31 August 2019 by Ray Lee –
Jonathan Lee is the Group Chief Operating Officer of Reapfield Properties. When he was a young boy, he actually wanted to be a professional violinist. How did God link music and real estate in his life?
Born and raised in Bukit Mertajam, Penang, he was very involved in music at a very young age. At age 4 he began playing the violin and at age 15 he was playing in an orchestra and touring professionally for functions.
Due to his mediocre academic results and his family’s lack of financial means to support him to study further, he came to Kuala Lumpur to live with his uncle and auntie after Form 5. His uncle was a full-time minister and the music director of a church. Jonathan was given opportunities to teach and perform there as well. After serving a couple of months in the church, one day, the youth pastor asked him openly if he was ready to accept the Lord. He said yes.
“That’s the story of how I was saved. All because of music! I remember the day I accepted the Lord, there was an unspeakable joy that I couldn’t comprehend.”
He wasn’t very clear of what Christian life was about. He simply looked up to his uncle and auntie as role models and served God in the music ministry. He helped in the recordings, trained the choir and orchestra, played in worship conventions, etc.
Two years later, he was offered a scholarship to study classical music art in Florida in the US. He also got married there. With his parents’ financial support, he still had to work for his living expenses. He was setting a goal to stay there with his wife and build his music career. He also served a bit in a local church. When the scholarship was retracted due to budget cuts of the state-run college, he could no longer afford the fees and was unable to complete the 4-year degree course. His dream was shattered after two and a half years in the US! When he made a decision to leave the US, he knew music was out of the picture in his life. He wondered if he had done anything wrong.
On the first day of 2004, he was back to Malaysia.
“As the plane touched down KLIA, there was this voice that spoke to me the verse of Jeremiah 29:11 (For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.) I was thinking ‘God, what is the hope and the future for me? How does it look like? I cannot see.’”
The verse was a reminder of a lesson he had learned in the youth church.
“What happened that moment was probably the most interesting encounter I had with God. What I felt was that God had a plan for me and He was not there to fail me. But circumstances were showing that I was failing in life. I was in debt and had no academic qualification except for his SPM. The question was ‘Do I trust God?’
“I made a conscious decision to trust Him, lean on His word and do something about it. I didn’t sit and wait. A lot of times, God gives us the ability, strength and predisposed blessings that sometimes we may not realize.”
The next morning, he bought a newspaper and started applying for jobs. He went for 20 job interviews. In a week, he was hired by a company to sell golf memberships. Through the job, he got to know a contact who was in the real estate. The contact assured Jonathan that his proficiency in English would enable him to generate good income in this line of work. After considering his strengths and the possibility to settle his debts with the attractive commission, he decided to give it a try in this new venture.
“I always reflect back. 15 years ago, what would have happened if I had decided not to trust God that day in the aeroplane? And if I hadn’t taken action aggressively? When you trust, you will go all out. You will do something about it because you believe there is a supernatural force behind that is going to support you in certain ways. That’s faith! Believing something that you cannot see.”
He became an excellent negotiator and could close as many as 16 deals a month.
“There was a time I wanted to build my own kingdom in business. Eventually, it came to a certain point that I thought it wasn’t worthy.”
In 2009, he recruited people and trained them. He realized one of his passions was to develop people and develop things by giving them a structure, creating programmes and building the organisation to be stronger.
“That helped me in my career path as I began to have the servant leadership mentality. My calling is to serve others. As I look back, actually music wasn’t my calling. Music was my passion. It was a way that God prepared me to go through certain things to do what I’m doing now. I think now I’m in my calling. My business is my ministry. There is so much need here and so many unchurched people. There are numerous opportunities where I can be salt and light.”
Joining Reapfield Properties in 2016 was another defining moment to him. He was invited by one of the agents to attend a musical in Every Nation Church. Not being connected enough with the community of Christians previously, especially during challenging moments, his biological family finally found a good family of Christ to be part of.
He commits to serve at the CEO Keynote, a ministry under this church to train entrepreneurs.
Being in an influential position, he focuses on personal life development with people by caring for and serving them. He and his wife recently led a colleague and her husband to accept Christ.
“ I felt, wow, this is the influence I have that can add people to the Kingdom!
My intention is always for the well-being of the person first. I would use my life testimony and story. I would tell people what I get with God. And I would do a lot of one on one coaching to these people. I have a personal understanding of their own life stories as well. I connect the dots and look at opportunities and put them in the platform where they are able to receive God’s word and method. That’s my approach right now.”
“God gives us space and opportunities to make decisions. It’s a choice. I would tell people not to take this for granted. And we make a decision to be with God in this journey, it’s the best decision! There will be times we decide to do things the way we want to do it because we have the power. It’s a daily and constant renewal of that decision to follow Christ.
“In my journey, I’m always reminded of Jeremiah 29:11. That experience tells me that even if I know the word but if I don’t act on it, it’s so futile. Taking action means making a decision that will lead to that destiny that God has set for us. I tell people ‘90 percent do, 10 percent talk.’ Taking action, serving others and living the Word is more powerful. Having the community to be accountable in our actions is very important.”
Last October, his mentor in music was celebrating his 80th birthday. Over a hundred former students went to Penang to honour him with a concert. When Jonathan was sitting for the rehearsal, he recalled the music he used to play and there were tears in his eyes. He realized he had learned a lot about leadership from the mentor who used to give instructions.
”God so loved me that before I understood what was going to happen to my life, He had already prepared the pathways to lead me to where I am today. That gave me a great closure. I’m now even more focused and ready to carry the cross. I can see His providential hand. It’s a reflection of the past.
“I used to wonder why I needed to go through the pain of letting go something I liked to do. Now I know it was a preparation. I take a little bit more comfort in certain challenges that I face in life right now. I know that the providential hand of God is here to prepare me for something else. It helps me to understand when God loves me, these situations are necessary for me.”
(photo courtesy of Jonathan Lee)
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