Dear friends, thank you all for your warm regards and kind encouragement since the announcement of my late uncle’s passing. The simple messages by text, email, or online messenger have meant so much and have been a constant reminder of all your love and support.
The past few days have been pretty hectic with back to back funeral related gatherings. It is customary here to have a few days of funeral services (ours was 4 days, though some go up to weeks) where friends and family get together to pay their final respects, spend some time with the family, and according to my uncle’s desire: to have a service each evening where songs are sung, the Bible is read, and a short sermon preached. Different people attend each day, so my dad and I (along with my cousins and their family) have been around greeting people and spending time with them.
Through this, I was just amazed to my shame by how little I knew about my uncle. He was a man of very few words. He was a doer and rarely spoke about what he did, and never boasted in his achievements. In fact, he would make people promise that they would never speak about what he did for them. For example, my uncle loved the church that he grew up in. It is a tiny little church in a kampung (village) about 45 minutes away from Malacca and he used to travel in a few times each month to preach there. I had no idea that he was a lay preacher. I knew he was a deacon at his home church where he was doing heaps already. But it encouraged me even more knowing that he was consistently digging into God’s Word for his personal devotional life and also in order to expound it to people who desperately needed it. I thought it was even more amazing that my uncle never attended high school (I had no idea about this as well – even my dad didn’t know!). This means that strictly speaking, his literacy levels should have been capped at the 6th grade level. But against the odds, he read avidly. He read the newspapers every day and was constantly reading whatever book he could get his hands on. It was also later revealed that he was reading through a set of Bible commentaries that my dad had left behind in his house. Above all, he read his Bible. Again, no outsider knew this – but he would wake up each morning to pray and read his Bible and he wouldn’t even have breakfast until he completed this. He would then end his night by kneeling beside his bed to pray for his church, family, and those around him. The man loved God’s Word and had a heart for God’s mission.
In addition to serving as a preacher, he was also a generous giver. Again, no one knew about this and it all only surfaced when friends and family gave their respective eulogies. It was kind of incredible because it was like no one knew the full story about my uncle. They are all preserved in fragments in different peoples’ lives. Even his sons don’t know how much their father did for them and those around them. And so listening to the eulogies was like piecing a giant puzzle together in order to get an image of what my uncle was truly like. One of the ladies from my uncle’s home church came up to share about his generous heart, and it was revealed that my uncle gave tens of thousands to the work of the Gospel there. He gave to the building fund because the facilities had not been improved for over 40 years, he gave to the ministry workers because the congregation could not afford to give, and he gave to various mission initiatives so that the whole village could have the Gospel that he treasured. My uncle was not rich either. He ran a simple shop selling clothes. It is the kind of shop that you’d walk past without giving it a second look because it was just humble and unexceptional. Sure, he was a wise steward of his possessions and that enabled him to have some wealth. But he was an even wiser steward by investing it in the work of God’s Kingdom.
So the past few days have been like a crash course in learning about my uncle’s life. Everyone was learning. But my heart was just so overwhelmed with thankfulness for what he did for the Gospel. I was reminded that I have been directly a beneficiary of that because he was the one who introduced the Gospel to my dad, and that was passed onto me as my parents discipled me in their home. His love for the Gospel was so overwhelming that the final words on his tombstone is: The Gospel Must Go On. I was reduced to tears when I read that because he did everything he could to make sure the Gospel reached as many as possible. And now, even upon his death, he was still inspiring others to do the same.
So thank you for your prayers and support. They say that funerals are not for the dead but for the living, and my uncle’s funeral just oozed with the Gospel. No one could walk away not knowing what he valued. May the words from his grave resound and may many more follow in his footsteps.