Thursday, 30 December 2004

Faith is built on stories like this.

The reason why I write is because of stories like this.

You're a What?

I have never faced as much challenge to my faith and belief in my life as I had over the last two weeks.

I became a Seventh-day Adventist when I was 19 and as such, had the fortune of never having to face Sabbath issues in school like many of my SDA friends in Singapore had. Six months after my baptism, I moved off to Australia to begin my college education at Avondale College. Upon graduation, I went on a one year volunteer stint with Newbold College in England as a Public Relations assistant.

The SDA community surrounded me for probably the whole of my born-again life. I lived the “easy” life where I had Friday afternoons free to prepare for the Sabbath, and nobody questioned me about going to church on a Saturday.

That has all changed since I’ve returned home to Singapore two months ago.

Not wanting the commitment of a full-time permanent job just yet, I decided to take up short-term temporary jobs. Unfortunately, most jobs required working through the weekends and as such, job opportunities were far and few between.

Two weeks ago, I decided to start hunting for a full-time job. Besides sending in applications, I also signed up with a job agency. The phone calls for interviews came pouring in and that was when my true test began.

Practically all the phone calls I received required me to work on Saturdays and going through interviews soon became an ordeal. Interviewers would look at me questioningly when I said, not without regret, that I could not work on a Saturday because I had to go to church.

“I thought church happened on Sundays?”

“Yeah, a lot of denominations do that. But because I’m a Seventh-day Adventist, I go to church on a Saturday.”

“You’re a what?”

And thus would begin a historical lesson on Sabbath and Sunday worship that I’m not sure the interviewer actually wanted to hear. To their credit, they listened to me with patience and understanding. Of course, that also meant that I never got the job.

It became quite exasperating because I would get job offers that I would be happy to take up, but had to immediately decline upon hearing the work hours. However, I managed to do so with a light heart largely because the jobs were never much of a temptation to begin with. I liked the job scope, but it was something I knew I could live without.

So my test got harder.

Recently, I was offered a job with a well-established production house in Singapore. It was everything I wanted in a job and would help me gain much desired experience in film production. The Managing Director of the company himself spent more than an hour talking to me about the company, its past and future projects and the responsibilities I would be taking up. I was filled with so much passion and enthusiasm for the job that I was prepared to take it up immediately.

Just as we started discussing my salary and benefits, the MD mentioned in passing that I would be required to work on Saturdays as well.

My world came crashing down.

“I can’t,” I told him, tears nearly filling my eyes.

After hearing my reasons, the MD actually spent close to two hours trying to convince me otherwise.

“Religion is about a relationship between you and your God. It’s about your heart and your mind. You don’t have to worship God on a special day to be a Christian,” was the MD’s line of argument. “Surely your God would not smite you down if you did not go to church on Saturday. It’s not as if we are worshipping the devil here. You’re working and your God would understand that.

We are living in the real world and when you are, you have to leave religion aside. Having a religion is a good thing, but when it interferes with your life, you need to realise that you have got to live and that your work has to come first.”

When I told him that I knew God would still love me despite me working on a Sabbath, and that I agreed with him that Christianity is about a relationship, he could not fathom what then was stopping me from working.

He shot back with, “But if you take up this job, you never know, you may pick up skills that would be useful for your church in future.”

Our discussion went on forever without any conclusion. He finally told me he thought I was making a stupid decision, that I was throwing away a perfect opportunity and that I was too rigid to my beliefs. But I left with him asking me to reconsider, and that if I changed my mind, he would be happy to take me on and have me start work immediately.

I would have to go through almost twelve hours of pain and agony after that as I had to decline the job three times during that time period. The increasing number of times I had to say no did nothing to numb the pain. On the contrary, the loss I felt for giving up what I felt was my dream job became more real after I said sorry to the MD for the third time. I could not help it, something at the back of my head was saying that I would probably regret my decision in years to come.

Naturally, I started questioning my religion in the days to follow. I started wondering if it was even worth it to be a Christian, and began harbouring the idea of turning my back to God. But it is something I simply could not do.

