Wai Jia and I spent the last few days before the end of 2012 visiting my relatives in Hong Kong. Hong Kong was also a time of us to get away for a mini-vacation.
On the second day as we headed back to our hotel, we saw a beggar on the street. He had one leg and lying on the ground faced down. I passed some money to Wai Jia to give to the beggar. As we stopped, stooped down and spoke with him, it became apparent that he wasn’t a local.
People from Hong Kong speaks Cantonese (a Chinese dialect) of which I am used to since I grew up there. Wai Jia, on the other hand, spoke Mandarin, another Chinese dialect which majority of Chinese speak.
I am glad Wai Jia spoke a different dialect because she was about to communicate with this man. Seeing him on the ground and in the chilly weather, I ordered a BBQ Pork and roasted duck rice for him. In Toronto, I still remembered those times sharing a meal with the homeless. To do the same in my home town, it felt surreal.
It was surprising to see people stopping on the street and staring at us. They were far enough that they were not able to hear our conversation. It was as if this was the first time they seen someone talking to a beggar.
In a quick conversation, Wai Jia asked the beggar his name, Zhe Bin. We invited Zhe Bin for dinner tomorrow. Just as we were leaving, a gentleman, who saw us speaking with the Zhe Bin, spoke to us in Cantonese.
“You are not local. Right?”
He explained to us that in Hong Kong, there are no beggars. It is illegal to beg. This gentleman is doing us a favour by informing us that this beggar is cheating us. They come from Mainland China to make money. It is illegal.
Wai Jia and I discussed about this. A lot of thoughts pop up in my head. What if this Zhe Bin is indeed cheating us? What does it mean to have compassion and show grace? Is it wrong to help someone who is out to cheat us of our money?
As my head wrestle with ethics, morals, fairness, compassion and mercy, this encounter revealed to me the discrimination in our society. There’s always a rift between Hong Kong and China. This article described an incident in the subway sparked off (or revealed) the dislike of one another. Wai Jia and I witnessed this first hand. Zhe Bin, from Mainland China, coming to Hong Kong, to beg for money is illegal. He has no right to do this.
I was scared. I wondered what if tomorrow when we take Zhe Bin for a meal, the same gentleman would stop us. What if more people, those who walked by, yell at us? Or even physically attack us?
The next day I took a nap before dinner. As I was sleeping, I dreamt about John 4. In John 4, it was Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the well. John started off the story explaining that the Jews and Samaritans did not get along (John 4:9). Even the disciples, those who followed Jesus, asked Jesus what was he doing with that woman (John 4:27). The Jews felt they were superior to the Samaritans because the Samaritans’ bloodlines were not pure descendants from Israelites. A Jew would NEVER associate with a Samaritan.
Discrimination and racism is nothing new. It was in Jesus times and it is here today. Jesus, by speaking to the Samaritan woman, broke these transparent barbed fences in His society. If I am to follow Jesus today, I have to do the same.
For me, this is hard. This is hard because I worried what others will think of me. I worried about what the gentleman, who I never see will look down on me.
“What, why are you hanging out with Mainland Chinese? He doesn't deserve it.” This is what he will say. I can already picture this in my head.
Here I am struggling between what as Jesus follower would do and society conformed me to do. Just as I woke up, Wai Jia informed me the Holy Spirit was guiding her to the same passage as well. Before we went to find the Zhe Bin for dinner, we prayed hard. We prayed hard for the Holy Spirit to come upon us. To guide us. To protect us. More so, to speak to Zhe Bin. That he will experience a divine love he never experienced before.
The dinner was divine. Zhe Bin had a friend on wheel chair and he joined us as well. We went to a restaurant where there was no one. Wai Jia shared with them Christ and they both accepted Jesus by praying the sinners’ prayers. Realizing that we will never see them again, we encouraged them to find a church in Hong Kong and to continue to seek them.
Did they really let Jesus in their hearts? We can’t say. Though Wai Jia and I suspected they do as they both realized that they sinned by breaking the law in Hong Kong by begging on the street. Just as Stephen was taken away by the Holy Spirit after baptizing the Eunuch on the road, we never see them again.
We prayed. In the restaurant, boy, did I pray hard. Pray for the Lord to bless them with work so their dignity is restored. Pray the Lord will bless them so they can support their family. Pray for them to experience Jesus in a supernatural way and changed their heart.
The discrimination I experienced in Hong Kong is not uncommon. If our hearts are willing, we can discrimination, injustice and unfairness in every society. In Canada. In Singapore. Anywhere. As Jesus followers, we are to act like Jesus, to redeem society by acting in love, in grace and in truth.
PS – One of the conversations I had with Wai Jia is that we need to be on guard from those who cheat us. But if we are TOO critical at everyone who asks us for help, I worried that I will no longer be compassionate. It is better to be in the error of grace than in the error of judgement.