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Singapore’s high speed rail terminus in Jurong Country Club

The Jurong Country Club will be the site for the terminus of the high-speed rail link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. This 67 hectare plot of land has been acquired by the government. This was announced recently on Monday, 11 May 2015.

The high-speed rail project has been in the works since September 2010. Official agreement from both countries came in 2013. It made sense as it would increase options of travel modes between the two cities. At a speed of 300 km/hr it would take an hour and a half for the trip. Currently travelling by road takes 5 hours; by railway it takes 7 hours; by plane it takes about 4 hours (including travel to airport and check in and other procedures). Most people welcome the option of a high-speed rail. But what will it mean to have the terminus at the planned location for people who live in Jurong East?

Jurong Country Club and Science Centre and the green belt beyond the foreground of a school.

Jurong Country Club and Science Centre and the golf course beyond the foreground of a school.

The Jurong East and Lake area has been earmarked as the second business district of Singapore. Altogether it is the size of the Marina Bay business district. Already there are five shopping malls, one large hospital, one hotel, two condominiums (still being built), and the older International Business District. Some government ministry will be occupying the office towers above one of the newer malls. Roads are also being built and widened in anticipation of increased traffic congestion. It will very crowded when this happens and when the high-speed rail starts operation in seven years. What will it be like with the high speed rail terminus situated at the Jurong Country Club?

Firstly, it will be sad for the members of the country club as they have to leave by November 2015 and after investing heavily in redoing the greens recently at high costs. I hope they get compensated well, but I it is difficult to satisfactorily compensate fond memories and intangibles like presteige and status. But then golf courses are enjoyed by the privileged not the majority. And though I enjoy the luxurious slice of green from my apartment window, and the peace and quiet and low density of their land usage, I must agree that for Jurong East to be a second CBD, the golf course looks like underutilized space. It was only logical that the terminus be located there and its surrounding land be developed into valuable mixed recreational, hotel, residential and office space. The development of Singapore is marked by the tears of many landowners.

A few friends told me that this would raise the values of residential property around the development, including mine. However this is nothing to yam seng about because it is mere paper gain for those of us who will be living in our apartments over the long term. Even if you sell it to realize a profit, where do you go to live, since living in a continually dynamic and progressive environment can be quite heady.

Panoramic view of Jurong Country Club golf course from the Jurong Lake park connector

Panoramic view of Jurong Country Club golf course from the Jurong Lake park connector

From my cycling of Jurong Lake park connector, I now get to enjoy a serene piece of green – the golf course. Sadly this will be replaced by buildings and other infrastructural development for the high-speed rail. I have to start savouring this green stretch across the lake and say my goodbyes before the golf course is taken over.  In addition, the view from my apartment will change too as new buildings tower over where the country club now stands in stately dignity. Well, that’s life in Singapore. Unblocked views are never guaranteed.

Two pastors cycle park connectors in the west

Pastor Richard Wong posing with his Brompton and with Chinese Garden in the background

Pastor Richard Wong posing with his Brompton and with Chinese Garden in the background

It began with a dream. Pastor Richard Wong of Singapore Canaan Christian Church messaged me that he had a dream that both of us cycled together on 11 May when his wife was away on vacation. My reply to his interesting dream was, Why not? 11 May would be a Monday and I had my day off every Monday. We arranged to meet at 7am at the Chinese Garden MRT taxi stand.

From his home in Potong Pasir, he took a cab with his Brompton foldable bicycle in the boot. For him it was a journey to the west. He arrived too early at 6.30am and had to wait. On the other hand my home was a 5 minutes ride away. Once we met we were on our way to a whole day of riding under the sun, and fellowship in the Lord.

At jetty of Jurong Lake PCN

At jetty of Jurong Lake PCN

Since Richard came all the way at some cost, I felt I must show him all the lovely park connectors (PCN) linked with Jurong East. The first PCN I took him on was the Jurong Lake PCN, a return trip of about 10 kilometres. There were many scenic spots for nice photographs and we took time to pose and shoot. He was quite impressed.

Next in my plan was breakfast, and I led him to Teban Gardens, to a coffeeshop next to the hawker centre. This coffee shop served good coffee and had a Malay stall that sold fragrant nasi lemak and a popular 50 cents curry puff. The coffee shop also had an Indian stall popular for their roti prata and their nasi beriyani. We had a leisurely breakfast and chatted about things I now cannot recall. Thumbs up to the breakfast and we moved off to link up to the next park connector.

Enjoying breakfast at Teban gardens coffee shop

Enjoying breakfast at Teban gardens coffee shop

We rode up a beautiful and well designed bicycle overpass that connected the Teban Garden estate PCN to the Ulu Pandan PCN. The bitumen overpass was built with beautiful steel railings and with a comfortable gradual gradient without any bumps. No expense was spared to make it aesthetically impressive and functionally efficient. Richard remarked that the authorities built a lovely bicycle overpass. I agreed wholeheartedly.

Ulu Pandan PCN

Ulu Pandan PCN

The Ulu Pandan PCN was a straightforward bicycle and joggers trail and by the mid-morning time that we used it, we were under the hot sun. We rode hard and we rode fast most of the time until we reached the Ghim Moh temporary hawker centre. What relief it was to be out of the sun and to have a cold soya bean drink. Had a leisurely chat. Soon we were riding hard and fast to the Bukit Batok PCN with the objective of seeing Little Guilin.

This time we switched bikes. I rode his Brompton, the “BMW” of foldable bikes, and he rode my Cronus Earl 3.0. Bikes have their distinct voice as the wheels turned. The rider may not be able to hear it clearly, but is able to hear other riders’ bike humming by. My bike that he rode does not have a nice voice. It sounded cranky, like it had some loose nuts and bolts that needed tightening. Earlier when he rode the Brompton, I could hear the click click click of his wheels: the sound of British engineering.

At Little Guilin in Bukit Gombak

At Little Guilin in Bukit Gombak

Waiting for the MRT at Gombak station

Waiting for the MRT at Gombak station

By the time we reached Little Guilin the sun was overhead and the sunlight was too harsh for photography but we managed to redeem our photos with editing tools.

Inside the first coach of MRT train with foldable

Inside the first coach of MRT train with foldable

We were punctured by then and we decided to take the MRT from Gombak, which was next to Little Guilin, to the Jurong East MRT. Neither of us have used the MRT with our folding bikes. There are a few conditions for riding the MRT with a “foldie”. First, it must be outside peak hours, from 9.30am to 4.30am. Next, your foldie must be within the stipulated size. Next, you have to use the elevator and enter the first or last coach. This would be a first for us, and I entered in first, as my bike looked bulkier. If I was turned away, we could cycle back together. As it turned out it was no bother and we located the lift and used the first coach. What a liberating experience.

We ended in Jurong East MRT for lunch. Lunch we Redhill fishball noodles at the Isetan supermarket food porch. After that he visited my home for coffee. It was a satisfying day. We made Pastor Richard’s dream come true.

What would Jesus say to Amos Yee?

Amos Yee Pang Sang (Chinese: 余澎杉; pinyin: Yú Péng Shān; born October 31, 1998) is a Singaporean YouTube personality, blogger, and former child actor. In late March 2015, shortly after the death of Lee Kuan Yew, a former Prime Minister of Singapore, Yee uploaded a video to YouTube criticizing Lee and compared him with Christianity. As a result, Yee was arrested and charged for the “intention of wounding the religious feelings of Christians”, and also separately for uploading an obscene image of Lee and Margaret Thatcher. Both charges fall under the Penal Code. A third charge, later stood down, was under the Protection of Harassment Act, which accuses him of “making an online video containing remarks about Mr Lee that offended people who viewed it.” Yee was initially released on bail on the condition that he not comment or distribute any content online while the case was still ongoing, but Yee refused to obey the conditions of his bail. Yee’s trial, which took place on 7 to 8 May 2015, attracted much public interest.  The court found Yee guilty on 12 May 2015.[9] It will announce the sentence on 2 June 2015. (Wikipedia).

Social media reactions have been vociferous and polarizing; with some vehemently defending his right to freedom of speech, while others as decided that he needs a good smack on his head, which somebody actually gave to him.  A summary from online news stated, “A self-employed man was sentenced to three weeks in jail on Monday for slapping teenage blogger Amos Yee outside the State Courts last month. Neo Gim Huah, 49, was charged in court on Monday”.

Amos Yee on his way to courtI feel for the parents of Amos Yee, and what they had to go through. It must be tough, very tough for both of them. I do pray the Lord will strengthen them with power to endure, and the grace to walk with their son on this path of burning coals.

Which leads me to ask a simple question, What would Jesus say to Amos Yee?  With people entrenched in polarized positions sniping each other, what would Jesus, the icon of Christianity that Amos Yee condemned, say to him?

I posed this question on Facebook and these are some replies I received from pastors and other friends in the comment boxes: “You are forgiven. You are my beloved.”  “I am going to your house for dinner.” “Whoever shall deny Me before men, him also will I deny before My Father in heaven(Matt 10:33).” “Jesus would say to Amos : ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.’(Luke 9:23).” “I am going to your house for dinner.” “Repent”. “The prodigal son comes home.” “Love edifies.” “It’s tough. I know. Come with Me.”

