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A Front-liner's Reflection on the Pandemic

02 November 2021

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress; I will never be shaken.
Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.

(Psalm 62: 5-6,8)

“Matron, I have little baby, I can’t work in Covid ICU”
“Matron, I had Asthma, I can’t work in Covid ICU’’
“Matron, can I change ward because...”
“Matron Tan, we need to open Covid ICU.”
“Matron Tan, can you go and set up another Covid ward now?”
“Tan, you’re on call, right? Please go hospital now, need to discuss and set up another Covid ward and rearrange staffing” 

All these requests often spelled my late return home or my abrupt return to hospital on a Sunday morning. 

Never in my 30 years of service. as a nurse and superior in ICU, had I received so many panic messages and phone calls for a change of ward and even change of departments as I did in the last 18 months of the Covid-19 pandemic in Malaysia. However, due to the high demand of ICU beds, I couldn’t grant every single request. Daily, I’d ask the Lord Jesus for wisdom and words of encouragement as I counsel my nurses. I prayed also for God protection over the healthcare workers in my workplace, my family and myself.

The uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic, the absence of a definite treatment, lockdown, vaccinations, and church being unable to have physical gathering all caused me to get on my knees and plea with the Lord Jesus for mercy for our nation. In the midst of it all, I was also connected to a few prayer groups. Yet, the more we pray, the cases only increased further and the situation in our nation worsen. I started to lose focus on God as I looked at the situation of my surroundings. Fear creeped silently into my mind and caught me unguarded. But my God is a faithful God, even when I was faithless. 

One day as I was praying, a gentle voice whispered “I see, I hear, and I care. Turn your focus unto Me.”  

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” (Isaiah 55:8)

Tears flowed down my cheek and joy entered my heart. Since then, my faith was strongly anchored on Jesus and continued to stand on the promises of God. I was reminded that He will never forsake me nor leave me. He promises His peace to be with me always. 

That passion for prayer sparked when I had returned from my trip to Sri Lanka in 2016. Since then, I desired also to see churches and God’s people come together and pray as one body in Christ. The problem was, I didn’t know people outside HighPointe LIFE. It seemed impossible for me to connect with churches from different denomination in Klang, what more other parts of the country coming together to pray! Little did I know that these verses would soon ring true.  

“He grants you your heart's desire and fulfil all your plans.” (Psalm 20:4)
“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act” (Psalm 37:5)

One day, brother Anthony sent me a link to an AOG prayer group and in 2018 God led me to attended Women Prayer Conference in Sibu, Sarawak. Through the WPC group, I was connected to Malaysian United Prayer Wall and 24/7 Praise and Worship group. Praying for the nation WITH the nation was no longer impossible. God was sovereign, loving and all knowing. He is always there waiting for His children to come to Him. Ask, He will answer. 

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)

As I look back, I thank our Lord Jesus for His protection and the power of His blood that has shielded me, my family and the nurses form Covid-19 viruses. Even though a few of them were infected by the virus all were healed without any complication. Praise be to our Lord Jesus, for answering many of our prayers. We saw many turned to the Lord. We witnessed seeds planted, churches united and lives transformed. 

“In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)

Hope Through Tears And Questions

14 September 2021

It has been a year since it happened and today I finally found the courage to give voice to the struggles of many women. Miscarriage is not something uncommon but it’s something not openly and commonly talked about, especially when society deems it a taboo topic.

Yes, we experienced it exactly a year ago. It was (and still is) a difficult part of life to make sense of. Many questions that still remain unanswered. The words of Romans 8:28 and the song Tenang by GMS has been something I have been reflecting on this day.

Reflecting on this poem titled, 'Glimpses Of Rainbow' sums up the deepest thoughts and feelings to our journey thus far:

Recalling this day last year,
Unexpected experience, unwanted encounter.
Reminded of our little Rainbow’s departure
And the sight of rainbows You brought near.

