Friday, September 19, 2014

A long day

I didn't see when the original event was posted up to say about Andy's passing away. So I only realised it when the KYC CA's posted words and photos of being at Andy's wake.

I was puzzled because he had looked really healthy the last time I saw him... Albeit that was two years ago at camp. Fit, strong, brown... Too quiet, deep thinker, mature, really interesting to talk to. I thought perhaps it had been an accident. But thinking of Andy, I wondered...

And finally one of the CA's replied to tell me that, yes, Andy did commit suicide as I'd thought. He hung himself and his grandmother found him.

Melody told me she was going for the funeral, and I quickly dressed and sped off. Luckily just in time before the service started. They were waiting for all his friends... All young, lovely people... Just like Andy had been.

I met his mom... She looked so lost. And I met the other volunteers and CA's who had managed to make it for the service.

We were all in tears... And none more so than the family. I salute their courage in the most painful time ever. They were in so much pain. His mom cried out longing for him to be back. His grandmom (he was the favourite grandchild) just could not accept he had gone.

Dear Melody cried so much. I asked her if this was her first suicide, and she nodded. She asked me, "This is what you're afraid will happen to our youths right?" And I nodded yes. This was not my first suicide amongst the youths. And when you've gone through that once, I think it will always change you. There's a part of you that fears the worst, but is ready to accept it too. A part that whispers, "I can't change your life for you.. And I have no right to make decisions for you... All I can do is pour in whatever I can and that is all."

Melody shared that one of our youths had contacted her at 1a.m. and she had had such a fright. But it turned out to be something quite routine. I laughed. The youths always do that. But it brought home to me how much some of the volunteers give outside of the standard 'volunteer time'. There ARE volunteers 'there' for the youths now.

It was hard for me to focus today though... Brought home to me P's suicide... S's attempted suicide just before last semester's exams... And all by hanging.

It's been a tough day... But it must be tougher for the others. Just need to remember that and refocus... And Andy, kiddo... I love you and I wish you'd known how much you were loved.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


A year on and I can barely stand to see photos of myself. People tell me, "You've gained weight, haven't you?" I get dreadfully tired of going thru the litany... 'Yes, I found out I had hyperthyroid and I took the medication and gained about 8kg in 4 months." I wonder if all the people who tell me that are unoriginal or think I'm blind and have not looked at my reflection in a year!

Worse are the comments like, "Hmmm... Time to lose some weight, huh?" And, "Aiyah, rubbish la! My wife also got thyroid; she din become like that!" Whereupon rude commenter's wife gently informed her husband that that is because she did not take the medication, hence retaining the unnaturally thin size that all hyperthyroids have!

The final straw was my doctor muttering that perhaps my weight gain was due to exercise changes or food habits! I made her look at the records whereupon she admitted that yes, I gained all the weight during the time I took her medication, and yes, I had not gained even half a pound in all the months since I stopped taking it! Then she blithely informed me that 'we do not give medication to reverse that' and pressed replacement meal shakes on me instead!

I feel heavier and slower when I run and all the kms do not remove the weight. I'm panicking and there is no floor that I can stand on in this tilting crazy mocking world.

Saturday, July 26, 2014


I was really furious, the other evening. C was sharing about a girl who had disclosed to C that she had been sexually abused as a child. The girl who disclosed the abuse had also said that she had 'liked' the sexual touch. C told us how shocked C had been to hear this, in a funny way that made some of the listeners laugh.

I didn't laugh. I thought of the brave girl who had made such a courageous choice to disclose.

And I wished that I could tell C a few things...

I wish I could have told C...

... That some sexual abuse victims do get aroused by the sexual touch, and that is normal. It's just the way the body is made.

... That the sexual abuse survivor often feels shame and guilt because they think they must have wanted and instigated the abuse, because they 'liked' it.

... That children's bodies are capable of and do respond to such touch, and it is something some abusers use to hold against them, to keep them silent.

... That by laughing and making fun of it and getting others to laugh with you, you are only compounding the shame and silence other survivors feel.

But... Then I wonder, maybe all people think the same? I don't know...

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The White Protest

This is a picture of 6,700 Christians wearing white... To protest against Pink Dot in Singapore.

