Cliff’s guide on how to become a better paintball player

Taken by a friend during a paintball game at church camp.

Taken by a friend during a paintball game at church camp.


Last week during church camp, some of the younger fellas (in their early 20s) asked me to join them to play paintball.  Growing up, I never played any team sports or considered myself athletic (I still don’t).  The first ‘sport’ I got into was paintball.  Though many do not considered as a sport, for me, it is the first sport I got serious (next to triathlon).

Normally, I try to write a spiritual posts but I like to use this post to jot down some pointers on how to be a better paintball player. Not that I am an expert at it. I just want to recollect some of the thoughts I picked up along the way.

It was my close friend, Len, who I met in 2nd year in University that got me hooked into the game.   Other than getting the adrenaline rush, we treated the game like chess.   We focused on technical skills (shoot straight, run fast) and tactical skills (work as a team, flanking).

Once a week, we go to a paintball field and run drills.   One of the skills I learnt which was very useful was to shoot with either hand.   We would spend countless hours kneeling behind a bunker popping out to shoot a box or some target down the field.  Being able to shoot with both hands allow you to be a better player with greater flexibility.

For me, the first thing most important is work together as a team.  It isn’t even about having better equipment.  Team work is essential in a game where everything can change in split seconds.  Team work means communicating with each other where the other team is.  Usually there are two teams competing against one another in a field filled with bunkers.  Since you cannot see everything at once, your team is like your eyes to the field.  It is also important to communicate what is the other team is doing.  Are they pushing one side?  Or are they playing defensive?  By understanding what the other team is doing (or not doing), we can adjust our plan accordingly.

In the game, I try to keep tabs on how many players are tagged (shot) out.  I need to know the game situation.  If my team members who are supposed to defend are getting tagged out, then my base (if we are playing capture the flag) is vulnerable.  Depend on the situation, I either move back to play more defensive or risk it and play more aggressive to surprise the other team.  This is the same for the other team. If I noticed more of players from the other team are getting tagged out, then I realized we have a numerical advantage (aka keep pushing).

If they don’t see you, they can’t shoot you.  This is key in paintball.  Have they spotted me or not?  A good indicator that they spotted me is when they start shooting at me.  Then I need to response accordingly.  Should I move up to another bunker where they will not see me?  Is my position vulnerable for them to hit me (and I can’t shoot back)?  Should I shoot back and make a stand in the fight?

If they haven’t spotted me, that’s great.  I will keep poking left and right of the bunker to see where the other team are.   I will try to keep ‘hidden’ as much as possible.  This means staying in the shadow.  This also means not sticking your head over the bunker (because everyone will see you as well).  There are many advantages to being discreet.   There are few games where because I remain ‘hidden’, the other team run toward my bunker thinking I am not there.   Stay discreet is a huge advantage because you can surprise the other team.  Since a game can be won in a few seconds, these surprises can make you win the game (even when your team is losing).

Every field has a boundary or a border, it is always better to move along the boundary because you are not facing the whole field and just the front and one side.  Whereas if you are in the center, you have to be mindful of the front and both sides (left and right).  If you can work along the whole edge and reach to the other team’s base, you can practically flank them on the side or even from behind.   Of course, there are games where you have to move up in the center.  But since most players focus their effort on what’s in front of them, as oppose to what’s on their side, if you can sneak around, you can hit them without them knowing.

Lastly, going back to teamwork, it is important to be aware of where my team members are as well.  If they are moving up, I will try to move up and avoid staying in the same bunker with another person.   There are times when you cannot move up.  If the other team has four players coming your way and there are only two of you, the wiser move is to stay back and fight defensively.  This may mean moving back a bunker or expecting them to rush you.

We tend to be more aggressive right from the start of the game because the further we are in the field, the less field the other team can move.  From that point on, it is a matter of working the angles (positions where you can shoot them but it is much harder for them to shoot you in return).

Paintball tends to reward those who play aggressively (aka run very fast and far into a bunker at the start of the game).   Yes, there is a risk of getting shot but sometimes the risk will pay off.   The best part is that it is not about equipment or even experiences, often times it is come down to out-witting your opponent.

Joy in Obedience

It has been a while since I blog.  In fact, our times in Uganda and now back in Singapore have been quiet on the blog front.  On my desktop there are many word docs saved.  Each doc is a blog post which I started but never finished.

