Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Thanksgiving

Our staff had a thanksgiving lunch on the 28th December. Here is the message that I shared with our staff team along with some photos of the day.

My Greatest Satisfaction in 2007

01 Serving with my wife and the twins
We remember going to people's homes, speaking at events, going for meetings, days in the office and ministering overseas. Dinah and I just enjoy times meeting with and talking with new members at Discovering Membership. We did enjoy serving as a family at the 16th anniversary. Most other times the twins are beside us, reading quietly. There is always much to do but we are often together.

02 Serving alongside the staff team
I remember going into the water with you at water baptism, answering questions with you, brainstorming for the Breakthrough campaign, ministry discussions, doing weddings and fun times at the staff retreat. There is also the time Simon and I drove to KL for that visa, Pastor Jeff and I at Elim Church, and celebrating together when the church became debt free on 30th April.

03 Finding old friends I thought I had lost
I just met an old rugby friend from Junior College on the plane back recently. I keep bumping into old friends more and more and in places I would never imagine seeing them. It has been exciting.

04 Serving the community through Hope Centre
I remember opening that bank account with Pastor Lawrence, the Hope Centre meetings at our home, planning and poring over detailed proposals and joining board meetings. I remember going to speaking with authorities about funding our local projects and about potential overseas projects.

05 Traveling internationally to strengthen churches overseas.
It is vital that we visit our overseas tentmakers. Dinah and I love to encourage and spend time with our tentmakers in faraway places. These are special times. Dinah's sister and Simon has helped a lot in this regard. So has Yean Shien, Elaine, Limei, Cara, Pastor Jeff, Claud, Pastor Lawrence and Pat to make this possible.

This has been a year of great joy doing new things, meeting and serving with friends old and new.

My 2008 Wish

01 Enjoy the favour of God
I've had over 12.5 years on staff. But we have been doing church for over 16.5 years. We are so grateful for the grace of God every step of the way. We look forward to His continued grace and His favour in the years to come.

02 Walk in His Wisdom
One thing that has been hard is to switch gears constantly. I have not switched well on more occasions that I would have wanted to. The phrase "my cup runneth over" has also come to my mind on more than one occasion. Going forward I need a lot more divine wisdom.

03 See the birthing of many new things in Hope Church (S)
I am excited about the New Ministries initiative. We got to encourage pioneering and innovation in a growing church. I am also excited about our Youth Centre. We are moving from once-off projects to ongoing programmes. I am excited about developing missions internship. You will be hearing more about this. I am excited about the Full House effect. We will see our care groups and worship services becoming fuller and fuller.

04 Help the twins do well in PSLE
Early October will be an exciting time especially for the twins. This is true for the students doing national exams in October too. Dinah and I will adjust to this new adventure.

05 The Blackberry phone software will be un-crashable....
Yes its been giving some problems again recently. I am sure we'll figure it out soon.

2007 has been another good year. My prayer for the new year is that our source will be from above as in Psalm 123:1 and that our strength is in the name of the Lord as in Psalm 124:8.

Thank you for the privilege of being part of your journey.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Seven Luggages

Preached the final time in Hope LA today. This is my eighth Sunday sermon in a trot. After service the church prays for us. Some members take farewell photos with us. Next is lunch meeting with Jarred, Jonathan and Golf which is followed by the Care Leaders meeting. Then Dinah and I meet Chai and Crystal in their office. Finally is the Ministry Leaders meeting till 8 pm. Dinner is with Golf.

Monday starts with breakfast and I. Dinah packs 7 luggages. David, a new friend calls from Atlanta. Then Al calls from Irvine. Next we drive to return the rented cello and have a late lunch. Then we pack some more before farewell dinner with the LA leaders. Then Dinah and I have a final discussion with Chai afterwards.

Tuesday is our last breakfast here. Lee and Cynthia arrive. We take 7 luggages and 9 carry-on items on two hotel trolleys onto 2 cars. The 3 airport trolleys cost $3 rental each. It's a full flight. Security is very tight because the Israeli airline is flying today.

We arrive in the Tokyo airport at 6 pm Wed for an hour transit. On the way back to the plane I meet a guy I used to know from junior college. We arrive at the Singapore airport at 1:35 am Thu. We are surprised to see Simon waiting for us. Dan and I take 1 taxi whilst Simon takes Dinah and Deb. We step into our place just after 2 am. Its a blessing to live near the airport. We unpack the perishable items and wash up and are in bed at 5 am. We're all awake at noon. We do the laundry, get fresh groceries and unpack. Dan gets feverish. We sleep early.

I get up 3 times. The twins don't sleep much thanks to jet lag. Its Fri morn and Dan's fever seems higher. We put him at Jan's place and we go to office. Its good to see the staff. We catch up over Marsli and Maureen's pies. We are off in the evening to bring Dan home. David, Alice, Daniel and Charmaine come to our home for a meeting.

