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Homeward Bound

October 11, 2014 Leave a comment
“Don’t go home,” she said quietly, away from listening ears,”We don’t want you to go home.”

“We would very much like it if you could possibly stay,” said the Rector, my blushing face spotlit by the glare of assembled eyes.

Over the last few months, those first kind remarks became several, a refrain, a chorus, a torrent, said in different situations and various ways – some surely mere pleasantry, and some more polite than others – the latter involving allusions to church furniture (not a compliment at the best of times and certainly not when the church building has been around since the Vikings terrorised the island!).

“But what makes you think I am going home?” I did not, at any point, say as I hurried on to another topic in embarrassment. London is as much “home” as Singapore. Because…what is home?

A fantasy of the orphan; a mirage in the eyes of the wanderer; a daydream of the alien.

What is home? The sure promise of a faithful God; a place to be rightly yearned for; the blissful rest still to come.

And so all we who live in faith are not yet home; we are homeward bound.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13-16)

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Summer Camp, More Goodbyes

August 18, 2014 Leave a comment

Mid-goodbye-hug, I was bundled into a moving car and whisked to the rail station by the coast, where a train was about to depart for London. I yearned to linger and prolong 11 days of magnificent gospel partnership…but there was a Glaswegian-Norwegian wedding to witness and celebrate.
defrosting a fridge in the sunIf the same team would have me, I would fly any where in the world to work with them. They were a fantastic mix of commitment to God and his word, godliness, Protestant work ethic, absolute craziness, humility, creative problem-solving, ruthlessness in dealing with sin, patience, sportsmanship, prayerfulness, servant-(arm-down-a-blocked-loo)-leadership. And all this in the extraordinary context of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians (authentic gospel ministry looks weak and so brings glory to God alone), which we were studying for the week.

Burgers and duck fat roast potatoes

Breaded and deep-fried pork loin

Meringue and lemon tart
After the wedding, a week of last meals with good friends and neighbours. I never thought I’d be the one at the door, sending off people going to do work amongst the Chinese in some other bit of London, amongst the posh people in the West Country, amongst the prosperity-gospel-deluded in Africa, amongst the youth in Australia…

Hainanese chicken rice dinner - very good with John Crabbie's Traditional Cloudy Ginger Beer

This dinner was sponsored by the Duck: duck confit with duck eggHow do you say goodbye? Would that we could squeeze all that love and respect, and all those memories of fierce arguments and of sitting around in companionable silence, all the serious conversations and nonsensical banter, all the snuggling comfortingly in similar weaknesses and navigating our differences, into a small locket and carry that, warming our hearts, for the rest of our lives.

But we can’t. So we eat, and drink, and chat, and take selfies, and wash-up, then someone says,”Sorry, but I need to go. Otherwise, no one gets a sermon on Sunday”. And we part, and life goes on, because there is so much more to be done, and God will give us other partners for the work and companions for the journey. Until we meet again in the new creation.

Smashed meringue and lemon tartOur not-very-smashed version of Massimo Bottura’s Oops I Dropped The Lemon Tart.

Saying Goodbye

July 28, 2014 Leave a comment

Saying goodbye.

dinner with neighboursWe said goodbye to the first of our neighbours in the same way our neighbourly relationship has always been conducted – over a shared meal, laughter, much banter. He will carry a suitcase of meagre possessions to a wet, windswept land and there speak the good news.

He is thin man not given to grand schemes. His hugs are strong and his handshakes, firm.

globe artichoke with lemon butter dipglobe artichoke with lemon butter dip

grilled corn with paprika, fromage frais and parmigiano reggianogrilled corn with paprika, fromage frais and parmigiano reggiano

parsnip chips with parmigiano reggianoparsnip chips with parmigiano reggiano

homemade cherry ripple ice-creamhomemade cherry ripple ice-cream

We lingered over the table till it was late.

See you later, we said. See you in the new creation.

Roast Pork Belly and Christian Biographies

August 6, 2013 1 comment

Roast Pork Belly for a Farewell Dinner
At dinner last night, over roast pork belly (with superbly crunchy crackling)* and several bottles of cider, we were discussing the usefulness of Christian biographies. Why waste precious time researching and writing these books? Why waste more time reading them? This was on the back of several people having read Old Wives Tales by Clare Heath-Whyte and some of us having given input for an upcoming book about a prominent Australian preacher.

