Saturday, January 31, 2015

Rustic Ranau

I can't imagine myself in KK caught up in traffic jams daily. I was enjoying a plate of kueh tiau and admiring the rustic surroundings of Ranau. I felt at peace being in a place where the Lord wants me to be, similar to how I felt almost 7 years ago when I first set foot in Singapore. When you are in the will of God, you abide in peace because Jesus has spoken and said, "peace I leave with you." Ranau is very different than what it was 25 or 30 years.

The Month that Was (2)

Besides preaching in church services, I also teach one subject at the College, about 20 mins drive away. I almost wept when I saw the library the other day. Physical structures and facilities have vastly improved but the number of books remains low. I was shocked to find out how few books were purchased in the last 18 years since my time as Treasurer.

The Month that Was

One down and eleven to go. I am about to complete my first month in my new pastoral ministry after 6 months on sabbatical. I think I should record some of my experiences for posterity. First, a lot of preaching. 12 sermons in a month, easily double the amount of preaching I did when I pastored a KK church. Last night I preached about giving up everything based on Luke 14,14 to 33. It was a small gathering as it was the 3rd meeting during the week (we had Tuesday and Wed night meetings), I felt free to preach a hard message among leaders and their families. I spoke about loving Jesus more than one's father and mother, brothers and sisters, even one's own wife. I spoke about not giving excuses when the things of God demand our total devotion and commitment. No excuse! As the parable teaches, fields, oxen and even newly wed, there are simply no excuses when the call comes to follow Jesus.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Peeling Pineapple

I received my first fruits on Sunday, a sack of rice and a pineapple from church members. It has been 35 years since I had peeled a pineapple. I watched a youtube how one person took less than 20 seconds to peel one pineapple and it took me 20 minutes to do half a pineapple and what a mess it was! It is not all beds and roses here despite new beds and coolish weather that help one sleeps soundly at night.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Pain Unending & Irony of Parental Love

Two weeks ago I preached about King David and his strained relationship with his sons. David was a great king, loved by almost all his subjects but his own family was chaotic. His wife, Michal despised him, his sons tried to overthrow him. David was a complex character, none more so as portrayed in 2 Sam 13 to 19. With 7 chapters devoted to the Absalom episode, it must be a pivotal part in the life and reign of David as king. Sometimes, great leaders are beset with family problems. How did David react as king? How did he react as father?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Jubilee is Half Gone

I read in New Zealand Herald today that a few famous Kiwis are turning 50 this year. I have watched them on TV growing up. Half of my Jubilee is gone. What a day to remember! It is Australia Day and it is also Auckland anniversary day. It is the mid-point of my Jubilee. Technically my sabbatical is over but spiritual I have 6 months to go. In fact I have entered into a perpetual Jubilee for those who believed have entered into rest as God did on the 7th day.

Office Space

I have been given a wonderful office. The blinds came in last week and two book shelves now stand where my few books could lodge. After an 5.30am to 5pm day yesterday where lunch in the church office was prepared by our women folks we were already in meeting mode while enjoying some fine cooking before the meeting proper. In the city if we have an event like this, we would probably cater. But here we saved at least half the costs cooking home/office meals.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Searching 4 Space

The last part of the church council's meeting was devoted to discussing enlarging the tent of meeting. We have reached full capacity in our current premises. An elder told me that more than 230 people crammed into the first service meant to sit at most 150 people. I can sense the people's discomfort as they had to sit shoulder to shoulder and they are not free to clap or raise their hands. Let alone calling them forward for prayers. My feet were leaned against the stage right in front and today I preached a powerful message on Acts 2,40 to 43 and Acts 6,1-7. I also conducted the Lord's communion for the first time in 7 years.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Pension for Pastors (2)

I reckon we need RM2million or RM2.5million to kick off if we are to implement a pension system for pastors. Perhaps a flat rate is fairer to all. All get RM500.00 per month irrespective of final salary before retirement. If 50 pastors are eligible, that makes RM25,000 per month and RM300,000 per year.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Pension for Pastors

I had barely 2 days in KK and we drove back to Ranau after lunch though the seminar was scheduled to run until 6pm. It was a choice of driving at night which I rather not do. With a close friend and his wife accompanying the drive was a breeze though for the best part of an hour it was raining heavily. It was the pleasure of sweet fellowship that made the usual arduous journey a bearable one. This friend has been in the pastorate for 35 years and it told as part of our discussion centred on a proposed pension plan for retired pastors.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Starting Again

I am like a schoolboy starting School for the first time. I am going to attend my first State wide meeting later. When I saw the traffic I stopped by to have a tausa pau and teh tarik. I look forward to meeting my fellow pastors. If all attend, there will be 300 of us.

Monday, January 19, 2015

On Furlough?

