Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus,
about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about
everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things
with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them;
(Luke 24:13–15 NIV)
Last Monday (August 14), we launched our book, Walking With The Risen Christ, in Cziplee, a fantastic stationery store in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur. The Chen family (the Chen brothers, Alvin and Jason, and their parents, Peter and Karen) who run the store, heard that our launch in Singapore didn’t go too well, and offered their place if we wanted to launch the book in Kuala Lumpur. That’s what friends do. When they see a friend is down, they offer help and encouragement.
And help they did. They closed the store early, they gave us a cosy space for the launch, and assigned staff to help. We couldn’t have asked for more. What’s more, Peter, Karen, Alvin and Jason were around to give their personal support. Jade, Alvin’s wife was there too, though she had just given birth a few weeks ago. Their support was personal.
I first met the Chens more than 15 years ago. It was a difficult time in my life. Some of the leaders of their church asked if I could help do some Bible teaching, at a time when few churches welcomed my ministry. I wasn’t at the top of my game but I did what I could. Friendships formed. A few from their church became close friends. But I have not kept in touch with these folks for many years, so I was very touched when they offered to help us with the launch. Their approach was an expression of the love of Christ and it illustrated a key conviction of our lives and ministry — we experience the love of Christ through the love of our friends in Christ.
The launch itself was a celebration of friendship. First off, many thanks to Larry of Canaanland, our distributors in Malaysia. Of course, Larry is more than a business and ministry partner. He is also a dear friend. He was out of the country and couldn’t join us that evening but he did all that was needed, including sending one of his staff to give support.
Rev Dr Sivin Kit gave a response to my presentation of the book and prayed for God’s blessings on the book and on Bernice and myself. Sivin gave a passionate endorsement of the book that demonstrated once again that we were on the same page in our convictions about friendship and ministry. Here was another friend who had entered my life in that difficult period and has become a Jonathan-David friend.
And then there were the people who came for the launch. A number were new friends, and we rejoiced in getting to know them. But many were old friends and family. Family included folks I have known since I was a child. Cousins, an aunt… It gave me great joy to see them. And the friends came from different chapters of my life and ministry. Our lives were intertwined with bonds of joy and tears. Time and energy are premium in the Klang Valley as they are in any major urban city. But there they were.
In many ways, the launch modelled the lesson of the book. The basic thesis of Walking With The Risen Christ is that the most important thing that helps Christian small groups thrive is the realisation that the risen Christ is at the centre of our fellowship, and that, as we walk together, Christ walks with us. It was that kind of evening. It is also interesting to note that the name of the store, Cziplee, is a Chinese word that means unity and strength. How ngaam (Cantonese word for “just right”).