Written by Eva Lee //
I am in a journey.
Before I was born, I was with my sweet Lord. He could place me in any family and in any country. But He chose to place me in a small family in Hong Kong.
My mother had one miscarriage before having me. So I became the firstborn in my family. I did not stay in my mother’s womb until full term. The medicine that was supposed to relieve the severe swelling in my mother’s feet also caused me to come out early. I became a premature baby, with only seven months in my mother’s womb.
The first-month-old birthday is supposed to be a big birthday for a Chinese family. I was still in the incubator during my first-month-old birthday. My parents took me out for the two-month-old birthday dinner. I was told that my cry was very loud. I guess I wanted to see the world badly, so I made a big cry so my voice could be heard.
It has been an amazing journey so far. Many came in and out from my house, from very diverse backgrounds and from different parts of the world. One of them was Mawu.
He came from Togo and was a law student back home. While he was still a college student, all of a sudden he needed to run for his life, leaving his whole family, particular his precious mother, back home. As an asylum seeker, he could not work, nor was he allowed to do volunteer work in Hong Kong.
My friends and I once did our two days of shadowing with Mawu. We walked up seven floors to his less-than-40 square foot flat. Then we walked an hour, took the cheapest mode of transportation (ferry and tram), and walked another half hour for his free Cantonese and Mandarin class. We then walked another 45 minutes for a free dinner and then to a football field in the evening.
I could not imagine what life was like for a bright, 25-year-old man who got stuck in this limbo time and place. His life could be so much different back home. You would imagine Mawu would be sad and downcast. But he was such a brother to me, radiant with hope, joy and love. ‘
For two years, we spent our birthday together in my home. We invited our good friends. We sang birthday songs in Cantonese, Mandarin, French, and German. We played silly games that left us all laughing so hard. All our friends said they were impacted by Mawu’s passionate life. All the gifts we received on our birthdays, we donated to an asylum seeker program. So many more people would be blessed because we were born. These were our best birthdays ever.
Mawu’s wedding was on a warm December night. My husband and I were honored to sit at the “family member head table.”
When Mawu and I had shared meals together, we shared our lives. We were family forever.
Kad was another amazing person along my journey.
Growing up in Iraq, many of Kad’s friends did not make it to their 18th birthday. Kad and another Middle Eastern student were my host students during Christmas last year. I would never forget the first day when he came to my home.
“What would you like to eat?” I asked.
“Anything but Chinese food, please,” he said. I guess they had enough Chinese food in their school.
I normally just ordered take-out if it was just me and my husband home for dinner. But when I thought of these two Middle Eastern students, I went out of my way to get organic lamb racks and tried to cook with Middle Eastern ingredients. They tried to be polite during dinner and simply asked, “May I have the salt, please?” I have to admit that I have never seen anyone put so much salt on their food. I guess we really grow up with different taste buds.
I offered to give Kad a tour of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and I brought him to the nicest ice cream place where there was a lookout over the countryside. When the bus arrived, he rushed to the front seat of the upper level double decker bus.
I jokingly said, “See, I risk my life to sit next to you! If the bus has an accident, the whole row of these seats would be gone.”
But he replied, in all seriousness, “Oh…really? I have many times escaped from car bombs, gun point, and different accidents.”
My best memory with Kad was in Disneyland. It was his first time to Disneyland, and I told my host students to get a small souvenir for themselves. All four students got something for themselves, except Kad. He went to the section with characters from Frozen and got something for his little sister.
I did not understand. “Why don’t you get something for yourself?” I asked.
I would never forget what I heard: “If I could see the smile of my little sister,” he said, “it would be the best gift to me ever.”
I once heard that justice is restored beauty. I would say that justice is finding the beauty. Out of the broken world, among refugees and young people in war-torn areas, we would expect sadness, anger, and disappointment. But I found these two young friends to be the most beautiful people I have ever encountered.
My journey was a searching-for-beauty journey. Some of these beautiful people and events were covered under darkness; we needed to search and open our hearts and our homes. Then we found the beauty was right in front of us.
It had been an amazing journey so far.
Eva Lee is a campus staff at International Students, Inc. She used to enjoy music from Wham, depeche mode, and Akina Nakmori. She is married to a man raised in Africa, and feels truly blessed about her current circumstances. She loves Jesus and loves others, and would like to thank all those who have invested their time in her life journey; as she quoted an African proverb, “It takes a whole village to raise a kid.”