Leung Kam Wah 

Chaplain

 

There is a passage in the book of Acts in which Stephen preached the history of Israel before his martyrdom. He had a very detailed account of the story of Moses, focusing on the unique and superior qualities of his life than that in Exodus, “and when he was exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds. When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel.” (Acts 7:21-23, ESV) Having been providentially delivered and preserved, Moses was at the peak of his life, endowed with talents, and had a big heart for the society. According to the formulaic plot of the TV drama, this “persona” would be perfectly set up for a brilliant future with outstanding accomplishments. He was primed to take on any earth-shattering reforms. And this was what Moses expected of himself too, “He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand.” (Acts 7:25). Unexpectedly, his plot took a completely different turn, and he hurriedly exited the stage as soon as he entered it. Moses was thrust aside, (Acts 7:27) being pushed out of the wilderness of death and the desert of life, where he had spent half of his life in a deserted place. Moses, who was ambitious and ready to take on the world, was cast away by the Lord to the remote end of the world, wouldn’t he feel resentful and angry?

The Days of Being a Couch Potato

Benny Chin, often known as Uncle Ben, was a well-respected predecessor who served as the general secretary of the Hong Kong Fellowship of Evangelical Students (FES) in the 1980s. His plan to embark on a new journey in his ministry was abruptly changed due to his wife’s diagnosis of cancer, “What seemed to be a clear vision to me had turned into nothing. And this was not the first time. Back in the end of 1987, I was excited about going to University of London and starting my doctoral program that I was offered unexpectedly. After spending months on research work, I finally sorted out the topic of my dissertation. All of a sudden, I got the news that Siu Ping (Uncle Ben’s wife) was ill. I rushed back to Hong Kong without even packing my luggage. In the end, I put aside the opportunity to further my studies...” Our plan comes to a halt when sudden changes take place in our life. It is obviously not how we want things to happen, especially when we are looking forward to the golden years when we can make a difference in our lives and in the world. Uncle Ben described himself as a person who was quick to adapt and forward-looking. Yet when he was asked about his plans for the future, he could only answer “none”. He sighed, “When I think of Jesus, who has experienced all our sufferings, still has ‘God’s work’ as food, I feel even more that God has forgotten my hunger.” Uncle Ben described this time of his life as “the days of enclosed vision.”1

I was also at a loss when there was a halt in my life journey: after several years of divinity training and several months of observing, exploring and transitioning to church ministry, I was just about to put my pastoral ideas into practice. This was when I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I had to put aside my work immediately to prepare for the surgery and all the uncertainties that would follow. All the preparation work that I did in the first several months for my church ministry was suddenly wiped out, and I was thrown into another unfamiliar and unwelcomed battle in my life– becoming a patient. Wasn’t my divinity training supposed to prepare me for serving at church? How did I end up being settled in a hospital ward and a tiny home for my recovery after graduation? Such dislocation in my life made me realized that there was a force inside me or in my life that could intervene or take away any plan or desire in my life anytime without consulting my will. Everything that had seemed familiar to me in the past seemed strange, including my body, my identity and my life. I realized everything could change at any time and was out of my control. Contemplating the helplessness in light of things that are inescapable is far more painful than the recovery from illness. This was the real lesson that I must learn in life.

Stillness as fertile ground

“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10). New parents may have experienced the frightening moment when they see their baby resting in a deep sleep and naturally reach out to check their breath. Deep sleep and death seem very similar as both appear utterly still. When there is no way out and life has come to a pause, leaving us hanging in midair, we tend to feel that we would wither away rather than rest. When caring for his wife of her last days, Uncle Ben lived a secluded life. Farming in his backyard became a spiritual practice for him to realize the Lord, “Pinching the black soil transformed from the withered grass, fallen leaves, and kitchen scraps such as vegetable pods and fruit peels of last year, I felt like I was in touch with the ecological rhythm hidden in all things. In the hands of God, not only is life a creation, but even a new creation emerges out of death. Little did I know that the compost pile would give me a simple revelation: no vision and no work, just lying on the ground enduring constant stirring. Surviving through the bonechilling winter, the pile of filth slowly loses itself and becomes a fertile soil that nourishes vegetables and squashes.” While I am unable to take charge of my life, as if I had fallen into the desert of the times, I long for the courage to be still, and stay still in the cold winter.

 

1. Benny Chin, Days of Enclosed Vision [in Chinese] (Hong Kong: FES, 1994) pp. 25-27.

 

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