In Pursuit of God
Some of us took a leap of faith to journey where God had called us to be. It was a rite of passage to a deeper intimacy with Him. We left behind the comfort and security of all that was familiar and stepped into the unknown. With nothing left to cushion us, our strengths and weaknesses were exposed. However in the midst of difficulty and painful struggles, something beautiful emerged - God worked His purpose in us.
Going to Chiang Mai opened my eyes to the freedom of being able to come to God as His child. I was a workaholic who was always striving for perfection and I took pride in resolving issues on my own. Prayer wasn’t necessary to me. However, Chiang Mai was a freefall zone – I had nothing familiar that I could rely on. Through this very painful experience of not being in control of anything around me, I discovered the joy of coming to God in prayer. I didn’t have to strive or struggle on my own anymore! God is the one in control and I simply just have to listen and trust in Him.
I also glimpsed the depth of God’s love for His people, which was quite an abstract concept to me back then. This was one of my encounters - I was tasked to conduct Art & Craft classes for children from the surrounding neighbourhood. The day before the first class, the message “Tell them about God” kept ringing in my head. At that time, I was not familiar with the Thai language. The children knew little English themselves. It would be impossible for me to tell them about God. I kept praying and telling God that I really couldn’t do it, all the way until the lesson started. In my broken Thai, I told the story of Creation. The children were absorbed in the story and they asked many questions, all of which I could miraculously answer that day. When I ended the story, the children said, “Tell us more! Why are you stopping here? We want to hear more about God!” It was simply amazing; while I was fearful of my own limitations, God was already drawing these children to Him. There was certainly nothing that I could have done or do. What a privilege to witness God’s faithful love for His children!
I had been working in PR for about 2 years and felt then that there must be more than trying to live “the good life”. When the opportunity came for me to serve in Thailand for a year, I prayed and had the impression to go. That one year became three and a half years and it was in those years that God was showing me who He is, and how personal He is. Going wasn’t just about teaching English, or serving the community and the Church; it was discovering what the gospel meant to me.
Romans 10:14-15 stood out, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
That was a turning point, and I realised that people need to hear about Jesus.
In my time in Thailand, God opened more doors to start a Kids Club for neighbourhood kids who wanted to learn English. We shared with them the gospel through Bible stories and Sunday School songs. As we shared with the kids, God gave the impression that He is raising a generation of believers in Thailand, and He was inviting us to partner with Him!
God also showed me that He reveals Himself to the kids in very special ways, and I was privileged to witness how some of the kids responded to Him. A few of them were drawn to the image of the Cross and we would have conversations about Jesus whenever they came over to play, hang out and do some colouring. Seeing how they expressed themselves freely encouraged me to do the same in my own relationship with God. I sensed God’s presence and joy when I was dancing with the kids while telling Bible stories and singing the Sunday School songs. It is how I know God loves us very much, and His heart is for more to know Him.
In my time away from home, God has shown Himself to be a personal and intimate God! This is the God revealed in the Bible, but it was mostly in my head, not a daily reality for me.
One day in Thailand, I started being aware of feeling kind of.. not beautiful inside. On the outside I was all the same, but inside there was a growing question in me. I know what the Bible says about me - I’m precious, valued, delighted in - so I shouldn’t feel this way, right? Also, shouldn’t I be concerned with the kingdom of God, instead of these little concerns about myself? And it sounds so needy to want to be told I’m beautiful! So I spent a while going like “Lord I give these thoughts to You” and reminding myself of what the Bible said about me. But those feelings remained. Then I felt that God was saying, “Why don’t you ask Me?” A part of me wanted to, but I also felt I shouldn’t - I felt embarrassed by this want in me, it’s such a silly thing, why am I even asking, I already know how He sees me, etc. Finally I thought, I can ask God anything, He already knows what’s in my heart, right? So I just asked, in the quiet of my heart, still kind of tentatively, “Lord Jesus.. do you think I’m beautiful?” I waited a while, but didn’t hear any response, so I was just like, “Haha, ah well.” Two days later, we had a time of going around and praying for each person, and if someone felt they had words from God for that person they would share it. When it came to my turn, 6 people spoke, and 3 of them said something about beauty in me. I hadn’t told anyone my question - but God heard me, and spoke straight to my heart. That’s when things in the head drop down to the heart - when general truth in the Bible becomes personal truth about me.
I see now that God wanted to open that conversation with me, to show me that He is an intimate and personal God who has intimate and personal conversations with His children. And because of that conversation, because He has told me this truth about myself, I can now work alongside Him, to see the beauty He has put in other people, the truth about them, the image of God in each person.
