Pastoral Perspectives

Just Walk Across The Room

I attended Marriage Convention 2012 held at Sentosa Resort World. This was an annual event organised by MCYS for people who are involved in marriage counseling and solemnisers who conduct weddings for couples all over Singapore. As I made my way to Sentosa, I told the Lord that I wanted to be available to Him and I would be glad for Him to use me to point someone toward Christ that day. I was also reading the book ‘Just Walk Across the Room’ with a group of worshippers on Sundays and it would be a great opportunity to put into practice what we had been discussing. I reckoned that the tea break would be a good opportunity for me to walk across the room as various people would be standing around the refreshment area. I met one of the leaders from the Taoist Federation whom I got to know previously at the Inter-faith dialogue and chatted briefly with him but he told me that he was heading for the washroom and I figured out it would be strange for me to be waiting for him outside the washroom. I could have gone to the washroom with him but I was not urgent. I looked around and realised that people were speaking in their comfortable groups because many must have come with their colleagues or friends. I too met some fellow pastors whom I had not been in touch for some time and it was nice catching up with them and finding out what the Lord had been doing in their lives. So in short, I didn’t manage to walk across the room although I had the full intention to do so. There wasn’t the opportunity.

The convention ended promptly. The convention speakers were engaging and the main thrust of their talk was on the importance of mentoring for the newlyweds. I took the light rail to Vivo City to have my lunch. I settled for Republic food court partly because that was the first eating place I saw when I alighted from the light rail. I bought my food, the ‘ba cho mee’ that I didn’t manage to eat the previous time, which my brother-in-law said was good. I again told the Lord, “I am available to You so lead me to someone with whom I can have a conversation over lunch.” I scanned the horizon as I walked around and then I came across a man who was seated alone. The seat in front of him was empty and so I asked whether I could join him and he said, “sure.” He was taking pictures of his lunch so I deduced that he was not a local and therefore it was easy for me to start a conversation with him. His name was Jim White and he came from London en route to Australia to visit some relatives. His wife had gone to the Singapore office to do some work and he was moving around by himself that day.

I always like to test the waters to see how open people are in talking about spiritual matters. I told Jim that I had just come from a marriage convention and I attended the event in the capacity of a pastor. I wanted to see his reaction after having introduced myself as a pastor but he didn’t seem to take any interest in that piece of information I offered him. We spoke about some other things and then I asked him quite directly whether he was a Christian since he came from the Western world and I figured out it wouldn’t be too awkward for me to ask him that question since he already knew I was a pastor. He told me he was borne in a Catholic family but was not attending church anymore. At that point, I could have asked him the reason why he had stopped going to church but I felt a sense of discomfort on his part (maybe on my part as well) so I didn’t pursue it. I then learnt that he had cancer but was in remission and he was not working anymore. I took the opportunity to ask how he felt about not working. I said that while many in the world tie their self-worth to what they do and what they have achieved, a Christian’s identity is derived from who we are in Christ – we are very much loved by God and I took the opportunity to make reference to Good Friday since it was round the corner. God loves us so much to the extent of giving up His Son for us. Jim agreed with me that one shouldn’t derive his self-worth from his work. But for him, he found satisfaction in taking care of his loved ones.

I felt that each time I tried to surface something spiritual, he either didn’t make a response or redirected the conversation somewhere else. I felt I had tried enough and since by then we had already finished our lunch, I wished him a safe journey to Australia. He left his name card with me and asked me to look him up should I go to London. Then he responded to something that I said which made my heart skip a beat. I said to him, “May the peace of Christ be with you,” to which he responded, “And also with you.” Wow! He remembered something from his Catholic upbringing for him to respond to me in that manner. I said a prayer in my heart for him as I walked away. I prayed that somehow our conversation would be used by God to stir up a desire within Jim to go back to God.

Jeff (not his real name) was one of the friends whom I have committed to reach out to when Ps Cheng Huat asked us to start praying for five people at the start of the year. I had not met Jeff for about a year already and decided that I should give him a tinkle and asked him whether he would like to meet up for lunch. We met at the same place as we did the last time. Though we hadn’t seen each other for some time, there was no awkwardness. We easily reconnected where we left off. He shared with me about his work and how difficult it is for him to get a new job given his age. His children are also struggling with their studies and he makes the effort to help them but it is never easy to juggle between work and family. He is very open to the Gospel but he has not made any commitment. I asked him what was holding him back and he said, “Family.” He has new colleagues who are Christians and they have been an encouragement to him. I told him that I would like to meet with him again before I go away for my studies and he expressed his appreciation. After the lunch meeting, I was prompted to write to him as I pondered over what he had shared with me regarding what was holding him back – ‘family’. I told him that although families usually think they have lost a son or daughter when that individual becomes a Christian, I assure him that he will become a better son to his parents and a better father to his children when he becomes a Christian and allows God to transform his life. As I write this perspective, a thought has come up – I shall not wait till our next meeting. Instead, I shall pray for opportunities to drop him SMSes in a bid to encourage him whenever I come across anything relevant.

Jenny (not her real name) and her husband walked into our church one Sunday morning and I had the privilege to get to know them. Jenny is not well physically so I offered to visit her at her home to get to know her and her husband better. She was so hospitable and gladly welcomed me. I had the opportunity to take Jenny through ‘Steps to Peace with God’ and she readily accepted the Lord into her life that morning. She said that earlier on, a surgeon had prayed with her before she went for her surgery; when she came to True Way that first Sunday she was also very moved by the service. I could see how God has already been at work in her life way before I came into the picture.

Do you realise that the three people that I encountered had very different responses? Jim was non-committal; Jeff was still seeking; Jenny readily received Jesus into her life. I thank God for each of those opportunities where I could walk across the room. I am reminded that I only need to stay attune to and cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and be God’s partner, God’s fellow workers (1 Cor. 3.9) since God is always at work. I am thankful for the privilege to journey alongside these people, even for a short while, and to be God’s channel of grace. May you be encouraged to do the same and I pray that God will give all of us the joy to see people being ushered into the Kingdom of God as we play our part in walking across the room.

Pastor Kien Seng

May 27, 2012