Goodbye my friend Lewis

Lewis Cheong’s departure was not unexpected. We were prepared. By God’s mercy, we had time to say our thank you, our sorry and goodbye. Still it is hard doing a funeral of a friend. I do not easily express my feelings of loss or sorrow. Its probably bottled up somewhere.

Lewis and me about 8 years back

I have known Lewis since he joined the church about 30 years ago. On reflection, Lewis was a brave man. God made him brave. He tried many jobs and had a chequered career: from bouncer to businessman. For anyone in his time with only a Secondary education, success would be hard to achieve. He tried so many things: bouncer, debt-collector, gym instructor, Mr. Manhunt second runner’s up, judge for bodybuilding contests, model, salesman for Speedo and a shoe brand. He was game to try anything that would make money. By God’s grace, and risk-taking, he set up a shoe retail shop at Queensway Shopping Center: Deck & Boots. One shop became two shops and three shops. Hereen. International Plaza. Tiong Bahru Plaza. CNY fairs. Company fairs.  University fairs. He had guts.

An advert he did for SingTel. Notice the old Motorola super-durable handphone.

The shoe business required him to make frequent trips to Guangzhou to buy products that can sell well and yield good profit in his shops. Full of ideas, he was always sniffing out great bargains that could make him a big buck. He was in his element in Guangzhou: like the old-time trader and towkay: buy low, sell high. I think he loved Guangzhou because all his abilities, instincts and potential always found full unhindered expression over there where he felt he was in his “zone”. He wanted to make his life a success; prove himself, and provide for his family.

He was disadvantaged by his lack of education, but it did not deter him from finding a way of making a good living. He did not fail the education system, but the education system of his time failed him: it failed to identify his entrepreneurial spirit and develop it. If he were born today it would have been better. In the end, it was God who helped him realize his potential.

Lewis’ Citibank advertisement

Lewis’ turning point came when he attended a church evangelistic rally at the PUB Auditorium. He put his faith in Christ and started to faithfully attend church. He was modelling then. In the early years as a growing Christian, he struggled often but he always threw himself onto the mercy of the heavenly Father. He stumbled again and again, but he got up again and again. Lewis was brave; made brave by God’s mercy and grace. God was his light and salvation, again and again. God was his refuge and stronghold. He turned to God with his fears. And God made him brave.

He grew to be a steadfast Christian. He brought friends to church. Served as a Sunday School teacher of love class; served as an usher; and was head of the ushering ministry. He was always faithful in attendance and tithing, punctual in church, consistent in his meditations (Every Day with Jesus devotional by Selwyn Hughes). He also prayed often about his business: divine help in finding good products at good prices with willing sellers (especially for the small quantities he bought). He acknowledged God’s blessing, guidance, help, and answers to prayer.

A table at the wake to display Lewis modelling portfolio

His bravery was most evident in the way he faced death.: squarely. Like anyone facing similar circumstances he journeyed through the stages of denial, anger, regrets, depression and acceptance. It was like the last stretch of a marathon – a difficult, draining, painful struggle. It was a long journey. Like Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, he prayed to God, “If possible take this cup of suffering from me. But not my will but Your will be done”. You see, he was afraid it would be an agonizing, prolonged departure. In the end, he accepted that the Lord gives, and the Lord is the one who should finally decide the timing of his departure. Lewis could face death bravely because he knew where he was going, and to whom he was going.

As he accepted that he would be meeting his Master soon, he had time to settle matters: business affairs, financial affairs, family matters. He said his Sorry, his Thanks, his Goodbye. The church people had time to visit, to recall the good old days and say goodbye and appreciate him. He did not leave a family in shock, with many matters hanging in the air. Of course, if he had a chance to live all over, he would not have worked so hard to make money, and he would have spent more time with the family, especially when they were younger. Secondly, he would have travelled to Japan, Taiwan, and Korea. He told me these himself.

Lewis loved his family: he appreciated his wife Cavelyn  for being willing to go through thick and thin with him, bearing the hardships and sacrifices of doing business. He was proud of his daughter studying medicine; of his son who had shown signs of growing into a mature fine young man.

As someone said, Courage is not the absence of fear, but being able to act despite the fears, because you know God is with you to help you.