I am now 36 and moving quickly into 40s.  I am now in a period of my life where I often reflect my past.

It has been more than ten years since I became a Christian.  Looking back, a lot has changed.   I was in Canada back then. I was participated in triathlon and endurance sports.

Now I am in Singapore for this season and married to Wai Jia for almost four years.  I am now working at church.

Last night I was teaching at church on Short Term Missions.  After sharing our stories and experiences in Uganda, I whatsapped her later the night that we had a lot of good experiences following the Lord.

Following the Lord.  This is what it means to be a Christian.  Where Jesus calls, we go.  It is simple and difficult.  It sounds almost too easy and almost impossible.

Deep in my heart, I wouldn’t want to do anything else.

A while ago I preached that following Jesus will cost everything we have.  When we think about that, the first thought tends to be sorrow.  I am going to miss that and I am going to give up that.  But, if the Holy Spirit is in us, there is also an abundance joy of doing so.  So it is both.  It is sorrow and joy.  Joy and sorrow.

But at the end of the day, it is all about obedience.

And this is what it really matters at the end.

Wai Jia and I are once again in this crossroad.  Where we might have to give up everything and follow the Lord.  Where He goes, we follow.  There will be sorrow but I realized there are much joy when we obey.

Selling everything in Canada to move to Singapore is fill with sorrow but it is overshadow by the joy of obedience to Jesus.

Before we went to Uganda, we did the same thing.  We never thought we would be back in Singapore so soon (at least not after one year).

One thing I keep praying to the Lord and for each of us is that we never lose this desire to seek Jesus when we get old.

There’s no point in being burning hot for Christ in the beginning and end up cold and harden at the end.  When you race, you want to finish the race strong.

So we continue to pray and seek the Lord.

And we know He is a good God.  He is more than proven by the experiences we had of following Him in the past few years.

: )

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Speaking at Q Commons on Resilience and Faith

Last night I had the privilege of speaking at Q Commons (Singapore).  Q Commons is an event bringing like-minded Christians and non-Christians to discuss how to advance the common good in our community.

My topic was Finding resilience through my faith in Christ.

I haven’t spoke on my own journey for a long time.  It was a refreshing time for the audience and also for me as I recalled how the Lord rescued me from cancer, gave me a second chance and took me to places where I never thought possible.  cliff-speaking-q-commons


25 yrs ago I should have been six feet underground. I can only imagine what went through my parent’s mind when they told them their son had cancer. There was a massive growth in the liver and there is no way I could live without a transplant. The doctors gave me 6 months to live and the waiting list is much longer than that.
At that time, I couldn’t process all this meant to me and my family. All I know was that because of my family’s decision to migrate to Canada, it was through a routine check that the doctor found out something wrong with me.little-cliff-bike

This sequence of events proved to me that I am standing here today, alive and well, is not random nor by accident. Looking back, I knew God wanted me to live. After my liver transplant, He gave me a second chance. A second chance to live with purpose.


At the age of 27, I completed an Ironman event.  An Ironman event consists 4 km of swimming, 180 km of cycling and a marathon all in one day. It didn’t started off like this, of course. Like all things in life, it started off small. I started running. Picked up cycling again and later learn to swim. After finishing a small triathlon, I thought maybe, just maybe I could do an Ironman. It is just a little longer right?

Doing an Ironman is like wrestling with a Gorilla. You don’t stop when you’re tired. You stop when the Gorilla is tired.

Cliff Tam running in the Ironman USA 2007I completed the course in 14 hours of grueling heat, strong prevailing wind and pain in places I never thought possible.  At the end of the Ironman, I started to cry. I almost felt like I was hallucinating. I felt God is telling me to give up my life to follow Him. I knew that I was alive not by accident but because of His love and care for me.

After doing the Ironman, I believe that there are no limits to what we can achieve when we choose to rely on Him and fulfill His purpose in our lives. Of all the things I’ve done, finishing the Ironman was probably the greatest achievement. But that wasn’t the most important thing in my life. I realize the purpose of my life is not for my sake but for His.

Years later, through a ‘divine’ accident, I got married to the most beautiful woman in the world. Living half way across the world, 10,000 miles apart. It was impossible to start a relationship. It was not even rational or logical.

cliff-wjYet, I knew God has a purpose for both of our lives, given the same heartbeat we have for the poor and the needy. When I decided to lay down the love of triathlon, I know God is taking me to a whole new adventure.

