Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas 2006

Christmas 2006 was a relatively uneventful year. As usual, on Christmas Eve, the Ngs invited our extended family (both Grandmas, Grandpa Hans, the Tso family and Aunt Joycelin) over to our place for a giant roast. We had not noticed that our dining area was so small until we discovered that we were actually accommodating two additional people at dinner this year! It took some creative thinking to crowd 9 people around a table designed for maximum 6. This is of course not Erich and Elias' first Christmas - that was held last year at St. Paul's Hospital. However, this is the first year they have joined family dinner.

Photo (above): The family gets together for a family photo. Left to right: John, Erich, Grandma Lam, Aunt Joycelin, Karen, Katherine, Grandma Stein, Elias, Grandpa Stein. Photo (below): Karen browns the roast in preparation for dinner.

For the roast, we purchased a giant uncut 12 lb rib roast from Costco. It tasted wonderful after we had carefully cooked it to just the right internal temperature. We'd just never cooked anything quite so big before in our oven!

The boys were well behaved for the most part. It appears they particularly enjoyed the carol singing which we did this year without the aid of a piano - just a few guitar chords to keep us in tune. We cannot wait until they can sing along with us!

Christmas Day was spent mostly delivering Christmas presents to those whom we had not managed to see prior. After seeing the Erich's grandparents again, we dropped off a small token of appreciation (for helping with Erich during Jonathan's business trip) at Nick and Rebekah Bansback's place and was subsequently drafted into their annual Christmas quiz. It was great meeting Nick's parents, albeit "online" via web cam, and we enjoyed being part of their Christmas tradition.

Photo (above): The Ngs join the Bansbacks and their Chilean friends on their yearly Christmas quiz.

After the Bansback's place, we headed off to Uncle Preston's to drop off another few gifts before doubling back to meet up with Katrina. We wanted to express our gratitude to her as well for helping us out with Erich. It was also great to see Katrina's mom.

We spent the evening just the three of us. Thanks to Joe, I was able to show Erich the Dr. Seuss film "How the Grinch stole Christmas" for the very first time. I wanted to treat him to a cartoon I thought he might enjoy, and he obliged. In fact, he loved it except for the exclusive shots of "Mr. Grinch". He didn't take too kindly to his character.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Erich celebrates ONE year!

Erich celebrated his first birthday today at Grandma and Grandpa's place amidst many friends and family. It was so exciting for us to see so many people from past and present celebrate this momentous day with Erich. A friend of ours, Tanya, baked Erich a birthday cake in the form of a sailboat complete with sails. Thanks Tanya! Grandma, in her ingenuity, bought a lettered candle set that spelled "E-R-I-C-A" and then promptly substituted the "A" with an "H". Thanks Grandma!

For Erich, it was a day filled with intrigue. "Why did mummy and daddy invite all these people over and what are all these weird boxes wrapped in funny looking paper for?", he must have thought. Well, he soon found out that some very fun toys were inside those boxes with the the funny looking paper! Thanks to all who came and thanks for the wonderful gifts you brought Erich.

Of all the gifts that Erich received, one brought about much laughter. If you've had any contact with Erich (or have otherwise been reading this blog!), you will know that he is somewhat of an adventurer - insisting on learning how to climb and fall by himself. So when he received a T-shirt with the words "I do all my own stunts", people roared in laughter. Erich, apparently, didn't find that so funny. :-P

Happy Birthday Erich. May you have many more, and try not to do too many stunts! :-)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Trip to Alberta and Saskatchewan

As part of my (Jonathan's) work, I was sent to three municipalities in Alberta and one in Saskatchewan to deploy some new workstations and VPNs. Although there could be much to be written about the fascinating IT work (and indeed my colleague has written a bit about this in his tech blog), I found more interesting the opportunity to see how the various parts of my company's operations work. Seeing the more industrial end of how things work puts into perspective the work that I do on a day to day basis. Shown above is our plant in Brooks, AB.

While I was away on my trip, I kept in touch with Erich and Karen through the use of a web cam. I have a web cam mounted on top of our TV. This camera feeds into the computer underneath the TV which normally serves as a digital VCR. I was fortunate enough to borrow an additional web cam for the road, and so every night just before Erich's bedtime, I had the opportunity to say hello to him. I learned afterward that when Erich was told that daddy was on the phone he would point at the TV in eager anticipation of seeing my face. How very exciting!

During the trip, I also had the opportunity to stop briefly in Calgary where I visited my good friend Kyle and his family. Shown here to the right is a picture of Kyle, myself and his youngest daughter Cora.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Erich at eleven months

Little Erich isn't so little anymore at eleven months. He is walking and has all the characteristics of a little boy. He loves to play with his dad's toy fire truck (a genuine, made in the USA Fisher Price model from the early 80s!).

Shown here: Erich walks around with a ladders from the firetruck.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Dead Sea Scrolls

This past long weekend, a few of us from the Bridge went down to the Pacific Science Centre in Seattle to "discover" the Dead Sea Scrolls. It was an eye-opening experience. Having recently studied the some of the biblical texts of the Pentateuch, this visit seemed to have that much more meaning. To be able to witness actual manuscripts reported to be about 2000 years old added a certain validity to the words I already knew to be true.

The serendipity and the metaphors of the entire experience took me by surprise. I went to the box office early to pick up tickets. When the office finally opened, I was greeted by Jesus -- yes, that was really his name! -- who promptly sold me the tickets. Upon entering the exhibit, I learned that the scrolls were actually discovered by a shepherd looking for his lost goat in a cave. He discovered the scrolls in jars of clay, one of which were on display. It sheds new light to Paul's letter to the Corinthians:

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. " -- 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 NIV

In addition to visiting the dead sea scrolls, we also met up with Karen's cousin Keane and his roommate. Shown here is a photo we took at Pallino Pastaria in University Village near where they live.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Want an arrowroot, Elias?

