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the remnants of my surprise Shanghai visit two years ago.

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:

  1. It’s not worth risking friendship over football rivalry
  2. Not everyone shares the same harmless ribbing relationship that Xianyi and Daniel Heng and I share so don’t ever assume familiarity.
  3. 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.

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everybody needs a holiday.

I took this picture when I was in Hallim Park, Jeju, South Korea, together with BB, ST and HY, and I think it looks gorgeous! Beautiful place to go on a vacation. That holiday last July remains one of my all-time favourites. I’m really looking forward to a holiday with the DYLM family after Pierce. (: (All right, that’s all for tonight because I really need to work on my sermon for the GII Pre-Teens services tomorrow morning!)

knowledge should lead to action.

The older I get, the more I see value in books as gifts. I’m not an avid reader – still am not – but I have made deliberate efforts to enhance my mind. It is in recent years that I delight most in receiving books as well as to spend time in a book store reading or just choosing a book. On a less serious note, this whole idea of buying a book is similar to buying a DVD in Shanghai; it’s therapeutic because you enjoy the idea of watching/reading it, but you may not actually get down to doing it.

Many people boast of an impressive arsenal of books, magazines and films but their purchases are still sitting on the shelves waiting to be devoured. We enjoy shopping for books and films because it makes us think that we actually have the time to pursue it. It’s like the photography outings I’ve convinced myself of embarking on but my archives reflect otherwise. It’s like the massively-innovative home improvement ideas that I’ve yet to implement for my room. My thoughts are incoherent but these things come to my mind when I purchased Leonard Ravenhill’s Why Revival Tarries at SKS today, together with RY and BB.

Without a shadow of a doubt I will complete reading this classic. Actually I’ve read quite a lot this year, well, at least relatively, and I am pleased with my knowledge-acquiring efforts. But I sense it’s just not enough. The plethora of books at SKS remind me that there is no end to acquiring knowledge. Knowledge could either be the most powerful tool or the whitest elephant. Read books represent knowledge. Books were written to be read. No one writes a book for the purpose of not wanting anyone to read it. Okay, I don’t know why this entry has skewed itself into a read-more-books-to-save-your-mind plea.

I reckon that something scarier than untapped potential (in unread books) is unused knowledge (in read books). I pray that I will never get so puffed up in knowledge and argument that it remains only in my head, untransferred to the way I live. Imagine if we actually lived out the instructions of just one book; it may actually change our lives. Imagine the impact of reading one book a month and taking the actions prescribed in it. We would be supremely successful, effective and influential.

But the even scarier thing is how we approach the Word and how we approach sermons thinking that it’s all “old” and “familiar” stuff respectively. We should always be filled with wonder and freshness as we get to know God more, in this instance, through the knowledge available in books. This should enable and empower us to read books, regardless of whether they are Christian, secular, fiction or non-fiction, for the glory of God. May I learn to approach acquiring knowledge with the attitude of knowing God more. After all, there is nothing new (to God) under the sun.

the jigsaw must fit.

I’m delighted to have BB over the weekend. He’s a fantastic kid with a huge heart for young people and a teachability that easily endears himself to people. BB is someone whom I’ve had the privilege of mentoring in Shanghai. And while our tenure together is short, it was intensified and affirmed through Korea. Let’s just put it this way, if I was Jesus then BB is John, if you know what I mean.

I look forward to the next few days with BB as it would give us time to bond and reconnect. Like a good number of my mentees, he’s a listener, so by just being who he is, he has blessed me.

I believe that opposites attract – that’s the reason why I’m attracted to HY and why she’s attracted to me. And this tension of opposites have allowed us to grow as individuals and also to grow closer as a couple. I believe that there’s a special bond between Sanguines and Phlegmatics and/or Melancholics.

The dynamics of a personality-complementing relationship are mutually-beneficial. A good number of my mentees are introverts and I honestly think they are attracted to an extrovert like me because of my animated (and often dramatic) nature. To an extent, I have a tendency to verbalise what’s in their minds and my outspokenness validates what’s in their hearts – this often creates a healthy tension, I think.

I’ve always believed that you must be true to who you are and not try to be someone else. If you try to be someone else, who’s going to be you? That’s the beauty of the jigsaw of life. Like our fingerprints, we fit into God’s millimetre-perfect masterpiece. Let’s play our part in retaining the integrity of the fit by being who God has designed us to be.

I really look forward to a day of discovering God and BB through exploration of nature and mutual ministry. It’s gonna be a lovely weekend. Also can’t wait to hear BB share his testimony at R-AGE service.

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