Thursday, December 7, 2017

Erny’s IDMCi 2017 Integration and Application: 
(slightly modified from a version that was shared with my classmates 2 days before graduation.) 

Hello. It is with mixed feelings that I write this. On the one hand feeling glad and relieved that the year with the internship’s academic and ministry demands is over; on the other hand, feeling like I am going to miss the community and the same academic and ministry “stretching”! To prepare for this integration sharing, I took time to read through my journal from January till now. 

When I signed up for IDMCi (8 Nov 2016), I remember telling Dr Ho and Rachael (IDMCi principal and registrar respectively) at the interview that this year was a rest for me from homemaking/homeschooling. The plan was to take a year to consolidate 40+ years of sermons, LTP, BSF, Precept etc then go back to my homemaking/homeschooling till Jared completes High School in 2 years or so. 

But I write this to testify that God’s ways are (way, way, way) higher than mine. 

On the 7th Jan, during our IDMCi orientation @ Changi Cove, I wrote: “Lord, I am the sheep. You are my good father, the shepherd, who guides each step, who speaks in a clear voice, who assures fears, who reveals the next step ahead. I am the sheep who needs to trust that I am loved and known and cared for. I need to hear the Shepherd’s voice and obey”. So that was my start of the year- safe and fairly generic. I ended off the year with my heavenly Father’s affirmation of these very same things - that He is good, he guides each step, he is sufficient in my fears, and HE helps me obey – but with His gracious insight into what these mean for me in my personal life. During my solitude time at my second Women’s Breakthrough Weekend (23-26 Nov), I was in the book of Acts. 

Three things he specially affirmed and I’ll try to tie in how God has been weaving each thread in my year at IDMCi. 

“Now when David had served God’s purpose in His generation, 
he fell asleep” - Acts 13:36
My FIRST assurance was that God will see me thru his purpose 
in my generation in this second half of my life. 

On the 10th Jan, my time with God was in Exodus. And I wrote in my journal: “Deal with my heart so that I will be freed like the Israelites to serve you – with my head bowed in worship”. 

 5 months later, God answered part I of that prayer. At the mid-year Women’s Breakthrough Weekend, God had to deal with my lack of love towards WEFC and my response to the leadership crisis. I didn’t have a personal agenda with any of the individual leaders per se but I was angry and upset nonetheless because in my view, they were ruining the church that “my” Dad had built up. And I was just feeling sorry for myself because I felt that growing up, I had given up a large part of my share of Dad’s time and energy so that he could invest in then BTEFC. But God dealt with my heart. It is not my dad’s church, but my Heavenly Father’s! It is not with human hands that the church is built up – it is the work of the Lord. 

My discussion group at May's Women's Breakthrough Weekend.

Since SK and I decided to no longer attend services at CEFC and return “fully” to WEFC in Feb/Mar, I thought I was kind of OK with the whole church thing in my heart but obviously God thought otherwise. I have to thank Pastor Val for being obedient to the Spirit’s prompting and opening the altar call specifically for those needing to deal with forgiving church leadership (at the May WBTW). Aunty Steph who prayed for me stood in proxy for our church leaders to ask for my forgiveness and I had to choose to verbalise my forgiveness and what I was releasing forgiveness for! I believe there was a spiritual shift in that moment. Before I just was in the church because it was where I grew up but God was showing me I had to CHOOSE to love this church and choose that it is the place for me.

That was an important turning point for me as my Heavenly Father calls me to serve His purpose in my generation. At this point, there is some inkling of what that may look like but can’t share concretely yet as several chats probably need to happen first. 

On a side note, many of you know that Dad, though retired, is still active in ministry so I am looking forward to “working” with him. And Tzun serves both in the young adult ministry and sits on the board of elders and so I am doubly grateful to God that we serve as a family! On Feb 22, I wrote in my journal “We are here for a time such as this! My prayer God, raise the next generation. Don’t let me waste the spiritual legacy you have given me”. So not only was God faithful to deal with my heart about our church community, he is growing my love for the part of church that is my generation and giving me the joy of serving with my family. 

