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. :(
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.
I shall attempt to string some thoughts together as I await the cough medication to take effect and knock me out.
1. In the last 24 hours I have sneezed and blown out so much mucus that the skin of my nose is starting to peel off. My work rate has dipped significantly and that’s discouraging. I am officially a serial Kleenex waster. I need a tissue for my issue.
2. The end of the year is drawing close at a scary pace and with it comes the completion of a two-year succession plan. I fear it as much as I anticipate it. But I take comfort that inadequacy is the beginning of reliance. 1:300 is scary whichever way you look at it.
3. Marriage preparations have been on-the-ball so far and we’re making the first couple of major payments. It’s a test of our financial resources and a trust in His divine providence for our needs. Paying for renovations and the banquet will be the ultimate test.
4. Besides what I do for survival, I’m also working on a few side projects – things that challenge me creatively – that makes me thrive. I concur that I’m indeed a fire-starter, not a flame-fanner. May the Lord grant me the resilience to complete these things.
5. Communication is a two-way process. So what if one can articulate his thoughts but fail to allow others to express theirs? On that note, I’m hoping that I will be able to pick up a couple of tips from Huiyi, no less, on how to be an even better listener.
6. There’s a part of me that cannot wait to embark on my theological education next Fall but the thought of studying and working at the same time (for the next half a decade) is frankly, quite demoralising. The workload will be heavy. I need His future grace.
7. Comparison, contention, conceit and competition can be overcome by celebration and contemplation. One of life’s real test is to be genuinely happy for someone; it’s not as easy as it sounds – you’d be surprised at your inner conversations, if you can hear them.
8. Something that I’ve shared with my mentorees recently is something that I’ve picked up from my mentor: if we operate by our capital (knowledge) and capabilities (skills), we can only bring it as far as we can. Let’s learn to operate from capacity (potential), so that by faith and trust, God can bring it further than we can; sounds strange, but I’d be devastated if one day I’d have fulfilled all my potential – that’d mean that I can longer grow anymore. May my insatiable appetite for growth never diminish.
9. There are days where I just want to abscond to another dimension with Huiyi and live like hermits for the rest of our lives – where our world only contained two of us. I wonder what God thinks of this. Maybe He’s grinning at my musing.
10. I return to the pulpit this weekend with the discipline of silence and solitude; this is quite possibly the hardest sermon I’d preach in this series because I’m always restless and packed with back-to-back activities. Maybe being ill will help me to learn this art.
I like to write. And when I make time to, I feel so much more organised, inspired and energised. I hope I will be able to return to the 2010 Q1 and Q2 days where I was writing almost one post everyday. For now, this will suffice. Writing is cathartic, baby.
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!
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! (: