If you are in leadership, whether in a business or charity, there’s no better way to spend a weekend than the annual Global Leadership Summit–which is run in various countries throughout the year. This was my fourth chance to participate.
Jan 23, 2019
We started 2019 in the US. After spending Christmas with family in South Carolina, we headed to Ohio and Pennsylvania to be with more of the family. Then we flew to Oregon for a conference, and saw friends in Washington, before returning to Hong Kong. Here’s a bit of our story in pictures….
Our trips to the US are always too short, but we squeeze in as many friends as possible. These close friends (and our daughter in front) have joined us for dinner on many of our visits to Columbia SC.
We don’t see snow in Hong Kong, but I saw the view on the right many times while growing up, since it’s Mom’s front porch! The left photo was taken outside one of the places we’d been invited to, to share about our life in Hong Kong.
After attending a short concert of Faith UM Church’s bell choir, they invited the audience to give it a try. After some persuasion, my Mom and I volunteered–and had fun making beautiful music together!
Breakfast with this book club is always a treat. When we lived in Ohio in 2011, I met with them twice a month to discuss inspirational books.
Our son and his wife live in Pittsburgh, a few hours’ drive east. The city view up here was nice, but we were freezing!
This is how we got up to that nice view. The Duquesne inclined railway has been taking people up this steep hill since 1877.
We call these our “Granddogs.” Both were “rescued”–meaning that they had been abandoned or abused. After college, Andrew adopted Murphy (2017, on the right). Sometimes we wonder “Who rescued who?” Andrew married Laura in August, and Rue (a deaf “rescue”) became the forth member of the family soon thereafter.
This is a model of Pittsburgh’s Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, which is part of a model train layout under the glass roof.
The Phipps Conservatory has been bringing beautiful flowers and plants to Pittsburgh since 1893.
During our visit, Phipps featured beautiful orchids, so we paused for a family photo.
The Kriglines have enjoyed raising dogs and building puzzles for decades, so we presented this puzzle to the newlyweds for Christmas–it features dozens of dog breeds. Like most older siblings, Murphy seems jealous of the rambunctious new-comer, but we enjoyed playing with both!
Here’s Michael at work during the Oregon conference, telling people about opportunities to work among the needy in China (and elsewhere).
The Oregon conference also had great speakers, and inspiring seminars for two days. We enjoyed participating and would love to go again next year!
We decided to take a five-hour detour between Portland and Seattle, and visit the Pacific Ocean. When someone asked us where we live, we pointed toward the ocean and said “Way over there,” which led to an interesting conversation!
The statue in the previous photo is of “Lewis and Clark,” whose epic 1804-06 exploration of the western US met the sea near here. We didn’t see any eagles, but we did enjoy the scenery!
At a rest area on the way through the forest, between Portland and the coast.
After a few days in Seattle, visiting friends, we got this nice view of the Golden Gate Bridge (built in 1937) while heading for the San Francisco airport, to change to our Hong Kong flight. The infamous Alcatraz prison is in the upper right corner of the picture.
We put in a lot of miles during December and January, but we were grateful for many opportunities to be with family and friends, to talk about our work, and to visit some interesting places.
(click here for 2018 blog)
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