We are adjusting back. This year's three and half week trip is shorter than my six-week trip last year. Well there was Urbana '06 last year. We've learnt a few things about being out. One is that LA speaks 127 languages. So it's hard to speak of a LA culture. Another is tipping. This means an additional 10-20% of top of the restaurant bill depending on the service. The third would have to be managing jackets. We check the temperature forecast before we go out. We lug 4 jackets around... Its different back home. As we adjust I am thankful for the cool and rainy days here.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Final Week in SoCal

The story of our final week starts with Sunday. The church sanctuary seems fuller today. Many people come up for ministry after the sermon. Then I have lunch with Rob and Paul. Jarred then Mike tried to fix my notebook but... Next Dinah and I meet up with Chai and Crystal outside. Finally comes the ministry leaders meeting. We leave at 8 pm for our next appointment. Dinner is with Chris, Cyn and Annie till 11 pm.

Mon begins with breakfast with Dinah. The hotel atrium is stinky with one sewer pipe broken. So we eat a quick breakfast. Then Al calls from Irvine. Next we drive 1 hr 15 min east to the San Bernadino county. The snow-capped mountains are beautiful. We shop at the factory outlets for clothes and gifts. We eat here to avoid that evening rush-hour traffic. We take turns to shower and I am last so I clear e-mails and vet documents till 1:30 am.

Tue morn is clearing Singapore church work after breakfast. Then we go to Orange county. We spend time in the Crystal Cathedral. It is just a spectacularly beautiful campus. Here is a photo of their sanctuary. We also join the guided tour then we have lunch at the cafe. We spend time in their book shop. We go to the city of Irvine and spend some time with Al and Doreen's family (till past 11 pm). Here's a photo of our kids. We get back at midnight and clear e-mails. I shower in a choked bath tub and finally sleep at 2 am.

Wed morn sees the maintenance guy fixing the clog in the bathtub. We go see Derrick at USC campus. The uni is in exam mood. Derrick is from Singapore and he leads the Youth group here. Derrick as an international student isn't complaining about the weaker currency. After we spend time together and say good bye I make a wrong turn and end up with a 30-min drive around the city. Next we are with Cyn. Finally we drive to the Kusumo family in the city of Walnut. Josh was studying for a exam. So he're a photo of the family without Josh. We leave at 11 pm despite Hadi asking us to eat ice cream. Its 2 am when I get to bed.

We skip breakfast on Thu. Then we clear e-mails. Then its off to lunch with Anthony, a new member. Puk who works in this Thai restaurant hosts us. So we talk to Anthony and to Puk. Deb starts coughing. Then we drive to the west side of LA. I make a turn and end uo with a 20-min drive around in downtown. We finally arrive and its our first time in James and Christine's apartment. Its our first time trying her nice cooking. We arrive late again. Its our third late night in a row.

We skip breakfast on Fri. Next is morning devotions. Lee arrives for lunch and discussion. We come back and swim. We haven't swam for ages. Then David calls from Portland. The forecast tells us its 5 degrees tonight. We have a quiet dinner nearby after a series of long nights. I start working on a new sermon.

We resume breakfast on Sat. We come up and Vern calls from Seattle. Next we go to meet Wendy. She is from Hope Irvine church and arranged with Emmy to meet up with us. We arrange to meet at a mall but can't find parking. So we have to meet at the jammed carpark then go back to our hotel. We park and walk to a nearby Greek place for lunch. We go get groceries and Wendy comes along. Finally we say good bye to a new friend. We prepare for ministry tomorrow. Then JR calls from Seattle.

Here's a discovery for us. You would have heard news about the sub-prime mortgage crisis here. Naturally we assume that home prices are dropping. Our friends here tell us that prices in homes in some California cities are holding steady although sellers are taking a longer time to sell. Crisis?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Week 2 in SoCal

There is a large Catholic street parade around the church today. We circle round to get parking. Guess who we meet in the service? It's Cindy who is going home from Santiago to Singapore via LA. Dinah and I have lunch with her. Then we join the Care Leaders meeting before meeting up with Pastor Chai and Crystal. Next is the Ministry Leaders meeting plus planning. Our family has dinner nearby our hotel. We get to speak to the waitress from Tennessee. Then we go back and four of us take turns to shower.

Monday starts with breakfast as a family. Next is devotions. We spend the morning confirming and making new appointments. This is followed by laundry and then a swim. Lunch is snacks and fruits. We pack then have a early dinner. Then it is a 1 hour and 45 min drive to north of San Diego. Bao's place is a nice 3-storey condo. We catch up a little and settle down. He puts us in his bedroom. In the middle of the night I get up as the heater is too warm.

Bao gets breakfast for us in the morn. The strawberry cream cheese is yummy. We drive to the San Diego Zoo. Pandas are the star attraction here. Bao loves the polar bears. This is a world-class zoo like the Singapore zoo. Food and drink is expensive here.

