Thursday, July 27, 2006


I woke up to a humid Sunday morning in Penang; thought it might be a good idea to check out one of the local independent charismatic churches. So of we went to the mall! Yup the congregation meets in a mall; the greeters were friendly; a Chinese lady dressed in yellow sari wrote my name on a sticker and stuck it on top of my shirt pocket. The praise and worship was led by the keyboardist; not surprisingly there was no liturgy, eucharist or the creed. The preacher was a bundle of energy; his sermon began with a video clip on Schindler’s list; the message, Engagement Not Isolation, was a cry to get involved in the social issues of the day. It was hard to leave the Sunday service without a deeper consciousness of the church’s role in society. Nothing other-worldly at all about the message. The application was wide ranging: from praying for the cabinet during their weekly meetings to exhorting the faithful to be part of a work team committed to cleaning up a dirty and neglected part of neighborhood. At the end of the sermon a few men responded in prayer to the sermon (great to see men praying).

Juices began to flow in the congregation when the Pastor gave out money to those who answered his questions correctly during the sermon. An elderly looking gentlemen won $RM50 for identifying a governing authority; he promptly donated it to a special fund for the construction of a lift which would help the disabled to have easy access to the church sanctuary.
Pastors handing out money to the congregation is'nt common place. Can’t imagine anything like this taking place in an Anglican, Methodist, Lutheran or Roman Church?

The pastor’s wife told me that her husband got the idea from an Australian speaker. “We just want to bless people”, she said. Some conservative minded folk would probably not rush to say amen. Giving people money for right anwers to questions related to the sermon puts a sword to the sentiment that churches only want money from their people.

I left the Sunday service surprised and challenged.

Friday, July 21, 2006



Bolivian society, with the election of its first indigenous president Evo Morales, is going through a major upheaval.

Indigenous Indians are the majority in Bolivia; they’re also by and large not featured in the Bolivian mainstream. They’ve recently found their voice in the political processes and are beginning to stake their claim in other areas of Bolivian society. A constitutional assembly of elected representatives is trying to put together a new constitution which will reflect this reality. In the area of education Evo’s people are insisting that indigenous history and religion play a major role in the national curriculum. The Roman Church is the official religion of Bolivia. Its bishops view this change as a challenge to its place in education and society. The Christian Churches also view this as the beginnings of a series of changes that will undermine the Christian faith and promote paganism. You’d think that the Christian churches and the Roman Church would close ranks. Not so. Bolivian evangelical Christianity to a large extent thrives on a rejection of Romanism and is hoping to undo the articles in the Bolivian constitution which identify Roman Catholicism as the official religion. Evangelicalism in Bolivia is of a fundamentalist pre-millenialist sort that is trying to promote a society based on biblical principles.

It’s anybody’s guess as to what’s going to happen next. Some kind of compromise will be forged at the Constitutional Assembly which will ensure the traditional role, albeit a diminished one, of Romanism in Bolivian society.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006



Check out the flea market along Batu Ferringhi, Penang (Island City in Malaysia).

Flea market? they used to call these things Pasar Malam (night market in English). The shops with their bright lights straddle the pavement; some spill over on to the road. Tourists from the beach hotels like ants swarm all over the place, looking for a bargain. Ang Mohs (caucasians) know how to bargain! Trinkets, dresses, shorts, shirts, t- shirts, samurai swords, souveniers and decorations light up the place.

Piracy is also alive and well at the flea market. How do these guys get hold of DVD copies of movies that have yet to be released in the movie theatres? Copies of the latest music CDs are packed in envelopes. Crowds mill around these shops, trying to grab what's available. That's not all. Apparently the government is trying to rid the island of these illegal copies. Have they been successful? Probably not, judging by the number of pirate copies available. Give them some marks for trying. These merchants of piracy know when government officers are planning to raid the place; the vendors are warned by the informants of an imminent raid. The information is then relayed through walkie talkies. Yup all the vendors have their own walkie talkie sets. In matter of seconds the DVD and CD copies are quickly stashed away. When its "safe" the walkie talkies light up; vendors bring out their goods and continue selling. For some strange reason this game is played through the night. The vendors move rapidly at the slightest suspicion of a raid. Sorry la..have to keep!! they quickly put their stuff in boxes. One shop managed to close their operations by quickly shutting down their collapsable doors in a matter of seconds.