As we all know the gospels reported how Jesus had different ways of handling different ones. He handled Nicodemus the religious seeker one way, and even another religious seeker, the rich young man, another way. The Samaritan woman and the woman caught in adultery were both given mercy. Jesus handled Zaccheus the tax-collector and the demon oppressed man from the Gadarene in another way. He treated each according to what he perceived was their deepest need or greatest blockage.

The Pharisees and Sadducees, religious groups in Jesus’ time, who should have known better, but were arrogant and self-righteous, were the ones who received his most severe public rebukes. Does Amos Yee belong to this category of self-righteous religious prigs? I think not. So a severe reprimand would not be what Jesus would have said to him.

Is Amos Yee someone who craves for attention and fame? It does seem that way. He said so himself. He was a young actor. He wanted to be famous and turned to You Tube with his talents to get the fame he wanted. To stand out in social media, you have to be different: brilliant in your ideas (think Ted Talks), performance or entertainment value (think Gangnam style); or contrarian, radical, non-conformist, and extreme in your opinions. He chose the latter.

So what would Jesus say to Amos Yee? Would he say to Amos Yee what he said to Saul of Tarsus? Maybe so. I could be wrong but perhaps Jesus, the risen Lord would say this to him: “Amos, Amos, why do you oppose Me. It’s tough isn’t it, this path that you have chosen? There is a better way to greatness. It’s the path of service. It’s looking out for the interests and needs of others and finding solutions to help them. Humble, hidden and loving service is the path for you, Amos. I have been watching over you quietly with love and compassion, not with hate and condemnation. I accept you, and feel for you and I want what’s best for you. Trust and follow Me.”

Preaching like cooking for family

A good balance for everyone at the dinner table

A good balance for everyone at the dinner table

The sermon is preferred differently by people of different temperaments. The sanguine (the “I” in the DISC) will like messages with moving stories embellished with dialogue, and content with relational elements. The phlegmatic (S) needs sermons that reassure, comfort and encourage them constantly. The melancholy(C) prefers to dive deep into analysis, interpretative details and arguments about the Biblical text. The choleric (D) will want to be challenged by a sermon calling them to do things that produces results and make a difference, and have sure-fire practical steps of action.

This alone presents a challenge to the preacher. Can he add elements to target each of these unique temperament preferences in most sermons if not every sermon? Such a sermon would then have to have a moving story or relational element added if the text is not a narrative. It would have to be positive, comforting and encouraging. Based on a text that is not ignored, the sermon has to arise and be systematically built up from a careful interpretation of scriptures that include nuances and alternative interpretations. It would also have to point to a lack, gap or need in the hearers so big they would be motivated to want to do something about it. It would have some practical steps of plugging the gap at the end. This is a tall order and when you consider the many other roles and responsibilities of a small church pastor it appears almost impossible to do this consistently over a long period of time.

Feeding the church is like feeding a family. Every child has different preferred, or favourite and despised dishes. It can be so opposite and impossible. One prefers rice, another rather eat noodles most of the time. One hates fish because of the bones inside, others love whole fish and find the Dory too bland. Most love curry but one has the runs when she eats spicy. So like any smart mother, the pastor has to plan a balanced menu of sermons of different kinds: topical series that are easily digestible by most; sermons for special occasions like Easter or missions Sundays or anniversaries; deep book studies of Old and New Testament; and standalone sermons that addresses some challenge that the church or society is facing. And major on what the apostle Paul majored, “We preach Christ and Him crucified” – the finished work. Furthermore, church members, like family, have to learn to understand and embrace this variety of approaches out of love and respect for other family members. Church is family and this is what family does.

Biblical Turkey & Greece Pastors’ Familiarization Tour 2015

Hagia Sofia: church turned mosque turned museum

Hagia Sofia: church turned mosque turned museum

Gymnasium at ancient Sardis (city of one of seven churches in Revelations)

Gymnasium at ancient Sardis (city of one of seven churches in Revelations)

Beautiful chapel that celebrates Lydia's conversion in Philippi (Greece)

Beautiful chapel that celebrates Lydia's conversion in Philippi (Greece)

Packed itinerary

We landed at dawn and began with a one day tour of Istanbul. It was a wet, windy and cold day. However we toured the main tourist sites and still managed to squeeze in an hour of shopping at the grand bazaar in the late evening. We visited the ancient ruins of the cities where the seven churches mentioned in the book of Revelation once existed. They are all in modern day Turkey. Then we crossed over to Greece by bus and visited holy sites, ancient ruins and museums in Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, and Corinth. From Athens, we flew and transited at Istanbul, and flew back home.

We stayed at eight hotels in ten days. That should say something. It meant living off our suitcase. It meant early morning calls that mercifully became sane morning calls in Greece. It also meant being on the road on average about 2 hours between sites. We all expected it as this was a familiarization tour and they were trying to give us a sampling of as many different religious sites as possible within the limited time-frame. This survey would then help us to choose from a wide range what we think is suitable for ourselves if we want to lead a tour from our church in future.

The group picture taken at ancient Laodicea

The group picture taken at ancient Laodicea

Personal highlights of the tour

The fellowship was wonderful. There were 39 participants in all – mostly pastors from different denominations and background. There were Methodists, Baptists, Assemblies of God, Independents, Brethren, Presbyterians, Anglicans, and Vietnamese Alliance. As there were about 25 meals we had together I got to hear many inspiring stories of pastors, and how they were called and what their churches were about. A few of these pastors had successful careers. But they heard the call and became pastors in mid-career changes.

Fellowship over meals

Fellowship over meals

Baked fish

Baked fish

Salads

Salads

Soups

Soups

Lamb cuts and other meats

Lamb cuts and other meats

Sweet desserts

Sweet desserts

Old friend Pastor Richard  & Nancy Loh of Queenstown Baptist Church

Old friend Pastor Richard & Nancy Loh of Queenstown Baptist Church

Renewed fellowship with pastors' prayer group leader Rev Sng Chong Hui and wife Irene

Renewed fellowship with pastors' prayer group leader Rev Sng Chong Hui and wife Irene

The ladies enjoyed the fellowship

The ladies enjoyed the fellowship

Pastor Ezekiel giving the devotion at site of Lydia's conversion at Philippi

Pastor Ezekiel giving the devotion at site of Lydia's conversion at Philippi

Naturally the pastors were deployed to give devotions at the major sites. It was edifying to hear God’s messages to the seven churches in Revelation come alive with probing relevance and power across the centuries. I was blessed. For me it was like a personal invitation from the Spirit to look more deeply at the book of Revelations and consider preaching it through in the church. The book lit up like a burning bush.

Sela, boss of tour company humouring us in the bus

Sela, boss of tour company leading us in the WI-FI equipped bus

Excellent informative guide telling us about ancient Ephesus toilets that St Paul probably used!

Excellent informative guide telling us about ancient Ephesus toilets that St Paul probably used!

This subsidized tour was well organized and packed. The tour guides that were handpicked for us were very good in terms of their expertise, people skills and humor. The Bible Society of Singapore and the Omega Tours and Travel did a thoughtful job of planning all these and selecting the local tour companies to partner with. We had our meals at restaurants and most breakfasts and dinners were in above average hotels. Not sure about the cuisine, but I preferred the Turkish meals to the ones in Greece for the greater variety. There were salads in every meal and I never ate so much vegetable in any ten days of my life till now.

Short cut on the ferry to and from the European and Asian parts of Turkey

Short cut on the ferry to and from the European and Asian parts of Turkey

At Parthenon, ancient temple dedicated to goddess Athena, in Athens acropolis

At Parthenon, ancient temple dedicated to goddess Athena, in Athens acropolis

Admiring ladies hairstyles in the Acropolis Museum, Athens

Admiring ladies hairstyles in the Acropolis Museum, Athens

If I were to plan a pilgrimage/study tour for the church I would concentrate on Turkey. I would do the Istanbul bit, fly to Tarsus, get lost in the Cappadocia caves, do the seven churches circuit, and have a day cruise to the island of Patmos (part of Greece). Such a pilgrimage/study tour would focus on the book of Revelations and the relevance of its message to us. I feel the Revelations tour can be impactful. And add some restful elements like staying to linger an extra day in a city, and having some fun shopping or hot air ballooning. Adding Greece in would be too much. Have a separate pilgrimage for Greece, probably with a missional slant.

My favourite sites: the ancient Ephesus site, and Parmukkale“cotton castle” in Turkey; and the Meteora in Greece.

Taking a selfie at Ephesus ancient library ruins

Taking a selfie at Ephesus ancient library ruins

Ephesus amphitheatre

Ephesus amphitheater

Pamukkale: cotton castle World Heritage site

Parmukkale "cotton castle": a World Heritage site

Soaking our feet in the mineral water supplied by hot springs

Soaking our feet in the mineral water supplied by hot springs

Natural hotsprings and beautiful terraces of carbonate minerals

Parmukkale: natural hot-springs and beautiful terraces of carbonate minerals

Monasteries built on top of rock formations - cool

Meteora - Greek Orthodox monasteries built on top of rock formations - cool

Monks and nuns in those which permit visitors and tourists

Monks and nuns in those monasteries which permit visitors and tourists

How heavy loads are carried up in the old days

How heavy loads were carried up in the old days

FGB MDM School: Making Disciples in the Marketplace

53 delegates from 6 countries

53 delegates from 6 countries

Praying for "Papa" Khoo

Praying for "Papa" Khoo

The FGB Making Disciples in Marketplace School

My daughter and I took a taxi and arrived at Changi Cove for a 2pm registration on a Saturday. I have been hearing about kingdom and the marketplace. During a recent Israel holy land tour we dropped by Mt Carmel and visited Peter Tsukahira’s ministry centre. He talked about the kingdom. The next year in 2013, Peter was the main plenary speaker at the Love Singapore Prayer Summit and he enlarged on the same theme. At the same summit, I met Georgie Lee who shared passionately about FGB Gatekeepers and their training camp. In 2014, Benny Ho called together a roundtable for pastors and marketplace leaders to have a dialogue. I met Georgie again and he invited me to attend a Making Disciples in the Marketplace (MDM) School. After some prayer I decided to attend it from 7-10 March 2015.

