I was born on 31st Dec 1954, last day of 1954, never realizing that birthday celebration would be the most expensive than all other days. During those days, we were staying together with my paternal grandparents, uncles, aunties and cousins at the second storey of a 3 storey pre-war house at Boon Tat Street. The entire household believed in Taoism, Buddhism and traditional superstitions.Life was difficult then, with my father taking on two jobs working from morning till about midnight.
With so many families under one roof, disputes and quarrels often occur. We needed to queue to use toilet and wash basin in the morning.I remember falling ill with tonsillitis and high fever very often. Whenever I had high fever, I was frighten as the room seemed to spin and I could see long unending tunnel appearing to suck me in. Those experiences were very frightening and I often hoped that God would stop all these hallucinations. It was during this period of illness that I queried about life; why am I the only one to feel the suffering and others could not feel it. Why this world is what I view it to be and what will happen if I am not here?When I was about 6 years old, I had tonsillectomy done and stayed in the hospital for a week. A few days after I was discharged, my paternal grandfather passed away. The funeral wake was the traditional Taoist type and being the eldest grandson, I was to be treated as the youngest son. Therefore I had to wear the full mourning suit of sackcloth jacket with cane head wear and followed the Taoist monks around during the ceremony. I found it so fun then.
HOW I CAME TO CHRIST
The first time I heard about Christianity was when one of my cousins became a Catholic, "Chia Hong Kow" in Hokkien. To me it means wearing the cross pendant, chanting with the rosary beads and not allowed to consume meat on Fridays.
I used to get caning when I was young as I was very playful and often ran around the streets with my younger brother, went fishing at the jetty off Lau Pa Sat, play with fighting fish which I got from "Ti Kam", play at the Chinese temple, catching spiders. I even made my own giant fire cracker.
I chose my own secondary school, as my parents were illiterate. I don't know how I ended up choosing Victoria School, which was so far from my home. I was staying at Commonwealth Close (known as 16th Storey in Hokkien) at that time. That place was a known notorious jumping ground as it has the three tallest HDB blocks in Singapore.
During this period I was crazy about table tennis. Together with neighbourhood friends, we would search for a place where we could practice. The neighbourhood Lutheran Church provided the table at the church compound and I remembered playing table-tennis there whole day long (morning and afternoon) almost everyday of the year. In the night, either it was basketball time at the church basketball court or playing guitar at the neighbourhood grounds. This went on daily until we got to know every fulltime church staff in the church. A few of the basketball group of friends were attending the church.I was invited to the gospel rally at the church and was given some tracts and the "good news for modern men" bible that I read daily. It was after the gospel rally that I started searching for God.
My parents worshipped idols but I have never believed in that form of worship. It seemed to me that my mum did not understand her worship as she was always grumbling in front of the altar, complaining having to cook so much food offering. I remembered one auspicious day when my mother was preparing to pray, I returned home excitedly with a big trophy I had won in a table-tennis tournament. While she was away, I cheekily placed my trophy onto the altar. Well my mother completed her prayers without realizing what she was praying to.
The Lutheran church then started a catechism class and I attended it and was later sprinkled as a Lutheran. I used to receive materials on bible correspondence courses in the mailbox. I did quite a number of them including the one from Church of Christ. I completed the course without realizing it was from Church of Christ and did not pay particular attention to it except that it was very good and consistent in their mailing. I was out of the house most of the time. It was either playing games or hanging out with neighbourhood friends usually playing guitar. Sometimes we would try to catch a free rock concert performance at the National Theatre. We would then climb onto the slope at the back of National Theatre, which overlooked the stage. Sometimes during the performance, there were people tumbling down the slope. I guessed they were high on drugs. During those hippy days, a lot of youngsters turned to drugs. I was glad I did not try any of those things. My mum was worried that I would mix with wrong company.
My cousins, Maggie and Poh Tim were staying a few units away from my home, just down the corridor.At the end of 1969, one of Maggie's suitors was John Seow from Upper Serangoon church of Christ. He was very friendly and was very convincing in the way he presented the gospel.Both my cousins were baptized at Tanglin Halt Church of Christ in 1970. I started attending the Church of Christ with them. Soon on 25th Aug 1970, I was added to the church. Being very enthusiastic after the baptism, I tried very hard to invite my Lutheran church friends to our church to no avail. Despite Tanglin Halt Church of Christ being small and overflowing, it was edifying and fun too. After Sunday worship service, together with Kong Lay, Erwin Tong, Simon Goh, Nancy, Ng Ai Lian, sometimes Esther Tay, Yeo Poh Hong, Alan Cheng, we would have lunch at the hawker centre. On Sunday afternoon, swimming at Queenstown swimming complex or picnic at the beach or playing table tennis at the church were common. I remembered the occasion when Elder Simon hit his head on a submerged rock when he dived into the sea at Pasir Ris.During Tanglin Halt days, I was song leading, leading in Lord's Supper and prayers. I think I may be croaking more than singing.
