My pilgrimage from being a non-Christian to my decision for theological studies started when my mother embraced Buddhism when I was still in Primary school. Since then I was exposed to serious spirituality for the very first time. By following parental footsteps, I came be to a staunch Mahabrata Buddhist. Being in that faith had me attended Buddhist Sunday school for a number of years. In the fourteenth year of my life I led a 10 days monastic life at the Kek Lok Si temple, Penang, practicing monk-hood, with head shaved, vegetarian diet, intense sutra chanting, meditation, and Dhamma learning (Buddha’s teachings). My studies on Buddhism brought me to a diploma course at the International Buddhist College after my graduation from secondary education. I was not merely a Buddhist but a very polemical one. Christians who tried to share the Gospel to me would usually ended up being ridiculed by my arguments. I did thought that the Christian god is a weak god compared to the enlightened Buddha. At that time, the only truth to me is nothing else but Buddhism.
Ironically I came to open up a bit to listen to the Gospel when a Buddhist shared it with me. He is Steven Sim, my best friend who was also a staunch Buddhist himself. Though we are from different sect of Buddhism, our similar passion in the discourse of life’s meaning had brought us together on our pilgrimage to Christianity. Both of us spent hours discussing religious issues almost everyday and every night. He was the one who read the Bible (which was given by his friend) and discussed what he had read with me so that we could critic it from our Buddhist point of view. We were 16 then.
Those thought-provoking discussions went on for a period of time. We were excited with what we were discovering each day as if we were engaging in a chess game. I remembered vividly when we were chatting on John 14:6, Steven asked me a terrifying question ‘What if this passage is true?’ I forgot our exact respond but I think we were silent for a while. Subconsciously both of us started to accept the Gospel. It did not take long for us to see it as part of the Truth in life. And it was at that moment ‘[our] Adversary began to make His final moves’ (as how C.S Lewis put it).
When we were17 we started visiting various religious sites during school holidays. At that time, one of our friend invited us to his church’s Sunday service. I forgot how many time were we there before our conversion. In one of the service the pastor preached the Atonement of Jesus Christ for our sin. At the end of the service, when we were asked whether should we accept Jesus as our savior, with tears, I raised my hand. I do not know whether did Steven raised his or not as my eyes were closed, but we started to be excited about Jesus Christ and the church since then.
Passion for Theology
No long after my conversion, I took up a diploma course in Buddhism at the International Buddhist College, as suggested by my mother. My motivation is to understand more about the faith that I used to embrace. I was still attracted to the profundity of the Buddhist faith. After attending the classes for about 6 to 9 months, my interest in Buddhism started to fade. I felt the subjects taught in the class started to be irrelevant to me. I thought I could relate more to that faith through the course, which was the reason why I took it up, but I was wrong. The more I listened to the lecturer, I more I could not make sense of the faith. I gave up without completing the course.
After a year-contract with Star Cruises, I came to Singapore in December 2003 for a job. The hiring manager tricked me into this job during one of his recruitment in Penang. It did not take long for me to realize that the position ‘Customer Service Officer’ that I applied for is a door-to-door sales job. Heavy-heartedly I persevered in that job for 6 months so that I could return a sum of money I owed to my parents. It was in the third month in this job that I read C.S Lewis’ Mere Christianity, which was recommended by Steven.
For the very first time I got to know that the faith that I’m embracing can be articulated so reasonably and relevantly. Since then I picked up reading as a hobby. My theological odyssey was boosted in July that year when Srimal, an intern with ORPC, introduced Lee Strobel’s Case For Christ to the young adult fellowship which I attend regularly. Long story cut short, from apologetic, I was led to theology, to reformed theology, then finally to my current interest, biblical hermeneutics and history.
Orchard Road Presbyterian Church
I started attending ORPC in January 2004. In July that year I got involved in leading Bible studies for the youth. Back then I was attached with a Bible study small group every Sunday after the morning service. But my involvement in the youth ministry did not allowed time for me to attend the small group regularly. So I left the small group.
I had my membership transferred to the church in 2006.
Agora Singapore is a theological ‘chit-chat’ group founded by 5 five lay Christians in November 2005 to which I am coordinating. The vision for this group is to promote and cultivate a theological community that could live out holistic Christian life. The group also provides a ground for theological discussion among lay Christians from various denominations. (http://theagorasg.blogspot.com/)
St. Paul received his conversional call on his way to Damascus and started his mission work 3 (or so) years after that, while I was spared from such an immediate call. After receiving Christ, gradually, I came to recognize my call to a theological-oriented vocation.
If I am asked of how convicted I am to this call, I would confess that I do not have a
100 % perfect assurance that this is what God wants me to do. Making a living with such vocation is most of all my desire. I am always fascinated with Life. It is only after my conversion to Christianity that I realized theology is the map to understand Life. Hence, now, I am fascinated with theology.
I find myself contending with Dr. Robert Funk’s radical theses that ‘The God of the metaphysical age is dead …We must reckon with a deep crisis in god talk and replace it with talk about whether the universe has meaning and whether human life has purpose’.
I think if we abandon theology or God-talk, and try to venture onto anything at all, without first getting our theology right is futile.
Secondly I recognize the talents that I am stewarding for God. No doubt the passion for theology is also God-given yet there is a notion that God has granted me to sharpen and serve Him with. The notion that I am referring to is the cognitive faculty. I am not smart (which my primary and secondary education tell), but I recognize that God is using this faculty of mine to help others and (especially) myself in our pilgrimage to love and know Him more.
The third sign that I derived to understand my calling is from the acknowledgements from close Christian friends. Steven is one that always encourages me to pursue this vocation. Apart from that, I received acknowledgement from the other young adults and small group leaders in the ORPC. Not least, from my colleagues and my non-Christian parents too.
Vision of Ministry
Honestly I am not sure how will my theological training will be and how and where will I further it. Though with many uncertainties, I foresee my ministry to be academic on one hand and develop a God-centered community that respond to the needs of world on another. My desire is to see Christians that are able to engage with the secular people and direct them to Jesus Christ through their holistic lives. Having these in mind, there is one ministry that cannot be neglected and should be prioritized. That's the building of a God-loving, Christ-centred family.