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Christmas in October

Written by Judy Chan
December 20, 2006

We are often warned that if something looks too good to be true, we had better not believe it. So when the offer of a free air ticket from Hong Kong to London came my way, I was naturally skeptical. The offer was from a new Hong Kong budget airline - Oasis - and free tickets were being given to local pastors as a love gift from the directors.

ImageWhy would an airline be giving away free tickets to clergy? As it turns out, Oasis was started by committed Christians. In thanksgiving to God, the directors wanted to find a way to bless Hong Kong ministers. So, 500 pairs of free tickets to London were given out on a first-come, first-served basis for travel from October 25th to December 15th. I signed on right away.

Since my husband teaches school, I realized a second honeymoon in Europe wouldn't be possible because of his schedule. Yet, I've had another secret dream for the past couple of years. I wanted to visit the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Religion Department in Manchester, England. As a former British colony, Hong Kong has historic ties with BBC in terms of training and models for broadcasting.

The BBC also puts out some of the best religion programming in the world, and I knew I could learn a lot from them as Hong Kong's public service broadcasting is currently being restructured. I also knew my seminary friend lived in Manchester and was married to a BBC senior producer.

Could this be God's way of allowing me to finally make that trip?

On October 28th, my dream came true. I boarded Oasis just after midnight, arriving in London after a pleasant night's journey. From there, I took a train to Manchester, where I spent 3 glorious days watching live productions, talking with executive producers and absorbing how a world-class broadcaster covers the world of religion.

One of the most important conversations I had was with Christine Morgan, who heads the radio division of BBC Religion. Since most of my work in Hong Kong is on public radio, I wanted to know how she did her job. And boy did I find out!

All around Christine's office are awards that her division has won for their programs. Some are Sony Gold Awards, which are the equivalent of winning an Oscar. I was stunned that religious radio programs could compete with everything else out there on the airwaves. That's because Christine demands the highest standards for her programs and demands the best from her producers. She says religious programs shouldn't expect to be protected. They have to be as good as or better than the rest of BBC's programs to make an impact - otherwise, religion is pushed to the margins.

I took her message to heart. Christine inspired me to work harder and aim higher for our Christian radio programs in Hong Kong, whatever shape they take in the future. While we have nowhere near the resources or output that BBC has, we have the same raw materials every communicator has at her disposal - imagination, intelligence, drive, and stories that need to be told. It's up to us to use them to the fullest.

During this Christmas season, I give thanks to God for this trip of a lifetime. Sometimes things that look too good to be true actually turn out to be real. That was my thrilling experience and that's the thrilling message of the Gospel as well.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.

In the peace of Christ,
Judy Chan
December 2006

Judy Chan is a missionary serving with the Hong Kong Christian Council. She is responsible for communications for the Council. She is also in charge of ecumenical radio broadcasting ministry, English publications and ecumenical partnerships in Hong Kong and overseas.

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