Rest, wherever I am brought to

Just caught up with some of the letters that a friend sent, to update us on her life as a missionary on the mountains. Feeling deeply encouraged! And I found myself saying “Amen” to some of the things that she wrote in her letters.

Even before she flew off for a year, she knew that life wouldn’t be comfortable. Her prayer request was that God would help her with the cultural differences. That’s one of her concerns after realising that the society is more “chill” while she is someone who needs to make her time productive.

Now that she’s there, challenges got even more real. There are other smaller things such as climbing up and down peaks, bathing and washing clothes in a river and sleeping on bamboo beds. Small things, but if we ask ourselves, how many of us would actually make a registration to live life like this for a year? I don’t know if she minded that, but I’m not sure either if I would want to do that. I mean, it’s not the most comfortable thing for us to do, having grown up in this island and having our basic essentials defined for us to be walking on concrete grounds, bathing in a comfort of a bathroom, having a washing machine do the job for us, and sleeping on well-cushioned beds.

That’s just one of the other not-so-comfortable things in her life there. Other things include picking up a new language and teaching bible study classes in that language.

I like the exhortation she shared though. Here’s what she wrote:

… rather than fighting for joy, I ought to rest in the sovereign purpose of the Lord who has brought me here ­ the Lord whose will for all our lives is “​good and ​acceptable and ​perfect” (Romans 12:2). I pray also for you, wherever you are and whatever you’re pursuing, if you are assured that this is the will of God for your life, ​rest in it, despite the challenges, knowing that His will is good and acceptable and perfect for you​.

Many would say this is easier said than done. True, that thought did cross my mind moments ago. But I also realised that this friend here experienced it and then said this. I am convinced, through her life, that this is possible.

It’s pretty cool to read about some of the other things that God has brought her through in her time there. I see how He is moulding her heart, changing the way she views things and does things. Interesting to learn about some of her struggles too, and to hear her speak about them. Other than the fact that I get a glimpse of the world out there that God loves, as well, I give thanks for the fact that despite all the unfamiliarity and discomfort she has encountered, I see praising and testifying to God’s goodness. Gaining much from her letters :)

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Rest, wherever I am brought to

Letter from Manila

Just read the two prayer letters that Sarah emailed, with the latest one updating us on her arrival in Manila yesterday. As I read about her motivation in doing what she’s called by God to do in the year ahead in Philippines and how humbly she views what she’s doing there, it’s quite encouraging to see a life dedicated to Christ to such an extent. I’ve always admired the way she loves and serves God, and I guess this just adds on to it.

Reading these also makes me grateful once again for how, I believe, God had brought us together as friends. Much of the spiritual support I had in my course came from her. It started off with her being one of the seniors in my OG when I first came into the course, but she had to leave the camp early so we only had a one night conversation with her. Somehow I found out that she’s a Christian. But well, since she was only there for half the camp, I wasn’t really that much into this person to the extent of initiating conversations outside the OG context. In fact at that point in time, she wasn’t using Whatsapp and was pretty much away from her phone.

Interestingly though, some nights later, I had a dream about her facing challenges concerning her faith (which, now that I know her better, these challenges in the dream were probably untrue). That dream bothered me a little. So out of concern, and out of the earnestness in wanting to support Christians in their walks, I decided to drop her a text to ask a general question, like how can I pray for you? And from there, this friendship began.

What I didn’t expect was what God intended this friendship to be and how I’ve been really blessed by it. Well, I wouldn’t say there’s much of an emotional attachment here, since we didn’t have much opportunities to meet each other frequently. But I guess this is what makes it rather amazing. Despite us seemingly just living our own lives, we were concerned with how each other’s doing and we were excited about how God is using each of us for His glory. Like, genuinely. That’s something that surprises me because I rarely, very rarely, feel this way and react this way towards someone whose life I’m not exactly very involved in.

Grateful for this friendship. Thank You God :) Guess the story of this friendship began and the things that happened along the way will be one that I’ll probably remember for some time. It’s a friendship that God had given, in the unlikeliest way of nudging me to take the initiative through a dream. Very interesting. I’ve no idea what’s to come, but it will probably be exciting to hear about her mission there from time to time :)

Letter from Manila

Cambodia

2009. I went with a heavy heart because a very dear friend was leaving for the UK for 4 years and yet I had to be away for 8 days in her last month in Singapore. But by the end of the trip, I realised how my heart had been impacted by the children we met, by the lives we touched. I witnessed how my friends who went the previous year and taught the youths guitar, and with 4 chords, these people learnt to worship God with the instrument, and one of them even composed a song for God. That was how much they desired for God. Seeing this impacted our hearts a lot. I guess, in a way as well, the trip provided me a way of escape from what I was facing – don’t overseas trips just have this somewhat-amazing power most of the time?

