my grace is sufficient for you
Moving from Financial Security to Uncertainty
I felt God’s call to full-time Christian ministry as a young boy and when I was a young Christian but I put it off for many years. When I turned 30, I told myself it was time to quit my job and go for theological studies, otherwise it would be more difficult to make the switch to full-time work as I got more entrenched in my career and a comfortable life. My wife was supportive of my decision but I struggled to raise the subject of quitting my job with my mother who was in poor health and I didn’t want to risk upsetting her. She wasn’t a Christian and wouldn’t be able to accept our decision for me to leave a well paying job to become a poor theological student and subsequently a poor Christian worker.
During the time I was contemplating the change to full-time work my boss had also offered me an assignment in the States with promise of further promotion if I did well there. I had enjoyed a couple of promotions in my work and it was tempting to stay on for even better job prospects. Furthermore, I rationalized that staying on with the multinational company for a few more years would allow us to save more money for our theological studies and we wouldn’t need to burden our friends or church for financial support. Moreover, my promotion would be a good witness and testimony to the Lord, so I rationalized.
As I struggled with this life-changing decision, I wrote to Revd Cecil McSparron for his counsel and advice. Revd McSparron was my first pastor and was like a spiritual father to me. He replied to my letter, and let me share part of his letter, dated 12 Feb 1987. I have kept his letter all these 26 years!
I don’t need to tell you that both of you are in my prayers regularly. Indeed I have tried to pray for you, Wee Seng, every day for 16 years (that is, since he knew me in 1971 till 1987).
Thanks for sharing about the situation with Seng’s mother. Also, the tempting offer at work. I am not surprised that your pathway is not an easy one. Those who follow God with all their hearts often find that apparently insurmountable obstacles block the way forward. I think God allows this to increase our determination to do His Will and to make us resilient in the face of trials. One of my best loved statements in the Bible comes from Daniel, “The people who know their God shall be strong, (shall stand firm) and take action.” (Daniel 11: 32)
I still remember vividly that moment I read the letter – it was at the dining area in our Yishun flat, after my wife and I had just returned home from work and were going through our mail. Tears welled up in my eyes and flowed down my face. I was profoundly moved and deeply touched. I did not realize till then that Rev McSparron had been praying for me every day for the past 16 years. I experienced the love of God through the love and concerns of Rev McSparron. I remember telling myself, “If God loves me so much, I should be prepared to leave my job and give up the prospect of further promotion to respond to His Call to serve Him full-time. I should also be prepared to talk to my mother and persuade her to accept our decision, tough though it may be for her to do so.”
Rev McSparron’s letter to me, and my response to it, marked a turning point in my struggle to go full time. I eventually quit my job in May 1987 and embarked on a journey of full time service.
As I look back at our (my wife and mine) 26 years of ministry, I can affirm and testify to this promise of the Lord in 2 Corinthians 12:7; “My Grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”
Lord, anything, but Missions.
When I first felt the call of God to full-time Christian ministry, I told the Lord, “Anything, but missions.” I was fearful of being called to missions work so, I avoided going to missions meetings and talks – just in case God might call me into missions. I was afraid of the sacrifices I needed to make if I were to be involved in missions, afraid of the sufferings my wife and children had to endure. I was not ready yet to give up the comfort and conveniences of life in Singapore and was not prepared to adapt to a new environment and another culture.
I told the Lord, “Lord, you know me. I’m not suitable for missions. I’m by nature a conservative person, not a risk taker. That’s why I chose to be an accountant, not an entrepreneur. That’s why I put our savings into fixed deposit (even with such low interest rates), not into stocks and shares.”
I prefer the familiar to the new. I enjoy the routine, not the change. That’s why I don’t like to change jobs or move homes. If given the choice, I would wear the same kind and color of clothes every day – like what my father did all his life. I tried to convince my wife that these traits of mine make me a loyal and faithful husband as I won’t change my love and my wife. Unfortunately, my wife sees my predictability as boring, rather than an assurance of my faithfulness and loyalty. Whatever it is, these traits make me reluctant to move towards missions.
“Lord, you know me. I’m no good for missions. Surely, you have no use of me in missions. I will be a liability to you in missions. Lord, please, anything, but missions.”
How presumptuous I was talking to God like this, “Anything, but missions.” Who is the Lord of my life anyway? God or I? Who should decide on my vocation? God or I? Who is the Lord and who is the servant?
God could have acceded to my request. He could have given in to my demand, and assigned me to anything but missions. But, then I would have missed out on the great experiences and blessings in missions.
Thank God, He didn’t. He was gracious and patient. He gradually led me to accept my call to missions and to embrace missions as my life’s purpose and vocation.
In 1992, I was asked by the United Bible Societies (UBS) to serve at the Amity Press in Nanjing. UBS had donated the Amity Press to print Bibles for the Church in China and they were looking for someone to help manage the Press, especially in financial management. Given my previous studies and experience in financial and management accounting, UBS felt that I was most suited for the job. I didn’t think so, however.
My Mandarin was terrible and I was bad at learning languages. I was not good at coping with changes. Most of all, I was not prepared to leave the comfort and conveniences of Singapore. I didn’t think I would survive in China. We had two young daughters, aged 4 and 1 then and I was not prepared to uproot them from clean and hygienic Singapore to the rural outskirts of Nanjing. Furthermore, I was very happy with my work with the students in Singapore and was not thinking of leaving it as yet.
I decided to turn down the invitation to work at Amity Press. But, when my wife and I prayed about it, we did not feel at peace to give an outright no to the offer. We continued to pray and struggle with the call to serve in China. And the Lord spoke to us through our reading of the Scriptures, through sermons and talks, and through the prayers of our pastor and friends.
God works in amazing ways. Within 3 months, we packed our bags and left for Nanjing. I served in Nanjing for 2 years and helped set up the management accounting system, trained the local managers, and handed the management to the locals. Presently, I am based in Singapore and I continue to coordinate the Bible ministry in China, making frequent trips to various parts of the country.
When I was in China, I discovered how ‘un-Chinese’ I was – in my dealing with the people and with issues, thus hindering and hampering my ministry in China. I also discovered how ignorant and helpless I was in dealing with the Chinese authorities.
But, God’s Grace was sufficient for me and God’s Power was made perfect in my weakness. God’s Grace sustained me through all these years and He blessed the ministry tremendously, in spite of my lack of Chinese proficiency.
I wish I could say that I am like Paul and Barnabas, all ready to go on missions for God. But, I am not. I am more like Moses and Jonah – giving all kinds of excuses; unwilling and reluctant but, God is gracious to me.
If God can call someone like me, unwilling and reluctant, into missions; surely, God can call any one of you into missions. If God can use someone like me, unadventurous and unsuitable for missions, surely God can use any one of you in missions! May you heed His call and trust that the One who called you is faithful.
Author: Mr. Kua Wee Seng (Wee Seng is the Coordinator of United Bible Societies’ China Partnership ministry and is a board member of Amity Printing Company, a Bible printing press in Nanjing. He is Honorary Fellow, Center of Studies of Christianity in Asia, Trinity Theological College, Singapore. He is married to Cheng and they are blessed with two adult daughters. They worship at the Church of Good Shepherd.)
First published in The Courier, August 2013.
Photo: Wee Seng with a indigenous girl in Yunnan, China