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my final birthday as a bachelor.

Over the next 24 hours, I will celebrate my 8th 21st birthday, by having lunch with none other than my best friend, Lionel, and dinner with my fiancée, Huiyi. I’m just two years from turning three decades old – that’s more than twice the age of the new youths initiated into youth ministry. I feel older but more alive than ever!

  • By December, my salutation would have changed.
  • By January, my ministry responsibilities would have increased.
  • By February, I would have completed my undergraduate programme.
  • By March, I would have accomplished another of my childhood dreams.
  • By April, we would have completed the pre-wedding photo-shoot.
  • By August, Huiyi and I would have changed our marital status.
  • By September, I would have embarked on my postgraduate programme.
  • By this time next year, I should be in New Zealand with my wife, enjoying my honeymoon.

That’s a lot of things to look forward to in the next 365 days. But before I arrive at next October, There are 28 reasons to be thankful, most of which are for people who close to my heart. I believe that people define lives, not possessions or pursuits.

1. Huiyi: My fiancée has become such a big part of my life, ministry, personality and growth. There’s no one who knows and understands me better than she does. She is the strength behind my passion and the stability within my authenticity; her grace towards me and her forgiveness of my tainted past gives me more reasons to believe in young people. Without a doubt, she is the most important person in my life.

2. Home: My family has made my house feel like home. My room is the best place to be at night. I will miss it once renovations begin to transform it from an overgrown teenager’s to a newlyweds’ room.

3. Maisie: I’ve enjoyed a relationship resurgence with my beloved younger sister, and watching her flourish in her career and achieving her dreams makes me beam with pride. I love her with all my heart.

4. Mummy: Honestly, watching my mother slow down is something I am learning to cope with. Her years of sacrifice is now taking its toll on her. It is my prayer that as my mother ages, my sister and I will adapt to her changes. Home, Maisie, Mummy – the next three thanksgivings.

5-8. Family-to-be: In the last year, my knowledge of Bryan, Uncle Kheng Leong, Aunty Rosalind and Xianyi has grown. Our conversations have moved beyond the superficial and I am thankful because I am never one who likes to scratch surfaces. I look forward to getting to understand them a little more intimately in the next year. I believe by faith that my entire family will coming to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

9-10. Shepherds: My family outside of my family is one whom I’ve the privilege of shepherding. Recently on youthministry.com, it sent out an article on “Sharing Your Life With Your Team” and I see it as God’s way of affirming how I’m doing ministry with them. Huiyi and I always remind each other that it is our absolute delight, honour and privilege to have them play the role of groomsmen and bridesmaid at our wedding. But beyond that, I look forward to doing life with two groups of them; the boys – Keith, Bradley, Kun Jie, Caleb, David, Shavinn; and the girls – Melody, Natalina, Yixian, Melissa, Andrea and Sheena.

11. Grace AG: Six days ago on 15 October, I arrived at my 2nd full year in full-time ministry with Grace AG. I still feel like it’s a dream job because I don’t feel like I’ve worked a single day in the last 730 days. I wake up everyday feeling unbelievably thankful for all the way my church believes in me. And it has been fantastic working with friends – Ps Cuixian, Ps Jadene and Suhui.

12. Ps Ronald Yow: The one most responsible for my career joy is none other than my irreplaceable boss, mentor and role model. He has been unbelievable in guiding me as a youth minister and profiling me as the youth pastor. Thank you…

13. R-AGE: My my, look at how the youth group has grown! It has been a joy pastoring the flock at Bukit Batok and I look forward to journeying with those at Tanglin Road in the coming days.

14-20. Buddies: It’s never good to walk alone. I am delighted to call Lionel, Kurk, Gideon, Johann, Kenneth, Joel and Cheryl my contemporaries whom I check on, and who keep me in check.

20. RMIT: I never expected myself to perform so well in school. It is indeed by the grace of God because I know that I’m not a brainiac. I have also enjoyed learning alongside responsible classmates, and from the occasional good lecturer.

