I have decided to be as candid as I can because I want to capture the incredulity of the events that have unfolded in its rawest elements. This incident, to me, is a demonstration of God’s grace and divine timing, as well as His faithfulness in my life (especially ever since I stepped into full-time ministry). Some people may choose to express their joy in a different manner but this is how I will do it, so don’t judge me. Instead, rejoice with me for every word shared in this post comes from a heart of being humbly thankful for the favour that God has kindly bestowed upon me. I was actually reluctant to write about this because I was afraid of sounding pompous; however, this event has left such a mark in my memory that it would be travesty not to engrave it into my heart and mind. My sole intention is to give God the full glory for what has happened.
Ever since IDMC 2010 concluded, I’ve spent an abundance of time with the Lord and it’s been thoroughly enjoyable. It’s something I cannot describe with words; I’ve been waking up much earlier everyday just to have more time with God. If you want to get a glimpse of how I feel, just do what I do – spend time with the Lord. I have a newfound vigour and desire in wanting to cultivate a deeper journey with God and I absolutely revel in it! I remember telling the Lord how wonderful it would be if I could journey with someone who really knew how to grow deep with God… But I digress.
I had dinner with LK on Monday and (I’ll withhold the details of our conversation but) I encouraged him to email BL from CEFC. When I got home that night, I decided to give LK a head-start by googling for BL’s email. At the end of IDMC 2010, I had already wanted to drop EC an email and so when I searched for BL’s email, I also searched for the last correspondence I had with EC, which was dated back to 2009. He had agreed to meet me if his schedule allowed. Unfortunately, that meeting didn’t materialise.
Writing to EC is different from responding to an email; busy men do not have the luxury of time to read long-winded emails, so I needed to be efficient with my words – and it takes time and effort to condense your thoughts. Nonetheless, I clicked on the “Reply” button and left that window open for me to compose my response later on. I was also trying to clear my backlog and was replying to many other emails. The clock struck midnight and I decided to retire to bed so that I could get up at 6am to read the Word.
I depend on my Nokia alarm to get me out of bed. At 5:55am, without the typical snoozing, I sprang out of bed because I was hungry for the Word. As I switched off the alarm on the E71, I also saw the emails that arrived in my mailbox in the last six hours. I saw an email from “Edmund Chan” and I swear the croutons in my eyes leaped out of its socket. Needless to say, I powered up my laptop immediately and zeroed in on that one email. I was sure it was some server screw-up and that it was an old, resent email.
But no, it was really EC – the man himself. (Okay, I know Christians cannot idolise other people but HELLO, THIS IS THE REVERED REVEREND EDMUND CHAN OF IDMC AND CEFC – PLEASE, EXCEPTIONS APPLY. Aiya, whatever. I’m just being frank here with my emotions, wearing my heart on my sleeve…) His reply was simple; he wanted my contact number so that he could call me to arrange to meet me before he went on his travels again. I saw the reply before that and apparently I sent him an email I had intended to send to one of my leaders to confirm our lunch meeting time and venue! I was so embarrassed by this boo-boo!
I composed myself quickly and replied his 5:45am email at around 6:00am. Three minutes later, my Nokia E71 rang.
“Hello, may I speak to Joey please?”
>>> HI PASTOR EDMUND. (INSERT MUTED EXCLAMATION MARKS HERE!!!) WOW. I AM HONOURED.
I was starstruck. Not that it mattered at all, but I apologised for the previous email that didn’t make sense. He chuckled and told me he believed in divine appointments. I was still starstruck. Then he told me that he was free that morning and asked if I was free. HELLO WHAT DO YOU THINK!??? So I audaciously asked if he was free to meet for breakfast at 7am at the Bukit Batok Central McDonald’s. He agreed and we put down the phone. And I literally SKIPPED to the basin, SMILED as I brushed my teeth, SKIPPED back to my room, SMILED as I changed into my clothes, SKIPPED out of home and SMILED all the way to the main road to flag a taxi.
I texted HY immediately and asked her to call me. Enthusiastically, I told her what had transpired and she was convinced there and then, that she was dating a little boy. I also updated my Facebook status, not to show off, but to use it as an outlet to release the adrenaline pumping in my bloodstream!
