Friday, 29 June 2012

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done

I bought the Chinese evening paper on Tuesday night. The next morning, I made a beeline for My Paper, went to 7-Eleven to grab The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao.

Their faces were splashed across the papers.

A CHC colleague had told me last year that it was announced in church that the case was closed and everything's fine.

I thought Pastor Kong had been vindicated and CAD was too embarrassed to admit that they had made a mistake and wasted taxpayers' money.

My first thought was: what kind of investigation does it take for the CAD to conduct for two years? Did they try too hard to dig out the evidence?

Honestly, I was shocked when I first heard from William that the news was out online.

The news came too suddenly.

Suddenly, Pastor Kong was 'arrested'.

I would be called 'daft', but allow me to say this: I can't believe it.

He was a man of God. He truly was. He was a man of wisdom. He was a man after God's heart.

I do not doubt that he started out with good intentions, whether it was the church or the Crossover Project.

I recall him saying,"If charity could win the world for Jesus, Salvation Army (and a list of other charitable organisations) would have done it."

He did not believe that souls would be won just by demonstrating charity, but at the same time, he maintained that stomachs had to be filled before the poor could be reached out to.

Even as I type this, I am so filled with a mixture of feelings. Thoughts and recollections are swimming in my head without any form of organisation.

I am just so scared.

I am just so afraid for a dear friend who had saw me through my darkest moment. Her eldest daughter is of the same age as Coco. With four kids in tow, how is she coping?

I went to Pastor Kong's facebook page and saw that many actually posted "You will be fine" "You will be alright".

I wondered if they truly understand the gravity of the situation. Why would he, along with 4 others, be charged in court if there was no hard evidence?

I have not read or seen about a person walking out of the court unscathed when charges are brought against them by the government.

The paper said the individuals could be 'jailed for life and fined' if convicted.

At this point, allow me to be irrational: I cannot imagine a man I so reverently looked up to be jailed, or disappeared from Singapore, as what happens to most well-known personalities who leave Singapore for good when a bad mark is left on them.

Allow me to sort out my thoughts:

1. Crossover Project

I have a few CHC friends on my facebook.

One of them posted about the Crossover Project, citing that 'thousands of lives are changed'.

My thought was: With at least 23 million dollars, how much more good could have been done and even more lives changed, and souls won?

Pastor Kong said that charity would not save souls. If these $23 million were converted to food and shelter and churches, would not more souls have been won and stomachs filled?

I hate to say this, but even Jesus fed the crowd with loaves and fish before he started to preach.

2. Money

At least $23 million was spent on the couple - music career and lifestyle.

How can I reconcile the lavish lifestyle and extravagant spending with a humble man who wore suits tailored by his own sister?

He had always preached,"Give God one fold and He will give you ten. Give Him ten folds, and you shall receive a hundred, thousand folds."

I am starting to see where he was coming from. He would lead by example in giving to the offering bag on stage. Indeed, he gave one fold, and he received hundreds, thousands and millions folds in return. If I were him, I would have adopted the same belief.

He has always preached that God has never intended that you become as poor as a church mouse when you become a Christian, because God is a God of prosperity. He wants us to prosper, to do well, and to be the head and not the tail.

Some forummers said that Jesus promised suffering, not wealth. And when the scripture stated that we shall receive 'life abundant', it did not mean physical wealth. Pastor Kong certainly did not see it that way. He felt that the everlasting life promised in the Bible starts the moment you accept Christ and 'abundant' would certainly be tangible.

But the Project measured something intangible ie. winning of souls.

3. Evangelism

I do not know why CHC is touted as a 'non-denominational church'. As far as I remember, it was a protestant/charismatic/evangelical/pentecostal church.

Perhaps I do not understand what 'non-denominational' means. Perhaps it means that it emcompasses all denominations and is not tied to any denomination so that no Protestant would reject it at first thought ie. 'I am a Methodist/Anglican, but this church is Charismatic. I prefer Methodist/Anglican churches."

I recall Pastor Kong saying that we must be 'all things to all man' to evangelise to the public, but he maintained that we did not have to be a thief to be a witness to a thief.

