Friday, August 14, 2015

It's been 4 years since i first started serving in my home church. From time to time i ask God and myself, "Why am i here for?" And as i am asking this question again this morning, the psalmist teaches me to pray, "Send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell." (Psalm 43:3)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Letter for My Son

Dear Lyle,

While i write this, you are already sleeping. You are not able to read yet, but i will write anyway with the hope that you will read it someday.

Tomorrow (October 18th, 2014) is a very special day for me and your mommy. It is your very first birthday. It is a testimony of how God has been so good and faithful to us as a family.

Mommy is pregnant!
Time really flies… I still remember how excited we were to find out that your mommy was pregnant! It was March 5th, 2014, in Bandung while we were having a short holiday with your Uncle Daniel Tong. He was the first person to know about Mommy’s pregnancy.  

I also still remember the ritual we did almost every night (if we didn’t do it, it was usually my fault… You can ask Mommy about it.) during your nine-month stay in Mommy’s womb. We spent time talking to you, telling you about how our days went. Honestly, i sometimes found it stupid. What motivated me again and again was realizing that someone (not something!) was alive inside my wife’s womb! It was our child! The “fruit” of our love! God’s precious gift!

I also read biblical passages to you. My favorites were Psalm 139:13-18 and Jeremiah 1:4-10,19. You should read them. And we also sang for you every night. I and mommy have our own special lullaby for you. Mommy chose a Tagalog song entitled "Ikaw". I chose a song composed by my former lecturer, Dr. Lim Swee Hong. It was the Lord’s Prayer made into a beautiful song. It was our hope that your life would exemplify this magnificent prayer.

Whatsapp message from Metty
The day you were born was extremely memorable. I was accompanying your Mommy inside the delivery room. While she was in severe pain, i received a Whatsapp message from my junior in Perkantas Jabar, Tante Metty. This was her message, “Bang Andre… Apa kabar? Bang, aku menghubungi Abang untuk nanya adakah yang bisa kami doakan untuk Abang?” What a super timely message! You call it a coincidence? Perhaps... But i prefer calling it a beautifully predestined coincidence! Ha! I was thrilled to know that a lot of people inside and outside the country were praying for you and Mommy. 

And you know what? You didn't come out the usual way. You didn't cry. In fact, you were not breathing for almost 30 seconds! It had to be because your umbilical cord was wrapped around your neck twice. Thank God, the nurses (God through them!) were able to revive you. And when they put you on the bed, your very first pose was a praying pose; you clasped your hands! Dr. Vivi, Mommy's gynecologist, remarked, “Lihat tuh. Dia berdoa; anak pak pendeta.” And I was most thrilled when your Uncle Peter Pang eventually made me realize that October 18th, 2013 was World Student Day! It was an annual celebration of all that God was doing through International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES [Perkantas]), amongst students around the world. It was a time to pray for student ministry around the world. It was our prayer that you would be involved in student ministry, preferably in Perkantas or IFES around the world for sure, in some ways someday.

Some people had been asking us what the meaning of your name is. I'm proud to say, I'm the one fully responsible for your name. Ha! It was Mommy and Daddy's deal. Since Mommy wanted to know your gender, I got to chose your name. (I gave her the right to give you a nickname though. Ha! Hence, Lyle. It doesn't have any relation to your real name; maybe the sound, but it was simply because Gamaliel is too long.) Gamaliel is a Hebrew name. It means “reward of God”. I chose the name after Gamaliel, the great teacher of Apostle Paul. He was a teacher held in honor by all the people of his days (Acts 5:34). What we admired most was his wisdom in dealing with the Jews in Acts 5:17-40. Read it up. According to tradition, he eventually became a Christian. It was our prayer that you would be a wise churchman.

Danilo was actually given later. It was “Daniel” in Tagalog. I chose to add that name as a remembrance of your Uncle Daniel Tong. In March 2013, he planned to come to visit us without knowing that he would be the first person to know about your presence in Mommy’s womb. And in October 2013 he booked his ticket without knowing that he would meet you in person! Your due date was actually Nov 9th. Uncle Daniel planned to visit us before Mommy gave birth. But you were born on Oct 18th to welcome him! But not only that. Let the name “Daniel” remind you of Daniel of the Old Testament. He was a man of integrity par excellence. He was a God-fearing statesman. It was our prayer that you would follow his steps. May your life be a blessing not only to the Church, but also to the state wherein you would reside. Btw, Daniel means “God is my judge”. May you always remember this. At the end of the day, your life will be judged not by what people say about you, but what God will say about you. 
Welcome to the world, Gamaliel! 

