Thursday, June 12, 2008

Time with Sarah

I took four days off from work to spend undistracted time with my daughter Sarah who came back for her summer holidays. One of the things I enjoy most is listening and talking to her. We both have the same temperament or rather she is the chip of the old block. Sarah is a good listener and I find that she possesses the rare gift of giving a person her full presence when one talks to her. That is why many love to talk to her because they can unload their problems to an exceptionally good listener. She makes you feel important and feel that you are worth listening to. In just nine months in Calvin College reading English Literature, she has grown intellectually and spiritually. She is a good conversationalist as her knowledge has been broadened and deepened through American education system. Listening to her gives me great pleasure and satisfaction.

Sarah and Sam get along extremely well. They can talk for hours. They often tell us that they are having ‘deep conversation.’ It’s a joy to see the sister and brother enjoying each other’s company immensely. This sibling close relationship is also a gift from God. Constance and I have been spared from the heartaches of sibling rivalry and fights between Sarah and Sam. Sam truly admires and loves his sister dearly and deeply. Sarah cares a great deal for her brother. She genuinely enjoys Sam's creativity and fun-loving nature.

We went to BORDERS, a book room which is like heaven to us. Sarah shares my keen interest in reading. When we reached the place, she headed straight to the literature section while I made my way to the religion corner. We knew exactly what we wanted. With stacks of books in our hands, the cashier at the counter was beaming with broad smile. It was a sheer pleasure to buy books for Sarah as she seldom made demand on me.

I told her to walk gingerly when we made our way through the front door of our house. I thought Constance will give us a shelling for going overboard. I have spent my entire holiday money on buying books. To my surprise Constance was rather cheery. Sarah seems to have a way with her mum. It is very difficult for anyone to be angry with Sarah. She is an obedient daughter, thoughtful and considerate, a straight ‘A’ student since primary one and with the GPA score of 3.96 for the first year in college, how would any parent be unhappy. She is very pleasant to live with and makes us look good as parents.

This morning I became her chauffeur taking her to her former school and to 1 Utama to meet up with her friends. She visited her students whom she taught during her gap year. They were fond of her and her visit warmed their hearts. How many teachers border to visit their students and show their love? She counseled and encouraged a student who is going though family crisis. She is unselfish with her time and incarnational with her touch. She remembers her schoolmates and initiated to meet up. The little gesture reveals that Sarah treasures friendship. Such qualities endear her to many.

I treasure this father-daughter relationship. It’s a gift from God.

The church will celebrate Father’s Day this Sunday. My heart is already filled with joy as we spent quiet moment reminiscing many fond memories. Sarah is flourishing and blooming as a person. What greater joy can it be than seeing your daughter walking with God and blossoming with great potentials.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Story of Dr. Margaret Brand

When I saw the title of the book “Vision for God – The Story of Dr. Margaret Brand” I did not need any persuasion at all to purchase the book. Dr. Paul Brand was well known internationally as a 20th century pioneer in orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation. He had spent the bulk of his life in India helping the lepers and giving them the sense of dignity. He opened the new frontier in discovering pain as a gift from God and applied that knowledge in aiding the lepers from further aggravating their hands and feet. Much accolade had been heaped on him for his achievement in the field of leprosy. What is less known is his equally capable and remarkable wife who has been his companion for over 60 years. In the midst of World War II, Margaret studied medicine in London. She topped the class with Paul Brand as second. They both pioneered practices in the treatment of leprosy in India and throughout the world. Almost by accident, without formal training in eye diseases, she became an ophthalmologist and one of the foremost authorities in the field of ocular leprosy. Reading the book and watching DVD featuring her work among the lepers in India, I was spellbound. With great skills and compassion, Paul and Margaret Brand had accomplished the rare medical feat of treating and loving patients simultaneously.

Without Margaret, Paul Brand would not have become the great surgeon and the great man of God. She worked alongside him in an obscure village in India for years. Both worked in astounding partnership and yet each other’s individuality is not negated.

I like what Philip Yancy, a close friend of theirs, said: “Having spent many hours with them both, I cannot help but think that this was the vision of God for humanity: talented people serving others with cheer and compassion while embracing life-all of it- with contentment and gratitude.”

