Thursday, December 31, 2015

1 Year is Up

The newspapers proprietor in Ranau town greeted me this morning, "Pastor Tony you have been here in Ranau, one year so fast...". At least someone noticed. With that my one year in Ranau is up. I arrived in Ranau exactly one year ago at 7.30 am to take up my new appointment as pastor of SIB Muhibbah. Tonight I shall be preaching the end of the year and New Year's message, probably close to my 100th sermon in church including Wednesday mid-week services and other preaching assignments elsewhere. It has been a good run. Two days ago, I went from house to house and conducted two services before rushing back to church for the Tuesday prayer meeting. At one meeting on the occasion of a girl turning 12, I preached about the 3 daughters of Job when the Lord restored him and lo and behold the birthday cake has 3 beautiful ladies and I remarked that these must be Job's three daughters to the laughter of many. What can I say?

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Story of my Christmas

At the end I had to say goodbye to my son 24 hours before he had to return to Auckland. For the first time in my life on Christmas midnight I drove through the darkness of the Ranau-KK road in less than 1.45 hours. I had prayed before hand and told my son about it for fine weather. Fine weather it was. There was hardly any mist or fog which is usual during night time and the night was clear as the moon shone behind my back as I drove. As there was no street light all the way I had to rely on my highlight but by 35km all the way to Tamparuli I followed a car in front of me driving at about 80 to 90 kms an hour, just the kind of speed I fancied. That car was my angel and it led all the way down the valley of Tamparuli onwards to Kota Kinabalu. Waking up before 5am I prayed for my breakfast meeting with my brother at Sutera Harbour. I was overjoyed to hear that he and his family attended Christmas service at SIB Skyline church located at the hotel precincts.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas to All

Last night my sermon fell flat. I preached for 40 mins on Yesus, Melchisedek based on Gen 14 and Heb 7,1-3. I felt more disappointed as it was a full house and there were many new people. A family I visited yesterday at noon came in force with about 15 adults and children. My son commented that they repaid the pastor's kindness in coming to church. In a way without denying the role of others, the pastor is probably the main factor whether the church feels at peace and whether people feel accepted as part of the church family. Today's Christmas service was even more packed.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Monday, December 21, 2015

Preacher's Holidays

I tried whole morning getting my son to see a dentist. The dental clinics are either full or the dentists are on holidays. But what about the preacher's holidays? During my several mid week foray back to KK supposedly on holidays I worked most days to prepare for Christmas messages. Last weekend alone I had preached 5 sermons, all new and fresh to five different audiences in 5 different venues. Only last week I had googled "Ranau" and it turns out the District is 3,555sq kms, five times larger than Singapore.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Into the midst of the Jungle

Last night past the 9pm mark I was feeling terribly sleepy and tried to hide my constant yawning from my hosts lest they thought I was not interested in their songs and various presentations. The women folks put up a great show with candle and stick dance and songs. I preached at 9.15pm after arriving at the church at 6.30pm. By then I had been on the road for 7 hours with about 30 mins break in between. My wife and son came with me on both occasions. Just wanted my son to taste afresh the jungles of Borneo. The first place we went to had no electricity so no fan in church so we were all sitting outside before we moved in at the start of the service.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Ranau Pastors' Fellowship Christmas in Pictures

One of the highlights of my Ranau ministry is being a part of the Ranau's Pastors fellowship. We had a Christmas celebration last Wednesday with the DS also in attendance.

For the first time, the Inter-church fellowship together with State's Ranau District council held a Christmas celebration in front of KFC. Tonight is the final night but I shall be with my church celebrating our Children's Christmas.

Christmas Service in Pictures

First item by children and youths, dancing to an English song.

Worship team....

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Mountains & Valleys, Father & Son

I got up in the early hours of the morning and mumbled to myself that it was getting harder to travel back and forth Ranau. Perhaps I should ask for a new placement in the plains, down the valley, in Kota Kinabalu. At least there are more varieties of foods here in the city. For the first time in about 12 months I felt reluctant to return to Ranau this morning. The journeyings have worn me out. Though I am taking leave, there is not much fun since most of my leave is used up to prepare for sermons and I have 3 sermons to preach this weekend, 2 on Saturday and once on Sunday. Then I may go down to KK once more.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

In & Out

One of the few advantages of having served as an executive is the annual leave entitlement of 35 days. I have never used up my annual leave in my time in SIB, but this time round it comes in handy as I had travelled in and out of Ranau, 3 times already in the first week of December. With my father ill and my son back from NZ, it is a good time to have with my family. I don't know how to juggle all the Christmas preaching I had to do, both in Ranau and in KK.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Setting the Vision

I preached on the text, without a vision the people perish (Prov 29,18). Interestingly, the LXX has a slightly different take, without an interpreter/exegete, the people are lawless. So I set the vision for the church for 2016. Having established a solid pulpit ministry and praise and worship this year with restoration of cell groups meeting from house to house, I set my heart on discipling church members through regular discipleship classes. I plan to get that going by February 2016. The second focus for 2016 is evangelism and outreach. We have been rather successful in reaching out local communtities with 4 or 5 active cell groups in villages but I challenged the church to go farther, to another District, perhaps one that is within 2 or 3 hours' drive.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Dawn Ride in the City

I'd gotten used to sleeping early and rising early. I went past a mosque and saw about 10 worshippers inside at 5.20am. How nice to have a dawn prayer meeting 6am to 7am. I drove to the city centre offering quiet prayers. A few coffee shops are opened and I stopped at one to enjoy my tea and taufu while reading my NT with Psalms.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Space & Place in Sermon Preparation

I think most preachers can attest to the fact that sermon preparation is an no ending task. It can take place anytime and anywhere. There is no ideal place as if it must be crafted in the pastor's study or private room. I have learned over the years that I am constantly making sermons whether on the MRT, sitting in the Bus stop, enjoying a cup of coffee or a quiet walk in the park. Now I am at a hospital bedside preparing for Sunday's sermon. I have to preach 10 or 11 Christmas sermons besides. I have reached 60 Sunday sermons for the year making a total of more than 100 if Wednesday and Friday sermons are taken into consideration, not counting the 20 plus sermons or so I preached outside my congregation.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Family, God and the Angel of Death

Sometimes one has to choose between family and God. It is either following Jesus or burying one's father. One can't do both, according to Jesus. But in the past week and the coming weeks I will be trying to do both. After exactly 24 hours in Ranau, I drove back to KK to see to my father's needs. The 24 hours in Ranau were impactful. I conducted the communion for both services. In the first service I led prayers for the newly elected leaders. I even joked that my former youth pastor is now my boss having been elected Secretary General. Thankfully he texted me and thanked me for my advice as to what elected office to go for during the AGM. In the 2nd service, I prayed for the State level Youth Conference starting tonight. We expect 5,000 youths to turn up. The old lady who pleaded with me not to leave the church kissed my hand as she whispered a thanksgiving to the Lord that the HQ had not taken me away from the church (Mount Kinabalu at 6.15 am 30th Nov, near Kundasang).