Sunday, June 28, 2015

Staying Sane & Shifting Sand

I felt I preached one of my worst sermons in months. Maybe fatigue is getting to me. The first service was intense though I was not preaching but I had to conduct the Lord's communion and had to make several important announcements.  We ended late at 9.55am when normally the worshippers from the 2nd service were already filling up the hall. In the past several weeks we noticed a spike in numbers, perhaps partly due to the quake effect. We have run out of seats in the 2nd service something unusual with 180 adults in the 2nd service and more than 250 in the first service. We need to service our aircon since with greater numbers come greater heat and less ventilation for all. With more church members the pastor has to work harder, more calls for visitation where on Friday before the end of the month combined service I visited a family some 10 kms away and preached a short homily for the occasion before rushing back to church and preached another 20 min sermon in pitch darkness. Yet the light of God's word shone through. Now I am preparing for the 6th message in 6 days and to stay sane I read law and politics in between sermon preparation. The judgment of the US supreme court on Friday granting gays the right to marry across 50 states is something revolutionary, earth shaking and fundamental as far as human development and progress is concerned.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Golden Week

I must be on a roll. It's been a golden week. I have preached four times since Tuesday and twice more on Sunday making it a total of 6 sermons in 6 days. If one counts by sermon I am working thrice as hard as I was in my previous pastorate because at most I preached twice a week and on alternate Sundays. No wonder I quickly cut any chance of joining a couple of large churches in Singapore when they promised that I could preach once a month. In a way I am still looking out for a senior pastor's position if only I could determine I preach no less than alternate Sundays. There are times I had to preach without notes.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

In the Midst of the Years

There is no tarrying with time. The first half of the year is almost gone. As I preached last night I told the congregation that when I stand again to preach next Wednesday it will be July. I also shared how my former secondary school in Sandakan, St Mary's was put under pressure to remove the cross from its new school building. If there is mission school, St Mary's it is. My former classmates in 1976 started a group in what apps and it is not surprising I can hardly recognize most of my school friends except the few who were close to me. Age overtakes everyone. And soon we will enter our sunset years. Ma of Alibaba fame said recently that from 40 to 50 you need to do what you want to do in life and from 50 you should be enjoying life without much work and leave it to the younger generation. That was well said.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mercy Mission

Isaiah 58:10 If you extend your soul to the hungry And satisfy the afflicted soul, Then your light shall dawn in the darkness, And your darkness shall be as the noonday.

The aftershocks continued to shake Ranau. I felt the tremors several times yesterday and jolted out of my lethargy (see Straitstimes report here). I needed a 2-day break to recover from the exertions of the weekend but the aftershocks continued to put one on its toes. The spirit of slumber is lifted and we are as alert as ever for more aftershocks. The evening 5.30pm tremor shook my house (manse) and I saw it swerved from one side to another as I was outside cleaning my car. The force of earthquake is something to behold though it was only 4.3 Richter. The earth shook and moved at the sound of Your voice, O Lord.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Monday Meditations

As I reflect on the past couple of weeks post-quake, I realized that the Lord is a refuge for the righteous and He answered prayers with his awesome power to bring glory to his name. Some of my friends thought I was caught in the midst of the quake when it hit on 5th June and then a strong aftershock of 5.1 on 13th June morning. Both times I was away and good intentions and going on a mission probably saved me from experiencing these fearful tremors. On the night before the first quake I left Ranau for KK to attend the final night meeting of our Women's Conference. I wanted to meet with my good friend, the preacher for the night but his sermon was so long that ended at 10.30pm that I left soon after the closing prayer without meeting him.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Longest Day: Persisting in Ministry when the Going gets Tough

I had one of the longest days. Not only I was struggling with a bad cold whole night until I almost gave up hope of preaching. Today's Father's Day and I preached 2 sessions consecutively. Last night I only spent 30 mins with my worship team as my running nose worsened. The weather change in Ranau is drastic. On Saturday morning I had to put on two pieces of extra clothing. It was that cold. It's rainy season again and that made mudslides and landslides worse. But the worst seems to be over. We had running water on Friday and I remembered shouting on top of my voice while driving back to Ranau and asked the Lord to heal the waters of Ranau as He did in the days of Elisa for the waters of Jericho (2 Kings 2). How great is our God for instead of 3 weeks without water we only had to suffer for 4 days.

