One of the most important pilgrimages I’ve taken was to Hong Kong. For as long as I can remember Asia has fascinated me. Ever since a geography lesson by Mrs. Jentz in the fourth grade, Hong Kong has wielded a powerful attraction. In early June of 2007, I was exceptionally fortunate to have open space on the calendar and the opportunity to set off to a place dictated by my spirit. A whim? That’s how it seemed when I booked a flight about a week in advance, but the initial plans for the trip were made in an elementary classroom decades earlier.
I didn’t know fully why I wanted to go, just that I needed to do so. Only after arriving in Hong Kong when I experienced the city, the outlying areas, and the moments that filled the trip, could I begin to articulate the spiritual significance that had secretly propelled me there in the first place. The area’s harmonious incongruence — ancient mixed with modern, the exotically foreign with the warmly familiar — showed me a way toward greater wholeness of seemingly disparate parts within myself. As Hong Kong suggests, it is possible for contradictions to live together well. One aspect no more important than the other. Each valued for its unique contribution to the whole.
Before I left on this particular pilgrimage, I didn’t know I needed to do the sort of inner work required to embrace my own contradictions and aspects that weren’t congruous with the rest of myself. However, the entire trip was an encounter with the Holy One who wants health and wholeness for me far more than I want that for myself.
I experienced grace-filled moments in unexpected ways that inched me along toward greater inner integrity:
- Observing a young couple juggle toddlers and travel while we waited at the Newark departure gate.
- Sipping first-class port in the last row of economy, a gracious offering from a fellow pilgrim.
- Looking at the Hong Kong skyline and the nightly light show from the promenade in Tsim Sha Tsui.
- Viewing Victoria Harbour while being swaddled in a warm, plush robe and cocooned in a lush lounge at the Peninsula Hotel Spa, but staying next door at a far more modest address.
- Traveling as the sole American into Mong Kok and the New Territories with a convivial mix of Irish, British, French, German, Australian and Japanese tourists.
- Kneeling with other worshippers at St. John’s Cathedral with whom I felt at home because of our being part of the Anglican Communion family.
- Watching uniformed preschoolers tour the Museum of History, two-by-two, hand-in-hand.
- Listening to American violinist Hilary Hahn and the Hong Kong Philharmonic perform Bach masterpieces.
- Seeing superlative views of Hong Kong, Kowloon and the South China Sea from The Peak.
- Understanding the city from the eyes of children whose artwork filled a makeshift, outdoor gallery.
- Watching a Continental 777 pull up to the gate to take me home a week after dropping me off.
- Drinking lychee tea a day or so after returning home, a far better person for following her spirit to the other side of the world.