Church camp 2019 in downtown Bangkok

Feeling very good

Perhaps I experienced a tiny bit of what God felt when it was said of Him in Genesis, “And God saw everything that was made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen 1:31). That was how I felt about the WRPF Church Camp 2019 in Bangkok: it was very good. Like a gentle spring in my soul, I felt the stillness of peace and a joy that quietly bubbled up throughout the days of the camp. There was no hurry: no huff and no puff, no rush from meeting to meeting. I felt a welcome restfulness throughout the camp. It was very good.

The hotel in downtown Bangkok was hosting us a second time

Fed fresh Bread

To sit back and receive fresh truth from heaven and be in presence of Christ felt like I was a mobile phone seated on a wireless charger. The invited speaker was Leslie Quahe. He was enlightening, edifying and entertaining. He stirred me, stretched me, and seized me with his humorous, riveting and transforming proclamation of His Story and his stories. I felt very blessed. At the end of the four sessions, I felt energized 100%.

Leslie Quahe

I heard of Leslie Quahe from theological college days. He was one year my senior. My only image of him was of him playing soccer, and him with his motorbike. Thus when my sister in law Baby asked if I would like to meet him, I did not hesitate. Why not? We met in his home in Bangkok and got to hear about what he had been doing all these decades, and his stories amazed me, and I concluded this guy can potentially be our camp speaker in future, but I should first invite him to preach a sermon one Sunday when he was in Singapore. He duly did so, and that’s why he was our camp speaker.

With Leslie Quahe the camp speaker

Church encouraged, leaders affirmed

I was encouraged when he affirmed and prayed for the leadership at the last session, releasing what I believe to be prophetic words that confirmed that our last six years of emphasizing on intimacy with God through walking ancient paths of prayer; of emotional health and growth, were on the spot with what God had wanted for WRPF’s destiny as light to others of what first love is.

It is tough to slow down and to wait and to listen to God in prayer.  We are a society that values productivity and obviously silence, waiting and prayer seems highly unproductive. We had to be strong in conviction in order to resist the pressures and temptation to be like other churches and the rest of society. “Do you love Me?” was Jesus question to Peter who had been scarred by the failure of his activism and self-sufficiency. It was not, “What have you done for Me?”. To have this heavenly assurance when you are going against the current of worldliness, is an approving nod from the Master.

Hotel food

The food the hotel served was better than any of the church camp foods I have had over many decades of church camps in Malaysia and Batam. The food was delicious and we had long meal-times of one and a half hour or more, so that people could mingle and fellowship at leisure. No need to gulp your food to rush to an afternoon workshop! No afternoon sessions – they are all free and easy.

Missions component

I was happy we had a missions component and we were greatly helped by Ruth Center in Bangkok who organized three activities for us to serve the residents of the slum. Some went about visiting the elderly poor with rice packets and prayed for them. Some went to play games with the younger ones who lived in the slum. I joined the construction crew whose assignment was to build five platforms with water cisterns. This was laborious work and I loved seeing how the young people did the main bulk of the work. They were awesome in strength and power. It dawned on me that I was not of much use, not even for photography, so I helped minimally in carrying concrete slabs, and spent most of the time chatting with Simeon Siau, another person who shouldn’t be there. We were kindly and tactfully excused from the rest of the afternoon while the rest of the construction crew finished the job!

I loved the idea of creating mission platforms so that men with more practical skills and know-how (like Bezalel and Company who built the tabernacle of Moses with the help of the Holy Spirit) can serve God with their gifts.

Camp organizers

Yes, I do rate this camp with five stars. I was very pleased with the organizing committee and I hope they too were very satisfied when they saw that their hard work made possible the spiritual and eternal impact we felt at the camp!

Celebration of Hope tickets going, going, gone.

The Celebration of Hope evangelistic rallies will be held in the National Stadium from May 17 to 19. The 17th and 19th are for the English speaking, while the 18th (Saturday) is for the Mandarin speakers. The evangelist for the English speaking is J. John a prominent, anointed British evangelist of Indian descent. The evangelist for the Mandarin speaking is Kau Shao En.