An evening for foreign delegates to see the city skyline

An evening for foreign delegates to see the city skyline

There were 53 participants from six countries including Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, India, and Indonesia. My daughter and I were so tired we both took an afternoon nap, and woke up late for the first session. What a way to start. The sessions were back to back and intense. There were fifteen sessions in all: five sessions every day: two in the morning; two in the afternoon; and one at night. We were well fed with good food and tea breaks before and after every session. Here are some takeaways from the 3 day school.

Blogpastor’s five key takeaways

Firstly the truth that there are many teachers and not many spiritual fathers, and fathers are what we need above teachers, systems, strategies and methodology. The key difference and distinguishing mark of the father is love, love, love. The spiritual father loves authentically. Teachers do not. Many excel in explaining or expositing, few love well, love fully and truly. I felt weird when they kept calling Khoo Oon Theam “Papa”. With time, I saw that they were affectionate in their relationship with him. They had received a lot of love from him. They naturally called him Papa Khoo. The Catholics got it right. Their priests are called Fathers not Reverends. Fathering is an excellent image of Christian leadership. I saw that in Khoo Oon Theam. Of course I don’t know him well enough, but I could see a genuine mutual affection amongst the FGB team and him. The bottom-line is love after all. Elder John of the Bible knew it. Eagle saints know it. So does “Papa” Khoo.

Secondly, the vision of discipling must go beyond the individual, as in most models, but must embrace transformation of comprehensive aspects of society. It is a vision that goes beyond one nation to globally reach all people groups.

Speakers praying and imparting to delegates

Speakers praying and imparting to delegates

Thirdly, I learned that most Christians fly below the radar’s detection range. They live moral lives, and try to do their work well, keeping their heads down, be inconspicuous and stay out of trouble, rather than choose to seek change so that God’s name is glorified. They would not upset the peace nor confront injustice nor wrong. MDM School advocates and empowers God’s people to activate God’s salt and light in the workplace. It gives them a sense of purpose in what would occupy a large chunk of their lives in terms of effort and hours: the workplace. Suddenly the gospel is seen to be highly relevant and not compartmentalized conveniently in some weekend activity. The school has a structure and process that works for FGB Gatekeepers and they have assembled quite an experienced and influential group of committed leaders or “elders” from the marketplace.  It is for us pastors to re-shape it for the local church.

Fourthly, I believe this vision has revitalized the Full Gospel Businessman (FGB) of yesteryear. The FGB played a pivotal role in spreading the charismatic experience and message in the 1980’s and 1990’s. This role of seeding the denominations and churches had resulted in the leaven leavening the whole lump except for a few exceptions like the Bible Presbyterians, the Presbyterians and the Chinese and Malayalam churches. Then with the churches renewed the FGB seem to have gone into a season of hibernation, a dark night of the soul if you would like. The good news is they have come our purified and deepened in vision and this is sparking interest among FGBs in other countries. They have seen a fire in the East and it has thawed their hearts and they are travelling long distances to catch the fire for their own people.

With Galven who did a definitive history of the charismatic movement

With Galven who did a definitive history of the charismatic movement

Fifthly, I liked it that they were serious about inter-generational impartation and mentoring.  There was deliberate and intentional discipling and coaching of younger leaders. A few of them in their thirties led part of the sessions with their mentors who are in their sixties. It’s wonderful to behold. Seeing parents and their young adult son working together in the ministry is heart-warming. An example was to see Georgie and Evelyn Lee, who are leaders in the movement, with their son Galven, who was there to facilitate. Galven was researching the charismatic movement of the 70’s in Singapore. I first met him when he was doing research for his studies in NUS.  He interviewed me as a witness to the revival in Dunearn Technical Secondary School. Out of that revival, World Revival Prayer Fellowship was born. He obtained a first class honours student conferred jointly by NUS and the National University of Australia. His thesis traces the history of the charismatic movement in Singapore. At last we have a rigorously researched piece that withstood academic standards of the highest order.

As a student of educational methodology and curriculum, I do see that some tweaks are needed but even as it is the MDM School can impart enthusiasm, the spirit, the dynamism of the vision. Catch the heart of the vision which is actually a spirit of fathering and apostolic initiative. Seek to contextualize it for your church or workplace situation, for it has to be contextualized.

Cycling the Marina Barrage

The view from across the barrage.

The view from across the barrage.

Eric and me at the Marina barrage

Eric and me at the Marina barrage

Central business district in the background.

Central business district in the background.

On a bridge with the Merlion behind

On a bridge with the Merlion behind

It was 7.45 am. We folded the two bikes, one a Tern Link, the other a Cronus Earl 3.0 onto the Daihatsu. The back seat had to be folded to put the two foldies in. My neighbour drove to Marina Barrage. From there we rode off all around the Marina Barrage and the reservoir in front of the city skyline. It was a stunning, beautiful and pleasant ride. It was a sunny day but a light breeze made it pleasant and I got so caught up with the panoramic views and ease of biking around that I forgot about the sun. At the end of it all we ate roti prata at the hawker center near the barrage. It had been a good three hours and a half. What a stimulating day! For this reason, I bought foldable bicycles.

View of CDB

View of CDB

Met other Christians and tried out a Brompton owned by one of them

Met other Christians and tried out a Brompton owned by one of them

A pastor’s reflection on people’s grieving over Lee Kuan Yew

The sense of loss is still fresh. Lee Kuan Yew passed away a fortnight ago. Many are still grieving. The National Museum was full of people at the exhibition held in honour of Lee Kuan Yew. People are returning to normality rather slowly. There is some wisdom in the Chinese tradition of a hundred days of grieving. Over the last 14 days, some people have ended up on two extreme ends: some idolizing LKY, and others blasting him. Then there are those who are more sensible, sensitive and yet incisive. One such person is Rev Dr Lorna Khoo, a Methodist pastor, whose piece in her Facebook, struck me as insightful and wise. So I asked her permission to reproduce it in full:

Some Reflections and Thoughts re the past week

1. Let us give honour where honour is due .
Mr Lee Kuan Yew deserves that honour, our respect and gratitude.

2. Everyone will have different ways of expressing/giving that respect/honour.
While I did not line up 8 hours in town, change my FB picture to the black ribbon or stand in the rain to bid goodbye, I did sign a condolence book, lead in the observation of the l minute silence, pray for the family members by name, followed the state controlled newspaper and media re updates, reposted positive posts regarding him on FB,  watched the funeral on TV (  stood at attention and saluted the cortege in private) and shed tears at PM’s eulogy. Even got the car/computer stickers for friends who want to honour his memory that way.

Respect the difference in expressions. No one has to express it the same way.

3. Timing is important.
There needs to be ‘time out’ for people to grieve. There will be time later to talk about other things. I think at least a week after the funeral or even two weeks. Now its still very raw… emotions are unprocessed. Some emotions are one’s own for him. Others are added on- from unresolved griefs in one’s own life or sharing of our corporate/ national atmosphere of grief. What has taken a week to reach a ‘crescendo’ cannot be expected to disappear immediately after the funeral.

Give space. Go gentle.

4. As children from the same family experience their parents in different ways, so we in Singapore experience the Architect and Father of Modern Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew…in different ways.

Just because one child had very good experience with one’s father does not mean another in the family had the same experience or that the father was a very good father. The reverse is true too: one child might have been badly hurt by the same father who was everything that another would want in a father. To decry or put down another for sharing different experiences of the same father is not right nor fair. The father is a human being- he has both good and bad traits.

Some might want to make him into something close to an idol: I have seen excesses and what I consider to be extremely bad theology appearing on FB (eg 23/3 = Psa23; talking about his sacrifice almost on the same level as Christ’s or St Paul…)

Some are iconoclastic – blasting away at every good memory in the house with profanity and inappropriate PUBLIC expressions of happiness  [ eg A-mos-quito]. There is lack of sensitivity, humanity and maturity here. While some negative expressions might be a reaction to the extremism of some idol builders ( who are piling praises out of this stratosphere ) , some might be real grouses. There is a need to raise issues having to do with injustices perceived or actually committed… but these can be surfaced more effectively in a decent, balanced way….and at a later time, giving space for the grief to subside.

Let’s not be dismissive of others’ experience simply because its not our own. Never stoop to insulting the person for being ‘brainless’ or ’stupid’. Its good always to see both sides – with information from both the state owned media and the variety of social media.