Both of us were going to be late so when I arrived I waited outside the McDonald’s, and anticipated the arrival of my V-V-VIP. There was still no sign of EC at 7:20am, so I decided to inspect the inside of McDonald’s. From the outside, through the glass panels, I caught sight of a middle-aged man writing something in EC’s latest book, “Growing Deep in God”, and this following was what really went through my head, in sequence:
“Woah God, divine confirmation ah? You send someone who just bought his book to assure me that I’m definitely meeting Pastor Edmund ah?”
“Cannot be right – don’t tell me someone has been stalking him… I’m not prepared to share Pastor Edmund with anyone else this morning ok! I waited one full year for this meeting!”
“Okay, maybe Pastor Edmund arranged to meet me together with someone else… Aiya, ok no choice, beggars aren’t choosers, I’ll just have to learn to share… What to do…? It’s already a privil-”
“EH HELLO YOU STUPID BOY THIS MAN IS EDMUND CHAN!!!”
So, I composed myself again because I didn’t want to appear too eager for fear that I would scare him away. THIS WAS IT. I AM ABOUT TO MEET THE MAN! I walked up to the table, caught his attention, gestured that I am he whom he is meant to meet (HAHA SORRY COULDN’T RESIST WRITING LIKE THAT!), shook his hand and stuttered through this sentence: “Hi Pastor Edmund, I’m Joey. I was waiting outside.” Of course, as soon as I said it, I felt like a dimwit trying to justify why I was late. I could only offer a quick riposte of, “Sorry, I couldn’t recognise you because of your missing moustache!” (Yeah, he shaved it off.)
Finally, there I was, seated in front of quite possibly my greatest inspiration of a man of God. I didn’t know where or how to begin, so I asked him if I could buy him breakfast. He simply said, “No, let me buy you breakfast instead.” I nodded my head, still starstruck of course, and (for the life of me I do not understand why I) took out my wallet and went to queue up with him. He asked me what I wanted and told me to return to my seat. “Let me serve you.” I was almost helplessly humbled beyond humility and inspired beyond inspiration by his role-model example of servant-leadership.
He asked me to say grace and instantly I wanted to recite the grace I composed, but I was nowhere near being composed enough to utter it without making a fool of myself. So I prayed simply and sincerely – thanking God for this wonderful opportunity to sit at the feet (well, almost) of a man who is completely devoted to Him. I have never felt so happy in a fast food restaurant before, eating Sausage McGriddles; every mouthful tasted divine.
He broke the ice with some getting-to-know-you questions and there I was, happily over-answering every single question like it was the last question he’d ever ask. When ice-breakers were over, he asked me three extraordinarily simple questions, point-blank.
“How old are you?”
>>> I turn 27 next month.
“When did you accept Christ?”
>>> 15 years ago, when I was in primary six.
-a short pause-
“Would you like me to mentor you?”
-MY MOUTH OPENED BIGGER THAN A HUMPBACK WHALE’S-
>>> W-W-WOW! Y-Y-YES! It’d be my honour, privilege and absolute delight to be mentored by you!
Do me a favour here and fill in all the blanks for me, okay? EVERY EXTREME EMOTION OF ELATION AND DELIRIUM – YOU IMAGINE IT – BECAUSE I PROBABLY EXPERIENCED IT. Thank you, very much. (:
He proceeded to spell out for me what he expected of me as his mentoree and laid the ground rules for our mentoring relationship. Then he explained why he asked those questions, and everything suddenly made sense to me. But what was more astonishing was how God was involved in this truly divine appointment. He told me that God had spoken to him about me already. To keep the account brief (because I’m unsure how much I’m permitted to say), he told me that he shaved off his signature moustache because he was mourning for a mentoree who suddenly passed away over the weekend. However, God comforted him by telling him that He would send him a new spiritual son.
And that was when my email was accidentally sent to his mailbox.
The adventure didn’t stop there.
We ended our inaugural mentoring session at 9am and he asked me where I was headed to. I told him that I was heading to GII to lead devotion for a group of youths. He offered to send me there. As we approached the destination, I asked him to alight me outside GII because it was troublesome to turn in and out of the narrow basement car park. Nevertheless, he made a right turn into the compound and said,
“How could I pass up on the opportunity of watching you teach?”
I’d be a millionaire if I got a dollar for every time he stunned me that morning.
So I guided him to the car park, got out of the car, entered the lift with him, and walked to the classroom where the youths were waiting. I opened the door, exchanged morning greetings with everyone, held the door for EC to enter, then as calmly as I could, said, “This is Pastor Edmund”. The only person who knew who he was, was EL. EC was EL’s hero; you should have seen the look on her face when EC appeared after me. She immediately contributed to my a-dollar-for-every-stunning-moment-morning.
