I was in Swiss Cottage Secondary School and Pre U center for seven years from 1968 to 1974. I have lost touch with most of my classmates from then. However, as we reach the empty nest and retirement years, there is a strong pull to reminisce about the shared school years. Furthermore, we have more time on our hands, and with the help of quick contact via social media, many school reunions suddenly spring to life. This year I got added into a Swiss Cottage chat group. It was such fun looking at old school photos, wondering who is who, and what happened to so-and-so, and talking about our form and “out of form” teachers.
As I was clearing leave before my sabbatical I decided to initiate contact with some classmates who I found out attend the same church near my home: the Bukit Batok Presbyterian Church. So I arranged to meet with them for breakfast before the service and and lunch after the service. We ended talking for about four hours at a coffeeshop opposite the church.
A few days later I had lunch and tea with one of them: Kuan Keng Seng, formerly a council member in All Saints Anglican Church. It was easily another four hours of catching up on our respective history since Secondary School. Higher education, career path, family and as in all reunions a miscellany of various emotions and memories of people and events as they arise.
We do have a great need to reminisce and recall the past in our later years. It is important to bring out the jig saws and try to make put the pieces together and make sense of what God had been doing and working in our life. We step into a needed process of wholeness and integration as we reflect on God’s presence and activity in our life. It can be a life-affirming and healing process.
What if everyone in church, men and women, stopped dyeing their hair for a year? Before the end of the year there would obviously be more grey and white heads in the congregation.
There would be a greater awareness of the relentless ageing process of members who we previously thought were forever young. Without treated hair, we would look different. For the women, the difference would be more telling. Most men do not dye their hair and it is usual to see some grey hair, mostly men’s, in most adult congregations. But if everyone stopped dyeing, there would be a sea of grey and white, since there are usually more women than men in church. We would be surprised, perhaps dismayed, at how old others and ourselves appear. It could even be depressing, or devastating for some.
The members of the leadership team would have a heightened awareness of the ageing process in the congregation. They would think of the various implications of that. The financial implications would certainly surface. So would the need to renew leadership and mentor the next generation. The urgency of outreach especially to young people would be highlighted. The need for new blood would stare them in the face. Maybe special fixtures to aid the seniors, need to be added and the building made senior friendly.
The pastor would likely have already been aware of the greying of the congregation. However the colour of hair can be shock therapy for a pastor. Suddenly the needs of the grey haired senior become urgent. Hopefully the pastor would do some research or ask other pastors about how best to equip and serve the seniors in their churches.
So it may be a good thing for everyone in church to stop dyeing their hair for a year. In addition, more people will offer them their seats in the MRT during peak hours.
His name is Andrew and he shared with a glint in his eye about what the Lord has been doing. He had gone on mission trips for years and had seen the Lord’s hand in miracles of healings and in salvation. He had gone with teams and other pastors and missionaries and had seen the word of the Lord spread in Pakistan. In the last few years, his attention shifted to Palawan in the Philippines. He couldn’t stop talking about the Lord. He went up the mountains to reach out to the people in the northern part of Palawan. He later went south to survey the needs there too. And he wants to go back there – alone if he has to. And he is 72 years old.
Life expectancy of Singaporeans is now about 85.
Sir Alex Ferguson, age 72, retired from managing Manchester United.
Jupp Heynckes, age 68, successfully coached Bayern Munich to the German treble, including the Champions League victory over the other finalist.
Lee Kuan Yew is nearly 90.
Andrew reminded me of Caleb of the Old Testament, who said to Joshua, ‘I am this day 85 years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me…give me that mountain…” (Joshua 14:11ff).At 85, he was still appropriating the promises of God and the challenges of faith that God laid before him.
Financial experts may say most Singaporeans do not have enough saved up for retirement. I do not want to dispute that. But I want to remember the experts who talked about the giants in Canaan, the high and mighty walls, and the veteran warriors guarding the cities. The experts all died in the wilderness. So I will keep my eyes on Jehovah-jireh, God my provider.
I am inspired by Andrew and Caleb and I want to grow old with my eyes on a faith project.