Reflection: Great Grandfather – Canon Robert Vun

Weekly Reflections

Weekly Reflection (14th September 2020)

A very good morning to you. It is always a pleasure to share this time of reflection with you. I can feel anticipation in the air in Melbourne as we see the COVID 19 cases steadily trending down and the trees are starting to bud with new leaves because it is the beginning of another spring time.

Today I am going to continue to share the grace of God that is so evident in my life. Hopefully, this will be an encouragement to you as you discover more and more of how God has blessed you throughout your life. In his wise and gracious plan, He knew, prepared and has a plan for your life even before you were born. In a little while, I shall share how this is so penitent to my life.

Let us pray this delightful prayer attributed to St Benedict.

Let us pray:

O gracious and holy Father, give us wisdom to perceive you, diligence to seek you, patience to wait for you, eyes to behold you, a heart to meditate upon you, and a life to proclaim you, through the power of the spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Prayer of the Week

Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost

O God, without you we are not able to please you: mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Bible Reading

Psalm 139:1-18

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand – when I awake, I am still with you.

Devotion  

Great Grandfather

We come to the second in this series of reflections where I share with you glimpses of my life where I have noticed the amazing hand of our gracious God actively at work. Last week I talked about my amazing Grandmother. Today, I am going one more generation back to my Great Grandfather. Yes, I am going back that far because God’s hand was evident in his life though he at first did not know our loving Father.

Back in the mid-nineteenth Century, China was a crumbling nation under the Ching dynasty. While the dynasty began in 1644 with initial prosperity, its final years was nothing but tumultuous with rebellions within and devasting defeats in wars with western powers.

The populaces lived in poverty and corruption was rife. At this time, it was common for young men to rebel against the Ching authorities. One such young man was Fon Tshin Vun from a village in Guangzhou, Southern China. He made it into the wanted list and had to flee to the surrounding hills to escape the soldiers who were after him.

After some months, believing that his crimes were forgotten, he came down from the hills only to find the soldiers waiting for him. He fled into a Church which happens to be in his village. He found sanctuary there due to the fact that it was a German was the Church Minister. It was a Church established by the Basel Mission that had sent a few missionaries to China and Africa.

Quickly overstaying his welcome, the German Missionary asked what Fon Tshin could do to contribute to the running of the Mission. The only little skill he had was in cooking. Thus, he became the cook for the Mission.

After some years, the British North Borneo Company was looking for farmers to open up the land in their new colony of North Borneo. They recruited many Christians farmers from South China who were each given 8 acres of jungle each to make into farms. This German Missionary was sent down to North Borneo to look after the Christians. My Great Grandfather had to follow because to stay back in China would mean certain imprisonment. Thus, begun the Vun clan in North Borneo which is today called Sabah and it is also one of the states of Malaysia. What seemed to be purely an accident of circumstances was the hand of God at work in the Vun clan.

What do I learn from this?

First, I am very blessed because of my Great Grandfather, I am a fourth generation Anglican. In all this, God’s hand was actively at work in choosing the unworthy me to be His own. His work began 4 generations ago. What a wonderful God he is.

I can fully echo King David’s word in his Psalm when he said
15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand – when I awake, I am still with you.

Second, in whatever difficulties you are going through now, remember God is always there. Trust him and draw near to him. He has your future firmly in his hands. His leading is mysterious but full of grace.

Third, the Missionary’s single courageous act of providing sanctuary to a young man has repercussions down the generations. Your actions and witness today may and can be used by God to bless many people down the generations.

Fourth, in his wildest dream, my Great Grandfather would never dream that of one his great grandson would be an Anglican Minister in Melbourne. We do not know what tomorrow will bring. But this we know, the One who holds tomorrow is the One who holds our hands.

Postscript:

I had the opportunity to go back to my Great Grandfather’s rural mudbrick house in Guangzhou some years ago. It was surrounded by rice-fields situated in a huge valley with a range of hills surrounding it. I also saw the site of the Vicarage and the dilapidated church building now used as a chicken-coop and fertiliser storage area. The physical buildings may have crumbled, but God’s work goes on in the succeeding generations of those who love Him.

The Morning Collect

Eternal God and Father, by whose power we are created and by whose love we are redeemed: guide and strengthen us by your Spirit, that we may give ourselves to your service, and live this day in love to one another and to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Celtic Blessing
The blessing of the God of life be ours
The blessing of the loving Christ be ours
The blessing of the Holy Spirit be ours
To cherish us, to help us, to make us holy. Amen.[i]

Thank you for listening to my testimony about God’s grace and faithfulness throughout my clan’s generations. May we continue to trust our God more and more and see His gracious hand working through our lives. Till next Monday, rejoice often. Do good. Love outrageously. Enjoy life. Praise God. Have a blessed week. Amen. Goodbye.


[i] A Celtic Blessing

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