Category Archives: Travels

Reflections from the River

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“When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river.В He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah,В where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh.В Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live.”В (Ezekiel 47:7-9)

I believe that God speaks to everyone. On mission trips, He seems to speak louder…

My last mission trip to the jungle interiors happened so long ago, when I was still a student studying in university. Nevertheless, I still remember very clearly the many, many things that happened during that trip. And not only do I remember all those wonderful memories, I know and treasure them dearly for the lessons God thought me through that mission trip changed my life and played a big part in shaping me to who I am today.

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to take part in a similar mission trip some jungle interiors again. Only this time, my role was more like a ‘guardian’ to the many youths from our church who had eagerly signed up for this mission exposure trip. That didn’t mean that I would not be learning anything from this trip! Trust me, I sure did.

It is always exciting to see how God amazes and teaches us things everyday in ways that we would never have thought possible. One key highlight of this mission trip was the magnificent river that runs by the side of the village. This river was literally the source of life to the villagers. It provided ‘free’ running water for their everyday needs – cooking, washing, drinking, bathing; and us city folk were just simply taken aback by its cool, refreshing and rejuvenating properties when its strong rushing current strokes past our weary bodies when we went in to bathe and chill.

It has been about a week since we came back from the trip but I’d bet the majority of us still do miss the river dearly. I certainly do. So, as I look back over the moments spent in the mission trip, I am once again humbled that God has spoken very clearly to me about the many things I need to learn from these reflections from the river

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1. Jehovah Jireh (The Lord will provide)

Before the trip took place, the team needed to sort out quite a number of logistical headaches such as securing sufficient number of 4WDs or pick-ups that were able to venture through the rangy dirt track road to the village. Over the course of the final few weeks (or days even!), God continued to provide more and more people who offered their ‘big wheels’ to the mission team. There was even a relative of one of our church youth who stayed in the very town we were going to. He also just happened to have a pick-up truck and helped to buy and transport some of the essentials like canisters of cooking gas and chicken into the village.

When I looked at the list of wheels that was supposed to go into the village, I seriously thought we had more than enough wheels. Again, God showed me that whenever He provides, He does it so that it is always sufficient. On the morning when we started packing the stuff we needed to carry into the village, I was shocked to see the amount of stuff we were bringing in there. However, we managed to pack in all the stuff, needing every last inch of all the vehicles. Amazing. Indeed God reminded me that He is the Lord that provides.

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2. God is in Control

Personally, it was a terrible month to be taking leave from work because I had a couple of critical events that I was managing throughout June. So, when we were driving into the interiors last Friday, I was frequently bugged by some phone calls and SMSes from my office. Suddenly, we entered the area where there was no mobile reception whatsoever. None. Not even a blip. We had been completely cut off from the outside world. No emails. No Facebook. No Twitter. No news.

It was as simple as that. God reminded me that He is in control of things. I learnt to trust Him to handle whatever that was happening in my office and focussed instead on the work He has brought me on this mission trip to do.

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3. Never Too Busy

One of the days, I was talking to one of the ibus of the village and was kaypo-ing about how the villagers cook those wild boars that they sometimes catch. She told me that it was the men who hunted the wild boars who would then cook them too. The boars would not be cooked in the kitchen like other ‘normal’ dishes, but it would be cooked near the houses of the village leaders. Apparently they have some cooking or grilling apparatus there. She seemed excited to show this culinary experience to me so she promised to take me to the men when they were cooking it.

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Some 2-3 hours later, when I was leading some small children inside a tent, this ibu went around and finally found me and beckoned me to follow her to see the grilling of the wild boar now! I was deeply touched that she remembered her promise, put in the effort to look for me, and showed genuine interest in sharing a village experience I would remember for life.

There were others like her as well, these ibus of the village who would spend most of their time cooking, and yet always kept a watchful eye on the kids, and also had this uncanny ability to tell which kid is from which village, and also if there were any new visitors to the village. Definitely many things I could learn from them with regard to sheparding and developing a heart that is never too busy to care for my flock.