21. Ps Edmund Chan: In the last 13 years, there has only been one man has spoken so deeply into my life into such a deep-seated issue that no one has ever ventured into… Being with him in Perth was already a treat, but the moment that I will never erase from my mind is the lunch we had together on the last day. I couldn’t stop my tears from running down my face.

22-23. Mentors: I have the privilege of being mentored by greatly esteemed and highly respected men of God. And there are three I’d like to thank God for. Peter Chao and Ps Benny Ho who has looked out for me, given me their time and attention, dispensed invaluable advice, pointed me in the right direction, and most importantly, believed in me. I cheekily (but audaciously) asked the Lord for mentors to guide me in leadership, preaching and growing deep, and He sent me the best in the business…

24. Mentorees: I am a product of mentoring and it has been instinctive for me to mentor others. Over the year, I’ve had the wonderful privilege and opportunity to journey with young people bursting with capacity and capabilities. I still believe that the greatest gift you could ever give to a young person, is to believe in him. It’s been an absolute joy!

25. Friends overseas: This year, I’ve spent Autumn and Spring with Chin Seng and Ervina in Perth and had the privilege of being Daniel Heng’s best man, who flew back from New Zealand to hold his wedding. (I would have loved to catch up with Liang Zhi in my last trip…)

26. Going overseas: It’s amazing how the Lord rewards my desire to travel with the most number of trips I’ve ever gone on in my life in one calendar year. I am always thankful to get out of Singapore – be it for mission trips, vacations or even just a short trip up North across the Causeway for a weekend getaway! May the frequency increase with age!

27. A deeper hunger: I find myself desiring God with increasing intensity… More than just the things of God (books, sermons, conferences, ministry) but God Himself. For He alone satisfies. If Jesus is all, then Jesus is enough.

28. A consistent devotion: Of course I’ve missed some days and in some periods, even a couple of weeks. (Even pastors struggle!) But if I were to put my finger on why my hunger for and knowledge of God has increased, it is simply down to spending time with Him regularly… And just enjoying His presence… And allowing His living Word to breathe life into me.

I’ve probably missed out a couple of items or people but well, these are the first 28 thoughts that come to my mind… So here goes, happy birthday to me! I pray that I’ll easily have 29 items to thank God for 365 days later! (:

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the final 24 hours in Perth.

I have arrived at my last 24 hours in Perth and without a doubt this has been my best vacation ever – and ironically, the one I’ve done the least shopping, sightseeing and spending in.

My final day begins with having breakfast with Ervina and Chin Seng, followed by lunch with Ps Edmund, a visit to Koorong together (where I may purchase some – Huiyi, look away now! – books), grocery shopping for the evening BBQ at home, and head off to the airport to board the red-eye flight at midnight. My ulcers are killing me so I can imagine what it’d be like without a good night’s rest tomorrow night.

I’ll touch down at around 6am, try to figure my way back home by public transport, rest the morning away, and prepare for an afternoon meeting in the office, before I complete my sermon – yes, I’m preaching this weekend, on the discipline of serving. Can’t wait to do that!

I managed to get some reading done during this trip but the bulk of my time was spent chatting with and meeting new friends. It’s the first time I’ve experienced Perth this way and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m starting to feel at home here.

Already, I’m looking forward to my next trip to Perth.

the people of Perth.

In any holiday, it’s always about the people that determines how meaningful and memorable the trip is. It has been a momentous week in every sense of the word – the huge amount that I have gleaned from the master mentors simply by observing their examples, to the kind of favours I have experienced.

I’ve really witnessed God’s faithfulness in my life and I’m inclined to think that it is through people that God uses most to bless others. I know the following paragraphs won’t mean anything to many readers but I want to record it down anyway because it means a lot to me.

First and foremost, I am grateful for Chin Seng and Ervina – for their love and affection… They are amazing friends whom I am immensely thankful for. Liang Zhi has been a great aide too in helping me with errands, though I wished we had more personal time together.

It was wonderful to have a couple of hours in Ps Benny’s hectic schedule, as well as to meet all the wonderful people in his church – from Ps Cheng Lai and Sis Ellen, Uncle Steven and Aunty Julia, Ps Daryl and Eunice. There’s something unique about Faith Community Church – may God continue to grow FCC exponentially!