When the crowd started to worship Paul and Barnabas for the miracles they were performing, they shouted “We too are only human, like you….”. - Acts 14:15
The second assurance I received from the Lord this year is 
He doesn’t expect me to be or do more than I am. 

During the week of CEFC’s Revival prayer week (5 nights leading up to National Day), I wrote in my journal “Consecrate my life as a preparation to service. Leave no stone unturned in changing out my heart of stone …”. On the final night, communion was conducted and everyone was asked to go forward to receive the elements. One of the covenanters, Sam, who has since passed on, was given the space to go forward first while everyone remained seated. He had been battling cancer for more than 5 years and by that time already had difficulty walking and had to use crutches. But God used the picture of him slowly making his way down the aisle - his body broken and wasted from illness, but his devotion to the Lord strong – to show me that God accepts us weakness and ugliness and all. I can come to Him just as I am. 

God had to deal with my heart with regards to the gifts and talents he has given me. This year was a constant reminder not to be comparing. At first, Guoyi and Ben Sun (2 of my classmates) really intimidated me – aiyoh! How to survive this year with such smart fellows in the class?!? To make matters worse, but I’m sure there was heavenly chuckle through all this – my seat in our intern room was right next to Guoyi and opposite Ben. Other classmates were so gifted in worship and there were a couple of amazing cooks. I also have a high-powered husband and multi-talented, high capacity ministry leader in Eunice. Then there were the various assignments some of which really stretched me. But God was dealing with my insecurities and feelings of inadequacy which, ironically, I think sometimes showed up as a false sense of pride. 

God was dealing with the inaccurate reflection I had of myself and a gross misrepresentation of His power in my life. But God knows…. so, on the 27th of June, I was in Numbers during my time with God, and had written in my journal, “This priesthood is a gift to me”. And just a couple of days later at a week-long silent retreat, I noted (still in Numbers) the sacrifices the Israelites brought were the same day after day, year after year. I was reminded that I too bring the same sacrifices to the altar each day – the same fears, insecurities, pride, prone-ness to temptations. But by God’s grace, he reshapes them. 

God also used Ben Sun (a classmate) to bring a real close to an old chapter in my life. From the beginning of the year, Ben started addressing me as “Erns. I wasn’t sure if it was just the way his phone autocorrected my name and he just had not been bothered to retype it. (We have since clarified that it was intentional and that’s how his gang of friends address each other – by shortening names and adding an “s”.) Well, the only other person who calls me Erns is Pastor Ivan! But I believe it is no coincidence cos Ben started using Erns very early in the year and I remarked about it to SK. In fact, as SK got to know my classmates, he agreed with me that in our whole class, Ben Sun’s personality is most like Ivan – super achiever, very driven, witty and soft at heart. I won’t go into the long story of why I called our wedding off but suffice to say that God used Ben’s way of addressing me to get me to address the insecurities I had with this past relationship and to bring a good closure for myself. And nothing is wasted in God’s economy, cos at our church retreat in June this year, Ivan asked SK and me for permission to share our story in the context of his message about loneliness, healing and reconciliation.

I felt it was a God-moment for our church as we struggle to pick up the pieces of our church conflict that has left many broken relationships in its wake. For the oldies, this is a distant memory and many in our current congregation were just too young or not part of our church then. I don’t think I would have been so open to having the story rehashed if Ben hadn’t started calling me Erns and God using that to deal with my heart. 

So that’s the second thing, God leaving no stone unturned and yet graciously taking me as I am even when some of the ugly stuff gets revealed. 

 "Paul and Barnabas…sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed 
to the grace of God for the work they had now completed." - Acts 14:26 

So finally, the third assurance that I wrote in my journal was 
“God, you are faithful to complete the work you have assigned for me”. 

I realise it’s like duh…of course He will. But God was doing the work of making that head knowledge travel down the 12 inches to my heart to have the heart-confidence that it is God at work and not what I can do… And I’m about to tell 3 kind-of-unrelated stories which God has just 2 weeks ago pieced together for me. 