Friday, June 19, 2015

On a Journey: In Search of Water

Life is a journey. Ministry is a journey. If by choice I rather not make the journey from Ranau to Kota Kinabalu. But journeying is an imperative, much like the commission to go to make disciple of all nations. Thus, the commission is to go on a journey. Those who obey must go. A journey that has no end on earth for its destination is heaven. So on this side of eternity we are always on a journey. I was on journey again, this time in search of water. When one spends cash on plain water it is a crisis and when one spends more cash on more water it is an emergency. More crises may happen as dams burst and landslides continue to destroy houses and trees at the foot of Mount Kinabalu.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Form of the World is Passing Away

Things are changing rapidly. Literally. The shape of Mount Kinabalu is changed forever. The shape of Kundasang, the nearest township is changed forever. The shape of rivers and streams is being changed as I write. The earth writhe under Your wrath, 0 Lord. The form of the world is passing away.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Moving Mountains & Mountain Guides

At 5pm I drove to Kibbas, a village 6km from Ranau to meet with a fellow pastor and we went to Kauluan, a village at the foot of Mount Kinabalu to visit a family who lost a son who worked as a mountain guide. There are many ways to donate to the families of the victims but I thought we should make this more personal and it happened that the deceased was a nephew of an elder whom one of our Ranau pastors knew. So with three other pastors, I arrived at the village at 5.45pm after driving on some rather treacherous roads.
Immediately the mother of the deceased mountain guide welcomed us into her house and it was a solemn moment as we saw the photo of the deceased with all his mountain equipment, three pairs of trekking shoes, helmet, jackets, gloves and sticks. I bowed in grief and silence for a moment before being invited to speak on behalf of the pastors' fellowship (photo: Kundasang township, the nearest town to Mount Kinabalu).

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Earthquake & Interior Mission

For 36 hours I was totally cut off from civilization. It is kind of a mini bucket list that I wanted to visit and preach in all 34 SIB districts. Yesterday was my 31st district but the furthest I had ever gone from KK or Ranau. From Ranau it was 2.5 hours drive and most of it on gravel and muddy roads.
There was no electricity though electric poles were fixed 3 years ago but still no current flowing through it. I can't access my phone with Digi. Celcom is possible but it was a blessing in disguise as I was totally free from distraction. I preached a father's day sermon last night and today I conducted an end time seminar from 8.30am to 4pm. After all the speeches at the end, I managed to set off at 4.30pm. I rushed off without further pleasantries as I was afraid that it would be dark when I reached Ranau. I am glad for a 4x4 drive and it was not much of  a problem except it was the most challenging drive since I got back to Sabah.
The village is a beautiful place with trees and I always wonder why the Dusun people loved to open farms and lands far into the interior and literally it was at the edge of a forest.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Another big Aftershock

Today I experienced two tremors. At about 7.30am and another stronger one just a few minutes ago. I am under no illusions that the earth has quieted down. The south side of Mount Kinabalu suffered its largest rock fall and flattened a forest in its path, near where I started my ministry in Melangkap. From where I am I can see the physical landscape of the mountain forever altered. There are many landslides and visible scars or scratch marks. I have a bag ready to move away anytime from danger, God willing. I even showed my passport and some cash on Sunday as readiness not just to leave Ranau but Sabah and Malaysia altogether.

