What’s in store for 2017?

31st December 2016.

Who knew this day would ever come about? It’s scary how time seems to pass faster the older you get. And it’s even scarier how I’ll be turning 24 next year. And it’s shocking to think I’ve been back in Singapore and at this job and church for 3+ years already. 

The annoying thing about work is that it’s very easy to stagnate. In school, you get promoted from year to year, with more cheem subjects and more responsibilities with each passing year, without doing very much. It’s a rite of passage, it just happens. Sec 4 comes after sec 3. But in a workplace, just nuaing could easily cause you to stagnate. One year can easily fly by and you realize you’re in exactly the same position as you were a year ago. Progress and development has to be planned for and you need to work towards it. It doesn’t just come. 

I look to where I was a year ago, and squint very very hard  to get a glimpse of the leeetle bit I’ve progressed in the past year. This annual stocktaking becomes more crucial because before you know it, years fly by and you’re still at a standstill, lost and confused. 

2017 will be a fairly decisive year for my career. I’m in a new team and a year is about the right time horizon to judge if I’ll blossom and be totally awesome, or end up as a fish out of water. In which case, I really got to reevaluate and think if God is giving me a sign and calling me elsewhere. And I think I’ll be fine with either result,  since I’ve never cared much for my career in this industry anyway. The pay is good and the life is comfortable, but if God calls, God calls. Well that’s what I say now, but when push comes to shove, therein lies the true test. 

2017 is also a year I take a backseat in teaching Sunday school and take on a LT role with a stronger admin/visionary aspect of this ministry. It’s…still something I’ll figure out because I’m not sure exactly what are the bounds I’m able to challenge and push, but it’ll entertaining to be half the age of everyone else in the team. Sometimes I wonder if the parents feel any worry or concern entrusting their young kids on a weekly basis to this young punk (me) who has zero child-rearing experience. Well, thankfully nobody has complained so far. 

So while 2017 does hold quite a number of challenges for me, I’m half afraid I won’t be able to rise to any of the challenges D: Dragonboat will be in full swing for the first half of the year and from experience, it is quite the time sucker. But honestly the reason I still wake up for 8am trainings every Saturday, is the team. The camaraderie and the fun we have during training is something I last experienced in RJ waterpolo. And I definitely miss the whole process of training, pushing your limits, improving, with ten other people on the same journey as you. And yeah I’ve come to terms with the fact that we’re probably never gonna win since the others team are just much more committed and simply better. But the journey itself is rewarding, even if we don’t end up on the podium. 

I’m half excited half worried about 2017 because there’s a lot in store and a lot of revelations will happen for me. But…ahhhh.

Happy New Year! 

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Minions galore

So… I guess Christmas season is also synonymous with minion season for me as people (including myself lol) start getting all things minion related for me. 

My latest guilty pleasures include minion attire 60% off! Not sure if I would wear it in public thaaaat much especially since I would run the risk of wearing the same clothing as a five year-old… 

Maybe I’ll wear it to Sunday school to show the kids I’m totally one of them 

Wheeeeee

#nojudging

Does the PMH (Post-Missions High) mean anything?

See the line where the sky meets the sea, it calls meeee~

You know that post-missions high? Yeah, the one that feels as if you’ve found your life calling and that life in Singapore is lame and you should be out there helping God’s people and all.

Yeah, what exactly does it mean?

Is that high similar to God calling me to a life of missions, or is it just my delusion that God is calling me to missions? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to do a Jonah and avoid God’s calling. But back in 2012, I had that same high that convinced me that I was meant to be a missionary, but somehow 1 year later, God placed me at my current job. So….am I discerning the high wrongly?

This issue is probably something that requires quite a bit of discernment. I can’t remember when I met this old dude, who told me how he prepared for 10 years to be a missionary because he was so sure that it was God’s calling for him, but at the end, it never happened. Being called to be a missionary is in no way an easy or frivolous affair, but yunno, I think I could obey. Or could I?

I think it’s pretty interesting how my missions experience even started. Most of my secondary school friends would know, but pre-Hopkins me would never ever ever have entertained ideas of community service, mission trips, selfless thingamajigs. I was always so focused on attaining good results, things that made ME successful, that such “time-wasters” would probably never have been part of my agenda.

Buuuut (there’s always a but when God is present), God worked in me in Hopkins and I somehow ended up going to XJ for a mission trip. I used to tutor elementary school kids back in Baltimore, and there was such a big culture difference that I used to think that if I were to ever be a real servant for God’s people, it would have to be somewhere back in Asia, where I wasn’t a fish out of water.

