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! (:
As we entered the function room, the air-conditioning suddenly hit us and we nearly stumbled into the glass door. Huiyi almost tripped as she asked if she was at her function room. And as soon as I gave her a cursory reply to distract her from our grand entrance…
“SURPRISE!!!” Everyone screamed at my cue to perfection!
See the video of her shocked reaction here.
And I kid you not. She literally shook and practically got the shock of her life when she opened her eyes. It was quite a sight!
She expected one present from one person, but she was greeted by nearly 40 people instead. I gathered both sides of the family, her closest girlfriends, my closest man-friends and our beloved cell group. What a gathering!
But seriously, how could I ever allow her birthday to pass without a birthday party? I saw absolute delight on her face as she celebrated with the some of the people she was most intimate with in her 24th year on Earth.
See how she was nearly presented her cake by the wrong guy here.
They were ready to see her through a new phase of her life.
“Okay, this is the final part – I have no more surprises after this.” I told her and her parents (who found out about this party just 15 minutes ago) as I finally began to unwind in my mind.
I have never been happier telling the completely honest truth.
One by one, our friends approached my mother, her parents and the both of us to congratulate us of our engagement. We were flooded with handshakes and hugs, and it was such an unbeatable feeling.
Throwing a party to celebrate this moment proved to be a wise choice after all. And I was pleased with my decision to go over-the-top. I gave a short speech after the birthday cake and song presentation to thank everyone for turning up as well as to give credit to our friends who worked so hard behind the scenes to make this proposal so successful.
It was joyous time of merry-making, congratulatory conversations and re-telling of the entire day’s worth of memories. Huiyi and I individually and together, felt the love in the room for the both of us. We felt so blessed to be so wonderfully supported.
(By the way, every ice-cream flavour was generally well-received except the ginger and sesame tubs. I was so tickled by the younger ones lamenting about my peculiar choice of flavours. But I digress…)
I am intentional in almost everything that I do. And one of the reasons why I wanted to throw a party for Huiyi was to show her parents how well-loved and supported we were.
I also wanted both sets of parents to interact in the midst of our friends, just as I wanted Maisie (and her boyfriend, Bryan) to get to know Xianyi (and his girlfriend, Eileen) a little better.
Having this precious group of people turn up was extremely meaningful and significant for us. More importantly, I wanted to show Huiyi’s family what a Christian community was all about.
And I think we managed to achieve it.
(While you await the final few entries to be published, click here to read Huiyi’s perspective of the party!)
Next chapter: the professional post-production pace.
These are people who I will never, ever get sick of for I will be spending the rest of my life, celebrating every birthday with them. (This, incidentally, is the first time we’ve ever cut cake in our Ghim Moh flat since we moved here in 2007! And a long while since we celebrated a birthday with a cake!) I love you all, more than anyone else in the world. You are my family and I am proud to be a part of this bloodline. To Mummy especially – without you, there’s no me; you are the reason I am able to celebrate the day of my birth. Thank you!
From left: Mummy, Huiyi, Mr Forever 21, Maisie, Bryan
Kindly ignore the extra candles on the cake. And yes, I was really, really happy.
My goodness!!! (((:
I’ve been so blessed by the scores (I gave up counting!) of well-wishes that have poured in through Facebook, email, SMS, phone calls and in person! Thank you for making me feel cherished on this day. I’m blessed to be surrounded by friends like you; I’m tremendously touched by all your kind gestures! Words are my love language and I cherish all the notes that I’ve received, especially the snail-mailed ones from the Shepherds! – thank you for all your love! – handmade poloroids with attached messages is a great way to be remember my special day! A special shout out to my amazing girlfriend, Huiyi, for coordinating this effort! I’ll post pictures soon! I praise the Lord for blessing me this way! I wouldn’t want it any other way!