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! (:
I regret not doing something crazy but radical during my evening run just now.
The final part of my jogging route took me to Holland Grove View, just off Mount Sinai Road. I sneaked glances into those huge house as I trod down a small road flanked by luxury cars. (I digress but isn’t it interestingly dichotomous that Mount Sinai Road and Ghim Moh Road share the same tar? What a world of affluential difference!) It was 7:30pm – dinner time. One in four households I ran past were sharing a meal over the dining table. And at every single gathering, the Holy Spirit pointed my attention to the father figure.
Without fail, I immediately spotted the head of the home. And by the time I hit the third household having dinner, I remember being prompted by the Spirit to go to the fence of this huge white bungalow, for it was just outside the dining room. I felt moved in my spirit to deliver the following words of encouragement to the elderly man clad in a white tee:
“Hey you! Are you their father? You don’t have to know who I am but I want you to know that what you’re doing – it’s great. Keep having meals with your family as often as you can, please. You’re doing an amazing job as a father. Don’t underestimate the importance of simply eating together!”
But alas, I didn’t. And within two paces, my window of opportunity vanished. I didn’t run by another house again with the dining room within shouting distance from the road. Then I started to reflect – on how I wanted my family to look like a decade from now. Due to external upbringing and an internal resolve, I was quietly confident that I would be a good husband and I was determined to be a father but I didn’t want to take anything for granted. Being a good 一家之主 requires planning, effort and sacrifice. I don’t need to be a father to know this.
Immediately I started to recall all the good father figures that God has graciously placed in my life to inspire me, and set an example on how a household should be led and how children should be brought up. I began to thank God for great men like Pastor Ronald Yow, Uncle Kheng Leong and Peter Lim, just to name the first few off the top of my head. With these wonderful examples, amongst many others, I nearly slipped into an unnecessary melancholy comparison due to my lack of a fatherly figure, but I decided to celebrate God’s faithfulness in these families instead.
My message tonight is simple.
If you are a father reading this, and have been consistently investing into your family – keep going! You’re doing a great job! And I am certain that your rewards will come when you still have communion with your grown-up children when you’re old and gray.
If you are a father who is distant, or have a desire to want to reconnect with your family – my brother, this is your time to redeem what was lost. Your career must never, ever be at the expense of your children and your wealth-accumulation must never be at the expense of your wife.
Fathers – never underestimate your role in your children’s lives!
If you are a son or daughter reading this – why don’t you just take a minute to walk to your father, hug him, and tell him that you love him and appreciate all that he is doing and has done for the family? I’m sure he’ll be shocked and may even think you’re nuts, but deep down inside, I’m also sure that it will swell his heart swell with warmth and pride. Go now!
And if you, like me, are disconnected from your father – why don’t you take this time to pray for him and thank God for the many good fathers that are around you?
Well, since we’re on the subject of encouraging dads to be dads for life, why don’t we use Facebook or our mobile phones to encourage a father right now? We don’t have to wait for Father’s Day since fathers play their roles as fathers, not just once a year, but everyday.