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my final birthday as a bachelor.

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! (:

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your greatest trump card is not ability, but availability.

Now, let’s return to real life for just one more entry.

I’d like to capture how I’ve been blessed over the past two days at the Eagles Leadership Conference 2011 (ELC), which took place at the Suntec City Convention Hall. It was my first ELC. It started when I brought Peter Chao out for his (very) belated birthday meal last month. I asked him if he needed help at ELC and he hooked me up to the various departments. I was ready for most assignments, so long as I could handle it.

I just wanted to be available to serve Eagles, for they have been exceptional with me. I guess it’s my way of returning their kindness and generosity with me. (And it turns out that my intention to bless them brought about a blessing too – I attended the conference free-of-charge as a volunteer.)

At first, they asked if I could serve as a videographer – I was frank with them and admitted my machinery incompetencies. I think I am more effective as an emcee, usher or with front desk duties. In the end, they assigned me to be a session coordinator (for Workshop 8)… And a narrator (i.e. voice-over) for the ELC 2013 promotion video. Or at least, that was what I thought I was going to do.

But when I came down to meet the producer on Wednesday, I found out that I wasn’t just the narrator… I got more than what I bargained for… I discovered that I would be filmed. Yes, f-i-l-m-i-n-g. Not voice-recording. It was a tremendous privilege, but I was a little stunned at their faith in me. So, I took up the challenge, returned home to memorise the script, rehearsed in front of a mirror, and recorded myself with my iPad 2.

The actual filming took place on Friday at the Grand Ballroom during lunch hour. It went more smoothly than I had anticipated and I only had a couple of bad takes. The producer was pleased with what he saw at playback and we called it a day.

At 9:20am, I received an SMS from Peter Chao. He asked if I was interested to join him at the Fuller Seminary alumni meeting at 10am. Of course I turned up… It was refreshing to meet a couple of the current students, as well as a few prospective students. Let’s just say… I can’t wait to graduate from RMIT. And what happens after that, I’ll let the Lord lead me… (:

Anyway, before the filming, I met Ps Edmund Chan outside the ballroom and told him that I would attend his afternoon workshop, which was titled, “Mentoring the Whole Person”. I told him that I was afraid I couldn’t get seats. To this he said, “Just tell the organisers that you have my personal invitation.”

I smiled at the generous favour I received from him.

Coincidentally, I was filming in the ballroom that he was going to be speaking at. So at the end of the filming, I saw him stroll in to prepare himself for the session. I asked him if I could serve him in any way possible. He said he was fine and proceeded with his own setup. It was already 1:40pm and I haven’t had lunch so I packed my belongings and got ready to leave the hall for a quick meal.

Just before I left, he stopped me.

“Joey, would you still like to help me?”

I was ready to skip lunch to perhaps help him with his slides, run an errand for him or just be his PowerPoint clicker.

“Later, I would like you to spend about five minutes to talk about how we met, and share a couple of your perspectives on mentoring. Edward is here too so I thought it would be a nice polarity to have my oldest and youngest mentoree share something with everyone.”

My jaw dropped as I stared at Ps Edmund.

I was in the company of giants. Ps Edmund is the Reverend Edmund Chan. And Edward is the Datuk Edward Ong (do yourself a favour and google him). Joey Asher Tan is the smallest guy on the totem pole.

“You want me to what?” I tried to communicate that to him with my eyes. He smiled at me.

I had the most stressful lunch, ever, in my entire life. I had absolutely no idea what I was going to say later.

Thank God I blogged about our divine appointment – so that really helped to jog my memory. And by God’s grace, within that 15 minutes, I somehow came up with 4 R’s of mentoring (which I chose not to share in the end because I felt it wasn’t necessary).

As Datuk Edward was bringing his sharing to an end, my heart was beating faster and faster to no end! I had never been so nervous before! Ps Edmund introduced me (!) and my hands began to tremble uncontrollably after I took the microphone. I uncharacteristically stammered and stuttered at some parts, and none of the eloquence in my arsenal showed itself. It was a humbling, humbling, humbling experience, but I was happy, happy, happy.

