手足连心 or “One Heart” was the theme of this year’s combined church camp with our Chinese congregation brothers and sisters. Held on the nearby island of Batam at the Best Western Premier Panbil, 215 campers of all ages gathered for a time of fellowship, fun and edification from 9 to 12 June 2019.
I want to share some personal reflections that I gleaned during our time there. These are not necessarily going to mirror what others may have gained from the time away. Just based on some of the testimonies shared on the last evening of the camp, I am quite sure others were blessed in different ways as well, and I would encourage you to speak to them to hear their stories.
Firstly, I was very encouraged by the sense of unity and “one another-ness” amongst those of us who came to camp. This was evident in the way the committee, who were made up of people from both congregations, had pulled together a well-run and thoroughly enjoyable camp. There were obviously some hiccups and hassles, as there will always be when dealing with hotels, ferries, buses and the like. But in the main, I felt that things ran very smoothly because the committee was truly excellent in their planning, anticipation and execution! And this could only happen because of the willingness they had to work together to pull this off.
The love for one another was also evident in my own “tribe” (which is what they called our groupings). I found everyone accommodating in the different activities, and even our group leader commented on how painless it was to lead us because of our willingness to cooperate. This tangible unity was the very core of what we hoped to foster through this camp (as highlighted in our theme), even as we celebrate 60 years of God’s favour upon our parish. I believe that as we grow in love for one another, it prepares us for the work we must do in reaching the lost in our neighbourhood of Queenstown. Jesus prayed for our unity as his disciples in his high priestly prayer. “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:23)
This leads naturally to my second observation. The love we have received from God and one another is meant to be shared with the world. There was a wonderful opportunity for this unity to spill over to others outside of our family during our time in Batam. One of the highlights of this year’s camp was the outing to a local school, Sekolah Misi Bagi Bangsa on Tuesday morning. The campers in conjunction with the students and staff of the school held a carnival that included stalls selling handmade crafts, food and drinks, and games for the all to enjoy. The proceeds from the carnival were donated to the ongoing work of the school.
Many campers reported how meaningful it was to be able to bring some fun and joy to the lives of the children, many of whom come from impoverished backgrounds. To see the smiles and hear the laughter as they went from stall to stall was certainly memorable. I believe that it was actually the first time that some of our members actually participated in a small way in a mission-oriented activity. Despite the fact that there was a language barrier, we were still able to communicate love and joy to these young ones. It is a feature that I hope will become a part of future camps as well. So that we always remember that as a church we are meant to always be on God’s mission for the world!
Finally, our Vicar reminded us that despite circumstances good or bad, God is always in control. And this was brought home very ably by our camp speaker, the Revd Dr Ivan Ee, who shared from the lives of Joseph and Judah from Genesis 37-50 in his last session. Without going into too much detail, instead of using the obvious lesson which we often draw from that story, he pointed out how both Joseph and Judah had both good and bad qualities. Yet they were both equally used by God for His purposes.
In the same way, Revd Huang reflected that our history over the past 60 years as a parish was not always sunshine and roses. There have been rough spots as much as there have been triumphs. Yet it is important for us to recognise that God is sovereign and He has plans and a purpose for us as a church. So we can look forward to His unfolding work in and through us with faith and confidence, that whatever the future may hold, it will be an exciting journey in Him!