Covid-19 has cast a menacing shadow on the year 2020. It is the year of the pandemic. 1,816,120 deaths from Covid 19 in 2020, and these are only reported cases. 83, 260,611 infected, of which 59,049,598 have recovered. These statistics are bad, mad and sad. Singapore had also been in the valley of shadow of death. Anxiety, fear and frustration are the moods of the year. However, I do not want to dwell on these tragic details in this post. We are all familiar with the roll call of facts about the source, spread and devastation of the coronavirus. Rather, this post is about my personal reflection of 2020. Despite the darkness, I have experienced much of God’s abundance and redemptive grace. I have much to be grateful for.
REDEMPTIVE GRACE & ABUNDANCE
For one, my whole family is back in Singapore. For a while my wife and I were empty nesters with my son Joshua and his wife Ping studying in London, my second son Matthew serving the air forces in Australia with his wife and our two grandkids, and my daughter Elaine working in the USA. In 2019 my two sons returned with their families, and as if that wasn’t wonderful enough, my daughter was allowed to work from home in Singapore from March 2020. We were prepared to quarantine her at home but the hour she landed in the airport she was briskly brought straightaway to the Grand Park Orchard for government imposed and paid quarantine for two weeks. What a blessing and relief to know she was totally well.
Elaine works from afternoon to about 1am Singapore time and meets her office colleagues remotely at night. Then she would sleep in but we get to see her for meals like lunch and dinner and some weekends. It was wonderful to have her around. Now I wonder when she will be recalled back to her office in Washington DC. Hopefully she won’t be recalled until June 2021.
YEAR OF LEARNING & EQUIPPING
I am also grateful that the Covid 19 circuit breaker period and the months after necessitated the learning of new digital skills that I never had before. Speaking to an empty room with only a phone camera in front of me is something I have become comfortable with. I have also become strangely comfortable reviewing my talks on video. I used to squirm and switch off when I watched myself preach on video. Not so any more. I have also learned to use Zoom for meetings, as well as teach a Christian Education course. I can see possibilities in using these digital platforms. In the larger picture, the churches here have moved from being digital laggards to progressives, and this is a big, big positive in terms of future digital presence.
It has also forced me to purchase stuff online, mainly from Lazada. It began with buying necessary equipment to improve my recording of sermons and digital presence. Soon I moved on to stuff like bicycle lamps and camera lens that I wanted for my hobbies, to frivolous stuff like buying a linen shirt for dirt cheap price for the experience of it. I learned that when it comes to clothing, it’s better to visit the shopping mall.
SWEET RETIREMENT BY GOD’S GRACE
I am grateful that my retirement after 40 years of pastoral ministry in the same church was done sweetly. I am thankful that a home-grown church servant, Alvin Lim had been called by God to serve as the English Congregation pastor, and he willingly obeyed. I feel privileged to have seen God’s hand in forming a team of young people in full-time and part-time ministry, and weaving them with the more experienced staff. All this made it possible for me to step down as senior pastor with peace of mind. It was also a quiet but pleasant send-off with words of affirmation and good wishes, from the President and church leaders and members, and prayers of the three congregational pastors. All pre-recorded before a live audience and screened later for people to view on-line. I was feeling joyful during the recording of that segment, which was done straight after, the pre-recording of the ordination of service of Rev Alvin Lim on a Saturday morning. Very joyful and moving occasions when I sensed a strong anointing of God’s Spirit.
I was also grateful for the final retreat I would have as a senior pastor. Lance Ng, my spiritual director guided me to reflect on the 40 years of pastoral ministry and the desires that the Spirit is stirring within me with regards to the future. Co-discerning what God is saying and doing is so vital and that is the spiritual director’s role. I was excited with the desires of my heart that surfaced during that five days of silent delighting in the Lord at Life Springs Spirituality Centre. I have been giving God a blank page for post-retirement, refusing to plan but instead to wait on Him, and the Lord has started to reveal the steps I am to take after retirement. Exciting new chapter.
To summarize, although 2020 was a “negative” year in terms of the adverse effects on mental health, the economy, jobs, separation and loss of loved ones, and the surfacing of ugly politics, for me personally God has graciously allowed me to experience his abundance, guidance and preparation for the future. Oddly I will remember 2020 rather fondly because I see too many positives for myself and my family and the church– the lot has fallen nicely for us.