Erich has recently acquired taste for arrowroot or teddy bear cookies. He loves them as snacks. We've also found that he loves to share. When we gave him his first few cookies, he liked them so much he offered one to his cousin Elias! A true "Kodak" moment! :-)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Congratulations Teresa Leung!

We've known Teresa (second from the left in photo) for the past 9 years. We first met her at CCCC - she's Danilla and Daniel's mum. As we ministered there, we grew to know her and her family.

We were privileged to be invited to her ordination ceremony at Maple Ridge Baptist Church. We felt honoured to have been part of her life as a Christian, and to have ministered to her children. It was also a reunion of sorts - we saw, albeit briefly, many of the people from CCCC. See photo below:

Teresa: We're so happy that God has called you to this ministry in Maple Ridge, and that God has led you to serve him full time as a chaplain in the Baptist Housing ministries. We have seen what your influence has had on the residents there. May God continue to bless you and your family as you continue to serve Him.

After the ceremony, we headed back home just to be stuck in traffic for two hours(!) due to an accident on the Pitt River Bridge. Both Karen and Katherine had to think of some pretty creative ways to keep Erich and Elias occupied!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Bath Time!

At about half past eight each day, Erich takes a bath. We unhook Erich's little translucent blue IKEA bathtub from our wall, and place it in our bathtub where it gets filled with lukewarm water. When Erich hears the sound of the tap turning on, and the water splashing into his bathtub, he rushes enthusiastically into the bathroom. He stands next to the bathtub watching and waiting with eager anticipation. The sound of mommy's voice assures him it is what time he thinks it is -- "Erich! Bath time!".

Mummy and Daddy quickly get him ready for his bath. As the photo suggests, he's got the whole "man scratching his chest" thing down to a tee.

Erich loves to play in the water with all his water bath toys. He particularly likes the yellow and blue submarine that Grandma gave to him. It can wind up and tread its own water and can submerge just like a real submarine!

When Erich finishes he is all refreshed. Daddy comes to get him with his special towel and dresses him with a fresh new diaper. Then the pajamas go on and Erich is all ready for bed.

Photos: Various photos of Erich's bath time routine - around 10 months old.

Videos (available until Feb 2007):

1. Erich walking to the bathtub
2. Erich gets ready for his bath

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Surprise! Happy Birthday Donia and Marsha!

This week and next will mark the 30th birthday of two of our university friends. To celebrate, we were privileged to be part of a very elaborate scheme to surprise them. Apparently (and I bet I still don't know the full details of this...) the two ladies were sent to the same place (the party room) under two completely different premises. Very creative Marlene, Michael, Ava, and Stephen!

Photo (above left): a very red faced Marsha is getting fitted with her party hat. She thought this was Marlene's aunt's place. We of course knew better. Photo (below right): a rather surprised Donia walks into the room. She thinks it's Stephen's coworkers place. We know it of course as the party room.

To commemorate the passing of this very mature age, we dressed up like 6 year olds. Of course all our kids got involved in it too! It was great to see everyone again - some we haven't seen since university!

Photo (left): Marsha poses with Elias and Erich. They seem to be oblivious to the commotion, and wondering why they have to wear these funny hats. :-)

Happy 30th Birthday Donia and Marsha! We hope you had fun. Of course now we're going to be suspicious next time you send us to your "aunt's" place or "coworker's" place.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Honouring one another

Tonight for L.I.F.E. group, we went out to the Ninth Avenue grill for dinner. Pastor Jerry had reserved the entire restaurant. The purpose of the night was to honour one another (Romans 12:9-10) - thanking God for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Guidelines were given beforehand, and people were invited to give toasts to one another honouring them for their part in the body of Christ. Specifically, the toast-er was to specify how they have been encouraged personally by the toastee. The guideline was that whatever you said must be honouring and sincere - flattery was not allowed! It was a very touching and moving evening and I believe that it had a tremendous impact on our fellowship.

Photo shown: Mark Graham proposes a toast.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo (left to right)
: Grandma Nancy, Erich, Auntie Joycelin, Karen, John, Katherine, Jonathan, Grandma Margaret, Elias, Grandpa Hans.

The boys (Erich and Elias) had their first Thanksgiving meal together with Auntie Joycelin, Auntie Katherine, Uncle John, and Grandmas and Grandpa.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Joey graduates and walk down memory lane

Jonathan had the day off from work today. The Ngs took advantage of this extra time by attending the graduation ceremony of Joey Lee. We met Joey through Anna Wong at CCCC. We became friends and had the opportunity to share our faith with her. Through a brief study of the first few chapters of Romans in the fall of 2005, Joey came to experience the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in a fresh new way. We were delighted to be able congratulate her as she graduated.

Karen and I also took time to reminisce. We noticed how much SFU had changed now with the UniverCity project. We were also encouraged by the presence of new ministries on campus such as the Point Church - a ministry similar to the Bridge catering to residents of the new UniverCity.

After the ceremony, we decided to drop in on our favourite off-campus cafe: Cozmos. Irene, the owner/manager there was delighted to see us. It was amazing how she recognized us even after all these years. She, of course was delighted to meet Erich for the first time.

Shown here (right): My attempt at self-portraiture with Erich (using a cell phone camera). Erich evidently is enjoying his time with daddy!

