Monday, October 28, 2019

Banggi Island Expedition

I lost track of time. I have been away for 4 days. I did not know that it was public holiday in Sabah today until I went out for lunch. Last night we got back home just after 8pm after driving from the Kudat Jetty at 3.30pm. We took a ferry at 2pm from Banggi Island concluding our 3-day expedition in the island. By the 2nd night on Saturday I did not know where to find strength to preach and preach I did and prayed for about 40 people who came forward - the sick, infirmed and the anxious and they were many among folks in Banggi Island. The people of the Island are mostly improvised and most of their children looked malnourished and the women folks looked thin and gaunt. Only a few teenagers showed the vitality of life and they presented a traditional Bongi dance on Friday night. I was supposed to preach three sessions but a team that was supposed to give a seminar on Saturday did not turn up and I was roped in to lead a 2-hour session on Q & A. Some of the Banggi folks have come to Christ 25 years ago and some more recently but most were still very much bound by their culture, customs and traditions. There was much fear in the unseen or spirit world, about the dead and poverty all round.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Starting Points

There are times of health; there are times of illness. There are times one feels on top of the world; there are times one feels one can't get down any lower. In the past week of bodily weakness, I have had plenty of times to reflect on many things; perhaps in anticipation of my forthcoming 25th anniversary in the Lord's service. It is a Silver Jubilee worth celebrating, as no one is sure whether one will live to see its Golden Jubilee in another 25 years' time. Though, in all modesty, I plan to celebrate my 40th anniversary (Ruby Jubilee) in 15 years' time and perhaps one last time when I reach 75 years old, God willing. I have been reading Numbers 33 on "Starting Points" or "Departure Points" depending on what versions one might be reading.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Preparation for Sermons in Banggi Island

I don't think I have had a busier 48 hours in long time. Yesterday by noon I had settled on my book. The second book is about ready but I will put it on hold until I figure out where to store about 1,000 copies in my house or somewhere. Today was sermon preparation day. I managed to get one sermon ready for Pulau Banggi for next Friday service. I am preaching three times there, so two more sermons to go. Then this Sunday I am also preaching, so this afternoon I prepared for the Sunday message.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Blessed Sukkoth: A Festival of Huts

Robert Alter translates the usual phrase, the Feast of Tabernacles as a Festival of Huts. It is a time to build huts where all Israelites are to stay in huts or tents for 7 days throughout the Feast. Today is the Feast of Tabernacles. I attended a service last night but the preacher did not once mention the Feast, though his message was good and relevant to what I have been going through. The Feast of Tabernacles is a feast of thanksgiving for all the blessings of God throughout the year. The Israelites gather their final harvest of grapes and olives toward the end of September and early October and the Feast on 15th Tishri (7th month) is marked by full moon, a sign in heaven, a kind of reminder that God is the Creator of the universe and the Master of Time and if He is the Creator (out of nothing), He is also the provider for His people, Yhwh Jireh. I give You thanks, O Lord for all Your grace and provision over these 5 years since I have been back in Sabah. For 50 months I had laboured in the mission fields, and harvests are plenty. And I am still labouring.

Walking by Faith and not by Sight

This is one principle that is hard to abide with and harder still to obey. I am called again to walk by faith. Nothing seems to clear on the horizon. In 24 hours' time, I have to make decisions that will determine the course of my life for 2020. Starting the 3rd decade of the 21st century by faith is a good omen. Entrusting oneself to God, not knowing where one is to go (Abraham) but still obeys and follows Christ is what delights God's heart for without faith it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11).

Friday, October 11, 2019

24 Hours

Many things could happen in 24 hours. Yesterday was one such day. I submitted two manuscripts to two publishers. I went to see one at 10am and had a phone conversation with another at 3pm. Things are almost done. I dare believe that the Commentary on John's Gospel (1-12) will be published by 1st December (my 25th anniversary in full-time service) and the memoirs on my mission work by Christmas or latest Chinese New Year 2020. Now I have to find space to store 1,000 copies of books. I will probably build new book-shelves in my study-room, which is now in a big mess with boxes and unpacked notes and books lying around. It is time to spend some money. The publications will cost a fair bit and I will probably sell each book for RM50 or to my Singaporean audience (SGD20+10postage) or international buyers (USD20+10) for delivery and postage.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Silver Jubilee

I thought about it earlier this year how I was going to celebrate two milestones in my life and ministry, but completely forgotten about the second one until late last night when a former student formed a group and suggested a reunion of my former students who had been in my College home groups over the three years that I was there. Celebrating milestones is important. It is not for nothing that it is mentioned consistently that kings reigned when they turned 30 years old like David and Solomon, and then Jesus and John the Baptist. By December which is only 7 weeks away, I shall be celebrating my 25th anniversary in full-time service (Silver Jubilee). Without friends, there is no celebration. "Come friends, eat and drink fully," says the Song of Songs.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Sabbatical Next Year

I thought I was going to enjoy my sabbatical this year and do much less travelling. But travelling I will do some more towards the end of the month up north again, crossing the seas and zig zag across the island where we have planted several churches. Today I managed to edit just some 5 pages of my book before meeting a former student who called me last week and we had more than 4 hours of fellowship. It is good to mentor young pastors and it was mutual encouragement to hear him remembering my times as Acting Principal and how in those short 5 months made a difference to many students. And I now have the opportunity to go to New Zealand for a writers’ scholarship for a month next year and per chance 2020 will be a sabbatical for me.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Two Books at a Time

Suddenly, my two books are taking shape. If it is A5 size, my memoirs regarding mission work in Borneo make up 300 pages and my commentary on John's Gospel (1-12) takes up more than 250 pages. It has been slow progress as I have been working alone. Editing and formatting requires assistance from professionals but I have none. So I prayed to the Lord: "Grant me a personal assistant like You granted to Origen of Alexandria", who had 7 secretaries to write down his sermons and transcribe his commentaries. But I am pleased with my effort thus far. Perhaps, it is God's will that the first is written in English for a world-wide audience and the second on John is in Malay, for those in Malaysia and Indonesia and dare I say in Singapore where you find very few Chinese who know their national language (image: book cover for John's commentary)

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Travelling Missionary

My friend told me that I earned another ascription to my job portfolio. He said I was no longer itinerant as I have been doing much travelling as of late. I remember a couple of my friends in Singapore who considered themselves itinerant preachers because they preached in local churches in Singapore and are not fixed in one church. I guess if that is the right definition of an itinerant, then I have gone beyond that. I thought in my long sabbatical I would rest more and stay put in Kota Kinabalu, perhaps reviving my writing projects. But then since June, my ministry had taken a turn into travelling. In the past two weekends, I have travelled more than 650kms on single lane roads from North to South. I had just been to a village where one can walk across to the State of Sarawak in less than half a day. The leaders told me that it was just across the hills, though the mountains look daunting to me. I drove for 4 hours to a village near Sipitang last Saturday, arrived there at 5.30pm with less than half an hour rest, preached a sermon of one hour at 9.30pm and went to sleep past midnight. Then I woke up several times because of the cold and new environment. It was fits and starts, perhaps less than 3 hours before I got up at 5am. Then I preached an hour long sermon at 10.30 to 11.30am and I did not look at my watch even once as I felt led by the Holy Ghost.