We attended a briefing session on the 22nd January last Tuesday. It was well attended and we were given up to date information. With that information we got our COH church timeline done up and started briefing the cell leaders and the congregation.

Briefing at St Andrews Cathedral

However today the information we were given about the availability of the COH app and the tickets to the Stadium is outdated. Originally we were told the Apps would be ready the day before. It was late a day, which is okay, but then the apps is available only on Google Play and not on Apple yet. So those with iPhones are stranded and will have to find alternative means. We were also told that the tickets will be available for reservation only a week later but instead they were immediately available on the same date the app was ready for downloads.

The tickets are going fast and we being kiasu Singaporeans fear losing out and are booking tickets beyond what we need….just in case. There will after all be a chance later (in April) to dispose of tickets we will not use so that those on the waiting list can have them. Currently at the time of this writing close to 21% of seats has already been reserved. 20,000 tickets out of 100,000 of the English rally has already been snatched up on the first day.

This is all encouraging and we have to keep praying that there would be a gracious and glorious harvest of souls to make this a memorable nation wide rally since the Billy Graham meetings at the old National Stadium.

To download the COH app, and to  reserve tickets go here:  https://celebrationof hope.sg/tickets/. 

The download button of the COH app is at the bottom of the above link. You need to download that before you can reserve tickets.

Pastors Prayer Summit 2019

My intention was to introduce new staff members Alvin Lim and Tom Cannon to Love Singapore Pastors’ Prayer Summit 2019. So I was glad that Vincent Hoon was willing to go too as we could room together. We set off in his car and stopped at Yong Peng for simple Hockchiew lunch.

Alvin Lim, Vincent Hoon, myself and Tom Cannon at Bukit Indah for lunch on the way home

I enjoyed this Prayer Summit, more than those I attended in the past. It is partly the program, and partly the people, and partly the fact that I have grown. Let me list some personal highlights of this summit.

It was wonderful to catch up with friends and acquaintances during the several meals and meetings we had together. Catching up and talking shop gives me information, solidarity, and belonging. Meeting  Richard Wong and Kenny Fam and Twie Kim was such a joy. And seeing the old stalwarts of Love Singapore puts a smile on my face and encourages me. I wonder if I would attend the summit after my retirement the way these guys did.

Kenny Fam, myself and Vincent Hoon – we met as a faith sharing group for about 18 years

The main speaker, a pastor Yang was dynamite. He is a Mandarin pastor from Taiwan who preached in Mandarin and was interpreted into English – a first for the Pastors’ Summit. A passionate, radical, seeker of lost souls and church transformer he enlightened, encouraged, challenged, cajoled, and awakened us to the condition of the church, the seminaries and us pastors. Culture is a comfortable man-made cocoon and truth can be uncomfortable and disturbing and awakening. In most churches the existing culture does not match up with Scripture. In a nutshell, he shook us all up.  We need to make disciples the way Jesus did: more Hebraic practical action and obedience training than Greek conceptualising and grasping of theory. A real preacher: either you love or loathe him; assimilate or resist his ideas. Thank you Rev Yang.

Pastor Yang challenging the status quo.

There was an emotional remembrance of apostle Rick Seaward. So poignant, so touching, so piercing. What a great man has left Love Singapore, what a loss. It was good the movement grieved together. Loved Lawrence Khong’s personal reminiscence of his friendship with Rick.

It became clear to me Love Singapore is a movement that resists becoming an institution; like the tribal confederation before they instituted kingship. The Spirit of God anoints and chooses and rules. This is a great strength that will keep the movement resilient, effective and impactful. Register Love Singapore as a registered society and it will start losing its vitality. I love it as it is.

I enjoyed the session where the young leaders that have been added to the leadership team were interviewed with two veterans, creative Eugene Seow and witty Lawrence Chua. I must say I loved what I heard and saw of the younger leadership. I noticed especially the genuineness, the authenticity – something that seems common among spiritual leaders of generation next. There is something precious we can learn from them.