We also took a walk down memory lane to the place where Jonathan proposed to Karen (atop Burnaby Mountain) and took pictures with Erich. At last, a decent photo with my son!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Congratulations Fouad and Isabella!

We attended our first wedding celebration as part of the Bridge family today. It was a joyous occassion and one representing the true ethnic diversity of our church - bringing together a Moroccan, and a Chinese from Hong Kong who met in Turkey officiated by an American and MC'ed by a French Canadian! Pretty cool huh? And yet, we all one in the body of Christ.

The funny thing was that we had thought that the days of us attending a translated wedding were over! Were we proved wrong! (God has a real sense of humour sometimes...) Once again, we were delighted to hear the sounds of alternating English and Cantonese at their wedding.

Fouad and Isabella, thank you for letting us share in your very special day. May God continue to use you two to bless others.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Want some melba toast?

With Erich's almost biweekly teething pain, we've had to adapt our techniques of feeding him. Sometimes because of the pain, he refuses to eat solids from spoon. However, we've discovered that serving up his pureed food on Melba toast works very well! He simply takes the melba toast coated with the tastiest jarred baby food and munches away. On days when he is eating well, we've been using melba toast as a sort of after-dinner treat. He loves the stuff and just half a piece of melba toast can keep him occupied enough for mummy and daddy to finish their dinners.

The other day, while we were giving him one of these pieces of melba, he offered it back to daddy. How sweet! :-)

Monday, September 25, 2006

Koby and Lisa's Wedding: A great reunion

The Ngs attended a wedding this past weekend at Vancouver Christ Church of China. Congratulations to Koby and Lisa - you guys are FINALLY married! We wish you the best as you resettle in Seattle!

The wedding brought together many familiar faces, many of whom we had not seen in quite some time. It was great to reacquaint with old friends.

This was also Erich's first chinese wedding banquet that he attended. Despite the long hours, he was a real trooper and managed to keep himself and many others entertained! The melba toast helped (see next post) but also regular trips to the seafood tanks. Shown below is a photo of some hungry crabs looking at Erich.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Happy Birthday Grandma!

Today was Jonathan's Mum's birthday - her first as grandma! We treated her to a very yummy breakfast thanks to La Patisserie LeBeau. (Of course this photo was taken after we had finished!) May her love and her love for God pass down through generations to come.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Little guy on the go!

Erich is 9 months today and crawling around the house as if it is second nature to him. Shown here is a photo of Erich patrolling the hallways. He has already figured out ways around many of the baby proofing / baby sectioning devices we have put in place. (!!) He's learned for instance that if it stands up and leans his weight just right, he can move the ottoman that is situated to prevent him from moving out of the living room. He has also figured out how to open and close doors that are slightly ajar. His hand-eye coordination is amazing for his age. He can pick a Cheerio right from daddy's finger in mid air and place half of it in his mouth to bite. Now that's precision!

He's developed a keen awareness of who mommy and daddy is, and goes to each respective parent for different reasons. For comfort, mommy is always best. He is always in the know of where mommy is and has even learned to discern her footsteps. For play or to relax, daddy is best and daddy always gets a big smile when he comes home from work. :)

Erich has also enjoyed trying many new fruits. Fruits such as peaches and pears are definitely his favorites. His latest passion is eating miniature bananas (from grandma) straight from the peel. His favorite comfort foods include melba toast (which he eats holding the whole piece by himself) and Cheerios which he either picks off his high chair table or from daddy's fingers.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Bridge BBQ 2006

Last chance to enjoy the beach and the sun at Spanish Banks beach. The Bridge had a time of fellowship and Pinniata.

Shown here our fearless pastor holding the pinniata while another attempts to break it open.

Check out more photos here.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Bridge: A New Beginning

A few years ago, Hans Stein, Karen’s step-dad invited us to a Christian concert at the Kitsilano showboat. Hans, who is a skilled tradesman, had apparently been invited by one of his clients who, as I recall, plays in the Bridge band. Although Hans is not a Christian, he thought that since we were Christians we would like to attend. Well, as we soon found out, the Christian concert was run by a local church called the Bridge. At this concert, we received a water bottle. On this water bottle are the paraphrased words of Jesus: “Every person who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water Jesus gives will be satisfied.”

As we enjoyed the concert and as we sipped from the water bottle, the irony became apparent. Here were a handful of Christians and police officers gathered around for a concert worshipping and drinking from the only water that can truly satisfy (Jesus). In the backdrop were a multitude of people playing in the pool and beaches in an abundance of water neither of which could satisfy. I got to wondering – what makes that water so much more attractive than this? I had seen packed audiences for the showboat before - Was our community of Kitsilano really this void of God that people would rather be out there than here listening to praises? Were people so turned off by the sound of Christian music that cops had to be called in to keep the peace?

An uneasy burden grew in our hearts so we decided to keep the water bottle as a reminder. Over the years it sat empty, gathering dust in our cupboard. Little did we know that God would use this very water bottle to call us to serve our community and this church a few years later: When Karen was pregnant with Erich, we, as first time parents were rather cautious. As the due date grew nearer, we got more and more worried that her water might break. What if her water were to break midway through church service? Our church at the time was 40 minutes away! So what does a good husband do on a Sunday morning when his wife looks like a balloon about to burst, barely fits into his sports coupe and is dreading the 40 minute car ride to church? That’s right – he goes and gets an empty water bottle. No, not to catch the waters should they break! But to look up the address and service time for when the Bridge meets!