After 20 days in Ranau I found myself in KK again, a kind of retreat or reprieve for the first 20 days of my ministry. Former missionaries spent 5 or 10 years in the jungles of Borneo before they went for their furlough. Ranau is not exactly the jungles of Borneo. It is a pleasant village-town right in the centre of the State where traffic goes from East to West coast and vice versa. I can't pretend that 250 worshippers are a huge responsibility while you have megachurches in Singapore boasting 25,000 attendance on a Sunday or more impressive still the 6-million strong crowd that witnessed Pope Francis in centre Manila. Numbers don't prove a thing.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday Worshippers

I opened the church gates at 7.15am today and streams of students began coming in and by 7.40am the church hall was almost full. We had to open the music room at the back and the kids went to their Sunday school in another room of about 6 feet times 20 ft long. Every space was filled and we sat right up the stage and there must be 150 adult worshippers in the first service and 100 more in the 2nd service. I preached only once at the 8am service from Psalm 3 about David's running from his son, Absalom.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Pastoral Work Begins

After attending my first elders' meeting last Sunday, my pastoral work begins in earnest with meeting my worship team. About 25 people turned up and it was wonderful to share heart to heart with the team members about praise and worship in church. I gave a short introduction of why we were meeting and handed over to the leader of the worship team to update me and the team with what has been happening since I have come in as the new pastor. Then we had about 30 minutes of getting to know one another and I prayed to God that I am given the gift of remembering names which I don't have yet. I also shared briefly my testimony since I am sure some of my church members would be wondering why a Chinese would want to pastor an indigenous church in Ranau. I felt I had connected with most of them and it is a good start with the worship team on your side serving the Lord together in love and unity.

Friday, January 16, 2015

In Sickness & Health

I did not make it to the end of my first month in Ranau before visiting the doctor today. My elder who is like a father figure to me advised me to see a doctor since my throat has been sore for 3 days. I am a little concerned whether I could preach this Sunday, so I went to the Ranau hospital and duly paid my RM1.00 registration. It was excellent service as I waited less than 5 mins before being called.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

In Weakness Your Strength is Made Perfect

After being awakened constantly by the bout of flu during the night I had practically given up hope of preaching at the College's morning service. In my mind I would call the person in charge as soon as it is morning to let him know I could not make it. But alas God's grace is made perfect in weakness. Despite traffic jams along the Ranau to Sandakan main trunk I made it to College 5mins past 8am. Within 10 mins I was asked to preach and I hadn't taken out my tablet out of my bag as I ascended to the pulpit. I preached for 39 mins from Jeremiah 3,15-16 and 2 Tim 3,14-17 on the role of pastors in restoring the church of God.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Cold Showers, Warm Hearts & Large Spaces

I am down with a cold. Most likely due to a cold shower I took 2 days ago. I had tried for the optimum time to take a shower between 3 and 5pm. But in the past few days it has been raining and I could feel the cold chills from Mount Kinabalu. Night time temperatures probably fell to 18 degrees Celsius, unheard of in KK and it was like New Zealand weather during Spring. Further, 6 full sermons in 11 days took its toll somewhat and I still need to preach twice more tomorrow morning at the College and my church mid-week evening service. But it is exciting nonetheless because of warm hearts.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Back to College

I was up and ready by 6am to go to the Bible College to commence the new academic year. It was a 15min drive, exactly 17kms from home. It is orientation week and most of the lecturers came back late last night and a few turned up this morning. I was told on Christmas day that I would be teaching Introduction to the Old Testament for first year students in the 4-year B.Theol. program. Yesterday my schedule was packed from 5am till 9pm.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Malaysia's Economy in 2015 & 2016 (Part 2)

I have no reason to change my prognosis of the Malaysian economy for 2015 and 2016. Oil prices have dropped below US$50 a barrel and Malaysia is the fifth hardest hit country in the world according to a report in Daily Express two days ago, losing almost 1.8% of its GDP. Malaysia's revenue depends on 30% oil and gas products. The currency has fallen to 3.60 Ringgit to the dollar and foreign funds are running dry as US economy picks up. With already more than 2 billion ringgit in loss over the floods and 5 billion handouts in BR1M, it is hard to see how the country could recope this expenditure despite the 6% GST coming into effect 1st April. I think Malaysia will be lucky to achieve 4% GDP growth this year and should the oil price remains below US$60.00 per barrel in 2016, whatever growth in 2015 might just evaporate with the real possibility of negative growth or recession in 2016.

Friday, January 9, 2015

From Ranau to Muruk

I recorded my first sermon outside of my church. I spoke about the four lunar eclipses in 2014 and 2015. Together with 2 elders I went to Muruk about 16kms from Ranau. It was my chairman's farm and he had this little but which I called chapel built for his workers to relax and hold community events. Last night was the first cell group for his workers but church members outnumbered the workers. We had 40 plus adults and the other elder commented that it was big enough to form the nucleus of a local church.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

First Week 2015

Thanks to my wife, I am pretty much settled in my new home. Yesterday we drove to my wife's village to pick up an old washing machine and we were back in Ranau by 10am. Amazingly that was about the only thing missing in my apartment. Furnished with new beds and mattresses, I have been sleeping soundly in Ranau's cool weather at night. My office is downstairs and it is an ideal place to prepare for sermons. We have almost daily meetings and services.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Pekan Ranau

Pekan in Malay is a village town. It is not big enough to be called a town (Bandar) but a pekan is a centre for a cluster of villages and there must be over 100 villages within 50 km radius of pekan Ranau. One could walk leisurely in less than 10 minutes from one end to another of the pekan. It is mainly flat but there are hilly areas at the outskirts and where I am, I have to climb hills to go to Ranau. It is less than 1 km from my house and church office.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Up on the Mountains

The Lord is exalted. He dwells on a high place (Isa 33,6). It has been a hectic couple of days. I drove up to Ranau and arrived there at 7.30am New Year's Eve. That night I preached at 11.30pm and ended at the stroke of midnight and gave the benediction for New Year 2015.