Category Archives: A Walk To Remember
Life is a journey that never ends; let’s take a trip into my history to reminisce the (good) ol’ days.
It has been over half a year since I last blogged. I had always wanted to resume writing regularly, not for public reading but personal rigour. However, it has become increasingly difficult with different commitments vying for my time and attention.
I certainly miss the catharsis of writing — where I can reflect, process and record my frank thoughts, raw feelings and divinely appointed experiences. Somehow, writing slows down my life and helps me to savour the moments.
So without much fanfare, I shall attempt to restart tonight. After all, there is no better time to write than now.
A few days ago, I stopped my car in the middle of Grange Road to attend to a motorist who was trapped underneath her own motorcycle.
I was about 300 metres away when I saw the toppled motorcycle. In those short seconds of approaching her location, I was certain that there must have been many other drivers who had driven past her earlier on, and pretended to be oblivious to her obvious distress.
True enough, at least another five vehicles had zoomed past her before I could turn on my hazard lights and stop my car just behind her motorbike. I literally parked in the centre of a three-lane road and a potential traffic congestion was the last thing on my mind.
I did what every normal person would do if he witnessed something abnormal on the road — help.
I never knew how heavy a motorcycle was until I assisted her; there was no way she could have lifted it up on her own.
She told me that a taxi driver had hit her and then sped away. Thankfully, she said she was not hurt and surprisingly, she was not upset at all. Maybe it was the adrenaline from her struggle, maybe she was at fault, or maybe she was just grateful to be alive.
As I raised her motorbike, I was joined by another man who did the same normal thing I did; he stopped his SUV and got out to help this woman in her late 40’s.
Once she was back on her feet and sat on her motorbike, she appreciated the both of us, assured us that she was fit enough to resume riding, and went on her way. I would probably never meet her again and chances are, even if I did, I would not recognise her.
The entire incident was over in less than a couple of minutes (and I was on my bluetooth headset with KY the whole time) but it got me thinking about what it meant to help others.
1. The right person to help is often the first person who helps.
2. The first person who helps naturally invites the second person to help.
3. Everyone needs help, but they may not be able or know how to tell you.
4. The best help you can offer could be as simple as a minute or two.
5. Helping others is an end in itself because it is not about you.
On 18 March 2014 just after 5pm, I received the greatest gift in the world — my precious baby girl. I’ll chronicle the epic labour process in another entry but today, I want to record a memoir of how my princess’ English and Chinese names came about.
Names mean a lot to me. A name carries identity, prophecy and destiny. And sometimes, it does feel like if you pick a good name, you’ve got half the battle won. You see, I selected “Asher” as my baptism name because it means “blessed, joyful and happy”, as well as “the most favoured one”.
As for our children, we’ve already shortlisted a number of English and Chinese names. The plan was to pick one that described the pregnancy journey. We’ve decided in the second trimester that our firstborn would be named “Eden”, because like her name suggests, she has brought us and others around us so much joy and delight. In Hebrew, it means “paradise” (she’s our utopia after all). And practically speaking, Eden is a simple, two-syllable, and easy-to-remember name.
Some years ago, I discovered the meaning of my surname, Chen (陈). While its most obvious meaning represents the sun (阳) that rises from the east (东), it’s actually also pronounced like a Hebrew word (חֵן) that means “loveliness, grace, and favour with God and men”. Not too shabby for one of the most common surnames in the world!
We’ve always wanted to name our offsprings after the fruit of the Spirit and since we had “love” and “joy” already working in Eden’s favour, we wanted to select a Chinese name that either described love or joy, or another of the remaining seven parts of the fruit of the Spirit.
As a typical ACS boy, I knew I needed some help with picking the right Chinese name for my daughter. So I approached a church friend, Charles, who’s studying for his PhD in Chinese history, who had very kindly agreed to help Huiyi and I pick a Chinese name for Eden. We met for coffee one afternoon and went through a few possibilities. I mentioned to him that I wanted Eden to have a single character (单名) in her Chinese name. So instead of the typical three characters, all my children’s Chinese names will only have two.
It’s not easy find a name that fits with the dialect and English “Tan” as well as the hanyupinyin “Chen” so we decided that Eden’s given name on her birth certificate will simply show “Eden Tan”, without her Chinese hanyupinyin name. After all, when you do introduce yourself, you don’t say, “My name is Joey Tan Chong Yi” or “你好, 我是Joey陈崇仪 but simply, “My name is Joey Tan” or, “我是陈晏”.