When I saw this, I really felt uncomfortable with it. To me, it just gave such an impression that they are protesting LGBT relationships in a way that will make LGBTs feel that they are the ones being protested against.

I posted it on FB. And I was quite surprised to see the post picked up and shared by another guy who normally has strong views but who agreed with how I felt.

Then I saw a guy whom I knew reply to him in the comments. This guy and his good friend are NOT on my friends lists. I dislike very much some of their ways of looking at things... Distinctly unloving and very self-righteous. I remember asking his good friend once if he had led anyone to Christ before and he said no, he had shared with his friends but THEIR hearts were cold. I couldn't help but think to myself that I would not like to believe in the kind of God that he represents! A cold and merciless god!

Anyway, this guy had a strong debate with the guy who shared my post. He disagreed strongly.

At the same time, I read another article published by the same magazine, about a lady who is a Christian. She is no longer in an LGBT relationship. But she first got to know Christ because she was drawn by the love and acceptance that other Christians showed her. Some of the Christians said, "She is embarassing! She is a bad example!" but their leader told them to treat her with love. Today, she is a beautiful testimony of Christ love and salvation.

Isn't that the crux of the whole matter?

Monday, June 16, 2014

It Is Well

We sang this in church last Sunday. Much to my surprise, tears came to my eyes. 

The words that stirred my heart the most were these:-

"So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name"

I wondered where the tears were coming from, and I realised that they were tears left over from the strain of organizing EA.

It's something that only another Founder of a charity can understand. There are tears that you cannot cry in front of the people you are leading. There are fears you can never express to your team. Instead, you must always look confident and be the support of the others. I had one volunteer who was really temperamental during the Expedition; I have to be that person's support and patiently guide her through the tantrums. There are times when things go wrong, and the one who must give the assurance that everything will turn out okay, is the Founder. There are people who don't do the work they are allocated, and the Founder must take up the slack. 

So the only shoulder that I can cry on is God's. No one else hears the tears, the desperate whispers when I lack faith, the cries of frustration and hurt when volunteers are deliberately hurtful, the feelings of guilt when I take too much time out of what should be family time and friends time just so I can handle things with the charity... no one but You. And God reminded me, He is always there

Verse 1
Grander earth has quaked before
Moved by the sound of His voice
Seas that are shaken and stirred
Can be calmed and broken for my regard

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well
Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
It is well with me

Verse 2
Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can't see
And this mountain that's in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul

Thursday, June 12, 2014

You'll Be In My Heart

I was so touched yesterday. One of our youths - hmmm... let's call her Y - wrote on FB about how happy she is to be back for a visit with her mom. Another of our youths - let's call her Z - 'liked' that post.

It touched me so much because Z has never known the love of her mom. Don't get me wrong; she HAS a mom. Most of our kids DO have moms and dads... Somewhere... But Z, I know, has never felt loved by her mom. Yet, she was sensitive and sweet enough to 'like' something that made her EA team member happy.

If only I could heal Z's wounded heart too...

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

All of it

How can I write in full what Expedition Agape Malaysia 2014's expedition to the Philippines was like? Especially since I'm supposed to be hard at work finishing up a report on the lecture that I missed to be handed in at 1p.m. ;).

So much happened that was just incredible. Let's start with the fundraising. I still remember how desperately frustrated I got with the slow fundraising. And at the same time, how very inspired I was by new volunteers who took up the challenge and ownership of fundraising the most. Finally, two weeks before the deadline with still over RM30,000 to raise, I gave my monthly tithe and told God, "God, You said to test You in this. I'm testing You. Here's my tithe; give us the RM30,000 that we need to take the youths to the Philippines." God is so faithful... The money fell like a waterfall into our account filling up what we need with time enough for us to remit the money to Manila and to withdraw it for our own expenses. More money came in the last two weeks before we left for Manila then we had fundraised in the two months prior to that.

And my learning on leadership. I learnt that not all people are meant to be leaders, in the traditional sense of leadership. They are meant to be the leaders in the area that they are called to lead. They may lead in servanthood, they may lead in kindness, they may lead in technical ability, they may lead in administrative ability, but not all are called to stand in front and organize. That is a particular form of leadership. And it is frustrating to put those who are not called to do that in that position because it is like forcing a squirrel to swim! It is also frustrating for those who need to take up the slack on behalf of the 'leader', because those who are supposed to be the leaders 'run away' as they are uncomfortable in that position!