I was part of a pioneering team that started Abba English Centre in Hanoi, Vietnam. It brought many challenges that came with leading a new team and adjusting to a beautiful but new culture and language. Although Vietnam was developing economically and opening up, spiritually, it was really difficult to share Christ. During our time there, we were faced with police checks at our centre and rumours of undercover agents at church services.
I learnt many precious faith lessons and was challenged to a deeper level of trust in God in a place where we had to depend on His provision. I thank God for His grace and have been really humbled and blessed by what God has shown and taught me through the friendships and relationships with the Vietnamese students, friends and neighbours in the village near our place.
Reflecting back on my time in Hanoi, I am even more broken about the many people we met that don’t know Jesus and the many missed opportunities that I had in my time there. Since then, I’ve witnessed how He has raised up a young generation of Vietnamese youths that have a passion to share the love of Christ to their own community. May they bring the gospel and light of Christ to many lonely and broken lives.
Sim Han Qiang
I was in Thailand for two years. We tried to raise the profile of the church in the community by teaching English. We tried to share about the love of Christ by inviting our students to Alpha. That day was a special day. The Youth Alpha Course was starting in the evening. It was a special day for another reason. It was my birthday. That morning when I woke up, the first thing I did was to kneel beside my bed and pray. I told God that it was my birthday and I wanted a birthday wish. I told God that I wanted the children to know and believe in Jesus. It was a memorable experience because for the very first time, the kids knew the love of our Father. I was also touched by the love of our Father because He granted me my birthday wish.
Going out for a year for missions in Lat Krabang, Thailand was never in my plan. Having been back for about a year and a half, I look back with much thankfulness. While it was a move to serve God there, God saved me when He led me on this unexpected turn in life’s path. Not only did He save me but He revealed Himself in a deeper way to me. What did God save me from? Well, He saved me from myself and demonstrated to me His power. Taking a step out of a workaholic cycle to an unfamiliar environment made me grow in awareness of my weaknesses and the need to depend on Him.
There were unexpected opportunities to share the gospel, as I have prayed for. In sharing, there was a greater understanding of the gospel and a burden for the lost. God changed my heart and gave me an experience of His unconditional love for me that filled me with joy & freedom! Coming back, God has continued to show me what it means to enjoy His Presence, to be with Him as opposed to doing things for Him. Both before going and coming back, I have seen His hand of faithfulness to me. I continue to be passionate about my work in the public service and it is imbued now with a sense of being in the Kingdom of God - a Kingdom that is advancing! I desire to partner God in what He does in this world.
I want to describe two specific encounters that occurred during my time overseas.
The first encounter took place just a couple of weeks after I had arrived. A middle-aged gentleman was sitting in the foyer of the building used by the church. The local pastor was present when I walked in, and he began telling me about the visitor. This man had been a long-time drug addict and convict. One day, while in prison, he had come to know Jesus and his life had been changed. Since his release, he had become a pastor and had also started a catering business which provided food to the prisons. Because of his good rapport with the prison officials, he had been given the opportunity to share the gospel with inmates as he carried on this business.
I never saw that gentleman again, but it wasn’t the man himself who had left an impression on me. Through this encounter, God caused me to realise that, with merely a word, He could raise up any number of respected local persons - even government officials, should He choose - who were eloquent in the language and could proclaim His word to that nation. I didn’t even have a grasp of the language, much less status and influence. Simply put, He didn’t need me here at all. My ego was shaken.
The second event I want to relate took place near the end of my overseas stint. The local pastor I worked with decided to journey to a nearby village about an hour and a half away, to spend time with a church member’s elderly father whom he had been trying to win to Christ. He invited me along (seemingly on a whim), and, since I didn’t have any remaining business to attend to that day, I agreed to go with him.
When we arrived at the elderly man’s house, we found another guest who had been invited by the homeowner - a retired schoolteacher of some standing in the local community. She had come that day because she had heard that the pastor who was to visit ran an orphanage. Her sad story was that her husband, who had been an army officer, had been rendered unable to have children because of chemical warfare. He had since passed away, and she, now widowed and lonely, was looking to adopt a girl to care for her in her old age.
The pastor regretfully informed her that he and his wife no longer ran the orphanage and he was thus unable to grant her request. She had every reason to be annoyed or disappointed by this news, and one might have expected her to leave in a huff. Instead, she stayed, seeming strangely intrigued by the conversation between the pastor and the elderly homeowner. As the conversation progressed (I could only understand bits and pieces), we began to have the strangest feeling that “something” was happening. I don’t know how to describe it except to say that it felt like reeling in a fish on a line, except that I realised I merely had my hand on the rod and it was someone behind me who was doing all the pulling.