Then to have met Ps Basil and Sis Yvonne of Eagles City Mission (this church visit is worth a separate blog post in itself!) as well as their wonderful group of young adults. These nice blokes took me out for dinner and drinks – Justin, Hannah, Shane, Cher, Etele, Andrew, Lena and Sebastian – lovely people. (And yes, Ps Edmund got me on stage again…)

But the greatest shout-out goes to Ps Philip and Aunty Christina, whose house I’m staying in. They’re such a cute couple – and their home is filled with laughter, friends and love, just as it is inscribed on a wood ornament hung on their living room wall. They’ve extended their warmth to me so generously… Aunty Christina calls me the “Young Baby Pastor”; she’s got such an endearing personality.

While this is my third time to Perth, it is without doubt the most memorable one. And I haven’t even mentioned about my experiences with Ps Edmund and Ps Ann! I could write three posts dedicated to these two highly-esteemed individuals, not just in my life, but in the scores of lives I’ve met on this trip… I’m a privileged man, really, to be on a mentoring journey with him…

My single biggest regret so far? I’m experiencing all these alone; every single minute, I badly wished my wife-to-be was with me… I miss Huiyi very much, more than she thinks I do…

half-time: photographic recap.

The lovely Chin Seng and Ervina whisked me away to The Left Bank after the conference ended for an advanced birthday treat! I’m blogging this from their place before returning to Jandakot tonight, where I’m staying with Ps Edmund and Ps Ann. It has been an amazing experience so far, staying under the same roof as two people I esteem so highly. I’ll write more when I have time.

For now, I’d like to remember how tremendously blessed and privileged I am to share the same stage as Ps Edmund, Ps Ann and Ps Benny even for just five minutes during the fourth session at the IDMC Perth Conference. Yes, Ps Edmund threw me a surprise again as he did previously at Eagles Conference.

I was little more prepared this time, but unlike the last time where I had 30 minutes to prepare, this time, I had a grand total of five seconds to respond; yes, he summoned me to the stage, on the spot. Never in my life would I imagine this favour and opportunity happening to me. Ever. God is amazing. All praise to Him alone.

picture perfect Perth promotes pauses.

Quote of the day: 

“Plan like Jesus is never coming back, but live like He’s returning tomorrow” — Aw Chin Seng

Question of the day:

“What do I have if I don’t have You, Jesus?” — Starfield

My rhetoric response:

What else do I need if I have You, Jesus?

I brought an old notebook along and I found these lyrics I penned in 2004. It’s a song called, Home.

I won’t be staying here for long
Just here for but a moment more
I’m just passing through this transient place
Until I reach my final destination

I don’t live for the here and now
Don’t have to really have it all
What’s here today is gone tomorrow
What’s not forever is forever useless

I belong to above, to evermore
This world is not my home

At the end of it all
There is another beginning
And when my Maker calls
I know that my show is concluding
Don’t get too comfortable
Because I’m simply not home yet
When I die, yeah, when I say goodbye
I’m not leaving home… I’m going home

a September stock-take and an October onslaught.

It’s always therapeutic to do a stock-take after an eventful week, which would have been impossible to pull off and not fall exhausted on my face, if not for the grace of God that saw me though. Warning: long post.

Monday: attended QC (Questions and Contributions) time and a monthly mentoring session with Ps Edmund Chan; ’til this day, I still thank God for the divine appointment in which He has connected me to Ps Ed; what a privilege and honour.

Tuesday AM: led worship at the Tuesday staff devotion with Ps Meng Cham; that’s how I will do it from now on – being accompanied by a seasoned musician makes it so much more enjoyable (because I won’t need to practice with my guitar!)

Tuesday PM: prepared for and sat through a staff meeting, which was a heart-wrenching experience and threw me off my momentum; I’m thankful for Ps Ronald who patiently listened to me rant and vent my frustrations. This forced me to come before the Lord that evening to seek His face. And I’m glad I did. The Lord spoke to me through Genesis 13 and Hebrews 6.