6 Days after the Earthquake

It's 6 days after the earthquake. The earthquake in Ranau coincided with the start of the 6-day war in 1967 when by 10th June 1967, Jerusalem was reunited under Israeli control with the Temple Mount regained for the Jews. These 6 days will never be forgotten. The Lord knows how to save the righteous from calamity. I was supposed to be right in the epicentre of the quake on 5th June but the night before I had decided to go down to Kota Kinabalu as I wanted my wife to attend the final night's service of our Women's conference. But Friday was chaos in Ranau but I did  not return until early Saturday morning. I said to myself if only one church member called me for help or prayers before nightfall I will go back to Ranau the same day. One caring elder did call at 7.45am to make sure I was alright. But I received two calls for prayers one at 9.30pm and another at 11.30pm both times because there were strong aftershocks after the 5.9 magnitude earthquake which struck at 7.15am. As I had to preach on Saturday night and Sunday morning I was busy preparing for my 2 messages in KK while trying to keep abreast of news of the Ranau earthquake.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Post-Quake Trauma: Sabah's Day of Mourning & Singapore's Day of Remembrance

I must be suffering from post-quake trauma. I could not sleep. Every time I try I think the next aftershock will strike. I have only experienced the 4.4 aftershock at 1.45pm Saturday and a few smaller quakes on Sunday. Today I led prayers in honour of the dead and pray for the families of the dead especially the Singaporean parents who lost their young ones. I told my Singaporean friends that I would never allow my 12 year old son or daughter climb mount Kinabalu.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Aftershocks & Aftermath

I preached through a series of aftershocks.  I felt the ground moving below my feet. Last night I preached at a combined youth meeting near the epicentre of the earthquake to about 200 youths. I visited the church in 1997 and this would be the first church I revisit among 60 or so churches I preached in during the mid 1990s. Half of the youths were not even born when I was last there. The worship was explosive  and I came to life, because I live therefore you will also live (John 14). I preached a powerful message with the theme "Obedience to God's Word invites the presence of the Triune God" based on a passage in John 14. About 40 youths came forward to be prayed for and rededicated their lives to the Lord. There are just too many distractions preventing the youths to read their Bibles and act on God's  Word. This morning I carried my knapsack up the pulpit to make a point on earthquake preparedness.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Earthquake in Ranau: Sabah & Singapore

When I received news that the first fatalities were a Malaysian guide and a Singaporean girl, I am saddened that the Ranau earthquake had caused the loss of lives. Yet in my heart, whatever had happened, is happening or will happen, the fates of Malaysia and Singapore are bound together, not just because of its near vicinity but its shared history how together with Sarawak, Sabah and Singapore joined Malaya to form the Federation of Malaysia on 16th Sept 1963 which happens to fall on the birthday of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the founding Prime Minister of Singapore. Though after almost 50 years of separation, Singapore had forged ahead economically and sought to build a distinctive Singaporean identity beyond its former days (though I don't quite understand the theme of SEA Games opening act last night??), Singapore and Malaysia remain the closest neighbours linked to the State of Johore by the Causeways in Woodlands and Tuas. I have no doubt that through this natural disaster in Sabah, these ties will be strengthened especially between Sabah and Singapore. I have only praise for the local mountain guides who brought down the injured and the dead. If caught in a bind or disaster, Sabahans are always ready to help and they will go all out to extend hospitality beyond the call of duty. Many of those in charge of Sabah Parks are Christians and we pray for wisdom and courage so that they can search and rescue those who are still stranded along the trails of Mount Kinabalu (photo: at the entrance of Mount Kinabalu at 9am today)

Monday, June 1, 2015

Kadazan-Dusun Harvest Festival

This is the first time for some weeks now that I felt refreshed on a Monday morning. I only preached once in the first service yesterday and there was no meeting in the afternoon. My wife and I also spent a pleasant evening with another SIB church celebrating Harvest Festival (Kaamatan) which is a public holiday here in Sabah, a Kadazan-Dusun festival, essentially a thanksgiving feast for crops harvested in the past months. We feasted and danced the night away.
Quite a sight to behold with elders and deacons and their wives in their traditional costumes and Sumazau dance. I was given the honour to pray for those who brought seedlings before the planting season begins in a couple of months. I remember how the Israelites only pray for rain during the Feast of Tabernacles in order that they can start plowing and sowing in the October season.