Then we drive to Coronado island. The water front overlooking the San Diego skyline is pretty like in Vancouver. We meet an elderly couple on the Trikke. They invite us to try. Dinah, the twins and Bao try it as I take photos. Then we go to Hotel del Coronado. Its a luxury hotel next to a beautiful beach. We walk along the beach as the sun sets. Then its an early dinner. Dinah and Bao want American but I want Vietnamese. We end up with Persian food. Its the first time for all of us having Persian food and it's good. After dinner we go back to Bao's place and then say good bye. We get some coffee so we can stay awake on the drive home. The journey takes 1 hour 45 min again. As the twins shower I call Emmy to confirm the Care Leaders retreat details.

Wed morn starts with a phone call from Minneapolis. Next is breakfast followed by devotion. We do some ministry preparation time before going out to get more drinking water and sundries. We spend the evening with Annie, one of the leaders.

Thu is a meeting with Four Square Church. Dinah and I spend 2 hours with their missions executives Lee and later with Raul at their central office. Here's a photo. This church is very similar to our movement in terms of doctrine, ethos and philosophy. We also learn that they have 1,800 churches in the US. They have 120 staff housed in this 8-storey building that they own. Thu afternoon is a conference call with Malay of Hope Chicago. It is snowing in Chicago. After that is a meeting with a US Center for World Mission executive. Thu night is a dinner meeting with Sam and Sung, church leaders. We get caught in the rain as we walk back.

Fri morn is cold. The forecast is 9-15 today. Golf calls to postpone our meeting. I am nauseous and sleep in. Then we meet Judy. It rains and is so cold as we walk back. Our Care Leaders retreat starts with Friday dinner and discussion in a private room of a restaurant. Lin takes the twins out. Towards the end of the night my stomach begins to run. Dinah feel the onset of flu.

On the way out Sat we see a stretch limousine at the hotel driveway. The doors are open and the driver allows us to peek. It's our first time seeing the interior of a 20-seater. We go to church. The retreat continues on Sat with stretching. Lin takes the kids again. The leaders have fruitful discussions and we end after 3pm. Dinah and I go back to prepare for tomorrow. We are feeling better. Later Lin brings the kids back. They enjoyed watching the "Enchanted" movie. Sure hope Lin enjoyed it too.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

South Cal 2007

Nov 23rd begins our second missionary journey to Southern California. This is the home of Hope LA church and Hope Irvine church. We fly off on a Friday evening. The twins meet a familiar character during our transit at the Taipei airport. As for me, I am fighting a cold since Wed night. We arrive on Fri night.

On Sat I drive out and forget which side to turn into so I wait for cars to go by to get the direction. The GPS is not quite working. We buy drinking water and basic utensils. Then I realise I did not bring my sermon. Later Pastor Chai comes with his boys and my sermon notes which he prints for me. We go to sleep but only for awhile. All four of us are up at 4 am thanks to jet lag.

We are in Hope LA church from 10 am to 7:30 pm preaching, having lunch with members, meeting Pastor Chai and Crystal then having leadership meeting and planning. There are 90 people today with 2 converts. Its the long Thanksgiving weekend and we are flat out. Besides the time difference we are adjusting to the cold autumn nights. We have dinner nearby our hotel then sleep soundly.

We awake late on Mon. Thank God that my cold is gone. We swim in the hotel's heated pool. A pastor calls us from Atlanta, Georgia. He is a friend of a friend. We do laundry, then drive to the music store to rent a cello and have dinner at a place next to the store. Later we speak with Maria on the phone. We sleep well tonight thanks to the swim.

We spend Tue preparing for the coming ministry. In the evening we drive to William Carey International University for a conference with the US Center for World Missions (USCWM). We meet Dr Ralph & Barb Winter of USCWM, leaders of the Third World Mission Association, Asian Mission Association, Global Network of Mission Structures, Institute for International Christian Communication and Cross Global Link. Later that night, Cyn comes with Lin to take the twins to stay overnight with Lin.

Lin takes the twins to her school on Wed as Dinah and I spend the whole day and night at conference. After our conference Lin brings the twins back at night. She is so kind.

Our family goes for the last morning of the conference on Thu. Barb takes our family on a personal tour of the campus then to their home. There we spend time with her and her husband. Dr Winter even gives us two books as a gift. This is an amazing guy. Then we go buy more drinking water and then we swim. I drive to church for Young Adult men's night. 10 guys join in and it becomes a very transparent session.

On Fri, we rearrange our schedule. We do laundry. I drive to church for the College care group in very heavy rain. It does not rain much here. Betty takes Dinah and the twins to the Young Adult ladies' night. We all come back late.

Sat papers report many road accidents yesterday due to heavy rain. We drive to church where Dinah teaches at the Thai unit event. We celebrate grandma Urai's 91st birthday. She has been with the church since the first day. She is joyful and tells me she is only "19" when I pray for her. During this time Derrick gives the twins a music theory lesson. Then we spend time with Jason and Emmy, leaders of the family ministry. Then there is a monthly prayer in church. We have a late dinner tonight.