5. People are STILL grieving for a father they have lost.

I would not call him ‘founding father’ as neither he, Sang Nila Utama nor Stamford Raffles ‘founded’ Singapore. Singapore already existed as an island (by whatever name in the past) before they came. He IS the father of modern Singapore. The Architect. While one might have significant uncles/aunts…(Goh Keng Swee, Ong Pang Boon, the Dutch guy -forgot his name- and others….) , there is always a main leader…like a maestro -conductor of a orchestra… who gets each excellent instrument player to create his unique music in harmony with everyone on the team…resulting in a musical feast for the audience to enjoy. Lee Kuan Yew was such a ‘ conductor of the orchestra’  kind of father.

In real life – even if one’s father is a real rot, one still grieves when the loss is experienced. It might not be grief for what was lost….but grief for what could have been but was not so. Counsellors will say that in such periods of one’s life, one should avoid making rash decisions. (And shall I add….rash heated statements….?)

6. There will be and needs to be time to confront hot button issues.
We cannot be saying ‘peace, peace…’ when peace needs to come with actions of righteousness and (as my friend mentioned correctly), RESTORATIVE justice. Those afraid of conflict will want to avoid it at all cost. But for the nation to move forward together, we need to re-examine painful issues of the past, do surgery to remove the pus…for only then will healing come.

Kyushu, Japan free and easy 8: Yufuin town and Kinrinko Lake

Sauntering through the town

Sauntering through the town. Khoon's photo.

Pedestrians only street

Pedestrians only street. Khoon's photo.

We were feeling travel weary as we reached the last leg of our free and easy tour. We would walk through Yufuin, a tourist town, and make our way to picturesque Kinrinko Lake. There were blue skies, lovely mountains in the distance, a lake and lots of small shops selling all kinds of food, pottery, knick-knacks, Japanese souvenirs, almost anything a tourist would want to bring back to their country.

Kinrinko Lake

Kinrinko Lake

Kinrinko Lake

Kinrinko Lake: beautiful in autumn colours

Wild ducks at the shoreline

Wild ducks at the shoreline

Ladies with autumn colours in the background

Ladies with autumn colours in the background

Beautiful aspects as we walk the shoreline

Beautiful aspects as we walk the shoreline

The air was cool and fresh and we were in no hurry. We began mid-morning and were to have our lunch there. We decided to take the

Daniel take the first bite.

Daniel take the first bite.

scheduled transport at about 4pm. So that’s a lot of time. We walked leisurely through the street and visited many of the small shops and bought some stuff. I bought mugs for my adult children. We saw a queue at one Bespoke bakery that specializes in Japanese style Swiss roll cake. Daniel joined the queue and bought the cake and generously shared with the rest of us. I admit the fresh cream and the sponge cake’s texture were out of this world. It was super and was finished within minutes.
Later we walked all the way to the lake and back again to the store near the information office. It got colder later in the day and we warmed ourselves in the hot waters in an outdoor corner that was part of the store. We all knew this was the last day. We would be in Fukuoka that night. After a night stay in the hotel we head for the airport and would be home-bound. Something good and enjoyable was ending and there is that sense that we will soon be back to the grind in Singapore. It was great while it lasted. Everyone was thankful to Jasmine who so thoroughly did the research and designed the free and easy tour that enabled us to experience most of the highlights of Kyushu island.

Jasmine the organizer and her husband Jabez

Jasmine the organizer and her husband Jabez.

Yufuin floral village

Yufuin floral villag.

Keeping warm

Keeping warm

Lee Kuan Yew: A pastor’s 7 days of thanksgiving

Lee Kuan Yew (1923-2015)

Lee Kuan Yew (1923-2015)

MONDAY, 23RD MARCH 2015

I awoke to the 7am radio news that Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first Prime Minister, had breathed his last at about 3am this morning. He had headed the government for a whopping 30 years and he served as Senior Minister and Minister Mentor for another 21 years. There would be 7 days of mourning from Monday till Sunday. There would be two days of private wake for Lee’s family; four days for the public to pay respects; and finally the funeral on Sunday.

I was not deeply sad. It had been anticipated for a few weeks. The Prime Minister’s office had been sending signals to prepare the public. He is a ripe 91 years old. I felt thankful, in fact, for this man. He reminded me of that great prophecy given by Isaiah in chapter 45 of Isaiah in the Bible. God was speaking through Isaiah about a man named Cyrus and what how God would raise him up for a purpose.  Isaiah prophesied that in the future God would raise a pagan leader by the name of Cyrus who would be His “anointed king”. He would conquer many nations, gather invincible force and power, and attain vast wealth. Then God gives the reason He is doing all this: “Cyrus, I am sending for you by name. I am doing it for the good of the family of Jacob. They are my servant. I am doing it for Israel. They are my chosen people. You do not know anything about me. But I am giving you a title of honour. I am the Lord. There is no other Lord. I am the one and only God. You do not know anything about me. But I will make you strong” (Isaiah 45:4,5 ESV). Lee Kuan Yew, like king Cyrus of ancient days, was raised and elevated for the sake of God’s people. He may not have known the Lord, but was an “instrument” in the hands of Almighty God to fulfil God’s purpose for Singapore and the church in Singapore.

Yuhua hawker centre

Yuhua hawker centre

So I went about with thanksgiving for the unique and significant contributions that Lee Kuan Yew made to our young and tiny island nation. His fingerprints are everywhere. He has made an indelible mark on Singapore’s  history and culture. I had a breakfast at a hawker centre. My wife and I shared vegetarian bee hoon and roti prata and a coffee in a relatively clean and hygienic environment. Tables and chairs are affixed to the floor in a neat and orderly arrangement to maximize space. The architecture is purely functional and pragmatic. These are all extended expressions of a strong dominant leader who stamped his personality on the reigning government for more than 30 years. I thank God for Lee Kuan Yew.

Off I went cycling to the Jurong Lake Park. This is my Monday exercise, solitude and silence. It was humid but the greenery of the foliage of rows of trees and the shimmering waters of the artificially man-made lake made it a pleasant ride. What I was cycling on was

The park is always being cleaned

The park is always being cleaned

formerly swamp land that had been drained and solidified for practical use. Large swathes of swampland in Jurong were converted to usable industrial land in the early years after independence when LKY’s fantastic power team of cabinet ministers worked together to attract foreign investors to build their factories with special tax breaks and other incentives, and use our cheap labour. In a matter of one or two decades, the children of these factory hands became the skilled and educated work force, which drives our civil service, armed forces, financial district, businesses, institutions and regional operational headquarters. I thank God for Lee Kuan Yew for laying down the foundations for Singapore’s high employment rate, reputable educational system, and continued prosperity.

I had a reminder last night from the National Library. The books I borrowed for my grand-daughter were due. For years I have used the library to borrow books for all my children – hundreds of books over many years. Lately, I have appreciated the Jurong East Regional Library for more than this. I go there sometimes to meditate, pray, and journal. It is air-conditioned and there are comfortable seats where you can look out through floor to ceiling windows that give you a grand view of Jurong Gateway’s development. Most of all, it’s a mere 12 minutes’ walk from my home. Recently my colleague, pastor Thomas showed me another fantastically designed library at Orchard Gateway that took my breath away. He spent considerable time reading, resting, writing and  praying in that place over several weeks during his sabbatical. I thank God for Lee Kuan Yew.

Today I decided that during the worship service we will stand up for one minute of silent thanksgiving for the way God used Lee Kuan Yew to build Singapore

It is of course going to be a week of great sadness and mourning for his family, and friends (if there are any who outlived him), and mentees. Millions of Singaporeans will feel a sense of loss.  But I would like to spend this week looking at all the things I can thank God for because of this man Lee Kuan Yew. At the end of each grey day, I hope to add in another record of what I see as LKY’s fingerprints on our society and culture.

TUESDAY, 24TH MARCH, 2015

It was humid and by the time I walked to the Jurong East MRT station my shirt, wet from perspiration, was stuck to my back. It was 9.05am, and as I stood in the fairly crowded MRT train, I mused that most commuters will have to accept that they will not get a seat most of the time when they ride the train. The sooner we commuters accept that as the normal, the more we will be able to appreciate the MRT system that has been painstakingly planned for in the 1960’s and implemented in the 1980’s, both under Lee Kuan Yew’s watch. As we remember LKY’s influence over Singapore life, nothing may be more evident than the extensive infrastructural development.

In future the MRT system will be pervasive and vital to movement of people

In future the MRT system will be pervasive and vital to movement of people

From the building of roads, bridges, public housing, tunnels, parks, reservoirs, industries, airport and seaports, electrical and telecommunications systems to the financial systems, health care and education systems, government and law enforcement, what we currently take for granted, were built from the meagre basics the British colonists left us. What we see today is vastly different from what the British left us after we were granted independence. Much was built up by the LKY power team of successive capable cabinet ministers, and Prime Ministers Goh Chok Tong and Lee Hsien Loong continued refining the development of these interrelated systems. Without these we cannot sustain economic growth and activities nor have a good standard of living. So thank you Sir for eliminating or minimizing corruption, for your honest hard work and dedication without complaining about your low salary in the early decades, for your love of Singapore.

Today my heart was more tender when I thought about what he has done for Singapore.