Now seriously, this is how we got to the Bridge, but we believe that there is a much greater plan at stake here. God had been planting a burden in our hearts for our community and had simply used Erich’s birth to give us a time to re-evaluate what His will was for us with regard to ministry. Before we came to the Bridge, we were heavily involved in our ministry at a church in Coquitlam called Coquitlam Christ Church of China - an independent evangelical Christian church. Eight and a half years ago we were called to serve as church planters and missionaries to this church. Our mission was to start an English ministry in a Chinese church.

Much like the ministry here, this involved administrative work, establishing an identity, establishing a community, teaching, leading worship, preaching – many things that we felt horribly inadequate to do. But God was faithful and God used our service as a way of humbling us, and teaching us to rely on Him. He gave us a passion for His Word. He increased our faith. We watched as our congregation grew from nine youth holding worship services in a Sunday school room to now over 60 young adults worshipping, praising and serving God.

Most importantly though, we saw many people brought to salvation through Christ over the past eight years. We saw God move in their hearts: first learning about God, then personalizing that faith through knowing Jesus, and then ministering to others in the community through the Holy Spirit.

So as this heavy involvement came to an abrupt pause, we took inventory of our life once again. Three questions arose: First, had we succeeded in our mission in Coquitlam? Second, were we beginning to become too comfortable in our ministry context to the point where our own spiritual growth had stopped? And third, did we need to get out of the way so that those leaders whom we had reproduced had room to flourish on their own?

The answer to the first question is rather easy – given the quantitative facts, yes we had indeed succeeded in starting an English ministry and instilling in a group of young leaders the desire and passion to spread God’s Word. But the second and third questions were much harder to answer.

Early on in our Coquitlam ministry, God had taught me a very valuable lesson. Although I have always had a heart to serve God, my often stubborn and self-confident attitude presented a stumbling block to being effective in ministry. Through many challenges, God humbled me and taught me that in order to be effective; I had to rely on Him fully. He taught me that effective ministry is not only about DOING, but also about BEING an effective Christian. Our relationship with Him MATTERS and has a direct correlation to how effective our MINISTRY is.

So when we felt that we might be too comfortable where we were, this set off some warning flags. Reaching beyond our comfort zone in our relationship with God and in our service to Him is what causes us to grow. If we were too comfortable, it meant we weren’t growing, and that meant our ministry wasn’t as effective as it could be. Challenging others to do the same also enables them to grow. So the answer to both the second and third questions is also yes. God was telling us to move beyond our comfort zone.

As we prayed over what we felt God telling us to do, we sought for His timing. We prayed specifically that certain circumstances would come to pass with regard to our Coquitlam ministry and indeed they did, so a few weeks ago, we said our goodbyes and were blessed as our congregation prayed for us as we moved on to the Bridge.

Serving our own community will be a challenge. Effectively ministering to a community so turned off by God is definitely beyond our comfort zone. But we feel that through our service here, we will grow spiritually and we will cause others to grow too. We have always felt very welcome here, and Karen and I really appreciate the sincerity and humility of the leaders here. We feel we have a lot to learn from all of you. We look forward to being part of the community here – sharing life’s journey together with you, worshipping our God and serving you.

-- Address given to The Bridge congregation Sunday, September 10th, 2006

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Farewell and Thank you Joy Fellowship!

Today marked our last official service at Coquitlam Christ Church of China as their English missionary. Much to our surprise, we were greeted with flowers and a grand farewell party in the parking lot. Thank you CCCC for making our last day with you such a memorable one. Thank you also for the kind words of appreciation and encouragement as we move on to our new ministry at the Bridge. We'll miss you too!

Below is a transcription of the farewell speech given to our dearest brothers and sisters in Christ at Coquitlam Christ Church of China on August 13th, 2006 for the benefit of those who were absent.

August 13th, 2006

Good morning brothers and sisters in Christ. This year marks the 8th anniversary of the English congregation here at Coquitlam Christ Church of China. Over the past eight years we have seen how God has been faithful to this ministry: We have seen our congregation grow from nine youth holding worship services in the Sunday school room to now over 60 young adults worshipping, praising and serving God. Our church has grown so much in fact that we now have a problem of space and thus see the need for expansion. We have seen God move this ministry as a small attachment to the children’s department to a full fledge department having its own children’s ministry and having full representation on the deacon board.

Most importantly though, we have seen many people brought to salvation through Christ over the past eight years. We have seen God move in the hearts of all of us here: first learning about God, then personalizing that faith through knowing Jesus, and then ministering to others in the community through the Holy Spirit. God has indeed been faithful to us, and He is indeed a powerful God.

God has also changed me tremendously through this ministry. Although I’ve always had a heart to serve God, my stubborn and self-confident attitude presented a stumbling block to being effective in ministry. Through many challenges, God humbled me and taught me that in order to be effective; I had to rely on Him fully. He taught me that effective ministry is not only about DOING, but also about BEING an effective Christian. Our relationship with Him MATTERS and has a direct correlation to how effective our MINISTRY is.

God has not finished working on me yet. Karen and I have both felt that over the past while, particularly with Erich’s arrival, that God still has so much more to teach us. For starters He has been stretching us as we’ve learned to become new parents. But God has also used Erich’s arrival to give us pause. During this pause, He has prompted us to meditate about this one question: would we be just as effective of a Christian if we were placed beyond our comfort zone – beyond our normal cultural context?

Almost as if to test this question, God has been placing a new burden in our hearts – one for our immediate urban community of Kitsilano. Although I grew up in a non-Chinese church, most of my recent Christian life (the last 22 years) has been spent serving in Chinese churches. Karen, too also grew up primarily in the Chinese church. It is our comfort zone and our familiar context. Even as we outreached to other communities such as through the Short term teams to England, we still ministered within the local born Chinese context.