Love Japan challenge

Then there was the initiative for Love Japan. Love Timor continues, but Love Japan has been added. There is a sensing from the LS leadership that this is the kairos moment for Japan. Some Japanese pastors/leaders were present to share about Japan’s need. Very low percentage of about 1% are Christians. Exciting.

The last but not least the Awaken Generation team of musicians and worship leaders were there. These bunch of young, telegenic, talented, anointed, stratospheric worship leaders and musicians were great to have around. They have a special anointing. Next year I hope they come again and I hope they can be given more “space” to lead us into God’s presence.

I came thinking this will be the last time before I retire. I left thinking maybe I should go one last time in 2020. If God so wills.

PRAY SINGAPORE 2018

Mass events drain me. I am an introvert. So when 7 October 2018 – Pray Singapore was publicised by Love Singapore, I must admit I was hesitant to sign up because after preaching on a Sunday morning, I would not want to spend another three afternoon hours in the National Stadium, fighting heat, tiredness and jostling with crowds of people. However, in the end, I got out of my comfort zone and signed up for prayer with the Body of Christ in Singapore. Here are some of my off the cuff thoughts.

For a start the build up was exciting. Going there early, walking with the lines of people walking from Kallang MRT to the Stadium; and seeing the build up of the people filling the Stadium. It highlighted the great organisational skills needed to get this event on its ground, and the mobilisation grace to fill the Stadium with 40,000 to 50,000 believers. The Love Singapore leaders are great tribal leaders!

The believers from different churches in Singapore came to PRAY SINGAPORE

I liked seeing the people of various age groups. I liked the clever clap-banner they gave everyone. When you used it to clap it amplified the volume 20 times. We should issue these clap banners in every church for use in worship services! I liked the good balance and build up of prayer themes. I liked the variety: different kinds of prayers (set liturgical prayers, spontaneous prayers, group of twos and threes praying, prophetic declarations and acts, everyone praying in unison); different leaders from different denominations both young and old ( besides giving honour where it is due some political correctness was involved here); the use of Mandarin, Tamil besides the main language of English; the different groups (marrieds, families, children, younger pastors, veteran pastors); different prayer themes (Church, Family, Nation, Harvest). I liked the five minute talks giving statistics, telling stories, challenging and inspiring the prayer themes before we prayed.

Gift pack included a clap banner that made a lot of clapping sound, and a lot of sense because it also was usable fan.
Scriptural and prophetic declarations on the clap banner

A lot of time was spent praying for the FAMILY theme so that by the time we reached praying for the HARVEST it was anticlimactic. This goes to show how much urgency ad importance the organisers placed on the foundation and future of our nation: strong families.

On the whole I surprising left the Stadium energised not with physical or emotional energy but a supernatural charge. If they could check the charge it would be like the mobile battery icon fully charged. I was so glad my colleague Tom Cannon mobilised scores of young and older church members to participate in this event.

When I attended Arsenal’s football game recently, I left about 5-10 minutes before the end because I simply hated jostling with the crowds. This time I stayed to the end, and they that endure to the end shall be saved, but caught in a multitude of red shirted people all trying to get into the Stadium MRT.

Nevertheless I rejoiced in God my Saviour.

Rick Seaward: a man sent by God

Rick Seaward: apostle (1955-2018)

I did not have an opportunity to know Pastor Rick Seaward personally. I was surprised that his sudden death from a car accident put me in a pensive mood. When I saw the Facebook image with the 1955-2018 it hit me. He was born the same year as me. I always thought he was my senior because of his crop of white hair.

My first memory of him was when he came to our fellowship during its formative revival years and preached a passionate message on Isaiah 61. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” This turned out to be the message his life embodied, and he went home in a glorious blaze, powered by the fire in his bones.

