On a short break from duties in Singapore, Captains Ian and Isobel Robinson explore Hong Kong.
Members of The Salvation Army-English speaking corps in Hong Kong
Western officers Captains Ian and Isobel Robinson serve as directors of Peacehaven Nursing Home in Singapore. In his “Survivor Island” epistles, Captain Ian shares their experiences serving overseas. This month, he considers the privilege of serving God as an officer in The Salvation Army, and describes a recent five-day break that they took in Hong Kong.
At New Frontier, it is our privilege to share a portion of his experience with you.
What a wonderful, vibrant, dynamic, exciting city. There is plenty to see and do, with some of the most amazing food imaginable. I thought Singapore was a food lover’s paradise, but Hong Kong wins by a landslide. We ate in little street cafes, restaurants, hotels, malls, and never had a bad meal.
We were forewarned about the overcrowding and wall-to-wall people; Hong Kong’s population is 6.5 million compared with 4 million in Singapore, and its population density is 6,500 people per sq. km., slightly higher than the 6,250 of Singapore. However, the Mong Kok area of Kowloon, near The Salvation Army’s Command Headquarters, is reputedly one of the world’s most densely populated areas, with more than 54,000 people per sq. km.!
The Army’s significant presence in Hong Kong includes 20 corps and over 2,000 enrolled senior soldiers. According to the The Salvation Army Year Book, there are also 20 institutions, seven schools, 17 kindergartens, 24 nursery schools, 50 social centers and one hotel. Lt. Colonels Ian and Mary Begley are doing “one last” tour of duty here—they retired about 12 years ago—organizing the huge recycling program that services 14 family stores. Hong Kong is the gateway for many goods produced in China, and when the USA clamps down with its quotas, the goods are often stored until the manufacturers cannot afford to pay the costs. Then they donate them to the Army for resale in the family stores. I can attest that these Army stores are the best stocked in the world. The one we visited in the Stanley Market had all kinds of new, brand name clothing on the racks at ridiculously low prices!
Profits from the stores help maintain programs benefiting street sleepers, elderly, new immigrants, welfare clients, ex-prisoners, and children in mainland China.
The Hong Kong Command is also responsible for the Army’s work in mainland China, divided between two regional offices in Beijing to the north and Kunming to the southwest. There is also a project office in Xinghe, Inner Mongolia. They offer emergency relief and rehabilitation during the all too frequent floods, earthquakes and snowstorms. Major projects, focusing on alleviating poverty, particularly in rural areas, include education, agriculture, medical and health, construction of water supply, school construction, teacher and midwife training and village clinic construction. Despite these projects, the Army is not recognized as a church in the People’s Republic of China, and so Army corps cannot be developed at this time. [For more on the Army’s work in China, see New Frontier, Vol. 20 #9, May 8, 2002, “Alive and Well in China,” by Majors Barry and Arlene Dooley.]
One privilege of our visit was worshiping on Sunday morning at the English-speaking corps in Wan Chai. When they learned that I played the piano, I ended up playing for the worship songs and offertory. They also drafted me onto second cornet in the band, making it a trio! Both Isobel and I prayed. Tony Cook, the other cornet player, came from Melbourne, and the bass player was Avel Mauricio, whose sister Raven is married to Matt Gillies (Western Territory folks will make the connection). There was an old Welshman, Ken Cowell, who said he knew Ivor Bosanko. So who doesn’t? The remaining congregation consisted of 60 vibrant and enthusiastic Filipino maids and an officer on attachment from the Philippines.
Crossing Victoria Harbor on the Star Ferry, and riding in a sampan piloted by an elderly woman as we weaved among the wooden junks in Aberdeen Harbor, where the “boat people” live, were two memorable highlights!
Read more Survivor Island installments at the West’s territorial website, www.usw.salvationarmy.org, under “Western Territory World Missions.”