I have never taught with so much nerve before. When I asked the class to share their reflection on Proverbs 1:1-7 (the passage I’ve selected for the morning devotion), guess who also answered with a bag of nerves? No prizes. At the end of my 30-minute session, he sat me down by the vending machine and conducted one of the most enlightening debrief sessions I’ve ever attended. Throughout those three precious hours, he shifted a number of my paradigms and challenged an equal of my perspectives; I was tremendously sharpened that morning.
At 10:15am, I escorted him to his car and bid him farewell. That morning, I caught a glimpse of the remarkable leader and mentor that he is reputed to be. This is a morning that I will forever remember because it was a grand display of God’s faithfulness and goodness in my life.
If I didn’t send him an email a year ago;
If I allowed myself to be discouraged by those who sniggered at me when I boldly declared (by faith) that one day he’d mentor me;
If I gave up after failing to make an appointment;
If I weren’t discussing about BL with LK over dinner on Monday;
If I didn’t help LK search for BL’s email and remembered about that email from 2009;
If I didn’t click “Reply”;
If I wasn’t clearing my email backlog;
If I didn’t casually tell the Lord about my desire to find someone to teach me how to grow deeper in Him;
If I didn’t wake up to spend time with the Lord at 6am;
And this is just my part of the story… After this incident, I have become a firm believer of a God of divine appointments, a God who rewards beyond my imagination, and of a God who answers prayers – no matter how simple or casual they may be. My God knows my needs and He supplies them accordingly for His glory. I am also convinced that if you want really want something, and have the faith to receive it, you have to take action and go on to pursue it. After all, if you never ask, you never know. Oh God, I’m glad I asked!
I love You, Lord and I can’t wait to grow with and glean from your servant EC. I still cannot believe that You would send a man of his calibre to be my spiritual father and mentor. Truly, truly, it is my honour, privilege and absolute delight to call You my Lord, my God and my Father who knows my heart’s desire. I’m madly in love with You. Thank You for Your grace and favour that I definitely do not deserve. May I glorify You wholeheartedly through this newly established relationship.
I actually ought to be shot for only posting my reflections on Pierce now – especially when I encouraged all the campers to blog, facebook and tweet about Pierce – and I’m the last to be on the task which I set. Shame on me and thank you all for being merciful (I’m sure you’re more merciful than those who threw the water bombs with such glee!)
When I began the day, I knew that I’d write about Pierce tonight and I’m glad I met up with JH tonight; and as I shared with Him what God had done in Pierce, it helped me to consolidate my thoughts into bite-sized chunks. (I actually wrote a really long reflection on my mobile, but I think I’ll just can that for this instead.)
In no order of importance or significance, more like a what-comes-to-mind-first:
I. The difference between this awesome youth camp and the last awesome youth camp (Dream-makers) in R-AGE was the God-factor; what sets Pierce apart from the other events that I’ve been a part of over the last decade (and trust me, I’ve been part of a lot) is that God visited us in a progressively tangible manner with each passing hour. It is in the presence of God that our lives are changed and the presence of God was so strong in this camp that it was un-mistakable and un-manufacturable.
II. The youths rose to take ownership of the youth group. I smiled the widest during two particular moments; firstly, when I saw cell kids approaching cell mentors at the altar call to take turns to pray for them – forget about hierarchy or maturity, they just wanted to minister to their brothers and sisters! Next, when JN, TT, SY and LW approached me for a five-minute interval to teach the campers an R-AGE cheer which they had created themselves – that to me was “youths leading youths”. To these two items I’d say, “Outstanding and well done, R-AGE, keep it up!”
III. For me, there were two events that really galvanised the ministry. Even though we had already expected the youths to gang up on the committee during the war game, I felt that there was a spiritual significance behind that epic rallying of all the campers – I’d say this carelessly, but I think there’s something prophetic about that act of coming together for the same common purpose (of mercilessly destroying us). The other activity that, hopefully, would stick in the campers’ head for a long time to come would no doubt be the Midnight Workout and how they earned their camp t-shirt – it taught them about sticking together, no matter what, whatever it takes. I’m confident these two programmes brought our unity and togetherness to new heights. May it drive commitment to the youth group into their hearts.
