Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Latin Americans love beauty! Venezuelans and Colombians regularly sweep the board in the miss world and universe competitions.

Bolivia have their fair share of pretty girls, many of them in Santa Cruz. Beauty pageants and famous models are very popular in the lowlands of Bolivia.

South American girls, especially fair skinned blonds, are trained from young to be beauty queens. They keep a trim figure; wear right clothes; walk the catwalk sensually and flaunt branded products. Its hard not to see western and european physical features dominate judges's perception of beauty in pageants.

Beauty is decidedly euro-centric: Nordic, Latin and Anglo Saxon. Beauty queens with very distinct non european local features almost never win anything. Ever seen a chinese girl with mongoloid features walk the aisle with the miss universe crown? How about dark stubby nosed girls from South India? Some girls from India have been doing relatively well in the past decade or so. Are they the exceptions to the rule? Not so. Take a close look at them. They're tall, fair, possess sharp noses, are from the north, speak very good english - a european language. None of the Indian girls who've done well in pageants have ever violated the canons of european style aesthetics.

Its not surprising therefore if Santa Cruz's babes tend to accentuate their European heritage because pageants have marked out a criteria of beauty that's euro-centric. This is not meant as a put down of local indigenous features but a sober observation of what's happening

Sadly, beauty is also commercialized and vulgarised in Santa Cruz. At a trade fair several years ago, the semi clad buttocks of a female model were compared to a cow's behind! Something crass was said about the model's anatomy. Beauty queens are props; their bodies are hangers for the latest swim suit bikini and revealing dress. Why young ladies allow themselves to be used like meat in a butcher's shop, remains a mystery.


September is a special month for the city of Santa Cruz. We celebrate the anniversary of the city's founding with parades and speeches.

The highlight is a huge trade fair called EXPOCRUZ where one gets to see the latest and best technology, livestock, concerts, beautiful girls, new products; farming utensils n machines, overseas imports and lots of businessmen from all over Latin America cutting deals.

Here's a photo of the trade fair.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Here is another photo of the civic leaders of Santa Cruz. You guessed right, green is the color of the city. The grey headed guy is waving the flag of Santa Cruz.


Here is a photo of the Santa Cruz's political elite celebrating the city's anniversary.

The mayor of Santa Cruz, Percy Fernandez is waving to the crowd. On his right is the governor, Ruben Costas.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Yesterday Santa Cruz celebrated its 199th anniversary. Note the fireworks on the photo on your right!

My wife, son and I lived in Santa Cruz, Bolivia for 14 years. Elijah, my son, was only 3 years old when we first arrived. Michelle and I, being young missionaries, were struggling with learning the language and adapting to Bolivian culture. Cruceños, know how to celebrate and have a great time. Brass bands fill the air with the sound of drums, trumpets and trombones during all sorts of celebrations. I kinda miss the people dancing and milling in the streets, amplified music blasting away from sound systems in cars, laughter, animated conversations, traffic jams. I certainly dont miss the urine on the streets, broken beer bottles, and the permissiveness these celebrations unleash.

Anyone reading the news would also know that Santa Cruz is the centre of opposition against the central government and the president Evo Morales. I have written many posts on this subject. Just click on Current Affairs. In recent months the nation has been preocuppied with the upcoming general elections in December. The president is expected to win and his party will probably be returned to the legislative assembly with a majority.

Santa Cruz, a gateway city, is a spiritual hub. You just get the feeling that this city has a special place in the Lord's overall plan for the nations. The churches here are vibrant and there have been concerted efforts to reach out to the lost and get involved in overseas missions. Private universities with a young student population are also springing up.

To say that we miss Santa Cruz is an understatement! The good news however is that we shall be returning soon to this city. More news about this in my next post!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"Families instead of being an
oasis of healing are breeding
grounds for dysfunction".

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Singapore, a conservative society? Not according to daily surveys of the most read stories in the Straits Times.

The Straits Times runs the 10 most read stories, and stories on sex figure strongly!

Below are the top 10 stories from yesterday's ST digital copy:

1 Mum had sex with son

2 Govt acts to cool market

3 Sex in the suburbs

4 Principal in sex scandal held

5 Too sexy for kids?

6 Driver dies after heart attack

7 Woman on kissing quest

8 Pepper spray attack: 2 jailed

9 Caught having sex in stolen car

10 Gang snatches boy's mobile
Armour Publishing invited John Maust to do a 3-day seminar on writing a few weeks ago. I enjoyed myself thoroughly and had a great time meeting others with similar interests. 

My good friend, Kenny Chee, blogpastor, also attended the seminar. John did a great job. I got a lot from the seminar. The point about not just stating something but painting a picture around the statement struck home. A wide range of subjects was covered: from improving one's writing skills to the how to's of publishing a book. Here's a great photo of all the participants

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Singapore is poorer without Chee Soon Juan and Thio Li Ann.

