Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Tony's Family

I have been blogging about Jesus' family so I thought I write a bit about my family. As the only Christian in my extended family, it has been a roller-coaster ride as far as familial relations are concerned. There are ups and downs; beautiful moments and great tensions. But as I always take a submissive and humble approach I never let any disagreement or conflict goes to the point of no return. There are times I needed to stand aloof from my family until they return to me just as God spoke to Jeremiah: "Let them return to you but you do not go to them." I earn my family's respect by doing that. But I am  reminded by Jesus' saying in all four Gospels that "a prophet is not without honour except in his own country and among his family." Last night we gathered early for Chap Goh Mei (15th day of the Lunar New Year) which is supposed to be today or tonight.
Just before I left for Singapore on 3rd February we also gathered at my brother's invitation a couple of days earlier for the reunion dinner. We are not hard traditionalists, not me anyway as my first CNY as a full-time minister of the Gospel in 1995 I had to travel by bus to Sandakan. It took us almost 2 hours just to come out from the Bible College in Melangkap (Kota Belud) to the road leading to Sandakan (Bongol) and then a bus ride of about 5 hours to Sandakan. Then we went back to the College also by bus, stopped at the junction at Bongol and hitch hiked a 4-wheel drive back to College. The return journey was unforgettable because of rain and muddy roads so much so we walked for about 30 minutes with a foot deep in mud while carrying my 4 year old son on my shoulders. When we reached Melangkap Baru (30 minutes from College) the bridge was flooded and we waded across the swirling currents waist-deep. I shared this experience that it was impossible for me to have a normal CNY celebrations while on duty for the Lord's kingdom.

Since that time, until now my second brother had always hosted the reunion dinner though this year we met at my third brother's house. I lost my first-born rights the moment I became a pastor and relations with my family have never been easy. Last night speaking with my mother at my 2nd brother's house, we spoke about meeting up relatives. Through me, my family got in touch with a relative who migrated to Australia 30 years ago. Now one of my cousins is a PhD in French literature and she has two lovely kids who speak French and English as their primary languages.

No matter how busy I was in ministry I always tried to find time for my extended family. But as a servant of God, my priority is for the kingdom's cause and one of Jesus' aims is to create a family of disciples, Jesus' family of brothers and sisters who worship God as Father. To the world, my emphasis or time given to my spiritual family may seem as if I am neglecting my natural family. During dim sum lunch with my mother yesterday, my mother admitted how lucky she was financially. She is still receiving her pension and two of her sons give her money regularly more than she could spend in a lifetime. I told her, "mother perhaps these blessings come to you so that your eldest son could devote himself to God". During dinner last night, my mother also spoke about how blessed she was to have good sons except for the eldest. I just smiled as I heard the same complaint for 25 years and provided we are still on talking terms it is good enough for me. Perhaps I should have answered my mother like Jesus did: "Woman, what do you have to do with me?" (John 2:4).

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