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perth day 4: mentoring on the road.

I don’t normally fancy driving on road trips because I do not have good driving stamina; by about 60 minutes I’ll start to feel fatigued and would want to do a pit-stop – my last road trips from Shanghai to Hangzhou and from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur were no different. It certain didn’t help when my navigators started to sleep on the job. Haha. This time however, enroute from Perth City to Albany, I got past that dreaded hour-mark by singing to 五月天 music and engaging in good conversations with the rest of the passengers.

We discoursed a plethora of issues, be it inevitable topics like Grace AG, R-AGE and YAYP, to more interesting topics like:

  • Mentoring is dynamic (i.e. organic), not decisive.
  • Mentors are one-off, but mentoring is life-long.
  • Mentoring is complex – both systemic and seasonal.
  • Mentoring is about the process and the product.
  • What happens when meritocracy creeps into mentoring?
  • Who’s going to mentor those whose potential isn’t obvious?
  • Could mentoring success be derived from duplicity alone?
  • What is the sustainability and repeatability of a mentoring cycle?
  • What is the optimum age gap for mentors to retain their relevancy?
  • If Jesus had more than 3 years in ministry, would he have continued journeying with his 12 disciples or would he have “released” them to be disciple-makers and gone ahead to make 12 new disciples?

At the end of the day, I arrived at one conclusion, as cliche as it may sound, that human mentors are finite while God’s sovereignty is infinite. We as disciple-makers can only impact, invest and impart so much, and it’s not very much at all! Hence, I honestly opine that regardless of all the possible answers we could find from the above questions, it’s more important for any mentor to enjoy the entire journey, regardless of its outcome, and trust God to shape lives for His glory.

Well, back to the extraordinary mundane… (:

Today packed a straightforward itinerary; we had breakfast at home before setting off to Albany via a 420-kilometre/ 5-hour road trip; saw and fed Alpacas on our first pit stop; fed ourselves over lunch at Black Cockatoo Cafe; drove past Dog Rock and checked into our beach house destination at Barry Court; went for a walk at Albany Town Centre, had dinner of fish, squid and chips at The Squid Shack near Emu Point; went to Albany Creek to do some grocery shopping at Coles Supermarket; and finally returned to our single-storey bungalow. It’s 10:30pm as I write this entry and I am about to retreat to bed – finally, a good night’s rest beckons!

As usual, I always learn from Hunk (aka Chin Seng) every time we interact. This time, he imparted a life-and-death lesson into my system – about decisiveness on the road. Read that as metaphorically as you want… All I shall say is, by the grace of God, I thank God for allowing that overtaking incident to have taken place smoothly… (:

P/S 1: Huiyi and I celebrate our 40th month together today! It is a good Friday indeed. (:

P/S 2: We’re praying for “Never Let Go”! Keep up the good work, R-AGE! Invite friends!

P/S 3: I will post more pictures in my DSLR when I get my hands on a USB cable. For now, here’s what I found in a shop called “Thingz”. I didn’t buy it of course… Bottoms up!

perth day 1: high time to unwind.

Huiyi and I have arrived safely in Perth, Western Australia, and we’re looking forward to a good break with some friends here.

We have just checked into the Love Birds’ (aka Chin Seng and Ervina’s) home – lovely place – what a house to call home! And I got myself acquainted with the couch, while Huiyi made her bed on a spring mattress. I was unusually hungry and ate a bowl of noodles and a plate of bee-hoon (and one dark chocolate Tim Tam. HAHA). It must have been the flight.

Liang Zhi actually took leave and offered to pick us up from the airport (and spend the next couple of days with us) but he had to leave for South Korea with his fiancee on a last minute’s notice. I’m quite bummed that Liang and I won’t be able to spend time together as he’s one of my closest buddies and half the reason I’m visiting Perth. He has, however, generously offered us his Mitsubishi Colt and SIM card for the duration of our holiday – what a blessing!

Ps Mark Varughese and Jemima also offered to pick us up from the airport – what a generous gesture! – but over the weekend we couldn’t contact him to confirm this arrangement. We just found out via Facebook that his house was robbed and his laptops were stolen. Sigh – We hope the family is all right.

