ucanews.com reporter, Hong KongUpdated: July 25, 2018 05:44 AM GMT
The Homeless Christ work hanging in McMercy Cheung Chau represents the shop's purpose to help the homeless. (Photo supplied)
A snack shop on a Hong Kong island has a double mission — to spread the Catholic message and to help rehabilitated young offenders.
McMercy Cheung Chau was opened on Cheung Chau island by Catholic group MercyHK to expand funding sources and provide job training for offenders and young people.
In the shop are many Catholic items and religious gifts. The most eye-catching is a portrait of Christ lying on a bench wrapped with a blanket. It is named Homeless Christ.
Next to the portrait is a verse from Matthew 25:35 written on a blackboard: "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you made me welcome."
Lucia Leung Mei-ling, one of the founders of MercyHK who is in charge of the shop, says the verse highlights one of the shop's purposes.
In October 2016, she started to do voluntary work for Father John Wotherspoon of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
The Australian priest, who came to Hong Kong more than 30 years ago, visits prisoners and hospital patients and cares for drug addicts, the homeless, the poor, asylum seekers and the elderly.
Father Wotherspoon, Leung and another person rented several subdivided flats as temporary dormitories for rehabilitated offenders, the homeless, asylum seekers and those in need. They moved their dormitories to Cheung Chau last August and called them the Mercy Center. In January, they founded MercyHK and in May opened McMercy.
MercyHK's operating costs are covered by irregular donations, so the establishment of McMercy aims to increase income and provide job training.
"Rehabilitated offenders often encounter adaptation problems when they re-enter society. It is not easy to find a job. Our shop is a stopover where they can learn to get along with others and learn a living skill," Leung says.
Father John Wotherspoon (left) and Lucia Leung attend the consecration ceremony of McMercy Cheung Chau on May 26. (Photo supplied)
Four young people have been doing part-time work at McMercy.
"They all live in Cheung Chau but don't like going to school and sometimes hang on the street until one to two in the morning. They were invited to work here. We provide them with job training and prevent them from learning bad habits," says Leung.
The young people take turns to work two to three hours daily after school. Leung says they have changed a lot in two months. "They didn't work seriously at the beginning but now take the initiative and will give advice to the shop to make changes. They are becoming responsible," she says.
As a Catholic-run shop, McMercy aims to help others. Leung has allowed four students to eat but pay their bills later when they have money.
Evangelistic activities such as concerts are going to be held at McMercy every month.
Leung is also managing the Mercy Center on the other side of the island. Residents include an African couple, a mother with her three-year-old daughter, and a homeless person.
By helping others, Leung has noticed changes in her personality. "I used to be very nervous and persistent, but now I will stop before acting. I don't get angry or complain when facing setbacks. From those in need and Father Wotherspoon, I have also learned what Jesus said: 'You should not judge people but learn to forgive.'"
Leung often goes to church and prays.
"Prayer is very useful when you are frustrated and unhappy. It will bring you closer to the Lord."