God has become a part of me and giving God up would be equivalent to choosing not to breathe. I have my ups and downs with God. At times I don’t even feel his presence. But I could never ever knowingly give him up. Especially not when I realise that the only reason why I have gotten to where I am, with the experience I’ve got to put into a resume that enticed employers to call me for an interview, is all thanks to him.

And certainly not when I know that my younger brother’s own faith would be shaken if I chose to break the Sabbath.

This afternoon, I had to decline two more jobs because of Sabbath issues and I still feel the loss. Yet, I trust and know that he is going to provide me with something that would be beyond what I could imagine.

And in the near future, I know I will be writing a sequel to this article, on how I have found my true dream job. A job that would help me honour my God. A job that I would love, embrace and call my own.

An article written sometime in March 2004.

An article which existence I had forgotten about.

9 months on, it has become an article which I have already unwittingly written a sequel to.

Friday, 24 December 2004


In order for the South Pacific Division (my would-be employers) to get me a work visa, they would need to apply for a business sponsorship license. The application process would normally take at least 4 weeks.

It took them about 4 days.

In order for me to work for the South Pacific Division (SPD), I would need a work visa. The application process would normally take 4-8 weeks.

I got a call this morning telling me that my application has been sent in. The only problem is that they cannot seem to locate my X-ray which was sent to the visa place last Friday. I provided my SPD contact person, Colin, with the tracking number of the courier package to see if the visa place could better locate my X-ray. He got the tracking number and provided the visa place with it.

Ten minutes later, he receives a phonecall telling him my work visa has been approved.

The entire process took....2 weeks? And I'm being generous at that.

I am left utterly speechless as to how swift everything has gone. What would normally take months has taken me weeks to obtain. Why do I have this strange feeling that God really wants me in Australia?

I can only wonder about the reason why.

In the meantime, I'm going to have to prepare to leave for Sydney on January 13 or 14, 2005. I start work January 17, 2005.


Friday, 17 December 2004

Disclaimer: This post sent to me by Gail.
12.19am. From the desk of the Commissioner of Police, Mr Khoo Boon Hui

Dear Mr Tan,

Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I am directing Commander Ang Mo Kio to look into the matter and see how they can expedite the matter. As I am unfamiliar with the reasons for the delay, I can only presume that it may still be required as evidence for the court case or is the subject of a disposal enquiry.

Khoo Boon Hui

1.24pm. From the desk of the Covering Commander of Ang Mo Kio Police Station

Dear Mr Tan,

Let me apologise for the inconvenience caused to you. The delay was due to the fact that your handphone might be used as evidence in court. Nevertheless, we have since made some alternative arrangements so that the handphone could be returned to you earlier.

My Investigation Supervisor, Mr Sabil Juni, will be contacting you shortly to arrange for the collection.

Once again, thank you for your feedback and we look forward to serving you better.

Michael Tan
Commander Ang Mo Kio Police (Covering)

Moral of the story?

When you want fast action, go straight to the head honcho.

Thursday, 16 December 2004

The Call of a Desperate Phone Owner - my brother

Dear Mr Khoo Boon Hui,

More than a year ago, my mobile phone, a well-beloved Nokia 3315, was stolen by a youth misguided by society.

The reason for my writing is not to express my woes about the youth of today, because the wonderful police force that keeps Singapore safe had actually managed to retrieve my adored tool of communication, along with the misguided youth.

A report (ref no: F/031009/0125) was filed dated 9 October 2003 with Sgt T00148 Lim Swee Hua at the Hougang Neighbourhood Police Centre, which I have attached for your reference. This case was then handed over to the Ang Mo Kio Police Station on the very same day.

Unfortunately, my much missed electronic device is still not in my embrace.

The police officer in charge of the case, Ms Nurul (Tel: 1800 6218 0000), had mentioned that she needed my mobile phone as evidence. As a law-abiding citizen ever willing to cooperate, I bade a temporary adieu to my little bundle of joy. I was promised its safe return within a few weeks.

