What it is:
-The idea here is to gather enough testimonies to write a book. Not just testimonies alone, but also tough experiences and personal accounts. The word testimonies is misleading in that it makes it sound like we want to hear only the good, polished and filtered stuff. Well, we don't.
-A book focused on God.
-A book that will present NS in as real a form as is palatable for reading by the majority of our church-goers.
-A book with contributions from all types of people who've been through NS. Any of the three services or the Police or Civil Defence. Across all ranks and all vocations. It doesn't have to be spectacular sharing. But it has to be real, heartfelt and introspective. I know that we often mention it as "God in army", but I guess the reason for that is that it's easier on the mouth. Trying to say it more as "God in NS".
What it isn't:
-Some book sharing just the most spectacular testimonies and miraculous encounters. (We would at this point, want depth, insight and spiritual sharing rather than theatrics)
-A book about ourselves. (It's not and never should be about how good we are. Neither should it be so much about what we went through. It should be about how God has brought us through.)
-Some shallow sharing with God super-imposed. (It needs to be real. For example, if you feel God wasn't present then, say so. If you felt bitter against God, say so.)
Just wanted to share a bit about the spirit behind this project. I guess the fact that it's never been done before makes it potentially ambiguous. Jeshua, Caleb and I have more or less the same motivations and objectives for wanting to embark on this project. But I guess my sharing here will be skewed towards my personal reasons for wanting to do this. Hopefully I can make this thing a little clearer.
The seeds for this project must have been planted a couple of years back. It takes no genius to realise that National Service can become a rather long discussion for any table talk amongst Singaporean men. If we want to, most of us can spend hours talking about it. (I've done it a couple of times myself). Amazingly, it was only about 2 years or so of our lives. (That also means that we've been repeating the same old stories many times.)
Well, so there I was, an NSF. Sitting at a table with a group of Christian brothers. Most had been through NS. And then the talk began to centre on NS. Yes, the same old familiar stuff, funny anecdotes and all. The boredom and feeling of being left out for the girls. The curiosity of those who hadn't enlisted. The knowing smiles and feelings of masculinity for the enlightened ones who'd been through NS.
It was fun. It was funny. It was entertaining talk. But I can tell you, I went home that night, talking to God and asking questions... I wondered why if we were all Christians, if we all had gone through army as Christians... Then why don't we talk about God in the army? As in, why does all our conversation centre around ourselves?
It was not the first night that such thoughts entered into my mind. There were many other nights. Many other dinners. The same questions popped up in my head. "Where is God in NS?", "What is God doing in our lives during NS?", "Why don't people talk about God in NS?"
Where was God?
So I went through my fair share of army experiences. I got posted into an infantry unit. I wasn't an outstanding soldier. Some days and some experiences were very painful to me. (I'll share more in the book). The dinners continued. God was still seldom brought up during those dinners. I'd end up laughing and talking about NS with many Christian brothers. But God was seldom there. We weren't building each other up as we went through these tough experiences together. (Of course there were some very God-centred conversations with close friends, but I'm talking about your average conversation here).
Where was God?
That was a curious question to me during mealtimes on weekends.
Where was God?
That was also a painful question for me during my darkest days in the army.
Where was God?
I often wished to communicate my struggles to other guys who'd been through army in church. I often wished that the ladies would better understand what exactly we went through.
Where was God?
God was always there, right beside me. God was changing me, tearing me down and building me up in my NS days. Looking back, I see all the good things He's done for me. That's one of the main reasons I want to do this book.
I want all of us who've been through NS to have a platform to share what God has done for us in NS. I'd like very much for what God is doing in the lives of NSFs and regulars to be a constant table topic, in place of just the very superficial army talk we have. I want to create an opportunity, however small a stepping stone it may be, for female friends, girlfriends, wives, mothers to understand a bit more of what we go through in NS. A bit more of the challenges we face as Christians in there.
That's the focus of this project. One that builds up a community around God. Sure, I know it seems small. It's only going to be a book after all. But it will also be a legacy. Oral traditions die out easily. One might be able to say, influence people to talk about how God moulded them in army. But for how long? For how many people in his generation? And then what about the next generation? A book, can be passed down, however torn and tattered it might be. A book can be stored and dug out, originality of flavour and accuracy well-preserved, whereas mind and memory fail.
If you ask me, it's just another part of life that I want to see God magnified and discussed for mutual edification. Building up each other. I'm not the one doing God or anyone a favour here. God has in His grace helped me so much through NS, and to take a step back, in life. This is just one of the ways I want to encourage people to come together and proclaim His goodness.