WEDNESDAY, 25TH MARCH 2015

My office is at Lorong 27A Geylang. As I walk along the street to my office, I pass by three Buddhist Associations/Temples, and the Geylang Evangelical Free Church. If I walk to the end and turn left I will stand before a mosque. Walk another ten minutes and I will see a Hindu temple and a Taoist one. This is multi-religious Singapore. Perhaps there are other large cities like that. The beauty in Singapore is the peaceful co-existence of different religions. Each are allowed to practise what they believe as long as it is done respectfully and sensitively of others’ space. The LKY government intentionally legislated laws to maintain such peace. If a preacher denigrates

Mosque, Buddist temple, and church next to one another

Mosque, Buddist temple, and church next to one another

another religion, and a complaint is received, the preacher will receive a warning to desist from such further activity. This may sound draconian to some, but I am sure Christian brethren and Muslim minorities in India would love for such a law to be enacted in their countries. Lord, thank you for Lee Kuan Yew.

On my way home I held up an umbrella. It was too hot. Suddenly I noticed a lady in her late sixties, too close for my comfort, enjoying the shade from my umbrella. She had come back from paying respects to Lee Kuan Yew as he laid in state in the Parliament House. She said that due to her age they moved her forward and let her jump the queue. Some had braved five hours of waiting only to be rushed by his coffin to pay a glancing respect. She was one of them, though she probably had waited less.

In the MRT train, I noticed a whole row of passengers of different races sitting in opposite me and so I took a picture. This picture depicts the multi-racial ties in Singapore that have been peaceful and respectful by and large. We have had racial riots and violence in the early years prior to independence. Many believe they were incited by politicians. This has never happened since that time. Thank you, Lee Kuan Yew.

Honoring the space and defferences among the many races

Honoring the space and differences among the many races

THURSDAY, 26TH MARCH 2015

The heat was unbearable even though I carried an umbrella. Walking from the bus stop to the Trinity Theological Library was a good 500 metres, half of it uphill. Trinity used to be at Mount Sophia. Now its still on a mount with no name. The librarian had insisted I still have a book with me titled, The Prime of Life, but I was sure I had returned it. So I went up and found it. I was right. Anyway as I settled into a desk and set up my laptop, I was so pleased with the environment that I took two photos of the library from where I was. The air- conditioning was so pleasant. I remembered reading that the late Lee Kuan Yew, when asked what in his opinion was the greatest invention of the 20th Century, had replied, The air-conditioner.  I had thought that was not too smart an answer for a man

Trinity Theological Library - beats working in my office hole anytime.

Trinity Theological Library - beats working in my office hole anytime.

with his intellectual kungfu. Surely there are many more inventions more significant than this, like the computer, or some breakthrough medical equipment. I guess his frame of reference was Singapore. That was what framed everything he fought for, dreamed of and thought of. Certainly if Singapore could be air-conditioned and was just several degrees lower in temperature, like a daily 25 degree centigrade, this would be a cool place, in more than one sense. This was just him.

At lunch, I walked to the Railway Mall and after some fried rice, I went to Toastbox for a hot Barley drink. I sat next to four middle-aged men and could not help overhearing them talking about Lee Kuan Yew, and about the long queues of people waiting in orderly lines to pay their last respects. Obviously LKY has his detractors too. One of them asked another, So now that LKY has passed away, will your dad give up his Malaysian citizenship and become a Singaporean. The other man replied, I don’t know. LKY said something in the past and since that time my dad has been firmly against him. Evidently not everyone treasures or want to have  the red passport.

So it was communications work in the morning and now after lunch I honed the sermon that I had prepared for the Emotionally

From the highest level where I sat, the staircase looks shapely

From the highest level where I sat, the staircase looks shapely

Healthy Spirituality that we have been running in our worship services and cell groups. Then it was back into the open sky baking oven until I get into the air-conditioned bus. LKY has a point. At the feeling level, the air-conditioner is indeed the greatest invention of the 20th Century, and all peoples living in the equatorial belt will agree with his statement.

Dinner was at Hotel Jen, formerly Traders’ Hotel, with Sunny and Annie and Abe and Hwee Inn. We were all over 50 years old, and so we had that SG50 offer. International buffet at $50 for two persons over 50. Great company and good food. And what did we talk about? Well family, work and also, Lee Kuan Yew. After dinner, Sunny and Annie, my wife and I went to the Jurong East community tent that was set up nicely for people to pay their last respects  in front of a large picture of LKY and long rows of tables full of flower bouquets given by grateful and grieving Singaporeans. An MP shook our hands as we went to sit to write our condolences. I wrote something about being thankful for the way he laid down his life for Singapore, and how we will always remember him. By the time we left it was about over 10 o’clock. This was a good day and it seemed like a holiday, a different kind of day.

FRIDAY, 27TH MARCH 2015

Today I am reminded of the fact that over 80% of Singapore’s resident population stay in public housing. Of these 90% ownership has been achieved. This was a remarkable building feat. Our grandparents and parents used to crowd into wooden kampongs without proper sanitation and clean running water. I remember waiting for about 5 years before the 4 room flat I booked in Bukit Batok East was ready for occupation. Several of those years were spent in a rented room in Mark Tay’s home – my wife’s neighbour and my prayer partner friend. During that time I was still studying in Trinity Theological College in the 1980’s.

Public housing: view from my bedroom window

Public housing: view from my bedroom window

After living for over 12  years in that Bukit Batok flat, I sought to “upgrade” to an executive flat. After waiting many years, we were offered an executive condominium at Jurong East, the first of its kind. That itself was a miracle for we were far down the queue but so many must have rejected the condominiums, or went for other options, that it landed in our lap. Rather than having to live in faraway Yew Tee or Jurong West in larger executive flats there, we prayerfully opted for the better location, though higher priced executive condominium. It was a financial stretch, even though we sold our Bukit Batok flat at 3 times the price we paid for it and ploughed whatever we made back into the new home.

Many Singaporeans have personal stories of having upgraded their standard of housing or living through the appreciation of the value of their HDB public

The view at night from another window

The view at night from another window

housing apartment and the availability of new ones that they can purchase. All this was the vision of Lee Kuan Yew and his power team. They saw that the immigrant population needed rootedness and one major way of facilitating this rootedness and loyalty to nation was home ownership. So from mudflats and swamps and jungles we have large swathes of land developed into nice apartments (owned even by those who earn $1000 a month) with good amenities like shops, hawker centres and markets, utilities, schools, polyclinics, transport systems and playgrounds. Thank you Lord for giving us the man Lee Kuan Yew as our first Prime Minister.

SATURDAY, 28 MARCH 2015

After cycling with my brother in law, Cheng Toh, and having breakfast in Jurong West, I brought him to pay respects to the late Lee Kuan Yew at the Jurong East site. It’s next to JCube and the Jurong East Library. This was my second time and his first. The people were streaming in but the queue was very fast moving. It was about 10.30am. We paid our respects, signed the condolence book and went off. The mood was quiet, somber, reflective. The way it should be. Very respectful and somber. There were seats and large screens showing clips of Lee Kuan Yew in his younger days, spitting fire, inspiring the people. He was a persuasive and great orator. Few like his kind today. Passion like his was forged in life and death struggles, and in the furnace of low pay, and conditions of poverty and hopelessness.

Very orderly queues LKY would have been proud of.

Very orderly queues LKY would have been proud of.

Writing the condolences book.

Writing the condolences book.

SUNDAY, 29TH MARCH 2015

In the worship service this morning we stood up for a minute of silence to honor the passing of Lee Kuan Yew and to give thanks to God before I led the church in prayer for the bereaved family, our leaders and grieving nation. Before we prayed, I shared with them the faith perspective. I shared how the eyes of faith would see God’s sovereign hand in putting LKY in a position of power and empower and favoured him so that Singapore could be blessed, and God’s people here grow as shining light in the midst of darkness. The news media showed us his accomplishments and leadership, but only the church is able to give a faith perspective to fill out the unseen. Isaiah 45:1-7 does this very well, in my opinion. I preached a tighter version of what I preached on Saturday, and the service ended at 11.30am, and the members who wanted to pay their respects along the streets where the cortege would pass, hurried off. Others rushed off to watch the live telecast of the funeral procession and service.

Two excellent books

Two excellent books

I had a wedding to go. More weddings are being done during lunch. I noticed some were glued to their phones and viewed the live streaming of the funeral proceedings. By the time I reached home, it was 4pm and I hit the bed. Never was one for watching weddings and funerals on TV.

Someone showed me Lee Hsien Loong’s eulogy and he said, Poor thing. He had to call his late father Mr Lee Kuan Yew instead of Dad in his eulogy, because he is also the Prime Minister and maybe represents Singapore too. Maybe some protocol because of the presence of dignitaries and foreign delegates. Later in the evening, my son said that Lee Hsien Yang’s eulogy was good. So I may want to go and watch it sometime this week. I took out two books I have about Lee Kuan Yew. “Men in White” was given to me by one of the authors, Leong Weng Kam. I enjoyed this book. It helped me understand the historical and political cauldron that shaped Lee Kuan Yew’s passion, fighting spirit and tactics. The other book I managed to get at a special price from my brother because he used to work for the Business Times. Its “Lee Kuan Yew: a life in pictures”. Pictures speak volumes and I love some of the interesting pictures of personal and family life. I took some snaps of those pics and reproduce them here for you to enjoy.