2010. I decided to return there to continue what we had done. That year, we started to have meetups that consisted of worshipping, praying and sharing as the dates drew nearer. During one of the meetings, Mr Kan, the teacher-in-charge, challenged us to think about our purpose for going there. Who is it for and what is it for. And I thought I knew that clearly in my heart – it was for God and to bring His love to the people there. And I guess it was also because I witnessed the impact of this ministry in these people’s lives, in particular the youths who made use of whatever little they have, and had been taught to serve God. I can’t remember which year it started, but as of now, a group of them is going around the world as a worship band that leads worship in churches. Praise God! That year, other than the children’s ministry and guitar lessons, my friends taught them how to use their vocals, the keyboard and the cajon to worship God as well.

2011. The last time I was back in that place. Purpose of the trip was rather different – it was more of trying to source out different areas in which we can support in a longer time, in a more consistent manner, instead of just an annual mission trip kinda thing.

These trips pretty much shaped my idea of what short-term missions meant. Instead of doing the usual CIP of ONLY building wells, delivering goods etc., we helped a bunch of youths to express their love for God in new ways and we shared the love of Christ with kids. No doubt the usual CIP kinda stuff are important and I do think that it’s good that we build houses, we provide aid in whichever way we can; these are important because one thing that I learnt from these trips was what this guy said – feed the people first, if not how would they even be able to turn their eyes away from their hunger and look to God? I guess in a mission trip, we want to go beyond just the practical stuff; we want to bring Christ into people’s lives.

Didn’t manage to go last year for different reasons. But this year, an opportunity was offered when Rebecca texted me a few days back to ask if I’m interested in a mission to Cambodia with Ru Ying. I kinda just put it aside, thinking that I would think about it again when I hear more from Rebecca. But just yesterday after service, Ru Ying came looking for me to talk about it. I was pretty shocked because, I knew I wasn’t ready to give a yes.

This came back to my mind just a while ago, and it set me thinking. Why not? Because it’s not with the AC Christian Fellowship, not the usual bunch of people? Because it’s not a partnership with the Girls’ Brigade whom we have always been working with? Because we most probably will not be going to Morning Star or Takh Mauh where we have been serving?

I think one of the more “valid” reasons I can think of is that it’s because I seek continuity. I don’t really see people’s intentions in going back to the same place to serve after that 5-8 days. And honestly, I’m just thinking how great would that impact be for these people’s lives if we are just one of the groups that come and go? Perhaps we would just be the ones benefiting more, and getting some spiritual high when we get back. I’m not saying that people from the church are  uncommitted people, not at all. But I guess we have different objectives for our mission trips? And I don’t even know if I’m just 执著-ing over some… small thingy.

Though that’s part of the reason, I guess I can’t deny entirely that the lame reasons I quoted before that are somewhat true as well. I guess my idea of Cambodia has been tied to this group of people, who talks about these groups of Cambodian not just once a year, but throughout the past few years. Throughout. And I think I appreciate that, though I must admit that I don’t feel as strongly as them. But their love and commitment for this people whom they meet only once a year kinda… idk, did something to my heart.

I don’t know man. haha no idea how to decide on this. And the thing is, bulk of this group is going overseas to further their studies this year, I don’t know what’s going to happen to missions to Cambodia in the years ahead. It’s not very logical as well for me to only want to serve in Cambodia with them. As long as I am serving God and His ministries – really, why not? But do I really want to work with different organisations and different groups each time I am there? I don’t know mannnnn :( Problem is, I don’t know how I should be looking at this.

But I do have this… small, little flame going on for YWAM Cebu’s causes. Went last year and I want to go back there again, for the ministry and for someone I met in the prison last year. But lacking a team…

I really cannot decide :/

Cambodia

Reflections on Day 4 – Heart Stirred

The long-awaited (to me at least) for prison ministry was finally here this morning. It was a frantic rush, everyone rushing out the letters for the prisoners last night and this morning (we were supposed to leave at 9am!).

To be honest, in the morning I actually wasn’t feeling as excited as I thought I would. I prayed over this heart of mine. Even while setting up the things when we were there, I was still a little lost, not knowing what to do and not knowing how to feel. It was kinda like an uh-oh moment for me? Because I really didn’t want the ministry, the last ministry of the mission trip in fact, to end in a mundane tone and with me feeling like I had just been on a tour and nothing but a tour. I was really prayerfully hoping for a change of heart and attitude.

