Thursday, 3 January 2008

active vs. contemplative?

i posted this comment on dr alex's blog in response to a query raised by steven:

I’ve learnt after leading a silent retreat for a group of graduating seminary students, that they have been trained to be activists rather than contemplatives. that true? what sort of activists?

But it's definitely difficult to think deep and act...too difficult. Some of us just don't have that sort of disposition

p.s. i have expanded my original comment with further explanatory comments:


dear jack and alex,

while most seminaries in the west seem to be geared towards the active life and end up producing graduates with little in the contemplative, part of the problem seminaries in malaysia wrestle with is the students' lack of comprehension and ability to understand and grasp deeper things. don't expect much help from the present malaysian school system which teaches students to memorize by rote (and not to think for themselves).

while a seminary like seminari theoloji malaysia (STM) do emphasize the contemplative, the present batches of students struggle with the key issue of time which is the number one contrainst. because of their lacking in critical comprehension, they take longer time to digest what they read or to write. hence, the time that is supposed to be set aside for contemplative use is also used for other things like reading, comprehending and writing.

in the older days like 25 years ago, students came out from the government schools with a greater grasp of english. hence, when they entered semianry, they could read faster, comprehend easier and write more eloquently. time for the contemplative could then be utilized for that purpose.

unfortunately, after the last 20 over years of b.m. syllabus and english 121, the students coming into seminary today lack the necessary critical qualities. the seminary syllabus is like an arts course, not a science one. seminary assignments are not like writing science papers, merely quoting facts or showing the equations. it deals with logic and the ability to argue or defend one's position, rhetoric or the ability to persuade people to your position, and a wide grasp of the subject to be studied. all these unfortunately are often lacking in present batches of students (except for some bright fellas growing up in english-speaking homes and churches).

once in a while, some bright students come in and they can handle what is expected of them and not encroached into the time set for the contemplative. these are the ones who can balance active and contemplative life with lesser difficulties (not that they won't find difficulties at all).

for a seminary to produce the 'best' or 'all-round' graduates for the ministry, we have to begin with the best material (sometmes the sending churches expect seminaries to produce instant miracles! here is someone we cannot handle in our church, we sent him to you, change and mould him into a pastor in the next 3 or 4 years! then we will take him back). unfortunately, we do not get the best always. the best always seem to go for medicine, law, engineering etc. so, the question is 'can we ensure we send in the best qualified people for the job?'

some other questions i can raise connected with this issue:

1] how do we attract the best people for seminary training?

2] are christian parents themselves holding back their best sons and daughters?

3] are the youths themselves not interested in full-time pastoral ministry? can the christian vocation of pastoral ministry be presented as a viable vocation like any other secular vocation?

4] is the trend in malaysia going to be people who have worked a considerable number of years in the secular world and then opt to take optional retirement to come into seminary for training and serve their remaining years in the full-time ministry before they officially retire at 65 years?

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

have you registered as a voter?

the new year 2008 is here. election fever is in the air for malaysians. when it will be nobody knows. exercise your right as a concerned malaysian citizen. check your voter registration details now.

if you have not registered, go to the nearest post office. they can register you there (remember to get a printed receipt of your application).

for the reb, this time i will be voting in seremban.

parliment seat - rasah.
state seat - mambau.

new year 2008

wishing all readers a belated happy and blessed new year 2008 from the reb. new year day was a day to rest and enjoy with the family, so no blogging.

anyway, what was the year 2007 like? here's a link to jibjab, one of the funniest satirical makers of anything possible to be satiricized, of what they thought of the year 2007 (i couldn't but happily agree!):

p.s. sorry to be talking like terry pratchett! that's because i spent new year's day reading the book going postal!!

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Letter from parents of the late Kerk Zi On

i received a phone call on friday night from mrs kerk, mother of the late Kerk Zi on. she phoned in from australia to request for my email to send me this letter which i am putting up on the blog. in her email, she asked me to forward the letter to all those who had been praying with them over this matter.

since, the readers of this blog have been praying together with them, i want to post this letter as an encouragement to all. some have asked me about the parents of Zi On. the letter is self-explanatory. it is an amazing testimony to the faith of the parents and that of Zi On himself.


Dear friends and family members,

These past 20 days have been the most traumatic and painful time for our family.

As the search turns from survival to body search, it is difficult to come to terms with ourselves that our dear son and brother Zi On will no longer come home.

Psalm 42:3 precisely describes our daily routine:

My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me
all day long, “where is your God?”

We know all of you are anxious to know the latest developments of the rescue efforts. We are very sorry for not being able to write to you earlier as emotionally we were not in a position to do so. We are being briefed each day by the Brisbane Marine Police on their search outcome. However each time we receive the same sad answer: “We wish we could give you better news, but we are sorry.” Until today the search is still going on, our hope seems fading, but we hang on to Psalm 130:3-6

“If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who can stand?
But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord, more than the watchmen wait for the morning…”

Out of deep our sorrow, we sometimes carelessly blame ourselves and each other for not doing the things we should have done for Zi On and for not saying words we should have said to him. Deep in our hearts, we heard ourselves painfully crying:” We have not loved you enough On, our dear On.”