What an honour. What a privilege. What a moment!

It’s never about ability, isn’t it? It’s always about availability. All I wanted to do, was to be available to serve Eagles. And God took care of the rest.

You want me to what?

“I want you to be available.” — God

one day in the 40 days of community.

Post-script: My apologies to Ps Kieran Chew for publishing this entry only now… It was in my drafts since 3rd June, but the madness of June overwhelmed me, and this article got forgotten… Well, Ps Kieran, you’re right, “It’s no longer news”, but hey, it’s still newsworthy, at least on my blog it is. HAHA! Hope this works for you! (:

Credits to Matthew Tan for his good work in putting this video together.

About a two month[s] ago, the full-time staff at Grace AG embarked on its Home Improvement Project (HIP) as part of its internal 40 Days of Community (40DOC). This campaign is an initiative launched by (the Deputy Senior Pastor) Ps Calvin Lee, and is set to be launched church-wide in July-August in a strategic effort to bring the church together. It is adapted from Rick Warren’s programme (of the same title) that has been tried and tested with positive results, first in Saddleback Church, then in many other churches worldwide.

I’m not sure if I was alone in feeling this way, but honestly, I had to rummage my heart for enthusiasm for this project because it certainly didn’t come naturally from the onset. It was an acquired taste of sorts – the more you did it, the more you enjoyed it. I enjoyed Ps Cuixian’s leadership of my group as well as getting to know some of my colleagues (like Andrew Tai and Edmund Quek, who were great fun to be with) a little better.

My 40DOC began with the devotional series in the accompanying book, “Better Together”, which I hope most of you will purchase. If something could fire me up, it would definitely be the Word and its practicable outcomes. Coming together weekly to watch Rick Warren (who incidentally looks like a cross between a tour guide and a taxi driver – no offence – he has such a down-to-earth look about him!) on DVD was also refreshing – he has an uncanny ability to simplify biblical themes into instantly applicable aphorisms. Speakers (like Edmund Chan, Peter Chao and Benny Ho) with that ability always get my attention.

HIP was definitely the highlight of 40DOC. It required us to literally move out of our comfort zones, put our money where our mouths are and to get down and dirty with our hands and feet. (Clichés, I know, but definitely used in the right context.) I shall offer some honest observations of my day spent with over 10 other full-time staff; I don’t enjoy giving Sunday School answers anyway. Allow me to share these thoughts through 5 C’s.

Complaints

No matter how old you are, what species of gender you belong to, and regardless of whether you’re a church staff (even if you are a pastor), you will still have a tendency to complain. It’s a sickening and disgusting part of our wretched human nature and I caught myself at it. Of course, I tried to mask it under the cloak of humour but I could never hide it from my inner man if I was frank with myself. I was rather put off by some the apparently “harmless” and “honest” negative remarks that floated around the room. Sometimes, it is good not to say anything if you indeed have nothing good to say.

This alone I think, humbles the greatest of saints – even if they were ordained by a board of holy people! Our fallen state truly requires the infallible grace of God. Help us shine for You, Lord, simply by not complaining!

Contribution

From the way I see it, there are three ways a person could contribute in HIP – either by offering your time, energy or resources. I took a backseat (as there were enough leaders) for this project and I knew I had to leave a couple of hours earlier than the rest, so I wanted to make up for it by chipping in with a little more money. I gave an amount as the Lord put upon my heart to – this was my act of obedience. However, to my surprise, I received (almost) the entire sum back as we did not need to spend as much as we had budgeted for the house. So I decided to channel that sum into the weekend’s offering bags.

The bottom-line of what I want to say is that, due the complexity of planning and the complicated layers of coordination, this HIP might just be the first and last one for you and I; and if that’s the case, what’s there to lose by going all out?