Vancouver’s urban Kitsilano and West End communities, the community that we live in is perhaps as far removed from the local born Chinese culture as one can get. Although it is one of Canada’s more educated and affluent neighbourhoods, it also has one of Canada’s highest divorce rates. It also has a large concentration of gays and lesbians. Far from a culture where church is valued, churches and “organized religions” are devalued – seen as unnecessary impositions of old fashioned conservative values.

God’s question – would we be just as effective of a Christian if placed beyond our comfort zone kept haunting us. As we pondered, God continually brought us back to our own community. To this end, we began searching to see what we could do to influence our immediate neighbourhood. We found that as we sought opportunities to minister, God began placing people in our lives: from coworkers to neighbours – all in need of the love of Christ. We also found a local church ministry called the Bridge filled with people with the same burden.

Could God be calling us to move on? After much prayer, Karen and I believe that it is indeed God’s will and timing for us to leave our ministry here, and to serve our own community through the Bridge. Coming to this decision was both easy and extremely difficult at the same time. The easy part is -- once you know what God’s will is, the decision is clear – we had peace about it. The difficult part, however, is dealing with the emotional consequences. Karen and I have grown up with all of you, and we’ve seen each other grow. We’ve seen each other mature spiritually and in wisdom and have watched as your faith guides your decisions from academics to dating and marriage. As we reflect on our last summer retreat together, we have seen the realization of the seed that God planted in our hearts 8 years ago. Praise God!

As we move on from one chapter in our lives to the next, so too does Joy Fellowship. This congregation started as a missions plant from Vancouver. Now is the time for the missionaries to leave and for the local leadership to take root. We look forward with much anticipation as William and Juliana take on the leadership and pastor-ship here in the fall. We pray that God will allow them to continue to work well with the counselors and leaders here and that the ministry would be blessed abundantly.

In closing, we want to say how very proud we are of what God has done in your lives. We feel tremendously humbled to have been offered the privilege to be your missionaries, your mentors, your Sunday school teachers, your worship leaders, your prayer partners, your elders, your deacon, your friends, and most of all your brother and sister in Christ. Although this is farewell as your missionary, we are nevertheless all in the body of Christ. We will continue to support the ministry here both in prayer, through limited engagements, and through sponsorship in the expansion project. Our home, as always, is open to you. In return, we ask that you don’t forget us! As Karen says, we’ll be eagerly awaiting your wedding invitations! Seriously though, you will be forever etched in our hearts. We love you all. May God bless you.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Erich's first date :-)

Had a very enjoyable evening BBQing with Pastor Rodney and family at Kits Beach. Erich evidently enjoyed the company too! :-)

Pictured Emily (Rodney and Tiffany's daughter) and Erich in Kits Point.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Congratulations Katrina and Jon Laird!

The Ngs attended a beautiful wedding ceremony today atop Burnaby Mountain for one of our former coworkers turned good friend. Congratulations Katrina and Jon! May God bless your marriage abundantly.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Happy Fourth Year Anniversary!

Today was Karen and Jonathan's 4th wedding anniversary. We asked Jasmine and Stephen to babysit Erich for a few hours while we went out for dinner alone for the first time since Erich was born. Thanks Jasmine and Stephen!

We had received a $100 gift certificate for Il Giardino (Umberto's) from a timeshare presentation at Whistler almost a year ago, and we had waited in great anticipation to use it. Prior to arriving in the restaurant, we had wondered how we were ever going to spend $100 on just the two of us. But one look at the menu changed that rather quickly! We filled our stomachs with some of the best tasting cuisine we've ever had! More than the good tasting food though we enjoyed each other's company. If only for an hour, we appreciated being just husband and wife again.

Upon returning home, we were eager to see what Erich's reaction was. Poor Erich was okay for the first bit while we were gone, but soon realized he was stuck at home with auntie Jasmine and uncle Stephen. Separation anxiety ensued. Well, after some coaxing, he settled down. Thanks for being patient with mummy and daddy! Thanks for letting us have a night out Erich. :)

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Summer Retreat 2006

CCCC's annual Summer Retreat was again held at the old Pioneer Chehalis camp just past Mission. This was the first year of course that Karen and I went with Erich and it was (for the most part) very fun. The camp staff was very accomodating and we appreciated them sparing extra rooms just so that our baby would sleep well at night. It was also the first time we had little to no involvment in the planning of the retreat. But our lack of involvment brought about an unexpected blessing - we saw our youth step up to the plate and began to take ownership of the retreat and its evangelistic focus.

About 90 people attended our camp - many of them non-Christians, as well as some people from Paul Fellowship. We had a chance to spend some time connecting with some of the youth and we were grateful for the chats we had.

For Karen and myself it was a particularly bittersweet experience as it was likely the last camp we would be attending with CCCC. I will not elaborate too much on this as later postings will talk about our departure from CCCC, but we will say that we were greatly encouraged to see our youth grow in Christ and to see their hearts for others. God has indeed been very faithful in our ministry. :-)

More Photos of the retreat can be found here.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Erich starts solids!

Happy 1/2 year birthday to Erich! Yes, that's right - our son turns 6 months today! For his half "birthday" he had the fortune of visiting the doctor to get his sixth month immunization shots -- ouch! Well the good news is that Erich gets to start on solids today. So, for fun, Karen and I brought out the buffet for him to choose. Mmm yummy yummy.