We always think there is a tomorrow, little have we realized the reality of Psalm 39:5

“You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath.”

At Moreton Island, we wept and cried out, looking at the endless sea and its the surging waves. “On, On, where are you?”….,“Zi On, come back, Papa Mama are here to take you home.”

Then the Lord slowly and quietly begins to comfort us, and we learn to surrender our dear son and Kor Kor to our Heavenly Father and Divine God with this assurance from His Word in II Timothy 1v12:

“But I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed unto Him until that Day.”

Amidst our grief, other signs of comforts began to fill our hearts. We discovered the following when we painfully went through his belongings and when we recalled through his friends and our own memories of his short earthly journey:

1. His devotional diary. We greatly treasure this find. From it, we are assured of his faith in God; we are humbled by his profound thoughts on the teachings of Jesus and touched by his sincere application.

2. His prayer requests. He has listed down some 17 prayer requests which we believe are his current.

3. Love is a better way. We his parents and his dear brother recall how his life is characterized by gentleness and loving kindness. Many who had known him share with us how much they cherish the memory of his smiling face, his gentle acts of kindness and love for people. Many will miss him as “Zi On always has time for others, he is a good listener.” “ He is the most humble person I have ever met,” said his best friend.

4. Testimonies of his friends. In tears, many of his friends came forward to relate to us their experiences and friendship with Zi On and how Zi On meant to them. Many testified that their lives had been blessed by him. We believe that not even Zi On himself knew what kind of impact he had on the lives of his friends in his short stay in Brisbane.

5. Encouragement. We attended a few services at the Hope Church at the Queensland University, where Zi On was attending. Cho Tan and I shared something about Zi On and to brief the congregation on the outcome of the search. We were deeply moved by the tearful faces of many in the congregation and their sincere comforting words of encouragement.

6. His commitments. We tried to “walk through” some of his last journeys by meeting his friends and attending the Cell group meeting of Judah 8. We are greatly touched by their love for Zi On and now also given to us. We are comforted by their witnesses that Zi On had re-committed his life to God and had indicated his desire to know more about Him.

7. His search for a purpose in life. For many years Zi On was searching for his purpose in life as Cho Tan recalled his sharing with his mom. In one of his diary pages, Zi On wrote :

“I want to be a man of substance”
“I want to be a man of drive”
“I want to be a man with more compassion and empathy”……

8. Born for greater thing. And he also wrote :
“I believe I am born for greater thing” than merely getting a job and earning a living. ………….He never would have perceived that his vision is finally fulfilled at the painful cost of his earthly parents and brother.

The Brisbane Police Inspector told us that based on the various statements recorded from all the witnesses, they will recommend for a National Bravery Award for Zi On for standing forward to save someone who is in danger. We are grateful for the recognition, however as parents, no award is more endearing than the life of our son. They call him “Hero” here, but we only want our son back, if God so wills.

Someone said he should have thought of his parents before he entered the sea to save the girl whom he does not even know. But then, as the Inspector commented “Bravery is an instinct, love is an instinct, courage is an instinct”. It is either he has it or not. But we know if Zi On has these beautiful tributes, it is only because God has endowed him, and all glory be given to God.

The years of training in the Boys Brigade and the grooming in responsibility as a Sergeant and as Band Major of the 1st Teluk Intan Boys Brigade Company no doubt had helped to lay the foundation for his sacrificial act. But God alone deserves all honour.

B.B. Malaysia, we know that you are at this moment sharing the grief with us for the loss of your Sergeant. May this spirit of bravery and love shines forth in your Sergeant evolve into a driving force that will eventually push the mission of BBM to a higher ground.

To all our friends and Zi On’s friends, and to all our relatives and family members, we want to thank you for standing by our side in this hour of our pain. Your prayers, words of comfort and sympathy through SMS, e-mails and phone calls, and many and various supports rendered to us, are deeply appreciated.

Isa. 55:8-9
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways.
As the heaven is higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

We may not know why God has allowed this to happen, but we do believe that He has a higher purpose which we still cannot perceive now, but we will one day.

Our humble daily prayer now is Psalm 143:6,8
“I spread out my hands to you, my soul thirsts for you like the parched land. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.

We give thanks to God who daily bears our burden and who has a bottle for our tears.

Through the kindness of our and Z On’s friends, a few internet websites had been set up to keep you posted on the latest developments and to provide a platform for you to pay tributes. You may lock on to the following websites for more information at:

3 Summary of different blogs posted by various parties at :

More updates will be posted on the blogs from time to time.

This Christmas, as we celebrate the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ, we must never forget that He came to die that we may live. His resurrection is our hope. In this hope, we wait for the day when we will see Zi On again in heaven.

We take this opportunity to wish you a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year.

In His Love,
Kerk Choon Keng, Cho Tan and ZiLu