So at retreat, when a mission trip to China was announced, it felt like God was literally telling me, “Well, you say you can’t serve in Amurica? No problem, run along to China and make yourself useful there.” And I guess that’s how it happened. I just went for the briefing, joined the team on a whim. When I was informed that I had to fundraise 3000USD for the trip, I thought this just got reallll.. Thankfully, God really provided for the entire team and therein began my month long trip to the border of China (right smack in the middle of my internship). I credit this first mission trip of mine for jumpstarting my whole passion for missions.

The trip opened my eyes to the number of areas where Bibles were not available, and people were unaware about the gospel, and believers were not allowed to worship openly. The reality of how unknown God was sunk in, and it made everything back home seems so pointless. Grades, bell curve, homework. Pfft, what do these matter when there are still so many people in the dark about God? So after the trip, I was literally on fire, really wanting to be God’s vessel to spread His love to others.

Heh, but look where I am now. Stuck in an office. When I started working, I was terribly disillusioned, what was I doing in a cushy cubicle when there are so many people in the world out there that needs help? I didn’t see how I could be doing God’s work when I was sitting on the 42nd floor of some skyscraper.

Until one day I realized, missions can start right at home.

I don’t have to be sent to a far-flung place from home to be able to do God’s work. I could be sent anywhere, and I could start right here in my workplace, in my family, in my homeland. And perhaps this post-missions high is God’s way of showing me, if I was so concerned about the lives of people so far away, shouldn’t I be more invested in the people right next to me?

Perhaps this is the passion God is trying to inspire in me?

It’s my third time back in Cebu, and the post-Cebu high still never fails to confuse me. Is this God’s way of trying to get me to be more involved in the Cebu ministry– Pastor Davis mentioned that I could be a teacher there — or is my involvement and passion mainly going to remain on an annual basis while keep in touch with some of them? I honestly don’t know.

This post-missions high could mean a lot a lot of things. It may or may not mean I’ being called to be a missionary, it may or may not mean I should do something longer-term, it may or may not mean many many things. I’m forever see-sawing between everywhere, but what I do know is that one day, God will show me the way, and I pray that when that day comes, I’ll obey without any hesitance.

Cebu Trip Post-mortem

It’s tough to fully digest the past week’s happenings all at once in one post, I expect my individual reflections and post-mortems to come in waves over the next few days. I honestly never saw the importance of debriefing, until my month-long XJ mission trip in 2012 showed me otherwise- How do you process and communicate thirty days worth of experiencing God’s love In a secluded town, immersing in a totally new culture, making relationships with people you would never have met… You need that process of reflection to properly figure out what the trip has taught you about yourself, about God, about others, and it can help in you progress as a Christian member of society.

Point One: If practice makes perfect, multiple trips makes easy adaptation.

It marks my third trip back to Cebu, and it being my third time running the camp, I definitely noticed myself experiencing less culture shock and discomfort this time round. Much much much less. Firstly, it became easier to strike up conversations with the youths, because I could build on the rapport from previous trips. I already knew most of their names, and I think that in itself is a fairly significant step. It reminds them that I care enough about them to remember their names. Most noticeably, I realized how totally unaffected I was with the total lack of adherence to a timetable or discipline. The Singapore style of running a camp always has a focus on punctuality and severe need to be “on-schedule”, and I myself did struggle a bit with the stretchable timings in last year’s camp. But lo and behold, I was totally at ease with it this year, although I did notice some of my teammates feeling uneasy about it (essentially me one year ago). What do you mean “take as long as you need for the sharing, what TIME do I need to be back?”

And I really did appreciate that Pastor Davis didn’t enforce timings and stuff because I do admit, sometimes we do get so concerned about the timings that we forget that the “success” of a camp is not dependent on how much you adhere to timings, but on how much the participants were able to share and learn about God. And adherence to a schedule should never come at the expense of the depth of a discussion.

What I want to work on for next year’s trip: Try to learn some Cebuano to help build a stronger connection. It always feels good when someone takes the effort to learn your language and your culture, and hopefully 2017 is the year I properly put on my learning cap. I’ve downloaded the Cebuano app a few times before, but I honestly didn’t click it more than a handful of times.

Point Two: We may have different life experiences and backgrounds, but we always face similar struggles in following God.