For you to remember your root, we also gave you Chinese and Ifontok names.  李金恩 (English pronunciation: Lee Kim En) is your Chinese name.  While means “gold, precious”, means “grace, mercy”. Put together, they mean “precious grace”. Your Ifontok name, Falingway, was given by your lolo (grandfather). It was the name of your lolo’s grandfather’s brother. It was a common practice in Ifontok culture to name a child after someone’s name (the elders) in the clan. May this remind you that you will always live in a community and be a part of it. Love and respect your family.

Last but not least, a blessed happy birthday, son! We are so thankful that you are surrounded by God-fearing uncles and aunties in Christ. It is our prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ. We love you, son… 

With much love and prayer,
Mommy and Daddy


PS: If you wonder why i wrote in English, it is to remind you that it is the language that has brought me and your Mommy together. It is the lingua franca of the day. 
A few minutes after mommy gave birth

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ben Witherington on "Five Things Not to Say to the Grieving"


Ben Witherington recently lost his daughter who unexpectedly died of pulmonary embolism at the age of 32. She was found dead in her home in Durham, North Carolina, on January 11. On his blog, he shared his thought on how to deal with such devastating experience with a "good grief." You can read it here. What I find particularly insightful is his thought on "things not to say to the grieving." I've copied what he wrote below. The original posting can be found here.

When a person suffers the devastating loss of a loved one, you should — however well-intentioned you might be — keep your mouth shut.  Or at the very least, you should think long and hard before you say anything.  Here are some of the things I recently heard that did not help, and frankly were not true.
  1. “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.” Not a saying from God, rather it’s from the poorly-informed Job, who was later forced to revise his opinion.  As it happens, it was Satan who devastated Job’s life and family.
  2. “You’ll get over it soon.” Wrong.  I hope I never get over the loss of my daughter.  I don’t want to forget her love, her smile, her joys, her sorrows, and so many millions of other things that formed the sum total of her life.  I do not intend to get over it. I intend to get beyond it by the grace of God, but in no way forgetting what happened to her at the end of her life in this world.   There will always be a Christy-shaped hole in my heart.  Period.
  3. “Sorry about your lost loved one.” This is well meant, of course, but bad theology.  Christy is not lost.  I know right where to find her.  She is safe in the arms of Jesus.  One of our good Christian friends shared this experience with me from her charismatic prayer time, this week: “The Holy Spirit came upon the prayer so mightily.  My heart is not heavy, like it was before that prayer, and the witness the precious Holy Spirit gave us was that Christy truly has made it home.  I know she is home, but the prayer made it very real to us.”  Exactly right.  She has gone before us, but she is not a lost loved one wandering in oblivion.  She is a found loved one who has found her home in Christ.
  4. “Well, at least you still have your son.” I am indeed very thankful our son and our Russian daughter are alive and well, but I don’t believe in compensatory theology.  Having other children does not make the loss of Christy any less hard to bear.  Each life is different, unique, special, and one life does not compensate for the loss of another.  As John Donne says, “Any man’s death diminishes me, for I am a part of mankind.”  All the more so when it’s a member of my own family.
  5. “God will make up for this with a twofold blessing.” Again, I don’t think God is a practitioner of some sort of new math or compensatory calculus, running the universe.  God has not been a naughty boy taking away my sweet-pea named Christy, and he has nothing to make up for.   I certainly do believe God works everything together for good, for those who love him.
So I leave myself open to such working, trusting it will make me better, not bitter.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Seandainya Setiap Anak Muda Seperti Oma Hafini

Hari itu adalah jadwal saya untuk ikut serta di dalam pelayanan Perjamuan Kudus di rumah anggota jemaat yang sakit menahun. Kebanyakan dari mereka hanya bisa terbaring di atas tempat tidur. Itulah sebabnya para rohaniwan beserta Majelis Jemaat perlu mendatangi tempat tinggal mereka dan melaksanakan Perjamuan Kudus di sana. Ini adalah kali kedua saya terlibat di dalam pelayanan ini. Menariknya, saya selalu merasa bahwa sesungguhnya sayalah yang dilayani oleh oma-oma dan opa-opa yang semestinya saya layani. (Ya, inilah contoh keangkuhan seorang muda yang berpikir bahwa hanya yang sehatlah yang dapat melayani yang sakit. *malu*) Yang paling berkesan kali itu adalah ketika kami mengunjungi seorang oma berusia 94 tahun bernama Hafini. Meskipun usianya sudah sangat tua, otak oma masih tajam dan imannya teguh. Jarang sekali saya temukan yang seperti oma.

