Saturday, June 21, 2008

Praise be to the Lord.

I. Breakthrough: Letting go and letting God

When I initially signed up for this trip, on my mind were perceptions that this was going to be a mission with a humanitarian edge to it; a trip that sort of gets at the “felt” needs of people before addressing their “real” needs. In a sense the trip was like that, but there was hardly anything humanitarian about it, in fact, if anything it was an intense spiritual journey for me. The Radion staff were adamant about the team operating from the heart; from the outflow of His love instead of having to “force” out the compassion or love for the people. I believe this to be fundamental for outreach. Trying to love with one’s own capacity will dry one out–one either gets disillusioned or simply burned out along the way.

Several ‘breakthroughs’ occurred throughout the trip along this line. On the second day of house visitations to the elderly or destitute, the team had an intense morning worship session and I could literally feel Christ by my side and holding my hand. The next few moments during that worship were phenomenal: the moment I wondered if I was alone in my struggle, a fellow brother came up to pray with me regarding the struggles; and shortly after when I was asking the Lord what I needed to know before going out, another brother just came up and told me the Lord had just three words for me, “I love you”. Amazingly, the house visitations that followed on day were so much more fulfilling than the previous day when I felt spiritually dry inside. I caught a glimpse of what it was like to love with the love of Christ and not operate from my own capacity.

During one of the visits for instance, we met a middle aged Hmong lady who had one of her legs amputated from an accident and was struggling to make ends meet for the family. We sang the song “Still” for her and she just broke down. I have no idea of what intellectual/psychological/cultural relevance is a contemporary English Christian song to a Hmong villager, but somehow I could tell that His love certainly transcends language and culture–and He was reassuring this lady through our limited actions. I was in awe, and I still am whenever I recount that incident. Praise be to the Lord.

II. Let the little ones come to Me

I confided with my team that I have always been rather skeptical about children and religion. Why? Well, I have always thought that children simply did not have the intellectual capacity to perceive a God greater than them, and that they did not have the psychological ability to place others before self. The trip arrested this deluded train of thought in me.

For one thing, it was contentment and simplicity. No need for elaborate gifts or fanciful games–your very presence there meant the world to them. A team-mate related to me how her little girl refused to take another biscuit from her even though her own biscuit was slogged in mud after she had forgotten to take it out of her pocket when playing in the water earlier on. They treasure your little ‘gifts’ of biscuits; and cherish simple foods with such a depth of gratitude that shames many of us. Even during mountain trek, they went great lengths to help our old and tired bodies up and down–literally ‘taking care’ of us when it should have been the other way round. Even after the ‘official outings’, these children would still come down to the shophouse where we often hung out to and play with us. My little dude would even hug me every night after the day’s activities ended as he did not know when I would return to Singapore.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
- Matthew 19:14

However, it was not all just fun and games. Indeed, the children also possessed a childlike faith so real and touching–a gentle rebuke against our seemingly ‘wise and prudent’ Christian minds. My little kid was a relatively quiet lad, but his faith is astounding. During the first evangelistic rally, I felt a little discouraged when many children, including my little dude, did not really respond. However, the next night during another impromptu rally, he revealed to me that he was Christian and actually sang along to the song “So you would come” in Thai when our team used it to minister. He even took the initiative to pray for the non-believers during the altar call as well.

Also of particular testimony were the “street kids” that Radion adopted–these were kids shunned by society, orphaned and left abandoned on the streets to decadent life of drug-abuse and glues-sniffing. I got to see first hand their changed lives during the trip. No, they weren’t the saintly little kids that sat quietly down on your dinner table–they still make loads of noise and run about like anything, but the care and concern they showed others were amazing (one of them even helped us gather other kids back from a hilltop during one of the rallies); and they displayed a renewed sense of rigor to change for the better, knowing that God loves them for who they are.

During the last few days, many kids also made elaborate gifts for us in thanks (and the Radion staff also related to us how the children would skip some of their meals to save up money to make these gifts) and wrote simple messages like “I thank God for you” or “Jesus loves you” for us. We did not have fantastic children skits or colorful messages that excited the kids–all we had were our sincere hearts in sharing the love of Christ with them…and we received so much more in return in the lives and affection of these children–the glow in their faces and the magic in their touch that remind of His love to us as well. Praise be to the Lord.

III. Corporate worship

Another deep-seated experience during the trip was the kind of corporate breakthrough we had as a team. I’m not just talking about worshiping together or having fruitful fellowship, I’m talking about a team broken by Him and collectively attuned to His will of both us and the land. Regardless of personality, background or spiritual maturity, I really felt the team becoming emboldened by the Spirit to move as one; and during many of the worship and sharing sessions, it was amazing to discern how the Holy Spirit imbued common themes amongst the members to encourage, admonish and spur one another on.

During one of the pre-trip meeting prayer sessions, the image of chair came to my mind and during the entire trip I was constantly asking God what this image meant. Nearing the end, it suddenly came upon me that the ‘chair’ was a symbol of a team that put him at the center-seat, perfectly aligned to His will and purpose and resounding together like different strings on a guitar strumming the love song of Christ. A beautiful analogy indeed, but I thank the Lord that the analogy never remained in abstract, but I got to see it happening over 10 grueling days with the team. Praise be to the Lord.

IV. Now what?

My greatest struggle pertaining to any mission trip is always re-entry and post-trip. Many of the lessons learned and experiences gain mean little if left embedded as memory in my mind. The real battlefield is here in Singapore. Yes we endeavor to go out there to ‘make a difference’ and to impact others, but I believe that in going out, the person most impacted is yourself–because God wants to transform you through such trips so that you can be a better minister in your local environments. This is the challenge but I’m thankful I do not confront it with my own strength. Praise be to the Lord.

Please do continue to pray for the Hmong people: both the Hmong Thai villagers’ salvation and the 5 street kids adopted by Radion, and the Hmong Lao refugees who face imminent deportation and persecution. Also pray for the Radion staff as they continue to bring the love of Christ to the Hmong community and give many destitute a second chance in life; and also for the Campus Crusade team that we may continue as a team that is inward, upward and outward looking. Also pray for yourselves–that you’ll continue to trust Him with all your heart and let Him work in and around You.

There must be more!

by His Grace,

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