It’s Been Too Long

Wow… after being away for three whole weekends, it’s really something else to be back at church. Yet the feeling of readjusting back was somehow familiar, reminiscent of those days when I’d rush to Paya Lebar from the airport after touching down, while skid marks were still fresh on the tarmac.

I guess it’s true as the saying goes: absence makes the heart grow fonder. But that’s no reason to keep away. Instead, it makes me appreciate everything that we have here in church even more. This is our home, this is the theatre of dreams, this is the gate of heaven, this is where the lost are found, where the broken are mended, and where things once dead resurrect once again.

This is one happy fish to be back in water

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William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, was well known for writing an annual Christmas address via telegram to his people, reminding them of why they do what they do all year round. However, as the years pass, his letters grew shorter and shorter; Until, in the last telegram he sent out, William Booth distilled the reason why they do what they do down to one single word: OTHERS.

A little more than century ago, the RMS Empress of Ireland sank. On board were 167 Salvation Army youth who chose to throw their own life vest towards other helpless passengers. When one passenger thew the life vest back, one of the youth threw it back and told the middle-aged man that if she died today, she knew where she was going. She just wanted him to have an opportunity to do the same in his life time.

I would never forget the first time I heard this story, it was almost ten years ago but the memory is still fresh as if it had happened yesterday. At the end of the service, Pastor How rang the bell that would have rang to signal that the ship was going down.

To the rest of the passengers, it was a call to say their last prayers and hope for the best. But to the 167 youths, that bell meant something entirely different. To them, that ring told them that it was time to live out what they stood for, even if it would cost them the ultimate price: their lives. They chose to live for others. While they may have paid that price to do exactly what they committed their lives to do, their legacy lives on and continues to inspire generations to rise up and do the same.

I count it my honour and privilege to live among modern day heroes who give their lives to live for others. While their colleagues clock out and head home to rest, their ‘real’ day would have just started, and would not end until much later at night. While their university friends are off backpacking across Europe or the Americas, they are found in the heartlands playing catch at the void deck with a kid from children’s church. While their friends sleep in on the weekend, they are found serving early in the morning, setting up chairs, cleaning the toilets or at rehearsal with nothing but a smile on their face.

While there is nothing wrong with wanting to go home early after a long day of work, or travel the world, or sleep in; I have the utmost respect for these people who make a choice daily to live their lives for others.

I live among people who inspire me every day to do more to live for others, and am so thankful to be on the same team, standing on the frontline with them, changing our worlds one life at a time.

The Opposite of Love: Lessons from Pakistan

Was just reading about the team of four from church who braved the aftershocks and travelled to Nepal to provide medical relief to a village tucked away in the mountains -too far for the government to provide their help to. So much respect for every single one of them. They are our modern day unsung heroes

As I read on, a quote I had heard before in church floated to mind:

The opposite of love is not hate
The opposite of love is indifference

I didn’t understand it initially. ‘Isn’t the opposite of love, hate?’ I thought. You either love someone or you hate someone. But as I listened, I began to realise in my heart that it is true.

If you love something, you’d hate the thing that corrupts it.
If you love children, you’d hate child trafficking
If you love animals, you’d hate poaching
If you love people, you’d hate when they have their basic human rights taken away from them

You can be living so close to these things that they are a daily reality you see constantly; yet your heart can be miles away, locked up, closed off and safe. I was in that place once.

I lived in Pakistan for four years where I saw these things on a daily basis. Now I know, immediately when you think of Pakistan, your mind brings you images of a war zone -much like how CNN and BBC shows it. But interestingly, when I think back of my four years living there, that’s not what comes to mind -at least not immediately.

When I think back, I think of misty cool mornings on the way to school on wide and empty streets -because the town was still fast asleep. I think of my summer, and excitedly getting out of bed every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for soccer practice with my all-girls team at the pitch on the edge of the city. I think of sleepovers at my friends’ houses where we’d prank the first person to sleep, and then bawl our eyes out watching The Notebook for the 10th time.The only casualties of which were our half a dozen tissue boxes that were left empty in the living room.

However, dig deeper and I find peppered between memories of lazy Sunday mornings, and days out at the local flea market were actually also many memories of frantic phone calls, school-wide evacuations, news of bombings and riots that would bring the city to a standstill.