Quite soon, the pastor drew the conversation to a close, took his leave of the homeowner and promptly asked the lady if we could visit at her house (where he planned to share the gospel with her properly). As we got up and made our way out, I remember clearly that this dear lady was smiling joyfully and that she said in her own language, “I feel like this is the happiest day of my life”.
This was before we had even properly told her the gospel! Thereafter, we did go to her house and pray with her, and she did “officially” become a believer. But it was not through our doing. She had not been in our plans - we had been planning to meet and persuade someone else. She had been drawn to the pastor and to the conversation not because of his persuasiveness, but by some efficient, invisible agency. It was God who drew that woman to Himself.
I had never experienced so clearly as I did that day that God works. He is at work in the world and men’s hearts are in His hands. That encounter caused a seismic change in my worldview - it was a paradigm shift. I had grown up in church and I have always heard, read and sung that God is almighty, that He can do all things. But it didn’t become real to me until that day. That experience of God has affected how I behave and how I view every aspect of life from then on until now. It was a lasting encounter that no amount of money or time can buy - only by the grace of God. I am changed and I am thankful!
A significant memory from Thailand: One night, we were hanging out with a few young believers and volunteers. As we talked, we realised that God had brought each of us strangers together to Lat Krabang in His perfect timing and in His unexpected ways, in His love for us. It may seem like we had made our own decisions based on whatever circumstances we were in to go to LatKrabang, but looking back each one could see God’s hand of mercy in our lives.
It was a time of shared gratitude and marveling at the goodness and wisdom of God. The young believers also expressed their desire to bring the good news of Jesus to their own people through the skills that God had given them, whether in the arts, business or translation. It was an experience of true rejoicing: in what God has done, and the grace of being able to respond to Him with what He has given to us. Our little stories are truly strands woven by the master weaver into His beautiful tapestry for His purpose and glory.
I used to think that missions was doing something for God. But I learnt that it is actually by God’s grace that we are able to respond to Him. I had been living a self-centred life, but now I am learning that every choice I make daily is never just about me, but for His bigger purpose and glory. I look forward to that day when all will come together to marvel and rejoice at what God has done, filled with His love that He has poured out into our hearts.
Before I began the apprenticeship, I was in Singapore for summer break and had a personal retreat day. In the morning, while walking in a park, God put upon my heart a picture that I felt was both an affirmation and a challenge from Him.
I was walking past a father and daughter jogging. Just as I passed them, I heard the father say, “Once you’re better, you pick up [speed], and I will follow you.” A while later I was leaving the park in a car when I saw the father and daughter walking by the road, hand in hand.
It was a mundane occurrence and conversation - but I felt strongly that God was impressing on my heart His assurance that He was with me, and will be with me as I go.
At the same time, I also sensed a rebuke. I had always wished that God would tell me, “Go, follow this very clearly-marked path of service and you will be on the right track.” I tended to the misconception that, “if only I knew what God wanted me to do and where I ought to go, things would be SO much easier.” That often resulted in me being fearful of committing to decisions.
But now, He was saying to me, “Set your pace. I will be with you.”
The apprenticeship wasn’t so much a “going out” into the mission field as it was a training ground. It was during the year that God revealed so much about who He is and about His Father’s love for me and for the children. God also exposed much about myself that I never knew, or had been subconsciously rejecting. I learnt and am still learning to accept both gifts and weaknesses, and to submit them all to God. I’ve come to understand that following Jesus is not about what I can or want to do for Him; it’s about knowing Him and knowing myself as He has made me and is making me.
The picture of the father and daughter jogging together and walking hand-in-hand - that is the picture that I want to be living every day, wherever I am; my hand in my heavenly Father’s.
I trust that He will never let go of me; by His mercy may I always hold tightly to Him.
In my 2 years working in Vietnam, I was hosted by a Vietnamese family who were passionate in sharing about God with their fellow countrymen.
I am thankful to God for all He has done in my life in these 2 years there, in spite of many difficulties and tough situations, but God has redeemed each one of them to strengthen me and make me grow. As I was the only Singaporean in a foreign place, I quickly felt loneliness set in. Yet it was in that loneliness that I learnt to hunger and thirst for the presence of God and cling on to it everyday. I also faced many disappointments. Yet it was in those disappointments that I learnt to journey with Jesus and how He shares in my suffering. I experienced being beaten on the street. Yet it was in that situation that I received God’s encouragement not to flee from the country but to stay on. My family at home also faced many crises while I was away. Yet in those situations of helplessness, I learnt to trust in God and deepen my prayers for my family.
In those 2 years, God has also been kindling in me a desire to see Him move in power, to join Him in what He is doing in the nations, and to know Him more and love Him more. I thank God for He truly outgives me.