If there’s anything that I’ve learned over the past five days, it’s how much I don’t know about my dad.
He wore many hats. He was the National Director of Youth With A Mission (YWAM); Antioch 21; the chef; the person who ironed my school uniform – that’s also my dad. Reading and hearing all the different stories about him have revealed much about him to me, my sister and my mum.
I would like to give you a glimpse of Chean family life over the past few months. My sister, Ashley, and I have been increasingly involved in school and our other commitments as she’s in JC and I’m in university. Mum had all her commitments. And of course, Dad had his – he had an endless list of things to do and people to meet.
A few months ago, knowing that my sister was going to set out for Discipleship Training School in YWAM overseas, he sat us down and said to us that we needed to pull together as a family and treasure the time we had left with Ash. So we committed to make ourselves available for family dinner.
But none of us knew what we were really preparing ourselves for.
Family dinners have always been sacred to us. And Dad would do everything he could to make sure his evenings were free so that we could spend time together every day. And after dinner, family devotion would follow.
We always looked forward to dinner, with Ash and I sometimes asking days in advance: “Mum, Dad, what’s for dinner, what’s for dinner?” They were like: “Wait lah, we are planning nine hours in advance? We haven’t even had breakfast yet and you’re asking about dinner.” But we looked forward to dinner time so much. And Mum and Dad would send us the menu that they had planned.
After that conversation with Dad, dinner times became much longer.
If none of us had a Zoom call or anything else to attend to, dinner would last for over an hour. Sitting on the counter, we have a bell. One of us would ring it when the food was ready. So when we heard the bell – ding – the other three would come to the dining table. And we would sit down and pray. Oftentimes I was the hungriest and I would sneak a bite and my dad would look at me like: “We haven’t prayed yet.”
And after praying, we would eat and we would talk about our day, about almost anything and everything. Most of the time, it would end up with Mum and Dad having their adult talk. And then Ash and I would compete for who could sing more off-key. Sometimes, even long after the food was gone, we would stay at the dining table and just talk for hours.
If he came back from a trip, he would share with us all the places he had been to, all the food he ate and the people he met there. And I’m sure you know my dad was a great storyteller.
…every time he spoke about God, I could see that he came alive.
I loved hearing his stories and sometimes he would take us along on his trips. So over the past few years, I actually followed him to Korea. And when I was much younger, I would follow him around in Singapore wherever he preached. Sometimes Ash and I would even get the chance to speak with him. And we both enjoyed that a lot. But gradually I became shy. Ash continued to follow him, but I preferred to watch him from afar.
But even then, I was always proud of him. And every time he spoke about God, I could see that he came alive.
Worship was an important part of my dad’s life. And he shared this aspect with me and always encouraged me to use my musical instrument to worship God.
I was the one who’d follow my Dad around. Whether he was preaching, meeting people or just travelling.
I knew Dad was well-respected. But to me, he was the same man who would postpone meetings just so he could send me to school, the one who would buy me makeup from Korea, and the one who would dance in the kitchen while I was washing dishes.
He was so intentional in the way that he loved the three of us. He never left any of us out but chose to invest in me, my Mum and my sister, all in different ways.
Someone once said that Dad was the only man who had 48 hours in a day, and I completely agree. He always had enough time to take care of himself, to go for really, really long swims, to meet everyone in the whole world, as well as spending intentional time with his family and sitting down for dinners. He stayed really close to us.
I’ve always known that my Dad was famous. I used to brag that he was the only man I knew personally, whom I could Google and actually find his face.
However, this also meant that we had to share our dad from a very young age. First within Singapore, then Asia Pacific, and Africa.
Yet, despite having to share our Dad, Olivia and I had never felt neglected because of how intentionally he loved us, and how deeply and specially he treated each of us.
My Dad had always made time for me. In the weeks leading up to his passing, I spent over 14 hours a day with him. Whether it be eating breakfast, discussing the year ahead, getting scolded for watching YouTube in the office instead of studying, or having family dinner together – he had always made time for me.
Regardless of whether I asked for it, he was always there to console and guide me. He taught me to be confident in everything that I did, and to trust and value my own opinion. Even from the age of five, he included us in dinner table conversations. Our suggestions and opinions were never diminished because we were young. We were told since young that we should have our own opinions, and that should be valued and cherished.