But get this: there are NO copies of computer software!! Microsoft have almost wiped out software piracy in Penang.

Editors Note: I spoke too soon. A couple of days later I found pirated copies of software in one of the malls in Penang. Save your money folks the quality is bad.

Monday, July 17, 2006


Uptown Girl And Maharajah Tie The Knot

My nephew married his fiancee last week in St George's church, Penang. Although they're tamils of south indian descent they decided to give a north indian look to their wedding. Sheila, the bride tied her sari in a way that made her look like a bollywood movie star. Teofilus, the groom had a totally new look. He stood like a maharajah in his formal north indian suit with straight hair. Yup his hairdressers did a good job. The liturgy was reverent and included many south indian cultural elements e.g thirumangalayam, garlands, tamil lyric. Bishop Ponniah (groom's dad), Revs Joel Low (Vicar, St Georges) and Andrew Cheang (St Mary's, KL)led us in the service. Anglicans know how to put together great wedding services!!

Lunch was served at the church grounds. Later in the evening the the couple threw a dinner for their friends. The bride's parents, the Jayabalans, got into the act and threw a dinner for their friends and family the next day. It was a diverse and multi racial affair. Malays, Chinese and Indians mixed freely. We also yam senged the couple during the dinner. Ever seen indians (with a lot of help from the chinese contigent!) yam senging their own kind in a dinner?

Weddings test your energy levels and demand a great deal of patience from the couple. Teofilus and Sheila thanks for the experience and get a good rest!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Zidane's Moral Puzzle

Zidane apologises for head butting the Italian centre half. He then adds a qualifier: I dont regret my actions. Huh? did I miss something here. Isn't one supposed to regret the offense which caused the need to apologise? Some say his actions were justified because of the level of provocation. Was his head butt a measured response to the Italian's provocation? That's not the issue. Zidane is a proffessional. We're talking about loyal fans who want to see goals. The primary responsibility of teams and players is to entertain ticket paying fans! The rules of soccer are to ensure a smooth and entertaining game. Zidane broke those rules and paid the price. Did his head butt cause his team to lose the World Cup final? Probably. Did his head butt let down those fans who paid hard earned money to see their team win? Yes, definitely. Zidane should apologise for his actions!

Its time to clean up the game. If the Italian soccer player provoked Zidane with vulgarities then he should be reprimanded, fined and suspended for a period. Players need to exercise self control and be responsible to society and the ticket paying fans. Enough of verbal hooliganism on the soccer pitch!

Both Zidane and the Italian centre half should apologise for their actions to all ticket paying fans!

Friday, July 14, 2006


The Turban Issue A Case In Point

Secular-minded progressive malay nationalists have always tried to assimilate the best from external influences and reject what is percieved as against their interests. The Arabic turban is percieved as an ideologically driven external influence which undermines the long term development of the Islamic malay community. Islam in its moderate shape is a positive element in Malay nationalism. Identifying the turban as part of mainstream Islam would probably open the floodgates to other practices and beliefs which would challenge progressive malay nationalism. A closed and literalistic interpretation of the Quran according to the progressive Malay nationalist is harmful to Malaysia. In yesterday's New Straits Times, a female journalist (there was a picture of her without the tudung) did a column on a moderate Islam as opposed to the more fundamenalistic version as found in the middle east. Her piece was a classic example of progressive malay nationalism presenting its case. She reported on the very positive comments given by middle eastern muslim tourists; comments based on their exposure to the freedoms of muslim women in Malaysian society. Some of these tourists were hopeful that their countries would imitate the Malaysian example!! God Bless Malaysia!!

Yup..I'm stil in Penang enjoying the great food and the hospitality of its people.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Turbans, Marriage and Food!!

Yup...I'm on the other side of the pond...way up north in Penang! Food is great. Nothing like Penang Char Kway Teow. The hawkers still cook with charcoal and do their thing on the roadside. Please "Mr Penang" don't change. Stick to your native charm.