Hence, I had to ask the exceptional Chin Seng and Ervina if they were kind enough to accommodate to our last-minute request and pick us up from the airport; I asked Chin Seng just before we boarded the plane and he was so cool about it.

(I digress, but I seriously need a new laptop; the battery barely lasts for 45 minutes and I’m seeing a lot more rainbow wheels these days. I wanted to play Football Manager on the plane and could only last four games before the battery went into the red. Tragic!)

On the plane, we were sandwiched between two rows of Caucasians – fidgety young men behind us and a mother with two daughters in front of us who made such a ruckus. Honestly, it got a little annoying… But what got me thinking was how I seemed to be that tad bit more tolerant than usual. Would I have been more impatient if they were Chinese nationals? After all, these Caucasians didn’t behave very differently from a PRC’s typical social conduct. Was it because I was about to enter their country? Was it because I was taking a budget airline? Was it because I was tired? Was it because I didn’t want to create a scene since I was with Huiyi? Or was it because there was a deeper, unexplored meaning behind my hesitance to react? Hmm…

It won’t be long before we wake up to have breakfast with Su Ern before we head to Harbour Town (factory outlet$!) and Perth City itself for a free-and-easy walk-about. On a personal note, after being chased by the tyranny of the urgent over the last few months and the insanity of my relentless schedule in Singapore, I refuse to enjoy this holiday like a Choleric… Instead I shall attempt to bring out my hidden Phlegmatic in the next week. Yes, Huiyi’s going to be the 老板娘. HA.

But seriously, I think it’s high time for me to unwind and to receive a fresh new revelation from God in His Word. I can’t wait to spend quality time with Him… And with my lovely fiancée! (:

God is my space.

What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you will be boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.

James 4:15-16 (New Living Translation)

If life is uncertain and death is certain then how in the world are we supposed to negotiate our journey in this lifetime? What on earth are we doing for heaven’s sake? James proposed his resolution in verse 15, which calls for us to tweak our alignment.

It’s not about the planning but about the perspective, not the pursuit but the priority. If life is truly punctuated by question-marks and death completed by full-stops, then I’m grateful that God is my space – the punctuation most-often used in every sentence; every word is preceded and followed by a space. I thank God that His grace is laced in space!

James instructed us to renew our mind. We naturally speak with presumptuousness so he wants us to think differently and speak with renewed positioning. He’s blatant enough to say, “What you ought to say is”, which signifies a deliberate change in speech; speaking like that won’t come naturally, that is precisely why we have to intentionally train ourselves.

So how exactly does James want us to change in our speech? First and foremost, we must acknowledge God’s will in our lives. Everything counts for nothing if God is not in it. That explains why he began his sentence with, “If the Lord wills”. Then he says, “We will live”, meaning that we should check if we are even alive, for it is pointless talking about plans if we are not alive to carry it out. Finally, James says this last, “And do this or that”. Once we have committed our plans to God (and asked Him for His purposes in our lives), and ascertained that we are alive to carry it out, we can consider implementing our plans.

Of course, James knows we’re hardly so obedient; he correctly diagnosed the problem by identifying the opposite of seeking God’s will, that is, to boast about our own plans. This evil boasting is rooted in human pride, where we think we are in control. In Greek, “evil” is an active verb, which means that if we boast of our own plans, we are continuously doing evil.

I didn’t plan to return to Singapore last July. I thought I’d be in Shanghai for a few more years. But everything changed within a week. In a nutshell, I was caught in the middle of a senior management dispute and had to make a decision. I sought the Lord and I made the decision to return home. I had His peace reigning in my heart. Everyone around me was shocked – my mother, sister, colleagues, business associates and even Huiyi’s family – because I was doing well in Shanghai. In fact, I left in the same month of a promotion and significant pay increment.

But a still small voice in my heart assured me that it was all right to come home. I knew that the Lord was going to take care of me, so I obeyed. That was simply it. I had no idea that it would lead to what I am doing now with R-AGE; I didn’t expect myself to be a full-time youth minister so quickly but God knows His timing and I trust Him for it – that’s the beauty of life.