After that speaking engagement, I never saw him again until he showed up suddenly as the founding pastor of Calvary Charismatic Center(CCC) – a pioneer of the “church in the hotel” trend. That church grew rapidly and became the first megachurch outside of the mainline denominations (according to Harford Institute for Religion Research a megachurch is defined as one that sustains an attendance of over 2,000).

CCC also became well-known for their prodigious church planting throughout the world through their Gideonite program. They were the “it” church in those days. They also had great evangelistic rallies in the former National Stadium and blessed the local church pastors with inexpensive or free church conferences.

What strikes me about Rick is his amazing gift of faith and unflagging missional fire. He poured out his whole life and put all that he is and has at God’s disposal.

His bold desire to reach people of all races and religions caught the attention of government authorities zealous to prevent religious disharmony. He was slapped on the wrist. He was later hauled up for a technically flawed, financial transaction that had more press than it warranted. Another slap on the wrist. At that time, he was criticized for not being a Singaporean, a foreigner. Today he would have been called a foreign talent.

For a period of time he left Singapore and pastored in Auckland to help stabilize another megachurch. He left the CCC in the hands of local pastors he mentored. CCC went through a decentralization process of several regions and I thought that was one of the great redemptive things that happened as a result of the troubles that CCC went through. CCC, with its name changed to Victory Family Center, is today a family of congregations that worships in seven locations.

Billy Graham has gone home to glory a few weeks ago at a ripe old age of 99. That’s a whopping 36 years longer than Rick! Two great men of God. One an evangelist. One an apostle. Two giants. It saddens me when I think of his early departure.

I am sure most of us have accepted Rick’s early departure as something of a mystery, as a part of God’s sovereign plan which we do not fully grasp or comprehend for the time being.

Has Rick finished his God-assignment? Is that why God has taken him home?

Is Rick the one seed that needs to fall into the ground, so that it will bear much much more fruit in the decades to come?

We do not really know for certain.

We do know that it pains many to see such a giant go home when much remains to be done. The church in Singapore owes this man a great debt. He is a great loss not only to his beloved family and the church he founded and led. He is a great loss to the Love Singapore movement and the church in Singapore that has received the mantle of Antioch of Asia.

Father, we do not understand, and we do not want to pretend that we do, but we trust You completely. You are too loving to do evil, too wise to do wrong, and too powerful to have lost control. We trust You and entrust all the grieving family members and church members into Your loving care and comfort. Amen.

If you have memories of him you want to share, feel free to use the comment box below.

Appreciation Sunday for Cell Leaders

Praying for the cell leaders
Praying for the cell leaders

Today’s Sunday Worship Service was devoted to encouraging and affirming and blessing our cell leaders for their works of faith, attitude of hope and love for God’s people. We had a meaningful, wonderful and inspiring morning. These were some of the things we did:

  • We let everyone know that we were going to appreciate the the cell leaders and reaffirm the importance of cells in spirituality.
  • The 25 minute sermon on Matthew 6:34 was a word in season for the cell leaders and members. A sermon about the purpose of cell groups is so hackneyed we decided not to do it. Ps Thomas spoke on “Living in the Present”, an exhortation to live fully in the present, and not to be stuck in the past, or to live in anxiety about the future.
  • A new member, Suling, shared with the congregation her thoughts about why the cell group was so beneficial for her growth.
  • Our youth worker Ethel Cannon-Shin shared how the new commandment of Jesus in John 13:34,35 should be the bedrock of the cell and how participation in a cell provides community.
  • We showed a video that stitched together every cell groups’ words of appreciation for their cell leaders. This was a clincher and it affirmed and energised every the cell leader.
  • We called all the cell leaders out to the front and asked all the cell members to gather around them and pray for them. Each cell leader received a gift of appreciation.
  • We had some special light refreshments: ang ku kueh, with a tortoise impressed upon the cake, to symbolise longevity. We do hope the cell leaders will be sustained by the grace of God, and the support of the cell core team, and will continue serving and leading for many years.

