The Beginning to an End

Perhaps now would be more or less a good time to reflect on my ministries for this year. Of all the things that will change from this year to the next, it’ll be my ministries (and relationships stemming from them) that will be tossed around the most. It saddens me to be stepping out of a lot of people’s lives in terms of the responsibility I was given to help them grow as Christians and such. How “effective” you are as a leader can probably be evaluated by how attached you are to the people under your care, and how much they were to you. Of course I wouldn’t be lying when I say that there were groups of people I wasn’t as attached to as others, and at that fact to not be attached in a way that suggests I was a “fair” encouragement to them. But sometimes this cannot be helped – not all relationships move smoothly as one may desire, and that may not be a fault from either party; that’s just the dynamics of relationships and ministry.

Baulkham Hills High ISCF

I suppose I should address my ministries in the reverse order of which I “left” them. And hence that would this bunch of kids the ones I remember the most clearly at the time of writing. In trying to keep things short, my summary of my feelings towards this group is that I am in awe at how there are still high school Christians who live Christ-centered lives which pretty much has affected the way they live as Christians at school.

Typically in high school, we think of youth facing the challenge of translating who they are as Christians on Sundays into their everyday lives (at school). That is, it is admittedly hard to live as a Christian at school in the same way as you would at church. But most of the leaders have already gotten past this barrier, and are confident in living as Christians around their peers at school – it is primarily this confidence that encourages me.

It has been a joy being able to teach them the Bible each week, though I can’t say I’ve managed to grow them as much as I had hoped. Time is certainly an issue I was made more aware of in my ministry to high schoolers. ISCF groups are very hard pressed in the amount of time they have at school to do Christian activities (mostly Bible Study). The duration of lunch to have a public meeting seems very short when you take into consideration the delays that comes with getting 80+ kids to gather in one room, and then to sort them out and such. And outside of that, we roughly get the same amount of time on a separate day to run leaders’ meetings. After getting through all the administrative topics, there is even less time to train the leaders from the Bible.

In a sense, returning to ISCF ministry has made me consider how fruitless it can be in comparison to other ministries that have more time to use. I’m not saying that it’s totally useless, but it’s definitely a challenge to make it worthwhile to the kids that come, and to challenge them in the way they live as Christians. I even felt with the bunch of leaders I met in the last 5 months that they were heavily restricted by time in the things they could do as Christians at school. Amidst their school work, extra curricular activities, and the time constraints of school activities, they don’t really have as much opportunity to “flourish” and show Christ as they are actually capable of – I can see they have the ability to do so much more if it weren’t for the environment of high school. University will definitely be a playing field for their ministry that will be able to take on their full potential. All we can do at this point is to encourage them to persevere and to keep growing as much as they can.

On a personal level, I won’t forget a lot of the kids I met in the short time I got to know them. Aside from being able to win them easily over with my (infamous) coconut dessert (yes, it came in handy for once), I am very inspired by the friendships I was able to build with them so quickly. When I told them I would soon be leaving the ministry, one of them mentioned that they can’t remember when I first came – my relationship with them was built so fast that even I had “forgotten” when I first met them. Of course, I can track back the exact date and time when I first joined them, but exact memories in my mind of that day are very blurry; and that’s a good sign for me. To feel like you’ve known for a long time, even though in reality it hasn’t been that long.

I will definitely miss them, and perhaps the main factor that wants me to continue this ministry is that I want to “finish” what I started – that is, I would like to see them graduate year 12. Not doing so does bring back bad feelings of not seeing my own youth group boys graduate – the past haunts, haha. But in any case, there will always be ways to keep in touch with them (and of course I would be willing to take days off from work for special occasions). I suppose for now I am content enough in being able to play a part in this ministry again, and to be able to play a small part in their lives; a role is indeed better than no role at all.


Campus Bible Study

Uni ministry lasted me a good 4 years and has been the main group of relationships that I’ve had for this whole phase of my life (from the beginning of university to now). I will never forget how God placed a wonderful group of people in my life; people in my grade that I can call my close brothers and sisters in Christ hopefully for life. At the very least, they were people who I grew up with and matured a lot as a Christian alongside. Our grade quickly became a tight network group of Christians, and we continued to grow tighter as a support group for each other as the years went on. We all struggled with different issues, and discussed them together, finding answers and learning together. They might not be “extreme” experiences that you share once a life with people, but they certainly are things that have been fundamental in each of our lives.

