Penny Lai, Church Ministry Apprentice
There are probably more interesting things to read out there, but it is rather rude for me not to introduce myself, so here are some quick facts to help you to get to know me:
- Member of Christ Evangelical Reformed Church since 2011
- Born on 31st Oct 1991 (Reformation Day baby!)
- Graduated with a Bachelors in Medical Science from IMU, Bukit Jalil
- Eldest of 3 Hakka children
- Loves anything sour and spicy (e.g. Assam Laksa, Tom Yum)
- Listens to Disney songs to stay awake
- Looks forward to Christmas in December from January
- Eats too much instant noodles for my own good
- Suffers from terrible stomach bloating occasionally
- Took too long to write my first blog
- And it’s been just over a year since I’ve come onboard as one of the Church Ministry Apprentices!
HOW IT ALL STARTED…
I began my apprenticeship in November 2016 with a dear sister and fellow CMA-ian (Church Ministry Apprentice), Kimberley Fong!
Here’s a picture of us together on the day of our Commissioning.
Ever since I tendered my resignation at the pharmaceutical company I was working for, I’ve been asked “Why” and “How” a million times over about my decision, so I thought it’d be good for me to recount my personal life story of how I came to a decision like this.
It all started with the right understanding of the gospel. You see, calling myself a Christian just because I went to Sunday school didn’t mean that I knew what it meant for me to believe in the gospel. It wasn’t until I became a freshman in IMU that I started looking for solid answers in Christianity. Faced with challenging complexities in life, which mostly stemmed from problems at home and mounting pressure in my studies, I found myself failing to cope with my deep struggles and insecurities. Thankfully, I found a friend, a batchmate of mine, Elsha – at the time already a member of CERC – who was kind enough to commit to reading the bible with me on a weekly basis.
I owe my conversion to God and His Spirit’s work through Elsha and the Just For Starters (JFS) material we worked through (by Matthias Media). I remember there were 3 things that struck me most from the first two sessions of Bible reading with her:
- Reading the Bible in context, because the Bible is like a beautiful piece of literature, revealing to me the grand narrative of who God is and what He has done. I did not know then that I needed to read the Bible in context, as I should read any other letter or novel. The Bible had always been like a book of incantations and spells to me because it always seemed to have its own ability to cast a sleeping spell on me (!).
- God was angry with me.
Rom 5:9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God.
Now, it wasn’t until I involved myself with ministry and evangelism that I realised that not many would agree to Paul’s statement, much less accept the harsh truth about God’s anger upon humanity. However, when I was first told this truth, I recall being morethan offended because for the first time, I discovered that God is a HOLY God.
- The will of God is to unite all things in Christ when the “time is full”.
Eph 1:9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
For all the times that I searched for some special form of guidance from God about what I should do in my life, I realised from this text that I didn’t have to wait anymore, for a sign or a silent voice to assure me that every decision I made in life was according to His good will. because that assurance was already revealed right under my nose, in His Word! I remember thinking that if God’s will is for all things to point to Christ at the end of the day, then I should somehow direct my life towards that! What refreshing relief that I finally knew what God’s plan was for me and the rest of the world!
Then I came to CERC on Good Friday in 2011. It was by far the most gospel-centred Bible exposition I had heard on Isaiah 53. Until today I still remember how Pastor Robin preached it with depth and weight to convict the hearts of the congregation that day.
From then on, it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the small but warm community of CERC. I remembered the days when I would wake up early at 4am in what we fondly call “No.26” a.k.a Pastor Robin’s house, to prepare breakfast for the Women Encouraging Women (WEW) event later that morning; the days when the old and young women used to cosy up together in the small kitchen of No. 26 to talk about relationships; when I used to study the book God’s Design for Women with Joy in her kitchen. The memories of the church I love so dearly are too many to recount!
And then CERC Camp 2012 happened with the theme “the Meaning of Life” based on the book of Ecclesiastes. I remember that we were by the beach when Joel Lee tried to explain to me what Qoheleth meant when he talks about life as “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Joel’s words were:
“Sure, you can leave a legacy behind in this world, Qoheleth would even agree with that, but that is not his point is it? His point is, you could live this life anyhow you want (leaving a legacy behind and what not) but the net profit that you would gain in your death bed is one big fat ZERO…”
His wisdom connected with Pastor Robin’s in his sermon when he said,
“If Qoheleth had met Jesus in his life, on top of everything he had said and how he ended in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, he would have said “Follow Him” because the end of the matter is Jesus whom God has sent to redeem humanity from this meaningless life of death”.
(Don’t ask me why I remember these sporadic conversations and memories like that, I just do somehow, although I’m pretty sure they aren’t exact.)
It wasn’t until after the camp that all these conversations and sermons pieced together and clicked for me. Surely it was the Holy Spirit’s work within me convicting me of my vain pursuit of this world’s bland offerings, and of the immense weight of Jesus’ worth, so much so that if I did not chase after Jesus, I knew I would miss out on everything worth having.
And so, understanding the truth about God and life in all the above (and more) drove me to my decision and pursuit to be a CMA. Holding on to this goal, I’ve since finished my Bachelor’s degree and gained 3 years of work experience. And now, 6 years later, I am finally carrying through my plans of serving Jesus and his church through this programme. Looking back, I see God’s hand sovereignly at work to fashion me for His purposes through all my experiences. I am humbled and grateful to Him.
So, how’s CMA been so far?
Stay tuned for my next blog post coming your way…
Posted on 15th January 2018