How does your church recognise, appreciate and celebrate the cell leaders’ contribution to church spirituality? Do use the comment box.

Cell appreciation from Tom Cannon on Vimeo.

 

A.M. Mathew has gone home to his Lord and Master

I saw a follower by the name of Timothy Mathew on the church’s Facebook account. Is this the son of A.M. Mathew the founder of World Revival Prayer Fellowship? I found that he was and so I asked about his father. A.M. Mathew had been living in Toronto, Canada for close to 40 years and was in his late eighties. I asked about them and it was sad to learn that he had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease and his wife had dementia. I brought this information to the church and we prayed for him. I got them to pronounce the Aaronic blessing on A.M. Mathew which we then posted on the church Facebook account and over in Canada the son could show it to his dad. We were glad that we did that but soon after that we received news that the Lord and Master of A.M. Mathew has brought him home to glory on the 21st of September. It was a sad loss but it certainly freed him from terrible suffering of pains in his body. It was so bad that despite palliative care, he could not sleep well, wracked as he was in much pain. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away”(Rev 21:4). I informed the church of this and we prayed for the bereaved family. I adapted the death notice from the cemetery website and put this in the church bulletin:

 

A.M Mathew with his wife Saramma Mathew
A.M Mathew with his wife Saramma Mathew

Rev Arranghat Mathai Mathew (November 12, 1926 – September 21, 2015) – passed away peacefully on the morning of September 21, 2015 at his home in Mississauga, Ontario at the age of 88. Beloved husband of Mrs. Saramma Mathew and loving father to Josephine Mary (Dr. George Abraham), Rachel, Sara (Mr. James Havlik), and Timothy, and a devoted grandfather to Elizabeth (Andrew Douglas), Ruth, Benjamin, Stephen and Joshua. He will be greatly missed by his family, who cherished his kind and loving spirit and are grateful that he has gone home to glory to be with his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. A.M. Mathew leaves a memorable legacy, having founded World Revival Prayer Fellowship in Singapore in 1972, and later beginning a Canadian chapter in 1978 upon his move to the Greater Toronto Area with his family. Through Brother Mathew’s tireless efforts, his ministry eventually extended to Jamaica, Bangladesh, the Himalayan foothills of Assam in North India and Tamilnadu, Kerala State, India and the Six Nations Reserve in Ohsweken, Ontario. Brother Mathew made it his life’s mission to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it was clear to all who knew him that he was an unashamed witness for the Lord. Please remember his bereaved wife, children and grandchildren before the Lord.
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

The family at the Paya Lebar Airport leaving for Canada.
The family at the Paya Lebar Airport leaving for Canada.

I was never close to A.M. Mathew. I was probably anonymous and inconspicuous in church in the early formative years of WRPF. Reserved and shy, I did not easily socialize, and deferred and respected leaders from a distance. My personal impressions of A.M. Mathew was his bold witness for Christ, and an overriding passion to prepare the church to be that spotless Bride when Jesus comes again. To this effect he would preach doctrines Sunday after Sunday. I remember being taught regeneration, baptism, baptism in the Spirit, holiness and sanctification, the Lord’s Supper, the second coming of Christ, the church as the bride of Christ, and the book of Revelation. He gave out notes on the doctrines. I still recall his openness to the power and gifts of the Spirit, and yet knowing that his gift and forte was teaching the word, which he did with passion. Interestingly, I am currently preaching through the book of Revelations. On the Sunday I preached about 144,000 and the countless multitudes of white robed saints of Revelation 7, Zach Wong, a pioneer member from the original first eight who were baptized, came to me and remarked, Now that brother Mathew has gone home, you have taken over his role of preaching Revelation, his favourite book. I was slow to take in what he said and respond. I could only smile. Now that it has sunk in, I pray I will be able to preach it with the same passion and love for it, and to do it with interpretative skills I have learned from seminary and years of preaching. Yes, may I be able to deliver Revelation Made Simple with a similar passion and greater insights. I am sure he would want me to do it better than him.