Outside of my grade, it has been a really amazing 4 years being able to grow alongside Christians of different ages, of different backgrounds, and of different maturities. Learning from older years and ministering to younger years has shown me what a Christian society can look like, and what the pattern of society should be. Never did it become more clear to me that our job as Christians, is to grow, listen to those older than us and learn from them, and to teach those younger than us, to set ourselves as role models before them, in a similar way as to how we were taught by those older than us. It seemed only a short period of time where we transitioned from being the youngsters of our faculty, to being the older role models. And it was that transition that made it clear that passing on the gospel to the next generation was really important.

I suppose ministry wise I learnt a lot of vital skills in how such a large congregation can be managed. And CBS has definitely been a place where my social skills were honed a lot, due to  meeting all these different Christians (I know that most of my faculty is Asian, but I had many opportunities to meet people from other faculties too). I had the opportunity to lead a lot of different people in Bible Study groups, and shamefully I would admit that I didn’t take full advantage of those opportunities to help those people grow, and to help them continue to grow afterwards. Well, you just don’t know what may happen to someone after you don’t see them anymore, I would hope that all the brothers and sisters in Christ that I’ve come into contact with benefit and grow from meeting me.

Huge events like mid year conference were truly the most encouraging times of the year, to really get down and learn from the Word of God, and to have fellowship with nearly all the Christians on campus. It was awe-inspiring how so many Christians could gather in one place, all with the unified purpose of praising God and studying His Word. It was MYC that helped me begin to appreciate this idea of building the kingdom of God – getting the macro perspective. For our faculty, it was really encouraging to see it grow and become larger year by year. I remember at the start of uni, our faculty didn’t have much numbers to boast about, but by second year there was a sudden inflow of Asian Christians who wanted to do Commerce. Numbers is never the thing to boast about (though we can be thankful for having so many Christians who study something in common), it became a real chance to reach out to a lot of people in one go, and to really utilise these people to build relationships and evangelise to non-Christians.

Our large faculty also showed me the need to make sure that there were people (leaders) to keep passing down the gospel message to the rest of the faculty, and to put their lives as an example before them. Trying to pass down godly characteristics and train the next generation to also live godly lives became somewhat hard to do at times, and it was something that I had to keep struggling with in the final years of uni – it isn’t as simple as telling someone to do something and expect them to get it right straightaway, or that they’ll even listen to you at the start. But even if the leaders were not able to raise up younger Christians to replace them when they leave, that isn’t a huge concern, because it is God who ultimately grows people, and He will provide leaders for His people; it’s something we can put our confidence in God in.


Church

Edited 1st December 2012

Though this was the ministry I “stepped” out of the earliest in the year (I have previously explained my situation), it’s the one I will be stepping back into next year once most things settle down. Taking a break from church ministry has allowed me to appreciate the people in the other ministries I’ve been a part of this year, as well as spend more energy doing things well. It would be fair for me to say that it is one of my less encouraging ministries (all the things that I collectively do at church), and it is hard to pinpoint what the source of that feeling is. I believe it is a combination of several factors, from different things that I did for church.

Without going into any specific detail, I think the hardest challenge I face next year is getting back into people’s lives, after having walked out of them for a year. This does feel hard as it’s like I don’t know the people at church anymore (compared to the ministries I was actively in). And to the people I walked out on, it does feel like I let them down and that I’m crawling my way back in; you can’t just leave a relationship and then walk back into it pretending nothing happened. As a result there is some damage I have to repair, in terms of setting people back on the right track after I took my eye off of them for a year. I get a bad feeling when I’ve put time and effort into people and then when I let them go even for a bit, they end up taking steps back and reversing what I had worked so hard in them. The loss of my efforts is discouraging too. There is going to be some set back in the things I had started for the people under my care, which I was not able to finish, let alone continue. Getting to know people again, getting to understand what sort of people they have become and what sort of care they will need is going to be a challenge and will bring forth feelings of redundancy (the regret that I wouldn’t have to face this situation had other circumstances been different – but this cannot be helped). That is, I need to invest in more time than I wish I had to – not that I dread doing so, but I simply dislike inefficiency; especially when it seems to come primarily at my cost.

One example I will share is the few talks that I do at church, which more or less reflects how I feel about church on the whole. I consider myself fortunate to have been given multiple opportunities to preach to my church, and I have taken it upon myself to prepare as best as I can for these talks, in light of my other commitments. Overall, I am relatively satisfied with how they went given the circumstances, however I did not factor in the range of responses I would be getting from the audience. I know there are a fair number of people who genuinely felt like they learned something from my talk, and that is exactly the response I’m looking for to find encouragement in; there is nothing better than having someone tell you they understand God’s Word better after hearing your talk.