Anybody out there remember (from their own experience) which baby foods taste the best (or worst)?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Review of the Sunshine Coast Resort

While vacationing on the Sunshine Coast, Karen and I stayed at a beautiful resort called the "Sunshine Coast Resort". It was a pleasant oasis away from home. Located in Madeira Park in Pender Habour, it's about an hour's drive north of Gibsons.

We first learned about this resort through its Web site. We were particularly impressed with the ability to browse through floor plans of rooms, and see virtual 360 photos of all the rooms -- yes -- every room, not just their 'best of breed' rooms. Have you ever been attracted by the glossy photo advertising for a hotel just to find out that the photographed room is actually their most expensive executive suite and not the economy class room you booked? Not so with the Sunshine Coast Resort Web site! Every room was available to see. Thus we were able to anticipate what we would see and found our suite to be pretty much exactly as we had seen it when we arrived. Prices were also very reasonable particularly in the shoulder season where we were able to take advantage of their 4 nights for the price of 3 special.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by the well mannered front desk person / owner Ralph Linnmann. Ralph was very energetic and was extremely accomodating. He showed us to our room and made sure that we were settled including providing us with a portable playpen for Erich to sleep. Over the course of our stay, Ralph also made sure our every request was met - from setting up a DVD player to providing us with propane for the BBQ to ensuring we knew how to operate the hot tub. His service was second to none.

Photo: (above) night view of our harbour facing balcony. (below) view of the harbour from the marina.

We rented a one bedroom suite with full bathroom, kitchenette, and a dining / living room area. Every room includes a view of the harbour and an outside balcony from which to enjoy it. In addition to the kitchnette, a propane BBQ was provided. Internet access was available via a site wide WIFI connection. We found the accomodation to be spacious and provided ample room for us to feel comfortable relaxing there most of the day. The suite was clean. In fact, some parts were so clean we felt the need to for their sake put a sheet overtop in case Erich should spit up.

A short distance away was their public deck where a hot tub and various lawn chairs sat. Karen particularly enjoyed soaking in the hot tub while Jonathan took advantage of the beautiful scenery to add to his photo collection.

We don't have much in the way of criticism: any negative points were more than made up for by positive ones. We did have one night where housekeeping didn't come due to illnesss: they only had two housekeepers and both were sick. As a result, the poor owner ran around the resort like a madman trying to cover for them but of course ran short of time. Jonathan also found the placement of the microwave in our kitchenette was extremely poor as it was too high for Karen and low enough and protruding enough to be a nuisance when washing dishes. Jonathan managed to bump his head on it several times during the stay.

All in all, we enjoyed our stay and would be happy to recommend it to anyone who wants a good vacation away from it all. We would definitely return if the opportunity arises.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Happy Birthday to a very special person!

A little over 10 years ago, I met my wife through a mutual friend. Soon friendship blossomed into love and just over three and a half years ago, we were married. The day I proposed to her, I knew that I had asked a very special person to become part of my life. Now that we have a son together, we are not only joined as husband and wife, we are joined as parents of Erich.

Karen is unlike any other person I know. She is my best friend and my soulmate. We confide in each other. She's my life partner, my prayer partner, and my ministry partner. She brings joy into my life. She smiles, and makes me smile. She even laughs when I tell jokes I've told a thousand times. She makes me want to cook gourmet meals for her every night. (She lets me cook gourmet meals for her even when she's starving.)

Today is Karen's birthday and her first birthday as Erich's mother. So here's to another year filled with happiness and adventure with me and Erich!

Happy Birthday, my love. :-)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Adventures with raising a five month old Erich

On our recent trip to the Sunshine Coast, we got to spend some quality time with our now five month old son. Among some of the more interesting quirks he likes to do is to play a sort of abridged version of peek-a-boo. He is just fascinated by our smiles: Every time we turn and smile at him, he lets out the most heart warming giggle. If you turn your face away momentarily and turn it back with a fresh smile, he lets out another giggle - and this can go on for minutes on end.

Erich is also getting very good at grabbing at things - anyTHING including daddy's glasses, dishes, wires, and especially kleenex boxes. We always have a box of kleenex handy nearby in case of spit up, and Erich inevitably gets a hold of the kleenex box at some point and begins to empty the box of kleenex, tearing each tissue to pieces in the process!

Another interesting tidbit is that now, thanks to Grandma "Margaret" (poh-poh to Erich in Chinese), Erich is now able to go to potty. Every morning, Erich gets to sit on the potty and without much thought goes about his business...which, had it been left to the diaper, would have been a much longer and messier affair. I guess babies don't really like to poop their pants anymore than adults do! On our trip, we were unable to bring the potty, so Erich got to try out the adult potty! Check out the picture!

The final story involves getting Erich to sleep. Because he has been teething lately, the poor lad has been suffering from some pretty agonizing pain. This can often be soothed by use of teething gel, teething rings, or simply by trying to distract him by feeding him or getting him to play with his toys rather than focus on the pain. However, none of these techniques (with perhaps the exception of the teething gel) helps get Erich to sleep when the pain keeps him up. So, we've often employed the 'age old technique' of taking him for car rides when we've exhausted all other techniques. More often than not, this works wonders, but then you have the big problem of how to transfer him out of his infant car seat into his bed WITHOUT waking him up. It's a bit like diffusing a live bomb. Enter Jonathan's technique:

  • Gently take his car seat out of the holder and away from the car. Set the car seat down and close the doors gently so as to not wake the baby.
  • Take him into a quiet, darkened room, and slowly undo the restraints; careful not to take the blankets off though. As you undo each restraint, rock the car seat gently.
  • Scoop up the entire bundle - diaper cloths, blankets and baby from the car seat and begin gentle rocking motion immediately following.
  • Carefully remove each layer of blankets as you continue to rock him in your arms until such point you have removed all removable blankets and cloths.
  • Check to see that baby is still sound asleep by doing the limp limb test - move each limb to see if it is limp. If they are, then he is soundly asleep. If not, you need to continue rocking.
  • Place baby in crib, while holding your (warm) hand on his stomach.
  • Take a deep breath and hope that the baby doesn't wake.

