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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Blogpastor interviews Job

Dr Richard Teo’s illness, suffering and death raised quite a few issues. So I just had to request this interview with Job. I had to sit in the waiting area of his spacious mansion. He had lots of people lined up for appointments wanting to fellowship with him. That is how well known he is to eternity’s residents. Many of them identified with his sufferings and felt an unusual bond with him. Finally I was ushered into the sitting room. He was alone. It was my chance to interview Job of the Old Testament.

God restored Job's family and his wealthDo you feel able to talk about your past painful experience? You know I don’t want to rehash painful memories unnecessarily.

JOB:  Healing takes place when you enter eternity. You still remember bits and pieces but they seem to be bathed in the light of God’s love and you see things very differently. It’s like you have new eyes to see all those old memories with,  and everything is reinterpreted with an aura of glory. Sure, I can talk about it without anguish, the way a mother recalls the laborious birth of her precious child.

I was a very wealthy man. My wealth and assets just kept increasing. God was prospering me left, right, centre, literally everything I touched. My children were living it up and never had to lift a finger to work. My wife had a life of ease. We were proud of our possessions and we had good stewards and servants who slaved for us. Many claimed us as their close friends and I was generous in helping the poor and distressed. Frankly, even powerful chieftains envied me and coveted my herds and popularity.

(He looked down, sighed, and shook his head slowly.)

So you were greatly blessed and felt grateful to God.

JOB:  Yes I attributed the great increase of my wealth and the many sons I have to God’s blessing on me and I faithfully thanked Him with sacrifices of animals. Lots of sacrificial offerings. Some of the things my children did disturbed me, and their behaviour may have offended God. So I prayed much for them too.

That’s why it hit me hard and perplexed me greatly when all the calamities struck. I am sure you have done your research and you know I lost everything in wave after wave of natural disasters and attacks. All my servants, my herds and flocks, my properties and my sons and daughters were all swept away in one massive desert storm. I didn’t know what struck me. I had no time to react. All was lost within a day. Only my wife and my life were spared. I could not sleep. I didn’t want to see anyone. I did not eat. I was weeping day and night. My trust in God was shaken like a tent against a storm. Emotionally, intellectually and spiritually, I shook. The worse was when I lost my health and contracted an unexplainable medical condition and even my wife of many decades left me. Somehow I clung on to God Almighty. The way I see it now, it must have been His grace at work.

It must have been inexpressibly difficult for you. Thanks for sharing your heart. Millions have read of your plight in the Bible and have found great comfort and hope in your story. It was a severe trial by fire. Did you try to make sense of what was happening?

JOB: Naturally I did. I kept asking myself, Why did this happen? What did I do wrong to deserve this? Did my children’s behaviour offend God and trigger this judgment? If God is almighty why doesn’t He stop the storm and the hale and the marauders? If He loved me, didn’t He want to protect me?

I had some friends who came to comfort me but they were all of the opinion that it was because I had failed or sinned in some way unknown to me to cause such scorching judgment to fall on me and my family. It was deeply hurting to hear and their arguments stung like a viper’s bite: God was righteous and He could do no wrong. It had to be my fault: I had somehow failed to walk in righteousness. But I have kept the faith. I have fulfilled all righteousness – ceremonial as well as moral – as best I could as an upright man. Surely God could see that! Yes I strained to justify my faith and righteousness. My friends had probably looked at all my self-justification and thought, What a proud and self-righteous fellow!

So you were not able to reach a kind of conclusion or closure to your unexplainable sufferings?

JOB:  Well, you could say I didn’t and you could say I did. You see I had this encounter with God. He blew me away with a list of questions that sort of meant, I am your Creator and the almighty, sovereign and wise God: all you need to do is to trust Me even when you do not fully understand what’s happening to you or around you.

And that was it? Did that untie the knots for you?

JOB:  Frankly it did not answer my intellectual questions. It just gave me peace in the midst of mystery. I remembered how after that revelation, I simply sat in bowed silence and awe for days before the Lord Almighty.  I lived the rest of my life in reverence of the mystery of life and in gratitude of God’s sovereign grace.

Did your perspective of what had happened change with time and in what way has it matured?

