Silence and solitude still our stormy selves and position us to listen better to God. That was what I experienced during my five days of silent retreat in Xavier House on Cheung Chau island, Hong Kong. Besides the physical and soul rest, my spirit was able to feast on the word of God and I must say unlike my several previous retreats this was one of consolation with wonderful moments of assurances and joy.
Why Cheung Chau? Well my pastor friend Eng Hwa had gone there several times and had talked about it. One day I felt an urge to try this Ignatian Spirituality Centre. Anyway the airfare costs about the same as flying to Chiangmai, where I usually went to the Seven Fountains spirituality centre. I was also ready to have a change in setting, and to try a different spiritual director.
So my pastor friend Seng Chor and I made an application. They only accepted those who have already experienced at least a three day silent directed retreat. And we had to change our dates a few times to suit the availability of the spiritual director assigned to us, a Fr Paul Goh, a bi-lingual Singaporean Jesuit priest who was posted to this centre in 2012.
Our flight was delayed by two hours because of the Typhoon Nida which brushed by Hong Kong the day before. We landed at the Hong Kong International Airport. From there we took the airport railway to the “Hong Kong MTR Station”. Then we walked five minutes to the Central Pier and boarded the frequent ferry to Cheung Chau.
Cheung Chau is a fishing town. In the harbour were berthed hundreds of fishing boats. By the time we reached there at about 3 or 4pm the boats were all back. The main street by the quayside was a long stretch of shops of all kinds facing the sea. It is packed with Hong Kongers every weekend as there were a few hiking trails and beaches on the island.
We followed the map given by the retreat center and we had to walk up a slope to reach the Xavier House, which was nicely perched on the slope of the island with a fantastic sea view and breeze. The early Catholic missionaries knew how to buy properties for their work! The whole retreat area was about a football field size but spread across the slopes. There were many niches for seating and private meditation and a beautiful chapel that had a full glass panel facing the sea. However, the single bed room was typically small like all living spaces in Hong Kong.
The retreat director was diligent and asked for four one hour and fifteen minutes sessions of prayer and meditation per day. He gave four Bible passages and two optional ones. Each day I met him at 7.45pm and shared what the Lord had spoken to me through the passages and what affections, feelings and desires they stirred. He listened intently and gave some insights but mainly, he listened. His training lasted 13 years and included specialised counselling and spiritual direction. I was blessed and quickened by the meditations and God spoke to me through the passages. We began on Tuesday night and ended on Saturday evening with a thank you dinner. I left the retreat refreshed and recharged. My faith has been quickened and I am very blessed and very thankful that the church I serve supports such retreats for pastors. Seng Chor and I moved to a hotel on Hong Kong island and did some touristy stuff. Never liked the urban side of Hong Kong but after flying all the way there what is another two days?
A Christian perspective is needed and it has to be based on more comprehensive research and be balanced. The Pokemon Go game craze has hit Singapore’s shores. When I was exploring Cheung Chau island I asked a young person peering her mobile phone to confirm if I was walking in the right direction. She replied, “I don’t know this place. I am here because of Pokemon game.” When I returned from my retreat and two days holiday extension, I heard that the craze has come here. So what should a Christian response to this game be? I had been collating some materials to write an article but a pastor friend Rev Dr Lorna Khoo of Aldersgate Methodist Church had already written a balanced and well researched article about it. I received permission from her to reproduce it here. Hope you find it helpful. Simply click on the document below this sentence. Or go to this link: http://aldersgate.sg/about-pokemon-go/
There are great blessings in preaching through the book of Revelation. Blessings for those who preach it and those who hear it. “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.” (Rev 1:3).
The greatest blessing for me is the confidence and sense of achievement it gave me. Completing the whole series was not smooth sailing. It was challenging. There were times when I had inadequate time for research but the sermon had to be delivered. There were times I was groping for answers to my questions. Quite a few times I was sure the sermon fell flat. Other times I struggled to find interesting connections and applications. However, once it was finished, I felt something similar to that of climbing Loh’s Peak for the first time: a deep satisfaction and a super high. With this experience of perseverance and passion, I feel that I can tackle any other lengthy book of the Bible if I am led to do so. There cannot be anything more difficult in the Bible.
Preaching Revelation had forced me to grow as an exegete. I had to apply principles of interpretation that is unique to apocalyptic literature. I had to grope with controversial issues and work with them to a conclusion even if a tentative one. I had to sort out and learn to recognise different approaches like the dispensationalist approach. I had to learn to remove my coloured lenses due to years of hearing sermons and reading books on Revelation that uses a particular theological viewpoint. Reading many commentaries have broadened my mind. Yet I observe that in terms of the main themes many of them share similar views. I am now better able to handle such types of literature (genre) in the Bible.
My hope was rooted deeply in God’s sovereignty. The dominant themes of stubbornness, idolatry, judgement, holiness, conflict and persecution, God’s sovereignty and faithfulness kept reappearing. It made me realise the importance of being watchful and faithful to the end. I have to persevere in the grace of God knowing that in the end injustice will be overturned, and the victory will be manifested in fullness.