Conditioning

If anyone told you that painting a house was easy – tell him to go paint another one. I regretted not taking before-and-after photographs of the house we helped to transform. Before we could give it a face-lift, we had to give it a face-off. Peeling and scraping the ancient paint off both the walls and the ceiling were a mammoth task in itself. Try arching your neck upwards for an entire morning in an unventilated and weird-smelling room and having every fifth of ten scrapes feel like a fork scratching a blackboard… Can you feel and imagine the icky sensation in your mind’s eye? And speaking of eye, you also had to battle with fragments of dried paint and cement flakes with each blink.

I felt like I burnt more calories than a regular workout and received a good toning on especially my arms, but it was the conditioning of my heart and mind that I truly appreciated from this experience.

Currency

If ever there was a cry that screams from within my heart as a shepherd of people (i.e. a pastor), it would be how I want to aggressively avoid being irrelevant to society. (No disrespect to anyone here, but) I felt sad to have heard some conversations that transpired in the one-room flat, between some of my colleagues and the home-owner we were helping. It was dismal to see how they were unable to converse on the same frequency because one has obviously lost touch with the harsher dimensions of society. Forgive me, for I know this is a quick, harsh and judgmental assessment (and I apologise for it if it stumbles you) but a part of me fiercely rejects an innate incapability to relate with the felt needs of the man-on-the-street. It would almost be ironic for a pastor to arrive at that state.

In the same breath, I will say that this applies to anyone who calls himself a Christian. How relevant are you to society? Are you so far-removed that you can no longer relate to those less-fortunate? HIP is a good way to get reconnected.

Collaboration

The saying goes, “Tough times make tough men” and as a staff team, we have not and do not go through anything tough as a collective; this HIP was enforced (as a professional obligation) and emblematic at best (we had to lead by example before we could encourage our sheep to do it), hence it already prepared and toughened us up psychologically before execution. Nonetheless, the beautiful thing about going through something uncomfortable, unconventional and uncommon like that was that it forced us to forge teamwork. And I reckon this category of teamwork (honed through hardship) is a little more cohesive than organising a church event or attending a staff retreat together.

I am confident that embarking on HIP together, be it as a cell group or a real family unit, will only serve to strengthen the existing bonds that are holding the body of believers together. This may just take your cell and your family to the next level.

***

It is quite unlike me to blog about something that I do not believe in, or write something here out of professional obligations. And so, I shall not. But hey, I have already written nearly 1,500 words on this upcoming 40DOC – perhaps this is a telling indication of my optimism towards this campaign.

I believe in it not because of its proven track record, programme or content – that’s just hype. No, I believe in it because I serve a big God who desires to unite His church. Like I mentioned it over the pulpit two weeks ago, I firmly believe that 40DOC isn’t just going to be another campaign, but THE defining campaign for Grace AG.

I bought home three things from HIP – a photo frame, a certificate and a recap sheet – but I took home so much more, if you know what I mean. I urge you to allow 40DOC to become a part of you. After all, what do you have to lose?

enjoying a checkpoint before ending up at a checkmate.

By the time this post is published, I would have preached a total of 10 sermons since “Always And Forever” at Revival Service. I had the privilege to speak at two youth camps this month and I am penning this entry before my final session tonight. Frankly speaking, I am exhausted – physically and mentally especially – but I am reinvigorated spiritually, because of the amount that I had learnt through my preparation for these messages.

The weekend before Grace Retreat, I accomplished mission (almost) impossible and preached four freshly written sermons over three days. And in the past 30 hours, I delivered three messages. It was a grueling process (mainly due to the lack of rest and the constant demand to develop my content) and it forced me to change the way I normally delivered my content – by preaching without a full manuscript – and I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the change.

My dependence on the Holy Spirit to guide and keep me on track had never been higher and the sense of satisfaction had never been deeper. I felt a lot more natural when I’m not bounded by a manuscript; it gave me freedom, spontaneity of speech and truly allowed the Spirit to determine the words I uttered. This was a new milestone in my journey as a preacher and I thank the Lord for giving me the grace to grow into it. (There’s still a long way to go though…)

I preached “Leadership = Lead Your Sheep”, “Will I Catch A Grenade For Ya?” and “My Neighbour Is A Spy!” (twice) that weekend and I’d like to think I have made progress as a preacher. Shireen Lai once told me (perhaps prophetically), “Get used to this – it’s the life of an itinerant speaker”. I was a little embarrassed by that statement because I (still) feel severely inadequate as a preacher – I know I am a decent communicator, but I still lack (and long for) the connection of Ps Ronald, the relevance of Ps Benny and the profoundness of Ps Edmund; I strive (and sometimes struggle) towards these things as I attempt to grow into this role without any theological education (yet). The most common advice I’m given however, is to find my own style of preaching – something I’m still trying to figure out. It’s a steep learning curve so I thank God for His generous grace.

