3 Tips for Handling Conflicts from the Trump-Kim Summit

Editor’s Note: This is a tongue-in-cheek take on the Trump-Kim Summit.

So, it finally happened. Yesterday (12 June) the world stopped as US president Donald J Trump met with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong Un to hash out their plans for world peace.

There was a big build-up since the summit was first announced months ago, and the Donald and Kim kept us in suspense about whether it would go through. Will they or won’t they? The summit was on and off again, going through more cycles of uncertainty than my church repeating the chorus of Chris Tomlin’s masterpiece “How Great is Our God”.

At the end of it, we got a nice autographed joint declaration which reaffirmed the US and North Korea’s commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula as well as genuine hope for world peace. All a bit of an anti-climax, if you ask me.

Instead, it is this writer’s opinion that the real triumph of the summit was the progress they made in their friendship. I mean, did you see the warmth that the leaders displayed when they locked eyes and shook hands for the first time? What a moment.

How about when they sat side by side, tenderly signing their joint declaration? And don’t forget the earnest ‘working lunch’ they had where they were found staring kindly across the table at each other as they enjoyed their beef short rib confit.

It wasn’t just peace between nations that was forged that day; in the words of Trump, the duo “developed a very special bond”.

So, with all this bonding and friendship-making going on, wouldn’t it be a shame if the only takeaway from the summit was mere world peace? Instead, here are three things we learned about handling relationship conflicts from Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un:

1. Sometimes we just need to put away the technology and talk face-to-face

Did someone say “covfefe”? Nobody can deny that @realDonaldTrump is a prolific social media maven. But it was also social media that almost cost us this beautiful friendship. In the midst of their constant bickering through official state press releases, Trump helped to fight fire the only way he knew how—with fire—through his Twitter account. Some choice tweets include calling Kim the “little rocket man” as well as reminding the world about the big functioning nuclear button on his desk.

But look what happened when the Leader of the Free World put down his smartphone and met his North Korean counterpart in person.

Similarly, when we find ourselves in a conflict with someone, we might need to put down that phone and resolve things face-to-face. While technology has made things easier and communication faster, there’s nothing like a good ol’ man-to-man conversation. No harm opening in prayer and breaking some bread too—just look at the effectiveness of Trump and Kim’s working lunch. And to close, it would only be polite to bid each other farewell with a customary “the peace of the Lord be with you”.

 

2. When hashing out a conflict, find a neutral spot

Contrary to popular belief, Singapore isn’t in China. In fact, a quick Google search confirmed that Singapore is over 2,175 miles (or 3,500 km)  away from North Korea’s traditional ally; it’s actually a sovereign state all on its own. And as a sovereign state, Singapore has maintained diplomatic ties with both North Korea and the US—making it the perfect neutral spot for the summit to take place.

The same applies to us: it’s always helpful to find a neutral space to meet to resolve a conflict. Find a spot where neither you nor your friend feels threatened, where the both of you can relax and let your hair down. For the best results, ensure that you call the church keyboardist to play softly in the background. As he ushers in a time of quieting our souls, even the hardest of hearts will be softened.

 

3. It might help to get a third party involved

Having made considerable progress in diplomacy with North Korea, South Korea was trusted by Kim to deliver an invitation for the summit to Trump. On  8 March, when Trump accepted the invitation, the world rejoiced at the prospects of finally seeing a beautiful friendship blossom.

However, earlier last month when Trump called the summit off in retaliation to what he described as “tremendous anger and open hostility” from North Korea, many feared that our chances of seeing the Donald and the Supreme Leader together were over.

Enter South Korea. Their President, Moon Jae-in, helped to smooth things over between the two dignified statesmen and ensured that the summit would go ahead.

When it comes to our relationships, we can learn much from Trump and Kim’s nuanced approach. Look at Matthew 18:15-16, which highlights the usefulness of having an impartial go-between to mediate the disagreement. A helpful suggestion might be to get your youth pastor to serve as the third party. If he’s not too busy checking out the latest place to get artisan roasted coffee, it’s very likely that he’ll be available to referee the dispute.

If all else fails, and your friend is being particularly difficult, it might be time to follow what Jesus says in Matthew 18:17 and get the whole church involved. Hopefully then, the conflict will be resolved peaceably and we can all continue to co-exist as a big, happy family.

So, there we have it, this whole summit wasn’t a waste after all. Not only did we get that joint declaration, but we learned a lot about ourselves and how to handle relationships. I think we can echo Trump in saying it was “a tremendous success”.

 

For a more serious take on the Trump-Kim Summit, please read this article.

It Doesn’t Stop At Our Votes

Written By Rebecca Lim, Malaysia

On May 10, 2018, Malaysians woke up to a new reality. For the first time in the nation’s 61 years of history, a new coalition—Pakatan Harapan—has assumed the role of the government.

This reality has been years in the making, and for many Malaysians, it probably still feels too good to be true. As one of many Malaysians living in Singapore, the lead up to the elections was a whirlwind of an experience. As soon as the date of the General Election was announced, me and my friends scrambled to book flight and bus tickets home, or help each other find carpool arrangements, so we could all go home and vote.

I myself had planned to leave Singapore right after work, vote early the next morning, and then fly back to Singapore in the evening. It was an insane plan, and I had underestimated how exhausted I would be from all the waiting and traveling, but seeing the proliferation of “purple fingers” and pictures of the voting queues on my social media feeds made my heart swell with pride. It was the greatest display of unity that our country had seen in a long time, and I was glad that I got to be a part of it.

My family and friends kept each other updated as we queued to vote and anxiously waited for the election results to stream in. For the first time, it was unclear which way the votes would swing—and while we were all hopeful that our votes would make a difference, our hopes were also tempered with caution.

As soon as I landed in Singapore, I rushed home so I could follow the results. That night, me and my friends were glued to our television, hand-phone or laptop screens, hearts in our throats, afraid to move, bathe or even eat—just in case we might miss an important moment or result. It wasn’t until 3:00 a.m. that I reluctantly forced myself to go to bed so I would not appear as a zombie at work the next day.

A few hours later, I woke up to a torrent of jubilant messages on WhatsApp and social media about the new era that Malaysia had just entered into. There was much excitement in the air as everyone around me began anticipating the changes that they hoped the new government would put into effect.

It has been a few days now since the government has been installed, and the euphoria of the victory is wearing off. As the government begins focusing its efforts on reforming the country, the question on my mind, and probably on many others’, is: Will it be able to fulfill all its promises?

While I believe and hope that the government will set many new laws and policies in place that will improve the well-being of Malaysians, as a Christian, I am also cautious of placing all my hope in the hands of men. As with any transition in power, the government will take time to put its plans into place, and nobody knows how long this process will take or how extensive these changes will be—but we can be encouraged by the fact that our voices have been heard, and our voices matter.

So, what can we do next as citizens of Malaysia?

If there’s one thing that I’ve realized from this election, it’s that we have the power to change things around us. What filled my heart with hope this election was not the speeches of the candidates or the manifestos of the different coalitions, but witnessing ordinary Malaysians rise up to take charge of their nation’s destiny.

I saw hope in witnessing throngs of both the young and the elderly queuing up to vote so that future generations will have a better Malaysia. I saw hope in the decisions of young people who refused to give in to the voices of defeat around them, but who gave up comfortable and promising careers to dedicate themselves to nation-building by actively participating in politics. I saw hope in the way Malaysians—whether overseas or at home—came together, contributed their time and energy, and used the resources that they have to volunteer as Polling or Counting Agents, book flights to help bring postal votes home, and even organize car pools and donate their own funds to ensure everyone had a chance to decide on the future of the nation. These were the actions that made the world stand up and view Malaysians in a different light. These are the actions that make it clear to me that change has already taken place in Malaysia.

