22 Mar GS Letter March 2019
FES was officially founded in 1959, and so, this year we will celebrate our 60th year of serving students and graduates in Singapore. Combining the aspects of reflection and anticipation, FES Council has decided to adopt a three-year framework, using agricultural terms to describe the process: to fallow (2019), to plough (2020), and to sow (2021).
2019 is the year of fallow. Allow me to share some reflection points on this. To fallow a land means to leave the land uncultivated for a period. This action was part of the first set of commands from God to the Israelites when they were just led out from Egypt:
For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow. – Exodus 23:10–11a
First, as part of the laws that promote justice and mercy for all, we can clearly see that the main intent of fallowing the land is “so that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the wild animals may eat” (Ex 23:11b). In other words, God dared them to experience the “unproductive season” for the sake of those who are often neglected and exploited. What a just and merciful God we have!
Mirroring God’s intent, as we lie fallow this year, how do we ensure that our fallowing will contribute to the benefit of those “neglected and exploited” among us? In the FES context, who among the stakeholders of our ministry has been barred from the blessings and cares they deserve to receive? What can we do so these groups of people “may eat”?
Secondly, the idea of fallow naturally did not seem exciting to me. Does it mean that throughout this year, God wants us to do nothing? It sounds slow, dull, and unproductive. Didn’t Jesus still heal the sick on the sabbath and challenge those who persecuted him: “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” (John 5:17)? What about Paul’s conviction: “If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me” (Phil. 1:22a). To fallow appears so counter-intuitive to my production-obsessed ears.
However, when I reflected further, I realised productivity and fruitfulness could be the hardest idols to get rid of, both in me and in the FES ministry. More students and graduates to reach and serve, more events and programmes to organise, more impact and ministry partnership to create and so on. Eventually, without noticing, we rely more on our experiences, our systems, and our measures of success, rather than God.
Gradually we forget that God owns “the land” and has the prerogative in the ways he would like to bless it. No matter how unproductive and inactive a fallow year may seem, we need to learn that it is one of the ways God uses to teach us to keep trusting in him – by letting “the land” truly rest and go through an “unproductive season”.
More elaborate reflection and tangible details on what FES will embark on this year of fallow can be found in the forthcoming FES newsletter, Perspective (March 2019), pages 19, 32 and 33. You will also read various interesting articles on spiritual formation through Scripture engagement. Latest news and updates on our staff workers as well as some CFs can be found inside as well.
In His grace,
FES General Secretary