By Tey Yee Han, translated by Lester Lim
“Am I the only youth here?” I asked as I arrived at Ma Mum, the meeting place before our flight to our retreat destination. Would I be able to socialise with them? Without years of life experience under my belt, would I be treated differently? Looking at my fellow retreatant, I wondered if I would have a hard time fitting in.
My doubts instantly dissolved when we had our first morning devotion. The solemnity and humility displayed by everyone showed me that as we worshipped our Heavenly Father, we are all His children. No one is above or beneath anyone else in the eyes of God. Our passion to know and serve Him became our common ground and bonded us together.
During this trip, the Christian lifestyle was not just a theoretical concept but was exemplified by each retreatant. The effort, courage, and energy required to host this reading retreat was enormous on the part of Dr Samuel Wang. Rev Eric Chan displayed love and care in preparing our breakfast every single day, as well as managing our funds throughout the trip. There was wisdom, insight and courage exhibited by Rev Rita Wong, who answered our burning questions and boldly praised the Lord wherever she went. Brother John had foresight in scouting out new locations we were going to, and immensely generous to take flattering photos of us as a cameraman. The laughter Peter brought bonded us together instantly, and he was magnanimous to prioritise our well-being over his own. Lee Kim’s high-spiritedness and ability to laugh at herself kept the group motivated. Everyone sacrificed their comfort for the service of others, as it is said in Luke 18:14 “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Every afternoon was dedicated to reading The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. This protected reading time helped me to focus and peel back the many layers of Brennan’s message. He writes about the current misconception Christians possess: having a karmic relationship with Christ where our good deeds, or lack thereof, determines the grace that God will give us, when in fact we’ve already received the full grace of God unconditionally. (Even post-retreat, I am still gaining insights as I feel the Holy Spirit continually moving me while reading the book.)
The ingenious way of reviewing each chapter was insightful, as we came up with MCQ-style questions to ascertain our understanding. It was intense but rewarding as a deeper level of wisdom was needed to make sure there was only one correct option. Posing these questions to each other also allowed us to explore and discover certain ideas that were not as obvious. Not only was this engaging, but it also enabled us to think more deeply about the message the book wanted to bring across.
I realise that we are all sinners and ragamuffins, and yet we can receive the gospel of grace unconditionally. This book highlighted that we are saved not because of our own doing but by Christ’s actions. Hence we should get rid of any notion of redeeming ourselves with our actions in the eyes of God.
Therefore let us magnify Christ and make his sacrifice known to everyone – not just the righteous but also the sinners, the ostracised and outcasts of society. Let Him be known to all ragamuffins living in this world. Glory be to God!
“我将是聚会里唯一的年轻人吗？” 我在抵达起航前往退修会机场集合点Ma Mum餐馆时问道，“我是否会与他们有代沟？没有相应的人生经验，我是否会受到他们不同的对待？” 我很想知道自己能不能够与退休会弟兄姐妹融洽相处。