Well there you have it, the five month old update on Erich. He is a growing boy, and we're honoured to be his parents.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Vacation on the Sunshine Coast

It's Victoria Day long weekend again, and for the Ng family, this means it is time for our annual vacation! For some well needed R&R, Karen, Erich and I are on the Sunshine Coast for a few days. This year, of course, vacation takes on a new meaning travelling with our five month old: Gone are the days where we can hop from city to city exploring vast geographical areas. Instead, we have taken a much more relaxed approach this year - opting to stay in one place to rest and to do some personal reflection. We booked a one-bedroom suite with kitchenette at a scenic resort called "Sunshine Coast Resort" located in Pender Habour, about a 60 min drive from Gibsons.

Gibsons, BC (Day 1)

After driving to Horseshoe Bay, we boarded the 9:20am ferry to Langdale/Gibsons. Gibsons is the site where the famous Beachcombers television series was filmed. I remember watching the show when I was younger, living in Quebec - so it was quite exciting to see some of the buildings featured on the show in person.

We explored the town and soon discovered the cozy small town atmostphere of Gibsons. Having arrived after the mad tourist rush of Victoria Day long weekend, we experienced a bit of what real town life is like. We walked into this one antique store where we explored the treasures of years past. (We were almost tempted to purchase a tall and narrow antique walnut bookshelf to compliment our hallway!) We walked into another store, an artisan's store, where we found some of the most beautiful and creative creations from local artists such as Zoey Ennenberg. As we were admiring the art, a local boy on his scooter (probably the kid of the Chinese restaurant's owner next door) pops in and just hangs out with the shopkeeper as part of his daily routine. Quite the interesting community dynamic that is often missed in big cities like Vancouver.

We had lunch at Molly's Reach, the former set of the Beachcombers turned restarant/pub. The food there was so yummy that even Erich couldn't resist grabbing some of the fries and salad. We suspect that he might have actually ingested some of it because he had rather interesting poop afterward.

Photo: Jonathan & Erich at Molly's Reach Restaurant

This trip also marks the first time Karen has been able to feed Erich outside of the home for any significant length of time. For instance, while mommy and daddy were busy having lunch, Erich was breastfeeding too right in the restaurant.

Pender Harbour (Day 1 Afternoon)

After lunch, we began the second leg of our journey. We had been warned by one of my coworkers that the highway from Gibsons to Pender Harbour had many curves, but were left wondering what he was talking about all the way to Sechelt. But soon after Sechelt, we were probably hit with 15 or 20 turns all in the matter of a few kilometres! A little car sick and a few dozen turns later, we arrived at our destination.

We checked into our very cozy suite, and set up "shop": crib, swing, bedding, food, and of course - wireless internet. Yes, that is correct - the resort provides wireless access and I managed to get hooked up via an OpenWRT router set to Client mode. More on that in a few days on my technical blog.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Purpose Driven Life

The ministry that I am involved in at Coquitlam is starting a campaign of 40 days through a book called the Purpose Driven Life. You may have heard of it. Basically, for the next forty days, we are going to be reading a chapter a day and learning more about what on earth we are here for!

Now admitedly, most of this isn't new material for me and Karen, but we are in a new stage of life. With the new baby comes new challenges, and fresh perspectives. For instance, the whole notion that Paul talks about in his letters about God knowing us even while we were in mummy's tummy is seen in a completely new light having gone through pregnancy (well Karen anyway), birth and now rearing.

Over the next forty days, I will try to post some of my thoughts as I read through the book.

Breastfeeding bonanza!

Among one of the more interesting articles I read recently in the Province was one about an attempt at a world breastfeeding record. Life is already quite interesting at our house with one breastfeeding baby... let's just say that our couch is now the official breastfeeding station, so the rest of the members of the household have been banished to office chairs, dining chairs and armchairs.

We can only imagine what 3738 breastfeeding babies would do to a stadium.

Read all about it.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Great for the babe AND the baby!

Not long after we had Erich, we discovered that my Acura Integra hatchback might be a "great car for the babe but not so great for the baby". We had tried several times unsuccessfully to fit our infant car seat in the back. About the only way you can get the car seat in is through the trunk, and even when it is in place, the front passenger is left with virtually no leg room. So, we decided we needed to look for a new car.

We had several requirements which helped us to narrow down our selections:

  • Preferably 6+ seats: We wanted to have a car with room to expand; but more importantly for the short term to be able to haul both our family and Kat's (Karen's sister) family in one car. Great for carrying around grandparents too!
  • Easy in, easy out: Having driven cars of several different types (vans, station wagons, hatchbacks and sedans) we liked the sliding doors of the vans, the comfort of the sedan and the ease of getting things in and out of the station wagon. Would there be a vehicle that might combine many of these features?
  • Low on gas consumption: With gasoline prices climbing higher and higher with no end in sight, we needed bigger vehicle that didn't break the bank. So, SUVs and most vans were out of the question.
  • Manual transmission: Practically speaking of course this goes hand in hand with the "low on gas consumption" requirement. But from a usability point of view Karen and I have always been a fan of manual transmission as it gives you that much more control over your driving. Personally I believe manual drivers are better drivers as the constant shifting forces you to focus more on the driving and less on the distractions to driving.
  • Esthetics: Some cars are really practical but look hideous! We particularly loathe the new CUVs which seem like some sort of odd hybrid between a car and an SUV. Proportionate wheel base and body help to balance the overall look.
Given all of these requirements we found several vehicles that might fit: Right-hand drive Japanese domestic imports, European vehicles that aren't available in North America, and the new Mazda5. It seemed that whenever we found a vehicle that might fit one of our needs (6+ passengers) another requirement would not fit (manual transmission & gas consumption). In particular we were rather annoyed to find that they don't make minivans in manual transmission anymore!

