Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The count down clock is ticking! I will step down from the position of Chief Executive from 1 April this year, and enter into sabbatical. In my whole life I have always been busy with ministries and medical practice, not having any chance for a sabbatical year. So I teased myself saying that the coming year should be called the “Jubilee” for me instead! And I pray that in future I could continue serving in CEDAR on an honorary basis.
I have served as the Chief Executive of CEDAR for 11 years. Before that I worked in Afghanistan. These are tough training for me. Exciting, difficult, joyful, regretful, doubtful, trusting…I have experienced all kinds of circumstances! Life is rich, and it’s so real and down to earth. Be it a macro or micro issue, a global or local concern, every true story and every person we encounter can challenge our own framework and demand our honest response.
When I was in high school, I did not know God. Being a little naïve I imagined myself entering into a big time, something fiery and unpredictable. Who would know that years later God sent me to serve in the Afghan war zone? Now indeed the world has turned into another big era. What could I contribute? How could I change the world? These are questions that anyone seeking a life purpose would ask. When I ask myself these questions again today, how much can I really change? All I see is that men can destroy nature, but cannot control it. Men set up systems, but cannot regulate behaviours. Behind all these, men have not conquered their own hearts, and this is the root of all problems. Civilization, education, economic theory, religion, politics have all been used to shape men. But looking at our world today, I begin to question what exactly is true success and advancement.
Our original sin and selfishness have never been more apparent. To love God and men is the core belief of many religions. Yet the reality is, a man’s behavior and deeds are guided by self satisfaction, whether he is doing good or bad. In his subconscious mind it’s him that is the starting point, and also the end point. It is so hard to turn a person from loving his own self to loving others. Man wants to be bigger than God, and much more so he wants to be higher than all others. This is how relationship began to break down.
But doesn’t our culture advocate that “Everyone for himself and the devil take the hindmost” ( 「人不為己，天誅地滅」)? Interestingly, this idea originates from “The Discourse On The Ten Wholesome Ways Of Action” (《佛說十善業道經》). “For himself” in fact means “to train and condition oneself”. How wrong we have misunderstood this saying. As “Confucian Analects” (《論語》) says, “The scholars of the past learned things to better himself, but the present ones learn things to impress others”(「古之學者為己，今之學者為人」). Confucius had seen through the pretense. He realized that a man learns and does good things in order to boast himself. To some, it may be surprising to know that no matter how glorious we term our behavior and actions, it actually boils down to a selfish purpose. When one says “Love your neighbor as yourself”, does it really mean “love one another as a way to love oneself”?
In my ministry experience, I have seen through many things and people. We try to change the world quickly, transform others, and make a better system. But on the other hand we have already seen that these have no magic power actually. The key is what kind of life does a person live out. The character, attitude, and how he relates to others determines the outcomes of a great many things. Integral Mission, after all, has to begin from changing and transforming our own lives.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of CEDAR Fund. It has been a path carved out by countless colleagues, partners and friends. We know that earthly businesses are important, but in God’s eyes He concerns more what kind of a person we are. The success or failure of a particular endeavor is not the end-goal. The changing of lives and relationship with others are more valuable. CEDAR has been unique in how we relate to the least privileged communities, paying them equal respect and empathy as any other communities. We, the result-oriented, executively-led, the ones who are ready to save the world, are almost humiliated by God’s work on the weakest and the smallest.
CEDAR is an organism, not an organization. It evolves and assumes a life of its own. The contemporary belief is truth, guilelessness, respect and equality. As we work with communities in around the world, God humbled us, recreated us, and made us the pragmatists (as opposed to idealists) who followed Jesus’ steps into the community. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalms 139:23-24). We pray that Jesus will give us a beating heart, and monitor us always, so that our hearts will always follow our Father’s heart.
Mr. LI Shu Pui has assumed the duties as the chairman of board starting in 2016. The incoming Chief Executive Dr Raymond Kwong will make strategic plans for the coming years and coordinate both new and old colleagues. I trust that God will have more important and vivid duties for CEDAR. Not long ago, I was inheriting the fruits of my predecessors, now I leave my works behind to my successor. To have a most capable successor to continue my work is a blessing, as it is necessary.
CHAN Nim Chung