But why was it that it took some searching to find these? It’s certainly not because the positive emotions outweighed the negative. In fact, some studies would argue that fear is a very strong and potent emotion, not one to be easily forgotten.

Then I remembered. I remembered what my friends would say in the midst of my panic and overwhelming fear of those moments: Oh, another threat? They’re probably just bluffing.

The fear on my face immediately betraying the fact that I was new to the country. New and untarnished, new and unhardened.

As they orientated me to life in Pakistan, I remember remarks like:

They should just get a job instead of begging. If you give them money, it would just encourage this kind of behaviour. Just ask them to go away

You see that mother with the sunburnt and hungry baby? She’s not going to use the money to feed it, she’s probably going to buy drugs with it

A riot? What is it about now? Oh, if only it went on longer so we’d have another day off from school while it’s shut down for safety

Now don’t get me wrong, my friends are not evil people – I certainly do not think that they are. But what I do see, are people who have found a coping mechanism to protect themselves as they live among, and see, situations that break their hearts on a daily basis. They are people who think the problem in front of them too big, and themselves too insignificant to make a difference, that they have given up before they even start. I don’t condemn them, in fact I feel for them.

Looking back, I am thankful to know that I have a God in my life Who gives me hope, Who makes me dare to dream that I and we CAN make a difference in our world. Even if it is just one life, it is worth it

A wise man once said:

Don’t tell God how big your problem is
Tell your problem how big God is

It takes courage and strength to love. Dare to love.

The Unnecessary Place

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival
– C.S. Lewis

For 18 years, I’ve lived in boxes moving from quaint suburbs, to bustling smoky cities, to dusty dry deserts -never really sure of what the future held. One phone call or email, and everything I had unpacked just a few months ago would go right back into those few tattered boxes, ready for its next journey.

In my years of travelling I’ve picked up a few things along the way:

  1. Never get too attached to the place or the people. It’s going to be over soon.
  2. No matter how much you want it to be home, it’s not. ‘Home’ will be somewhere else in a matter of months or years
  3. Don’t promise to keep in contact. You will slowly drift apart, it’s natural, don’t keep your hopes up

With that, until the age of 18, I’ve never had a friendship or relationship (outside of my jet-setting family, naturally) that had lasted any more than a few years.

Well, that all changed when I stepped into Heart of God church at the age of 14. God spoke, and I listened: ‘This is your home’. Skeptical though I was, that assurance in my heart told me to just wait and see.

This December would mark my 9th year since God first met me and set my life on a detour. With it, 9 years of friendships -unnecessary relationships. Friendships that, in the world’s value system, does nothing to add to survival value. But oh! What a bland life that would that be without friends who taught me, among other things…

To be faithful to the smallest things, because they make the biggest difference – when for 4 whole years while I was overseas they would go out of their way to make sure that I knew what was happening in service that weekend, email me their sermon notes, and painstakingly put up with my horrifyingly unstable Pakistani internet connection

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To love sacrificially, because that one smile is priceless  – when my world turned upside down and I found out that both my parents were retrenched, they knew that home was the last place I wanted to be and stayed up at a tiny dimsum shop, doing all they can to make me laugh my guts out, and utterly forbidding me to pay for my share

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To live for others – a friend, and leader, who noticed me worrying if I would have enough in my wallet to pay for the meal and travel home when situation back home got real bad and we were living off our savings, immediately took out $300 and told me that at the very least, for the next month I didn’t have to think about that and just focus on completing the semester

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Loved people, love people
It is through their hands, that I saw and felt the love of God.
It is because of them, that I now do the same for the others around me.

Friendships may be unnecessary, but the value it adds to survival? Immeasurable

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Hello There, World

So its been a while (alright, a VERY long while) since I’ve last blogged something. Maybe it’s just me being sentimental with graduation looming over, but I remembered reading my old blog posts and being reminded of old thoughts, a few out-of-this-world ideas, some embarassing rants, old memories, but most importantly those encounters with God that I’d pen down as a new Jesus follower.

Because that old secondary school blog is cringe-worthy to epic proportions, and beyond salvageable -here I am. If you’ve stumbled here: hello there, world! But really, this space is in all honesty, revived to serve one purpose: to remind me of the Goodness and Greatness of God in my life, in all seasons.

The greatness of God says ‘He can’
The goodness of God says ‘He will’