I woke up this morning to a message that a dear friend, advisor, mentor, spiritual father had passed on. Cynthia, his wife, who I also love dearly – sent me a text message that Graham had returned to be with the Heavenly Father this morning. It’s something that I had known would come, as Graham had been battling cancer.
I have known Graham for years. It must’ve been around 1993 or 1994 that I met Graham. I attended the then-called Paradise Assembly of God quite regularly, and there was an offer to attend free evening Bible classes at the church. I picked “The Life of Paul” – not knowing then, that it would be a start to a lifelong friendship and mentoring. From memory, Graham taught the class in his ‘fatherly’ manner and perhaps it was his pragmatic view that made me warm up to him. I can’t remember how many times that I attended the class before I asked him to come and speak at the Indonesian Christian Youth Group – and he graciously agreed. This began his involvement and his adoption into the Indonesian Christian community in Adelaide. We called him Uncle Graham and Auntie Cynthia. There are many lives impacted by him, throughout generations – people who have benefitted from his wisdom and warmth. I have certainly been blessed by him and Cynthia. Muchly blessed.
In June, Cynthia relayed the news that his time with us would probably be very limited. I was compelled to write my message, some kind of eulogy, while he could still appreciate my sincere thoughts. Many times we write all the good things that we appreciate, after the person has breathed their last breath. I wanted to bless him while he could still enjoy the blessing. So this is what I wrote on Cynthia’s Facebook wall:
I have often thought about this – and how we tend to share blessings and eulogy – only after the person has left us. So, allow me to bless Graham by sharing about how he has blessed me throughout the years as a mentor and as a spiritual father – while he can still receive the blessing in person.
I used to call Graham – Uncle Graham – like any respectful Asian children would. I think it was around 1993 or 1994. I was active in the Indonesian Christian Youth Group (ICYG), but also sometimes came to the Sunday Services at Paradise AOG. When they held short courses on different topics, the first one that I took was “The Life of Paul”, taught by Graham. Perhaps it was my youth bravado that gave me the courage to approach Graham and ask him to speak at our small fellowship. He was gracious to accept my invitation (at the same period, come to think about it, I also approached wonderful men of God like Ps. Danny Guglielmucci and Ps. Trevor Read who were also gracious to accept my humble invitations).
Our friendship grew over the years, even after I returned to Indonesia – Graham and Cynthia have blessed me so much as my spiritual parents. They would graciously offer to host me whenever I came to Adelaide for a visit. Of the many things that I am blessed through Graham is his dry sense of humour – and his willingness to listen when I asked questions that other folks might consider pointless or even hostile. Other folks may have retorted with, “What kind of question is that?” or “Why do you think that way?”. But not Graham, we would discuss these through. Through these interactions, I have allowed myself to nurture my critical thinking, but submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit until things cannot be logically dissected.
I also had the privilege of ministering with Graham in Indonesia as a translator in Semarang in Central Java as well as Lawang and Surabaya in East Java in late 1990s. I also hold these memories dearly. I thank God that I was given the opportunity to minister with Graham as his translator – even if at that time, God tested my patience as an ambitious yuppie, ministring with a laid-back man of God like Graham.
Graham has been my mentor whenever I faced spiritual forks on the road – and his gentle fatherly wit and Godly wisdom have helped me to flourish and develop myself spiritually. Although we rarely meet in recent years – due to work commitments and other factors – I continue to keep Graham and Cynthia very fondly in my heart – and we continue to keep in touch through Facebook. Departures are often sad – but there’s something peculiar about the departures of Godly men and women. The utterance of “O Death, where is your sting?” and the fact that we will be one day reunited again give a lot of comfort and hope that, this is just a blink of an eye before we are reunited again. That blink will come sometime in the future, but for now, please allow me to indulge and bless you with my simple words, nowhere comparable with the guidance and wisdom you have given me throughout the years. I thank God for you, Graham and Cynthia. Thank you.
So Graham, the race is over and you have finished it so very well. You are probably smiling widely with eyes glistening, meeting those who have gone before you, and in the presence of the One you love.
I’ve missed you already, but I’m carrying the torch forward. I can also be somebody who would have wisdom, logic, and room for faith questions that other people consider to be silly to the next generation. I may not have your patience – but I hope some people can see the thread that connected you to me. Thank you for your friendship, your mentorship, your advice, your wisdom, and for nurturing my faith, along with Cynthia. Thank God for the two of you.