Give And It Will Be Given Unto You
Po Yuen Tong, October 2003

Recently, I got together with several '63 classmates for pot-luck dinners to enjoy class reunion, first in May at my residence then in August at the residence of Ping Tak and Pamela Li. Present at the dinners were: Jane Marie Yuen Chea, Richard Ping Fai and Lilian Lai, Lucy Tong (my wife) and myself. On both occasions, we had a great time. Of course we enjoyed "chatting." With delight, we learn that Jane Marie has grown-up sons in their thirties. Inspite of the passage of time of 40 years, we felt that the clock had somehow stopped ticking in 1963. We were trying to re-connect the missing part of our lives since leaving St. Mark's. We talked as if we were still at school, recalling a lot of youthful memories. Both occasions were wonderful. We felt that we missed someone, our teacher, Miss Ho-kok Wong who lives in Toronto. At time of writing this article, she has graciously accepted to have lunch with us next week.

We were also wondering what happened to our '63 classmates. From an article written by Marianne Cheung Ngan Hing (a fellow '63 classmate) in the December 2002 issue of St. Mark's Alumni (Ontario, Canada) Newsletter, we are excited by what Marianne does after she has taken early retirement to work for the cause of underprivileged children in China. She joins Sowers Action, an organization which is devoted to providing free education to children in poorer areas in China. What a noble cause! I believe that since Marianne has given her time and effort to the less fortunate children of China, she will be given much joy as she sees the children are progressing well in their studies and becoming useful citizens in society.

Some of us have also taken early retirement and working towards finding a cause that we will cherish. As for me, I also have taken early retirement to study in theological schools. I served in churches while undergoing the studies. Last year, I graduated from Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, with a Master of Theology degree. That education has equipped me with the necessary interpreting skills to teach the Word of God. I am now serving as the teaching pastor of the Toronto Immanuel Chinese Baptist Church, Markham, Ontario. If you want to know about this church, please visit I have a passion is to share the Word of God with people in the last leg of my journey in life.

My wife and I have a keen interest in gardening. We spend a lot of time in our backyard as a way to enjoy the short-lived but lovely Canadian summer. Throughout the summer, we can enjoy the various beautiful flowers and the juicy, chemical-free produce including our named-brand Tong's Figs.

I like to share some of the gardening experience with my fellow St. Markans.

  1. Making a flower bed: At the beginning of the growing season (around May), I tilt the earth. In order to make a fertile flower bed, I usually dig up holes to fill them with composts1 to be mixed with sand2, lime3 and water. Then I cover them with the top soil. However, at this time, the condition of the dug up top soil is undesirable for growing because it is very lumpy. So I use a spade to crush the bigger lumps and a masonry trowel to crush the smaller lumps on a hard surface, such as a patio stone, into finer soil. The flower bed now looks beautiful. No doubt, this takes up a lot of time. However, I could use this time to do my thinking for sermon preparations. The fine soil becomes silt-like. It can hold up seedlings well and has the capacity to hold up water necessary for the roots. The flowers and veggies4 enjoy such comfortable growing environment and will bloom beautifully or yield fleshy produce. The insight I gain here is that the lumps represent the "self" of people in an organization. If the people are willing to "be crushed" (by the love of Christ) and become humble, selfless and perhaps sacrificial), this will be a wonderful organization full of joy. The common good will come out. If this situation happens in a church, the glory of Christ will shine. I am sure that when outsiders see this "heaven-on-earth" type of climate in the church, how can they resist? Actually, this is a wonderful way of evangelism.

  2. Watering fig trees: In Canada, because of its severe winter, fig trees must be kept indoors (i.e., in a garage) during the winter. Over the years, I have planted a number of fig trees in big pots measuring one and a half feet both in diameter and in height. A fig tree in that pot size can grow to about six feet tall and up to a hundred figs. Every year, when May comes, I use a two-wheel trolley to transport them from the garage out to the door steps outside the entrance to my house where they receive maximum sunshine. During the growing season, I water them religiously, up to three times a day, when the sun is very hot. They grow very well. Many passers-by have stopped and inquire about the trees. Once a passer-by told his companion that the owner of our house must be an Italian. Ha! Ha! Over the years, some friends have asked for fig trees and I have given them. Not many of them are successful because they forget to water the fig trees. So, I have learnt that if you want to reap the juicy figs in September, you must treat them very nice during the growing season by watering them religiously (no negligence even for a day) because you (by means of watering) are their sole water supply. A fig tree can tolerate 24 hours without water at most. Beyond that, it will not survive. I can quickly relate that Christ is our living water. We need Him all the time. Without the supply of living water, we don't have much strength to yield the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:23).

  3. Multiplying fig tree: Perhaps you would ask how I multiply fig trees since there are no such things as "fig seeds." Well, from time to time, you may notice that a new shoot may spring out from the main trunk right above the soil. I let that shoot grow to about a foot or two. Then I clear off the soil and cut off the shoot from the main trunk. I also make sure that there are roots attached to the bottom of the shoot. Then, I put this newly-cut shoot in another pot fill with compost at the bottom and garden soil. Now I have a young fig tree. Then I cut the leaves off the shoot. It will look ugly for the rest of the season. I put it in the garage for the winter. When spring comes, fresh green leaves will sprout from the previously "ugly" shoot. If it is being water as above-mentioned, there will be figs in the fall. The story doesn't end here. In approximately two months, two new shoots will sprout from the "wound" where the old shoot has been cut off from the trunk. In due time, these two shoots are ready for cutting and potting. It is amazing that when a shoot (with roots) is cut and grows a new tree, the "painful" parent tree produces two younger shoots ready for the next cutting. I see two biblical principles at work here: (a) If you give, it will be given unto you (Luke 6:38), and (b) A plant can be resilient to cutting and produces more shoots. If we face life's vicissitudes with resiliency, setting our hope on God, our faith will be refined and be as precious as gold (cf. Job 23:10).
Through gardening, I am thankful to God to perceive some biblical perspectives on life and have received encouragement. I pray that through your hobbies or work, you (my fellow St. Markans) will be able to appreciate how God's hand has been guiding you all along in your lives. Please share them with us!

1 Some years ago, I responded to the appeal of protecting the environment. So, I have three compost bins to store up vegetable and produce cuttings, fruit peels, egg shells, shrimp shells, fallen leaves grass clippings. Throughout the summer and the fall, I add soil and mix them with water in the bins only to be used in the spring. Composts are excellent sources of nutrients that plants need for growth.
2 The sand allows easy passage of water and enables the plant's root to grow easily.
3 The lime neutralizes the acidity both in the soil and the compost allowing the plant to have a balanced diet.
4 "Veggies" is a collective term for plants that produce eatable items such as, vegetables, winter melons, zucchinis, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, egg plants, onions etc.