MY ABSENCE FROM CHURCH
I took my 'A' levels at Raffles Institution, now known as Raffles Junior College.Once I overheard my parents arguing about my studies; my father wanted me to work and support the family but my mother strongly insisted that I continued with my studies, as she knew what it was like to be deprived of education. All her elder and younger siblings were educated but her grandmother actually cancelled her enrolment into primary one and made her do all the housework. We had financial difficulties and I knew my parents could not support me for university education as I have another four younger siblings. I then registered for Singapore Polytechnic and later gave up the "A" level studies in preference for polytechnic. But I was emotionally affected by the decision and I lost a lot of motivation to work hard in my studies. I also attended church less frequently. I even picked up cigarettes smoking for quite a long period before I stopped the habit after marriage.During the Polytechnic days, I came across an advertisement by SIA for Apprentice Aircraft Maintenance Engineer in which they will sponsor my Polytechnic education on a part-time basis, train me to be Aircraft Maintenance Engineer and also exempt me from full-time National Service. To me, that was a dream come true.I got the job but the salary was only $160 per month. I remembered holidaying in Hong Kong during my first year with SIA, with only $100 in my pocket. Twelve of us shared a room in Shamrock Hotel in Kowloon. It was during this period that I stopped coming to the church but only turning up once a while.
This was also the phase of my life that I met Mei Yin. During the wedding dinner of Mei Yin's brother, Leong Chun Cheong, I bumped into Bro Henry and sis Nat. Then I realized that my brother-in-law was also from church of Christ. Henry and Nat had cheered and supported him in all his sports competition and included him in their family outings.
It was very encouraging to see Bro Henry and Nat turning up at my wedding. They have not given up on me.
Mei Yin came with me to Church of Christ at the YWCA a few times. I tried hard to persuade her to attend the church, tried hard to teach her the word of God but instead was bombarded with many questions. (If God loves us, why doesn't he make us all Christians? Why don't God destroy the devil since he is so powerful. (Why God did this and that).
We had Charmaine 2 years after marriage and everything seemed smooth sailing. Brother Henry and sister Nat also came to Charmaine's first month celebration and Nat gave us a box of special English fragrant soap bars with teddy bear pictures on it. I don't know how Mei Yin can remember it so well. She must be very moved by their love and sincerity. She also asked me, "Are all our church members like that?"
HOW I RETURNED TO THE CHURCH:
A few years later. Louis came into our lives. Louis was a difficult child and had asthma at the age of one. We had such difficult times until Mei Yin started to cry out for God's help. Mei Yin wanted to attend the nearby Methodist Church in East Coast Road where Charmaine's kindergarten class was. One Sunday, Mei Yin attended a Charismatic servcice and during that service a member told her that for Louis to be better, she needed to drive out the devil in him by placing her hand on his head and cry out to God. Mei Yin found it very uncomfortable. With encouragement from me, she accompanied me to Pasir Panjang Church Of Christ on a regular basis. We attended a few gospel rallies at DBS auditorium. Shortly after we moved to Grove Drive, Henry and Nat were delighted to see us in church. They visited us and brought us out for lunch. They tried to help us to settle down by inviting us to home prayer meetings and picnics.A few weeks later, Mei Yin was baptized and added to the church. I remembered Kong Lay giving Mei Yin a bible after her baptism . Kong Lay also gave us a framed picture of our family while we were holidaying with some members of our church in Malacca. These small little gestures were very much appreciated and likewise we can show our love to others with similar gestures.We are really blessed by God, for He has used circumstances and sent angels (Henry and Nat) to get me back to the Church and at the same time saved Mei Yin and some of her family members too.
During the first few years when we went back to church, we only attended worships because I could not find a place of service in the church after being away for that long stretch of time. Once in a while, Brother Henry would approach me to preach by providing me with notes and materials but I was not ready then. On hindsight, my children missed out a lot on bible lessons and bonding during their childhood.
DISCOVERING MY PLACE IN THE CHURCH
Belinda persistently invited Mei Yin to join her care team. They studied, sang and prayed together. In my opinion, the greatest tool of encouragement, care and growth is the care teams. It provides a conducive environment for more personal sharing. It is the most successful ministry. When Mei Yin's faith started growing, mine started growing too. We need to be equally yoked in order to proceed for the Lord without difficulties.