One of the worries for the camp was that I wouldn’t be able to relate to a lot of their issues and problems, since their issues are generally more with regarding to lack of motivation to study, insufficient attention from their parents, broken families etc. But at the end of the day, it really boils down to the same struggles of glorifying God, putting God first, showing God’s love to others. They might not have the $$ to afford tuition classes and such, and God ultimately looks at the heart and the effort. God doesn’t care if we score an A, or if we got promoted, what he does care about is that we try our best, and in that process, we glorify Him. A lot of the Lorega youths tend to copy exam answers and skip school, since they are not doing well in school/lost interest, and I tried to explain that that isn’t an excuse to do these things since cheating and ponning school wouldn’t glorify God.

And man, I realize I fall prey to the very same sins. I am very thankful for my job, but I’m not always 100% trying my best and I do recognize that sometimes I forget that the point of my work is to glorify God and to spread His love. The concern with doing well is indeed the wrong motivation for work, and it tempts us to idolize work rather than to worship God.

What I want to work on for next year’s trip: Keep up to date with more of their lives and just keep encouraging them, since it would remind me at the same time.

Point Three: The kampong spirit is still so alive in Cebu, and I’m quite envious of it.

During our camp in San Fernando, there was one afternoon where there was a neighbourhood kids party. One of the activities for the kids was to climb the two-storey oil slicked bamboo pole, and the get the money placed at the top of the pole. No easy feat for these small kids but they didn’t stop them from attacking the task with gusto. However, there are some tasks that are near impossible. So our campers basically just crashed the party, and formed a human tower for the little kids to get to the top.

And it worked.

I was evidently way more invested than I should have been, getting super duper excited throughout the nail-biting thirty minutes of sweat and blood, but it was really cool seeing the whole community cheer on this Mowgli-lookalike and it was really heartwarming to see our campers exert themselves physically just for this little boy. And when Mowgli offered to share the prize with them, they all turned it down. I really couldn’t be prouder of it, but this moment alone really encapsulates the whole community spirit. No closed doors, no boundaries, no mine-yours, just one big happy helpful kampong.

What I can do: Raise my kids in Cebu.

Point Four: The more you give, the more happiness you receive in return

“God loves a cheerful giver.” A kid in Sunday school once asked me, if it’s okay to just pretend to be happy while giving. And it got me thinking, how many times was I genuinely cheerful to give, and how many time was I psycho-in myself into being cheerful.

I mentioned previously how the inertia to commit time and effort to going back to Cebu is a huge obstacle at the start of planning for a trip. But at the end of it, the amount of time and effort I put in, always seems so worth it. In fact, I’m happy to give it, since I see the fruits it bears, I notice the tighter bonds I form, I observe how I become more integrated and “at-home” I feel. And this makes me happy. It makes me cheerful.

Even the clothes I donated, which I haven’t wore in years (namely all my swimming shirts), were picked up by them with so much gratitude and happiness. It’s basically shopping buffet-style, everything is free to go, and it was really cute seeing them pick out clothes for each other. Seeing them put on the clothes immediately made my heart feel all tingly. And again, it make me fuzzy to see my clothes being worn by so many of them. Something so effortlessly done by me, can bring so much joy to them.

What I can do for next year’s trip: Sieve through my cupboards more carefully and pack to donate to them.

T-12 hours

The week-long mission trips to Cebu over Christmas has almost become an annual event for me, ever since I came back from Hopkins. It’s funny since the first time I went, my parents were totally fine with me not being around for Christmas. And I just kinda assumed they would be as okay with it in the subsequent years that I pretty much forgot to ask them about it.

Not that they were against it, since they didn’t stop me. But only when I probed and asked “You guys are ok with me not being around for Christmas rightttt?”, and my mum gave the most bopian “Ok lor, what to do, you book tickets already”

Oops.

This year is also slightly special since my doctor sister is home for Christmas this year, which is fairly rare.

Double oops.

For me, planning mission trips and camps always have this huge inertia at the start — the daunting idea of all the prep, the discomfort of roughing it out, 4 days of leave (!!!) are reasons enough to really take a step back and reconsider. But I always think back to the amount of fulfilment I get in doing God’s work, how much I really thrive in such a people-centred mentoring role, how certain I am that this is the gift God gave me and how it’s my calling, I find it hard to deny the disobedience if I gave in to my human nature.

Cue Moanna’s theme song ~It calls meee~

This Cebu trip is also a frightening reminder of HOW FAST A YEAR PASSES?!?! HOW CAN IT ALREADY BE ONE YEAR SINCE MY LAST TRIP? WHAT DO YOU MEAN 2017 IS IN 11 DAYS? NO CAN DO !