On a side note, what I also enjoyed about speaking at other youth groups, besides expanding my communication repertoire and gaining exposure and experience, is connecting with youths outside R-AGE. I try to add these new friends on FaceBook as soon as I can so that I am able to remember their names and my brief interaction with them. And at the end of each session, I will share the same sentiments as my Shepherds (who accompanied me to minister at these youth camps) – we are grateful to be a part of R-AGE that is now a part of us.

I also sense my heart for the Church (the body of Christ) being enlarged as I get a feel of the needs in other youth ministries – that is something that is definitely caught, not taught. However, I am just at the beginning of what (I hope) is a long and rewarding pilgrimage of preaching the Word… There’s so much more that I have and need to learn before I can call myself a proper preacher of God’s Word; this realisation keeps me humble in light of the applause that I receive from people; I must always remember to bring both criticism and compliments before the Lord, and to ask Him to help me make sense of it.

Well, it’s a relief for me to know that the next time I preach (in R-AGE, besides a session at another youth group in early July) is at the end of August so I’m going to make full use of this preaching hiatus to sink my roots even deeper into the Word of God. It’s also going to be a time for me to catch up on the Leading and Mentoring pillars of my daily ministry. And up(a)grading my Interceding life is part of what I hope to achieve in the coming months.

In the meantime, I’d like to direct your attention to Huiyi’s insights from “Will I Catch A Grenade For Ya?” Oh, and if I haven’t made it clear enough… I absolutely love preaching the Word of God – what an immense privilege to share His Word with young people! (: For now, I shall take Peter Chao’s advice to “Focus on the preacher [I] will become and not on the preaching [I] will deliver”. What a timely reminder for me to keep growing and developing!

And as always, I covet your prayers. (:

ten disjointed thoughts and an attempt to resume writing.

1. Numbness is a clear symptom of pre-burnout; it’s a terrible feeling (paradoxically speaking) not being able to feel. All I asked God for today was to help me love Him with my heart. I have little problems loving Him with my mind, soul and strength or even loving others. But to love God with my emotions seemed like the hardest thing to do. Nonetheless, the key word here, is “pre” and the response to numbness is gratitude of foresight; the insight of foresight.

2. Ever since planning for Rhema 2010 began, everything seemed like a task to and for me. I loathe it when my (rare) desire to dwell in melancholy is overpowered by my choleric temperament to solve problems, disengage and move on. I may not show it, but I hate being unemotional. I hate it, really. It was never like that before when I was younger – what’s happening to me? I have become intolerant to affection and indifferent to sentiment. I must never become irrelevant to the people I love and disinterested in the world that I live in.

3. I experienced a paradigm shift on Monday. I repented before God for being transactional in the way that I related to Him, my mentors and mentorees. It is my deep desire that my relationships with people evolve into transformational journeys, and not just transactional events. I got so annoyed at myself for getting ahead of myself. I must learn to differentiate between form and substance. I must not allow intentionality descend into the abyss of transactions. There’s so much more – I don’t want to settle for anything lesser (with presumptuousness)!

4. This week, I finally caught a glimpse of why Peter Chao and Edmund Chan prizes mentoring relationships above ministry leadership. After spending the evening with DYLM, I understood it; while leading R-AGE to the next level is what I will always aspire to do, being a friend and mentor to my beloved shepherds and mentorees is what I shall desire to be for all my days. And I believe the turning point was this week – when investing into their lives becomes the topmost ministry priority for me; let’s see how God helps me to translate that into action.

