Inspiring people in Cebu mission trip

Michael, Kenny, Stephen, Ansen, Brenda, Seh Chuan, Soo Kheen, Anwen

Ansen, Soo Kheen, Anwen, Michael

This was the first time I went on missions with the Soon family. Michael Soon had been a missions man for decades. He had migrated from Singapore to Perth and the missions passion, instead of waning, burst aflame in the land of the relaxed. He operates in a dependency on the Lord, and makes connections between needs and resources. Thus I ended up on this scouting trip to Cebu island in the Philippines. He and his family were in Cambodia for about a week, and spent a few days of Chinese New Year with relatives in Singapore and then it was off to Cebu. This was one long missions cum reunion trip for them. They traveled budget so that they could pour more resources into the ministries they were helping. They were seasoned missioners: traveling light, no complaints, adaptable, culturally sensitive, encouraging, not patronizing and intent on serving and helping the people.

Soo Kheen, Rose Pastre, Anwen: adaptableAnwen praying for a scholarMichael sharing life

On ferry back from Dumagete, Negros

It looked like his missions passion had rubbed onto his wife, Soo Kheen, son Ansen, and daughter Anwen. Ansen had spent a gap year with Youth With A Mission doing a DTS  in Perth. He had gone to Mexico for the outreach. It was a joy to see this family serving together in missions. Most often in church, family members would serve in different ministries and spheres, and that is okay because God gives different gifts, passions and grace to each one. Missions is one of those occasions when temporarily you can see the manifold grace of God at work through a family. Their strengths, training background, temperaments, spiritual gifts and passions come together like a lively and lovely dance.

Stephen, Seh Chuan, Michael Soon, Kenny

Stephen and I shared the room and it was good to have a partner with you on any trip. Jesus sent his disciples two by two into the field. We could share our reflections and process what we were experiencing. This mission trip was packed. Morning we left the small hotel and we returned about 10 most nights. An interesting first for both of us was taking the night ferry in the tourist section. Told a few distasteful stories of overcrowded sinking ferries to the group but I suspect they thought I was kidding. Anyway the cheaper fare was in the open air bunk beds on the deck, which seemed safer to me, while the tourist fare was below the deck in a smaller air-conditioned section.

I slept wellbunk beds in tourist sectiongetting ready to sleep

Both Stephen and I were impressed with the ministry of Grace Community Empowerment. Sharon and Manny Pastre are the leaders of the ministry. This couple complemented each other and are both vital to the success of the ministry and its outreach. Sharon was born in Singapore, raised in Hong Kong, but a US citizen, and a missionary in Philippines. She sold off her successful architectural practice. She used to design the interiors of hotels, and sometimes the facades of buildings. Now she designs programs to meet the needs of the poor and the proclamation of  the gospel. Manny was an Assemblies of God pastor and had experience working in a community aid agency. He was an ex-Marine and still sported a Marine haircut. “Keeps me cool”.

Seh Chuan & Brenda

New jeans for all

SC doing dental sealantSeh Chuan and Brenda sharingwalking over rubbish

Another lovely Singaporean couple were Seh Chuan and Brenda, who have been following Michael Soon in his mission trips. They retired long ago at around the age my father’s generation retired: 55. (You see in those days, unlike today, the Singapore system did not have scholars running it! Under them, the retirement age is currently 62.) This couple was sincere and generous, and they wholeheartedly threw themselves into all the mission work, especially the dental sealant project, with admirable zeal. They braved the dumpsite visit, the travels in jeepneys and ferry, shared their testimony with the marriage fellowship, and bought about 30 pairs of jeans for all the local workers and “scholars”.

tasty food with great company

Missions has a way of yielding interesting stories. Its always a privilege to connect with people, and be inspired by them. One of the simple joys of missions is to hear their stories of faith, love, failures and successes. Although our intent is to give and sow much, we inevitably receive much too!

the New Covenant Church in KL- from strength to strength

new worship premises at Wisma TA

improved worship dynamics and equipment

In about one year, the New Covenant Church, in Kuala Lumpur  has outgrown the premises at Atria Shopping Centre and has moved to the Wisma TA on the 1.1.11. They seem to have nearly doubled in six months.

The improvements were visible and audible. The four forbidding video cameras, theIan Chong mood-shifting lighting, the projection systems and the understated tasteful interior. So has the music, with a worship leader with stage presence, and bold and anointed vocals. These certainly increases the appeal of this church to working young adults. And there were visibly more of them than six months ago.

Saw some familiar faces from Facebook and my previous visit. It was nice just to meet Simon Yap, and catch up with Alex and Karen. This church preaches the Alexgospel of grace but has many “law”-yers. Alex remarked that since experiencing God’s radical grace, he has been more excited, blessed, more active in ministry, and gave more than he had ever in his whole Christian life. Talking about giving, this church does not pass offering bags around and nobody is paid. There are offering boxes around, but giving is a low key thing. Even when they needed more than RM$600,000 to move to this new premises the amount was raised within three weeks without much drumbeating.

