I am thankful that by God’s grace, my parents who were not church goers sent me to Sunday School in Bukit Timah Evanglical Free Church when I was in primary school. For a few years of intermittent attendance, I was introduced to Jesus, the gospel stories, the church. Even after I stopped attending, I was more open to Christianity. Thank you Lord, for without my knowing it, you were already wooing me when I was a young boy.
This divine wooing resumed when I was in secondary four, for a friend passed me a yellow booklet called “The Four Spiritual Laws”. I read it a few times and prayed the sinner’s prayer a few times. However, I told no one and my faith was inert, a dead faith. Thank God this would not remain so for too long. The wind of the Spirit blew where it willed and he chose to come like a monsoon that rained upon the nation in the early 1970s.
I was caught up in this spiritual revival that was poured out upon the nation. One of the theatres of spiritual stirrings begun in Dunearn Secondary Technical School (where NJC now sits) and spread rapidly to other students from various schools through the inter-school youth meetings of those days. Many experienced a crying revival of repentance and transformation, with the baptism of the Spirit with speaking in tongues. My life with God was intense, purgative, deep, empowering, life-changing, unforgettable. It laid the foundation for what God had for me in later years. I found myself driven with great earnestness towards spiritual disciplines, even to extremes at times. There was a great hunger for God and the things of God. I grew in scripture knowledge, involvement in ministry, discipling, teaching, preaching, and leadership responsibilities. I experienced many intimate and intense moments with God in lengthy days of prayer and fasting. I experienced the thrill of being used by God in spiritual gifts as I ministered in the church, receiving affirmation and helping me see what vocation God had for me. Lord this was a beautiful, memorable time in my salvation history. It is so sacred, so holy and something I treasure so much. Thank you, Lord.
The intensity and depth of the Spirit’s work in my soul led me to answer God’s call to the pastoral ministry. It was done with much consultation with the elders and with much patience and submission. The regular scripture meditations stacked up to finally quit cadet teaching and enter full-time Christian vocational work in church, with the elders’ approval. My theological education commenced with Tung Ling Bible School and then Trinity Theological College. By then the revival had waned, and so had my fire of intimacy with God, buried as I was in dry theological readings and assignments.
Pastoral Ministry & Burnout
Pastoral ministry was challenging and for many reasons I felt overwhelmed at times. During my forty years of pastoral work, I can clearly identify two periods of burnout. In both bouts it was the Lord who came to my rescue. I ended up in both times in retreat houses and found my recovery through silent retreats and spiritual direction. The stillness and silence, the separation from the normal busyness and distractions helped me to draw close to God and hear from him more clearly. Cleansing and release came and hope was restored, and in both occasions I returned to pastoral ministry renewed, refueled, reconfigured with a new operating system.
This led me to wish that I had experienced the blessings of contemplative prayer and soul care earlier in the pastoral ministry for then I would have been more effective and be able to bring more credit to my Lord. I cannot rewrite the past but I can help others who have the whole future ahead of them in pastoral ministry or leadership. I do feel for younger pastors in ministry plodding and navigating the very challenging seascape of church today. Burnout and discouragement and disillusionment are real threats to cutting short God’s assignment for them.
In His Time
I saw no training for spiritual direction in Singapore and began praying for one to open up. I tried to sign up for overseas training but the timings in both cases were not right for me. When Life Direction Singapore decided to run a course, I attended the introductory. However, I found the fees for the twenty-one months course beyond me and decided not to attend. God intervened miraculously and an anonymous giver I do not know at all offered to cover half of the $10,000 fees. God knew the longing of my heart and my need to be equipped and removed the obstacle that blocked me from saying Yes to God’s invitation. For this Lord, I give you thanks with all my heart for even in my retirement you have assignments for me and the supply of grace, gifts and provision would be there. Amen and amen.