Sure, I can continue to compete in triathlon, winning medals and giving glory back to Him. It would be the sensible thing to do. It would be an inspiring story. But I knew that wouldn’t be obedient to Him. God has a different purpose. It was only after I surrender triathlon, God brought me to Singapore and made this relationship possible.


Through this woman, God changed my life once again.  Three months ago, my wife and I returned from a one year stint serving in Uganda.

When we started this journey to Africa, everyone thought we were crazy. Being a medical doctor, my wife, more than anybody else knows the risks that it poses to my health to be in Africa. Having a liver transplant means that I am on immuno-suppressant drug everyday. It means I am easier to catch disease and could not take the yellow fever vaccination which is compulsory for entry into Uganda. But once again, when we thought there’s no other way, instead of giving up as many suggested, we made a stand to pray and seek God. He, as always, is faithful and we were off to Uganda.

cliff-wj-kidsDuring our one year stint, as we obey God’s calling to serve the poor, my wife and I saw Him open doors and performed miracles neither of us dare to imagine. I believe that life, whether in Africa or in Singapore, always have an element of risk.  But, it is when we made a choice to allow God to take over and obey His calling, there is nowhere safer on this earth than in the palms of our father’s hands.

Today, my challenge to you is this. How are you living your life?

Resilience is not inborne. I was not born with it but I believe the circumstances in my life, God taught me obedience. And through that obedience, trust. Through trusting, He grew resilience inside of me which then allowed me to live my faith as it is today.

Resilience is available for everyone but only when we allow Him to develop it inside of us. It is not develop by our own strength or will. It is available when we are willing to lay down our lives and surrender what we wanted for God’s highest calling.

Resilience is a choice and a way of life IF we allowed God to bend and mold us as He pleases. He is trust-worthy because He is our creator and the author and the perfector of our faith.

To end off, I would encourage you to choose a life of total surrendering and obedience. For only then, can God work out true resilience in us to live for His highest Glory.

Thank you.

See you later, Uganda

In a few hours, Wai Jia and I will be hopping on a plane leaving Uganda.

I haven’t blog much about our experience in Africa. The past year was a year of laboring for the Lord and experiencing the faithfulness of His goodness. I am leaving with ever more desire to serve Him and seek His Kingdom and His righteousness. I am leaving realizing that the Word of God is a two edged sword and I still need training on how to use it effectively and not cut myself in the process.

For the past year, we’ve been teaching at the Bible School and work alongside with the local church in various ministries (sewing and beading and training teachers to de-worm kids). We have built many friendships and enjoyed their fellowship. One of the things we will miss the most is the worship in Ugandan church. It is simply vibrant.

Teaching at the Bible School really shaped me to see the need to know the Bible and be able to explain doctrines clearly and concise. Last night, Wai Jia and I discussed with each other about some of the changes we expect when we go back to Singapore. We are using materials designed to help missionaries return back home. One of the items we discussed is the change in our spirituality while in Uganda. I can see Wai Jia has grown a lot in understanding the Bible. As for myself, I hope so as well. Though I feel like I am still illeterate when it comes to knowing Scriptures.

As we are leaving our friends behind, we often wonder what will happen to them. Will they be ok? One of the pastors we worked alongside went into the hospital a few days ago with a major operation. What about him? What about our ministries and the projects that we were part of? The Sewing and Beading ministry. Will this continue to grow? Will it transform lives?

In all things, they are not in my control but in His Soveriegn care. We are learning to trust. We are simply given the privilege to be His Workmen in Uganda in this brief period.

If God is willing, He will bring us back.

As for now, we are heading back to Singapore and serve Him there. As for me, Singapore will be a period of spiritual training as I continue to study my M Div online. What’s more important though, is not the grades or a few letters behind my name but rather a strong and living relationship with God. That’s the key and source of life when we go back on the field. When? We don’t know. We simply trust and wait.

see-you-later-ugandaPhoto with children and friends on our last day at Cornerstone Entebbe, the church where we served and worshipped in Uganda.