While I may not be in Malaysia at this juncture of my life, I hope to carry that same spirit wherever I go. I’ve learned that we should not solely rely on our elected representatives to do the work of reforming our nations, but there are many opportunities for us to bring hope to those around us as well. I hope that as believers and co-heirs of God’s grace, we will open our eyes to the plight of the fatherless, the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized around us (James 1:27). I hope that we will treat our foreign workers with dignity and care, and help them feel welcomed and at home as they help build our nations (Leviticus 19:34). I hope that we will make our hearts and home a refuge for the lonely and brokenhearted (2 Cor 1:4). I hope that we will have compassion on those who are struggling and lend a listening ear or a helping hand to them if needed.

Whether we’re overseas or at home, let’s pray for a smooth and peaceful transition, and submit ourselves to the governing authorities and their decisions, for as Paul wrote in Romans 13:1, “there is no authority except that which God has established”.  In view of that, let’s also focus our efforts on praying for our government (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Let’s pray that as our newly appointed leaders put together their plans in this crucial period, they will do so with the people’s interests at heart. Let’s pray that they will be a government that leads with righteousness and the fear of the Lord. Let’s pray that they will be a government that understands the weight of the mandate that has been given to them, and work faithfully and diligently to carry it out.

Most importantly, even as we pray for our leaders, let us look towards the Hope that “will not lead us to disappointment” (Romans 5:5, NLT) and pray and long for the day when He will return to bring forth justice to all nations and restore all things.

Malaysia’s 14th General Election—How Can Christians be “Salt and Light”?

Flag image from Freepik.com

 

Written by Sharon Lee, Malaysia, originally in Simplified Chinese

Tomorrow marks Malaysia’s 14th General Election. It has undoubtedly been the topic that has occupied the attention of all Malaysians, myself included, over the past few months. Everyone has been looking forward to the possibilities that might emerge from this election.

Even from as early as late last year, I began to see many of my friends, whether those close to me or on social media, urging their fellow Malaysians to participate in the election by voting. I even saw Malaysians organizing fundraising events or donating their own money to help Malaysian students overseas who desire to come back to vote but may be lacking in funds, return home to vote. There are also Malaysians working abroad, who applied for a leave of absence from work so that they could come back and vote, even though this may affect their salary.

Everyone has been eager to do their part—for the country, for the next generation, and for all Malaysians to have a better life. I have been so moved and excited to witness these activities—moved, because I realize how deeply we all love our country; excited, because there is so much that we can actually do! Even though many of those who offered help are not Christians, I see them as examples of what it looks like to be “salt and light”.

Generally, Christians around the world have taken a conservative and low-key stance towards politics and other related issues. However, we, the younger generation of Christians, should not distance ourselves from political involvement, especially if it will help improve the wellbeing of our fellow countrymen. There are many ways through which Christians can demonstrate the love of Christ. There is much more that we can do!

Paul counseled Timothy sincerely, just as he counsels our current generation of young Christians: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). Perhaps we are young in age, and perhaps we lack the wealth of experience and knowledge that older Christians have, but we have grown up in this time and age, and we are blessed with initiative, energy, and creativity. Since we have such wonderful gifts, then our actions should not be looked down upon by anyone. To prevent anyone from looking down on us because we are young, we must prove ourselves in the five areas Paul spoke of and only then can we convincingly lead by example, teach, and transform lives. At the same time, this will show others that God can work through anyone. It may even result in the gospel being shared!

Are our words gentle, so that others feel loved when they hear them? In our actions, do we show love to others? Are we on time for worship services? If the floor is dirty, would we think of cleaning it ourselves? Are we actively using our gifts to serve the Lord? Do we notice the needs of others, and offer timely care and help? Do we honor God in all that we do, and live out the faith we have in the Lord? Do we keep ourselves clean before God and man? Although none of this is easy, and it is hard to perfectly do all of them, it should not be an excuse for us to do as little as we can or not do anything at all. We can learn by practicing, and then we’ll become better at loving others.

Take the upcoming General Election for example. Every Christian realizes that national affairs are not solely the concern of politicians or high level leaders. It affects every one of us. And for Christians, we should not avoid participating in politics, because Christ has called us to be the salt and light of this earth (Matthew 5:13-16). Even though we may not necessarily need to take the same actions as non-Christians, can we—like them—turn our passion and love into visible actions? Can we Christians be the ones who boldly stand up for the sake of our country? Can we be that one good example, so that others will see that it is possible, and necessary, to approach elections with a good attitude? God placed us in this country as citizens, and so we should be Christ’s witnesses here on this land, serving our country well.

