Wednesday, 15 February 2012

A train station with no lift

First, let me describe a scene from a Korean fantasy novel I read years ago. It comes from Dragon Raja (드래곤 라자) by Youngdo Lee. In the world this author created, there is a powerful wizard, a kind of equivalent of Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings. I've forgotten the name of the wizard, but the most memorable feat this wizard had done was not some kind of powerful battle magic or a insidious mind-controlling socery, but rather a piece of social engineering. What he had done was creating a special kind of bridge to cross a great chasm in the middle of a well-known travel route. Rather than building a conventional bridge, he had created a floating platform to move back and forth between two landing spots. If this was all he had done, it would have been just another clever trick any fame-hungry wizard could have done. What I was impressed with was the fact that this floating platform was crafted so that it only activates when there are at least 7 (I think it was 7, but the exact number is not important) travellers gathered at one of the landing spots. The hope and purpose for this, as the story tells, was that the wizard wanted the various travellers would rather learn to co-operate with each other even if it meant Orcs and Elves had to stand by together to use the floating platform. His hope was to build a society where former enemies would be accepting of each other and learn to live peacefully together.

Why this story? I was reminded of this recently when I was coming home from work. I've been thinking quite a lot about the state and meaning of community, especially in my local area. One of the things that I have been thinking ever since I moved into this area over a year ago is the fact that the Wentworthville train station does not have lifts. I saw the need for a lift immediately. Many mums travelled with their children in prams. Even though they often travelled with their friends and families to help carry their prams, I thought it would be much easier for them to use a lift. Of course it is easier. It is convenient. Occasionally, perhaps more often than I could ignore, they even had to rely on strangers helping them. I was the stranger a few times myself. If anyone asked me what we need in our local community, I had little doubt that a lift installation at Wentworthville station was a high priority.

But when I helped another mum carry her child in a pram last week, I suddenly remembered that aforementioned story. Perhaps this lack of lift isn't as bad for the community as I used to think. Just like that magical floating platform made Orcs and Elves to work together and tolerate each other, perhaps this lack of lift at our station is helping us to look out for each other. Certainly it is not convenient, both for mums and, well, strangers like myself who help them. But, when was the last time convenience helped strengthen communities? Wasn't it often the case when a great crisis and challenges, like natural disasters or war came upon a society that people worked together and community strengthened? Perhaps this inconvenience of not having a lift at the station is in fact contributing positively towards the sense of belonging in this community, however small it may be.

There's probably a safety hazard in carrying prams up and down the stairs. And there are people with less mobility who really need lifts to access the station. It probably is better to have lifts installed at our station after all. But if it is better to have lifts, it would certainly be not on the grounds that it's simply more convenient.

(Image of Wentworthville station is from Wikipedia)

(While searching for images to use on this post, I came across this article saying petition is underway! Talk about timing! So, we might actually get lifts installed after all.)

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Farewell, SCPC EM!

I was 15 when I started coming to this church. That means I have spent roughly half of my whole life here at SCPC EM, now called the Rock church. My wife, Sulah also joined me here when we got married about 2 years ago. For all those years, God had been most faithful and gracious with us, encouraging and challenging us to grow in many ways, often through people here at the Rock. First me, and then years later, my wife, we were both warmly welcomed into the lives of many people here, and we know the friendship will continue even though we may not be able to see each other so often as we would like to.

Yes, it is true. We are saying goodbye. As you have now learned, perhaps as a bit of shock to some, my family have decided to start attending a local church nearer to our home. The reason, or rather, the purpose for moving is something that has been on both my mind and my wife’s for quite some time. For several years now, I have had a desire to be part of a local, non-ethnic church where I could serve its local community with the gospel. When I married Sulah, I was delightfully surprised to find that she also had a similar desire. And as we talked about this, we started dreaming, dreaming of reaching the Australian community which once was built on the Christian foundation, but now has lost it. Once we both had this dream, we had sought God’s guidance in this matter. We also tried to weed out any sinful motives that might influence our decision making. Several months passed before we mentioned our thoughts to pastor Bernie, and then many more months before we finally submitted our thoughts and desires to our God in deciding to leave the Rock and join a local church (which we now have to find). It was difficult and slow coming as you can imagine, especially when we knew that it was not impossible to reach non-Koreans here at the Rock. In the end, however, we learned to trust God and step out, even while having some nagging doubts and fears remaining! Have we got some kind of undeniable assurance that this is God’s will for us? No, but we came to believe that God will be with us and be pleased in us acting out in faith. Have we eliminated all our sinful, ulterior motives? I hope so, and we do not perceive any within ourselves, but it’s possible that we are still subtly affected by them. In this as well, we came to believe that God is gracious and will teach us wisdom without condemning us as we continue walking in Him.

Now that we are embarking on a new chapter of our lives, we wish to express our gratitude, ask for your prayers, and give you a reminder.

For the past 15 years, many of you have helped me grow as a Christian and accepted me as part of the family. I am most acutely aware of your love and maturity since I got married. I saw many of you showing good will and extending your friendship and support towards my wife without any reservation. We thank God for such love we received from you, and we want to say thank you to you all as well. Especially to pastor Bernie, thank you for all the years of loving, counselling, and understanding, and all this even when we shared our thoughts about leaving the Rock. We are not here to encourage people to leave this church, but we still want to acknowledge the maturity of the pastor and the congregation here at the Rock for being able to send us out in love.

Now, as you can imagine, after all those good years here at the Rock Church, we find changing church extremely daunting to say the least. This church is the only one I’ve been a member of since I was 15, and with your great encouragement and support, my wife and I began, enjoyed, and grew in our marriage here at the Rock. We both grew to know God better here. It was at this church that I saw the glory of the sovereign God and rejoiced for the first time in my life. It was at this church that I learned the bible was entirely and absolutely true word of God. It was at this church that we learned the famously phrased truth, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. It was at this church I realised that I must like Jesus as well as obey Jesus, in other words, delighting in Jesus was part of His command for us. And now we need to find and settle in another church where we will be taught God’s word clearly and faithfully, build relationships, serve sacrificially, and learn to glorify God in all that we are and all that we do. Please pray for us that in and through the new church, God may preserve us, provide for us, and complete the good work He started in us. Also pray for us that we may be fruitful in the ministries that we will be part of in the new church as well.

Finally, we wish to leave you by reminding you of a bible passage, 1 Cor 15:3-4.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

Apostle Paul says that he delivered this message of Christ crucified as of first importance. This message is still of first importance. Many things can be said from this, but let me remind you just a few things from it. Jesus died for our sins and was raised. It is this Person and this event that is the goodnews we bear to ourselves and to the world, not how-to’s or to-do’s. And we didn’t make it up according to our fanciful thoughts, but this event happened according to the Scriptures, God’s own word. God is the author and perfecter of our salvation, from beginning to end. The world began by God’s word, and it has run its course according to His word, and will end as He decreed in His word, the bible. And at the centre of history, at the core of His purposes, there is Jesus. I want to remind you to seek and obey Jesus of the bible and never sway from Him or His word. If we all, by God’s grace, stay with Him and stick by His word, then we will most certainly meet again one day, and rejoice and worship God together like never before. The new heaven and earth awaits us. Let us bear the good news of Christ crucified. How paradoxically glorious and humble our God is!
Soli Deo Gloria (glory to God alone)!

Wonil (Tim), Sammy (Sulah), and John Lee