After an hour of tossing up possibilities of his initial suggestions and the Chinese names that I preferred, Charles and I went off topic and shared about the respective journeys we’ve each gone through watching our wives get pregnant. Many of which are very private so I’ll leave it that way. But as with several seasons of my life, God has always been teaching me about what it means to surrender… And everyone knows surrendering (to God) isn’t always the most pleasant or easy thing to do. I told Charles that through this process of surrendering, God has really taught me about His peace that surpasses all understanding — that assuring knowledge that He is with me and His presence is all I need.
That little sharing seemed to have ignited something in Charles’ eyes. He began sharing with me a little of his own journey into parenthood and how he’s learnt to trust God for all outcomes. Then he paused, and it was as if he rummaged through the virtual annuls of thousands of Chinese characters in his mind, then keyed one in on his cellphone. With aplomb, he made a suggestion…
“How about this character — 晏?”
Unsurprisingly, I did not recognise that Chinese character at all. And I’m confident that unless I’ve explained it to you before, or if you’re also studying for your Chinese history doctorate, chances are that this is the first time you’re seeing this character and you, like the rest of the modern world, have no idea how to pronounce “晏”.
“It’s pronounced as ‘yàn'”, he explained, “and it means ‘peace'”, he continued.
Upon seeing “晏” and perceiving its meaning, it became one of those moments for me. You know, those moments where you kind of know, this is it. I think Charles must have saw it in my eyes too. Like “Eden”, “晏” had a nice ring to it and immediately resonated with my heart. There was a certain sense of conviction about it. I knew there and then (barring consultation with my wife) that “晏” would be Eden’s (only) Chinese name. “Eden Tan” and “陈晏” — what a perfect combination of love, joy and peace.
Charles went on to explain that 晏 in one character, carries the same meaning as 平安 (peace) in two characters. Not only that, but it’s “peace that comes with day” because it’s “日” (day) + “安” (peace). To help me understand this, he explained that we sing “Silent Night, Holy Night” because we are looking forward to the peace that comes in the morning, knowing that we have survived yet another unknown night; that’s why we chorus “All is calm, all is bright” in the following line. It was like a double Eureka moment for me — new understanding of that Christmas carol and new knowledge to appreciate the profound meaning of this Chinese character. Another way of looking at 晏 is that everyday (日) Eden will be filled with peace (安) — 每日平安.
Charles also explained that 晏 is one of those rare Chinese characters that has not simplified its strokes over the centuries; 晏 in written the same way in both traditional (繁体字) and simplified (简体字) Chinese. So that means that it’s meaning has not changed through time! In addition, what I also liked about this character is how feminine it looks — don’t you think it looks really pretty?
And finally, I also saw a pictograph in 晏 — it looks like the sun (日) is forming a protection (宀) over my little girl (女)! And if I may stretch it and “Christianise” its meaning, it kind of looks like the Son is watching over my daughter! In summary, looking at 晏 was like marvelling at Eden for the first time — love at first sight.
Through bringing our baby girl to full-term, God has indeed brought us joy and delight, allowed us to experience His grace and love, and taught us the precious lesson of knowing His peace that surpasses all understanding.
Eden Tan, Mummy and Papa love you very much — beyond what you can imagine. Thank you for teaching us love, joy and peace even before you’ve met us. You’re going to be an awesome, and very precious daughter. What a privilege it is for Huiyi and I to be your parents.
- Spending four hours with my mentor’s mentor, Jim Chew, and gleaning wisdom from his life.
- Catching up with Daniel and Vimun over the weekend and adopting Stacey as our god-daughter.
- Pulling off stupid stunts at Moeraki Boulders and convincing my wife to capture me in action.
- Navigating through a forest route on the final blinking bar of petrol, and without phone reception.
- Swinging 120m in tandem from one mountain onto the oncoming cliff face with my brave wife.
- Jumping off a 134m platform between two mountains – the highest bungy jump in Australasia.
- Experiencing shock and helplessness when my wife went overboard from white water rafting.
- Sailing into Doubtful Sound and seeing whales, dolphins and seals in their natural environments.
- Clocking a mileage of 3,283.6km in 18 days – covering the entire perimeter of South Island.
- Being and sharing every moment with the love of my life for all 1,555,200 consecutive seconds.
Dearest Loft Bed,
This is my final night sleeping on you – a melancholic moment indeed. :(
Thank you for serving me so faithfully since 2002. You might creak and croak but you have stood tall and saw me through my days in polytechnic, National Service, Shanghai and full-time ministry. Yes, you have helped me develop from a boy to a man.
I salvaged you once when I moved from Bishan to Ghim Moh; the new ceiling was lower so I had to saw a few inches off your four feeble timber legs. Your adaptability allowed me to double the space in my room. However, this time, I cannot save you.