But we must also be cautious. Though we can participate in the political process, and contribute to our country, we should not be easily swayed by the different voices competing for our attention and lose our focus. We should also avoid getting into arguments or causing any trouble. We simply do our best in whatever way we can, and leave the results to God. And so, regardless of whether we think the political situation might change from the upcoming General Elections, we Christians should not only pray for the country and God’s sovereignty, but we can also actively participate and vote, offering what we can in real action.

I currently work in a Christian organization. A work trip happened to be scheduled during the  election date. In the end, we decided to ask for our overseas colleagues’ understanding, and shifted the date of the meeting. This allowed the Malaysian co-workers to come home and vote with minimal disturbance to our work. At the same time, we have also witnessed the love and understanding of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Although this election has nothing to do with our other colleagues, they lovingly accommodated our request, and were willing to change the date of the meeting for our sake.

God is pleased when our love is shown forth in action. Prayer is extremely important, but it will be even better if you can offer your action alongside your prayer. Often times what we lack is action that is birthed from love. After all, we do not become “salt and light” so that people might think Christians are more holy or perfect, but that they might feel our warmth, and see Christ through us.

Finally, may God bless Malaysia!

 

Remembering Anzac Day And An Exemplary Army Chaplain

The call for a “padre” rang out down the line. Some poor “digger” (the colloquial term for an Australian soldier) had died and a chaplain was needed for the burial service.

Joseph John Booth answered the call and made his way to the forward point on the line, his heart surely pounding in his chest. It was only his second evening on the front, a place where death was as common as life.

The year was 1917, and millions of young men from around the world were dying in the trenches of the Western Front. We would eventually call this awful cycle of death and destruction World War 1.

As Joseph arrived in the trench to give his first burial service, he trembled with the knowledge that German soldiers were merely 60 feet away in their own trenches, likely listening to every word he spoke. In the darkness, he could not read from his prayer book and was forced to do as much of the service as he could from memory. This would only be the first of countless funerals he would lead during the war.

 

Courtesy of ww1anzac.com

Joseph’s Story

I started learning about Joseph’s story out of a personal interest in World War 1 history. Anzac Day—a special annual tradition for Australians and New Zealanders to remember and appreciate the sacrifice of servicemen and women in the military—was just around the corner, and I found myself in the research room of the State Library Victoria, searching for stories about army chaplains who served during World War 1. It was here that I stumbled on Joseph’s personal letters to Beryl Bradshaw, the love of his life, that he wrote while serving in France.

Joseph was an orphan from England who moved to Australia in his early 20s, settling in the western Melbourne suburb of Footscray. In 1915, Joseph was ordained as an Anglican priest after studying theology at Ridley College. In the following year, he became engaged to Beryl and was also enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force as a “padre”—the affectionate term given to army chaplains by the enlisted men.

Joseph soon found himself on a troop ship heading to the battlefields of France, serving God and His people in a war half a world away. Was he caught up in the excitement of seeing the world, giving little thought to the terrors ahead? Or did he press forward even in the face of the death and destruction waiting ahead? How would his faith be tried in face of the worst war the world had ever seen?

Reading Joseph’s story comes at a point in my life where I, too, am beginning a new role in a Christian ministry. Although I don’t have a terrible war to face like Joseph did, the future is uncertain as I find my place in my new role in service to God. But in Joseph’s story, I see how God guided him to serve others in a time and place that was greatly needed. I, too, can take comfort that God also has a plan for my life, and is guiding me along my path as well.

 

Joseph’s Ministry

Soon after arriving in France, Joseph was attached to the 8th Battalion, a veteran unit and legendary for its role in the Gallipoli campaign, a series of battles in modern day Turkey early in the war that was fought by mainly soldiers from Australia and New Zealand.  It was not an easy start to his ministry, since Joseph was a “novice among seasoned veterans,” as he told Beryl in one of his letters. However, he seemed optimistic, perhaps fueled with a zeal for his new ministry. He began leading the regular, mandatory church service, often called a “church parade”. He reported the first one as “a very fine Brigade parade and a fairly happy communion service, though I shall not be satisfied until my numbers increase”.