As she parted away from us,
There were many nights of tears.
Rolling uncontrollably down our cheeks,
With questions, thoughts and frustrating weeks.

Limited understanding, hurting hearts,
Knowing His will is an art.
Fears crawl in, doubts deceive
Enticing us to disbelief.

“Affirmed”, “Acknowledged”, “Delighted” and “Love”,
These are many assurances from Him who is love.
Calling us to cling to Him,
Carrying us in the midst of dim.

Riding with Him on this journey call faith,
Trying to take little steps of faith.
Allowing the One to restore us again,
In the midst of all these painful terrains.

Though the valley was(is) dark and the journey is long,
Yet the Lord is near and His ways are not wrong.
Even when we can’t understand His weird and mysterious ways,
We will embrace this obedience to His calling and ways.

Being A Retiree From My Father's View

20 June 2021

My father, commonly known as “Uncle Eng Boon”, embraced retirement life sometime around mid-2019. 

We both entered a new phase of life at the same time. For me, it was leaving the shores of student life and wading into the deeper waters of adulthood. For my dad it was clocking out of his 9-to-5 job of forty-something years and waking up in the morning as a retiree. 

Now it is close to two years since his official retirement. Yet, more than half of it was spent in lockdown. Here’s a little of this retiree’s perspective as he looks back at this season so far: 

Q1: How had you envisioned retirement?

EB: Since working from 9 to 5 would not be my priority anymore, I was going to be able to focus more on my family and serving the church.

Q2. How have you been spending your retirement? 

EB: More on a slower pace as I look upon what things I’d want to do during leisure time. Though, it is mostly spending a lot more quality time cooking for my family and getting involve in some church activities. (Not to mention a long watchlist of various YouTube videos! Maybe a story for another time.)

Q3. How will you want to spend it differently post-pandemic? 

EB: I will want to travel more often to Penang to visit my siblings, nieces and nephews at any given opportunity.

Q4. How did you feel / what were your thoughts when you first heard about the virus/lockdown? 

EB: The situation and having to stay at home 24/7 in quarantine, it is all so surreal. But I thank God that I can testify that peace always prevails when I’m able to stay at home with my wife, daughter and my mum-in-law.

Q5. What has been difficult transitioning into this new phase of retirement (esp. in a pandemic)? What helped you cope with it? 

EB: Not much difficulty in transitioning into retirement. I’m always occupied with things that I’ve now re-prioritise such as family & church which I truly enjoy.

Q6. What do you recommend to those (retiree or would-be retiree alike) who may feel stuck at home to invest in and pass the time? 

EB: Look out for things that you can do in a small way. Little things that bring great joy when you share your care and put time into it. In coping with the pandemic, I try to stay focus on what I have to do day-to-day with the peace of God in me - a peace that transcends all understanding.

Q7. Finally, what has been your greatest joy or highlight over this season? 

EB: Being able to connect with some friends to have lunch and bible study together weekly.

I’ve often labelled my father’s retirement as “The Life of a Househusband” because truly, he is exceptional in caring for the home and making sure my mum and I are fed (and fat) through the meals he lovingly and ambitiously prepares. He is a family man beyond my mum and I. Evident from the way he obediently and diligently prepares for bible study and fumbles through the complex science of Zoom and online meetings. 

At this point you’re probably wondering, “Is this a Father’s Day article?”. Well, it’s not (supposed) to be. But, when you witness the love of an earthly father for his heavenly one, it is only natural to share it and rejoice! 

In This Unprecedented Season

16 June 2021

18th March 2020 will forever be etched in my mind as the the day that Malaysia and the WORLD went into a lockdown just because of a minute virus. The whole world was turned topsy turvy. This was the first time in my life experiencing a pandemic!! Our emotions ran high; fear, uncertainty, anxiety and impatience, frustration etc.

Conversations have centered around these topics; numbers, masks, temperature, social distance, sanitiser, online shopping , zoom, roadblocks, vaccine and working from home.