Members put up skits to illustrate this point ie. two Christians approach an Ah Beng who squat in a hooligan way. To show that Christians do not have the holier-than-thou attitude, the two believers tuck out their shirts and squat in a similar way to the Ah Beng and start to share the gospel with him.

We were told not to visit nightspots, listen to rock music, sing pop songs, wear revealing or 'indecent' clothes.

But to me, his wife was trying to be a thief in order to witness to thieves, with all the skin-tight clothes that emphasise her voluptuous figure and dancing in provocative manner.

She was a nice person no doubt. She was never nasty. Neither did she despise anyone for any reason.

But I could not agree with using-pop-music-to-reach-out-to-the-world theory.I tried to appreciate the reasons they gave. I tried to justify that they must be right as a radical and reforming church, and Pastor Kong had always been right. But I could not reconcile the two within myself. I do not understand why the rest of the church could switch camp so readily ie. from no-pop to using-pop music to evangelise. I knew I could not see it their way. That was one of the reasons I left.

4. Their lavish lifestyle (and covetousness)

I remember them starting out with a five-room flat in Tampines.

The last I knew, they spent a bomb on renovations on their apartment with a private lift at River Valley. Then they moved to an apartment in Orchard Road. As if that was not lavish enough, they moved again, this time to Sentosa Cove. Each time the apartment was more and more ostentatious.

I have issues with this.

Sentosa Cove is for the filthy rich. I am not saying pastors must be poor, but being filthy rich and not giving to those who need the money more is just so ... unpastoral? They are not obliged to give to the poor, but it's hard to imagine pastors leading a lavish lifestyle knowing the rest of the world is suffering.

Didn't he say that he would not live in a mansion while the rest of us live in squatters when he was making his fund-giving speech?

And it was mentioned on the internet that he has 13 units at Horizon Tower?!!

That, to me, is sheer atrocity!

If this is not covetousness, I don't know what is.

5. The pastors charged

I had whatsapped a CHC friend to ask if she was coping well. She wanted me to know that these 5 people were not crooks.

I replied her that I knew they were not crooks even though I did not know why things turned out that way.

And that is how I truly feel - they are not crooks.

For the large majority who have not attended CHC regularly or long enough, it is indeed difficult to understand why the CHC-ers do not 'wake up', or do not see that their trusted pastors are swindlers.

I attended the church when Pastor Kong was just 25, and Pastor Tan was studying at VJC.

Both of them exuded sense of righteousness in the way they spoke, the way they lived.

Pastor Tan, a cell group member then, told me, a 13-year-old freshie then, that what a new member had told me of another girl in the church was 'slander' when I was clarifying with him what the new member told me about the girl.

It struck me that this guy was extremely holy for a 17-year-old.

How could someone that holy as a youth, at a time when sentiments of rebellion ought to be at an all-time high, falsify accounts?

Pastor Kong had always been loving, yet strict, with his flock. He always interjected his preaching with 'Beloved, I want you to know ...'

His wisdom, his diligence in studying the Word of God, his sneezing on the stage - they were all real. I know it's not possible to measure wisdom and diligence, but there are things that just shine through without being quantified.

Besides a weekly cell group meeting, Sunday service, there were also weekly prayer meetings and Bible study sessions.

How could all these be faked?

Please don't tell me he started the church with the intention to cheat. The church consisted of only young teenagers, mostly in the range of 13 to 16 years old, with a few 19-year-olds. We were all poor teens who faced parental objection in being Christians. He truly had a heart for the youths and wanted to lead young people to Jesus.

He would conduct talks just about how to study smart. Knowing that many of us came from neighbourhood schools, he probably knew we did not even know how to study correctly. So he would gave speeches on study techniques, a bit like Adam Khoo's camps, except that he did it himself.

He did not have to do that, but he did.

Perhaps along the way, things changed. But I truly believe that he is not a crook.

It is not 'blind faith' as outsiders see it. It is not 'worshipping the pastor instead of God' as other interpret the zealousness as. It truly is not.