JOB:  Of course it has. But it was not a maturing. It’s just that I now live on another plane of existence, on the other side of eternity. I now see the cross. I fully apprehend the depth and height and breadth and length of the love of God in His great sufferings on our behalf. I cannot see the suffering Son and say He did not care or love us. No way. I experience His love and wisdom in a heavenly dimension continually. I see all my past painful sufferings through the eyes of one who had been bathed in this pool of His incredible love and joy. There is no room in my heart for accusation or doubt or resentment of Him. Questions that bugged me when I was a child and thought like a child, rapidly dissipated like vapour in heaven’s air.

Did you say or do anything that you later regarded as childish or immature thinking on your part?

JOB:  Yes of course. My understanding of God was quite mechanistic, I suppose: If I am righteous, He will bless me, and nothing bad will happen. I had everything figured out in philosophical formulae. There was no allowance for mystery and the unexplainable in my life.

Some people in my generation think that you suffered because you feared specifically that all those terrible things would happen, and that’s why it came upon you: you sort of opened the door to evil in your life by your fears.

JOB:  I was afraid and I had my anxieties and exaggerated ideas of the worse that can happen to my family and business.  If such weaknesses opened the door to evil then I suppose there are millions of believers who would have such severe trials in their lives continually.   Since being on this side of eternity I have seen that God is greater than our darkest fears and He faithfully extends His hands of grace to his fearful and anxious ones as well .

May I ask what were your highest and lowest points in life?

JOB: The lowest point was when my wife gave up and left me. That came when I was already depressed.

My highest point? There were quite a few. The revelation I received from God of His attributes. Seeing how God restored my wealth double and gave me a new family.  However the highest point surely was being ushered into eternity and meeting Him face to face. Nothing could beat that!

What kept you going despite all the losses and pain?

JOB: I had this basic trust in God, and I did not want to die.

Having gone through such a severe trial, what advice would you give to those going through similar ordeals?

JOB:  Not so much of advice because advice does not really help people undergoing such profound suffering. They would need loving listening friends to be with them. I pray that people going through such severe trial will not lose hope in God. When they finally do feel that they have lost their hold of faith and hope, may they surrender and rest in His ability to uphold them.

My wish for them is that they would pray, Father I do not understand why this is happening, but I trust Your love and wisdom and power. You will work out all things for our good and for Your greater glory.

Would you want to go through such suffering again?

JOB:  Are you kidding?

Job, thanks for sharing these heavenly gems with us who continue to live in a fallen world full of pain and sufferings. We do not see as clearly as you do because we cling ever so tightly to our possessions and life as we know it.

JOB: You are welcome. Shalom my friend, see you an instant. I hope you know what I mean. Over here there is no sense of time.

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Mechanics in heaven?

Hyundai MatrixRadiator problems

Will there be mechanics or car workshop managers in heaven? The eight year old Hyundai Matrix died on me on Saturday and it was likely that the problem was the radiator. Since then I have been driving around with the air-conditioner turned off and the windows wound down. It reminded me of the early days when I drove the church van, a hardy Toyota Hiace, which had a 5 inches fan installed between the driver and the passenger seats. Wearing cotton shirts was a must. Even then you’d be wet if you drove in the afternoon heat. I called it a sauna on wheels.

Brazen rip-off?

Arrangements were made to go to this workshop near my workplace which made a diagnosis and called me to inform me of the repairs needed: $950 to replace the radiator and related hoses. My eyes opened wide, my mouth gaped and I said aloud into the phone, HUH? Well, as usual I consulted this church friend, Zach, an expert in all things cars. Let me get back to you. I received a call and he said, The radiator costs $250 and 3 hoses cost about $50 plus. So how did the workshop come up with $950. I felt like I was being taken for a ride, as I usually do when dealing with mechanics and workshops. When I called to tell them what I discovered, and that I will take the car back, they offered to give me another quotation. Which they did that and quoted almost half the price! Am I in Thailand bargaining at some bazaar? Of course they had some explanation that there were more than three hoses needed, gaskets, thermostat, and what not that accounted for the difference. Gave them the go-ahead and took the car the next day, and for sure they won’t be seeing me again.

Transformers of society

More women today drive cars. I wonder how they manage? Maybe there should be a website where people can consult, maybe somebody ought to start a “”. This comes back to my original tongue in cheek question, Will there be mechanics and car workshop managers in heaven? Are there Christian mechanics and workshop managers and businessman and financiers and lawyers and doctors and accountants and etc who have a kingdom transformation mindset? We certainly need them in order to transform society.

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