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What It Means to be Alive in Christ for Me

Can we be alive and yet not live? The COVID-19 pandemic and the attendant lockdowns have really brought home to everyone the question about what it means to live. For me, I personally know two Orang Asal pastors who have succumbed to the disease. Before this pandemic is finally over, will there be others whom I know, including myself, who will be taken too? Suddenly, the issue of our mortality is very real. As I write this in the month of July, Malaysia has recorded over 5,500 deaths and globally, over 4 million people have died from the disease. The quality of life has equally suffered and unlike COVID-19 mortality rates that are tracked, there is little data about these knock-on effects.  Even the mortality statistics do not include the many deaths from suicide, domestic violence or unattended non-COVID-related illnesses that have occurred as a result of the measures imposed to combat the spread of COVID-19. With so much death surrounding us, being alive and being able to live a meaningful life has become an issue we wrestle with daily.

Bones to Breath

When Ezekiel saw the vision of the valley of dry bones, he must have been shocked by the sight of death all around him.

“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley, it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry .”                                                                                                                     Ezekiel 37:1-2

Then the Lord instructed Ezekiel to prophesy life into the bones and indeed like a zombie movie, the bones started to move, reconstitute and take on sinews, flesh and skin!

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them.” Ezekiel 37:7-8

So, the bones had reconstituted into physical bodies but there was still not life. The bodies needed the breath of God in them to be truly alive.

Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.” Ezekiel 37:9-10

Such was the fate of the exiled people of God. While the remnants had survived physically and eventually returned to Palestine, they could not truly live until God put his breath in them. Something he would do in the person of Christ whose breath of life would go from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth – an exceedingly great army indeed!

Alive in Christ

In coming to terms with what it means to be alive in a COVID-19 ravaged world, I find myself asking if I have lived with the breath of life in me or have I merely been a zombie with sinews, flesh and skin only? That is a scary question to ask, especially for me as I come to the end of my journey in Malaysian CARE. But perhaps that is one valuable thing that has emerged out of this terrible pandemic. We are all forced into self-reflection in the face of the fragility of life. Something we tend to bypass or give cursory attention to when life is filled with activities and success. What do we see and what should we see when gazing into the mirror of self-reflection? As Christ’s disciples, we should see a life committed to God because we are only truly alive when we are in Christ. As God’s people in Malaysia, we should see to a land that is committed to righteousness, justice and mercy because a nation can only thrive when it walks in God’s ways.

My Adventure in Malaysian CARE

Reflecting back on my journey in Malaysian CARE, God called me to two main tasks in my 29 years of service. First, it was to establish and build the work with the Orang Asli community in Semenanjung and subsequently, to expand and establish it with the wider Orang Asal community in Sabah and Sarawak. Parallel to these tasks, he saw it fit to use me to work alongside comrades who served urban poor communities, refugees, prisoners and addicts, people with special needs, and who served to support and strengthen the organisation’s outreach in finance, administration, human resource and communications. In the course of doing this, Pat and I experienced God’s abundant grace and provision. We were privileged to work alongside so many OA communities, some of whom are now family like our foster children. We were blessed to have served with comrades-in-Christ from within the organisation, from churches and ministries in many parts of the country. There were times when we really struggled and were on the verge of giving up but each time, God gave us the strength to carry on. He is indeed our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.

For me, this is being alive in Christ. To have answered His call and completed His tasks according to His will. One can be alive but not live, just like the skeletons that had sinews, flesh and skin but did not have the breath of life until God breathed it into them. Since God breathed life into me, serving in CARE has been an adventure in faith, a testimony of his faithfulness. This pandemic is reminding us that there is a profound fragility to being alive. All of us have but one life to live and so let us allow God to breathe life into us so that we may be alive in Christ and truly live.

Taken from CARE Contact, Sept 2021 Edition.

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