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A Chinese girl in the Congo: Working in war zones 5,000 miles from home

by Jemima Ooi, Justice Rising | 16 May 2018, 7:02 PM

Sleeping in mud huts on hard-packed earth. Rats crawling all over you. Making fires every night because there is no electricity to speak of. Pulling worms out from the feet of children. Running for your life from rebel armies.

These are experiences that will make good stories for the grandchildren, I always think. But as of now I’ve only just turned 30, with a long way to go till then.

At 23, I finally answered God’s call to “go places with Him”. I didn’t know how or where, but I packed my bags, signed up to train with international missions organisation Youth With a Mission (YWAM), and left my family, first class honours and first-world living behind.

My beginning years in the mission field were spent in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, after which I served with Iris Global in Mozambique, under Heidi Baker. It was here that I encountered one of the hardest seasons of mission work – enduring a drought. Water was so scarce that a friend of mine didn’t shower for six weeks!

From there, God moved me to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where I have been working for the past five years with Justice Rising, a missionary organisation serving war-affected countries including Syria and Iraq.

Infographic courtesy of Justice Rising

A quick search on Google will show you how many times the Congo has been officially renamed, which is telling of the number of hands it has passed through over the decades of its troubled history. The amount of bloodshed and brutality in the land is an even darker story.

Mostly unknown to the rest of the world outside of Africa, the war in the Congo has been one of the worst since World War II, spanning more than 20 years with a death toll of almost six million and many, many more displaced. The United Nation’s largest peacekeeping base is there, officials naming it “the rape capital of the world“.

Much of the work at Justice Rising stems from a God-given directive that if we wanted to get to the people of the war-torn republic, we needed to start building schools in the poorest and most broken communities.

It is through the many kinds of schools we’ve set up – schools for all ages, vocational schools – that we get to dig deep into communities in hope of sustainable change. These schools target people in different age groups and contexts to help make them viable for life.

Infographic courtesy of Justice Rising

With our sewing schools, many women no longer have to prostitute themselves to soldiers just so they can feed their children. With our primary and secondary schools, we can offer children a future apart from killing or slavery. A school in a broken community can stop many young boys from becoming child soldiers; it can keep many young girls from being sold as child brides or slaves.

In my few years here, I have witnessed the rehabilitation of child-soldiers and trauma work with rape victims and refugees. And such social ills are just one of the many faces of mission work in Africa’s “heart of darkness“.

Last year, I contracted both malaria and typhoid at the same time. It was the weakest I’d ever been, and I was suffering away from home. Still, there was so much grace, my local families treated me with such love and care.

In times like this it is obvious that I’m no expert on the different fields I serve, most times I feel like a clueless child. I’m dependent on the locals to guide me, interpret for me, shelter me – dependent on God to instruct me, to heal broken lives through me.

Like a little child, I potter to the marketplaces, point to different vegetables and ask the mamas – their version of our aunties – in stilted Swahili: “What is this called?”

Congolese mama chopping wood

Honestly, transiting from Singapore to India, then across different African nations was not as difficult as people might think. Transition is easy when we enter the foreign field as a child, acquainted with our limitations and ready to learn. It endears us to the locals and empowers them to rise up. It takes away the pressure to have it all together.

I must say, transiting into the field is arguably easier than transiting out of the field and into first-world settings! I’ve learnt that when I exit a war zone, it’s so important that I have some time off with God to process my thoughts and emotions before I continue ministering in another country.

Sometimes, it even requires some trauma-counselling to process all the hardships we see, hear and experience.

No one can choose where they’re born, whether it’s in a first-world nation or a war zone – but we are our brother’s keeper.

I remember the very first time I exited the Congolese war zones to take a break. For the first time in a long while, I lay down on a comfortable mattress, had a hot shower with running water, a toilet that flushed, electricity … And I wept.

I was no different from my people in the Congo; who was I that I could leave the scene any time I wished – while they spent their entire lives amidst destruction and unrest?

I wrestled and came to the conclusion that no one can choose where they’re born, whether it’s in a first-world nation or a war zone. But we are our brother’s keeper; and “to whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48).

One of the children I work with, who is also called Jemima!

There are many challenges we face on the field, both physical and psychological – droughts, bullets, threats of rape, kidnappings … But the greatest challenge for me is to truly see the suffering of the people God leads me to. To embrace their brokenness, identify with their suffering, and treat them with the love of the Father.

Many times we are tempted to gloss over the appalling reality of their struggles, not because we’re apathetic, but because the enormity of what they face can make us feel so small, inadequate and overwhelmed.

While I must always be careful not to take on false responsibility, daring to see the depths of brokenness and allowing God to break my heart for what breaks His has enabled me time and time again to draw on His plans and resources for the people He loves.

