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! (:
Preparing for this elaborate proposal required a number of props, and since it was my proposal, I wanted to accomplish most of it by myself as much as possible. I sought help of course, on matters that I didn’t consider myself familiar with.
I approached Hilary to ask him to recommend a professional printer. I liaised with a printing company and paid for five A2 and three A3 full colour prints on PP sticker with a five millimetre kappaline mounting. And I made my way to the obscure Kallang Bahru on Wednesday to pick up the prints, since delivery wasn’t worth it for such a small quantity. I took leave on Thursday to complete the remaining errands. I had no idea printing these things were so costly…
I started my day at IMM where I spent an unimaginably long time in Daiso and Giant, picking out tiny plastic bags for goodie bags (so that everyone who turned up at the party took home something), a magic chalkboard as a prop for photo-taking, seven glass cookie jars to store sweets, five luminous paint markers, and a whole stack of tidbits.
It was there and then that I discovered that I have decidophobia (no kidding!). I became unexpectedly stressed at having to choose from the huge variety that was available to me. I even made distress calls to Cheryl, Melody, Yixian and Keith because I started to panic so much. Cheryl and Keith were amused by it but realised shortly that I was seriously distressed, so they patiently walked me through every decision that I had to make at those supermarkets. It was the most stressful errand, ever!
Besides helping me to record the song, Johann was also generous enough to restore my guitar to showroom condition, including drying, cleaning and dressing it with a new set of strings. Having my guitar restored was also helpful for my worship set at J333 (the Wednesday prayer meeting) anyway.
But as you would know by now, it seems like I never get to do things the easy way… The E-string snapped during soundcheck and I was frustrated, not because I had to use an inferior guitar, but because I had to buy a new string! So I swung by the Clementi Yamaha and to my horror they ran out of E-strings. But fret not (no pun intended!) for I simply purchased a new set of strings.
After Clementi, I made my way to Holland Village to make orders and pay for eight tubs of ice-cream at The Daily Scoop and arranged with Wei Kurk to help me pick it up on Friday, before the engagement party. I also swung by Party City to order enough helium-filled balloons to fill the function room. It was my first time ordering balloons and I got shocked at how expensive these items were considering they only had an eight-hour lifespan! I paid for it nonetheless and arranged with Xianyi to receive the balloons at the function room on Friday evening.
My last stop was back to the office at Tanglin Road, where I dumped the loot and packed them into plastic bags, with labels on each of them for my crew to pick up; Gideon picked up the guitar, guitar stand, projector and placards, while Keith picked up the logistics needed for the engagement party.
Oh, did I mention that it was pouring this entire time and that I didn’t have an umbrella? Okay, I just did. And I accomplished all these errands without a car. Yes, I had to make do with public transport the entire time, carrying with me big and small, heavy and bulky plastic bags. And I completed all these errands just in time to meet Huiyi at her office to head for her birthday dinner together with her family. Perhaps this justifies why I forgot to buy her birthday cake that day.
Next chapter: the one regrettable conflict.
I was serious about this absolutely cheesy but wonderfully romantic and heart-melting idea, and had already briefed Andrea, Ling Zhi and Yvonne of this elaborate plan over the phone. I requested for them to take half-day leave to ensure that they would appear at her office at 6pm. They agreed and her best friend, Yvonne, was exhilarated with this concept. Three 15-minute phone calls later, the three of them, who grew up with her, knew exactly what they had to do for the evening.
Then I called Justin, one of the media staff in my church, to ask if I could rent the church’s portable sound system (which incidentally is what they use to conduct funeral services) for that evening. He said that it wasn’t a problem but left me with a disclaimer that I remember until this day. “Just pray that no one dies that evening,” he said with a wry smile. Then I quickly familiarised myself with setting up and operating the equipment. No pun intended, but it was all systems go for me.
Gideon, another close buddy, together with Caleb, one of the boys I mentor, played huge roles in the entire proposal. They were practically my five senses and I’d even call them my sixth sense because they updated me with ground information that I needed to know without actually being present. And Gideon and Caleb generously agreed to be the event photographer and videographer respectively without charging a single cent. (I gave them a token of appreciation of course..)
More details on their pivotal roles later. For now, they also agreed to double up as the men who chauffeured the sound equipment from my church in Tanglin Road to MBC and to set it on that little knoll, so that by the time I arrive, the stage would be ready for Joey Asher Tan to croon and sing his status away…
All right, I shall caution you first… It’s going to get a little confusing from here because every element of the proposal is integrated like spaghetti. Stay with me – this is where the story gets exciting!