When we understand that this life doesn’t belong to us but to God, we will realise that all we need to do is to obey. Obedience is the highest expression of stewardship; the best way to see the mark of obedience to God in your life is to observe how you have stewarded your life according to what God has revealed in your heart. I do not look forward to the day when God puts His arm around my shoulders to commend me on all the good things I have done for Him only to sound a tad bit disappointed because I missed out on the only thing He wanted me to do; it is important for us to be faithful to our calling.

People say that change is the only constant but I beg to differ for God is the only constant. And if God is the only constant, then wouldn’t it be wise for us to bank on Him to see us through this uncertain life leading up to a certain death? We must remember that life does not revolve around what we want but what God wills. Our lives ought to be a declaration of the true sovereignty of God and never about the imagined control of Man.

If I am an investor and someone told me about a stock that would eventually be good for me, I would buy it in a heartbeat. The stock will fluctuate, but because I know that it will eventually be good for me, I will hang on to it no matter what. The Bible tells us in Romans 8:28 that we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them. Our job becomes really simple then; all we need to do is to love God and live out His purposes in our lives.

life is a question-mark.

Look here, you people who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.”

James 4:13 (New Living Translation)

Fact – you are not in control of your life; you can control your effort but you cannot determine your outcome. Life is uncertain and is a gigantic question-mark. The sure thing about our life is that we are completely unsure about it. It is impossible for anyone to tell me that they can guarantee that they will be able to do what they have planned. James gave us a glimpse of a presumptuous conversation in verse 13 – it was as if these people were sure of their plans coming to fruition.

  • Who“You who say… We are going”
  • What“Do business there”
  • When“Today or tomorrow”
  • Where“A certain town”
  • Why“Make a profit”
  • How“Stay there a year”

Sometimes we tend to think that it is us who determines what happens next, and not God. Be careful when you start to think like that. We are brought up in a meritocratic society and may tend to function like this – “So long as I attain this grade, I’ll be able to get into this school, and end up working in this job afterwards”; if you think like that, you’re not very different from the presumptuous businessmen that James was addressing.

Anything can happen in life. God used the incident of my failed MacBook Pro to teach me about the uncertainty of life and my helplessness towards it. Rain falls on both the good and the evil. I’ve learnt that life is uncertain but I’ve also learnt that there’s certainly nothing I can do about it. I can plan and work in advance to the best of my ability, but if my laptop decides without warning that it would crash on me, I have no choice but to restart my work.

Whenever you remember that you are not in control of your life, you must also remember that your life doesn’t belong to you. You do not own this life; you are only meant to steward it. The problem with us is that we think we own this life. And when that happens, we get into deep trouble because we don’t usually like to let go or give away what we own.

Remember that your life has been purchased by the precious blood of Jesus Christ and because it has been bought, it no longer belongs to you, or the devil, but to God. So never think that you own your life. Instead, submit your life to God and let Him have full control of it. We can propose but God can oppose; we can project but God can reject; we can rule but God can overrule. Let’s learn to accept His will and ask Him for wisdom and peace to deal with the unravelling of life.

Singaporean students easily get caught up in the relentless paper chase. Remember this – Jesus is greater than your grades. Do you really think that God’s plan cannot unfold in your life if you score badly or end up in the wrong school? No, God is so much bigger than that. Don’t be discouraged if you’ve made academic mistakes for there are no mistakes with God; nothing is ever wasted in His economy.

Proverbs 16:9 tells us that we can plan our course, but it is God who determines our steps. So let’s learn to commit our plans to God, for when we work, we work, but when we pray, God works! The sooner you realise you are not in control of this life, the easier it will be for you to accept that life is truly uncertain and always a question mark for you to discover and be surprised by its unknowns. It’s a good thing that life is out of your hands, but in God’s hands.

rooney should “respect the club” and leave.

I’ve been a United supporter since 1994 and I’ve seen Ferguson build countless squads. A lot of media furore is going on now about Ferguson declaring that Rooney wants out. Of course, hordes of people from our rival clubs are gloating. But frankly, there’s nothing to worry about.