IV. When you are surrounded by an outstanding team of Generals and Knights, you can’t help but to rejoice with them when you see them rise up to take the mantle of leadership and exhibit the qualities of excellence, passion, initiative, dedication and commitment. On paper, I already knew that my committee would make an amazing team and when execution took place, it confirmed their ability to deliver. I deliberately gave them autonomy and they reveled in it. Well done!
V. I had never in my wildest dreams expected Be a Barney to take off like that. When we printed about 400 cards, we thought it’d be just about right, and that we’d actually have a few leftovers for ourselves to bring home as keepsakes. I think it was just after dinner on the second day that EL reported the crisis to me, “Joey! We have no more Barney cards!” I smiled and thanked the Lord for how the campers really caught the Barnabas’ spirit of encouragement! They’re still at it now, I believe!
VI. Here’s some trivia for you – Plug & Play was actually an idea which I had wanted to implement in R-AGE way back in 2005 (I still have the meeting minutes!). It remained dormant for years until I identified the hidden potential in NC to “take over” it and take it forward. She took a good six months to say “Yes” to my invitation and it was my personal delight to see her execute the inaugural Plug & Play on the first evening. I was convinced there and then that there was no one except her who could pull it off in that manner and magnitude. She far exceeded my expectations and everything I had hoped Plug & Play would turn out to be; she basically took it and made it her own, and I’m sure she’d soar with it now.
VII. With every camp or retreat, and yes, I do mean every, there will always be hype at the end of it – there is no exception for Pierce. However, while it’s only been two weeks since Pierce concluded, I’ve already seen noticeable changes in R-AGE @ GII’s culture, both in and out of services and cells. It’s as if the youths finally realised that they could actually have so much fun, actually enjoy worshipping God, actually engage with sermons, actually pray for one another in such a manner and actually relate with one another with such kinship. Pierce somehow became a point of activation for the youths to actualise what they’ve always had. I remember telling JH that it’s not as if we went “higher from being already high”, but that we went from “zero into one”. Something just clicked and we never had that!
VIII. I am seriously considering publishing the evaluation forms for they will be a great source of encouragement for anyone who reads it. What encouraged me most was how a great number of youths indicated their interests to serve in R-AGE – as CMs, emcees, ushers and just about anything – simply because they want to contribute to the ministry and be a part of its growth!
IX. At the close of the first day, I had an opportunity to catch up with DL and she, very excitedly, shared her Dream-makers experience with me – she still kept Angel & Mortal notes from that camp in her Bible and she still remembered all the different activities and lessons, especially the one where we tortured the leaders. There and then, the Spirit reminded me of the potential of Pierce and that its impact and effect would continue to be felt a decade later. It has been my prayer and desire that this camp creates a mark in R-AGE @ GII’s journey to fulfilling God’s destiny. I believe and I confidently declare that, by faith, we will achieve our destiny in God!
X. Last but not least, Pierce seriously affirmed my full-time calling 1) with youths, 2) at Grace Assembly, 3) in R-AGE. I am immensely grateful to God for His faithfulness in my life and it gives me great courage in the coming days!
All right, I know the past few entries have been really long and grandfather-ish, but please bear with me for I already know what I am going to write about tomorrow and for the next couple of days and they sure look like they’ll be lengthy entries too!
I’ve got another confession to make and tonight this confession turns into a testimony of God’s faithfulness and goodness in my life. My spirit has truly been lifted up!
At the beginning of March, after the REAL 2010 graduation ceremony, I plunged into what I’d call, “Ministry Depression” for a couple of weeks. I remember telling RY, LK and HY how disappointed I was with my beloved REAL 2010 alumni. No, it wasn’t because they weren’t outstanding because they are, but very humanly speaking, I was deeply sad that after two months of investing my life into theirs, I received nothing in return except for handshakes, verbal appreciations and SMS encouragements.
Now, I’m being extremely honest here and I choose to spill my heart because there’s a an important lesson behind it. To be frank, I was expecting more from them; I know I’m not supposed to expect anything – after all, that’s what I’ve been teaching them the last two months – but I am being really human here; I remember telling myself, “You mean, that’s it? This is all I’m getting from the 16 of you after I poured my life into you? Wow. Thanks a lot”. Then I reclused into my own melancholic orbit and I convinced myself to quickly move on from this disappointment. I even wanted to harden my heart to them so that I will not allow myself to be hurt like that again. I’ve always openly declared that I’m a secret melancholy and this perpetuated it. My REAL champs may not have realised it because (I think) I’ve camouflaged it well, but I remember responding to them in a curt and cold manner that was very uncharacteristic of me. Some of my youths think that I’m superhuman because that’s the facade that I project but truth be told, I’m really just an ordinary human being with normal affection and affirmation needs as well.
