Thursday, August 23, 2007


IN JULY, we went for Campus Mission 2007 in Busan, Korea. What a wonderful conference it was.
There were 16,000 of us from more than 123 countries.
I (YK) spoke at one of the workshops to more than 1,000 women, and had many opportunities to counsel students one on one.
I enjoyed myself thoroughly.

But the highlight of CM 2007, for me, was meeting George Verwer again.
Between 1976-1978, I served on board the MV Logos (OM ministry), which brought educational and Christian books to Africa and India.
George, then the director of OM, came to the ship regularly to speak to us.
Once he announced in a public meeting, "If anyone read/listened to 100 books/taped messages within the year, come to me and ask for any book or collection of books in our exhibition and I’ll give it to you."
That--the reward--got me really excited (I was all of 21 years old).
Before the year was up, I had completed 100 books and tapes. Stott, Packer, Tozer, Elliott, you name it, I covered them all.
I even selected my ‘reward’: a multi-volume Bible Encyclopedia (yes I was young AND greedy).
One fine day, we were told George was coming to the ship to speak to us.
The night before he arrived, I stood before a mirror for two hours practicing my claim-the-reward speech.
But halfway through my rehearsal, the Lord spoke to me, "What reward are you claiming?" He asked.
"Haven’t you been blessed already?"
As usual, God was right.
That one year of getting into the lives of those men and women had blessed me richly. My life, habits, convictions, my understanding of God, they were not the same anymore.
No, I didn’t claim my reward that day. I didn’t even tell George I did it (so shy lah).
But after CM 2007, some 30 years later, I finally wrote to him (and that’s because Julienne, who’s endlessly delighted with my story, pushed me to do it).
Yes, and I finally told him his fruit has remained.
Praise God for choosing others to bear fruit in our life.
Praise Him for choosing us to, in turn, bear fruit in other people’s life.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Seven tips to visiting the sick

Lately I've been visiting someone in hospital.
And I learned many things.
One of which is what to do and what not to do when visiting the sick.

1. Do visit them.
It's a great ministry.
Both to the visited and the visitor.
For me, it keeps me humble.

2. But don't rush in and out.
When we rush, people won't feel the ministry, no matter what we bring them or what we say.
I still remember a superior who came for my dad's wake seven years ago.
He looked and sounded appropriately sorry for me, but stole glances at his watch like 20 times throughout the ten long minutes he stayed.
He needn't have come, I remember thinking.

3. Be cheerful.
Don't giggle and tell jokes but don't pull a long face either.
The gal I'm visiting is all of 16 years old.
It's already very sad for her to be lying down all day for the past three weeks, and be subject to all sorts of tests every day.
She doesn't need to comfort her visitors by being extra cheerful.

4. Bring something to brighten up the day.
Flowers, huge cards, soft toys, anything.
This gal's aunt brought all her barbie dolls and decorated the room with them.
Even the visitors sqealed with delight.

5. If the patient is up to it, do something with him or her together.
I brought my MP3 player and we worshipped the Lord together to 'Heart of Worship'.
It was a quiet, joyful time together.

6. Don't talk about yourself for more than five minutes.
One visitor went straight into her own journey of sicknesses and healing the moment she arrived.
She meant well but the teenager switched off.
Clearly she had heard one 'comforting' story too many.

7. Make yourself useful.
Sometimes it means running errands for the family.
I brought my daughter to make cards with the teenager while I took her mum, who's the patient's constant caregiver, for a drive out and fresh air.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

bear with me

In recent days there’ve been a lot of bear buzz at the Berlin Zoo.
It’s to do with a cute and white four letter word: KNUT.

Knut is a polar bear born at the zoo on 5 December 2006.
He was raised by human hands because his mother had refused to nurse him and his brother, who later died.
The cutie, who’s now a 19-pounder, became a global sensation, after an animal activist had insisted that it be killed since its mother did not want it to live.
Raising it through humans, he claimed, is cruel.

Reminds me of the story in I Kings chapter three in the Bible about King Solomon, the wisest man on earth, and how he settled a dispute between two prostitutes.
The women gave birth to sons in the same house.
One of the babies, however, died, in the night; and the mother of the dead child claimed that her housemate’s son was hers.

After hearing their arguments, Solomon summoned for a sword.
“Cut the boy in two and give each woman half the baby,” he said to his men.
The mother of the living baby panicked, and begged the king to spare her son, and give him to the other woman.
That was when the king knew who the true mother was.

You see, the one who truly loved the child didn’t have to be right.
The animal activist, in fighting for his "child"--his cause for preservation of animals, etc., which are all good--was willing to sacrifice the cub.
Why? Because he had to be right.
He had missed the reason behind his mission.

Great stories--both this and the one from I Kings.
Timely reminder too for me:
that I should never forget the reason behind what I work hard in,
that it's easy to lose the human touch even when fighting for a GREAT cause,
that once in while, it's ok not to be right.

Monday, March 12, 2007


Yesterday while hunting for a parking lot near my church, I witnessed a hit and run.
The victim was a white cat with blue eyes.
I was in time to see the car screeching off, followed by two women running out of their terrace houses to tend to the bloodied remains of the animal.