Sounds abstract, but let me illustrate this for you.

Two years ago, I started a housing initiative in Kenya for a starving family with six children. It all started with me sitting in their tent on a visit, aghast as the father sadly recounted how they had witnessed two of their children die as they fled for their lives.

They were living in a refugee tent that was caving in, and I was greatly moved in my spirit to help them, although I also remember thinking, “Building a house is quite an undertaking!”

Refugee camp in the Congo

When I left their tent, I found myself scratching my legs with increasing intensity. To my horror, I looked down to see that I’d been bitten all over by fleas while sitting with the family. I had more than 100 flea bites on both legs.

It was excruciating, and for the next few days I couldn’t sleep – painfully falling asleep but waking up soon after, scratching furiously. One night, in my frustration, I prayed, “Jesus, I thought you were interceding for me, did You forget the fleas?”

In that moment I could almost hear Him chuckle, and one word emerged in my heart: Identification.

Then it dawned on me. I hadn’t fled for my life, lost everything I owned, hidden in jungles for days, watched people I love die in front of me, starved in refugee camps, endured squalid conditions with little hope for survival … I’d just experienced the tiniest fraction of what these people had gone through; I’d just been bitten by the same fleas this family couldn’t escape from.

That was how I ended up building my first refugee house, built from the funds I had saved. Soon after, God prompted my local pastor and I to budget a simple house-build prototype that cost USD$1,000. He then sent individuals, families and intercessors our way, some sowing into the building of one house, others, five houses, and more.

To date, this housing initiative has seen the construction of more than 100 houses. That’s shelter provided for hundreds of lives.

Little children in the Congo

Every bit of the work I’ve done as a missionary is purely God’s doing. I feel so small and incredulous in the midst of it; more and more convinced that God just needs us to have willing hearts and to dare to share in the suffering of our brothers and sisters in the faith.

I may not always have the resources or solutions on hand, but He does, and truly seeing His people as He sees them has helped me connect with them at a deeper, more profound level. I have also been blessed with the best local men and women of peace, the real heroes that make such extensive work possible.

As missionaries, I believe we are sent to come alongside locals to serve and to bless the community. But by the power and grace of God, it will be the Congolese themselves who will change their country and bring healing to their land.


Besides her primary work in the Congo, Jemima currently oversees two slum schools in India, is helping to develop a large refugee settlement in the central Kenyan desert while working with survivors from the genocide in Rwanda, and is supporting a Burundian refugee community.

She will be speaking at Kallos Missions Morning next Saturday, May 26, 2018, along with fellow missionaries Jea Ng and Jiamin Choo-Fong. Register for the talk here.

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How could you take from me what I deserved?

by | 17 May 2018, 12:26 PM

When I was in secondary school, my number one ambition was to become a cell leader.

The thought of being able to change people’s lives was something I desperately wanted. Unfortunately, this led me to suck up to my leaders in the hopes of getting on their good side.

Around that time, I responded to a challenge by my cell leader to pray for a friend and invite him to youth camp that year. Joshua, a childhood friend, came to mind. I secretly thought: “Why not? Maybe if I integrate him into the cell, I could get more credibility from the leaders!”

To my surprise, not only did he accept the invitation to attend camp that year – he became really well integrated into the community within a short span of time. Almost too well …

When it was time to pick a new leader, within the short span of a year, they chose Joshua to step up instead of me. I felt betrayed.

How could they! After all I’ve done for the cell, all the contributions I’ve made, how could they deny me the one thing I wanted the most! I have my rights too!

Looking back on those days, I realise that I behaved like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32).

He had seen his young brother essentially ask his father to die, run away to spend his money on parties, luxurious food and prostitutes – only to come crawling back into the house begging to be taken back as a slave.

But instead of sending him back to the depravity he had left them both for, the father welcomed the younger son home with open arms – even throwing him a big party. I knew well how the older brother felt.

Where is justice? Where is the reward I deserved? What about my rights too?

Because I felt the same: What gave Joshua the right to inherit what I believed was mine? But rereading that parable, I saw something I hadn’t seen before. Just as much as the younger son was lost – so was the older brother.

In The Prodigal God, Timothy Keller writes that both sons wanted the father’s possessions rather than the person. Both were far from their father, but while one ran away from the father’s love by being extremely bad – the other did so by being extremely good.

I, too, was undeserving of God’s grace. When all I deserved was death, He ran to me and welcomed me with grace.

The cell leader position was just a symbol. Like the fattened calf at the feast, it masked an underlying issue: My devotion to God wasn’t founded on delight in Him but on trying to curry favours out of Him.