We're holed up in a hotel near the beach. This Saturday I'll be doing the welcome toast at a wedding banquet. The big news here is the high court ruling which took the side of a school principal. He told some of his students not to wear Arabic turbans to school. They, the students, claimed that their turbans were part of their religious beliefs and appealed to the courts. The judge differed. It was a landmark ruling; a secular court drew boundaries on Islamic practice in a country where Islam is the official religion. Very interesting!


The French Are Unable To Break Down Italian Defensive Wall.

Italy Overcome France In Penalty Shoot Out!!

It was not an outstanding game although parts of it were intense and entertaining.

The French are awarded a penalty in the 5th minute of the game. Henry was accidentally tripped by the Italian defender in the penalty box. Didn’t seem like a penalty to me. But I’m not the ref! Zidane scores rather strangely from the spot. The ball hits the underside of the bar weakly, crosses the goal line and bounces out into play. It’s a clear goal. The Italians equalize when their centre half heads the ball in from a corner kick. You can almost feel the sigh of relief coming from the Italian bench. They look the better team and are connecting with each other as they move forward. The Italians however have not imposed their will although they’re having more of the ball. The French have not been entirely inactive. With Henry at the helm, France put together some probing runs.

In the 2nd half the Italians go to sleep and the French take over. They control the game with good ball control and are stringing together some fine passes. Whoever said the French were a bunch of unfit old players has been proven wrong. The Italian skipper and the goalkeeper are solid in defense. They’re letting nothing through. Any other team would have probably caved in.

We enter the extra time and I’m asking myself what’s happened to the Italian team? Why aren’t they playing the way they did against the Germans in the semis? The Italian keeper make’s a great save from a Zidane header. In the second period of the extra time, Zidane is sent off! He head butted one of the Italian defenders in an of the ball incident. What a rank piece of stupidity! Word is that he was provoked by the Italian defender. He’s supposed to be the ice man - the cool one under pressure. Zidane’s departure means that he will not take part in the penalty shoot out. He’s supposed to be their ace penalty taker.

The match is settled by a penalty shoot- out. The Italians win by one penalty! It’s a disappointing anti-climax. But we have a winner! The Italians are the new world champions. Let the celebrations begin!!

Sunday, July 09, 2006


Evo Morales was elected last year as the FIRST indigenous Bolivian president. He won 54% of the vote – that’s a landslide by Bolivian standards! In previous elections the winners would win about 25 % of the vote in general; they’d then be forced to form coalition governments. So Evo’s margin of victory is totally out of the ordinary. Most of his opponents were discredited. And the electorate wanted real change. Evo is a populist and a neo-marxist. He struck a revolutionary pose as he took his presidential vows by raising his hands with a clenched fist. Prior to the inauguration Morales also participated in a ritual where ancient spirits were invoked. This was of course a clear departure from the norm; Bolivian presidents normally make the sign of cross in this deeply religious (superstitious) country. The times they certainly are a changing!!

Evo is trying to shift Bolivia away from its historic dependence on the US. His friends are anti American folk like Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. Prior to his inauguration he traveled to Europe, China and South Africa. The latter would have been a good model for Bolivia in terms of race relations. Many expect Evo to open the floodgates to the pent up demands of the marginalized and the local indigenous people. He has to somehow manage these expectations without alienating the influential multi-national corporations. Also let’s not forget the deep fault lines that run beneath the indigenous and the mestizos – descendents of mixed parentage. Hope that something from Nelson Mandela will rub off on Evo Morales!!

Like him or not Evo and his cabinet are attempting to run Bolivia. Pray for them as they try and meet the competing demands of equity in wealth distribution and economic growth.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Singapore and Bolivia are on the opposite ends of the spectrum. Bolivia is about 2000 times bigger than Singapore. They speak Spanish. We speak English. Singapore is a big zero when it comes to natural resources. Bolivia is rich in minerals, natural gas etc.. Singapore is a port-city. Bolivia is landlocked. Singapore is efficient, conditioned and engineered. Bolivia is topsy-turvy and unpredictable. Singapore has had the same ruling party for more than 40 years. Bolivia is no stranger to coups, intrigue and a constant change of governments. Yup lots of differences between Singapore and Bolivia. Hey but wait a minute. There are some similarities. Singapore and Bolivia celebrate national day in the same week of August. Folk in the Bolivian highlands like chilli in their foods. Singporeans like their food spicy and hot. And the most important similarity: A sizeable number of Bolivians and Singaporeans love Jesus. They share a common Biblical faith...and that's cool!!