Benefits:

  • the encouragement of the testimony of brothers and sisters, albeit centuries removed, living out their faith in God, all over the world, through the years, in various circumstances – as missionaries, scholars, lecturers, pastors, nurses, doctors etc. Possibly in a Hebrews 11 way;
  • the protection against legalism afforded by knowledge of the diversity of personalities and minds and personal circumstances that God has chosen to use for his glory – the loud beer-guzzling Martin Luther, the quiet cold John Calvin, the corpulent cigar-smoking C.H. Spurgeon, the careful austere Jonathan Edwards etc.;
  • learning from the mistakes and follies of those who’ve passed this way.

Possible concerns:

  • the tendency for biographers to make these people out as heroes with no flaws or whose sinfulness can be waved aside just because of the seemingly great sacrifices they made for the Christian cause. But there is no concept of good outweighing the bad in the Christian worldview, because sin is a personal affront to a holy God;
  • the implication that one counts for nothing before God if one doesn’t go down in flames in an extravagant demonstration of devotion – but the Bible emphasises not grand gestures but daily perseverance;
  • some books, taking a leaf from Paul Johnson’s Intellectuals, go to the other extreme of attempting to discredit popular “heroes of the faith”. Although it is arguable that this shows that they are sinful people in need of a Saviour, it is also probably that it is the excitement of Hello magazine-type sensationalism that sells copy;
  • if the subject of the biography is still living, surely the book would present a great temptation to personal pride rather than thanksgiving to the God who sovereignly chose to work through that person in such a way that made a book about him/her potentially (financially, at least) profitable.

*this 3.39kg beauty was a Dingley Dell pork belly from M. Moen & Sons Butchers (The Pavement, Clapham Common) – good meat as a bit of a treat for the departing boy.

pork belly, scored

Onward, Soldier

August 19, 2012 1 comment

Taking advantage of free wifi at Suvarnabhumi Bangkok Airport while waiting for my flight to Copenhagen and thinking through, with great gratitude, the blur of the last few weeks:

An amazingly smooth last lap, despite my abject procrastination and general inability to perform tasks requiring any sort of administrative detail. For someone whose life is a muddle of neglected bills and missed flights and messy bedrooms and general forgetfulness, this was quite astonishing. Most thankful, God.

1. The success of my visa application* was remarkable for being unremarkable. We’d been waiting for the immigration rules to be relaxed since 2009 when i was first accepted at the school. Finally got a CAS number some weeks ago, filled in the application form online, then life got in the way and i promptly forgot about it, until nagged at by a fellow student. Dragged self down to the Visa Application Center one afternoon, hoping to have brought everything necessary. Got an email the very next morning saying that my visa had been issued and dispatched. Collected it the following morning, still in a bit of a daze at this non-event.

2. Was nervous about tendering my resignation but the boss had wanted to see me too…to hand me a letter for a pay increase… Asked me to reconsider and hand in the resignation letter, if any, after the weekend. Managed to do so on Monday since the boss, though unhappy, was loathe to argue with my “calling”. Human resources was also willing to halve my notice period so i would be able to get to London in time for moving into church associates’ housing. The director i was being groomed to take over was, despite wanting to retire himself so as to spend more time giving talks, genuinely happy. And being a Christian, he said approvingly that one should do these things when one was young, because of the urgency, because the Day may come at any time.

3. Popped into the doctor’s to get a prescription. Doc and I ended up having an hour-long chat. She’d attended Singapore Bible College before deciding to go back to the medical profession, could not stop congratulating me, then asked to pray for me at the end of the consultation. She had a full go at it until we were interrupted by an anxious nurse, probably wondering if i-of-le-crazy-hair had off-ed the good doc. The pharmacist was full of unsolicited but useful good advice. Which is all i should say here.