LKY and his wife: a loving couple

LKY and his wife: a loving couple

Grandchildren and children

Grandchildren and children

My favourite shot: LKY the family man

My favourite shot: LKY the family man

Kyushu, Japan free and easy 7: Harajiri Waterfalls and volcanic ponds

Harajiri Waterfalls

On November 25th,2014 we took a train to Ogata station. From there we took a taxi to the Harajiri Falls. These waterfalls are known more to locals in the region. They are not a major tourist attraction, but Japanese people would be aware of it. Near the falls are restaurants and supermarkets and shops. There were no lockers so we rolled our luggage a hundred metres to the site. Susan volunteered to look after the luggage and it became picture taking galore at the falls. Lunch was tender and delicious beef at a reasonable price which I cannot recall.

Beautiful waterfalls

Beautiful Harajiri waterfalls

The view from further away

The view from further away

Cross over to the other side

Cross over to the other side

A closer view from the west after crossing the bridge

A closer view from the west after crossing the bridge

Lovely autumn foliage along the slopes and cliffs

Lovely autumn foliage along the slopes and cliffs

Father and daughter combo. Photo by Khoon

Father and daughter combo. Photo by Khoon

Beef lunch. Photo by Khoon

Beef lunch. Photo by Khoon

We then had to return by taxi to the train station to Beppu, to Sun Valley Hotel. Dinner there was a 100 yen sushi restaurant that was again so cheap and good. The Singapore dollar has strengthened against (SGD$1 – 97yen) at that time and we rejoiced in it. You pay less there for better quality Japanese food than what you pay for in Singapore.

Filling up the tank, piling up the plates. Photo by Khoon

Filling up the tank, piling up the plates. Photo by Khoon

Never ate so much delicious eel before

Never ate so much delicious eel before

Volcanic sand baths and ponds

The next morning we went to the famous sand baths. We wanted to lie buried in the enriched volcanic sands and arise a few years younger and with smoother skin. However it was not to be. When we arrived at the place it was closed. They were soaking the sands for maintenance. So with time to spare we stumbled into a large second hand shop along the road on the way back. Everybody bought something: shoes, bags, jackets, handbags, belts, etc. Japanese people love to conform to the latest fashion. Their fashion changes so quickly that before their stuff were more than six months old they were already into the next new thing and they sold their still new “out-of-fashion stuff”, which landed in places like the one we entered.

Waiting for the second hand shop to open

Waiting for the second hand shop to open. Photo by Khoon.

Routine security check.

Routine security check. Photo by Khoon.

Then we used a one day bus pass to travel to Kannawa and Chinoike vocanic ponds. Nothing exciting in particular. Interesting but it was a wet day and we were beginning to feel tired. We later headed for the Yufuin hostel to retire for the night.

It was wet at the volcanic ponds - reddish brown hot water and mud

It was wet at the volcanic ponds - reddish brown hot water and mud

Nearer the bloody and steaming pond

Nearer the bloody and steaming pond

Soaking the feet in hot spring water

Soaking the feet in hot spring water

The rainbow after the gentle rain

The rainbow after the gentle rain

The view from the homely hostel

The night view from the homely hostel

Daniel and Jacob relaxing before dinner

Daniel and Jacob relaxing before dinner

Dinner at the hostel

Dinner at the hostel

Outside the hostel in the morning

Outside the hostel in the morning

Kyushu, Japan free and easy 6: Mt Aso

Dry market with a few food stores

Dry market with a few food stores

Lunch in the open - cool air and fabulous Mt Aso milk

Lunch in the open - cool air and fabulous Mt Aso milk

The active Mt Aso

The active Mt Aso - we couldn't get any closer

Zoomed in shot - Photo by Khoon

Zoomed in shot - Photo by Khoon

The autumn grassland was dry and browned.

The autumn grassland was dry and browned.

Mt Aso from afar.

Mt Aso from afar.

From Kumamoto city,  we took a 2 hour bus-ride to Sanko Bus Station . There we put our luggage in the lockers. We looked for lunch at the market and waited to take the bus to the Mt Aso Geopark. I must say the fresh milk of the Aso bred cow was fabulous, with a richer flavour, unlike what we have in our supermarkets back home. Later the bus brought us to the Aso Museum but we skipped that and went straight up a gradual climb to take photos of Mt Aso. We were disappointed that we were not allowed up Aso because of some dangerous activity in the volcano. Before this trip we had read about an active volcano that erupted in Japan and killed some climbers. So we were disappointed that we couldn’t get near Mt Aso but grateful there were early warning systems in place. In fact the next day or so there was a small eruption at Mt Aso. Later we went back to the bus station and were picked up by the guest house to the place we stayed overnight. The guys enjoyed the indoor onsen.

Building where we waited for the bus back.

Building where we waited for the bus back.

While waiting for the bus, have fun!

While waiting for the bus, have fun! Photo by Khoon

Looking out and up.

Looking out and up. Photo by Khoon

Khoon took a pic of me taking a pic of my wife. Photo by Khoon

Khoon took a pic of me taking a pic of my wife. Photo by Khoon

The pic of my wife.

The pic of my wife.

The Asobi Gokoro Guest Inn 5 mins drive from the station

The Asobi Gokoro Guest Inn 5 mins drive from the station - Photo by Khoon

The room in the guest house

The room in the guest house

Guys in the onsen of a hotel next door

Guys in the onsen of a hotel next door. Photo by Khoon.

Breakfast before we leave.

Breakfast before we leave - all 17 of us.

Kyushu, Japan free and easy 5: Takachiho Gorge

We took two buses and four hours to get to the gorge

We took two buses and four hours to get to the gorge. Photo - Khoon.

The LED fare counter

The LED fare counter. Photo -Khoon

Information office. Credits - Khoon

Information office. Photo - Khoon

Our next destination was a place of natural beauty – the Takachiho Gorge. It took two buses and four hours in travel time to get us to the town. Buses were usually comfortable, punctual and manned by polite bus drivers. They had a fare display on a LED board in front of the bus. It took me some time to figure out how it worked. And as was our custom, when we reached a town we looked for the information counter from where we got directions to the gorge.

It was a long walk to a blogged about soba stall and we got lost but two children walked us about 500 metres in the opposite direction to bring us to the stall. However, the queue at lunch time was too long. Pressed for time, we went to the supermarket and bought some packed lunch.

We decided to walk to Takachiho Gorge, and with the help of locals we managed to find a route down the gorge through a lovely forest with autumn leaves. At its foot we saw a beautiful gorge for romantic boat rides.  We wanted to take the boat rides but by the time we reached there they had closed the booth, so that was that. How were we to know that this was a Japanese holiday and many locals came to visit? Well anyway we saved some money here to splurge on food later.

It was the Lord’s Day so we gathered for a time of worship. We sang a song and everyone gave thanks and shared how the Lord had been with them and how they were blessed.

Walking through the town to the entrance of the Takahicho Gorge. Photos by Khoon.

Walking through the town to the entrance of the Takahicho Gorge. Photo by Khoon.

Scenic bridges and slopes.

Scenic bridge and steep cliffs.

Down the well-tarred or cement or stone paths and steps.

Down the well-tarred or cement or stone paths and steps.

The colours of autumn.

The colours of autumn.

Ladies of Marine Parade. Photo by Khoon.

Ladies of Marine Parade. Photo by Khoon.

Together over the bridge of troubled waters. Photo by Khoon.

Together over the bridge of troubled waters. Photo by Khoon.

Autumn leaves glorious in sunlight as well as in shade. Photo by Khoon.

Autumn leaves glorious in sunlight as well as in shade. Photo by Khoon.

By the edge of the gorge.

By the edge of the gorge.

Beautiful autumn branches frame the cool deep waters and waterfall.

Beautiful autumn branches frame the cool deep waters and waterfall.

At Takachiko Gorge tourist rest stop. Photo by Khoon.

After worship on the Lord's Day at Takachiko Gorge. Photo by Khoon.

Tourist bus station and restaurants and shops.

Tourist bus station and restaurants and shops.

Famous soba shop. Photo by Khoon.

Famous soba shop. Photo by Khoon.

Happy soba master with photo of his marathon exploits behind.

Happy soba master with photo of his marathon exploits behind.

Slurping it up.

Khoon slurping it up.

We patiently waited for the bus to bring us back to town where we had an evening meal at that soba restaurant which is run by a Japanese marathoner who once represented his country in the Olympics. The Japanese food was delicious. The soba, the sauce, the everything. Great quality, great value, great service.

Since we had to wait for the train, we had fun.

Since we had to wait for the train, we had fun.

We set the camera on a tripod and we had to time our jumps. Photo by Khoon.

We set the camera on a tripod and we had to time our jumps. Photo by Khoon.

By the time we returned to Extol Inn, it was dark and we settled for a Mos Burger before we retired for the night.

Kyushu, Japan free and easy 4: Kumamoto Castle and Ginza

A lone fishing boat sets off into the sunrise

Boats serene and still as the sun rises

Terrace houses and boxy passenger vans

Terrace houses and boxy passenger vans

Cold crisp air with marina behind

Cold crisp air with marina behind

By the marina

A short walk from the hotel and my wife and I were at a marina. All the houses in front of the pier were terraced homes and most had small boxy passenger vans and boating and fishing gear in their front porch. It was a pleasant walk down the 500 metres stretch of the marina before we walked back in time for our breakfast and check out from the hotel. We headed for the pier from which we took a ferry to the Kumamoto.

Large ferry at the terminal.

Large ferry at the terminal. (Credits:Wee Khoon)

A trail in the sea.

A trail in the sea.