Andd… what do you mean Megan Cara Myra and Jeriel are moving up to P1! Yesterday marked my last day teaching the bunch of 6-year olds whom I love so much that I moved from the Nursery class to Kindergarten to follow them. They’re honestly some of the sweetest kids and I feel so blessed to have been giving the chance to even be part of their lives. Cara gave me a stocking hairpin as a Christmas present yesterday and my heart simply melted. Jeriel told this story of how when he was in his mother’s tummy he stuck out a finger to poke his mom, and Amy and I nearly died laughing. And Megan, who is like a mini version of my sister, is just so cute I want to squish her. And Myra myra myra, who is so affectionate she loves to stick to me throughout class. Cue song ~How can I live without youuu~

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Of course, I’m also excited to meet more new kids and teach them. But I’m still naturally a sentimental soul with attachment issues. I guess being in Kids ministry involves accepting that kids will grow up and move on, and I will eventually fade to be a distant memory in their lives. Maybe not so distant depending on if they still stay in the same church. But man, I can hardly remember my Kindergarten teachers who I saw Mon-Fri, much less my Sunday school teacher whom I see once a week.

RUNNING MAN WILL END FEB 2017

Oh the horrors.

It was a very messy ending I must say. For those who are in the dark, let me break it down for you.

14/12/2016: Kim Jong-kook are Song Ji-hyo rumoured to leave RM, RM was courting Kang Ho-dong to join the new season

15/12/2016: Their respective agencies announce that Jong-kook was only informed about his departure two days prior, and Ji-hyo actually found out through the media about the line-up change. Due to this controversy, Kang Ho-dong decides to turn down the show. (Which is quite sad because Yoo Jae-suk & Kang Ho-dong in one show would have brought things back to epic X-man days.)

16/12/2016: Cast and production team hold emergency meeting to sort things out. It has been thus decided that RM will end in Feb 2017 with all 6 cast members. There will be no Season 2.

Sigh. From what I see, it’s highly likely that the higher-ups in SBS issued some sort of ultimatum to the RM production team. It’s no secret that RM has struggling quite badly in terms of ratings (~6%), it’s a far cry from its heyday (~15%), and probably the only thing keeping this franchise alive is its incredibly humongous international popularity. I think RM is the only variety show that flies its casts overseas for fanmeets?!?!

Back to the ultimatum, production team was probably on a fairly tight deadline to turn this sinking ship around, and thus they rushed the whole process of proper communication with Jong-kook and Ji-hyo and the recruitment of Ho-dong. And now that Ho-dong bailed, this Titanic ship started to sink even faster.

So rather than trying to save this sinking ship, they decided to let RM end on a high (as high as it can be with poor ratings, but at least on good terms though?). So Ji-hyo and Jong-kook will be joining back the cast for the remainder of the episodes. Um… won’t things be awkward?

Actually, if RM really wanted to save its ratings, they shouldn’t have recruited Ho-dong. I think Song Joong-ki is the REAL SOLUTION. Even if half the people in love with DOTS tuned in, it will still be a good 15% ratings 😉

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hi there

I’m not exactly sure what came over me to suddenly create a blog at 4pm on a lazy Friday afternoon at work. But it probably has something to do with me missing writing, having not done much coherent articles about non-work stuff since quitting my author escapades over at seoulbeats.com and dramabeans.com.

I did really enjoy my stint there, but it’s always a dilemma when the hobby you love and enjoy recreationally becomes more serious “work” fraught with deadlines and quality checks. I want to make my lame jokes, I want to be biased and ranty sometimes too. But no, the readers won’t like it, the readers want objective views, readers only want to hear their view etc etc

ANYWAY, basically now, all the writing I do now kinda looks like this:

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Lovely, isn’t it?

So I guess this is very briefly how my itchy fingers went to google “best blogging sites” and history was made. The last time I kept a blog was in P6, when keeping a blog was all the rage and the in-thing to do. I’m probably killing my reputation here but my blog url was something along the lines of thinkingabtu or foreverwithyou or something equally cheesy. cringe cringe cringe. And yes my blog even had background music (so cool right) — JJ Lin’s “Yi Qian Nian Yi Hou”, alternating with Enrique Iglesias’ “Hero”.

But yes, this blog will probably be more like a diary than anything actually educational. Shall I say, 50% K-wave, 30% Life, 20% Misc?