I believe this. And this has helped me to build my confidence and bring me to where I am today.
Being the younger sibling, I was always the mischievous one. I got into trouble in school and also at home. You name it, I’ve probably done it. Yet, my Dad would always repeat this line: “No matter what you do, I will always love you.”
My Dad reflected our Lord’s unconditional love for me the best that he could, even in times when I didn’t deserve to be forgiven. He also prioritised our family over his work, showing us what it means to be intentional and loving in all that he did.
He didn’t care that he was the YWAM National Director when he came home. All he cared about was to be a good dad to Olivia and me. Growing up, we didn’t know him as the YWAM National Director. He was a father who loved us so intensely, and was willing to goof around and do silly things with us.
My personality is very similar to his. We are both sharp, direct and empathetic. I share my Dad’s intensity and ambition. Both of us were constantly dreaming up ideas together. He knew me best, better than I did. And I always relied on him through difficult and major decisions.
And so when he died, I felt the loss very acutely. This is the one man who knew me better than I do; the one whose opinion I completely trusted in making decisions even though sometimes I felt otherwise. I lost all sense of direction when he was gone, and I felt absolutely hopeless.
All my life thus far has been decided by my father: what school I go into, what I’m doing tomorrow, where I’m going for school. Everything is decided by him and I trusted him immensely.
When Dad left, I didn’t know what to do with my future or my gifting. Because up till now, my Dad had always been the one to guide me.
On Saturday evening, my sister and I were sharing about our revelations from God. Olivia brought up 1 Chronicles 28, where David passed on the blueprints of the Tabernacle to Solomon.
David wasn’t the one who was called to build the Tabernacle, it was Solomon. Similarly, Moses wasn’t the one tasked to bring Israel into the Promised Land, it was Joshua.
Joshua 1:9 reads: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
This was written in times of grief and loss – the loss of a great leader, Moses. Similarly, even as we grieve over Dad’s death today, we remember the plans that Dad had left for us.
During his Master’s programme, Dad wrote a 70-page thesis titled “Decade Of Missions: Many Streams, One Direction”. He detailed a plan for Singapore over the next 10 years, in mobilising the Church to go forth into the nations and reach the marginalised and broken, including those among us.
Those who attended the conference organised by Antioch 21 would remember his pyramid of faith goals for the Antioch of Asia: to send 1,000 missionaries and raise $10 million for missions in the next decade.
I know Dad didn’t just care about the numbers, but he really wanted to reach this goal. We haven’t even reached the one-year mark of Antioch 21, but we have seen how God has moved so profoundly and incredibly; people from all over the world have been touched so individually by what he had shared.
Of course, Dad’s excitement for missions is contagious. We always left his sermons feeling inspired and encouraged knowing how missions in Singapore is moving forward. He didn’t just preach the vision from the podium, he encouraged Olivia and I to be missional in all we did.
Dad encouraged the both of us to start prayer groups in our schools, and he taught us that being a missionary doesn’t mean being remote or far removed. Being a missionary starts where you are now; where God has placed you now is truly your mission field.
The question is, now that he is gone, how hungry are you? How willing are you to give up the comfort and to pursue God wholly and fully?
We have all enjoyed hearing stories of God’s work in the nations. But are you satisfied with just listening?
My Dad had never judged anyone. Rather, he always hoped to help us all mobilise our giftings and skills for the mission field.
He encouraged us to reject being passive, and urged all of us to go forth and bless others to the best of our abilities and our capacities.
Dad was radical, and he challenged us to go beyond what was comfortable and what we knew. He saw the vision for Singapore to be a missionary-sending nation.
If I were to have one more conversation with my dad, I wouldn’t say anything.
Because there’s nothing more that I would want to know. My dad’s life was full and it is completed.
Moses’ time is over. And it’s time for the Joshuas to rise up.
Will you heed this call and rise up – to go into the nations that my dad had pursued so intensely?
His time may be up, but ours is just beginning. What are you going to do?
Dad has fulfilled the commission that our Lord had given him, and I am nothing but grateful to have known him so intimately for these 18 years.