The Story Behind the Book
It all began with one simple question...
It was a routine weekday morning in February 2008. As I stepped out of the shower, I heard a distinct voice asking me "Which American are you are most grateful to?" In a flash, I tried to figure out some of the Americans I had dealt with in the oil and gas industry. Just when the towel hit my face, the Person Himself answered - Pastor John Willis (PJW). God did not give me any specific instructions after that, even up to this day. However, straightaway, I sensed, deep in my heart and spirit, that writing a book about John Willis was in order.
Why am I certain that this is from God? PJW was very deeply involved in the formative years and also the subsequent growth of Bartley Christian Church (Bartley). On the other hand, I am a relatively young Christian, not personally acquainted with Bartley, but a member of RiverLife Church. Bartley was our mother church until 1999, when she graciously handed over the autonomy to the present-day RiverLife Church. It is a case of me knowing PJW but him not knowing me. The ways of God can be confounding.
My next step was to find a writer for this project and my first thought was to get a Bartley insider as a writer. The first person I spoke to about the book project, after my wife, was our ex-elder Lionel Goh. Lionel is an old Bartley hand and was one of the 123 members of Bartley who came over to kick-start their daughter church in Pasir Ris. He had chosen early retirement to pursue theological studies and is now a pastor at Bartley. Using my human wisdom, through Lionel's connection, I thought that this was the most logical and sensible step to land the writer. By July 2008, it finally dawned on me that I had to find someone outside Bartley. Truth be known, I was far from being discouraged. I told God that it was His project. HE started it and HE will see to its completion. I just relaxed...
Later, I asked my friend and business associate, James Tham, a former oil and gas journalist, to see if he could help. James took up my query much more seriously than I had expected. He was actually more 'bent' in finding a writer than I was. The quest culminated in September 2008 when James called to tell me that he had found a writer. Even though he had only met her once, following the recommendation of his friend Roy Chan, we "confirmed: it is God", as we say in our local vernacular. James had lost touch with Roy for over 20 years. Roy happened to contact James and a 'by the way' remark led us to the writer of this book, Geraldine Leong.
Despite the immensity of the task at hand and her own busy work schedule, Geraldine took on this assignment with much zeal and handled it with great care. It was a delight working with Geraldine - her gentleness and sensitivity, coupled with her eye for details, make this book a compelling reading.
Far above all else, I want to thank God, good as He is, in honouring PJW whose life on earth touched so many lives. I also want to thank God for choosing me, someone outside of Bartley, to be the starting knot of a tapestry which tells us, on the flip side, of the beautiful picture of an abundant life God intends for each one of us, if only we choose to believe and receive His love.
Singapore Christian Foundation