Removing the 3M plastic hooks and IKEA metal spotlights off you brought back a gush of memories. Some were pleasant, some painful, while some are better left unspoken. But every remembrance contributed to my growth towards maturity.
Letting you go is a milestone moment for me – that’s when I leave my days of being a swinging bachelor to become a married man. After all, you know that settling down has always been something I wanted to do, sooner than later.
It will grieve me to dismantle you in the morning but it’s something I need to do before I make Huiyi my wife. I had wanted to save you for my children but all good things must come to an end. But you will be in my heart forever – you know that.
For now, please accept my apologies; I couldn’t find you a new home and so the town council people will remove you (for good – sigh!) before the sun sets. Dusk will mark the end of your lifespan. I can’t bear to see you go…
We had a great ride. You were a great bed. We were a great team. And I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
I will miss you, Loft Bed. Goodbye. :(
Joey, man of God, as you take on the mantle to lead the R-AGE ministry that God has established through the hands of Pastor Douglas Frederick, which was then handed to me and Pastor Cuixian, always remember that the man is more important than the mantle. Your pursuit is first to be the man that God wants you to be in order that you can fulfill the mantle on your life.
Therefore, watch your life and doctrine closely. Flee from all kinds of evil. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight a good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Devote yourself to this generation of youths. With all your heart, proclaim the Gospel passionately, preach the Word diligently, teach and guide lovingly. Guard what has been entrusted to your care – the vision, mission and values of the ministry. Love and feed the young people like that of our Good Shepherd who loves and cares for us to a point of laying down His life for us.
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Use the gift that was given to you by the Lord Himself through the laying of hands on you, to build the ministry from strength to strength, glory to glory!
In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who gave His life for the church, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. To Him be honour and might forever. Amen!
— Reverend Ronald Yow
Outgoing Youth Pastor
@ R-AGE Handover Service
10-11 December 2011
What a privilege and honour.
This is it – LET’S GO!
The last time I returned to Shanghai was almost two years ago, for a quick 3-day 2-night getaway. This was about a month after I started working in Grace AG. It was a last-minute arrangement as my former boss needed an urgent favour. He paid for my air tickets and I thought it was a great opportunity to spring a couple of surprises on some friends as well as to bring home the extra luggage that I couldn’t carry with me the last time.
This is my walk down memory lane…
The first surprise I pulled off was on Kay and the second surprise that I pulled off was on the youth group that I had served with. I remember my heart beating rapidly as I drove to the home church where youth service was held. I had planned to attend youth service as a regular attendee – I didn’t tell anyone and arrived without much fanfare.
It was great to see so many familiar faces as I climbed the flight of steps to the fifth floor. And it was priceless to see the shocked faces when they said hi to me. The youths greeted me like they would anyone. But it was the second wait-a-minute-that-can’t-be-Joey look that I will remember for the rest of my life. I remember Janelle poking me to check if I was real. It was wonderful to be greeted by so many hugs, smiles and conversations, as well as to share a meal with Bryan.
The third surprise I pulled off was on my cell group – the wonderful group of people who took care of me when I was there. I arrived early and remained in my car while I waited for them to arrive. I remember stalking from my car when they strolled into the premise after dinner. My heart was in my mouth when I exited the car to sneak up behind them. I walked towards them covering my face with my laptop and Kay brought me into the lift lobby.
I was the last to enter the elevator. Cindy Hong exclaimed. Christine was stunned. Teresa was speechless. They asked in unison, “Are you real?” It was still too surreal for them even when we arrived at the 28th floor; they still couldn’t believe it even after I entered the apartment. Teresa immediately called Cindy Lee (who was sick) and Yee Kean (who had a lot of work to do) to make their way to cell now.
Cindy Lee was the first of the two to arrive. I opened the door. She screamed. In my face. And I think I saw tears moments later. Yee Kean arrived shortly after. This time, Teresa opened the door while I remained on the couch. Kay pushed my head down and covered me with her jacket. Yee Kean entered the apartment and sounded really grumpy as she removed her shoes. “I don’t want to play board games. I am tired. And I want to go home”, she sulked.
Then she took her seat beside me, still unaware that it was me. “I am also tired and I want to go home too”, I parroted her. She was stunned momentarily. Then she screamed (I think). After everyone recovered from the shock of watching each other get shocked, I shared my testimony of my journey into full-time ministry since I left Shanghai in August, as well as what’s in store for me in Grace AG. I am thankful that my decision to trust and obey inspired them to do likewise.