Barnabas Mam preaching

The message blessed my heart. It was pastor Barnabas Mam from Cambodia who gave a verse by verse expository message on New Covenant transformation. It was enlightening, helpful, inspiring. Interwoven into the explanations and catchy outline were stories from the church planting fruitfulness of Cambodian indigenous church planters trained and supported by the institute, and regularly  supported by the New Covenant Church through teaching teams and finances.

Kenny, Barnabas, Peter Sze, Simon Yap, Yew Chzon

Later, we had a relaxed sharing over coffee with pastor Peter and his daughter, Joey. Barnabas was amiable, perceptive and unassuming in person despite his stature as one of the notable leaders of the Cambodian Church. Peter and I talked quite a bit about the church. When asked about what caused the recent growth spurt, he replied that it was God’s grace. Whatever humanly analysed factors you deduced would be of no use if not for the grace of God. In another place or time, with the very same factors present, the growth may never materialise. He was concerned that tNCC became a community, not just a large collection of individuals. He felt that’s an important element in any church that preaches the gospel of grace. That also came across strongly in the course lectures and interactions in class about making disciples I had been attending. The culture in a Christian community is so strong it influences and shapes the groups and individuals in the church: it disciples them.

The Sze extended family of 4 generations

The extended four generations Sze family celebrated the one year birthday of Esaias at a country club. Well my timing was good. Four nights confined in a hostel room reading and doing my assignments had made me shamelessly bold. So I joined them for makan and they later graciously sent me back to Kuang, not Kluang, not Klang, but Kuang.

Now driving me back was something because Kuang, as I now know, is not part of Kuala Lumpur, but is a town north of the city. The Malaysian Bible Seminary bought over this country farm/golf club and it is located in an ulu kampong area (countryside) that needed three Szes, a Volkswagon and an iPad to locate. The daughter Suzanne was driving to spare the tired father; her husband, Yew Juan was navigating with the iPad; and Peter should have stayed home to rest, but accompanied me. So how do you think it made me feel? I wasn’t even the preacher!  Like the labourers in the vineyard who came to work late but got the same wages, I got what I did not deserve.

“Should I feel guilty or what?”, I asked Peter. “Just be grateful to the Lord”.

And I was, as I laid my head on the stiff pillow at 1am that night.

SIB Grace: abounding in grace

SIB Grace English service

Elder Thomas teaching the WordSunday worship service

We entered an empty spacious basement car park of the Crown Towers, an office building. SIB Grace leased the 9th Floor auditorium and halls. There was space for 500 but a third of it was used as a fellowship area, while the rest were filled with seats. The attendance ranged from 150 to 200 every Sunday. The newly started early morning Mandarin service, and the Sunday school each has 50 in attendance. The English service started at 11.30am. After the singing and communion, Elder Thomas, taught the Word verse by verse. The topic was the stewardship of the Master’s goods and the believers’ progress. The offering was taken, notices given and a closing song wrapped up the service. There was a sense of restfulness about the service, with no one straining to pump up adrenalin, or make things happen, or worry about “Were the people touched by God during the service?”.

A stunning miracle

The lunch area overlooked a lovely view of the Sarawak river. Over snacks we met Bartholomew, a male nurse who worked in the city’s hospital. He could not attend services as regularly as he would want to because of his shift duties. However, he prayed for patients in the hospital, and had seen a few answers to prayers for healing. Improvements in leg movements and the pain of patients as a result of Jenny, Kenny, Bartholomewprayer. Other times, he prayed audaciously for patients who died to rise, but they never did……until recently. He shared with me, “The doctor had declared a sick patient dead, and the distraught family had cried over him. I was sent to get him ready for the mortuary. I prayed a simple prayer for God to raise him. To my utter surprise he came back to consciousness. The doctor was called back and was shocked to see it. Later, a church elder visited the patient as he recovered in hospital.” This was a sign and wonder. This low-key but stunning miracle reminded me of another memorable story of a brain-dead member who came back to life in the deaf fellowship of World Revival Prayer Fellowship, where I pastor.

Re-installed by grace

Elder AlexLooking for empty seats at the Kuching food festival was difficult. When we finally did, and others went to order different food, elder Alex, who does most of the preaching in church, shared with me about his journey. During the charismatic revival in Kuching in the 1980’s, St Faith Anglican church was the center of action among the Anglicans. There was so much intensity and activity during that revival. The next two decades saw many who suffered burn-out, including himself, a committed youth leader. On one of his trips to Singapore, his cousin brought him to his church, NCC. There God ministered to him through the message. When he returned to Kuching he wrote to the church and it sent him 22 cassette tapes. He studied all the messages. Alex had severe asthma so that even the air-conditioning of a car could result in an attack. After hearing the tapes, he was completely healed!

Jenny, Kenny, elder Alex, Alan, Penny, Richard

Church gripped by a message

Later, Alex met with Thomas and other acquaintances of the charismatic revival. They met above the Crossway Christian bookshop, and had energizing discussions about the books and tapes of Joseph Prince. From there the idea of starting an SIB preaching point began. That preaching point grew and after persevering through difficulties, became SIB Grace, a church that abounds with the grace of God.

(Footnote: The Borneo Evangelical Church or SIB (Malay:Sidang Injil Borneo) is one of the largest evangelical Protestant denominations in Malaysia with membership at about 500,000. SIB Grace is part of this denomination.)