There was little I could do really, except to talk to God and to let Him deal with me. I retreated into my own prayer closet and I came clean with God. I told Him exactly how I felt about how REAL ended and I asked Him to help me to overcome this disappointment by His grace. (This was before I spoke to my mentor, best friend and girlfriend.) I was rebelliously stubborn and I mentally rejected the scriptures that the Holy Spirit brought to my mind. I didn’t want to hear any “holy-moley-sunday-school-ten-year-series” consolation. And I shut my emotions away. But the more I dissected my heart before God, the more painful it was. A pruning process isn’t pleasant indeed. At the end of my emotional and spiritual tussle, the Holy Spirit led me to two scriptures, in this order:
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” – Psalm 51:17
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” – Colossians 3:23
I am convinced that when the Lord ministers to you, you will be comforted. God is faithful and before He rebuked me, He gently let me know that it was all right to think like that and to feel that way, through Psalm 51:17. I just wanted to bare my heart before the Lord and I found great assurance in His divine embrace.
Once the Lord met my emotional needs, He began to address my thinking by pointing me to Colossians 3:23. I repented before the Lord for my poor attitude and mentality that were in the wrong places and I asked Him to give me new lenses to appreciate this situation. I determined it in my heart to continue to love my young people, regardless of whether affirmation was present or not, simply because God loves them and has compelled me to do likewise; I am doing this because I love them – nothing more, nothing less; I wasn’t going to allow a lack of encouragement to stop me from fulfilling my calling to be a youth pastor. This was a test that I had to overcome and by God’s grace I knew that I would overcome it. It was important that I did not lean on my own strength.
Of course, I would never share this unless I have emerged out of the miry clay; it wasn’t wise to air my struggles to the world before the Lord had finished dealing with me. (I did reveal a glimpse of my emotions but only very briefly.) Once I had this issue resolved within me, I shared my journey with RY and asked him how he dealt with this through his years of ministry; I shared it with LK to be accountable to him; I shared it with HY because I am completely vulnerable with her. Yes, I did take a couple of weeks to recover but I was so glad to have trudged through it.
What can I say? God is faithful and sovereign. I believe He has intentionally held back the affirmation of men until I was secure in Him. A week after my lipoma operation, I received the REAL cushion from my champs. I remember telling RY how delighted I was to receive a gift from them and he smiled and rejoiced with me – I was already satisfied and if the gift had stopped there, I would have been a happy man. But my God is a God who dotes on me and goes the extra mile just to tell me that He loves me. I remember GM telling me that this was just “part one of the gifts – part two will blow your mind”. Of course that filled my heart with even more joy, but I didn’t need anything anymore because I already had God’s affirmation. I decided to be phlegmatic about this part two – if it comes, good, if it doesn’t, that’s all right.
Then it came today. And it blew my mind. So I shall let the pictures do the talking.
What can I say? I’m moved beyond words (and the 11 champs I had lunch with today saw my expression) – this incredibly-thick two-volume masterpiece was painstakingly assembled over the course of 10 weeks. The amount of work that has been put into this is immense – and I can only try to imagine its production process – conceptualising it, selecting pictures, printing photographs, pasting photographs systematically, comprehensively adding secular quotes, scriptures, their own reflections, my own quotable quotes which they remembered, cutting all these captions, meticulously sticking it into the album, decorating and designing it, investing money to make it happen…
WOW I REALLY DO NOT DESERVE THIS.
All I have done in the two months with them was just to do what God has always compelled me to do; what I’ve always enjoyed doing regardless of whether I was full-time, part-time or half-time; what Grace Assembly of God hired me to do; and what gave me the greatest satisfaction in life – believing in young people through my speech and actions. To an extent, I was really just doing my job.
AND THEN THEY GAVE ME THIS TRIBUTE.
I couldn’t help but to thank God for His unmerited favour in my life. I am stunned speechless. How can I not love them, love God, love my job and love other young people even more? I’ve said it many times and so I will say it again – there’s a reason why the REAL 2010 alumni will always remain in a special place in my heart. They reinforced it today. I can only look back and thank God for every minute spent with them.
I love you all. Thank you for blessing me. You have no idea how much this means to me. You gave me a reward the world could never give. I really love my job. Thank you, Lord, for placing me in such a privileged position. I love You so much.