Joanne Karen Chan: lived to the glory of God

They said
There was a spillover crowd of about sixty outside in the open air on a cool and damp Thursday night. At the front Joanne Karen Chan - lived with a clear purposeentrance, projected on the screen, was a portrait of Joanne Karen Chan. She was looking out pensively from inside a bus. We could hear the songs and what was going on inside Grace Sanctuary.

“She was full of life.”
“She was real.”
“Her life was wrapped around two words: relationships and missions.”
“She knew what she wanted to do with her life.”
“I have known Joanne Chan since she was ten years old…”

Her godly parents
I did not know her but somehow I wished I had an opportunity. Her parents I knew well. We were in the same church in the late 70’s. Revival was in the air and we were immersed in the excitement, the whirlwind of the Spirit, and the love of God. James Chan and I, we loved church: we observed, studied and talked about church and ministry. When we talked church, we could talk for hours. Reserved, ponytailed and petite, Sarah Foo was a church librarian together with me. And all three of us were once on full time staff with the church.

Went home to glory
While on vacation in Bangkok, my sister in law informed my wife and I about Joanne’s hospitalisation. On our visit to the hospital in the city, we were saddened to see her in the ICU. She had just begun her Master’s in International Studies in Chulalongkorn University, with an intention to do development work in the Indo-Chinese region. Her heart was fired for missions, for justice and mercy ministry among the Indo-Chinese. Now she had been stricken with a mysterious illness, which the doctors thought was Japanese encephalitis. When we left after the visit, the administrative tug of war to bring her back to Singapore for treatment continued. News that she was finally flown back a few days later was greeted with relief, thanksgiving and confident prayer for her recovery. Thus on Tuesday morning, when I was told that she had passed away, my grief was beyond words, mixed with a quiet trust in the Lord.

It is going to be tough for the parents – a sword will pierce their soul. I felt for them, for I too had lost a child, but theirs will be a greater grief. She was 25 and she loved her Lord deeply. Brimming with life and purpose, her arrow was about to be shot into Indochina- so completely consumed was she by missions and a kingdom calling.

Her sudden departure remains a puzzle that is not lost on those who know her. It is a puzzle that cannot be fully resolved on this side of eternity. Only implicit trust in God’s higher purpose will help assuage the anguish and grief, and safely leave the unexplainable in God’s hands.

Though gone, she continues to speak.

Though brief, her life was lived to His greater service and glory.

Though the seed has fallen into the ground, it will bring forth a harvest.

Goodnight Joanne….we will all see you in the morning.

Spirituality and faith formation at AGST

New eyes

So far the courses I have attended covered discipleship, building formative faith communities and this time round, “Spirituality and Faith Development”. Hands touched my eyes, and I find myself learning to cope with strange light and blurred images, and a new way of seeing how learning can take place more effectively in church. It is stimulating to view the same things from a new framework, and to have clarified in books, lectures, discussions and journal articles, insights and patterns you have sensed but could not give precise shape to. It is uncomfortable too, because you see methodology and philosophy in the church that does not maximize learning, but will require great energy to modify.

Dr George Capaque facilitating discussion

Different Christian traditions and spiritualities

Dr. George Capaque, the Dean of Discipleship Training Center was our main lecturer together with Dr Allan Harkness, the Director of Education programs in Asia Graduate School of Theology. There were eight of us in the group from four countries: Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Philippines.  We were introduced to the different traditions and spiritualities of the church and to the ways our faith is formed and developed, always with an eye to how we can incorporate what we have learned to benefit our respective contexts.

Though academic there was thought put in the program to integrate elements that would impact the heart and behavior. While we examined the six traditions expounded in Richard Foster’s “Streams of Living Water”, we took it down from the cognitive domain to let it work in our hearts and hands. We used the workbook for the first hour of each day to actually discuss where we are personally with respect to each tradition and how we will weave it into our actions through specific applications. The sharing were times of openness, fellowship and mutual encouragement.

Carlos making a point

break out groups

learning by sharing

Ladeq expressing her view

I’m liking it

Besides exploring the contemplative, evangelical, social justice, charismatic, holiness and incarnational traditions, we also examined the nature and contributions of the pietist spirituality, Ignatian spirituality, and John Wesley’s teachings. We looked at how different types of personalities have preferred spiritual pathways, the spiritual disciplines, different types of prayer and how to develop a personal rule of life.

Dr Allan HarknessDr Allan lead us through stimulating discussions on various theories and several paradigms of how faith develops. Some of the stuff here includes John Westerhoff’s styles of faith, James Fowler stages of faith, and Hagberg and Guelich’s Stages in the life of faith. These are interesting stuff that I will need to process and synthesize and reflect in the context of my ministry situation.

The papers we have to do are geared towards our own growth in spirituality and faith, and that of the community we serve and Ee Yiung and Kenny at EAST officefind ourselves in. They press us into integrating the insights and new learnings into our life and ministry context. This is anytime better than doing purely theoretical stuff that does not result in real change in attitude and behavior. True knowing involves life transformation.

Meeting friends

In such courses, we do make new acquaintances occasionally, and when we meet in an intensive 7 days schedule, inevitably friendship grows, and we even discover new things and meet old friends. A new aquantance shared with me theology outside the classroompersonal anecdotes about the late Anthony Yeo that really moved me, and I said to myself, I must write at least a blog post about this great man, even though a book is more appropriate. Another pleasant bonus was meeting Ee Yiung, a member I baptized 21 years ago in the East Coast Park and with whom I keep in touch via….what else but Facebook. It was heartening to see that she has found her place in God’s economy and enjoyed the work she did for East Asia School of Theology, the Campus Crusade’s training center.

The food at The Seven Fountains

It began on 1 June and now its 4th of July. The actual 30 day Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius has concluded. Processing and taking it all in, basking in its afterglow, and trying to understand the dynamics involved in this directed retreat is what’s going on with me now. Reading some stuff on the history of spirituality and the dynamics and flow of the spiritual exercises. Not ready to blog much about it now, but here is an easier thing to publish: the meals we were served here at The Seven Fountains Ignatian Spirituality Centre, at Chiang Mai, Thailand. There were several more dishes left out, but most of the meals are reflected here. More vegetables and fruits than meat. Strong vibrant flavours and taste. It was thirty days before I began to tire and look outside for some meals. Not bad – kudos to the cooks.