RETURN An Interview with Dr Jane Mann

Assistant Professor of Counselling Studies

Interviewed and Written by Ms Mimi Tang, MDiv 96

 

The date July 1, 1997 marks a story about the Return of Sovereignty over Hong Kong and My Return.

 

Time, Not a Straight Ruler But a Depth Gauge

Jane, Rev Josiah Mann & their three kids were at CGST in 1989

Having served in a Chinese church in the States for many years, in August 1989, Rev Josiah Mann returned to Hong Kong with his wife, Jane, to devote to theological education and became the lecturer in Practical Theology in CGST. Jane recalled that their decision at that time was due to the imminent return of sovereignty over Hong Kong to China in 1997. Rev Mann discerned the importance of theological education and wanted to grasp the opportunity to train more pastors to serve churches in Hong Kong and Mainland China. 

“I know his heart and his ability.  At that time our children were still small, so I took a supportive role, yet this is still the decision of our family and our ministry.” Jane immigrated to the States after high school. She accepted Christ and grew in her faith in the States. After coming back, Jane needed time to adjust, not just to CGST but also to church life. Weekly, she would step out from the CGST dormitory kitchen to eat and chat with students at the canteen to initiate relationship.

Two years later on July 1, Rev Mann passed away. The graduation ceremony that evening was an occasion not just to say goodbye but also to mourn their parting.

“We were at CGST only for one and a half years, a total of three semesters. During that two years, Josiah had to stay in the States for half a year for operation and recuperation,” said Jane. “But depth of the relationship cannot be measured by the time we spent here.” Ties with students and church groups have remained until now. What never stops include greeting cards received on July 1 every year. “They are from Rev Dr Wilson Chow with heart-warming messages. Rev Chow was the CGST President at the time we were there and we did not know each other before then. After those one and a half years, we became good friends and whenever he came to the States, he would visit us.”

Since 2013, there’s no need for Rev Chow to send any greeting cards because “he could see me in Hong Kong”. After being away for 22 years, Jane was back to CGST to teach in Counselling Studies.

Her children were not surprised to learn of mom’s decision to come back. There were many fond childhood memories of CGST. “Apart from knowing a few good friends, including Uncle Wilson (Rev Chow), CGST has a complete and representative meaning in their memories because it was Daddy’s school.” But they quizzically questioned whether their mom, who held a doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology, might have made such a decision due to mid-life crisis!

 

Afraid of Change, Afraid of No Change, Heart-wrenching Sadness

This doubt still amuses Jane, “It is not easy for me to make the decision, actually it is very difficult. Josiah used to make all the decisions and I just followed. I was a good follower, a good supporter. When Josiah was not around, I wrestled with God on one thing: I was afraid that there would be no more changes in my life because Josiah who made decisions and led me to change was no longer with me. That was a way to express the pain deep in my heart. Some have fears of change, but I have fears of no change. However, caring for three children all these years has trained me to learn to make decisions. To me, this is a change, a big change.”

The training of social worker coupled with the character of resilience have helped Jane a lot in dealing with grief, but it was ultimately God’s sovereignty and Rev Mann’s influence that were most important to her. When Rev Mann underwent surgical operation in the States, Jane deeply experienced our Lord’s sovereignty. “That operation was very dramatic. Doctors said Josiah could die due to massive loss of blood. But the Lord did not take him that day. Instead He gave us eleven more months. He taught me there and then what sovereignty means.” Rev Mann wrote, “Do not ask ‘why’, ask ‘why not’!” This has remained in Jane’s heart ever since. “How Josiah treated people and how he put his faith in God have influenced me greatly. It is exactly who he is that has attracted me since we started dating. We both know clearly that there would be losses in life, but those are not losses to grumble about, just losses to miss dearly.”

The pain brought about by death affects all regardless of age. That year, the 2-year-old to 6-year-old in the family had diverse ways to mourn their loss according to their different personalities. One day, Jane cut down a tree in front of their house because it was dead. “When my son came back, he was very agitated when he saw the tree that he grew up with had disappeared. ‘You cut it off……? Why did you not tell me first?’  He had never expressed his loss since daddy’s death. But at that moment, I was moved to realise that I had to learn to read the message which he has already tried his best to express.”

 

A firm belief coupled with personal concern

The three children have three different personalities. They have distinct ways to express how they miss their mother in this present time. “God has not given you the same mould, but varieties. This is fun!” Jane believed that parent should not compare the children with each other or with kids from other families. “The son of my friend may be telephoning home each day, but mine connects with me differently. Difference does not mean inferior. Our different personalities dictate dissimilar interactional pattern.”

Over the past 20 years, youth ministry has been Jane’s passion and what she has mostly involved. Jane saw how parents often solely owned the responsibility of training their children and blamed themselves for not raising their children properly. Jane believed that in the church community, everyone should shoulder some responsibility for training the children. To put this in practice, there has to be the atmosphere of supporting, encouraging, and affirming the parents. The freedom of allowing others advising you or mentoring your children does not necessarily reflect that you are a bad parent. “Aren’t we parts of the same body? We should not merely pay lip service to this teaching, and then fail to trust others, and compete with each other in reality. But of course, such community life hinges on how parents view themselves and their faith.”

Jane attended her eldest son Jonathan's Ordination Service together with her second son Justin & her youngest daughter Janae

This mutual support also applies to serving and caring of ministry workers in church. Jane’s eldest son is a church youth pastor, but Jane thinks that as a mother, she may not be the best person to minister to her son’s emotional needs. This is because there can be as much relational and growth issues in a pastor’s family, and zealously expressing support and opinions may make it difficult for her son to differentiate between following his idea, desires, will for personal growth or succumbing to his mother’s concern. “So I choose to attend to other pastors’ needs and let others minister to my son. This is just a reflection of my vision of a healthy body life.”

Jane enjoys fellowship with the personal growth group at CGST

Returning to CGST has not only enabled Jane to continue with Pastor Josiah’s calling, but has also allowed her to use her counselling knowledge to serve the emotional needs of pastors and their families. “They are an ‘under-served’ group, usually not knowing where to turn to for their problems; they may not want to share, or they dare not share.” Usually, a lot of problems, like family relationship, interpersonal issues, or even sex addiction may not be addressed before they venture into full-time serving. While serving, these problems can be triggered anytime affecting their ministry. “They are called to serve the church, so it works better for their own ministry and for their church if they can first resolve their own emotional struggles or family problems.”

From the “Return of Sovereignty” to the “Return to Hong Kong”, from Daddy’s school to Mommy’s school, weaved among these is the belief that the baton has been passed on. The walk has never been alone. Life is like the clouds, togetherness and drifting apart, but what we witness are cumulus clouds speaking of its beauty.

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