It’s actually my first time in a prison. When I saw the inmates just looking through the fences at us setting up (amps, mic, guitar) in front of the cottages, I felt that I had looked upon them with a wrong pair of eye. I was judging them; my heart was not right. I told myself, “I’m here to bring God’s love, how can I be judging them. Love, love!”. And with that, I began my ministry.

The YWAM (Youths With A Mission) team led us in the fast songs and we sang and danced. We took over the slower songs as a form of “presentation”. Did Second Chance and So You Would Come. I was there as a guitarist. So so SO thankful for Meryl… Holding chord sheet for someone playing the guitar is a small feat, but not many realised the need to do so.

Well, I was quite nervous at the start? I have never played in public, and plus the fact that BENNIE WAS THERE!!! I took over the guitar from him and before that, what I had in mind was “why don’t we get him to play?”

There was this group of women sitting out of the cottages, in a tent right in front of us. While singing/playing, I noticed that one of them was tearing. It moved me; I broke into worship… It was so enjoyable… It was no longer about playing the guitar, it is the heart of worship… that I saw in her, and received myself.

It was a short song presentation, but having heard the others, like Gary, shared about what they observed, I thank God for moving the inmates’ hearts.

After that was Gerald’s sharing. He contextualised the chapter on the lost coin, the lost sheep and the prodigal son.

After his sharing, they said we could go ahead and pray for the inmates. The girls stayed with the women in front of us and the guys went ahead to pray for the men. Hanna walked up to me and said she would go with me and help me to translate if needed. So we went ahead.

At the start, I just stood there and like how am I supposed to start mannn. I was quite lost and nervous and feeling rather awkward for not knowing how to start. I looked at Hanna and she looked back at me. And well, we started eventually.

So the first one was on healing for her knee and… I admit, I tend to be quite hesitant when it comes to praying for healing. I worry that I don’t even have a faith that’s like a mustard seed. I worry that if nothing happens (because I think I haven’t had healing coming through my prayers before?), what would they think of God? I worry that my praying vocabulary isn’t wide enough to pray for healing. But anyway, I went ahead to pray for her. Then the next one, it was healing again. Healing on her rib bone. I was quite hesitant to lay my hand on her rib because she lifted up her shirt and wanted me to lay hand on it. I was kinda hoping that she will put her shirt down and I guess I wouldn’t mind that? Okay la, I felt awkward :$ but anyway, I laid hand on her hand near her ribs and prayed for her. It was sort of a struggle for me as well, for the same reasons and my prayer vocabulary was really facing some challenge over there since it’s a consecutive request for healing. Sorry for the small faith, God!

The next one though, stirred within my heart the moment she said her first lines. She spoke in English while the previous 2 were translated for me by Hanna. She wanted me to pray for protection of her daughter. That was the first thing that stirred within me… Up on her mind even while she was there, first thing, it’s her daughter.

She moved on to ask to be prayed for for her case, that it will be over soon and she can join her family outside. She wanted to pray for the healing of the victims’ family members’ hearts and they would forgive her. And I asked her, what case it was about, I asked for greater details. She replied, “murder”.

I guess I was kinda taken aback but I did not dare to show it. I hope my facial expressions didn’t give me away! Man, I thought, I was there in front of a murderer?!

I prayed anyway. With my own idea of what happened, I thanked God for this mother’s heart for her daughter, I prayed for protection of her daughter, I thanked God for His grace and mercy, I prayed that His grace and mercy would allow her to be set free soon to join her family.

I opened my eyes and it was then that I realised my vision was blurred, by tears. I believe it was her love for her daughter that had moved me.

I continued hanging around and chatting with her and the lady beside her. I didn’t really know what to say much initially but by the grace of God, it got better eventually. I shared with her about why I was there and about myself, with all sincerity, hoping that God will speak to her through me. One thing she asked which has been ringing in my head every now and then – are you not afraid of us inmates? I shared with her why I wanted to experience this ministry… And I admit, I hid my fears from her.

After a while, I squatted down in front of her and politely asked, can you share your story with me? She invited me to take a seat beside her and she began telling me the details of what happened.

A teeny weeny bit of me was kinda like “Seriously?! Why is she even here for 5 years when she hasn’t even done anything!”. Yes, she said she was accused and she didn’t know anything. And I believed her.