Wednesday AM: Caleb crashed at my place the night before and we watched Man Utd surrender a 2-0 lead to Basel and equalised in typical United fashion at the dying minutes. I struggled through the second half, to be honest. I’m really getting old…

Wednesday PM: led worship at the weekly Wednesday church prayer meeting (J333) with Rafael.; exposing youth musicians through my J333 duties gives me renewed purpose when I find my name on the worship leading roster. My next session is on 30 November and I’ll go over-the-top because I’ll be teaming up with Ps Ronald and the church will be praying for R-AGE.

Thursday: presented the 2012 R-AGE budget in front of the Head of Administration, accountant and finance manager of Grace AG on Thursday (my first time presenting with Excel spreadsheets); administration is really not my strength. Thank God for Ps Ronald who rescued me by answering on my behalf on a few occasions.

Friday AM: had a delectable dim-sum lunch at Royal China @ Raffles Hotel with Sheryl from Eagles, together with Daniel and Xavier too, and joined the Vantage Point magazine editorial team. (I just received my first email from them!)

Friday PM: sat through another staff meeting, and wondered what it would be like next year when I’m chairing it.

Friday EVE: spent time with some of my favouritest people on the planet at the GII Shepherds cell, and facilitated our Harmony of the Gospels lesson; Yixian said if we continued at this pace (in-depth but extremely slow), we’d take two years to finish the book.

Saturday AM: led the R-AGE 2012 manpower deployment discussion with Caleb, Keith, Kenneth and Rachael; yes, R-AGE leaders, we were deliberating over your fate next year! HAHAHA. I can’t wait to see youths lead youths!

Saturday PM: preached an apologetics cum evangelistic sermon (my first attempt) for the Same Same But Different evangelistic service at R-AGE@GII. I actually enjoyed my preparation more than my execution. It was intellectually stimulating to read in greater detail how atheism, pantheism and polytheism (among many other -isms) stood against theism.

Saturday EVE: chaired the Bare Bones 2012 coordination meeting with Nicole, Keith, David and Grace – who have proposed some spectacular ideas for the year-end conference. It’s gonna blow Grace AG away; everything is going to be significantly leveled-up! I’m delighted to be working with such exceptional youth leaders. Watching Man Utd defeat Norwich 2-0 capped my day.

Sunday: preached the same sermon at R-AGE@GI. I took the opportunity to clear up some personal administrative work while waiting to have lunch with Huiyi and Yixian. After a short nap to recharge my batteries, I resumed studying for my 60% News Studies paper (the next day), which I have burned midnight oil for in the past seven days. Little by little, I’ve conquered the paper.

Monday (today): praise God for a relatively easy exam paper! It’s different when you understand what you are reading and memorising instead of mugging just for the sake of. I managed to finished the paper with an hour to spare, so I brought forward my appointment with my hairstylist. It’s 4pm now (at the point of writing) and my head literally and metaphorically feels lighter.

I’m going to complete this blog post before I go ahead to prepare the slides for the R-AGE 2012 Ministry Action Plans (which I’m presenting to all pastoral staff tomorrow!) Then I’m going to head out to China Square to treat my family to a nice dinner of Crab Bee Hoon @ Don’s Pie Club. We’re celebrating my sister’s belated birthday (1 October), as well as my 8th 21st birthday in advance.

This week, I also managed to meet Caleb and Lucas for lunch and mentoring on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. I thoroughly enjoy investing time into young men who possess a desire to grow. Lucas’ huge appetite for growth reminds me of me, especially in the way that I pursue my mentors. I told him to never lose his hunger (okay, boy?).

After our  mentoring session over coffee in Starbucks@Tanglin Mall, he asked, “How do you do it, Bro Joey?” It being managing the many things on my plate. I couldn’t find an adequate way to answer him except to say, with all sincerity, that this capacity is a God-given gift; how could I take credit for the grace of God? I told him to ask God for it as well, because I think God will give it. (I didn’t tell him about the price of increased capacity though, but I’m sure he’ll figure that out himself.)

September has been an exceptional month in ministry. Besides starting R-AGE on the Spiritual Disciplines: Training in Holiness sermon series, I’ve also been planning for R-AGE in 2012 and meeting up with lots of youth leaders who might be serving alongside me next year. I am convinced that it’s my time with the Lord everyday that’s keeping me afloat.