Wee Khoon, Jacob, Daniel, and Peter. Credits: Wee Khoon

Wee Khoon, Jacob, Daniel, and Peter. Credits: Wee Khoon

Seagulls in flight. Credits: Wee Khoon

Seagulls in flight. Credits: Wee Khoon

Seagulls pursuing the ferry.

Seagulls pursuing the ferry.

Feeding the seagulls prawn crackers.

Feeding the seagulls prawn crackers.

Bicycle culture is established in most Japanese cities. (Credits: Wee Khoon)

Bicycle culture is established in most Japanese cities. (Credits: Wee Khoon)

Extol Inn

Extol Inn. (Credits: Wee Khoon)

On the ferry to Kumamoto

It was a pleasant trip of an hour or so. We had seagulls following us and they went into a feeding frenzy as we threw bread crumbs and crackers into the air. I must say these Japanese birds were not as skilful as the Israeli ones we fed at the Lake of Galilee. At the landing point we took a bus to the Kumamoto terminal and walked a good 10 to 15 minutes to a well situated hotel near the shopping area called Ginza and the Kumamoto Castle. The hotel is Extol Inn and the two nights stay came with breakfast.

Kumamoto Castle  and Ginza

We sort of fumbled our way before we finally found the castle and there was a big crowd at the castle because it was a Saturday. We had to queue and slowly walk up the hundreds of steps and a few floors of exhibits before we reached the highest floor to get a panoramic view of the city. Japan is so rich in history with all its colourful feudal past, with its shoguns and samurais, and sword and rifles, geishas and peasants. We spent about two hours taking lots of photos. Then we made our way back to survey the shopping area and search for dinner.

Majestic Kumamoto Castle - one of a few major heritage castles of Japan.

Majestic Kumamoto Castle - one of a few major heritage castles of Japan.

A view of the city from the highest floor of the castle.

A view of the city from the highest floor of the castle.

Caught sight of a modern day ninja.(Credits: Wee Khoon)

Caught sight of a modern day ninja.(Credits: Wee Khoon)

Beautiful spacious grounds and gardens surround the main castle.

Beautiful spacious grounds and gardens surround the main castle.

The colours of autumn provide accents to the browns and grey and black.

The colours of autumn provide accents to the browns and grey and black.

Group photo in the garden.(Credits: Wee Khoon)

Group photo in the garden.(Credits: Wee Khoon)

Kumamoto's version of Ginza. (Credits: Wee Khoon)

Kumamoto's version of Ginza. (Credits: Wee Khoon)

Cycling: running effortlessly in the air

Running

Running effortlessly in the air – that is what cycling feels like to me. I used to run a lot. I mean when you play basketball for school and community centre, you have to run, run and run. That was long ago. Since I hit the late 40s I have stopped running. Getting motivated to run required such a gigantic effort. There were many false dawns as I tried to get into a habit of running for health. None lasted more than two months. There was that bright period in Chiangmai when I ran almost every other day for a month. When I returned to Singapore I tried to continue but it evaporated in hot air. Several months ago I bought a new pair of running shoes with fresh resolve to run again. I have used it less than ten times for running. Running seems to do violence to my rigid body. My knees take the brunt of the steady banging as my feet lands on solid ground. My breathing becomes heavy and laboured. It becomes a stupendous effort to jog round the Japanese and Chinese Garden.

Hiking

Instead of running I found hiking or trekking a gentler more humane form of exercise. The Bukit Timah Hill became my haunt. Out there on the slopes of hills with different gradients, one gets to warm up and build up a sweat gradually, gently and without violating the body. Breath control is needed but the air is fresh and a rhythm evolves. So this has been my happy place for my recreational, meditative, sermon tuning activities. Now it has been closed for a year or more.  The Hill needed a sabbatical. The visitors centre

Cronus Earl 2.0 folded up

Cronus Earl 2.0 folded up

needed a reconstruction. My good trekking friends still meet to trek different places in Singapore. They are quite adventurous and have travelled far and wide (including Gunong Datuk) since Bukit Timah Hill’s closure, but I have not been able to join them on most occasions.

Cycling

I stumbled into recreational biking. A pastor talked to me about his folding Brompton bike. I was almost persuaded to buy one. Another pastor offered to sell me his few months old folding bike, a Cronus Earl 2.0, at a generous giveaway price. I took it. So I biked around the Jurong Lake since I lived so near to it. I found that I enjoyed it greatly. The feeling of movement, the gentle breeze against my face and cooling my whole body, the serenity of water and trees, fountain and pagoda and golf course, all combined to refresh me while I cycled for close to an hour, and sometimes more.  It felt like running in the air. My feet never pounded the ground. I never gasped for air like a dying man. I felt I was running on a cushion of air aided by a machine that is beautiful and smooth and effortless in motion.

Kenny and Eric Ng on Ulu Pandan Park Connector

Kenny and Eric Ng on Ulu Pandan Park Connector

Change of heart
Now I understood what my friend Eric Ng was into. He was into this cycling business with serious intent. He trained for riding trips in Taiwan and the Annapura range. He invited me but I was not interested. My conversion shows that timing and change of circumstances can change a man’s heart quickly. Now it was I who asked him to introduce me to some of the park connectors he was familiar with. So off we went to the Ulu Pandan Park Connector last Sunday evening. It was a hot 6pm but even as we rode, the route was pleasantly shaded for the most part. There was the canal beside it. There were many joggers and other recreational cyclists. You occasionally catch sight of serious bikers in their expensive machines, the occasional Brompton, and many other entry level bikers like me. I was surprised by the effort put in by national parks to make the park connectors such pleasant routes for cycling, walking and jogging. God bless the Singapore civil servants for this great idea that is a gift for the public to use. One day I will write more about this park connector but for the time being here are a few photos I took during last Sunday’s ride.

On the park connector beside Faber Gardens and facing Boon Lay Way and Clementi

On the park connector beside Faber Gardens and facing Boon Lay Way and Clementi

On the park connector besides Faber Garden but facing Ayer Rajah Highway and Teban

On the park connector besides Faber Garden but facing Ayer Rajah Highway and Teban

Analogy to spiritual life

As an aside, cycling is like living by grace. You are aided by grace. Your motion and momentum is augmented by the bicycle the way God’s Holy Spirit powers the walk of grace. Its a gentle running in the sphere of the Spirit.

Kyushu, Japan: free and easy 3: Nagasaki and Shimabara

Nagasaki Bomb Museum

Nagasaki Bomb Museum

Exhibits with strong human elements

Exhibits with strong human elements

Interesting information and not too crowded

Interesting information and not too crowded

Melted cross, the church endures

Melted cross, the church endures

11 o'clock

11 o'clock

Simple lunch at museum

Simple lunch at museum

Posing at the Peace Park

Posing at the Peace Park - photo by Wee Khoon

Taking the electric tram

Taking the electric tram

Nagasaki bomb museum

When you are in Nagasaki city you have to visit the bomb museum. It was a mere 10minutes tram ride away from our Business Royal Hotel. It exhibits some of the damaged architectural and actual artefacts as well as the human stories that needed to be told. One was a clock that showed the time the atomic bomb melted Nagasaki. Another showed melted sacred icons of the Catholic community that lived there at that time. Interestingly there were POW Caucasians as well as Korean immigrants who were also killed. We had a simple lunch at the café in the museum. Next to the museum building was a large Peace Park for visitors to ponder the serious matters of world peace.

Hot steam rising -small onsen town by the sea

Hot steam rising here and there in the small onsen town by the sea

Seafood, glorious fresh live seafood

Seafood, glorious fresh live seafood - photo by Wee Khoon

Choose what you want - photo Wee Khoon

Choose what you want - photo by Wee Khoon

Jabez and Jasmine with timers

Jabez and Jasmine with timers - photo by Wee Khoon

Shell fish steamed

Shell fish steamed - photo by Wee Khoon

Oyster and crayfish

Oyster and crayfish - photo by Wee Khoon

Crab

Crab

Different extras

Different extras

Satisfied customers

Satisfied customers

Soaking your feet by the sea in warm sulphuric volcanic springs

Soaking your feet by the sea in warm sulfuric volcanic springs- photo by Wee Khoon

Obama in Kyushu

We then took the local bus to Obama, a tiny hot spring town by the sea. In this town we see steam rising from various places. It is said the hot spring here can go up to 100 degrees Centigrade, the hottest in Japan. This is obviously volcanic area and onsens must be available in many of the hotels. We looked for lunch at a fresh seafood restaurant about 10minutes walk from the local bus station. The concept was simple. You choose from the live fish and shell fish in the tanks. It is weighed and you pay for it. Then you bring it out where it is steamed in volcanic steam tapped from natural sources by the restaurant. You are given a timer and when it buzzes you go get your cooked food and eat it with the available sauces. There are times to go back to eating fresh and unflavoured and steamed seafood. It tastes great and it does not cost you as much as it does in Singapore. Thanks to Abenomics.