If my calendar is the same as the rest of Singapore's, it has been almost 15 months since then and I still have not felt the familiar warmth of my phone.

I find it extremely disturbing and am worried my phone may fail to recognise me when it ever returns.

Understanding that our police officers have much to do, I have tried to aid them by calling Ms Nurul on at least 20 separate occasions, so that she did not need to trouble herself to contact me. When I manage to speak with her and question about my phone, she would immediately
brush me off by saying the phone is not ready for collection. It is amazing what a wonderful photographic memory she has, that she does not even need to refer to any documentation as to which case I was referring to.

Also, when I have been unable to speak with her personally, my calls to her would all be unreturned and my desperate pleas ignored, dealing my self-esteem a severe blow.

Now, I sincerely have no idea what has become of my mobile phone and would yearn to have it taken off my "missing persons" list. However, I am not getting much help or response from Ms Nurul or Ang Mo Kio Police Station where my case was reported to.

Mr Khoo, I sincerely plead for your help in this matter as I think I have been placed on the "to be ignored" list of Ang Mo Kio Police Station.

I would really appreciate an explanation of the entire matter, whether my portable communicating device has helped the misguided youth in returning to the flock and if I would ever feel my mobile phone in my hot little hands ever again.

Thank you so much for your time in dealing with this issue.

Looking forward to a much favourable reply soon.

Yours sincerely,
Shannon Tan (Mr)

cc. Quality Services Manager Rajoo V Gopal, Commander 'F' Division Jessica Kwok, Ms Penny Low (MP, Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC), The Straits Times forum pages and Streats comments pages

Monday, 6 December 2004

do people actually care or listen in this country?

I could have been sprawled on the floor of the train this morning, half-dead and foaming at my mouth and I doubt anybody would have bothered to help me. Surreptiously walk to another corner, more likely.

About 15 minutes into my journey on the train to work this morning, I was suddenly hit by a pang of general unease. My heart start racing (and believe me, it had nothing to do with the flamboyant entrance of a stunning specimen of the male species), my head started spinning, my stomach started aching, I thought I was going to throw up and I was doubled over thinking I was going to die.

For some unexplained reason, I was unable to breathe properly and all I wanted to do was to curl up in a feotal position.

Strangely enough though, despite feeling so uncomfortable, one part of my mind was wondering how long it would take for people to take notice of a person dying. Obviously, far too long. I could jolly well have been a decomposing heap of rotten flesh with flies buzzing around and nobody would have thought twice about calling in the police, or some crime scene investigators.

Honestly, I looked around, and people were either asleep or staring into space in a direction other than at me. Singaporeans give others far too much privacy it seems.

On another note, I just got a phonecall from some fellow looking for my uncle who uses our address and phone number for correspondence (the reason why is too long to explain).

Guy: Hi, I'm calling from NTUC Income, can I speak to Mr Tan Hock Lai?
Me: Actually, he doesn't live with us, can I help you with anything?
Guy: Yes, I'm from NTUC Income, I would like to speak to him.
Me: Ok, but I can't put you in contact with him at the moment because he's not here.
Guy: Oh, do you have his mobile number or office number or something?
Me: I don't, but my mom does and she's not here at the moment. Maybe I can take a message?
Guy: Erm, do you know him?
Me: Yes, he is my uncle. What is this regarding?
Guy: We just wanted to ask him if he received a letter from us regarding combined funds.
Me: I'm sorry, but maybe my mom would know.
Guy: That's why I think it's better to talk to him. Can you give me his mobile number?
Me: Look, I don't have his mobile number. My mom does and she's at work. Do you want to call her?
Guy: Is 62xxxxxx Mr Tan's office number? I can call there.
Me: I don't know!
Guy: Maybe I can call him later tonight when he comes home from work?
Me: I told you, he doesn't live here! He just uses our address for correspondence!
Guy: Ok fine, that's alright. Bye.

What is wrong with these people?!?!
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