Come on, we’re talking about Sir Alex Ferguson here, the famed gaffer who has sold Ince, Kanchelskis and Hughes in the same season, only to replace them with kids. We’ve also seen him sell of the rock-of-a-defender Stam and goal-machine Van Nistelrooy. In recent times, we’ve also seen Ronaldo leave. I was personally sad to see the former World Player of the Year leave for Madrid, but hey, life moves on at this great club.

Now, I’m a Singaporean and I have never been to Old Trafford, or stepped foot in England. The closest I’ve been to this team was to see them emerge out of Changi Airport, watch them train in the National Stadium, sit beside the legend Giggs and P.Neville in a meet-and-greet session and drove four hours from Shanghai to Hangzhou to catch them in action. I’ve stopped collecting jerseys and magazines because they just got too expensive to keep up. My only investment and sign of loyalty is to subscribe to cable TV just to watch United in action every week. And of course, every once in a while, post something that’s related to United on Facebook.

For crying out loud, 90% of United fans in Singapore won’t even be able to tell you where the Stretford End is if you showed them a picture of Old Trafford. But does it stop us from feeling for the club? I guess emotions have seeped into this harmless weekend activity, as we lend our support to a club which doesn’t really need our support.

But I’m posting this because I think United is more than just one fan. United is more than just one player. United is more than just Yanks. United is more than just one team. We’ll make it without Rooney, as we’ve made it without Beckham and Keane. We’ve even made it without Cantona – oh the reason for my love of #7, United and through passes. Look boys, we will survive! Fergie > Rooney < United.

What we must hope for now is to fetch the highest possible price for Rooney, regardless whether we spend the money or not; that’s secondary. It’d be nice to buy Akinfeev, Sneijder and Benzema with the extra cash, but honestly, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care who owns or manages the club. I don’t even care who plays for the club or if the latest jersey designs are nice. I care for my weekend dosage of entertaining and sometimes heartbreaking football. I won’t find that with other clubs, not because they play horrible football (like Liverpool) but because I do not have affections for them.

When Cantona retired, a lot more supporters (like me) were devastated. How were we going to replace such a talismanic figure? He revolutionised the way we played football – with flair and arrogance. Let the Scousers laugh at us. Let the Wastelanders mock us. Let the media make an earthquake out of this. United has and will always move on. We never look back, only forward. I couldn’t care less if Rooney retracts his words. I care more for the team. I like what Ferguson told Rooney, that he should “Respect the club”.

Gents, we’re on good ground. We have good talent coming through. Every time he was on the pitch, Chicharito looked so much more dangerous than Rooney this season. I won’t comment on unproven potential like Bebe or Obertan, but I will make an exception for Cleverly. He’s got United written all over him. He’s direct, creative and most importantly, he plays with an arrogant swagger, knowing that he can trust in his own ability.

Even the biblical adage hold true; new wine cannot fit in old wine skin. Similarly, not all old wines taste great – some are just really expensive vinegar! Let Rooney go. He will realise that there’s no other club in this world who has fans that will stick with him through thick and thin and adore him wholeheartedly. I won’t bother about his off-the-field behaviour; I will only state that if he is not keen to play for the world’s greatest club, then he should just leave. We don’t need uninterested players, but players who realise what it means to play for the shirt.

Rooney should understand one thing though, that if he wants out, he must leave the country. It’d be travesty if he joined any other English team. Rooney would make Tevez look like a hero if he swapped red for blue. That would be career suicide for him and I wouldn’t be surprised if he received death threats from the real fanatics if he tried that. Assuming he will leave us, what Rooney must do now is to play his heart out for the team whenever he’s not frozen out by Fergie, and leave with his head held high – just like Ronaldo, who incidentally was the only player who turned up for the Champions League Final against Barcelona; he wanted to win the lot again before he left. I have no ill-feelings about Ronny and I think I, like most United fans, would welcome his return with open arms. So Rooney has to learn to do this well.

At United, we’re never about one player. We will make a player but a player will never make us. I would support United even if they got relegated. It doesn’t matter. If Rooney stays, good; if he goes, good. But honestly, I don’t care. Forget about Rooney, everyone. We’re United and we’re bigger than that.