15 months have just flown by and are things very much different now? 

Not really, but I suppose we’ve adjusted pretty well (some better than others) and are coping a little better than last year, having “accepted” this as the norm for now at least, not knowing how long this will last. We know this WILL come to pass, for all of us...soon we hope. We so long for normalcy again. 

One of the most challenging things that I experienced was the inability to meet physically . It was terribly strange to me because I’m a very people person. I just love meeting up with people, I love having people around, I love catching up with my old friends, visiting people who are shut-ins, the sick , ministering to ladies on a one to one at a kopitiam (not always the best choice though), doing  bible study in a small group. I just love PEOPLE. 

It was so wonderful to be able to host the Lifezone (cell group) meetings at our home each Friday and subsequently on Sundays for about 3 months! 

All these came to an abrupt halt when the pandemic struck and there were times that I’ve felt like I was living in a cave or an island except with connectivity.

Now, the I.T dinosaur like yours truly have had to learn to use Zoom, video call, Messenger call and Google Meet so that I can be connected with PEOPLE. I would grab every opportunity to have these meet ups when the restrictions are lifted!

As I look back at the past 15 months, I choose to thank God for these very good things; our family altar that I so treasure, precious family bonding time, the opportunity to be part of a Singaporean and Malaysian intercessory group specifically covering the COVID 19  situation in Asia, the multiplication of the LifeZones (cell groups) in our church from 3 to 9 groups, the unity of all the Malaysian churches standing so united in prayer combating the pandemic together and personal urgency to share the gospel to my neighbors by first sharing my testimony.

Amidst the gloom and uncertainty, I choose to see the GOOD that has come out of this crazy and unprecedented season and I echo the lyrics of the songwriter, Don Moen: "God Is good all the time!"

Book Review: The God Who is There

17 May 2021

Genesis, the Exodus, the Gospels, the epistles and then Revelation? How do all these different genres of books fit into one theme?  

In this book, ‘The God who is there’, D.A. Carson takes readers through the entire narrative of the Bible, beginning with Genesis, and then the gospels, and ending with Revelation – giving a glimpse of how the Bible comes together to tell a single unified story, God’s story, and how we as God’s people fit into this story. 

In each chapter, D.A. Carson unpacks an expounds certain passages from the Bible, drawing connections with the context in order to show how it all ultimately converges in Jesus. I find this book to be unique, however, because it is theologically rich and would, I think, be as enjoyable a read for the academician as it can be for someone who knows nothing about the Bible at all. In fact, at the very start of the book, D.A. Carson gives an introduction of the Bible itself, and even how one would flip the Bible to find certain books. 

There was one excerpt, in particular, that struck me. 

“Christian faith and thought are not helped by angry preachers whose tone almost suggests that they take a kind of vicious glee from the tragic end of others. For a start, we Christians will be the first to acknowledge, as Paul understands in Ephesians 2, that we are all by nature children of wrath – starting with us who have become Christians. If we have come to experience the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with the living God, it is only because of the grace of the gospel. We are never more than poor beggars telling others where there is bread.”

This is the truth and basis of our Christian faith – not that we are any better than others, but it is only because of God’s love and grace. This book has helped me grown in deeper reverence of the God I worship and serve and the Bible that we all hold in our hands. 

And so I would echo Timothy Keller’s words, “By all means, get this book!”

82-Year-Old Goes 52 Weeks Dressing Up For Virtual Church

06 April 2021

During the pandemic, church be looking very different. Churches have had to turn to digital platforms to continue the gathering of God's people.

While many have chosen to be more casual (even to the extent of wearing pyjamas) for a virtual church services, Dr. La Verne Ford Wimberly, an 82-year-old from Oklahoma, refused to succumb to being sloppy for the Lord.

Amazingly, Dr. Wimberly has gone over 52 weeks without repeating a single outfit. The retired principal even documented each look, complete with a wide array of dazzling hats, on her Facebook timeline.