To my surprise this time, that cell session evolved into a prayer meeting. I received so many prayers and much encouragement and affirmation from the body of Christ. I also had the privilege to pray a prayer of blessing over everyone present. On a personal note, it felt really good to be feel so loved and wanted. I am thankful for all the da-jies God brought into my life in my short stay in Shanghai.
The other incident that I remember clearly from those 72 hours there was meeting up with Kim Soon, Kay, Kurk, as well as Cindy and Christine for lunch at Vargas. I nearly lost Kim Soon as a friend because he reacted badly to my teasing (of how Liverpool lost a game the night before). I had no ill intentions of course, but I should have seen the warning signs. I won’t give details of what was exchanged because I respect him and don’t want to paint a wrong picture of him but I learnt two things over that meal:
- It’s not worth risking friendship over football rivalry
- Not everyone shares the same harmless ribbing relationship that Xianyi and Daniel Heng and I share so don’t ever assume familiarity.
- When you are sorry, just say and be sorry. There’s no need to cover up or make excuses. Sincerity is the greatest apology.
But all ended well eventually so I was thankful for a restored relationship. That incident really caught me off guard.
On a happier note, my cell mates had a meal together the week before I arrived and Christine randomly remarked that she would “love to have brunch with Joey again”. And as we shared a meal on that table, she said, her “dream came true”. Sweet things like these, a sentimental guy like me will cherish for a long time.
My final lasting impression of those three days in Shanghai was heading to Loushanguan Lu to buy a bag for Huiyi from a local store that carried Korea-looking items. As I drove out of the car park, a drunkard suddenly appeared in front of me – so I had to jam brake the vehicle. Thank God I didn’t hit him. But he remained standing in front of me and kept egging me to hit him. Honestly, I wasn’t really annoyed because I just wanted to leave the car park, but on hindsight it was an extremely daring deed committed. It was the first time I encountered something bizarre like that in my two years in Shanghai.
But the craziest thing wasn’t him acting crazy but the parking warden and the security guard who did absolutely nothing about it. “Bear with him – he’s drunk”, said the former, matter-of-fact. “Call the police – we’ll be your witnesses”, said the latter, nonchalantly. No wonder I wasn’t all that surprised by the recent videos that came out of China – the inhumane running over of the little girl, and the intoxicated lady who got molested in broad daylight – to seemingly oblivious bystanders.
On my flight home, I remember looking forward to returning home quite badly and realised that Huiyi and I would really struggle to survive another long-distance relationship. It’s a miracle in itself how we managed to pull through 15 months of that!
I know this post is random and appeared from out of nowhere but it feels good to finally transfer these memories out of my system. I really miss Shanghai. Hope I get a chance to return someday.
My apologies for the lack of updates. Writing four sermons in consecutive weeks meant that I exhausted my bursts of energy for writing on producing the transcripts. It has been a good albeit tiring experience – personally stretching – and I felt like I’ve grown from it. However, I wouldn’t like to repeat this feat again. Note to self: the optimum is three consecutive weeks, at most.
Over the public holiday, my best friend and I took the opportunity to get away from Singapore. This is the third year running that we’ve gone on such primitive vacations. And there were many highlights to take home. I’ll stick to 15.
- Building a friendship is an intentional decision which requires time and effort – not by default but by design.
- Our friendship has never felt as strong as it does today in the last 14 years. That’s half our lives.
- No camping experience is complete without a campfire, cooking over an open flame and catching crabs.
- It’s better, cleaner and more pleasant to bathe in the ladies toilet. True story.
- Always assume that your buddy forgot to bring toothpaste, soap, shampoo and facial wash.
- During overnight slumber in a tent, one must choose between stuffiness or mosquitoes.
- A good and deep conversation is a gift from God. We praise God for speaking through us.
- A wife who loves her husband to free him up for 12 hours to be with his best friend is a good woman – thanks Jeanie!
- A best friend’s company at St John Island is just about the next best thing when your fiancee is in France.
- Both of us bleed Grace AG. We are passionate about our church and we’re committed to see it fulfill God’s will!
- Since 2009’s trip in Port Dickson, we’ve thought every trip would be our last. It’s wonderful to spend time together like that.
- It is wise to prepare a packing list. We missed out so many crucial items – like insect repellant and wet tissue!
- Speaking without weighing words and from the heart is such a privilege. I praise God for Lionel’s breakthrough!
- My Sanguine connects with Lionel’s Phelgmatic. Can’t wait for our Choleric to work together. We make an awesome team.
- We take nothing from granted. It’s God’s blessing for us to enjoy this moment together. What a friendship to commemorate!