4. Would never have bothered to stop at any marketing booth or sign up online, but some time ago, a bank dispatched someone with papers to meet me, in the 3 minutes i could stay seated without my eyes glazing over, signed up for that bank’s premier service so the lady would let me go off for lunch with my mates. Hadn’t even bothered to agree to a time for her to pass me the card for it, but this premier thing came in very useful for bypassing the lunchtime crowd to get my banking sorted (for this bank at least). Even the teller was impressed by how i’d never used any of the bank’s services and also by the volume of things i now needed done at the last minute (“wah, do everything just in time ah?”).

5. One of the friends i was saying goodbye ended up having to sort out my insurance (albeit with many metaphorical fainting spells).

6. Due to the usual procrastination etc, was terribly late applying for a place in a church for the “vocation training” bit of the course. Wouldn’t have chosen them myself but ended up with what promises to be a tremendously nice new family. Have been included in their Twitter prayer list, and they had, of their own volition, sorted out some visa issues (the trainer having given up some allotted summer vacation time to do so), reserved a room at their associates’ house, made space where they thought i could best serve and be trained, and instructed at least four separate parties to make sure i settled in comfortably – which is more care than i’m used to or deserve!

7. Also, I suppose, because of the necessity of equal treatment to the two of us going to the same school, was the collateral beneficiary of the local church’s monetary show of support for the favoured son – no strings attached, no moral obligation to return to serve there. And even more unexpected, unsolicited offers of “love gifts” from people I’ve only spoken to maybe 4 times, to demonstrate partnership in the gospel.

An ex-housemate wrote from London a few days ago,”So, have you packed yet? Oh, what am i saying, you’re you….” Yes and i finished packing with one hour to spare before departure time to rush to Singapore Changi Airport, say hullo to people i had specifically requested not to come, and slump into a seat on the SIN-BKK plane. Thankful for the fellowship that compelled those people to make sure i left Singapore (even though i wasn’t happy to have had a send-off) and grateful for making it in time despite incompetence at packing and time-keeping!

Can’t wait to crash out on the BKK-CPH leg, sleep after all being dependence on God.

________________________________________________________

*For my own future reference, these were the steps I took to apply for a Tier 4 (General) Visa for Adult Students. Obviously I am not competent enough to advise if this will work for anyone else. Yes, I am addressing my future self here (in case I’ll need to re-apply):

This assumes (1) you are a Singapore national (2) residing in Singapore intending to (3) study at a school considered by the UKBA to be a Highly Trusted Sponsor, and (4) you have been accepted by the school and (5) have been issued a CAS number.

1. complete the visa application form online (several sections might require details that will have to be obtained from the school);
2. pay the visa application fees online (fluctuates according to exchange rate: I paid S$604, a friend paid S$595 a few days later);
3. print out and sign the visa application form;
4. if applying under the points-based system, print out and complete the Appendix 8 self-assessment form and sign it;
5. attach a photograph. The photograph must adhere to the following conditions:
be taken within the last 6 months; and
measure 45mm x 35mm; and
be in colour; and
be taken against a light grey or cream background; and
be clear and of good quality; and
not be framed or backed; and
not be digitally altered; and
be of the full face, without sunglasses, hat or head covering.
They also advise that on the back of each photograph, there should have been written the name of the person in the picture, but i didn’t do this.
6. make an appointment with the UKBA visa application centre in Singapore – VFS Global Singapore (138 Robinson Road);
7. on the appointment date, bring with you (i) the official offer letter from the school containing your CAS reference number; and (ii) your original passport (the advisory also suggested bringing old passports but I didn’t and no one asked for it). Note that the given processing time is 15 working days (about 3 weeks) so don’t count on travelling within that period of time;
8. to keep on standby in case these are required: originals of documents used to obtain your CAS number (the school will have a list of these documents since they applied for your CAS number) and evidence of money needed to cover course fees and living expenses (for me, this was form of personal bank statements from the last two months stating:

my name;
the account number;
the date of the statement;
the financial institution’s name and logo; and
the amount of money available

The bank statement will have to show evidence of sufficient funds for a consecutive 28-day period ending no more than a month before the date of application);