I have done so much in Your name. You owe me. 

That was what my bitter heart was actually saying. But regardless of which son we resemble, God’s response to us is still the same. Like the father in the story, God runs to welcome wayward children back into His arms and joy. He desires his children to lay down their pride and reenter his joy.

The older son couldn’t do so because he held on to his rights – what he felt he rightfully deserved. And just like him, by clinging onto what I thought I deserved, I denied myself the joy of seeing one of his sons come home again – of witnessing a warrior of faith rise up to expand God’s kingdom.

The solution was ultimately simple but painful: I had to lay down my rights and all the things I thought I deserved to reenter God’s joy. But I couldn’t do it. I felt God had been unjust and that his mercy to one person had come at my expense.

How is it that when God is unjust I was the one to pay the price for it?

That was what I actually thought! Eventually I gave up my rights not because I had to – but because I finally realised that I had been the younger son many times as well. I’m all too guilty of running away from God and laying waste to my life.

I, too, was undeserving of God’s grace. When all I deserved was death, He ran to me and welcomed me with grace.

The one who paid the price for my redemption was Jesus. He was what an elder brother should be. My redemption came at His expense, but he never once complained. He simply and completely obeyed his Father and took on the expense so I could be restored to the family.

/ junheng@thir.st

JunHeng is a 100% extrovert who loves caffeine – lots of caffeine. He also likes HTHTs, jamming and eating good food. Did he mention he loves caffeine?

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Sewing into His Kingdom

by Alison Choo | 15 May 2018, 12:24 PM

“Did you sew this?” is a question I’ve been constantly asked when people learn that I sometimes sew my own clothes and crafts around the house. Compelled by an interest in anything related to yarn, thread and fabric, I taught myself over the years to cross-stitch, knit, crochet and embroider as a hobby.

Requests to sew and customise handmade items for family and friends grew more frequent, and I wondered whether I should turn my hobby into a business.

And when the relationship I was in ended with my ex-boyfriend cheating on me, I spent even more time sewing. The long insomniac nights that followed were painful, and sewing was an outlet to process the tumult of thoughts and emotions.

I considered starting a local non-profit initiative like Tiyamike Sewing in Africa, a charity started by Australian missionary Jo Ong. By teaching women from low income families how to sew, the organisation has helped increased their capacity to provide for their households.

But as a speech therapist by profession, I already had my hands full. Perhaps something later in life when I’d have more time and resources, I thought.

Until one day, as I was reading through Matthew 25:14-28, my perspective shifted when I was meditating on the Parable of the Talents. The Master had distributed talents – what their coins were also known as – among his three servants before he left on a long journey.

While he was away, two of the servants invested their talents and doubled their wealth. Well done, he told each of them upon his return. But the third played it safe, earning nothing but his Master’s scorn. Maybe it was time for me to be a better steward of the gifts the Lord has blessed me with.

I was initially apprehensive about taking Ally Crafts Co into a social media space, not knowing where it would lead me, or if it would take off at all. But there was a calm assurance and deep confidence within, knowing that I had God on board with me on this. He the captain, and I, the servant.

As I started with baby steps, I continuously prayed for every decision made to be in line with God’s. Some of them were unconventional and counterintuitive to growing a business, but I did what I could to honour Him.

Over the months, I saw how God indeed used my gifts to reach out to His people, and to use it to honour and glorify Him. Orders for customised embroidery hoops grew, requests for workshops poured in, and opportunities for collaboration came my way.

I’ve partnered with Kins, a social skills and training programme by Hello Flowers! to empower local women from disadvantaged backgrounds by equipping them with crafting and simple entrepreneurial skills. And last year, my work was featured on YMI and in an art exhibit at Kallos Conference 2017.

What I embroider are usually a result of my thoughts, faith and reflection. Knowing that many ladies have been encouraged through my embroidery hoops and hand embroidery workshops, the grief and sorrows I felt earlier on in this journey have also gradually turned into joy. I’ve seen firsthand how God has been with me every step of the way.

When the hustle and bustle of each day winds down and the quiet and stillness of the night creeps in, I pick up my needle and thread to embroider. The repetitiveness of the stitching always brings me much solace and peace. These moments are when I have my long conversations with God.

Like the intricate stitches in my embroidery, where every stitch matters, God too doesn’t skimp on the tiniest of details; I can trust Him and the grand tapestry He is weaving with my life. I take comfort in letting go and resting in Him to provide the help, strength and guidance I need.

While the work of Ally Crafts Co isn’t done and hasn’t been entirely fulfilled yet, I look back at how far and wide God has lovingly brought me, and am truly excited for the beautiful things He has in store.


Want to pick up embroidery? