At 8.20 pm, 25th March, 2017, I received a Whatsapp message from a friend, Steven Toh, informing me that a mutual friend, Meng Hoi, had had a heart attack and had died. My first reaction: “Loh Meng Hoi??????” Because it couldn’t be that Meng Hoi.

It couldn’t be Meng Hoi.

He was one of the most gentle people I knew. I first met him when I came to serve as pastor of the then First Baptist Church, Petaling Jaya. My relations with the church leaders were not always smooth. I am sure my quick temper was part of the problem. But here was a leader who never lost his cool, and was always kind and gentle even when he disagreed with you.

It couldn’t be Meng Hoi.

At a chapter of life when many were slowing down, he was more active than ever, pouring his life into youth ministry and providing sterling leadership in the Boys Brigade, among other things. The testimonies of lives touched by him continue to pour in. In a day and age where virtually every day we hear of poor leadership or, worse, leaders who abuse their charges, Meng Hoi’s work among youth shone very bright. He deserved many more years of ministry. He would have touched many, many more lives.

It couldn’t be Meng Hoi.

We had promised to meet and catch up. I haven’t had a proper chat with him for decades. I live in Singapore and he lived in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, but recently we reconnected over social media. What we really wanted, though, was to catch up face to face so we said that the next time I was up in PJ and we were able to coordinate our schedules, we would meet up over a meal and have a long catch up. I was really looking forward to this.

So it couldn’t have been Meng Hoi. There must be some mistake. He looked like he was in the peak of health. I had heard nothing of any struggles with health problems. It couldn’t have been Meng Hoi.

But it was.

God’s thoughts are clearly higher than mine because at times like this I have no idea what He is up to. If He needed help to choose who to take home, I will be more than glad to give Him some names.

But Meng Hoi?

I vacillate between sorrow and shock, between grief and anger. And guilt that I hadn’t seen him earlier. Why Meng Hoi? But God doesn’t give any answer, much less a satisfactory one.

Therefore I am grateful that Good Friday and Easter are near. I try to comfort myself by remembering that death and sadness belong to the Friday part of life. But Sunday is coming.