Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My Tribute to Paul Yap (1950-2011)

Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 11 May 2011

Through my Regent College years, my family have hosted many people, especially those who come from our hometown. One of our most memorable persons was Paul. In August 2005, a good friend introduced Paul to us, saying that he was going to be the Businessman-in-Residence for three months at Regent-College. At that time, we were living in a spanking new hostel called Somerville House. Paul would soon move into the hostel into a unit directly above us. Each evening, he would join us for a nice family meal, to share about his day, and his learning. I treated him like a fellow ‘Yap.’ He treated us like family. While our common surnames provided some level of brotherhood, none held as strongly as our common faith in Christ.

Paul is a man of faith. He has a heart for the faithful servants of God. He has a burden for the spiritual health of men and women of faith. He is very upfront with his own views and is not ashamed to give pointed comments about areas he does not agree with. Such is his level of conviction. Pointed but firm. Argumentative but not domineering. Opinionated and often persuasive. With an intelligent mind, he possesses an equally compassionate heart.

A) Canadian Chronicles

Paul comes to Regent-College with an intention to grow strong in his faith. He shares his journey through a daily email called “Canadian Chronicles.” Each day without fail, Paul will write down his daily activities, coupled with spiritual insights gleaned from professors, the Regent experience, as well as his observations of the surroundings.

He has a penchant for details. He fuses his own learning with the observations of the learned. He identifies with the teachers he hear, without sacrificing his personal convictions on any topic. One example is how he sees the lack of contextualization committed by some of the Professors in the cross cultural context.

He is humble to acknowledge that some of the things he heard are a bit too philosophical and difficult to understand. What he lacks in theological sophistication, he compensates with practical applications. He injects present pragmatism without sacrificing the future ideals of the Christian life. He is one person who literally runs the race with gusto. I remember him telling me that he knows all the trails of the huge University of British Columbia (UBC) compound, more than the residents in the UBC Endowment Lands!

Paul always says that his chronicles are nothing too fantastic. They are simply his personal reflections of life. That is so true of a humble person. In one of his earlier jottings, he mentioned his purchase of a pair of jeans to replace the one he had torn during a hike. Though he could easily afford a brand new pair of jeans, he would learn to live like a poor student. During our student days, we would try to save money by buying second hand goods, even clothing. Paul adopted our lifestyle without hesitation. He found simple joy when he managed to buy two almost brand new jeans for a steal. Two for $5 Canadian. Whatever joy he had was quickly dissipated when he saw the long queues and the seeming inefficiency of the cashiers on duty. He struggled between two different cultures: the fast-efficient system in Singapore vs the relatively slow and laid back lifestyle in Canada. He wrote:

Being still Singaporean, I fumed and fretted and thought of ways to improve the situation and save time. Then I thought to myself that this was Canada, blend with the life. Also I should learn patience and think love.” (13 Sep 2005)
Paul loves the lectures of Dr J I Packer. He sings praises of this venerable professor so much that sometimes I think he idolized him. He has an open mind to learn. He is never closed with regards to new ideas. One example of his willingness to learn is captured by his gradual acceptance of what true learning is all about. As an eager student, he is so wowed by the lectures at Regent-College that he wanted to write down everything, verbatim. It does not take long for Paul to realize that is impossible. He then does the next sensible thing: to move from a ‘copy-first’ position to a ‘listen-first’ posture.
After an initial moment of panic I convinced myself that I was not here to prove anything but to enjoy the experience, focus on ideas and get the point.” (13 Sep 2005)
Paul picked up this truth in less than 3 months, what many people could not even comprehend in more than 30 years.

B) Food

Paul loves food. While he is prepared for a burgers and fries diet, he is happily surprised to be able to enjoy Asian delicacies with my family throughout his stay in Vancouver. I enjoy those moments where he will rub his tummy gently with glee, and at the same time remind my children: “There is always room for dessert.” After dinner, our kids will readily chime back: “Good night. Don’t let the bed-bugs bite.

Once, Paul made a special effort to cook a dish for us. It was a special braised chicken casserole. Our family enjoyed it so much that we coined the dish: “Uncle Paul’s Chicken.” It remained one of my family’s favourite dishes to this day. What made that dish even more special was the love he put in. In Paul’s wonderful words:

When you care enough for the people you cook a little extra goes into it. That is why, in general, home cooked meals taste better than restaurant food, even in the best ones. I wonder if the extra quality of love actually gives an added extra in the meal that even the best restaurants cannot provide.” (17 Sep 2005)

In one statement, he demonstrates his love both ways: To his family back in Singapore, and to us, his adopted family.

I remember a time when a pastor friend of mine got his house broken into. It was close to midnight. I called him to see if he is interested to accompany us. He agreed without hesitation. It almost seems like he perfectly understood what it meant to be a victim of burglary. With such willingness to help, and the giant heart he has for people and friends, there is no surprise to see his huge networks of friendships.

C) Books

If food is his first crave, books come in a close second. Over our conversations, he will enthusiastically talk about the different authors and books he has come across. His favourite place is the Regent bookstore. I think, during the three months when he is at Regent, he is easily the bookstore’s top customer. Even on the very last day, I continue to tempt him by inviting him to go to the Midnight Madness Sale. I remember how unsuccessfully he resisted, and willingly gave in to the temptation of buying more books. He purchased so much that he exceeded his flight baggage allowance. Like a child who can only take one lollipop out of many, he left some of the books with me. That last evening at the Regent bookstore remains one of the highlights of Paul’s life. I can imagine him like a little child refusing to leave the playground, only that the toys are books, books and more books.

D) Family

Paul is clearly a family man. He lets his children grow up and learn the hard ropes of life. His two children remains the pride of his life. He talks frequently about them. He adores both Jeremy and Janice. Irene figures prominently in Paul's conversations too. He is in a nutshell, a family man.

Paul is also an extremely humble servant. When I visited him and Irene back in 2010, he volunteered to drive us around, to pick us up from where we are, and to serve us in any way possible. One memorable occasion was the invitation he extended to us, to join his family Sunday dinner. Knowing the popularity of the family favourite desserts made by Irene, Paul will carefully reserve a few just for my wife, my youngest daughter and I. True enough, the rest of the family gobbled up the dessert in no time. Paul protected the reserved desserts like an eagle over its precious young.

Reflecting on the fun atmosphere, and the courtesy extended to one another, I thought to myself: “Now, this is family.”

Walking with Paul along one of the most peaceful and serene places in busy Singapore. Paul is excited about everything nature
Paul is never one who harps on sentimentality. Yet, he is gentle and exhibits a high degree of perception about life. One of this is the way he chooses to end any chapter in his life. In his concluding chronicles at Regent-College, this is what he wrote:

“I dislike long goodbyes. So I’ll end here, a good place as any to end. I still have some last minute packing to do. I look forward to meeting you soon and renewing our ties again. God bless you all." 

In this spirit, Paul, on the 4th of May 2011, he ran for God, and God took him. While we on earth has lost a brother in Christ, heaven rejoices to welcome a faithful man of God, back to the loving bosom of his Heavenly Father, graced by our Lord Jesus Christ, with fellowship in the Holy Spirit. Goodbye Paul. You have fought the good fight. You have ran the race. You have kept the faith. May we honour you by our faithfulness in the Lord.

Bye Paul.

We will all miss you now, but we know we will see you again one day.

Conrade, Mary and all at home.

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