I recently returned from a 10 day trip to Hong Kong. It was a study trip with friends, staff, and alums of Gordon College. The individuals in the group had a range of experiences with Asia, from having grown up in Hong Kong to having never been to Asia.
We heard lectures on the history of urban development in Hong Kong. We ate great food. We had discussions with people who work with the church in China. We ate very good food. We recruited students at a local international school, and then had great Dim Sum. We learned about, and visited, a Swantou Baptist church. We went to a great Chinese buffet. We toured Hong Kong Island and had a fabulous lunch at the apartment of an honorary alum of the college. You get the picture–great learning; great discussion; great sights; great food.
Near the end of the trip I asked the group to reflect on what they were taking away from this time together. One person talked about being able to see what you read about–exponential economic growth and the shear volume of everything including population. Another reflected on seeing how he had had a very naive view of China and now recognized a much greater complexity to their social fabric and argued for our need to do away with stereotypes in order to be effective in building a relationship with China. A third person talked about seeing that the Chinese church had the same challenges and concerns as the North American Church–concerns with materialism, family life, and education for their children.
Isn’t this what comes from all rich cross-cultural encounters? We have to experience it and see it ourselves to begin to understand it. Others, like ourselves, are more complex that we ever imagine from afar. And, in the end, we need to remind ourselves that we share common concerns.
And food is always at the center of the practice of hospitality and the building of community.