4. Poverty is Relative

Some of the youths were sharing that most times, we the city folk tend to go on mission trips with expectations of being able to give and help the poor. When we arrive, we realise that we are the ones who may be poorer than the villagers. Much as we gave a lot during our trip, I am sure we also received, perhaps even more than we gave.

They may not have a lot of material possessions, but they do live a very simple and contented life. They have so much land to play with, refreshing water in abundance, and a warm-loving community, etc. When William asked them about their Goliaths or challenges, none of them raised their hand. I am now begining to believe that they may not have any worries at all!

Many of us who have so many possessions, and yet it is never enough. Sure makes me reflect more about living an abundant and contented life God has blessed me with.

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5. Sharing is Loving

Wild boar is luxury food to the villagers. Although they do hunt these animals with the help of their hunting dogs, it is not everyday that they get to eat wild boar. So, apparently when they heard that most of us have not eaten this delicacy before, they purposely went out hunting the next day and caught a wild boar – specially for us city folk.

Half of the wild boar was cooked in three different manners – grilled, curry and stewed with herbs; and it was more than enough to feed all of us for lunch AND dinner! When we were about to leave on the final day, the villagers graciously gave us more of the wild boar to take home! Looking at the size of plastic bagfuls of wild boar we took back, I would have guessed they actually gave all of the other half to us!

Learning how to share from the villagers is truly an understatement. It is already very clear that they do not have many things, but the manner in which they choose to unselfishly give what they have is truly a remarkable lesson for all.

6. Building Meaningful Fellowships and New Friendships

It is always a joy when you go out with a group of friends to a restaurant where the food served is liked by everyone; or when you go out to watch a movie with a buddies with a similar taste of the movie genre. Likewise, mission trips like this one is always a good foundation to develop meaningful fellowships and discover new friendships with the group I am travelling with and also with the group we are travelling to.

When everyone in the mission team is going in with one overall purpose to share God’s love and bring smiles to their faces, stronger friendships are forged by unforgettable memories from the trip.

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7. В Of Simple Faith and Good Parenting

As a father of two young children, I was really amazed at the behaviour and attitude of the children in the village.

Let’s see: The children were very obedient to their parents; they never shouted back at the parents; they washed their own dishes without being told; they followed in our prayers with child-like sincerity; they were very attentive and participative during our lessons; they almost never whine; they had excellent table manners; they queued up for the food; the older ones would help to feed the younger ones…even if they were from different villages; and on and on..

Certainly gives me encouragement to bring up my children in a similar manner – with simple faith and obedience to God and parents.

8. The Maturing Youths

Every other day, and especially on Sundays when I would most likely see them, our church youths are just ordinary youths. During this trip, they have stepped out and demonstrated leadership qualities. Mission trips does have this extraordinary effect somehow.

It was pleasing to see how all the youths who participated had to literally break themselves out of their own comfort zones and forced themselves onto the next level of ministry – leading the kids in sessions, reaching out to them, playing with them, engaging them, and most importantly, showing and sharing God’s love with them.

I was very encouraged and amazed at how God was grooming the talents of these youths to be future leaders and also active in ministry.

9. Connecting with the God of Creation

In this city, we seldom get the opportunity to pause life and admire God’s handiwork every now and then. When we were on this trip, we were all delightfully greeted to so many wonders of His creation that speaks to everyone of us differently.

For example, every morning we would be woken up by the chilly, misty surroundings, treated to the fresh morning dew formed on the leaves and flowers, stand in awe of the sight of the majestic mountains, etc.

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At night, we would be able to see the myriad of stars seemingly decorating the night sky, lighting it up so brightly that at times they seemed to be within reach of our feeble fingers. Most of us admitted such sights are rarely found in the city, so I am pretty sure it is something we would certainly remember forever.

God’s creation speaks volumes of His power, love andВ sovereignty. It reminds me who is in charge of the stars, of nature, of all creation – including me.

10. God Heals and Restores

There was an evening when we spent some time playing football with the village men and boy, did we receive a footballing clinic that day. We played two brief games and although we ‘only’ lost 0-3 and 0-2, they really made us run everywhere with their superb passing and control of the game. Their goalkeeper could have literally gone home for a cup of coffee before returning because we almost posed no threat at all! Seriously!