There was a moment when I thought to myself, what if she’s lying? But I brushed it off and yes, I believe her. I asked to pray for her once more, praying for God’s guidance in her daughter’s life that she may rest her mind and God’s love amidst many other things. When we opened our eyes, we just sat there quietly. Without looking at each other. From the corner of my eye, I think I saw her wiping tears off her eyes.

After a while, she asked if I would be back again. I hope I do! If God wills, I will be back to visit! Perhaps in December! I told her that. I hope though, when I’m back (if that’s God’s will), it will not be in the prison we meet again. Somewhere else outside, please, Lord. That I see her reunited with her family…

Not long later, we had to go off. The parting was a little hard. She just kept saying, “thank you, 1!” (I introduced myself to the people here as 1). It’s really, my pleasure.

A stranger woman, a few minutes, an impacted heart. Or perhaps, 2. 2 impacted hearts. Thank You, Lord :)

4th May 2012, 1:56AM, blogging about 3rd May.

Reflections on Day 4 – Heart Stirred

Reflection for Day 3 – Bennie

2 days ago I met this guitarist who was playing the guitar when I had just came out from the bathroom. His name is Bennie. Just wanna blog about him because I feel that he’s someone that I can remember and learn from his attitude, and his heart for Christ.

So I sat down at the table where he was that night. He showed me a video in John Mayer, I showed him one on Andy McKee since he hasn’t seen him before. Then I asked him if he could teach me something. Humble as he is, he said I should teach him something. After pushing this to one another for a while, we decided, we will do a trade. I show him something and he shows me something. Well, I was quite sure he knew more than I do because I heard someone playing the guitar when I first stepped foot into this place and saw a few guitarists around. If I close my eyes and pick, I might just get someone who’s real good in guitar.

I showed him what my GT taught me at the start – anticipated beat. He picked up in just… a minute! I passed the guitar to him and he showed me some stuff that I kinda know already so I kept asking for more.

And finally he started playing off a few techniques here and there. I was like *jaw-drop*. He shared with me also what his uncle shared with him. His uncle is quite a good guitarist apparently. One of the things was that his uncle said playing through a song isn’t called practising the guitar, it’s called practising a song. Practising the guitar means going through scales etc. He also shared with me what I’ve been hearing from people like Paul and Ryan (and my GT tried teaching me how to do this a little as well) – just try to listen and play! What these 3 people – Paul, Ryan and Bennie – have in common is this: perfect pitch. I realised that when Bennie asked menif Andy McKee did a drop-D in his Drifting, on the 6th string. I was like :O you can hear it?!

For such people, things always seem so easy for them. And I guess I feel that it’s somewhat unfair? Lol so hard for me to improve… I’m really lacking in this sense. So I kinda just stopped there with the attempt to pick up something but simply sat there and admired (sort of) his playing, until I had to go.

First encounter.

Last night after dinner, Xiang, ZW and I went outside of the dining area and sat down with Ian to well, fellowship I would say! Been doing this here and I really enjoy such times. Everyday.

Halfway through, Ian shared a little with us about Bennie. He’s the one who has taught him much in his walk with God. He plays the guitar with feelings yes, but it’s not just feelings, but it’s with his love for God. Skills is nothing, but the heart for God is something. That’s how he keeps improving.

Towards the end, Bennie came and joined us. He was handed the guitar and he taught me how to do the cajon as he plays the guitar. We did it – Open the Eyes of my Heart.

Second encounter.

Not long ago, just had our sharing for the day. We were to share about who is someone who has made an impact on us today. 2 guys shared about Bennie because they both went out to get things with him at different times.

His thoughts are this: people always say we can get this and that thing if we have money. But the truth is, we simply have to have faith and follow Jesus Christ and the money for what we need will simply follow.

This man of God is someone whom I’ll really want to remember even as I leave this place on Friday. In my playing of the guitar, may God put in me this same attitude, this heart towards Him. There is so much I can learn from him and the people I’ve met here the past few days.

Worship is from the heart.

2nd May 2012, 21:41

Reflection for Day 3 – Bennie

Reflections from Day 2

This morning we went to a hospital to pray for the sick, to give bibles, bible comics and gospel tracts. At the end of the visit, Maricel asked if we felt anything. I stood there, and… well, nothing.

It really made me think how I could go around like… that.

Just had a debrief and listened to everyone’s sharing on today. Some people shared on the trip to the hospitals. Xiang and Zhiwei shared about their encounter with this boy called Alan with dengue fever. They were so touched by what they saw.