I like what I read on another United blog:

Adversity may be looking us in the eye, but we will spit in it. We may be about to take a huge emotional pummelling, but as we fall to the canvas all bloody and broken, we will look up at our detractors and enemies… And we will laugh at them. Yes, the joke will be on us, but we are galvanised by history. Things may be about to get ugly… But that’s life… …The wheels have started to turn. If he stays we will rejoice. But if he goes we will be ready to roll up our sleeves and we will build again.

We’re not arrogant, just better. Our history makes us strong, your hate makes us stronger. GGMU!

JAT in a nutshell.

Famous people call it bio and computer programmes call it read-me; I decided against being witty, so off goes “I am not but I know I AM” (it’s the title of LG’s book anyway) and in comes “about JAT” – no frills, no nonsense, no smart-alec terms – just a simple (and severely over-elaborated) self-introduction. I enjoyed writing this – partly because I’m writing about myself (I’m shameless, but honest! Hmm… Shamelessly honest or honestly shameless?), but also because I enjoy writing – it was a creative exercise that I thoroughly reveled in. Normally I’d say to you, “Enjoy!”, but for this one, I’d tell myself – “Enjoyed!” This “about JAT” is now a mainstay on my blog – you can find it amongst the links on top. (You can’t judge me on my blog – I’ve already done that!)

***

I am Joey Asher Tan, a 26-year-old Youth Minister with Grace Assembly of God Church, Singapore, since 15th October 2009.

I gave my life to my Saviour, Jesus Christ, on 28th November 1995, and started to pursue Him as my bullseye in life on 4th June 1997.

I was baptised as “Asher” on 23rd December 2005, and this Hebrew name represents, “Blessed, joyful and happy”, which is a befitting self-description.

I am a Bible-believing Christian who desires to know God more by working excellently and learning earnestly through a balanced lifestyle, for the glory of God.

***

I love God, His Word and His young people; I seek to provoke thoughts, challenge perspectives and pen indelibility through my kaleidoscope of experiences.

I attempt to write daily because I want to capture the sheer plethora of thoughts that flood my mind; I consider it an achievement if I expand on one everyday.

I hope you feel my heart-on-sleeve passion, in-your-face authenticity and how I believe that the greatest gift you could ever give to young people, is to believe in them.

***

I answered God’s call by heading into full-time ministry with my church, which is probably the craziest, but best thing I’ve ever done in my life.

I wake up every morning and thank God for allowing me to work in my dream job; I serve with “R-AGE” – it was there, as a 14-year-old, that my life changed.

I am in the business of Redeeming A Generation for Eternity and I pastor around 100 young people in the Grace AG (Bukit Batok) youth community.

I turn 21 every 21st October and I’m getting younger by the day because I hang out with the most awesome bunch of young people in the world.

***

I graduated from Ngee Ann Polytechnic with a Diploma in Mass Communication, where I discovered my communication aptitude for writing and orating.

I credit my decade in Anglo-Chinese School for a rudimentary education in confidence; it is stillwhere I’d school my kids, after all, for the best is yet to be.

I am a commissioned officer and a tank platoon commander by training; I was with the Singapore Armed Forces for three years as an Army Regular.

I headed the Marketing Division of Global Beverages Asia and Wine Mall during a fruitful two-year stint in Shanghai, China, where my worldview formed.

I am currently pursuing my Bachelor of Communication with Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and I cannot wait to begin my theological education.

***

I trust that I am an authentic leader, a passionate speaker and a mentor who believes in young people; God engraved this three-fold ministry on my heart.

I am a grateful son and proud brother in a remarkable family that is spilling over with God’s grace, goodness, mercy and favour; I couldn’t ask for more.

I am confident I will be the world’s best father to my children and the best husband my wife could ever dream of; I’ve been blessed, so I shall bless.

I consider myself immensely privileged to be able to say “I love you” to a girlfriend who is a constant reminder of God’s grace to me; I can’t wait to marry her.

