I wonder how many among us who had served National Service could remember eons ago when soldiers had to wear name-tags with certain colour bars as part of their daily uniforms. I think those serving in the navy and airforce had them as well. The colour bars indicated the main language or dialect the wearer could communicate in. Those who could speak only English wore a green bar while those who could speak English and Mandarin would have a green bar next to an orange one.
Then there were of course, the now “legendary” red name-tag wearers who could supposedly speak and understand only certain Chinese dialects and nothing else. They were generally nicknamed “Hokkien soldiers (peng)” after the dialect they communicated in. I use the word ‘legendary’ because there were a good number of stories about them that circulated among our boys in green then and because they had become legends of our relatively young nation.
One of the better-known open secrets about them is that although they wereofficially able to communicate only in Hokkien or one of the other Chinese dialects, many of them could actually understand at least a sprinkling of English or Mandarin. The fact that they chose to “act blur” (Singlish for “pretending as if one does not understand”) was because they would often be given only the simplest of tasks to do because of their “inabilities”. So they went through their two-year stint of National Service, doing nothing too tiring, nothing too complicated, nothing too adventurous, nothing too dangerous – indeed, very often nothing at all!
One of the Hokkien peng’s favourite ways to indicate their inability to understand instructions was to give a quizzical look, shrug the shoulders and point his index-finger at the purple name-tag and utter these words in the bestHokkien one could muster: "Wa ang bai" (I am a red name-tag wearer.) And lo, and behold, the inquirer would often smack his forehead and quickly leave the soldier in peace… and disgust. Worked without fail every time.
You may say,"I am not going to be a leader. So why should I care?" But we are part of the Body. Even if we are not leaders; even if we have no interest to be leaders, there is still the responsibility that comes with selecting the right leaders.
Personal character is the thrust of God’s word, accounting for over half of the 15 qualities of an overseer or elder listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. 1 Timothy 3:1 talks about aspiring to leadership. We need older qualified men and women who say, “I want to be an elder.” We need younger qualified people too, who say, "I want to be an elder."
Come 20th October, we will be having an election and our congregation has an opportunity to affirm new leaders by asking them to serve. Let’s be the church God wants us to be by encouraging good biblical leadership. Pray for and support those who follow the lead of the Lord Jesus Christ. You can do so by following the Lord’s leadership in your own life today.