The boy was so nonchalant at the start. But after they prayed, they saw him and his mother tearing. They didn’t have enough money to treat the boy. That was why they were so touched by the prayers and they really hoped that God will heal him. Zhiwei was so touched at the sight that she teared, too.

As for me, I did my rounds with Susan and Gerald. Prayed and moved on, prayed and moved on. Occasionally wondering if my faith level is sufficient to move the mountains, to heal the sick. I guess not. I mean, for me to be thinking this way? But yea, didn’t feel much. And I wondered, why didn’t I have such an experience that stirs within me?

However, as I was listening to these sharing, I was reminded of my reason of becoming a missionary doctor. I was reminded of how I stood there that night, telling the piglet why I want to be a missionary doctor. It’s this – why should I watch them die from a simple flu, a small illness that CAN be treated?

Like what Xiangyu was sharing with me just now, when do we hear in Singapore that someone is hospitalised due to dehydration? Most probably heatstroke, but hardly dehydration. We take our water for granted. It’s a different thing for these people. And someone shared also, and made me realise, as we went around to pray, what these people have were “GP-treatable illnesses” like diarrhea, high bp etc.

And it’s true that as we walked along the streets to get to the slums in the evening, we saw not a single clinic. Come to think of it, I didn’t meet a single doctor at the hospital when we were there in the morning.

Why should I watch them die from what can be treated, from a lack of facilities, from poverty?

1st May 2012, 21:49

Reflections from Day 2

Thoughts from Day 1

Yesterday when we first arrived, we were at the mall listening to Lucille’s testimony about how she got a touchscreen phone while we were waiting for the rest to get the stuff from the HyperMart. All of a sudden, I started to have doubts on the source of the money, the integrity of people serving in the team. It’s not exactly a strong doubt, but I started looking out for details to see if I could detect anything.

I was thinking, what if people in any missions teams around the world misappropriate funds that are given to them as love offerings? We never know right? And then I thought to myself, but well, God sees and God knows! If they really love God and believe in God, they will know this! However, I still couldn’t trust that the motives of their hearts were entirely pure. It was a good feeling though, when we first entered the base (the place our team is staying in). It really feels like a home; I felt at home immediately on our first night here. Had a good night rest too. They are really good hosts. They have some sort of “rules” on their hospitality, many thumbs up to that. Really, really hospitable.

This evening at about 4pm, we went out to a slum to serve. Looking at how the base team served in the children’s ministry, and observing the children’s reactions and responses to them, it started to sink in to me that yknw, they have been doing something. Great things in the Kingdom of God. They have taught them well. In terms of discipline, worshipping God… I cleared my doubts.

Thank You Lord, for hearing my prayer. Just as I prayed that You clear my doubts if the feelings don’t reflect what’s really happening, You did.

Today has been great, especially during the time we were with the children. Even though it was only for a short 2 hours with them, it was wonderful.

I guess being in the kids’ ministry for the past 3 mission trips I had with the CF-ers still did not make me take for granted what I’ve seen. I’m thankful that I am still touched by the smiling faces of the children and their warmth. With relatively lesser as what most kids have in Singapore, the kids here (and even in Cambodia) seem to be much happier than them.

I am thankful for this softened heart, softened by God. That it still makes me touched. It still feels compassion. It still feels love… reaching out for those kids.

I had the opportunity to give out porridge at the end of the programme. It was a privilege. Zhi Wei asked me if I was tired, and she said she could take over me if I was. I just sat there continuing with the giving, and replied to her that I was fine. I realised at that moment, I was more than just fine. I was smiling. It was halfway through giving out of the porridge and I still felt really joyful. Great to see them receiving what they need.

On the van as we were coming back to the base, a thought just struck me. Well, recently I’ve been thinking if being a doctor is really what I want. Just 2 weeks ago, I gave Maritime Studies some consideration as Sam talked to me about it. If I can’t get into my first 2 choices in NUS, this will be a good course too. Medicine seemed to be replaceable, do I really want it that much? Because if I don’t, I know I wouldn’t enjoy doing it if my heart doesn’t FEEL for the purpose of doing so.

But at the end of this day, on the bus, I was touched, I was joyful, I was thankful. This is what I really want, isn’t it? To love, to have this compassion, to show these. If I sit in a maritime office or if I do something related to the environment, will I get this same kind of satisfaction? Maybe not. Unless I can AND will avail myself at least once a year, just like I can now, in the future when I work. Which, I doubt so.

Heart vs. Mind. May God lead me in this decision-making.

30th April 2012, 22:29

Thoughts from Day 1