Story 1: 

So, in August, I had a session with one of Tamar’s Ministry advisors. She was visiting from Thailand. Somehow, I had a slot scheduled even though I’d taken a year’s leave from Tamar. I’ve never met this lady before. But while Linda was praying for me, she shared that God had given her a picture of me standing at the top of a very steep rope ladder (between 2 cliffs) and I was the one asking God to take away the handrails. I didn’t make sense of it so I just kept it in my heart. 

Then at the end of Sept, I was feeling overwhelmed. There was the ACK(A Certain Kind) training preparation for our short term mission trip (and Guoyi, our team leader, was making major revisions to my stuff), prep for a sermon I had to preach during the trip, we had a couple of final assignments due. I had several one-on-one sessions with some young adults/CGers, there was holiday/ellygetlo planning and in our family, SK just shows up with his passport in hand . On 30 Sept, I wrote in my journal – “Take my hand, Lord, Take my hand!”. 

The little church at Can-aga village where I preached at.

Story 2: 

So we’re on holiday in Western Australia for Alvin and Elly’s wedding. We’re in some small café in some small town. There was a little gift shop attached to the café. So I wander in and I certainly don’t normally gravitate to the walking sticks section… but that day, I was drawn to this. Grin….SK just gave me his indulgent smile – his wife had finally outshopped herself! What did I need a walking stick for? Up till then, this was probably my most “useless”/waste of money purchase! 
Mr Walking Stick

Story 3: 

2 weeks ago, I attended a book launch. The book is written by a dear young adult friend who attends Emmanuel EFC. She spent 1 ½ years with OM in Nepal and felt God call her to write about her journey. The title of the book is Latte to Lathi. Lathi is the Nepalese for stick – and it’s what the locals use as they move around in the remote areas. And so Latte to Lathi is my friend’s journey of going from her comfort zones (drinking Latte at cosy cafes) to impossible situations when she had nothing else to depend on except God who is our rod and staff. 

Anyways, at the book launch, God used Pastor Shane’s (Emmanuel EFC’s lead pastor) exhortation to bring all these stories together for me. Me at the top of the ladder asking God to take away the handrails is really me needing to come to a place of admitting, Lord, I cannot, take my hand. And the STM and recent experience of facilitating a group of our young adult ladies at Women’s breakthrough (Nov2017) was just that – admitting that God, I “ta-boleh liao” and then seeing God do His thing. 

And the walking stick was me needing to say, I will lean on you in the journey you take me out of my comfort zone. So the reason this stick is so twisted is the craftsman had picked a branched that had creepers which are essentially parasitic plants and had gently removed them from the branch and then just varnished it. 

Twisted and gnarled.

There were many other pretty walking sticks and I had initially picked a smooth one but the sales lady selected this and asked if I ought not to buy this instead. And on hindsight this has been what God has been doing this year, cleaning out the parasitic parts of my life and saying it looks like he can use it despite the imperfections. 

This was also what sealed my decision of what to do next. Tamar Village had asked if I would consider going on fulltime with their children’s ministry. There were also ministry opportunities at church. Both places/people are dear to me. Tamar is my comfort zone - working with children is natural for me and I have worked closely with the team and know I work well with them. So, crazy as it sounds…through this 3-part story, I think God is calling me to the scarier of the 2 options. Hence, the third “God, you are faithful to complete the work you have assigned for me”. 

At the women’s breakthrough weekend a couple of days ago, one of the ladies who was an ex-intern shared that for her, IDMCi didn’t just stand for Intentional Disciple-Making Church Institute. But that it stood for : “I died and have the Mind of Christ Instead”. I most certainly can agree with that though I think I’m still in the process of dying. For me, IDMCi has been a journey of learning that “Instead of doing, it’s my Christ Indwelling”. 

My IDMCi classmates at our graduation...celebrating Dr Ho's birthday too.

No integration exercise can be complete without a huge thank you to all my classmates. For me, the official lessons and learning was great but way better than that was the community and how God used each one as part of His purpose for me this year to move me from my “Latte to Lathi” as a reminder to lean on God, our rod and staff in all I do.