Kwa Kiem Kiok is a contributor to Methodist Message. In mid-August she and her husband Ivan Tan left for Asbury Theological College in Wilmore, Kentucky, for a sabbatical. Below are their reflections on taking this step.
ONE commandment we have trouble keeping is the fourth one: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord.” (Ex 20: 8&9).
Each week just whizzes by – long work days, small group meetings, family commitments, church meetings, preparing for bible study, a little time for friends and exercise. We hardly spend time in sabbath reflection and prayer, or even unhurried time with friends. And, though we do go away each year for a holiday, two weeks away doesn’t quite refresh us from 50 weeks of fast-paced Singaporean life.
But at the same time, we question why we are living such a fast-paced life. Do we need to? More importantly, how does God want us to live? Does our lifestyle reflect our values, our trust and faith in Him?
We are quite sure that our call is to live out our faith here in Singapore: this is home and where our families and friends are, but we felt there is a need to step aside and to think through it all.
For several years we had discussed the idea of going away. In God’s good time, various things began to fall into place in 2002. By June 2003, we had completed three and four-and-a-half years at our respective jobs. We felt that it was time to move on. We were ready to go. With advice, we sought out different schools and found that Asbury Theological Seminary, a Methodist graduate school in Kentucky, the US, would meet our needs very well. We applied and were accepted. At various stages, we experienced the Lord’s blessing and providence.
This sabbatical is much more than just going away to study, it is more than just getting additional degrees (our third, for the record). This sabbatical is for us to move away from what is familiar and comfortable, and to go into a different environment, becoming students again. It is a time for learning and growth, for formation and transformation. It means making friends and getting involved in a culturally different Christian community.
We have our apprehensions. For us, this journey is also about trusting God to take care of the families and communities we leave here. It will remind us that we are not indispensable (especially in our local church!) and that we need to trust in our Lord as the One who provides.
A wise friend urged us not to worry about what we will do on our return — the Lord will show us. Meanwhile we are assured with His peace that this step is the right one at this time. The next step (or job) will reveal itself in His time.
And so we will spend the next two to three years away. Yes, even the length of time away is uncertain. But we journey with our hands in the hand of God, for that is better than a light and safer than a known way.