God saw all that He had made, and it was very good…Gen 1:31

hold on to the good…1Thess 5:21

The world is shot through with creation’s goodness. Christianity is "worldly" in the best sense of the word. And worshipping Him sooner or later gets you into touch with His handiwork (Psalm 19). God called his creation "good". We are called to nurture the innate goodness of His creation as his stewards. Sin, disobedience and evil get in the way and misdirect this nurturing enterprising toward selfish ends. The human experience of stewardship is flawed but not dishonorable. Human failure does not distort the goodness of creation. Jesus rebuked the storm which nearly capsized a boat. The problem was not the sea but the storm. He did not make the sea disappear. Jesus, a keeper of the "good" in creation, protected the sea and retained its integrity. Abusing wealth creation is sin; creating wealth is not. Wealth creation which benefits the elite at the expense of the majority is abuse. A just distribution of wealth which honors your neighbor for the glory of God is keeping the good.

In this blog we do not shy away from the human drama of keeping the good as creation unfolds itself. The artistry and design of great football is only possible because God’s artistry and design is embedded within the laws which make the universe tick. And so science, the arts, government, technology, entertainment, law, food, dance, music, sports, the public square, the marketplace, education, business, mass communication are inherently good because they are visible signs of God’s creation at work in the world. We discern the sacred in the secular, submitting the whole gamut of human experience under the probing eyes of discerning the good in movies, football and current affairs.

Be a keeper of the good!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

France Win 1-0 And Enter The Final

The French were not at their best and simply did what was necessary to win. Portugal could have sent them packing! They had the players and the chance. No one to blame except themselves. Maybe it was the exhaustion from their previous game with England. Henry scored from the penalty spot; the French then effectively fortified themselves against the other team. Ronaldo's play acting may have caught up with him; loud boos sounded across the stadium whenever he played the ball. Hope we'll see an open, attacking football in the final.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Italy may have beaten Germany 2-0 in the first World Cup semi-final but the real winner was football. European soccer is back on track! Full marks and accolades to both teams for playing great competitive soccer. Listen, this is what professional soccer is all about: teams giving spectators a performance that justifies the price of a ticket. There were no attempts to close down the other team with boring defensive soccer; both sides went for each others throats. We had 120 minutes of end to end football. None of the dim -witted, wait and see attitude that characterized many of the first and second round games. The Italian players did not allow the Germans to dictate play; neither were they depending on speculative counter attacks. Some of the shots at goal from both teams were patchy to say the least. But that’s ok. The point is that the teams were adventurous and probed each other constantly. Goal mouth incidents kept us at the edge of our seats. Both teams were not afraid to lose. The first goal was a wicked left legged volley. Lehman, the German keeper didn’t have a chance. The second was an uncomplicated strike from a last minute counterattack. At long last Italian fans heard the faint echoes of that great Italian team which won the 1982 World Cup in the present squad. They were sharp, incisive and not intimidated by the home team’s support in the Stadium. Maybe that’s where the achievement lies: Italy beat the German team on German soil!




Argentina and Brazil lost both their quarter final matches. The World Cup returns to Europe. Latin teams have always added spice to the game. They will be missed. Latin football, at its best, is set within intricate patterns and flows freely. Maradona and Pele embodied the very best of Latin American football. Can anyone forget Maradona dribbling through the English mid field and defense before scoring the goal that put Argentina through to the semi finals in 1986. He made it look so easy: he found space and the speed in the 54th minute from the centre of the pitch to weave his way past 5 english players before scoring a dynamite goal; Peter Shilton, the English keeper, looked bewildered. After such a sensational goal, it was hard to hold a grudge against Maradona for his infamous hand ball goal 3 minutes earlier. Argentina went on to beat Germany 3-2 in the final.