10. at VFS Global, you will have to wait in the lobby until allowed in by the security guard. There is a security screening before you are allowed into the waiting area. The guard will also issue you a ticket with a number on it. When your number is called, approached the counter and one of the nice ladies will go through your documents to ensure everything is ok. There is a photobooth within the waiting area (S$12 for 4 passport-sized photos – since you can’t bring sharp objects in, you’ll have to borrow a pair of scissors from the counter);

11. then you go back to waiting until another lady calls your number to issue you a receipt – she will also give you a choice of paying extra for priority processing (3-4 working days for S$158), sms updates of the status of your application (S$3), and having your passport couriered back to you (S$50 i think);

12. then you go back to waiting for your name to be called for your biometric information to be taken in a little room;

13. then wait for your visa or a rejection letter. Your application will be processed in Manila. Because I paid for priority, got an email before lunch the very next day saying that my visa would be dispatched shortly. Collected visa from VFS Global the following day (priority people can collect this at any time the Visa Application Centre is open, not just between 2-4pm).

Coffee And Cake Saturday

August 12, 2012 1 comment

After…yes, another farewell lunch, we headed to Tiong Bahru Bakery‘s second outlet – in Basement 1 of Raffles City, where we managed to have rather good chats about life and ministry amid the occasional seat-vibrating rumbles.

Tiong Bahru Bakery, Raffles City Tiong Bahru Bakery, Raffles City
Tiong Bahru Bakery, Raffles City Tiong Bahru Bakery, Raffles City
Tiong Bahru Bakery, Raffles City Tiong Bahru Bakery, Raffles City
Tiong Bahru Bakery, Raffles City Tiong Bahru Bakery, Raffles City
Tiong Bahru Bakery, Raffles City Flat White, Hot Chocolate, Chocolate Almond Croissant, Blood Orange Tart. Tiong Bahru Bakery, Raffles City

TBB Raffles City is located just opposite Ding Tai Fung, in a place once verdant with Aerin’s plastic greenery. The chocolate croissant, blood orange tart, mixed berry panna cotta were rather good. We were amused that even the hot chocolate came with “latte art”, but having just experienced the prompt, polite service at DTF, were slightly perturbed at the waitstaff at TBB moving aimlessly about, getting in the way of people struggling with laden trays.

Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee BarThen, read the last chapter of Matthias Media’s Back To Basics with someone to ensure she really understood what the Christian life was like before making a public declaration of her faith through baptism. After, because it would be otherwise impossible to meet up with friends on account of the lean staffing at their new venture, headed to Papa Palheta‘s fresh flagship store, Chye Seng Huat Hardware (facebook, 150 Tyrwhitt Road). Consolidated within the compound was The CSHH Coffee Bar, the Annex for experimental coffee stuff, the temperature-controlled bean storage, the roastery and packing facilities, and the machine repair workshop. The Bar was quite the looker.

Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar
Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar
Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar
Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar
Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar

In order to reference the original use of the space (and the continued use of the name of the previous occupant of the space), the interior design featured metal beam light fittings, metal rod shelves, nuts as napkin weights. The coffee island bar top was constructed from painted metal as well.

Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar
Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar
Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar

The Nuts and Bolts blend (Brazilian, Columbian, Tanzanian, Guatemalan) was indeed brighter, more acidic and juicy than the usual Terra Firma. Nicely done. Their in-house baker (the pastry kitchen is on the second level) is apparently the same person who did the desserts at the much-missed Peaberry & Pretzel, formerly at Sunset Way. The brownie, that barometer of a good pastry chef, was simply but well made – crackle crust with rich smooth moist interior.

Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar
Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar
Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar

They did a little tour of the place starting with The Annex (somewhat like The Steeping Room) for experiments, tastings, food pairings.

Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar

The coffee bean storage area, the roastery, and the packing area.

Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar
Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar
Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar
Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar

Behind a rather heavy metal sliding door, up the stairs to the second level, C-Platform – the coffee school with equipment and charts.

Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar

The top level will hold Papa Palheta’s offices. For now, simple desks and chairs sit in the emptiness, lit by dusty streams of sunlight.

Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee BarThe soundscape featured light jazz from an old turntable and the clanging of the automated prayer bell in the temple diagonally across the road.

Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar

The fading evening light brought out nice colours in the interior but i had to leggit to say more goodbyes over cream of spinach, a large leg of ham, yuzu goma-tossed salad. A good conversation about church – belonging, serving, growing; validity of spending time in two congregations.

Singapore’s National Day and An Asset Light Strategy

August 11, 2012 Leave a comment

Singapore’s National Day, being a public holiday, was a day for farewells in people’s houses:

Untitled Untitled
Untitled Untitled
Extra Aged Choya   Bubble Tea   Reverso and Chendol Ice-cream from Island Creamery   IKEA Daim Cake Icing Cupcakes

catching up, being drooled on by new additions to families, decorating cupcakes, sharing hopes and fears and encouragements, then saying goodbye; and

Untitledwatching the National Day Parade on television with Malaysians and Indonesians and assuring them that no one thought of them as Foreign Talent (with all that the term imports, especially to Singaporean jingoists). They were all appreciated greatly, like the delicious roast chicken from near Senai Airport, Johor Bahru. Then, alternately laughing at and cheering on the contestants in Sasuke Singapore, sharing and being prayed for, capped off with a nice study on Luke 2 – a reminder that Jesus is the long-awaited saviour promised by God, according to his plan formed since the beginning of time.

Adam Road Food Centre Ice-kachang. Adam Road Food Centre
Adam Road Food Centre
Adam Road Food Centre Indian fried bee hoon with egg. Adam Road Food Centre

A brother and some sisters drove down from Malaysia bearing yummy snacks and good news. Exciting times for all. Slightly heated discussions over excellent finely-ground ice kachang and ice cheng tng and fried bee hoon at Adam Road Food Centre.

Have had to explain this several times in the last few days, to deter any untoward excitement about supposed generosity and forestall any suspicion that i am exhibiting symptoms usually evident before a suicide attempt.

      1. the whole world is the Lord’s and everything in it. Therefore, not only has God given us our jobs, but everything – including the money earned from our jobs, are his as well. (Ecclesiastes 5:18-19, 1 Timothy 6:17)
      2. Since nothing i have is really mine, i am therefore a steward of these assets on behalf of God.
      3. A trustee must invest the assets for the purpose for which the assets have been entrusted to him/her. So after setting aside some money for sustenance for self and family (1 Timothy 5:8), the best ways of stewarding resources would be to do good works – that is, invest in helping people be saved and to help those in need first within the church then without.
      4. Additionally, because nothing belongs, ultimately, to me, there should be little personal hoarding of resources; they should be shared amongst the church community.

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6)

Liquid luggage - vodka, whisky, port in a luggage bagTherefore:

  • literally hundreds of Christian books and Bibles, all neatly catalogued into 22 A4 pages, went to the local church for loan to anyone who might want them. They’ll get misused, dirtied, dusty, lost, but at least they’ll benefit more people than if they stayed on shelves that I may/may not return to;
  • the alcoholic stash of wines, whiskies, vodkas, ports, to a couple who host boozy book clubs (reading rooms) at their place where people can come and ask questions about life and Christianity;
  • sports stuff and toys: basketball, volleyball, Nerf guns, remote-controlled helicopters, dress-up stuff – all catalogued and lodged with a couple who would be able to make them available for youth camps;
  • cameras: the old Polaroid cameras went to someone some time ago but i don’t think she uses them so that was a misjudgement on my part; Nikon D300 and zoom lens with parents of a new baby, the 50mm fixed lens is with someone else but i suspect one of his two boys has already killed it;
  • two-year old Macbook Pro: to a good home where four boys with enquiring minds will use it to its full potential;
  • kitchen stuff: to three parties who’d just moved into new digs who are stressed about raising young families on one income;
  • stringed instruments: Baby Taylor guitar and Makala ukelele (ah, sweet sounds), both nicely-sized for people ministering to the youth and people who go on mission trips;
  • bags: the very handy and durable Freitags went to more good homes.

i write this in the expectation that this blog is more or less anonymous and i will therefore not be tempted to take pride in noting this for my own reference. In fact, it is embarrassing that i have so much stuff that is only benefitting people because i am leaving!

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