After a 24-hour train journey, I finally arrived at my destination. The mysterious place that I had read so much about and yearned to see with my own eyes, whose people I’ve been looking forward to meet was where I was standing at. “Hello,” I greeted our tour guide in the local language, much to her surprise that I could speak their language. She was a year younger than me. Over the next five days, we struck up a friendship and chatted whenever there was an opportunity. Before the trip, I had a lot of preconceptions about this country, despite, or perhaps because of, having read and researched so much about it. But being there and talking to the locals myself, it struck me that these people were real people living normal lives, albeit lives different from mine, no matter how crazy or pitiful the media portrays them to be. I was reluctant to say goodbye to my guide at the end of the trip, for I knew it would be difficult to meet again. Pure curiosity took me there. I did not know it then, but God was stirring up something in my heart.
Coming home, I knew that the decision to leave my corporate job was right. Handing in my resignation the next day, no amount of promotions or bonuses my boss dangled in front of me could make me stay. I enjoyed the material comforts that my job brought to my life, but inside, I was feeling empty. I knew that God has a purpose for my life, and I had to find out this purpose. Half a year later, after much prayer and many confirmations from God, I was in another country attending a five-month discipleship training course, with the motive to know God and to know Him intimately. It was there that God showed me how real He is, it was there that I learnt how to hear His voice, and it was also there that I experienced daily the impossible things that Jesus makes possible. The five months with God was life-changing. Never could I go back to my old life again. God overwhelmed me with His love so much that I knew and had this assurance that He will never fail me.
Since the short trip to the mysterious place, there has always been a burden in my heart to return. I wanted to go back. I wanted to love the people and show them God’s love. But I also told God, that I would not go, unless I was sure that He was with me. I would only go if I was sure that it was His will for me. The burden in my heart was burning, and deep in my spirit I sensed that it was more than my own desire. In that half year of discipleship training, God showed me confirmation after confirmation that it was His will for me to go. And I knew that these confirmations would be what I needed to remember when my faith gets tested.
Armed with a clear calling, I was all ready to go. Yet nothing was happening. Yes, I was sure I heard God right, my leaders prayed and all the signs were there. But nothing was moving. A part of me was tempted to be anxious, yet I was sure God’s timing will never be wrong. There was more work to be done in my heart in the waiting.
In the waiting, He made me face my fears. In the waiting, He stripped away the excitement and brought me to the point of surrender. In the waiting, I came to a crossroad — either I trust God fully, or I do not trust Him at all. And I made the choice to trust Him with my life. God led me to more training. I thought I was done with training, I was raring to go — was faith alone not enough? Important as faith is, missions training was essential in my preparation to go. I was blessed to have been trained and sent by the missions agency and supported by the church.
With all final preparations made and farewells said, I boarded the plane with two pieces of luggage, and a heart filled with faith and anticipation. I made it to my transit destination, and as I waited for my next flight that night, a friend texted that my flight might be postponed due to bad weather. As I scanned the departure board for my flight, my heart crumbled as the remarks displayed, “Cancelled”.
No accommodation was provided and I was left all by myself, not knowing what to do, feeling lost among the crowd in the airport. The obstacles have begun, far sooner than I had imagined. But in the midst of helplessness, God showed up, as always. He sent an angel to help me, and I was well on my way to my final destination the next morning. This little hiccup was just a foretaste of what was to come.
When I first arrived, it was honeymoon stage from day one. I loved everything about the place and people, everything was new and exciting. I loved to make friends with the locals and enjoyed fellowship with the foreigners. I enjoyed studying the local language at the university, working part-time, and integrating into the new culture. But the frustrations soon set in. I was prepared to live in a less developed country, or so I thought. But as I found myself complaining about the littlest of inconveniences, when the slightest elbow nudge from a local pushing her way through elicited a big reaction in me, the darkness started to creep into my heart. What did God call me there for again?
Despite my many failures and mistakes, God never stopped using me. I believe that there were many precious people who crossed paths with me only by the grace of God. As the song “Ocean” says, His Spirit led me where my trust was without borders. He was with me as I passed through the waters, He did not allow the rivers to overwhelm me, and He took me deeper than my feet could ever wander. It was exciting but exhausting. When night fell, I realised how deafening silence could be. When it came to just me and God, I had to be honest about what my soul trusted in — is it the seen or the unseen? People put the label “missionary” on me. I resented that word for I know that I am no saint. I am not any holier than the person who chooses to serve full-time in church or at the marketplace. I grappled with how people magnify what I choose to do with my life. All I had in me was simple — to love God and to love His people, wherever He calls me.
Almost three years have passed since I have set foot on the field. I went with a heart to serve and to give. But I have come to learn that I can only give when I have received. I can only serve out of an overflowing heart. I can only love when I am loved. Despite the struggles and challenges, I still choose to walk this path. As uncertainty lies ahead, I am confident that as I continue to walk the road less travelled, my God will be faithful to bring His promises to pass. As I look back on my mistakes and God’s miracles, it dawned upon me that as much as God uses me to touch the lives of others, this journey is also for my good. Because I know, that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, those who have been called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28).