As time progressed, Joseph’s letters revealed that he became a well-respected man among the troops of his battalion. Perhaps he took to hear the advice given him by the Assistant Chaplain General on his arrival: “Never lower your standards, avoid being a Pharisee, avoid the whiskey bottle, take on every job that you possibly can, and remember that, as a servant of Jesus Christ, your duty is to make others comfortable, even though you yourself may need the comfort more.”

Soldiers certainly saw and respected his courage and integrity. They witnessed his sacrifices, and through his display of character, many who did not have a relationship with Christ were drawn to the truth of the gospel. As a result, Joseph’s church services grew in number.

I am challenged to live my life the same way that Joseph served as a padre: to stand firm in the face of growing pressure to lower my standards, to avoid being caught up in following rules and regulations like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, and to serve others even when it’s uncomfortable.

 

 

The Hardships of War

Although a padre’s main role was to act as a spiritual guide to soldiers and officers in the military, they faced many of the same dangers as fighting men. Throughout 1917, Joseph and the 8th Battalion were involved in some of the worst fighting up and down the Western Front. Joseph often found himself at the side of the unit’s doctor, helping out in whatever way he could.

There was one time when the doctor’s resources were drained dangerously low due to the number of wounded, so Joseph and a few other men voluntarily braved artillery-bombarded territory to retrieve medical supplies. After they had found the dearly-needed supplies, a sudden, terrifying artillery barrage caused them to cower in a gully. While waiting for the barrage to pass, Joseph got a premonition “in his mind’s eye” that they would be directly hit by a salvo of shells. He convinced the men to keep moving, and mere moments after they left, multiple shells exploded in the gully behind them. Joseph wrote to Beryl that if they had stayed, they “would have been wiped out almost without doubt”. He knew that God had providentially protected them in this near-death experience. Joseph would later receive the high military honor of the Military Cross from the King of England himself.

Men were dying by the hundreds and thousands every day all along the Western Front, and the duty that caused Joseph the greatest angst was the burial services of those who had died in action. During one of the intense episodes of the Battle of Passchendaele, Joseph was required to oversee the mass burial of 60 men from his battalion.

When his battalion was finally given relief and pulled out of the front line, Joseph wrote this in a letter, “perhaps one of the most pathetic experiences after a big battle is to go round the lines and discover the old friends who will serve the Army no more. The memory of those two days will lie heavy upon me even as long as I live. War is unspeakable and these men with whom one serves are indeed the very salt of humankind.

I have found that particularly on days like Anzac Day, our minds are drawn to the tragedy of war, the frailty of human life, and the condition of our souls. We search for the answers to why there is so much suffering, in times of war as well as in our relatively peaceful society today. In the purposelessness and tragedy of events like World War 1, where can we turn?

Daily, Joseph and the men he served faced this trauma. And yet through it all, his faith remained firm. How can that be? The only answer that I can find is in the hope of the truth of the Gospel. That despite the evil and destruction we see around us, there is a loving God who is yearning for us to be in relationship with Him, to accept the love that He is freely giving, and to live the life He intended us to live, whatever our circumstances.

Courtesy of ww1anzac.com

After the war, he married his sweetheart, Beryl, and served as vicar at St. Pauls in Fairfield, Melbourne. He would be remembered as a vicar who had a sympathetic understanding of people, as well as a remarkable memory for names and faces.

Joseph later made a collection of his letters, the same ones that I would find in the State Library many decades later. The postscript he wrote to this collection has stuck with me, “I hope those of you who read them [the letters] will find some little pleasure and gain some information, for future generations must surely learn that war is a filthy business, only lightened by the amazing courage and the wonderful comradeship of men of every race. The war is long over. It was to have ended war. Though it may not, it has begun a movement toward peace which, please God, will never die.

As I reflect on a war that ended a century ago, I pray that I would be dedicated to sharing the peace that can only come through Jesus, just as Joseph John Booth did with his life.