Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Here is Billy Graham at his best...talking to people who don't share his point of view on morals and maybe just about everything else.

Graham's words were truly seasoned with salt in this interview.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


The Soldiers at the Battle of Boquerón 1932

We go back in time to recognize Bolivia's heroes.

The Bolivian and Paraguayan armies were locked in a war in the early 1930's which did neither country any good. They squabbled over land rights and petroleum. One of the famous battles in the war was fought at a garrison in a place called Boquerón. The Bolivian soldiers were outnumbered 20 to 1 in an epic 3 week siege. Many died. The rest only surrendered when their food, ammunition, and water supplies were exhausted. It may have been wiser to organize a tactical retreat in the face of overwhelming odds. Perhaps they needed to buy time for other divisions to regroup. Military historians will have to sort that one out. The Bolivian soldiers perservered and fought to the end. The Paraguayans, amazed at the fighting spirit of the Bolivians, paid tribute to their bravery.

Bolivian soldiers stayed, fought and died in Boquerón. Did they die in vain? That's not the point, especially for those who lost their lives. True bravery does not weigh the pros and the cons of a particular course of action nor does it measure the pragmatic gains of one's sacrifice. Bravery is the immeasurable moral strength to to fight and struggle against overwhelming odds.

Those brave soldiers at Boquerón are my Bolivian heroes.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


...they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run...Isa 40:31


In full flight, the Condor, Bolivia's national bird is a wonderful witness to the triumph of transcendence over technique.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

THE LEADERSHIP SECRETS OF BILLY GRAHAM, Harold Myra & Marshall Shelley Zondervan 2005

A salesman, noticing my interest in this book, challenged me:

" If you're not satisfied with the book, I will refund your money "

I've just finished reading the Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham and have no intention to demand a refund.

The anecdotes, principles and insights in this work by Myra and Shelly shed light on Billy Graham more as a leader/manager than an evangelist. This is the first attempt by anyone to analyse the leadership of Graham. At times it tends to cheer lead Graham's virtues but then again Billy Graham is a godly man who deserves our respect. His ability to steer his organization in the turbulent 60's is worth a read. Its not easy to maintain one's constituency and incorporate what God is doing in other movements which don't share one's core values. For instance, Martin Luther King and Billy Graham did not work together but they affirmed each other's core message.

There are also fascinating stories and anecdotes of rejection from his ex fiancee, his responses to interviewers who tried to corner him on homosexuality and Christian- Muslim relations after 9/11. Billy Graham's grace and statesman like behaviour is an inspiration to us all.

There are 21 chapters spread out in six parts. I personally enjoyed reading parts 4 and 6 - Growing through Fire and Ice and Deepening in every Decade. The chapter on Innovation wrestles with the tension between relevance and tradition. One of the best chapters, Leading with Love, closes the book. The story of Billy and Ruth Graham's contribution to Jim Bakker's restoration in the ministry is a good example of the love that characterises Graham's life and ministry.

God bless Billy Graham and his witness!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


The Ongoing Story of How We Were Led to Serve in Bolivia

1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5, 6, 7, 8

The news began to spread about my wanting to go to Bolivia. Most of the responses were a mixed bag of encouragement, discouragement, puzzlement and doubt.

My father was the most supportive.

According to the great commission we're supposed to go to the nations and if God has called you to serve Him in Bolivia…then go, was his rousing reply when I told him about my plans.

Where is Bolivia? Is this what you really want to do? Are you sure? How about Elijah? My mother, like all mothers, was interested in the details and fearful for the welfare of her son’s family.

Some relatives on Michelle’s side, not unlike my brother, thought I was making a mistake. Bolivia, like most South American countries, was not reputed for its stability and security. Elijah’s safety and future was on top of everyone’s minds, especially both his grandmothers.

A few of my friends kept a straight face and promised me their prayers and support. I could sense however that everyone was on a wait-and-see mode. Sending missionaries to South America seemed beyond the reach of the Singapore Church in more ways than one. Some were very concerned for my well being; they were under the impression that Bishop Moses had somehow twisted my arm to consider Bolivia.

I remember one clergyman telling me that he would, with my consent, talk to Moses about not forcing this Bolivian thing onto me. My attempts at clarifying matters did not register with him. On a positive note, these reactions were a sign that people were beginning to take the idea of going to Bolivia seriously.