At the end of the session, all of us were so extremely tired and beat. Fortunately, we all had this wonderful river to jump into and rejuvenate ourselves again! What a great illustration of how God continues to heal us in times of need.

Similarly, we often find ourselves so caught up with the rat race and other busi-ness that seems to be a regular feature in our lives. Most days, we would return home extremely tired and beat too. Whilst we all do not have a river to jump into back home, this experience during this trip reminds us all that amidst our busi-ness, we should not lose focus of resting our weary selves in the Lord every now and then.

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God has spoken. Now I need to be obedient and follow the lessons He has shown me through these reflections from the river…

 

The river of God sets our feet a-dancing
The river of God fills our hearts with cheer
The river of God fills our mouths with laughter
And we rejoice for the river is here

(Andy Park)

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Warning Signs

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A couple of weeks back, we were В heading back to KL from up north when we were caught in a terrible crawl for oh, about 30-45 minutes. Finally, we found out the main cause of it – a lorry accident near the Tasek cement factory. В From that point onwards, the relevant ‘road’ people, including the police had made a single lane contra flow for southbound folks whilst creating a backlog of traffic for the northbound folk…

When we cleared the area of incident, I made a rough estimate of how long the northbound jam was and it was easily at least 10km…

My mind then drifted away thinking of the unfortunate people who were driving up on our opposite direction, to join in the jam.

How could we warn them? Was there a way for them to turn back? Sigh.

Then I thought of all those electronic traffic boards on our roads that tend to tell us to drive safe more often than giving us real-time traffic updates. If those had been flashing wayyyy before accident site, would that have been enough to tell the oncoming drivers to stop by the side of the road or some R&R first? Perhaps there wasn’t any way to turn back after all…

…then I came to the tunnel just after Changkat Jering and I realised there was an available u-turn for northbound cars right after they exit the tunnel. It would have been great if the warnings had been flashed BEFORE the tunnel entrance, right?

It is incidents like these that makes us wonder if we have the right system in place to make traffic announcements?…:-D

Can you think of better ways to warn other drivers after an such accidents or traffic jams occur?..

Gold Coast gems

Many people have heard of Gold Coast, but I’d bet not many people know of a Gold Coast in Malaysia!

Yeah, it is one of those hidden gems we have that is not widely publicised. Located in Bagan Lalang in Sepang, just off the PD beaches is this area called Gold Coast Sepang, that is surrounded by a few beach hotels and villas. It is not too far off from KL, about an hour’s plus drive but most parts of the journey would be through kampung roads.

The area itself is truly beautiful. Nature just seems to jump at you there. The sand, the trees, the breeze, … however, I did noticed the sea looked rather murky. Too bad this is one area that money cannot help change…well, not yet anyway. Apart from that, it is indeed a haven for photographers as it has lots of nice spots and natural lighting.

During a recent family outing there, we intended to survey the area see if it was suitable for our free family portraiture photoshoot with Two Pixels Photography next month. We also managed to check out the new resort there – Golden Palm Tree, which was really classy. Imagine, you’d need to hop on to a golf buggy to take you to you water chalet! The rates were pretty exorbitant too, the cheapest were in the region of RM 650+ per pax per night. Good thing was that everyone was allowed to go into the resort compounds to take photos without any fee. Whew!

Anyway, all in all, it was a pretty good outing. Everyone had fun, especially Collin who couldn’t stop running on the nicely cropped grass in the resort grounds. I think this would be a really great place for the photo shoot. Can’t wait for it. :-)

Here are some of the ‘amateur’ shots that I took of Gold Coast Sepang:

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Playground of Horrors

Had a shock of my life when I was with my family in the Lumut beach area. After a stroll on the sand and waves, we decided to take the kids to the nearby playground and to our horror, it looked as if it was a playground directly taken out from a Wes Craven movie!

Here are some pics from the Lumut Playground of Horrors…

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wonder what happened to the kid (or big buffalo) who caused this..
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macc would say the victim unhinged this himself first...
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looks like a swing taken from the Saw movies

Universal Absence…

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I got the whole world....

