The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. I was glad to be minstered by these words in a song led by Jeannie on Friday. "In moments like these", I can still sing out a love song to Jesus.
As some of you may have already found out, Elaine, Joshua & Joycelyn have decided to leave Agape. Elaine's official reason was to follow her family, though I understand she was also struggling with other issues apart from that. Joshua & Joycelyn left even more suddenly, informing their ministry heads only three days before they were supposed to serve. Similarly, they quote God's instruction as the reason for them leaving, insisting that it had nothing to do with the closure of the Chinese ministry. Of all these I am not certain of the details, so I will only talk about the facts that I'm certain of.
The context of all this is to learn how we deal with hurt, and I hope by sharing this, we will all learn together the best way to handle hurt and conflict, so we don't fall into the enemy's trap.
I will not talk much about Elaine, because I am less clear of her reasons for leaving, but I will dwell more about Joshua & Joycelyn. According to them, they have been seeking God about their future in Agape for a while, even before the closure of the Chinese ministry. This may well be true, but I believe God is a God of order, and will not ask His people to leave haphazardly and in a manner that causes massive disruption to His ministries. Moreover, the Gohs have been avoiding all contact with me - verbal, SMS, phone calls, emails, MSN - for more than a month, to my growing frustration. It would have been easier to contact Mas Selamat and check his plans for Hari Raya. They were also leaving immediately after service when they would normally lunch with us, in addition to cutting back on their ministry commitments. All these, as we learnt in our latest ALG session on Handling Hurt, are signs of someone who has suffered a perceived injustice or hurt. They had chosen to choose the Avoid method of handling hurt, unfortunately the only lose-lose solution. As a result of this, church ministries were greatly affected, with the worship ministry having to look for a soundman and backup singer on the morning of service itself in Joshua's absence on 17 Aug.
Their haste in leaving, in most cases without even saying goodbye to friends, as well as the extent they went to to avoid contact with Agapeans, tells me that they must have been facing some issue that they were struggling with. As far as I know, they chose not to tell anyone about it, and have decided that leaving is the best way to resolve it. As the ALG learnt on Friday, this is one of the worst forms of avoidance, greatly affecting ministry and causing irreparabale damage to relationships. Hard work done over two years can be instantly forgotten.
I have been personally hurt by this episode, because the Gohs were people I trusted, and I feel my trust has been betrayed. When Joshua first came to Agape, I was advised against choosing him as an apprentice. At that time, I defended him vehemently, arguing that he had not been given a fair chance and that he was being pre-judged. I don't regret trusting in him, but I can't help but feeling like a fool. It would have been fine if their sudden departure had been a purely personal matter, affecting us on a personal level. God will heal all wounds, eventually. What I could not accept was the damage done to our ALG as a result of their actions.
SINGAPORE FLYER DEBACLE
As you know, we had an outing to Singapore Flyer on 10 Aug 2008, where 29 of us were there. Joshua & Joycelyn, with the help of Ben & CK, were in charge of this event. My efforts to contact them were also due to me wanting to find out how the preparations for the event were going. My trepidation was obvious, given this was the Professionals' first event. As I mentioned, they completely ignored me. As a result, on 10 Aug itself, I was still completely in the dark about what was going on. Only CK bothered to let me know what was going to happen.
To cut a long story short, many things went wrong, especially with the activities before the flight. I don't blame CK, because he was directed by Joshua & Joycelyn, as they were in charge. He did the best he could in the circumstances. The activities were generally served no objective other than to kill time, which was ironic because we were already struggling to get to the Flyer on time. Moreover, the activities did not consider the needs of our less mobile participants. I apologise for this unwise planning, as I could and should have taken the drastic step of cancelling the pre-Flyer activities, despite the risk of disappointing the Outing Committee. Obviously, I had no idea at that time that they were planning to leave. As a result of my inaction, many people were unhappy and correctly so. I have learnt that I need to make the correct decsion even if hurts people, or I will end up hurting even more.
Unfortunately, the debacle did not end there. The Gohs had assured me that they had already recceed the Flyer. The confusion with which I was greeted with suggested otherwise. They were unsure whether tickets should be collected or distributed, where to present the tickets etc. All this resulted in tempers flaring and unfortunate and untimely comments being aired. I was a guilty party as well. From this I have learnt to Respond (with thinking) and not React (without thinking). I raised my voice and made a reactive comment when I should have responded later when I had calmed down. I apologise for this as I really should be setting a positive example. Let's learn to respond to situations rather than react, even if it means responding later.
After the whole event, I again called the Gohs, who had left the Flyer immediately to avoid me. Joshua finally replied me to confirm that they were leaving. Ever broken up with someone via SMS? When that person won;t return your calls or emails? That's what that feels like. What made me more upset was after I mentioned that I intended to review what went wrong at the Flyer, I was told to treat it as "just an outing". For our ALG, this was more than "just an outing" - it was an invaluable opportunity to bond with one another, given we had only been together for three months, to celebrate our progress in that time. Unfortunately, they decided to put their personal hurts above our well-being by refusing to talk to me, damaging what could have been a really fun day out for all of us.
For all this, I apologise. I could and should have done something about it, and rest assured I am wiser for this episode. What I ask is for your forgiveness and trust that we will do a better job next time, and your patience as keep striving to improve. I hope you will give us another chance.
Allen prayed on 17 Aug before the service that we needed to forgive them and learn to bless them. I'm sorry, but that's really difficult for me. I feel betrayed because I had invested so much in their lives. But then I think of how Jesus must feel every time we sin: He feels betrayed, having invested His life to purchase our sins. Yet He chose to forgive us. I know what I must do. I have chosen to forgive and forget, through clearly that will take time. I hope you too will forgive us and forget our mistakes. Let's move on, stronger, more united and steadfast in Christ.
I appreciate God's timing of their departure as it provided a perfect, authentic case study for us when learning about handling hurts. Let us all learn to Agree when facing conflict - to settle things privately with people, and choosing to Respond rather than React. I have. Will you?