“I thought, ‘Oh, my goodness, I can’t sit here looking slouchy in my robe,'" she told The Washington Post. "I didn’t want to sit around alone and feel sorry for myself, so I decided, ‘You know what? I’m going to dress up anyway.’"

She also said that she wanted to do it because it made be more conscious of the habit of giving it her best, as she has tried to over the last 82 years.

Infected with Covid-19, Contagious for Jesus

22 March 2021

I'm up to "trend" for once, at least. Not because I know the latest pop songs or because I am familiar with the latest fashion. I'm up to trend because I contracted COVID 19.

People often talk about the physical effects and symptoms of the virus but hardly anyone ever tells you of the effects it has on you mentally. The moment I received confirmation from the hospital that my Covid-19 test result was positive, I had flashes of images in my mind:  who I had seen or met recently, as well as my family members who stay under the same roof as me. The feeling of guilt was so overwhelming that it covered up any worry I had over my own health and how the virus might affect me.

Ultimately, I thank God for this episode. It was another turning point in my spiritual life. It gave me time where I could really sit down, quit the "I'm busy" mentality and just meditate on God's Word. I thank God for the constant support from the church whom I call family. They were upholding me in prayer daily, sent messages of concern and even volunteered to provide me with three meals a day. I acknowledge that it is all by the grace of God that I'm able to digest the situation with peace in my heart.

I thank God that after days of quarantine at home, I was brought to a quarantine centre at Serdang, where almost 1000 patients gathered in a hall. I was grateful for the opportunity to encourage and pray for patients while I was there. It reminds me that even in places of difficulty, God can use us as vessels to speak to the needs and into the lives of people around us. I'm amazed with how things and plans come together in God's hand and that He can use us in whatever situation we are in.

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." - James 1:2-4

From Saul's Palace to Wedding Aisle

22 January 2021

The year 2018 started with a bang for me, entering it with a new status and commitment in my relationship to my bride. However, the journey to this was not an easy one. I had to learn a lot of things and God had to prepare me for what was ahead.

The idea of taking this next step forward began at the end of October. I was fearful and uncertain whether or not I was ready. I remember asking God if I was ready to take this next step forward to be someone’s husband. I must admit that I did not pray that intensely because soon my seeking God over this waned and stopped altogether.

God however did not forget my question. Last November was suddenly a rough time for Monica and I. To be honest, I was the one being difficult because I became rather sensitive over petty issues such as the long travelling time to her place and I often felt like I had the short end of the bargain! Although God was speaking to me through my devotions (a lot of my devotions was about preparation), I was consumed by my own issues and situations and chose not to listen.

Eventually Monica and I had to talk things through about what was happening and I learnt to be more honest and share my own feelings with her on even the pettiest of things. And then God finally broke through to me while I was doing one of my assignments. God showed me that after anointing David to be King apparent, He had to bring David into Saul’s palace as the king’s right hand man. This was to prepare him for what was to come. As I made my journal entries, I began to have clarity. I saw how God taught me what it means to live life with someone else and what it means to be a husband through this experience of David’s. Just like how God prepared David by showing him what it means to be a king, He has also showed me what it means to be a husband.

I must say that God has been surprising me all the way in my preparations and sometimes in the funniest of ways (funny incident actually. on the night where I wanted to ask Monica’s dad for his permission to marry her, her dad had already thought about this in the afternoon and initially wanted to help me in preparing my proposal!!).

It doesn’t mean that I am devoid of any fear now. It still scares me when I think of the great responsibilities that I will carry as a husband. However, I know now that I can go through this because God will be there for the both of us. Above all else, He has taught me that being a husband does not mean I have to be strong for the both of us. Rather it means that we are to live as one and that means to lock hearts together and never give up on each other.  With that, I am confident in taking this next step, knowing that God will go before us and journey with us as we head into this new phase in life.