There was a real possibility of Brazil or Argentina winning the World Cup on European soil this time around; that would have been something to savor! Nothing of the sort happened. The Argentines had the Germans on the ropes after scoring the first goal. Why they went on the defensive is anybody's guess. Messi should have come on, to bury the Germans.


Give the Germans an inch and they will take a yard. They deserve credit however for their machine-like relentlessness. It was only a matter of time before they equalized. It is plain foolishness to slip into a defensive mode against a hungry German team. The Argentines were rattled by the German goal; they never regained their attacking composure. Would stronger Argentinian captain on the field have made a difference? Maybe but probably not. The Germans had home support and they were clearly playing the better football toward the end.


Brazil losing to France was painful but necessary. Brazilian soccer needs a shake up; maybe this early exit will force them to rediscover the open and free flowing style from the past. Some have observed the lack of classy attacking midfield playmakers with the ability to feed their forwards. Hope they find attacking mid-field players in the class of Socrates and Falcao and regain their soul. Remember Tele Santana's glorious Brazilian team in the 1986 World Cup? They were the most entertaining team in 1986 but were sadly knocked out by Paolo Rossi's Italy.

None of the semi finalists are from the Americas. Latin America normally rally around their representatives in the World Cup as regional rivalries take a back seat. Old hatchets are buried temporarily. Bolivia would have cheered on the Brazilians and the Argentines (in that order of preference!). We have no one to root for now. The Argentine team is young and possess great strength in their reserves. Watch out for them in 2010 in South Africa.
Reinhard Bonnke Singapore Indoor Stadium 30/6/06 - 1/7/06

I was a delegate at the recently concluded fire conference at the Indoor Stadium. Here's a quick evaluation.

Bonnke likes action. Getting people out of their comfortable seats to evangelize the lost is his passion. Don't be a parked one follows a parked car...the church should be like a car on the road!! he roars. Nope, Bonnke is not one for understatement. His messages reminds me of a WW2 panzer tank , firing its shells.

Age Is No Limit
Bonnke is 66 years old! My wife and I spent our honeymoon at his first nationwide evangelistic crusade at the national stadium more than 20 years ago . The man hasn't changed. He's still proclaiming Jesus and the gasspell (that's “gospel” for the uninitiated). No lack of fire and passion when Bonnke's around. My prayer is that ,like Bonnke, I will remain red hot for Jesus at 66!!

South East Asia & The Pacific
Bonnke's ministry is now a well oiled global ministry made visible through a worldwide network of regional representatives. Africa was his launching pad. Apart from Latin America he has ministered in all the major continents of the earth. China was mentioned as a focal point of the Lord's end-time global harvest as a missionary sending church.

Marketplace Evangelism
The workshop on marketplace evangelism at Emmanuel AOG was quite well attended. There were many speakers who covered a wide range of experiences. An Australian shared about his experiences in the corporate world. Benny Ong's teaching was testimony based. Two ladies talked about the effectiveness of the Alpha course in their attempts to evangelize their colleagues. Very interesting stuff. The session closed with a rip roaring evangelistic presentation by an Indian evangelist.

The Anointing “Kicks In” As We Launch Out
Bonnke's last plenary message centered on Joseph's wish to bury his bones in the promised land. Very powerful stuff. He closed by saying that there was no need to seek a new anointing and that the initial experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit automatically would kick in as believers grabbed the initiative and do the Lord's work. We don't wait for the anointing before we minister; the anointing flows through us as we launch out!

Laying On Of Hands & The Eucharist
There was an anointing service at the end of the conference. Bonnke laid his hands on every single delegate. It was well organized. He stood on an elevated dias. The delegates were prayed for in pairs as they streamed through Bonnke's left and right. I would have preferred to share the Eucharist with the other delegates (It would have meant more work!!).

The Fire conference renewed my sense of calling to serve the Lord in Bolivia. The next steps promise to be very challenging and the messages spoke to me on a personal level. The Lord bless Bonnke and his team as they continue to serve the King of Kings!