This year's EA was so topsy-turvy; I often felt that God must be purposely turning everything upside down just so He could stand and laugh at my desperate scrabbling to get things arranged in 'my way' and 'my order'! I finally gave up in frustration on the last day on the immigration procedures because I was just so darn tired! We had run all over KL trying to get this document and that document done and it seemed never enough. I was sick and tired of the jolts that I would get every time I checked the list of 'documents required' and could not find a particular document in my stack on that list. Finally I briefed the other volunteers on how to take care of the youths in case of immigration issues and some of us needing to go back home and just waited to see. And... Everything went totally smoothly. The immigration officer who looked stern at first even chit-chatted with us about how she would like to visit Malaysia someday!

I felt deep gratitude for love poured out to overflowing to the youths. The staff at Metro were so patient and friendly and affectionate that if it was possible for the youths to be spoiled by love, they would have been! How they soaked it up; to the point that there were tears when it was time to go home and many wails about how they missed this person and that person amongst Metro staff. There is healing in love.

I was also deeply thankful for an amazing volunteer Team this year. They were a full-on volunteer Team, and knowing how much work they had outside the Expedition, I was just so touched by the time they took to give to the youths and do all they can for them to have a change.

Total surprise to see a youth, sitting completely alone at the airport restaurant during lunch before our return flight. The youth was looking to the left and to the right to the tables on each side filled with laughing youths and volunteers - like a little island sitting alone. I have literally never seen that before in my life anywhere. It made me sad to see how this youth compensated by looking for attention from the opposite sex as the answer.

Resignation when I heard about how one youth had punched a sibling until blood spattered on the bedroom floor the last night before we go back. Without fail, something tends to happen the last night! But this also made me think in wry amusement, that the youths never let us forget, in our joy at their growth, where they came from and that there is still more healing to be done in the deep wounds inside.

Joy, joy, joy at seeing the youths grow and grow, especially those that we have seen from year to year. One volunteer said to me, "X has a special connection to you." I thought back to when X came in; tough as jute rope... And how X had blossomed and bloomed to be just who X is... Just oneself.

Tiredness leading to tears at reasoned and sensible criticism that was also just 'a little too much' on the second last day. Both last year and this year, for some strange reason, people must give their critical analysis of the Expedition on the second last day! ;) I appreciate it, but not when I'm so tired that I can't listen with objectivity! It makes me smile though to hear one part that sounded like criticism, but to us who have been in EA for three years, was joyous feedback as we realised anew how far the youths had come. New volunteers fail to see that because they only see in a snapshot... To us, it is a video reel of growth.

Heavy sadness when I visited little J's house. It was cement blocks barely covered with a holey roof and holes in the walls standing on a floor of wet garbage. The door and their bed was just plywood. Two people could not stretch out their arms in the entire house. Her house was one of many in a dark alley filled with many of these shelters. I was glad to get out, even if the street was in a dangerous area of Manila. At least there was sunshine instead of the heavy cloying dankness. Her little sister who is turning three is the size of a baby.

I remember looking at all the beautiful children who came to us from that area and wondering, "Will you end up living your whole life in this area; one of the most dangerous slums in Manila?" One of the women there was so drunk she kissed and hugged two of our boys and then came back for more kisses before a Metro staff pulled our youths away. Another woman tried to lie to us and grab the food we were giving out to the kids. I wondered how many of the little kids would reach home safely with their precious bags of food, and how many would be held up by older bullies who would grab them before they could reach home. And I wondered, how many kids are there all over the world just like these?

I kept my anger under check as one of my youths chatted on the van as we travelled from place to place, "Hey Gillian, you know in that Home ah... This happened and that happened..." This youth gave voice to the physical abuses that I knew were happening at a certain shelter home that I had volunteered in, and which I knew the agencies caring for shelter homes were well aware of, but which they did nothing about.

Just little snapshots of our trip... I'll write more after I finish my work! Arrghhh!!!!