I wasn’t sure if I should have accepted the invitation. It’s not that I didn’t care. I just wasn’t sure if I would be effective. But I said yes. This afternoon I spoke to a small group of eight men from a facility for those with mental disorders. I realised that many of them would have preferred me to speak in Mandarin. I had to make do with English and a smattering of Hokkien incorporating both Singapore and Penang words. (This was a far cry from my preaching at Wesley last Sunday.)
It was the first time I had met them. Yet my heart went out to them. I wanted so much to communicate to them the reality of God’s love, to share with them spiritual truths that could somehow give them some strength and courage for the journeys they had been assigned in life. I began by sharing some of my own experiences of brokenness. Then I shared from 2 Corinthians 1:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (vv. 3-4 NIV)
I tried to get across two points — that they were to turn to God for help in their time of need, and that their pain, and their experience of God’s grace, enabled them to reach out to others in pain. I tried hard and prayed hard and am still not sure how much of it got through.
Then I asked them to share their stories. Some of the stories broke my heart. I teared inside and wondered how the folks who have to care for them on an on-going basis do this work full-time. We were supposed to finish at 4pm. By 3.55 everyone had said all that was to be said. No reason why they should open up to a person they were meeting for the first time. God knows how many times they had been rejected in their lives. And I continued to wonder if I had done them any good.
Then one of them surprised me. He had nodded off, on and off, throughout the session. Maybe it was the influence of the meds he was taking. I didn’t think I had gotten through to him. But he said: “Are you coming back next Tuesday? Make sure you come back next Tuesday.” He said this a few times to make sure I heard him. I guess there was more happening here than meets the eye. I will be taking another session next week. My education continues.