I’ve also been reading non-stop throughout the week (and at an aggressive pace too). Besides the Bible during my daily devotions, sermon preparation materials and academic texts, I’ve also been feasting into Edmund Chan’s Cultivating Your Inner Life, Philippe Auclair’s Cantona: The Rebel Who Would Be King and Larry Crabb’s 66 Love Letters. I think I’m concurrently reading eight books – and I love the variety! This is effective for someone like me who gets bored easily.

On a more personal note, I’ve also been spending lots of time with Huiyi with our wedding preparation; we’ve reserved Sunday afternoons to visit bridal studios and photographers, as well as to plan for our big day. The highlight of these trips is to catch a sneak preview of my wife-to-be when she emerges from the changing room in glorious, gorgeous white; she’s gonna be the most stunning bride in all of Singapore next August – you have no idea how much we are looking forward to be married to each other!

I’d probably be packing my luggage midway when this post is published; Jetstar is going to take me to Perth at 5:45pm (Tuesday). I look forward to hanging out with Chin Seng, Ervina and Liang Zhi, but the highlight of my trip is to spend time with Ps Edmund and Ps Ann. I’ve been looking forward to this trip ever since I purchased the air tickets (super cheap!) a few months ago.

When I began my mentoring journey with Ps Edmund around this time last year, he emailed me his traveling itinerary and invited me to follow him on one of his countless trips; so here I am, excited and still starstruck, counting down the hours before I get to spend quality, uninterrupted and extended time with a God-given mentor, whom I’m sure will sharpen, challenge and inspire me!

October, I am ready for your onslaught!

Quenching my spiritual thirst with living water! (@ The Pinnacles, Perth, Australia)

V. the first idea – Perth.

I proposed to Huiyi on her 24th birthday (15 April 2011), but in the last quarter of 2010, after I confirmed with Chin Seng and Ervina (our mentors who migrated to Australia) that Huiyi and I would take a holiday in Perth in April 2011, I also informed Chin Seng that I might propose in Perth. He gave me his fullest support and graciously opened up his home to house us during our short stay there.

One of my closest friends, Liang Zhi, also resides in Perth and he was the one who got me started on photography. So I knew I could count on my three favourite Singaporeans in Perth to play the role of paparazzi for my engagement. I was seriously considering proposing in Perth and had sussed out possible proposal locations as well as Perth’s sunset and sunrise timings.

But I decided against it because there were just too many factors out of my control. Sure, an overseas proposal was special and romantic, but it was surely unrealistic too. Our hectic schedules didn’t allow us to plan our Perth itinerary in advance and not knowing where we were going to be on which day or what we were doing was risky. A lack of knowledge of the traffic conditions, a shortage of proper recording equipment and just a general scarcity of resources counted against me. And not being familiar with the proposal venue especially, proved to be my deciding deterrent.

Therefore, I canned the idea of proposing in Perth despite its allure but I used this vacation as a decoy to devastating effect.

In our conversations about Perth, I stealthily revealed how Liang Zhi was an accomplished photographer and how Chin Seng and Ervina owned a DSLR. As we scoured Lonely Planet for places to visit in Perth, I playfully but shrewdly hinted to her those places with great views of the sunset and sunrise. I was sure she got the hint. I reminded her to pack that denim blouse from Zara that I bought for her last year and assured her that the photographs would look amazing with that light blue fabric draped over her.

Well, let’s just say the proposal could have taken place in any of the following locations:

The clincher was this, “After we’re back from Perth, the first thing we should do is to start a joint bank account, okay?”

She nodded with excited anticipation. I smiled at her with a I-know-you’ll-love-the-proposal-I’m-gonna-blow-you-away-with-in-Perth look in my eyes. In my head, I knew I had fully convinced her of my grand proposal that was never going to take place in Perth.

And I did this a few times – never intentionally, always incidentally. But I was intentionally incidental, if you know what I mean.

Now, I can finally concentrate on planning the REAL proposal…

Next chapter: the second idea – Mapletree Business City.

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