My major concern was for the congregation I was pastoring, All Saints English Congregation. Again the response was mixed. Some were happy for me to go. Others were not keen on losing their pastor. All Saints were accustomed to short pastorates. At that point I was their longest serving pastor; I was there for only 4 years! One member told me with a sigh, I thought you’d be staying on for a longer period to help us build the church. Leaving a congregation involves a measure of grief. You lose contact with people you care for and vice versa. The passage of time however puts matters into perspective and we move on.

Going public about my intentions had stirred reactions, both expected and unexpected. These were instructive experiences which taught me to cast all my concerns and cares on the altar.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


"I was near to quitting the ministry...a three week retreat in Sisterhood of Mary, Darmstadt rescued me"

I first heard about blogging through what the youths in church were doing and from reports in the newspapers. I pondered about blogging for quite some time before I finally took the plunge. The Lord had earlier been talking to me about taking risks, crossing frontiers and stepping out into the unknown. So I saw blogging as an invitation from the Lord to venture into the new territory of blogosphere. What a wonderful journey it has been!

Initially it was to influence the church youths. Then it took on a life of its own and I found myself gifted with a wider invisible audience in blogosphere. I found myself having all kinds of thoughts, ideas, opinions germinating in my mind, even during odd times of the day, like seeds cast without regard, but on a ready soil, and wanting to sprout out into cyberspace. In short, to change the metaphor, my mind gets fired up, and my fingers start moving - thats why I blog. Having said that, interacting with folks in the blogging community and having feedback that people have been blessed or were just visiting also fans the fire inside.

They were mostly pastors: P.J. Johney, my predecessor; Norman Wong my current mentor. Friends like Raphael Samuel, Vincent Hoon, Kenny Fan, My wife Jenny (I'm not trying to be politically correct). More recently: James Creasman and the focusing leadership network.

Some of them are missionals like commandoes behind enemy lines and may have been misquoted or misunderstood. But for Christian leaders to believe homosexual behavior is not a sin, and to approve of ordination of practising gays, and same-sex marriages just confuses the church and its witness as salt and light to the world. It makes you want to go on your knees to pray or take out the whips like Jesus in the temple, or both.

When my wife contracted unknown hepatitis during her late pregnancy with twins; and when they were all in the ICU with their lives at risk. But the Lord was gracious and intervened.
The next most difficult moment was when I was near to quitting the ministry as the church was going through a sad decline in the late 1980's. A three week retreat in Sisterhood of Mary, Darmstadt rescued me.

As a pastor the most satisfying thing would be to see lost people saved and transformed into a community of Christ-followers. As a father and husband, to have a loving family that is faithful to the Lord. As a person, to see myself growing in Christ and having the privilege of being used by God more and more effectively.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Uruguay Crush Bolivia 5-0 In World Cup Qualifier

An absolute tragedy!

Bolivia played badly in Montevideo, Uruguay and were beaten soundly by 5 goals in their first game of the South American World Cup preliminary qualifying group. Losing by one or two goals would have been easy to swallow - but 5 goals!

I was expecting a better performance.

The Bolivian team, under a new coach, showed lots of promise in some of the earlier tournaments and previous games. I was hoping that perhaps we could qualify for the World Cup Finals which will be held in South Africa.

There is still a long way to go in this competition. Bolivia could still qualify if they accumulate the necessary points from the rest of the games. The psychological setback of this mauling however may be too much of a barrier to overcome.

Soccer is probably the only national activity which unites Bolivia. A good showing in the opening game would have given us something to cheer about as a nation.

Ah well...maybe next time

Monday, October 08, 2007




Che is a demi-god to left wing revolutionaries and utopian dreamers. Hordes of activists, especially from the left of the political spectrum, are now in Vallegrande, Bolivia, hoping to channel revolutionary fervor from memories of Che's heroism into their agenda for Bolivia. Che was cornered, captured and killed by the Bolivian military in Vallegrande. They've even erected a shrine to honor the place where he was shot. Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia is an avowed socialist. He and his followers have not been shy of invoking Che's mystic in their actions and speeches.