Next chapter: the secret weapon – her birthday.
A couple of weeks ago, RY (t)asked me to rewrite the R-AGE webpage text on the Grace AG website as the current page is severely inaccurate and outdated. It’s been sitting on my list of to-dos for a while now and I felt really good to finally nail it yesterday. Here’s the raw copywriting of what we should see on the updated webpage in future, once the design and layout is completed. A shout-out to the six youths who have decided to help me with this! I was really blessed to receive your mini-testimony! Thanks! (The reward for helping me? Your names are now forever etched into R-AGE web history. HA!)
I’ve also decided to incorporate this as a part of my blog – you’ll see the link above as a tab. After all, R-AGE is a part of me. I don’t know about you, but I’m really proud to belong to this awesome, God-sent, life-changing youth group!
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into light.”
1 Peter 2:9
Established in 1997, R-AGE is the thriving youth ministry of Grace Assembly of God and its exciting activities are held at both the Grace I (Tanglin Road) and Grace II (Bukit Batok) campuses. At R-AGE, we are in the business of Redeeming A Generation for Eternity, and we desire to nurture a generation to have a heart that loves God, a mind that knows God, a character that reflects God, and a lifestyle that proclaims God.
R-AGE is specially designed for youths in secondary schools, junior colleges, polytechnics and other pre-university institutes – our curriculum is tailored to meet their unique spiritual needs. We want our young people to love God with all their hearts, embrace one another in Christ-like love, abide in the Word of God, serve each another in humility, and touch their communities with God’s love.
At R-AGE, our home-grown pastoral staff and team of dedicated lay leaders yearn to raise more young people to be more like Jesus; we want to see young people minister to young people. So get in touch with one of us today and join us for our happening services and homely cell groups this weekend! If you are our age, then you have to be a part of R-AGE.
|Rev Ronald Yowfirstname.lastname@example.org||64100 815|
|Pas Li Cui Xianemail@example.com||64100 817|
|Bro Joey Asherfirstname.lastname@example.org||64100 825|
|JOIN US!||R-AGE @ GI (Tanglin)||R-AGE @ GII (Bt Batok)|
|Youth service||11:15am, every Sunday||3:00pm, every Saturday|
|Youth cell||9:00am, every Sunday||4:30pm, every Saturday|
But don’t take our word for it – hear what our youths have to say about their youth ministry!
“R-AGE has impacted me in more ways than you can imagine. I’ve met so many new and wonderful friends that I’ll keep for the rest of my life. Getting closer to God and to know Him even more in the company of my friends has to be the best gift I could ever receive from R-AGE; now I want to walk the right path – with God!”
>>> Darren Toh, 13-year-old youth (student), Bukit Panjang Govt High
“R-AGE has impacted me from the day I stepped in. I’ve grown closer to God and no matter what difficulties I face, I’ll always find a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear and someone to advise me. In R-AGE, I know that when I’m afraid or in trouble, there’s always someone to help me and God to guide me!”
>>> Phoebe Tan, 15-year-old youth (student), CHIJ (Toa Payoh)
“When I came to R-AGE, I was a lost soul filled with sin and doing bad things. As I attended R-AGE regularly, I accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Saviour and have grown in my faith. I am renewed, restored and redeemed, and I strive to shine for God, whose presence in my life is beyond words.”
>>> Tan Jun Liang, 17-year-old youth (student), Dunearn Sec Sch
“R-AGE is my spiritual home and it’s where I’ve grown and matured. ‘Friends forever’ is a reality made possible because of the strong bonds forged within R-AGE. I’ve had opportunities to serve and through it, I’ve come to love R-AGE even more. I used to think that I was a part of R-AGE, but now, I think R-AGE is a part of me.”
>>> Chua Yi Xian, 19-year-old youth leader (undergraduate), NTU
“R-AGE has been a part of my life for the last nine years and it has been such an exciting and vibrant journey! It’s the place to worship God with fellow sisters and brothers in Christ, the place to make friends – lifelong ones, the place to serve Him in creative capacities, and the place where He resides in!”
>>> Adora Tan, 21-year old youth leader (undergraduate), SMU
“R-AGE, to me, is a ministry where God is rising up a generation who loves and seeks Him with all their hearts; a generation who finds the reward of living a life for Christ or pursuit of God, is God Himself.”
>>> Kenneth Yeo, 24-year-old youth leader (working adult), IRAS