I remember holding conversations with different individuals the last Sunday before I left for Cambridge. I said that time would fly and before we knew it, I would be holding a conversation with them again! And here I am! The last twelve months had been such an enriching time for me – set foot in a country which I had not visited before; joined a community where I was the only Asian student; enrolled in a programme where there was little instruction time, which meant that I had to exercise discipline in managing my schedule; enjoyed the hospitality of friends, to the extent of being invited to sleep over at a fellow student’s home which was in another part of the country; reconnected with a good friend from university days who is also a pastor; visited young adults from True Way who were studying in the UK, and even had a small gathering with them over a meal of sumptuous roast duck; experienced the changing of seasons with their accompanying colours and sights; ran my first half marathon while it was snowing and completed it with a decent timing; bought groceries, cooked for myself and even dished out a complete meal for my friends, thanks to Prima Taste; travelled with my family when they came visiting and had the opportunity to holiday in other European countries where there was so much to behold; given the permission to complete my dissertation at home where the research could be more relevant and I could also spend the last part of my sabbatical with my family. Looking back, I stand in awe of how the jig saw pieces fell together – it could only be providence! What a journey!
In the beginning weeks of my stay at Cambridge, I had to go through some adjustments because suddenly, I was freed from ministry responsibilities, and the feeling was rather strange. While walking to class one winter morning, I saw that many trees around me had shed their leaves and the trees looked dead. I knew they were hibernating, only to break forth into new life when the following spring came. I took it as a personal lesson, that I too was going through my winter, my rest, and I was not going to feel guilty about it, so that when spring came, I would be ready to spring back into action. The four seasons is a good reminder of the rhythm of working and resting, which is very needful for busy people living in a hectic society. There is no need to wait for another sabbatical to come before I take a rest; I must creatively build in that rhythm even in the midst of ministry. Jesus has set for us a good model. Even after a very busy day of teaching and healing, he woke up very early the following morning, departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed (Mark 1.35). Though he arose early and we don’t know how late he went to bed, He had some form of physical rest for sure, and that was necessary for His body to recuperate. We definitely need that kind of rest too. Otherwise, our bodies will break down. Spending time with God in silence and solitude constitutes an equally important form of rest, especially when we realise that many things are outside our control and the best place to be, in the midst of turmoil, is in the safe hands of our Almighty God to whom we go in prayer.
Even though I was not serving in church in the usual way, I thank God for the opportunity to carry out the Great Commission where I was, and I can testify that if we are willing, God will open the doors for us to reach out. Do you remember Mike Smith from my early perspective, the British young man who attended to me when I first had to open my bank account? We subsequently met a few times throughout the year. It was easy to do so because he was in the same university as me but working part-time in the bank. Before I returned to Singapore, we met one last time, and I was all ready to challenge him to take the step of faith since he had always expressed the desire to have a relationship with God. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that he had visited a church with his mom and considered himself a Christian. As he was about to graduate and step into the working world, I shared with him what it means to deny self-carry cross-follow Jesus in response to what Jesus has first done for him. Honestly, I did not do much with Mike. I prayed for him occasionally, kept up with the relationship, shared with him as the Spirit prompted each time we met, but he thanked me profusely for the influence I had in his life.
Yuk, a Hong Konger, used to be an unbeliever. He started going to church first and later brought along his girlfriend, Ruby, who also became his wife. Ruby subsequently became a Christian but Yuk did not, though he continued to accompany Ruby to church. I got connected to this couple because I was interested in helping out with Christianity Explored, somewhat like Alpha in terms of reaching out to seekers, and Ruby was in charge of the course. Ruby had lupus and in the latest flair up, she was hospitalised for a long while. However, Yuk continued to go to church without Ruby. I visited Ruby in the hospital and she asked for prayers for Yuk’s salvation.
One Sunday night, Yuk called me up and sounded very excited. He told me that some bizarre things had happened earlier in the day. I invited him over to my place. He shared with me a whole string of events that had left him without a doubt that God exists. He was ready to put his faith in Him. My heart was so touched just to hear how God had graciously revealed Himself to Yuk. It was one event after another so it was too big a probability to be merely coincidental. Even our meeting together that night was sheer providence. I was not supposed to be available because I had promised to cook dinner for my running buddies to celebrate one of their birthdays. But because the birthday boy was not well, the dinner was cancelled and I was alone in my room when Yuk called. Yuk, on his end, revealed to me that I wasn’t first on his list of friends when he wanted to call someone to share his excitement. He tried calling some of his closer friends but no one seemed to be available until he got hold of me. Wow! I felt so privileged to be there for Yuk at that crucial moment of his spiritual life.
Subsequently, Ruby got better and returned home. There was a long period of time when I did not contact them. Again towards the end of my stay in Cambridge, Ruby called me up and invited me over to their place for dinner. I was glad because I could then take the opportunity to say ‘good bye’. After dinner, I casually asked Yuk how he was in terms of his faith since the last time we met. He brought up the subject of baptism. Apparently, he did not see the need for baptism although Ruby had persuaded him to do so. We had a good discussion on that topic and he finally said that he understood the significance of baptism and would go for it. I could see the delight on Ruby’s face. As I left their home that night, again I marvelled at the opportunity for ministry in the most casual setting.
Wherever we are, in Singapore or travelling overseas, at work or on holiday, we are called to be ambassadors for Christ. ‘God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation’ (2 Corinthians 5.18-19). Let’s carry out this ministry faithfully out of our gratitude for what God has first done for us so that it will never be a burden but a joy and a privilege! I remember reading the book ‘Just walk across the room’ where the author related how he also found himself in unexpected moments where he could minister to people as long as he remained open and available. May you also have the same readiness so that you can be in this exciting and adventurous journey of working with God side by side!
Pastor Kien Seng
October 13, 2013