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When Empathy is not enough (a missionary musing)

Before coming to Uganda with my wife as missionaries, I served in Singapore for 2 ½ years.   Singapore was the first place where I served as a long term missionary.   Given that Singapore is well developed, you would think it was easy for me to transit, right?   Unfortunately, my experience was far from smooth.   My wife had to spend many nights listen to me feeling the sense of loss of my home, friends and family.     Though I am Chinese from descent (I was born in Hong Kong), I am more ‘Ang Mo’, a Singaporean term to describe Westerners, given that I spent more than 20 years living in Canada.  Living back in Asia was a shocked to my system in various ways.

For many missionaries, home-sickness, loneliness, missing friends and family are often some of the stressors one experiences on the field.  Lately, I noticed there were a number of posts published online about the suffering a missionary goes through.  Unfortunately, for me, these posts tend to discourage rather than encourage.   They list a bunch of things a missionary suffers but do not offer solutions to them.  These posts might make me feel like someone out there understands my situation.  But for me, empathy is not enough.  I need more.

During those times on the field when I am down, my encouragement comes from reading the Bible.  Paul, as an apostle (and also a missionary),  suffered much for Christ.  Whenever I open the book of Philippians, I am inspired by Paul’s desire to follow Christ, even to discount all things as loss (Phil 3:8).  His message to the church of Philippi is not merely to say ‘yes, things suck’.  Rather, he not only stated the trials he went through, but also brought the Philippi church up and encouraged them to keep the faith.  Yes, things are not going to be good.  But it is worth it.  Paul is the right person to say this.  He wasn’t sitting on an Ivory tower and giving orders.  After all, he was

  • Five times beaten with forty stripes minus one
  • Three times beaten with rods
  • Stoned once
  • Three times shipwrecked
  • A night and a day in the deep
  • In perils of water, robbers, own countrymen (Jews), Gentiles, in city, in wilderness, in seas, in false brothers, in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness, in hunger and thirst, in fastings, in cold and nakedness

Source: 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 (NKJV)

If Paul, the one who suffered so much for the Gospel, can keep going, I can take that message.  This is a message that gives me hope and courage.

While we were here in Uganda, we had an experienced missionary who told us that people from back home will disappoint us.  Now, this might sound negative but this is a reality.  The reality is that no one at home will truly understand 100% what we are going through.  There was a time when I was upset at my friends and supporters for their lack of sensitivity.  But after a while, I needed to move on.  It is ok if people do not understand.  It is ok because the source of my strength is not from them.  It is by looking at Jesus that we can continue to labor in joy despite hardships.   Following Jesus is a hard thing to do.  When we talk about laboring for Him, it really means to labor with sweat, toil and heartache.   But at the end it is worth it.  It is important to keep the end in mind.

I remembered my first Half Ironman (a very long triathlon event).  I was 10 km from the finish line.  We started in the morning and by then, it was noontime and it was hot.  Even though the triathlon is an individual race, there are times when you race together to encourage each other.   In Ecclesiastes, Solomon said that two is better than one and a cord of three strands will not break (Ecc 4:12).  It is especially true in triathlon.

I somehow ended up with two other participants.   We exchange a few words as we jogged along.   One of the participants began to complain how hard the course was and how hot she was feeling.  The more I listened to her, the more I did not want to listen.  Realizing her words were not helping me to keep going, I wished her well and ran ahead.

I did the same race a few years later.  Once again, the race was hot and muggy.  This time I hadn’t trained as much and was struggling.  At around the same part of the race, I gave up and started to walk.  Just as I was trotting along and making up every reason why I should walk, a much older gentleman passed me.  As he passed me, he turned around and waved at me to keep going.   In triathlon, it is common for them to write down your age at the back of your calf.  This person had a 60 on  his calf!  I told myself, if someone twice as old as me could keep going, I could as well.   I started jogging again and caught up with him.  This man was very encouraging and we exchanged words to keep each other going to the end.

It is the same when we labor for the Lord.  The situation is difficult and it is tough.  We will feel lonely and a sense of loss.  But we need to encourage one another to keep moving and keep our eye on the eternal crown.  He is the strength and the source for us to keep going.  Life is short and we need to accomplish all the things He marked us to do.   The suffering we are going through is temporary compared to the glorious eternal prize we will achieve when He calls us, ‘good and faithful servants’.  AMEN!


“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”Philippians 3:12-14 (NKJV)

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9 (NKJV)