Have beenВ missing В from the blogging and online world forВ the past couple of days. Was instead exploring the newly opened Resorts World in Singapore…heh. Erm…not really. :-p

Now, it was not all that great either considering I was here on business and without my family, so I really couldn’t didn’t go into the brand new Universal Studios that was just opened last week. I would have felt eternally guilty if I had gone into Universal Studios without the family. Current adult admission price was SGD66 for a day pass.

Anyway, I think Resorts World Singapore has done quite a good job in setting up the place. Apart from that killer looking roller coaster, other attractions include The Mummy and Shrek’s Far Far Away Castle. Although not many rides are currently available (besides the Battlestar Galactica ride getting shut down yesterday due to some technical glitch..), the place was still really teeming with people…lot’s of Aunties streaming into the casino and children puling their parents into Universal Studios.

Transportation into and out of the Resort was pretty good as well. They had free shuttle buses taking passengers ‘out’ of Resorts to Vivo City and also free monorail rides within Sentosa (yes…there are other attractions too besides the casino and Universal Studios…).

Even the casino atmosphere was much cleaner compared to their cloudy big brother. Perhaps it was the fact that the smoking section was strategically placed quite faraway so we could actually feel oxygen inside! Seriously!

Will definitely plan to come back again with the family when the kids are big enough to enjoy the attractions. 😀

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They have Chocolate World here too! Wee!

Dubai Dotings

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Some observations I felt I had to journal as memories and experiences during my recent trip to UAE (DubaiВ and Sharjah):

  1. The capital of UAE is actuallyВ Abu Dhabi, and NOTВ Dubai, althoughВ DubaiВ has over recent times emerged as the more industrious city.
  2. All drivers, especially taxi drivers are F1 drivers in disguise. They will suddenly rev up and accelerate without warning nor reason, take tight corners with one hand and still multi-task by cursing other drivers!
  3. Football commentary in Arabic is really colourful. I had the chance to watch one Champions League match and one BPL match and was pleasantly surprised at the passionate commentary, which was only a notch lower than the South Americans.
  4. Being 4 hours behind Malaysian time meant it was quite ideal to watch football matches on TV here.J
  5. UAE is filled with luxury cars! To illustrate, just imagine a country with the saloon taxis being 2.4 Toyota Camrys and 2.5 Nissan Altimas. Hummers are aplenty here too! I almost choked when I saw the list of car prices there. I could already own a Murano for less than what I paid for my Livina inMalaysia!
  6. Car modifications are not allowed in UAE. With such high specs they get for the price they are paying, I don’t see the need to anyway. So how would they spend the extra cash? Some would use it to buy luxurious number plates, of course. There was this story of a local who spent USD 25 million to get the number plate of his choice!
  7. I just couldn’t help but marvel at the outlandish and amazing construction wonders of the country. Already well known for the 7-star Burj Al-Arab, they recently opened another 7-Star hotel called Atlantis, an underwater hotel…
  8. Recently opened was the Dubai Mall (biggest in the world, complete with a huge undersea aquarium). It will have over 1,200 shops. Our entireВ MidvalleyВ MegamallВ probably covers one level of this huge mall!
  9. Upcoming constructions include the Dubai Tower – tallest tower in the world, The World (island feature of the world), an island within the city. Basically, they have cranes and other construction machinery everywhere! There was a remark that 30% of the world’s construction is found in UAE.
  10. People here are rather laid back and relaxed. It seemed as if they do not need to push themselves to work for a living. Maybe they are all getting paid rather well. Hmmm.
  11. Only about 10% of the population are local. The rest of the country are made up of various nationalities like Filipinos, Indians, Pakistanis, Syrians, Jordanians, Chinese, etc. The locals, however, play a strong supporting and sponsoring role in all businesses.
  12. People here can really eat big portions! Even the ladies here have huge appetites! There was an occasion where three Malaysian guys (including myself) were outdone at a buffet spread by a local woman…of course, I observed they often skip their breakfast.
  13. Yemeni mandy rice is just too yummy!
  14. Almost every meal comes with greens as starters to hide the meats, shwarmas, kebabs, etc. as the main course. Popular soup starter is lentil soup (dhal soup)
  15. I had a McArabia!
  16. Hard Rock Dubai does not serve alcohol anymore. It was also very difficult to get there – really situated out of nowhere. No wonder business looked terrible and I think it’s gonna close shop soon. Hope the value of my T-shirt goes up then. Heh.
  17. No tolls on the highways. All cars are equipped with a device that is uploaded with cash. The toll amount is automatically scanned off this device as the car passes thru every toll arc.
  18. You can hardly find any motorcycles on the road. If you do, it would either be a store/shop/pizza delivery guy; or a Harley.
  19. It rained for a few minutes when I was there. Super rare occurrence. Yay!
  20. Traffic jams can be pretty nasty here. Although Sharjah andВ DubaiВ are only about 20km apart geographically, if you leave at the wrong time, you could end up in traffic for 3 hours.

