this has been the best christmas ever in all my twenty-one years of life. the mandarin congregation came over for their 祷告会 cum 卢牧师 farewell party today. after dinner and songs and a bit of sharing on pastor lu's part, he invited our family to share about God's grace in our lives. here's where i got to hear never-before-heard stories from my very own family members.
my mum started the ball rolling and talked about how she used to send us to church as kids but never really believed herself. she wouldn't attend church until my dad made her attend the english congregation with her, and even then, she was as rebellious as to go up to communion, issuing God a challenge to touch her life, before she would commit herself to be baptised. she said she was very thankful to God that my dad was very understanding towards her; he told her that it didn't matter if they worshipped at different places, as long as she did go to church and would worship the same God. he later introduced her to pastor ang and asked pastor ang to introduce her to pastor lu, who would eventually introduce her to join the mandarin congregation. he even told her to feel free to worship at other churches. my mum eventually came to be touched by the Holy Spirit, accepted Christ into her life, and found her place and good friends at the mandarin congregation of our church and settled down.
then it was my dad's turn to speak. pastor lu helped to translate what he said to mandarin. i was rather surprised at first that my dad would actually speak up 'cos he's usually quite reserved. my dad talked about how, when he was born, his dad was one of the richest people in singapore then, but by the time he turned two, his dad had become bankrupt, because people said he did his business with his heart rather than his head. he would loan money out freely to his friends and they wouldn't return it, and when his business failed, they left him. my dad said my granddad was twenty years older than my gran, and they had a family of eight children, where my dad ranked number three, the second son. the eldest in the family was a half-brother. he said that as a boy, he used to worry that my granddad being so much older than my gran, would leave them any time soon, and what would they do then? so every time he went to church as a boy, he prayed for his dad. when my dad was twenty-seven years of age, my granddad passed away. my gran passed away only several years later (july this year). and in between them, my uncle, the youngest boy and child in the family, committed some crime and was sentenced to death. my dad said he was thankful to God for having brought him through all these trials--amidst all these, he had done his duty--he had taken care of his parents and given his best to help his brother.
my dad then said that this new year, 2006, would be a new year for him too, in the sense that he was beginning a new job. at this, i was really very surprised, 'cos i didn't think he would tell this to everyone, not least these mandarin congregation friends he wasn't very acquainted to. he told them that he had been transferred to another department, which was gonna be very tough, and he had considered resigning or going on early retirement, and when the thought came to him, he immediately checked his bank account and cpf to see if it could bring us through if he were to stop working. all these, i had known, the day before i left for thailand. my dad told them that he had told me of his plans when i'd called back after the camp from bangkok, and he'd told us that we would no longer be able to enjoy the luxuries we currently know. actually, when the news was broken to me in bangkok, i'd cried (secretly); cried that he'd have to have things so tough still at this age, cried that God would allow this to happen when he'd just integrated into cell group and seemed to have increased in faith, cried that he thought of continuing in the misery of work only because i was still studying, cried that clinical linguistics abroad would be an impossibility now, cried for selfish, materialistic reasons. but anyway, my dad then told them that later, he realised that he shouldn't have immediately fallen back on his own finances--he should have trusted in the Lord, and depended fully on Him. he then ended his speech by saying that he would trust in the Lord to guide him in the new year, whether to carry on or to resign.
my sister's turn, she thanked God for having brought my dad into his own cell, that he was making friends and integrating well into it; and of course, that i was integrated into church. oh, i forgot to say earlier on, that my dad also thanked God for having changed me... because, erm, well, i had been really problematic as a teen... in my dad's view, that is, haha. my sister didn't say much, so it was my turn. i spoke in mandarin! and i had to translate my so-often-told testimony into mandarin, so it was very, very summarised. i said, though He'd been the only God i'd known all my life, i'd only sought Him during exams in the past. it wasn't until when i entered the university, that i joined the navigators and i found God for real for the first time ever. at that time, since that was where i'd found God, i thought that i'd end up joining them, since i basically felt very extra in church. it was in february when our church organised the first alpha course and i went, and brought friends along, only because my sister was then working in church and she worried people wouldn't go. as i've said over and over before, the Holy Spirit touched me at the weekend away during that course, and after that, there was no turning back. had my sister never decided to work in church for that one short year, i might never have been reintegrated back into my home church. and through all this time, i've really witnessed God's hand at work in my family. in the past, we simply went to church as a family, but internally, we squabbled all the time and were individually very problematic. but as God worked in our own individual lives, He also brought us together as a family, such that today, i can really say that we worship Him as a family.
my mum added that she had observed that during the time that my sis was working at church, she had a hard time there because so many of the things, she simply lacked the ability to get them done (e.g. fears that alpha would not have enough participants). but also through this, we had learnt that for the efforts that we had put in for the Lord (my sis serving in church), we really get so much, so much back from Him. my sis had said that she realised that every single one of her prayers for our family members' spiritual lives had been answered. so, well, perhaps my dad would really go on early retirement, perhaps we would no longer be able to travel so freely all the time anymore, perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. whatever it is, dread all this as i may at the moment, in eternity, we would look back and say to God's ultimate plan, truly, it is good, it is very good.
so, this is the story of one day of the best christmas ever in all my twenty-one years of life. i don't have the time (and energy left) at the moment to start on the happy days of mission trip 2005, which also contributed to my best christmas ever. and so many other things. thank God for everything!