liveonThere were two “firsts” reported in the Singapore Sunday Times, August 11, 2013. There was the report of a Singaporean who became the first graduate from Britain’s Royal College of Music to specialise in a Chinese instrument. Then there was the report of the first person in Singapore “to make an organ donation to a stranger” (The Sunday Times, August 11, 2013, 1). Thirty-four-year-old taxi driver Tong Ming Ming gave 70 per cent of his liver to a dying man after reading a Facebook appeal. Senior Correspondent Raha Bashu writes:

The Ministry of Health confirmed that this was the first altruistic liver donation here by an unrelated living donor — someone with no blood ties to the patient.

To most people, including the man who received the gift of life, the genial soft-spoken bachelor’s generosity is beyond comprehension. (“Cabby donates liver to stranger,” The Sunday Times, August 11, 2013, 2.)

I’d like to think that I am capable of that level of sacrifice for my wife and children, other close family members, and a few close friends. I am not sure I would do that for a complete stranger. In a world where selfishness is the order of the day, we have to ask why, why did Mr Tong do what he did?

Ask Mr Tong why he stepped forward and he points heavenward. “It’s a calling,” he said with a laugh, referring to his Christian faith. (“Cabby donates liver to stranger,” 2.)

Of course Christians are not the only people capable of altruism but I think it is expected of followers of a Lord who died on a cross to give life to others. This is the same Lord who told us the true meaning of greatness.

. . . whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:43b–45 NIV).

This capacity for sacrificial service characterises those among us who best reflect the life of Christ. Tong is one. Catherine of Siena (1347–1380) is another. Between 1348 to 1350, the Black Death, bubonic plague,  “killed more than one-third of the entire population between Iceland and India” (“The Black Death,” Christian History, Issue 30, 1991). In response to this onslaught, few ventured to help those afflicted. Except for people like Catherine of Siena.

People barred themselves in their houses or fled to the country. A fourteenth-century writer, Jean le Bel, wrote that “one caught it from another, which is why few people dared to help or visit the sick.”

Yet when another wave of the plague struck Catherine’s hometown of Siena in 1374, she determined to stay. Following the example of the early Franciscans and Dominicans, she and her followers stayed to nurse the ill and bury the dead (“The Black Death,” Christian History, Issue 30, 1991,

Jesus Christ has ascended and is now at the right hand side of the Father. How will people today get some idea of what Christ is like? Through the lives of those who bear His Name and who are called to reflect His character. Through the Tongs and the Catherines.

I am glad that Tong mentioned “calling”. Not all of us are called to such obvious heroic acts of love. Some serve quietly, caring for the sick and the aged, their love given in measured doses, day by day. I am not sure which is harder. All I know is that we must be faithful to what we have been called to do.

I am also glad that the fact that Tong laughed was mentioned a few times in the news report. Perhaps that is the greater miracle. Not only did Tong give of himself so sacrificially, he did it with joy. Now that surely must be a God thing.