It is a trust, and faith, that has been built over many, many years. It is just like how you would never believe that your brother whom you grow up with could swindle others of their money or commit a murder. It is just being human.

I must admit I felt indignant when Yeow Sun told the press that she was never a pastor. And more recently, I read about Pastor Kong's justification of her scantily clad and gyrating to tasteless music in China Wine, that she was never ordained as a pastor.

I called her 'Pastor Sun'. Everybody called her 'Pastor Sun'. What do you mean she was never a pastor? She was one of the very first pastors of the church! We did not have amnesia or senile dementia even though that happened in the 1990s.

There are so many things in that article that do not match up to what he had preached and practised in his earlier ministry. I have little doubts that he could be a changed man from what I knew him to be eons ago.

I got a shock when he told the papers that he saw himself as a 'businessman' instead of a pastor. I remember him saying that it was his calling to pastor the youths.

Perhaps it was then that he had changed.

I remember him telling the church to stop telling others that CHC was a 'youth church', because it was no longer a 'youth church'. Instead, it was a 'family church'.

Perhaps it was then that he decided to move in another direction.

6. The term 'breach of trust'

I was, and still am to some extent, disillusioned over the term 'breach of trust'.

My beloved CHC friends, and a CHC-mother-blogger, proclaimed the same thing,"We gave them our money willingly, and knew where our money went to. There was no breach of trust."

I questioned the term 'breach of trust' - whose 'trust' is it that they have breached since most CHC-ers, as it appears to me, do not think their trust is breached.

William explained that it did not mean that the trust is not breached just because the CHC-ers feel that it is not.

More objectively, it is breached because:

- Pastor Kong had issued a press statement that 'not a cent was used in funding or buying Sun Ho's albums', which was not true.

- The fund was supposed to be a church-building fund, but it was used otherwise.

- You cannot just set up a 'Multi-Purpose Account' and use the money in any way you like.

- CHC is bounded by some Charity Act by which it has to comply with the guidelines, and it did not.

The friend I had whatsapped asked me to keep the church in prayer if I could.

I was extremely bothered by the matter. Despite not praying for a long time already, I started to say a prayer. But suddenly, I realised that I did not know what to pray for.

Should I pray like one of the CHC-ers, asking God to let him be acquitted, and to emerge from all the allegations spotless as snow?

Or should I pray like one of the non-believers, that he should be pronounced guilty as charged and be thrown into jail for 20 years?

Or should I pray like a righteous Christian who wants justice be done, whichever is true?

In the end, I could only utter,"Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. Do as you deem fit, Lord."

And I realised, the only way I could pray, is the very way Pastor Kong had taught me.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Line

This is a super overdue post. I have always wanted to blog about my experience at The Line but the uploading of pictures put me off until recently.

The buffet dining experience happened because I was in an I-want-to-eat-fresh-oysters mood. The first place that came to my mind was Carousel at Royal Plaza on Scotts as I had eaten some nice oysters there, but it was fully booked for the night. It so happened that I knew about The Line from a parent's blog, so I called up to book a table for four and off we went - under the pretext of celebrating Valentine's Day. Yeah, it's been that long since I'd wanted to post this.

The setting

Believe it or not, I had 12 oysters that night and would not have stopped if they did not run out of them.
Coco was tempted to try one upon seeing how I devoured the oysters but when she went back to the counter for more, there was no more.
The spread was intercontinental so they had just about everything you could ask for. And just about everything tasted good - even their fried noodles!
Tried a little wine-braised beef. Did not disappoint either.
The cute and tasty dessert. Not too sweet for a non-sweet-tooth like me!
Was too full to have multiple scoops of chocolate ice-cream!
Kids and their fascination of chocolate fondues
The beautiful array of cakes and desserts
some Malay- or Arabic-looking food that I did not try
Seafood galore

The nyonya spread
William did not think much of the prawn noodles though

Why did I miss this out?

Saw some cute cakes before we left the hotel:


Would definitely go there again even if it's just for the oysters!


The Line Buffet Shangri La

22 Orange Grove Road
Basement Shangri-la Hotel

Dinner per pax: in the $70 range;
Dinner per child: in the mid $30 range