How did it all begin?
It wasn’t because I had a gap year, nor was it because a guest speaker from WEC came to my church one Sunday and so out of curiosity I searched the organisation up, emailed them and got a prompt response to meet and talk more. These were favourable circumstances, but it is evident now how God had been working all along, directing my steps and leading me to this decision as I sought Him during our quiet times. Of course, there was a fair share of hemming and hawing in between: “What were my motivations? I cannot go if it’s an obligation, a clearly flawed perceived ‘Christian duty’!” “But missions at home is just as important as missions overseas!” “Besides, I really should look for a new job...” and even, “God, if I go, please don’t drop a long-term-calling bomb.”
God in His infinite patience worked through these concerns. A friend also gently reminded me, “It’s not about you.” And she was right. For in those 7 weeks, He had revealed so much of Himself, I was brought to a place of worship and awe.
“In every place where I cause my name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you.” Exodus 20:24
How exactly did I see His glory?
“When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing on my own. But just as the Father taught Me, I say these things.” John 8:28
I came to better understand that God is already at work around us; God moves, we perceive, we follow (in that order!). Because of that, we are not the ones running the show, and we do nothing on our own initiative and strength – pretty stress-free right? No!
In my time there, I participated in a variety of activities, including studying the word with local believers; preparing for and facilitating a monthly children’s English corner as well as a mums and toddlers weekly meeting; reaching out and meeting new people; village work to encourage a local sister and teach some English at the local school (and in the process share the good news); helping out at a church for the blind.
Many things were honestly out of my comfort zone, but could be done comfortably because of the Spirit’s enablement. Here are a couple of accounts (there are really many more!) that left deep impressions on me:
One of our friends there found out I was interested in speech and language pathology, and linked me up with a speech therapist to arrange for a shadowing session. Interestingly, I found out from the friend that this lady, Lily, had previously expressed interest in joining a church although she wasn’t a believer. Unfortunately there was no follow up done back then and they subsequently lost contact with each other. I immediately perceived that my purpose was not primarily for a shadowing session, but rather to actually connect with her. How exciting!!!! After the session, I invited Lily for a gathering scheduled later that week with some local young adult believers, but she appeared noncommittal. Guess what? She was the only one who turned up that evening. We had dinner, chit-chatted and sang some worship songs together. She later invited us to her house the following week, where we went and found 2 other speech therapists there – Fanny and Candy. When Fanny found out that we were Christians, she mentioned that her mother was a believer too. We sang worship songs again that night and one of our friends shared the good news, to which they seemed to be listening intently to.
Update: I received news that Lily and Candy joined them in a gathering the next weekend, where they prayed to receive Christ as their Lord and Saviour. How amazing is that?! It is so evidently the arrangement of God, and what a privilege it was to partner Him just by “being there”. May His work with these ladies continue.
A friend and I made a trip up to a village on the mountains with the intention of encouraging a sister who was teaching at the village school. Because we were staying longer than usual, we would have the opportunity to meet her students. I was initially apprehensive, given that 1) I have an aversion to teaching 2) I am not the fondest of the secondary school age range. Once I met them, however, I developed the strangest of affections for them. They were SO precious, even the seated-in-the-back-row-trying-hard-to-act-cool guys. Many of the students came from homes with absent parents who were away earning a living in the city. When a group conducted an English camp previously, most of them hugged the facilitators at the end of the camp and cried. These were children so devoid of love and affection. In fact, there was a short malnourished boy who answered a question we posed to the class regarding their future ambition, saying he wanted to be a thug. This was the same boy who cried, hugged and didn’t want to let one of the facilitators go. I found out later that he was an orphan.
My stay in the village was special in that I came to see God as a God of the fatherless, the orphan, the widow and the poor. I also finally understood why “beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation”, for if no one brings the message to these unreached places, how will they get to hear?
What did I learn?
How many of us look at foreigners and what they do with even the slightest hint of contempt? Hands up? Having interacted with the locals I met (not to mention being at the receiving end of their hospitality numerous times), I had to repent and dispose of deeply rooted prejudices and biases. Intolerance is outrightly wrong, and tolerance insufficient. We love because He first loved us, and love always wins.
Interestingly, being in a “quarter-life crisis” stage, I was challenged to confront underlying beliefs about God and have my relationship with Him refined. Did I really believe that God expresses himself only through perfect love, that His will is always the best? If I don’t, how will I trust him with my life and truly surrender major life decisions? I must go beyond convenient Christianity, to be able to say, “not my will be done, but yours”.
Missions is not a separate ministry in church, not a call for the special few, not a job scope, not even taking a flight out to somewhere. Missions is simply, His mission – the very heartbeat of God to reconcile man to Himself. This is the call of every disciple, regardless of where we are and what we do.