5. I’ve completely messed up what “intentional” means. And I’ve shortchanged myself with my mentors and shortchanged my mentorees when they’re with me. Oh Lord, help me to undo what I’ve foolishly done! Humble and help me to learn from this. Intentional is when I take a step back to allow God to use me to minister to people. Intentional is when I seize opportunities. I know I’m speaking in code and only I will decrypt it. Ironically, agenda is the enemy of intentionality. Yes, I have identified my “Peter, James and John”; the journey with them begins now…

6. I could have a hundred mentors and a thousand mentorees, but nobody could ever take the place of each one of them in my heart. It’s not about calendar or content… No one could replace no one. One of the worst feelings in mentoring (or life in general), even though it’s theoretically unhealthy, is the feeling of abandonment. I understand how you felt now because I felt it myself… Now it’s up to me to take the next step towards reconciliation – I know it is about to unfold. Oh God, give me wisdom to repair relationships. People aren’t statistics and mentors aren’t vending machines; I am humbled.

7. I intentionally (URGH – the use of that word fills me with disgust!) rescheduled all my appointments next week because I’m in desperate need of an extended break. Regardless of how invincible I’ve always perceived myself to be, still I couldn’t shake off the emptiness that accompanied the disengagement from an intensive two-month discipleship programme. I gave so much away my tank is almost empty. It happened last year and again it happened this year. I am a fool to think I could have overcome it. (Now I understand why I was compelled to read Wayne Cordeiro’s “Leading On Empty”.) It’s time to recharge.

8. Leading a youth ministry from 80 to 120 people within a year makes any youth pastor swell with pride… But nothing – and I mean it, nothing! – is more satisfying and encouraging than watching my successors take the lead to bless me… This afternoon, they instructed me to sit back, relax and do absolutely nothing tonight – and I did just that. I cannot thank God enough for their deed and gesture. Keith and Yixian, you both are God’s precious gifts to me and I will remember that I am leading a group of youths who love me deeply and want me just as I am. You have honoured me tonight – thank you.

9. I thank God for the parental green light to (at last!) take our relationship to the next level in 2012. I may not have the emotional capacity to respond but cognitively, it’s one of the greatest news I’ve received in a while. What a privilege – thank you for daring to entrust your daughter to me; she is most special because one has ever made me want to love her more than I love myself. You have no idea how much we are looking forward to our union. God has answered our year-long prayer; He is faithful indeed!

10. I really hope to commence, complete and continue my theological education at Fuller Seminary and I am truly convinced that it will come to pass one day…

happy first year anniversary.

Tonight marks the completion of my first year as a full-time minister in R-AGE and Grace AG. Three questions have dominated my heart in the last 24 hours.

  1. How have I contributed?
  2. What legacy have I left behind?
  3. Who have I become?

I am still in deep thought over these three questions. Actually, I have surprised myself by not asking, “What have I accomplished?”. I’d like to believe that it’s a sign of growth and maturity. I remember again tonight, that the Great Commission is not an assignment from God but an alignment to God.

Many things have also come to pass in the last 365 days. I’ve decided to exercise introspection tonight to perhaps, attempt to recall three ministry highlights.

  1. Directing REAL 2010 and investing into my champions
  2. Leading R-AGE @ GII and mentoring my shepherds
  3. The privilege of the pulpit and growing in my preaching

There were many other moments which were hard to leave out – like the unforgettable PIERCE – but my choices were made based on what I wouldn’t and couldn’t have been able to do if I didn’t come into full-time ministry. It all began with a simple act of obedience – which is the highest expression of stewardship – to answer the calling that had brewed in my heart since I was a teenager.

God has been marvelously good and gracious to me. And so I would also like to remember His many blessings in the past year. The three events have affected and reminded most me of His everlasting faithfulness in my life.

  1. Purchase of Dawson, for it catalysed my breakthrough with HY’s parents
  2. Providence of mentors – from Peter Chao to Benny Ho to Edmund Chan
  3. Potential of joeyasher.com, for through this blog, I’ve gained access into people’s lives

Looking back at the year that has passed also allows me to look forward to the year that is to come. 2011 looks next to be one of the most eventful years of my life. Amongst many new events that will be added over time, here are three that I look forward to the most. May God will these to happen in His time and way.