By the time I got out of my car, everyone was sobbing: the two women, a maid, two children hiding behind their gate, weeping.
The bones of the animal were broken. The car must have been in high speed. It was a residential area.

The owner, a 70-plus woman in a flowery housecoat, couldn’t bear to touch it. So the neighbor and I moved the body to the shade.
As she covered it with a towel, weeping, the lady asked me, “Could it still be alive?”
“No,” I replied. Thank God it didn’t suffer.”

Later, as I sat with the owner, she told me how everyone in the lane loved the cat.
And it had been her constant companion ever since her husband passed away and daughter married off.
“My son, who lives with me, doesn’t talk to me,” she said.

Halfway, she showed me, from an album, pictures of her husband’s young handsome face from long ago, playing the piano; and herself in dancing shoes, looking very pretty.
“I used to go for ballroom dancing every week,” she said.

Then she wept. Bitterly.
For the things she has lost: her husband, her youth, relationship with her son, her cat.

For almost 20 years, I had parked in this upper-middle-income neighborhood near my church almost every Sunday.
I would admire the picket fences and well-tendered gardens.
Sometimes the dogs would come out and look at me, wagging their tails.
Seldom would I see the people living in the houses.

But yesterday, I stepped inside one of those gates and took a peek into someone’s life.
And I was reminded that behind the high walls and well-renovated exteriors are people with memories, heartaches, husbands who left, hearts that could be lonely.

I’ll not walk in this neighborhood the same way again.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Salt of the Earth

Some time ago, someone said to me, "What a round chubby face you have."
No I wasn't devastated.
And my face is fine, thank you very much.
A few days later, a friend and I were enjoying our girls' day out when we bumped into an acquaintance.
Right after the 'nice seeing you again', the person said to my friend,
"You look sick, not enough sleep is it?"

I could write a book about the unflattering things people say.
Here are some I've encountered:
"Long time no see, recognize your big face anywhere."
"You're really a very nice person although you look fierce."
Here's another half-compliment-half-insult: "Love your curls but they look good only for your age group."
Why O why O why do people say unkind, insensitive, even rude remarks to others?
After thinking about this for several weeks, here's my humble conclusion:
people who throw such remarks to others don't really care about how or why people look sick, pale, tired, or big-faced.
In fact, they probably don't think much about what they said before, during or after they said them.
Don't take them personally.

So why do people make such unkind, insensitive, even rude comments?
Here's what I think:
1) people say such things out of sheer hard training and habit;
2) they say such things because they run out of things to say;
3) putting people down is the only way they could feel better about themselves;
4) all of the above.

"When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable,
"But he who restrains his lips is wise.
"The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver, . . . .
"The lips of the righteous feed many,
"But fools die for lack of understanding." (Prov 10:19-21)

Here's what I learned from these wise words:
1) If we edit or cut down words that come out of our mouth, chances are we will hurt people less.
2) When we hurt others with uncaring words--even when 'we didn't mean to'--we can't take them back. Some hurts don't heal with time.
3) If we have nothing good to say, it's better to not say anything.
4) Hard words don't make people strong. They just make them hard. I know of marriages that died because of unpremeditated, guile-less but unkind, insensitive and rude remarks.
6) Finally, if we consciously speak words that 'feed' others--bring encouragement, healing, growth--we are wise.
And are truly salt of the earth.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Farewell, My Friend

At the beginning of the week, I had resolved to talk about something light, even funny.
After all, I'm a happy and optimistic persons.

But the way things evolved, I will talk about yet another death.
My friend's death.

I got to know Lianne three, maybe four, years ago at a meeting in the US.
Her German-accented American English mesmerized me.
And her wit, intelligence, and gentleness.
They never failed to capture my attention.

Through the years, we moved from colleagues to friends.
We met a couple of times in the US, and in Singapore when she came two years ago to speak at a conference.

Lianne was ten years older than me, and several degrees more qualified.
But she was never afraid to ask for my opinion or admit she knew less of some things in life than I.
Told you she was intelligent.

She was brave too.
When the Berlin Wall came down, she--a single woman--was among the first to go in to reach out to students on the university.
She studied the language. Overcame the odds. Did what God called her to do.

After that trip to Singapore, she was suddenly diagnosed with cancer.
During her darkest hours, she wrote, "I'd conquer this.
"Don't give up."

On January 19 2006, Lianne left her body to be with the Lord Jesus.
She fought till the very end, her brother wrote.
Two days before she passed away, her mum, two sisters and brother held a communion service by her bedside.
As her mum placed a bit of bread in her mouth and touched her lips with wine, her brother said,
"You gave her her first meal and now you are giving her her last.”

Farewell my friend, my dear sweet friend.
And thank you.

For telling me shortly after we met, "You're smart and talented."
That surprised me, coming from you.
For volunteering me for that writing assignment,
even though you and I knew there were smarter and more talented writers available.
For pushing me that time to get on with that project.
And when it was a success, thank you for saying,
"I never once doubted you could do it."
And when we were having our juice in that Shenton Way cafe,
thank you for telling me right in the eye,
"Never give up.
Never stop trying, and becoming whom God wants you to be."