However, I also get the opposite response, and that my talks aren’t helpful. More so, I’ve heard implicit responses of how my talk failed to cover certain things and did not explain a specific verse in a specific way. Long story short, these people seem to be those who would rather take on what they’ve thought through themselves to be the best interpretation of Scripture, and to ignore something that’s slightly different. To me, it’s a sign of disrespect and a refusal to listen to what I have to say. And I can accept that fact; not only am I young, but the people at my church are the ones who (think that they) know me personally. And so my experience with preaching at church is somewhat like: “A prophet is not without honour except in his own town and in his own home.” (Matt 13:57) The point I’m trying to get at is that it may be hard in general to preach at your own church when the congregation knows you well personally. And it may come to the idea of hypocrisy; that who I am normally seen to be in front of the congregation may be different to what I try to teach, and I can accept that people won’t necessarily take me to be serious because of the way I have lived; and I have no real defense against any claims of me being a hypocrite – if indeed they have found evidence. All I would’ve hoped though is that the congregation would be more supportive of the words that I’m saying, rather than focus on me, the deliver of the words (though separating speaker from words is a difficult thing to do).

Church is always to have its minor conflicts here and there, and though they touch me emotionally and make me feel bad, I am being constantly reminded that we are all united under Christ for the common purpose of giving glory to God. And so next year will probably be a time where I need to continue to consolidate my relationships with people at church (and the other leaders that I’ve also walked out on). My conflicts will continue to stand in the way as they are; and it is clear that simply putting your mind to solve the conflict is much easier said than done. It’s something that all Christians in all churches have to struggle with I reckon.

I am still encouraged by some of the people I have met at church over this year – particularly new people (the ones who don’t know me personally that well yet – which is probably a good thing haha). They are the people I hope to be able to have more time to encourage and spend time with next year. Their passion does indeed rival that of the people I have met in other ministries, and it makes me feel a tad sad that they don’t have as many opportunities to learn about God and the Bible – that is why every opportunity no matter where really does count, and I need to make my chance meetings with them count too.


Personal Ministry

Added 1st December 2012

Personal ministry consists of all my one-to-ones as well as other forms of contact (mostly impersonal instant messaging or emailing). The people I meet up with will have to change next year as my routine adjusts to full time work, and it will sadden me that I will not be able to meet up with certain people as often as I would like to anymore. But that cannot be helped, and I should instead salvage whatever relationships I can still continue and look for alternatives to maintain those at a stable level.

For those whom I’m not really able to schedule a regular meeting with, I try my best to find convenient ways to contact them, and with thanks to the age of the Internet this is somewhat easily achievable via MSN/Skype and email. Those of you whom I talk to online I really do treasure those relationships (even though they seem to be tucked at the back after all those afore mentioned). I really did wish I could have gotten to known them better and perhaps spent more time and shared life with them, but given the circumstances of life and the relationships that I am obliged to, this is more or less my best for the remainder of the people I want to hold dear in my life. I hope to be able to maintain those relationships as best as I can, though I fear it may be harder to spend the same amount of time as I did before (and also at the same moment in time – you people I chat with late at night =.=” they are good conversations that make me go to sleep comfortably, but they result in a subsequent slightly bad morning). But there are other forms of communication, and I hope to be able to work those out soon too.

There are, however, people who will walk out of my life on a less happy note. And though it saddens me to see a friendship break down in some way or another, there is no doubt that God will continue to watch over me and the other people whom I’ve lost contact with. I mean on one hand I am frustrated at the things that cause the breakdown in the friendship (and I know I’ve blogged many times on these sorts of feeling and situations in the past four years – so I won’t deal with those emotions anymore, dig them up yourself), but the other hand says that I wish them well and that God would look over them – though that doesn’t mean I want them back in my life. Perhaps this sort of shuffling in relationships has its purpose too, though it may seem harder to see the good in losing a friend. But God is sovereign, and He has a plan for everyone in everything.


I know I’ve hastily tried to finish this post ever since flying over to the US, and in the busyness of our “holiday” it’s been hard to have a clear mind over the things that have been for this year. But I am grateful for all the relationships I’ve had over this year. Even now, they are changing in ways that no longer reflect the words that I once claimed above, and that is the dynamics of relationships. I am nonetheless confident of the way God used me this year to be a presence in people’s lives. I am confident that God’s plan through me has yielded some fruit in the people I have gotten to know over the year. And though I may never see them again, or that I may never restore our relationship to be exactly the way that it was before; I still know that God will allow the time that we shared to shape the way that they live in the future, and the way that I minister to the next group of people God puts into my life.

 

Happy times and sad times have allowed me to reflect on what can happen down the track, and I must continue to prepare for all forms of ministry that I may be thrown into without notice. But I know that I can trust God to work in me and through me in whatever circumstance He may place me in. I just need to remember His power and His Word; all that’s left afterwards is to enjoy the ride!

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