After our trip to the UK in 2003, we were thoroughly impressed with the six and seven-seater passenger cars they had over there, but alas the selection in North America is completely different.

One of the options we seriously considered to bridge the "European" gap was to import a 15 year old Japanese domestic vehicle. These vehicles available through specialty dealers such as Japanoid and JCruiser's Auto Sales run great on fuel (mostly diesel based), use manual transmission, and most of the vans are able to accomodate 7-8 passengers comfortably. Moreover, their mileage is usually unbelievably good (less than 100,000 km for a 15 year old car) and the price is reasonable (usually under $10,000). The only drawback is that you are required to drive on the right hand side of the vehicle but more importantly the passenger sliding door would be traffic facing. A traffic facing exit is not exactly optimal for a family with a baby.

All seemed to be lost until we stumbled across the new Mazda5. We knew it (and many of its cousins) had been around in Europe and Asia for several years now which is why we were very excited when Mazda decided to sell it in North America. It boasts dual sliding doors, 6 passenger seating and lots of room to put TWO infant car seats. The Mazda5 uses a 2.3L 4-cylinder engine (great on gas) and comes with manual transmission. With a look similar to the Toyota Matrix, it doesn't look like some sort of odd squashed minivan. Getting one, though, was tougher than we thought. Apparently, Mazda had a big shortage of them and lots of demand, due in part to an early recall in production which created a bit of a back log. Nevertheless, after some pursuit and through the recommendation of a few people, we bought one (on cancellation!) through Morrey Mazda of Vancouver.

We've driven it around now for a few months and below I've listed some things we like and dislike about the vehicle:
  • Easy to drive. I've probably never had an easier transition from my Integra to this car. Apart from being higher off the ground, the car is surprisingly easy to drive considering its perceived size. It also handles with relative ease considering it is not a sports car. The clutch is amazingly forgiving which tends to lead to a very smooth ride even when your left leg is tired. We have driven the car both in city traffic as well as highway and the ride is smooth in both.
  • Clear console. Mazda must have put a lot of thought into the design of the console down to the nitty gritty details. Everything is within easy reach, and both volume and cruise control settings are available right on the steering wheel. I did find however that it took a bit of getting used to these controls as I would often instinctively put my thumb over them thinking it was the horn activation button. (This is how it was on our other two cars!)
  • Sliding doors. If there was one feature my wife and I admire the most, it would be the dual sliding doors. Although not really a van, this feature makes it very easy to get the baby and yourself in and out. The back edge of the sliding doors on the Mazda5 slide past the back of the vehicle when open giving you access to most of the cabin.
  • Hidden storage spaces. There are several of these spaces - two underneath the middle row seats, a center table, under the third row seats, a tray in the trunk and side compartments in the trunk. This is great when you're parked in a public place and you really don't want everybody to see what you've got in your vehicle. Because most of these compartments are not obvious, things stored can be made to look pretty inconspicuous.
  • Lack of big spaces. One drawback is that many of these spaces are relatively small (good for day to day stuff) but bigger contiguous spaces tend to be lacking particularly with all six seats in use. Both the middle and back row seats can be folded down to make a flat surface for this purpose, but then one loses passenger space.
  • Lots of cup holders. We were laughing about this feature. One of the common complaints about the Integra is the lack of decent cup holders. It almost seems ironic that this car is now overflowing with cup holders. On the GT model, there are count'em 8 in total. Yes, that is more than the number of seats! There are two in the front between the passenger and driver seats, one toward the back of the middle console for the middle passengers, another fold out one also at the back of the middle console. There are two on the fold out table, and two for the third row passengers. We'll drink to that!
  • Visible lights. One of my driving pet peeves is when drivers fail to signal. With this car, they can be sure they'll never miss one of my signals! They are high up, bright and definitely visible. The European style repeater lights on the side are a bonus too.
  • Anti-lock brakes and Electronic brake distribution. I've never had a vehicle with anti-lock brakes, and although I was trained on how to use them, have never really felt the need for them. (Both Karen and I are trained in threshold braking.) But this came in handy one rainy day on the way to work when proceeding through a traffic circle, another vehicle approached and decided not to look before speeding through the intersection. I slammed on the brakes, invoked the ABS system and felt the car come to a complete, short but not abrupt stop. I was impressed!
  • Baby latches everywhere. Each seat has safety features designed for infants including latch systems, locking seatbelts and even a weigh scale on the front seat should you be stupid enough to put your infant there; the front seat requires a minimum weight before the passenger airbag is activated. This is so that you don't kill your infant with the airbag.
  • Baby friendly. Apart from the obvious safety features, we have found that the third row seat is great for breastfeeding. The bench style is surprisingly comfortable and the rear row seat windows are relatively small so you are assured privacy.
All in all, we are quite happy with our vehicle. Of course, we won't know what the long term performance is like for another few years, but for our list of requirements, the Mazda5 meets them pretty well. Now if anyone wants to buy a 1996 Acura Integra in very good condition, it's for sale! See our photos of the Integra.