Shimbara Toyo City Hotel

Shimbara Toyo City Hotel

Hungry by 8 plus

Hungry by 8 plus -photo by Wee Khoon

Udon and sushi set

Udon and sushi set - photo by Wee Khoon

Passing the puffer fish to the pharmacist

Passing the puffer fish to the pharmacist- photo by Wee Khoon

Restaurant owner showing us the shortcut to the hotel

Restaurant owner showing us the shortcut to the hotel

Hotel breakfast

Hotel breakfast

Ladies fellowship

Ladies fellowship during hotel breakfast

Japanese hospitality at Shimabara

Later we took a bus to the Shimabara Toyo City Hotel. It would have the largest hotel room we would stay in compared to the other hotels in our Kyushu trip. It would also serve the best breakfast of all. But the stay was only for the night. After checking in late evening, we went to search for dinner. The hotel staff recommended us a sushi joint and we searched and found it and had udon and sushi set. The chef was generous and gave us free extra helpings of the dangerous puffer fish sushi and other freebies. They were very cheerful and the restaurant owner even guided us back to the hotel using a short cut. We were impressed by Japanese service and hospitality.

Jurong Lake Park: cycling pleasures

About 9 am.

About 9 am.

Metal boardwalk that juts into the lake. Nice job Jurong Town Corporation.

Metal boardwalk that juts into the lake. Nice job, Jurong Town Corporation!

At about 6.30pm.

At about 6.30pm.

Its enjoyable. Cycling by the Jurong Lake (Tasik Jurong) is so pleasurable and delightful. The Jurong Lake is about 4.3 km from end to end along broad bitumen and cement paths. About 10 years ago they developed a promenade along 2 km of the stretch. Really nice.  Its a reservoir cum leisure stretch. I love the views. I never tire of them. It looks different at different times of the day and of the year. Different stretches have different highlights and features. This time of the year the breeze is cool and ever present. I will cycle but the perspiration does not show because it is blow dried, and I do not feel it because of the cool air. There are some stretches though where I feel the sun direct on my skin in late morning rides. Other than that I have no complaints. Even the benches overlooking panoramic views keep tempting me to take a break and soak in the sight.

On a downcast day at a fishing jetty overlooking the Jurong Country Club Golf Course

On a downcast day at a fishing jetty overlooking the Jurong Country Club Golf Course

Its accessible too. I live so near to one end of the Jurong Lake Park. To ride to the other end (about 4.3 km) takes me about 20-30 minutes. 8.6 km may be hardly much but if  I do it twice it would be almost 20 km of pleasant riding.  If I were to ride the roads the intimidation of large buses, lorries and vans rambling by and too close for comfort would stress me no end.

Today I talked to someone who rode there everyday and he suggested I do night riding. He said it is a different experience. The darkness and silence of some stretches where there are no street lamps. Things look different at night. He also suggested early morning rides like 5.30 am to catch the sunrise. Hmmm…great ideas I want to take on. Now that my regular hikes at Bukit Timah has ceased with its closure, I am surprised that I stumbled on this new leisure activity instead of brisk walking or jogging the Chinese and Japanese Gardens. Maybe it is a more gentle on my body and suitable for my age. It can be a pretty good exercise. I have also found a neighbour who wants to explore the park connectors with me. Wonderful.

Thank you Lord for new ways to enjoy creation and companionship. Wish I was into this earlier, but Your timing is ever the best. Amen.

Kyushu, Japan free and easy 2: Fukuoka and Huis Ten Bosch

Fukuoka landing

Our SIA flight took off at 1.20am. Never was good at sleeping through night flights so I managed two movies before I knocked out. We took the airport bus to some main station and from there to a station about 10minutes walk from the Sunline hotel.

It was still early, so we visited the Yanagibashi Rengo Market about 15minutes walk away to look for brunch. There is a blogged about small restaurant where we could get good sashimi. Most of us went there except those who did not fancy raw fish. I wished I ordered and ate more for I was never to find anything better the rest of the trip for those prices.

The dry market sells mainly fresh fish

The dry market sells mainly fresh fish

Should have bought more and eaten more of these

Should have bought more and eaten more of these

We went back to freshen up and nap and we explored a shopping area by a canal and had a night street dinner. The ramen was served steaming hot in small stalls in the open autumn air by the river. There were about 10 -14 people sitting on stools around a steaming cooking unit in the center. The stall had a Mandarin assistant. The food was great and due to the good yen exchange rate the price was lower than Singapore’s.

The landmark to locate the canal's yatai street food

The landmark to locate the canal's yatai street food -photo Wee Khoon

"Yatai" - small mobile street food stall set up in evening and moved by morning

"Yatai" - small mobile street food stall set up in evening and moved by morning - photo Wee Khoon

Steaming hot ramen on cool autumn night

Steaming hot ramen on cool autumn night

Thick, strong, salty and steaming hot ramen al dente

Thick, strong, salty and steaming hot ramen al dente

Jenny, Kenny and Jacob Yeo

Jenny, Kenny and Jacob Yeo

Wee Khoon our photographer with 3 Japanese girls

Wee Khoon our photographer with 3 Japanese girls

Birthday celebration

Then it was dessert at a Moomin café where the group celebrated my birthday. I felt blessed. We were given a treat from Karen. This café targeted courting couples and had many large animal dolls. We had a great time taking cute shots and selfies.

With mooimin the hippo having dessert

With mooimin the hippo having dessert - photo by Wee Khoon

Hotel rooms

The hotel room was comfortable but not spacious. The size of the double bed was somewhere between queen-size and super single. The bathroom was like a ready-made capsule fitted into the hotel room. Everything was Japanese made: Pansonic water closet with bidet, Shishedo shower cream. Most of the rooms we stayed in throughout the trip were quite similar in size.

Huis Ten Bosch

The next morning we took a bus to Huis Ten Bosch a Dutch theme park. When we reached a sightseeing area our standard procedure was to look for lockers at the stations to put our luggage. Over time we got used to this ritual and were pretty efficient with maximizing space and Daniel was really the key person in this department. Once this was done at the lockers at Huis Ten Bosch train station we went to explore the theme park. We were not interested in the rides so we visited the free zone and had a local burger for lunch. The lovely browns, yellows and oranges of the autumn foliage in cool weather and bright skies made the day picturesque and refreshing. We walked quite a bit but it was pleasant. By evening we were on the train to Nagasaki where we settled into the hotel and went out in search of dinner.

Huis Ten Bosch train station

Huis Ten Bosch train station - photo Wee Khoon

Daniel and Jabez maximizing locker space

Daniel and Jabez maximizing locker space - photo Wee Khoon

Relaxed amidst autumn weather and foliage

Relaxed amidst autumn weather and foliage

Dutch architecture all around

Dutch architecture all around

Huge replica of colonial Dutch ship

Huge replica of colonial Dutch ship - photo Wee Khoon

Unique Dutch detailing

Unique Dutch detailing

Having fun with timed photos - photo Wee Khoon

Having fun with timed photos - photo Wee Khoon

While waiting for the bus - goofing around

While waiting for the bus - goofing around -photo by Wee Khoon

Evening serenity

Evening serenity

Resort silhoutte in the evening

Resort silhouette in the evening

Arriving at Nagasaki train station

Arriving at Nagasaki train station

Kyushu, Japan free and easy 1: flying off

Early morning SIA flight to Fukuoka

Early morning SIA flight to Fukuoka

One of the most widely read blogpost in 2014 is How to go to Bukit Indah by bus. I did this post to keep a record of how I went to this place in Johor by bus in case I needed it again. This is after all a personal blog of someone who happens to be a pastor. As it turned out, many have googled about going to Bukit Indah and landed on my post.

We just had a photo sharing time with the Marine Parade cell with whom I went to Kyushu, Japan. It was a time of food and fellowship. We viewed and shared photos and videos. We remembered the funny and interesting moments and had many a good laugh. I heard and saw things that I never knew happened until I saw it on video or photo. It was fun.

There were so many photos and fond memories I want to keep – too much to write about in one blogpost. So I will do it in manageable bits and tie it up together once it’s all completed. Who knows there may be people out there who are searching for interesting itineraries to explore Kyushu. This will certainly help them. Travelling by tour groups is convenient but it has its limitations. Travelling free and easy is hard work at the research and planning stage, but it later yields greater flexibility and enjoyment.

I have always wanted to visit Japan. That was why I requested to join this cell group in their Japan trip. It is called ‘tompang’ in Malay, or jumping the bandwagon. If you do not like tour groups and have no time to plan a free and easy, then ‘tompang’ is the best option. They were gracious to let me join in and I was happy to follow the leader Jasmine. My wife and I just went with the flow and it was blessed by the Lord and became a special trip for us both.

Marine Parade cell group plus some others

Marine Parade cell group plus some others

Sermon with story, personality and a journey

I was enjoying an article in SundayLife about two Singaporean poets. One of them is Aaron Lee, a Facebook friend and a Christian elder in a Brethren Church. It was an interesting interview but a line he quoted from his mentor caught my attention. He talked about some verses he had captured on his cellphone, lines inspired by daily life and social commentary that never got birthed as poems. He recalled how his mentor had given him some advice long ago. Aaron said: “She told me: ‘It’s got to have a story, a personality, so people can go on this journey with you.‘” The sentence held me captive and I was reminded of the several books that talked about the importance of the sermon being structured like a story, a narrative, a homiletical plot. It was such a good reminder as I tend towards the tired three pointer didactic sermon. Perhaps I should look for texts and themes that can be put on a story board and bring the congregation from tension to truth, from problem to promise, from conflict to resolution, from suspense to conclusion.  I have to think and order things more like a short film director than like a teacher or textbook author.

Lord help me. It’s so easy for me to fall back into that didactic three points sermon structure. It’s a rut I so easily fall into. Set me in front of a story board, and if there is no plot let there be no sermon. Amen.