  1. Marrying and sharing my life with HY
  2. Embarking on various mentoring journeys
  3. Growing the youth ministry and as a youth minister

But above all else, I desire most to:

  1. Love God more
  2. Love God’s Word more
  3. Love God’s people more

So tonight, I do not celebrate a year of my forgettable achievements but a year of His unforgettable grace. And with that confidence at the forefront of my mind, I can’t help but to await the next 365 days as a youth minister in R-AGE with a great sense of hope, anticipation and excitement. I put my faith in a big God

Not my will, but Yours be done, O Lord. Thank You for Your favour, grace, mercy and loving-kindness. I love You Jesus, deep down in my heart.

you plant seeds, not pluck fruits.

Over the last 15 years as a young person, I’ve learnt many things, both as a youth and as a youth leader. One of the things that PC taught me is that with people, you need to be patient, for one day they will surprise you with their goodness. I think this is particularly relevant for anyone dealing with a teenager, and especially for parents whose children are in their (painful and excruciating) juvenile years.

Mothers and fathers need to bear in mind that they may see very little (and often disheartening) results that may not be worth celebrating over especially in the younger years of their kids’ teenagehood. This also applies to all youth leaders. I encourage you to manage your expectations when working with adolescent (and often rebellious) youths. They will always think that they are right and they will always want to prove you wrong. This sounds cruel, but really, let them be, let them fall and let them learn. Don’t expect them to make good decisions at 14 years old and change the world at 16 years old when you only started to mature and wise up at 17 years old. I reiterate this to almost every young person under my leadership – that one of things I expect from them (pardon the lack of a better way to phrase it), is to screw up. And this immediately sets them at ease.

As a parent, mentor or youth leader, you must always remember that being with young people is often a thankless and behind-the-scenes job. Of course, there will be pockets of them who know how to appreciate you. Oh, I am so grateful for these because their appreciation of your investment in them is often so genuine and heartfelt. But I do not live or thrive on these boosts. Their encouragement is a bonus, not a necessity; I’d love to receive it, but I do not need it to do what I am called to do. A mature youth leader needs to sort this out in his head and heart. For if a leader is motivated by recognition and appreciation, he is sure to be left disappointed and disillusioned at some point.

To be frank, sometimes it can be tough (and tiring) working with youths, especially those who do not listen; I was one of them, so I know. You put in the hard work, sweat and toil with them, but when they succeed, they get all the credit and you simply get forgotten. When they are in trouble, you offer advice and genuinely want to help them, but when they mess it up, you sometimes get the blame and even need to pick them up. So today, I encourage you to look further and beyond all these seemingly disparaging signs.

Always remember that you are here to plant seeds, and most times you will not be the one to reap what you have sown – not immediately at least. JH was amongst the first to plant seeds in my life, and as I develop fruits, I can honestly tell you that he did not benefit from it directly – but it doesn’t stop him from planting it anyway. So I’m here to remind us all, that whenever we work with young people, that it is our job is to plant seeds, not pluck fruits. Let’s be committed to do our jobs well and to trust God to nurture and eventually complete what we have started. After all, we do the planting, He does the growing.

For those who are much younger and not in a leadership position yet, I’d urge you to encourage, appreciate and honour those who have planted and are still planting seeds in your life. Let them know, in whatever way you know how to, that you are thankful for their investment of time, emotions and resources in you. You’ll make their day.

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Do remember that the bible-giveaway competition is still ongoing. Please make my job as the jury a little harder! Come on!? :P At the same time, I’d encourage you to consider subscribing to my blog (fill in your email at the top right of the page) so that you’d receive and read my daily posts in the convenience of your mailbox at the time of publication. Also, just want to mention that the readership response for the last entry on my journey into full-time ministry was extremely encouraging – I hope you were blessed by my sharing. Blogging daily has become a think-time that I look forward to. (:
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