We did 45km in about 4 hours. Cycling, not running. Three pastors from the Brompton Pastors’ Club – Richard Wong, Seng Chor and myself. Pastor Lawrence Koo and Daniel Lee could not join us.
We set off at about 7.30am from B1 carpark located at the beginning of the East Coast Service Road (near Fort Road). It was a free car park. We intended to meet earlier but I was waiting at the wrong car park B2. I don’t know how I got that wrong. I saw the WhatsApp and it said B1 car park but when I typed into the Google map it was B2.
We cycled all the way to Changi Village with one or two drink stops. At one of the stop there was a station for cyclists. It had a few repair tools, an air pump and a water fountain. Wonderful idea. I commend the authorities for making such things available in this park connector.
The scenic stretches of the route that I liked was the one after the Youth Adventure Center, with deciduous trees on both sides of the route. The other was the Changi Park itself with its tall casuarinas. We rode to the end of the Changi Park PCN. I thought that it was so beautiful that the sea scape along the route had less ships (unlike the ECP PCN), and there were no restaurants, and there were less people around. The most boring section however was the straight and broad Coastal park connector path of about 8km. On both sides of this path were ongoing construction work of next two airport terminals.
At the Changi Village hawker center we had a delicious nasi lemak breakfast. It was just past 9am. I used to patronise the famous stall that earned the accolade of best nasi lemak in Singapore. But Richard insisted this competing stall was better. After eating, I agreed with him. The rice was soft and moist, and the fish I ordered was fresh and meaty. We downed it with 100 plus to replenish our lost body salt.
We decided not to rest too long. We moved off for the return leg. The weather was cloudy and we were thankful for that. Especially at the monotonous Coastal PCN which had no tree cover. The clouds gave us shelter and cooled us. You see, in the late morning, it is usually very sunny and humid.
After that my legs grew tired , and my bum ached. This was the first time I covered such distance. Prior to this, 20 km was the most I have ridden. Pastor Seng Chor just recovered from a flu and he too had gone slow and steady. Pastor Richard went strong throughout as he was a veteran of such long rides. He was physically well conditioned. This was a piece of cake for him.
On the whole we enjoyed it. When I reached the end point I felt relief as well as a sense of satisfaction. I was thinking of how in my fathers’ generation men retired at 55 years old, and were expected to gather moss, and rot at home. We were all over 55 and we were not at home, not gathering moss, and still active in ministry. Times have changed. Attitudes have changed. Retirement is indeed a social construct.
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/