What an evening! It started out just like another FLL Gala: The attendance was impressive, but then people were used to seeing a big crowd at the Gala; the display booths had a good variety but overall nothing spectacular; the MCs,Christina and Hoppa, were a dynamite twosome as usual, but the long list of housekeeping items, sponsors and supporters that they rattled off got a little tedious and was soon drowned out by the chatters of the audience. I was thinking: if our goal was to avoid any unnecessary challenges or doubts by just going through the motions at a time when the new ministries and the new organization of FLL were mostly still in formulation, the result definitely had been so far so good.
Then the tide began to turn. When it did the impact was more like a tsunami than a mere tidal wave. First came Fr. Chui's sharing, whose quiet demeanor and down to earth language belied his passion and strong attachment to God that the audience would not have noticed if not for Christina's inquisitive questions and patient interviewing skills. I’m sure the Gala organizers didn’t mean to put Frances Yip’s witness story there to demonstrate the differences between a quiet and reserved speaker and a very expressive one. But people couldn't help but notice the differences when Frances Yip's interview appeared on screen. Was she good in expressing herself! No doubt she brought tears to the eyes of many in the audience. I for one was mightily impressed by her sharing and had to change my view about this singer from Hong Kong whom I had never thought too highly of. David and Christina’s heart-wrenching story brought an already quiet conference centre to a complete hush. I have attended all eight FLL Galas, but never have I seen an audience as subdued as the one last evening due to the seriousness of the matter being discussed! If doubts still lingered as to whether God was doing his work among the various Chinese Catholic communities, the powerful summation of the three witness stories with Frances Yip singing prayerfully in the background was more than enough to dispel them all.
Just when the audience thought it had had more than it could bargain for in as far as faith witnessing, Paul Yeung, the FLL Director came on stage to deliver the speech of his life. His passionate and spirit-lifting plea for financial support for the newly incorporated FLL, whose many-faceted ministries were nicely captured by the theme of the evening – Faith Mosaic, clearly had a powerful impact on the audience who on this evening turned up in more than 1,000 strong. It was not a scene I had seen very often, but one could hear a pin drop when Paul asked the audience, who had generously supported FLL when it started the TV/radio ministry from scratch 8 years ago, to once again support from scratch the new, many-faceted FLL evangelization ministries even if it meant no tax receipts for their donations due to the fact that the new entity was not yet a charity.
The dead silence of the audience, as it turned out, demonstrated not cynicism or distrust; but rather a concern out of love, a resolve to help, and a solidarity that translated into action. At least from where I sat, I could see many people opening up their wallets and filling out the donation forms with eagerness and unreserved generosity. Once again, when taunted - when trials and ordeals appeared to look us right in the eyes, we as a faith community were able to stand our ground, rising up to the occasion to confront the challenge out of love for Christ. I was so touched I had to go to the back stage to congratulate Paul personally. As I entered, he was there loitering around like a dazed man who had no idea what it was that he had just said. I gave him a big hug and told him his speech was outstanding because it wasn’t his. On this evening, in a conference centre filled will Chinese Catholics more than a thousand strong whose hearts beat as one, the Holy Spirit was a-movin'; He had spoken.