Hard nosed right wing conservatives would of course view him as an idealistic and foolish trouble maker who got his just deserts. Gary Prado, the military officer credited with Che's capture, laments the fact that he and his soldiers are not given sufficient appreciation or recognition from the government for hunting down a criminal whose aim was to start a revolution and shatter the Bolivian social fabric.


Included in this post are photos of Che's capture and his dead body. The whole episode of Che trying to start a South American marxist revolution from the jungles of Bolivia sounds like the beginning of a Shakespearan tragedy. The Bolivian peasant did not respond to Che's efforts nor were the alienation of the poor a fertile ground for his message. Che died a broken man. But was it a heroic death? Utopian revolutionaries seem to think so.

What do you think?

Friday, October 05, 2007


Here's a photo of Elijah in his army greens. He was drafted into the Singapore army two weeks ago to begin a 2 year national service stint. Elijah has put on weight and looks tanned and tough. Michelle and I can hardly recognize our son!

He says the food is great. He's made lots of friends in his platoon. Many are Singaporeans like him who've studied overseas. Some of are christians; one of them is planning to take them all to his youth service this Saturday.

Elijah faces the full brunt of a highly regimented spartan lifestyle in national service. We are possibly the only country in the world where young men are asked to do a 2 year army stint.

Continue to pray for Elijah's well being: discipline of his daily devotions, fellowship with committed christian friends, alertness, strength and a positive atitude.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Going To Bolivia 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5, 6, 7


Yes, Rev Samuel you can go in now, Bishop Moses Tay’s secretary ushered me into his office.

Bishop Moses' office was simple without frills. I stepped into the office and sat on the visitor’s sofa with some trepidation. How was he going to react to my interest to serve in Latin America?I had never shared with Moses my interest or desire to serve in Latin America. Bishops in general are also wary of letting their clergy go on mission stints to unknown and distant places. A part of me however knew that the time was right. Moses in allowing Blaxland to share openly about Bolivia gave me the impression that he would not be against the idea of one his clergy showing interest. At least he would pray with me over the matter, I thought.


I sat down, faced the Bishop and spoke to him about my reaction to Greg Blaxland's sharing at the Tuesday clergy meeting. And then I told him flat out about my desire to explore the possibility of serving in Bolivia. It took me only about 3 minutes to tell him what I had wanted to say. I was expecting a barrage of questions and comments.

His smile caught me of guard:

Well that’s great Raphael…Cynthia and I are going to Bolivia soon to see the place…It would be good if you could come with us…Would Michelle be able to go also...probably not…She'd have to take care of your son...Elijah is still a baby isn’t he?

His response was totally unexpected. Going to Bolivia on a exploratory trip was totally unexpected. The most I was expecting was an invitation to pray with him over the matter.

I just smiled and didn’t quite know what to say in reply.

I left the office happy, excited and dazed. It was like getting baptized in the Spirit and being born again all rolled into one.


Strangely enough my first act was to not inform Michelle but to go to MPH bookstore along Coleman Street and buy a Spanish – English/English - Spanish dictionary. It must have been the Holy Spirit. A deep sense of wanting to master Spanish flooded my heart. I found a dictionary and bought it quickly. Deep down inside I knew that learning Spanish was going to be top priority. I remember clutching it close to my chest as I left the bookstore in a hurry.

Michelle looked excited and surprised as I shared with her my experience with Bishop Moses. The door was opening…slowly… but it was opening.

The time to go public about my intentions and sense of calling to South America to family, friends and church leaders had come. How would they react? Were they supportive of my intention to go to Bolivia? Check out the next post.

Monday, October 01, 2007


Heavenly Father, we pray for the Church leadership in Myanmar.

Grant great wisdom and courage to Pastors, Bishops and Lay Leaders as they serve your flock in these times of uncertainty and violence. Strengthen their hearts in this hour of testing.

Help them find words to counter foolishness and rebellion. Stir within them the discernment necessary to distinguish between discretion and cowardice. Fill them with you Holy Spirit as they call Myanmar to repentance with your precious Word.

Merciful Father, only you can save Myanmar. Stretch out your hand; it is never shortened to save. Expose the vanity of men in their rejection of your salvation. Bring confusion to their wicked schemes. Mercifully intervene and save this nation. Open the Red Sea. And let Myanmar see Oh Lord your salvation in this land.

In Christ’s Name we pray, Amen!