(Originally posted on allandog.multiply.com)

Klang Book & Feast Adventure

Had an unbelievable book and feast adventure in Klang yesterday. After church, took a drive down to Klang where we all rendezvous at the house of a Klang-bred girl. Like wolves, we quickly moved like a pack of wolves to a bak kut teh eatery, recommended because they served both the dry and soupy types. Although the meal can be considered overall rather satisfactory, the soupy version couldn’t compare to other places (in Klang as well as in Serdang) I’ve tried before. The dry-type was an interesting introduction for me though. The way that it was cooked excellently brought out the natural smells of the sotong, shrimps and all. Best part of lunch was that the entire meal was almost illogically cheap! Cost per head was approx RM 6!…

Like clockwork, we proceeded toВ WestВ PortВ to visit the book fest onboard the MV Doulos. This oldest floating bookshop in the world travels all over the world and is currently docked in Port Klang for about a month. The last time it was here was like 4 or 5 years ago, so one can imagine the crowd that just wanted to climb aboard this historical ship.

Reached the destination at around 3pm and was shocked to see the queue of people starting from the car park area right to the port terminal! Frying our brains in the desert-like heat of a Sunday afternoon wasn’t exactly fun, to put it bluntly. An hour later we finally managed to move into the partially air-conditioned terminal and move towards the boat. Was stopped again halfway coz due to the max capacity of the boat, people had to come down form the boat before others could go onboard. Think of those ware-house sales concept and you’d know what I mean. ;-P. Only managed to plant my feet onboard the boat at around 5pm. About the length of a football match. :-o.

My jaws dropped when a friend that has been working on Doulos for some time shared that the crowd we saw yesterday does not even come close to the crowd inВ TaiwanВ where the total per day visiting was around 26,000 people (about 5X the crowd that Sunday)!

Amidst the stuffiness and sea of people , I managed to buy some books before disembarking the boat at about 6.30pm. Replenished fluids before shooting off for Teluk Gong for an excellent seafood dinner at Coconut Flower. Lotsa crabs, fish, mutant-sized la-las, etc. Ironic thing was that the house specialty was the salted chicken…no kidding.

Reached home and unloaded stuff close to 11.00pm. Stomach has definitely been well-treated that day. Haven’t weighed myself after the trip though. Hope the loss of fluids through sweat during the 2-hour queue would minimize the damage to the scales. ;-P

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Numbers from the Trip:

Cost of port entrance fee – RM 1

Cost of 1.5l 100plus to replenish fluids – RM 3

Cost of toll charges to and fro. – RM 6

Cost of car petrol used for journey (est) – RM 15

Cost of fantastic rich-in-cholesterol bak kut teh lunch – RM 65

Cost of books bought onboard MV Doulos – RM 150

Cost of superb rich-in-cholesterol seafood dinner in Teluk Gong – RM 222

Cost of hanging out together with old uni friends for an adventure of fattening, sun-bathing, laughing, chatting, updating; and also meeting up with Doulos veteran and also ex-Uni mate Simon – PRICELESS.

Thanks you guys for an exhaustively wonderful time together! ;-D

(Originally posted on allandog.multiply.com)