I silently prayed that my children Sarah and Samuel who are both talented and capable would one day turn out to be the kind of woman and man who serve others with cheer and compassion while embracing life – all of it- with contentment and gratitude. It is a road less traveled. When talents are used to amass wealth for oneself to live opulent and self-centered lifestyle, he or she cheapened the grace of God.

The untouchables of India who had been treated and loved by Paul and Margaret Brand saw in their lives the image of Christ. The gospel that Paul and Margaret preached and lived was easily understood and readily embraced by the lepers. The rejects of the society had encountered Christ through the skillful hands and the loving touch of these surgeons.

I am so glad that Dr. Margaret’s story is told at last.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Equally Smart

Supriano, an Orang Asli (Aborigines of Malaysia) was disorientated when she came in to my church office. She is only 10 year-old and has never been to Kuala Lumpur. She has never seen so many cars and tall buildings in her life. I was equally disoriented as I was lost in the jungle where there seems to be no sign post. Just as I was terrified by the ‘roads’ which nearly wrecked Kok Wai’s 4-wheel drive, Supriano was awed by the modern technology.

We were on a rescue mission in the morning to a remote village in the interior jungle. Kok Wai’s jeep skidded and bumped on the protruding rock. When I saw Supriano, I could see in her face a bright aborigines girl. What surprises me was that she could speak fluent Mandarin! Later I learnt that she is attending a Chinese school in a Chinese village. My two children, Sarah and Sam can’t even speak Mandarin although they are of Chinese descent. Supriano has been looking after her infant brother (4 month-old) who is abandoned by his parents. He has no name, no birth certificate, and no identity. Supriano scavenged milk from women folks of her kind. What she got was not enough to feed her brother. So she fed him with coffee and tea. The infant was reduced to only bone and skin. The infant’s father is an Indonesian and his mother is an Orang Asli. I decided to give him a name. The word ‘Suparman’ floated in my mind. I have an Indonesian friend whose name is Suparman. It sounded like Superman. Indeed Suparman is a Superman as weighing 2.1 kg yet he survived under harsh condition imposed upon him. Though he goes down in history as the most malnourished infant in Malaysia, he also sets the record as the fittest infant. Drenched in rain water, bitten by mosquitoes, burned by cigarette butts, Suparman rejected and discarded by his biological parents but was superintended by his Maker. The pediatrician who examined him remarked that she has never seen such a malnourished baby in Malaysia. In her clinic many mothers were waiting for their turns to take their babies for round of examination. The babies were safe in the arms of their mothers, well fed and looking heavy and healthy. What a contrast.

Supriano absented herself from school for several months. There was a divine call to save a feeble life. She fiercely protected her brother from hunger and thirst in the jungle. She was ostracized by her mother and grandfather. She detested their cruelty. I could see that in her eyes. Without knowledge of health care, hygiene, feeding infant, Supriano has an innate instinct to care for her brother.

It was a long day, a tiring journey running from one clinic to another, from one town to the other and finally Suparman is temporary fostered by a Sabahan pastor whose wife is an Orang Asli. Supriano followed Sarah and I home for a few days.

Constance, my wife spent 3 days teaching her Maths and found her to be intelligent. Sarah is like a big sister to her and showers her with affection. Supriano was clutching the two beautiful sling- on bags that Sarah gave her. Her smile exudes happiness of having found the gems of her life. Supriano will remember Sarah for a long long time. We discovered that Supriano delights to go to the wash room. She often remained there for a long time. Inside the wash room is a big mirror. Constance had bought her a few blouses and she looks pretty. Perhaps she has never seen herself in full portrait before in the mirror. We don’t mind to adopt her but its not possible.

Constance told Supriano to come again and stay with us during the school holidays. We have invited her and her friends to come and Constance will conduct some tuition for them. We believe that Supriano would one day go to Harvard or Oxford, Cambridge University if given the opportunity. She has the intelligence endowed by her Creator who gives freely and equally. It’s the political environment and educational policy that limits them from achieving their full potential.

I am so proud of Kok Wai, Sue May, Jocelyn and the Orang Asli team of CDPC. Their compassion, dedication, and sacrifices have gone a long way to help Orang Asli children to be as educated as any bright Malaysian children in the main stream society.

Change one life, one at a time. Supriano has shown us the way.