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The Tampines brothers: the glory in the tragedy

the Tampines brothers went home to the LordA tragic accident saddened many Singaporeans this past week. Nigel Yap, 13 and his younger brother Donavan Yap, 7  who lived in Tampines, a housing estate, were ran over by a cement-maker  truck and were killed instantly. We later learned that they were Christians and we were inspired to hear that the older son had shared Christ with his mother which led to her salvation and reconciliation of his parent’s estranged relationship.  A translation of the mother’s touching eulogy at the funeral service has been circulating and I am making it available in this blog. It has to be God’s strength and grace that enabled her to bear witness with such glowing hope.

“Brothers and Sisters-in-Christ, peace be to you. To all… the strangers who came today, I don’t know you all, but because of your love, thank you for coming today, I really appreciate your presence here today. Your support gives my family & I a lot of strength, or else I won’t be able to stand here today. Today at about 4pm, while I was bathing, I heard a voice. A voice that tells me to share… how I came to know Jesus, and accepted Jesus. I come to know Jesus because of my eldest son. My son Nigel is a hyperactive child, and He gave us MANY problems. My husband & I were on the brink of divorce. I’m not saying 宗教 is not good, because I know this is a sensitive issue. I just want to share with you my experience. Now I do believe there is only One God. And there is really One God. And this God is good. There are divine ways and solutions we were trying to seek, we even went to Malaysia to calm our child. But we couldn’t find the way. My child gave us a lot of problems. But my sister introduced me to Jesus, she said “You tried every way. Why don’t you try and believe Jesus? He is also a God. Just come and try, if it doesn’t work then it’s okay.” So I agreed and decided to ask Jesus, it’s better to try than nothing right?  Once I believed in Jesus, my whole family has changed. In the past my husband and I always quarreled. At that time I was just a new Christian. Being a Christian doesn’t mean we will not have difficulties, we will still face different trials. But relying and trusting in Jesus, we will definitely triumph in every trial. Jesus saved our marriage. And through our eldest son, our whole family was so blessed. Actually Donovan’s not my second child, I had a miscarriage of my second child after 2 months. It was difficult trying to conceive him (cries).  After Donovan was born, He gave us a stronger encouragement. I believe that Donovan is from GOD, and I always thought, Nigel used to give us a lot of trouble, so God gave me Donovan to compensate what has been lost previously. Actually my thinking was very wrong indeed. Because God will surely give us the best. Nigel, is also my best son, my precious son. Last Saturday in the church Hokkien service, I was leading worship and Nigel was playing drums. My son, Nigel told me “Mummy, I don’t know how to drum, I don’t know how to drum Chinese New year songs.” I told him, “I know you can, you can surely do it!” And He really did. We were really good leading together. And my youngest son, He loved to dance and sing. In Sunday school, we also paired up for dancing and singing. And we were a great pair. I really thank God, that through this two sons, I have a lot more blessings than before. I believe right now, they are in heaven. During the night of tragedy, my sister dreamed that they were wearing white robes and a crown of glory, both holding hand-in-hand, and said ‘goodbye’ to my sister in laughter. I really believe one day I will meet them in heaven one day. Because of these two sons, I will continue to live on strongly… (cries). I really thank you Singaporeans, for showing your love and support. I am really extremely appreciative. God is so good. All Glory to God (Hallelujah).” (Transcript of the eulogy of the mother of the two Tampines’ brothers (30/01/2012) – Translated from Mandarin)

While we may be perplexed as to why such tragic things could happen to God’s children, we can be assured that God’s redemptive purpose will somehow mysteriously draw good out of this wreckage. Only that Day will reveal the full extent of good that will be redeemed out of this tragedy. Until then we peer through a frosted window into the mystery that sometimes surrounds life, and trust in the Lord with all our hearts and not lean on our own limited understanding and knowledge.  We keep our eyes on a loving, sovereign and wise God who loves us with His nail pierced hands.We look at the glory and the hope in the tragedy.

Lord we pray You will sustain the grieving parents, classmates and church mates of the two brothers who have gone home to be with the Lord. May your peace and comfort be their shield and tranquiliser in the coming months. And may the name of Christ be lifted high and proclaimed through this tragic loss.

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