Bother Tze Hern and Dennis Law somehow knew about my choir background and together with Yong Wee, invited me to be a part of the 8am worship team and to serve in the evening "song and word" service. We even formed a choir to sing during Kok Shing's wedding. All these brothers overlooked my songleading mistakes and cheered me on.Soon I joined Dennis' care team, now known as Edward's care team. I liked care team as it fosters fellowship, close relationship and a feeling of Christ love as we prayed and cared for one another.Looking back, my choir training during SIA choir days was in fact God's preparation for me in his service. Later on, I was serving regularly at 11am worship, 6pm "song and word" service.
When elected to be a deacon, I was very hesitant. There was also a fear of not being able to meet God's expectations. Together with my family, we prayed and thought things out together. This verse Jeremiah 10: 23 "A man's life is not his own, it is not for man to direct his steps." kept appearing before me many times. On the day I was to answer that nomination, we went to Campus Crusade. When Mei Yin flip-opened a book, this same verse appeared. Mei Yin said that the verse had sent goose bumps in her. I knew that this was God's calling and I know that He will equip me as I serve Him.
WHAT MY FAITH MEANS TO ME
When I was young, my mum would bring me along on her weekly visit to her parents in Katong. The spiral staircase at the back of the house led to the beach. I often stayed at the beach to count the stars at night. I marveled at the vastness of the sky and the sea. My grandfather was always saying that there's no such thing as heaven and hell. Heaven and hell is on this earth and it is how you live your life. I did not understand it then but later I realized that my grandfather was an atheist. When I found Christ at 16 years old, I was very happy and full of enthusiasm, studied the bible at every opportunity. To me, at that point in time, faith is to trust and obey. At the present moment, the basis of my faith is still to trust and obey but I realized that the an important aspect of obedience is also to show love for one another, to be an example in all ways, and what it means to fear God and at the same time love God.I know that as long as I continue to walk obediently and trust fully in Him, relying on His strength, I will be able to continue to grow and mature in His service by serving others so that I will be able to share His love, His grace, His mercy and His truth with others.I know that God has been very good to my family and I. He has kept me safe and answered my prayers throughout my life and during my work. Sometimes even in my work, when faced with aircraft defects that seemed not possible to rectify, God has always provided the answers. Conversion of Mei Yin's father is a real surprise to all of us but I know that all things are possible with God.
WHAT DRIVES ME ON
Seeing other leaders who are consistently, patiently and lovingly serving the church have motivated me to share the load both physically and emotionally. It is definitely through God's blessings and the hard work of our leaders and members that our Church have come this far. It is also a joy to see the enthusiasm in members turning up for various activities in the church or members' homes. It is also very motivating to see so many bible class teachers who are willing to handle so many classes on Sunday. Growth comes from the driving forces of every member who comes together to be involved in the service in the Lord's Church.
MY EXHORTATION TO OTHERS
God sent Henry and Nat as a source of encouragement to us. They did not give up on us but continued to shower us with love. Likewise we are not to give up on members who are not attending church any more. We also need to find a place of service in church no matter how small you think it is. With computerization and globalisation, everything in life has become complicated, including a life of faith. All kinds of information are easily accessible through internet, from books, magazines and the media. More information tends to confuse and complicate matters as it is difficult to know what is the truth and what is distorted truth. These complications, if we are not careful, can also creep into the walk of faith and messed things up so much so that many feel worn out. Some may analyse biblical passages by going through all available information instead of relying on what the bible says to them at the point in time and get confused in the end. In working life, and sometimes even in the church, people tend to question each other's motives and their actions and get so stressed out.
I believe in having simple faith and to me it is to trust and obey with all our hearts and enjoy the rest that Christ has always offered. When we have the determination and heart to serve, God will equip us with what is needed."For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may support those whose heart is completely His." 2 Chronicles 16:9.
Abraham is also of simple faith, i.e. trust and obey. On God's calling, he moved from his comfort zone to the unknown.When David fought Goliath, he did so in simple faith and fought in the name of the Lord. He totally believed that he, a small boy, would be able to kill Goliath. 1 Samuel 17:45-47
My vision is to have a united church where everyone finds a place of service and everyone is part of a care team.There are many talents in our members, young and old. Every opportunity is to be given to bring out these talents in them. From my experience, I feel that for a person to have a greater sense of belonging in the church, one needs to find a place of service. Each of us is added into the church with a God given function that unites the church together as one body.
Although our DOING is important, our BEING is even more important. We must not just do the work that God wants us to do, we must also be the kind of person God wants us to be.