Kami menemuinya di dalam kamar tidurnya. Meski ia terbaring di atas tempat tidurnya, wajah oma Hafini begitu berbinar-binar. Ia menyambut kami dengan senyum manis. Kulit wajahnya yang sudah penuh dengan keriput sama sekali tidak dapat menutupi sukacitanya ketika melihat kami. "Cu, siapa namanya?", tanya oma Hafini. Saya harus menjawab dengan setengah teriak karena pendengarannya sudah melemah. Oma sangat menyadari keberadaannya yang sudah tua dan lemah. "Sekarang jadi kayak anak kecil lagi. Mandi dimandiin. Makan disuapin. Kalo makan sendiri, tangan ngegeter. Kuping udah budek," ujarnya. Lalu ia menceritakan kepada kami bahwa ia sudah mejadi anggota gereja kami sejak berusia 20 tahun! Ia bernostalgia bagaimana dulu ia mengunjungi anggota-anggota jemaat yang sakit, jalan kaki beberapa kilometer di bawah hujan. "Tapi sekarang udah nggak bisa lagi," ujarnya sedih. Suasana pun mendadak hening ketika ia menceritakan tentang anak tunggalnya, seorang pendeta, yang telah dipanggil oleh Tuhan mendahului dirinya.

Ketika sudah waktunya mengambil bagian di dalam Sakramen Perjamuan Kudus, oma meminta kami untuk membangunkannya. Dengan bersusah payah ia berusaha untuk duduk di atas tempat tidurnya. Saya sangat terharu melihatnya. Sebelum ia memakan roti dan meminum anggur, ia memejamkan matanya dan mengucapkan doanya dengan penuh keyakinan. Saya tidak ingat doanya
secara rinci. Tapi satu kalimat ini saya ingat benar, "Tuhan Yesus, terima kasih untuk tubuh dan darah Tuhan yang sudah Tuhan berikan buat saya yang berdosa."

Sepulang dari kediaman oma Hafini, hati saya penuh dengan sukacita. Menyaksikan oma yang tetap teguh beriman kepada Tuhan meski tubuhnya sudah lemah dan tidak berdaya betul-betul menyegarkan iman! Saya ingin menjadi seperti oma Hafini di usia tua saya. Saya sangat yakin bahwa kesetiaan oma kepada Tuhan bukanlah produk instan. Pasti sejak masa mudanya oma selalu berjuang untuk setia kepada Tuhan! Terima kasih, oma. Tanpa oma sadari, oma sudah menguatkan saya untuk lebih serius dan lebih setia lagi di dalam melayani anak-anak muda, entah itu di dalam konteks gereja atau pun pelayanan kampus. "Didiklah orang muda menurut jalan yang patut baginya, maka pada masa tuanyapun ia tidak akan menyimpang dari pada jalan itu." (Ams 22:6)

Ah, seandainya setiap anak muda yang mengaku Kristen memiliki semangat segigih dan iman seteguh oma Hafini...

Friday, April 22, 2011

At the Cross Is the Real World

Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dali

We contemplate for a time the meaning of Good Friday, and then return to what is called the real world of work and shopping and commuter trains and homes. As we come out of a movie theater and shake our heads to clear our minds of another world where we lived for a time in suspended disbelief, as we reorient ourselves to reality, so we leave our contemplation - we leave the church building, we close the book - where for a time another reality seemed possible, believable, even real. But, we tell ourselves, the real world is a world elsewhere. It is the world of deadlines to be met, of appointments to be kept, of taxes to be paid, of children to be educated. From here, from this moment at the cross, it is a distant country. "Father, forgive them, for they have forgotten the way home. They have misplaced the real world." Here, here at the cross, is the real world, here is the axis mundi.
Richard John Neuhaus

Monday, April 18, 2011

A "Crazy" Gospel


"And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, "Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor." And they scolded her. But Jesus said, "Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her."
Mark 14:3-9 (ESV)

Emmanuel Katongole writes, "Mary represents the 'rebel consciousness' that is essential to Jesus' gospel. Wherever the gospel is preached, we must remember that its good news will make you crazy. Jesus will put you at odds with the economic and political systems of our world. This gospel will force you to act, interrupting the world as it is in ways that make even pious people indignant."

Monday, April 11, 2011

There Is a Hope

This is just what I need to hear right now. There is a hope... There is a hope.. There is a hope!




THERE IS A HOPE
by Stuart Townend and Mark Edwards
Copyright (c) 2007 Thankyou Music.

There is a hope that burns within my heart,
That gives me strength for ev'ry passing day;
a glimpse of glory now revealed in meager part,
Yet drives all doubt away:
I stand in Christ, with sins forgiv'n;
and Christ in me, the hope of heav'n!
My highest calling and my deepest joy,
to make His will my home.


There is a hope that lifts my weary head,
A consolation strong against despair,
That when the world has plunged me in its deepest pit,
I find the Savior there!
Through present sufferings, future's fear,
He whispers, "Courage!" in my ear.
For I am safe in everlasting arms,
And they will lead me home.


There is a hope that stands the test of time,
That lifts my eyes beyond the beckoning grave,
To see the matchless beauty of a day divine
When I behold His face!
When sufferings cease and sorrows die,
and every longing satisfied,
then joy unspeakable
will flood my soul,
For I am truly home.