They speak their minds fearlessly, draw heavy fire from their opponents and strike discordant notes in a society more interested in making money and wasting its passion on consumerism, colored nails, racing cars and casinos. We do not resemble computers – an idiot machine designed to store information, play games and kill our time. Life is not a game and we are not machines.

Li Ann forces us to think about families, religion and gender. Soon Juan drives a wedge between political centrism and activism. Do we want opposition political parties to only stir discussion in Parliament or do we want attention grabbing activism? Thanks to these two, issues we'd normally ignore are taken note off.

Reject them if you must but please don’t despise the choices they bring to the body politic and the civil space they've opened. Choices and a bigger space in the civil society help us craft solutions, stimulate changes, preserve traditions. Li Ann and Soon Juan make us pause and question the “whys” of our lives. No, they are not pragmatic. Nor are they here to help us prosper materially. Pragmatism and wealth are not the best weapons to fight a war of attrition against a larger enemy.

So where do they get their motivation to bang on their drums in the face of name calling, hostility and heckling? Perhaps their Christian faith provides a clue. The Bible not only provides the ballast to cast doubt on present worldly arrangements but also provides pictures of a different and just kingdom.

You dont have to agree with their views or like them. But they are one of us and deserve a hearing.

Singapore... Thio Li Ann and Chee Soon Juan are your sons and daughters.


The galaxy above lies 6 million light-years away in the north circumpolar constellation Ursa Major.
(Credit to Andrew Sullivan for fishing out this photo rom Nasa)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


Neither petite nor passive, Thio Li Ann brings it on!

I finally got to hear and meet this remarkable lady at a seminar on media this morning at Kum Yan Methodist Church. She was one of the two keynote speakers. Li Ann's book, The Mind Gap, was available at the talk. She didnt sound lawyerly or professorial but was relaxed and entertaining. Her jibes and fast talk lit up the place.

The reaction she evokes from her opponents is understandable. Her humor, quips, barbs and arguments tend to sting, especially when you're at the end of them. And she does not give the impression of taking prisoners in a debate. This chica has absolutely no qualms about making her views known. But one observation needs to be made. She didnt sound like the moralizing right wing christian fundamentalist her opponents and make her out to be. Mainstream media love her because she gives them a lot to write about.

Her defense of free speech, even for her opponents, was an eye opener for me. She does not believe in a theocracy, saying at one point Im a Protestant! How can a Protestant believe in theocracy? When was the last time anyone identified themselves as a Protestant!

Is she enslaved to the American right? I cant remember the exact words but I thought she said, Dont go to some stupid american website and think you can apply their stuff in Singapore.

Li Ann, a liberal? Yeah, why not!

Her spirited advocacy for by-elections in GRC wards and comments about the unfairness of restrictions on political party films are reflective of a politician committed to diversity in the public square. She is not a single issue politician, although the local media tend to only portray her as an anti gay politician. Labeling politicians and creating a straw man or woman are potent weapons in political squabbles. Singaporeans can be classier. Lets not put this lady or any politican for that matter in a box and make unnecessary assumptionns about them.

Bring it on, Miss Thio!

Monday, September 07, 2009


No, Pastors dont work 24/7 but it sure feels that way at times!

Why the ambivalence?

I think its because church workers avail themselves to anyone at any given time so that pastoral needs are met. This is one job you cant leave at the office!

Since taking up the position of Vicar at Christ Church, there is absolutely no end to activities, making decisions, replying to calls/emails, responding to crises, attending meetings, leading services and ministering at praying/counselling sessions.

Its a tough job, pastoring a Parish. I have learned and relearned 3 things about Pastoring so far in Christ Church.

Pastors Like The People They Serve.

To like people is not an emotive feeling but the delight which comes from entering into another person's pilgrimage. Objectivity is important in our relationships. Accepting people as they are is not dealing with a blank piece of paper. Accepting somebody means we listen to people and enjoying their stories be it in an informal or formal occasion.

How about the unlikeable ones? Well, they sanctify our souls, keep us humble and deliver us from complexities. We become more human and more likeable.

Secondly, Keep Your Eye On The Great Commission.

We are here to go, disciple, preach, evangelize and baptize the nations. Sounds kinda impossible to do. Maybe thats why its easier to get lost in needs, issues, problems, reactions from personalities, challenges and lose sight of our main purpose, which is of course the task of obeying Christ's commandment to "Go".

Thirdly, Hear God's Voice/Receiving Enabling Through Daily Devotions.

Pastors are stewards. We've been sent to by Christ to follow Christ as He builds His Church. Hearing His voice on a daily basis through our daily devotions is the bedrock of a Pastor's life. Ignore this and everything falls apart!

Most pastors, including myself are not super saints (dont think I've met one!). People fail us and we fail them. Liking people is not an emotional feeling but a lot of work. Its easier to get distracted instead of focusing on the Great Commission and finding time to be with the Lord in the midst of our busy schedule is not easy but a great challenge.