***

I started serving in church when I was 15 years old, when God told me that I’d be a worship leader; God anoints those whom He calls – ministry began there.

I know I am built for the stage; I enjoy song-writing, performing and revel in taking the lead vocals – I delight in expressing myself and thrive in the limelight.

I have childhood dreams like everyone, so one day I will study in Fuller Seminary, speak to a million people, travel around the world, meet my heroes, John Piper and Eric Cantona (plus Uzumaki Naruto in my sleep!), and maybe even have a street named after me.

I aspire to be a published author, sought-after speaker and recorded artiste (and of course, life-changer and history-maker) before I depart this earthly body.

***

If I could only say one thing to you, I would look you eyeball-to-eyeball, and say…

“Apart from Jesus, I can do nothing; I am absolutely nothing without Christ.”

paying it forward pays you back.

Two weeks ago, I placed an order for 11 DVDs and 2 books from the Desiring God website. I have received the goods and I am absolutely delighted because I will soon embark on a JP buffet. My DYLM cell group would be the immediate beneficiaries of this purchase for they will feast on my regurgitation (if you know what I mean). My friend helped me to process the order and sent it to his friend who happened to be in the States. He actually went two miles for me for he paid for express delivery to ensure that the products arrived at his friend’s place before his friend returned to Singapore. When he passed it to me last Saturday, he refused to accept my payment. “Let me bless you”, he said. I was stunned, but thankful to God and appreciative to this brother. I offered to buy him lunch, but he said, “If you were blessed by it, then go and bless someone else”.

The year was 2004. I had a group of friends who gathered frequently at a friend’s house in Kembangan to play all kinds of boardgames. I stayed in Bishan then. It was a good 45-minute commute home. One in two times, this friend who hosted the gathering would send me back to Bishan, then travelled back home. I thanked him for his hospitality and I remember he said that it was his (then) fiancee’s father who taught him to be generous. He quoted his father-in-law, “Go and bless others”.

A year on, I remember how I paid it forward. I sent one of my musicians home after a late-night worship practice and he was appreciative of my gesture. He said, “Eh bro, thanks man, next time when I start driving, I’ll definitely send you home”. I replied, “Don’t mention, send others home instead”. I realised that this pay-it-forward mentality was already ingrained into me.

If I wrote an autobiography, I would be able to fill out an entire chapter with God’s blessings to me through people, in point form. I consider myself to be a blessed person and so from time to time, I will pay for meals and drinks, especially if the other person is younger than I am, or is one of my sheep. When they show their appreciation, and whenever I remember to say it, I will tell them to “Go and bless [their] sheep” then.

“… Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” (Acts 20:35b)

When I was younger, I was a selfish boy who subscribed to the “Give and Take” theory – you give, I take. I don’t know about you but the older I get, the more I want to bless others. I used to keep track of how much I spent on someone and my spending amount was directly proportionate to that person’s relational proximity to me. And I take mental notes; if the person doesn’t reciprocate, I’d reduce or cease completely the next time I am presented with an opportunity to bless him or her. I thank God that He’s helped me to overcome my old childish ways.

At the same time, I will also never be able to out-give my mentors; I don’t think they expect me to anyway. And just as my mentors have invested their time, energy and resources into me, I have done likewise, but I paid it forward to my mentees. I am convince that when we start to give without expecting anything in return, we become liberated gift-givers and blessing-bringers. I cannot deny how God has blessed me over the years and each time He blesses me through someone to remind me of His faithfulness, I can’t help but to be liberated and encouraged to be even more generous with my friends.

My friends, we will never be able to out-give God and it’d be crazy if we tried to out-give one another. May I then encourage all of us to give unreservedly, love unconditionally and expect absolutely nothing in return – especially to those who are in need. When all of us get involved in meeting each other’s needs, no one will be in need anymore. I don’t subscribe to the “full circle” theory, but you never know, one day all these blessings may return to you, but will probably end up with your children instead. I am half-confident to know that my youths – the ones whom I’m investing my life into right now – will, in time to come, invest their lives into my children and my children’s children.

Let’s pay it forward, for the valueless payment we receive for paying forward actually has the greatest payback value of all.

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