Lianne, my sweet Lianne,
my friend,
thank you.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

"Saying Goodbye"

Yesterday, National University of Singapore's Associate Professor Ananda Rajah died of an heart attack.
Hundreds flocked to his wake to say their last goodbyes (Huang C 2007, ‘Goodbye, Professor’,
People remembered the popular lecturer fondly.
"I was his student, yet he was my fan," one said.
Saying goodbye. Whether it’s to the dead or dying, it's not an easy thing to do.
Yet, it's a necessary part of life.
Often, the ability to say goodbye well brings resolution, and gives us permission to move on.

My dear friend Angel lost her dad a month ago.
Mr. Koh had dementia and a host of other ailments for five years.
“When they said he might go soon,” she said to me at the wake, “I prayed that God would allow daddy to recognize me, even for one fleeting moment, so I could say goodbye.”
That moment came days before he passed away.
In one of those rare times when he would remember his loved ones, Mr. Koh suddenly recognized his youngest daughter.
And so Angel told him how much she loved him.
How she 'd never forgotten the little things he said, the places he took her to as a child.
How he would always be her daddy.
They had an hour of bonding and saying goodbye.
Then he was off again. He never recovered.
“I miss him badly,” Angel told me. “But I’ve said my farewell."
"I can move on.”

A few years ago, while shopping at IKEA,
I bumped into an old acquaintance.
First question I asked Jan, “How’s your mum-in-law? I heard she’s very ill.” Unbeknownst to me then, Jan and her husband, who's the brother of a friend, had already divorced.
In fact, she'd just come back from overseas where she lived for several years.
Two weeks later, I met Jan again. At her ex-mum-in-law's funeral.
We sat, made small talks; then out of the blue, she touched my hand and whispered, "Thank you.”
It was a god-send that she bumped into me, she said.
“When my marriage failed, I took off and left.
"I didn't say goodbye to her. She'd loved me as her own daughter."
And so for two years, Jan had carried a guilt in her heart.
Until the day we met at IKEA.
That evening, Jan contacted her ex and rushed to the hospital to see the mum-in-law.
"I went there to ask for her understanding and forgiveness.
“But when I saw her frail and kind face," she said,
"I just sat there and cried and cried."
That day, two women said goodbye to one another.
It was a time for grace and forgiveness.
It was a time for courage and healing.
A time to allow each other to move on.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

“Am I My Children’s Keeper?”

First there was the story about the couple who interrupted their brain-damaged child’s growth.
The reason: so she’d be more manageable (‘Pillow Angel’, TIME 2006).
Then the video clip, on, of a 17-year-old in South Africa who has been forced to fend for five hungry kids.
The reason: her parents had died of AIDS.

There’s been much talk lately on what’s right and wrong with decisions made by parents.
It may be good to put arguments of ‘ethics’ aside and ask ourselves one simple question: what is our role as parents?
Are we not our children’s protectors, dream-keepers, dream-makers?
Are they not entrusted to us by our Maker as a stewardship—to be loved, and nurtured?
My daughter volunteered for a Royal Family Kids' Camps for abused children last Christmas.

First day, the organizers told her:
“These kids have bad memories, imprinted by their parents or care-givers.
“Your job is not to erase these memories or heal them. You can’t.
“But you can help them make positive memories.”

Let us live our lives well every day so our children won’t have to pay for our lame excuses and side-shows.
Let us not forget we are but their keepers.
Let us at least help them make some great memories.

Sunday, January 7, 2007


I'm writing about Saddam.
This shows the man is really famous, not for how he lived—and his life was brutally evil--but the way he died.
Bad timing. That’s what it was all about, wasn’t it?
No doubt there was a 'certain sense of historic justice' to where and how he died (The Straits Times, 6 January 2007, p. 30),
but the timing sucked.
Executing the man during the Hari Raya Haji festivities reeks of insensitivity, even insanity, in this day and age.
Top that with the offensive video,
the punishment of a tyrant has become his moment of glory.
Bad timing is the mother of many evils.
We had a farewell party the other night for a dear friend.
As we wrapped up the mostly fun-and-laughter evening with a speech—by the goodbye girl—suddenly someone interjected an emotional pause with a joke.
Needless to say, it didn't come out right.
It’s been more than a week into the new year.
But never too late to still make resolutions.
May 2007 be a year when I tell my daughter to do her chores after she’s stopped chatting on the line,
give words of advice to people only when they're ready for them,
and pour my problems on the hubby when he’s not watching the premier league.
Do things right, say words well,
make wise decisions.
But always couple them with good timing.
Makes all the difference.

love the ocean - God made it for Himself

About Me

In the Old Testament in the Bible, there was a man named Jacob who "wrestled with God and man." He wouldn't let God go until God answered his prayers. God admired that and renamed him Israel, "the one who fought or wrestled and prevailed". He fought with man--his inner man--and conquered his own weaknesses. He's my hero. He is what I hope God and man see me to be.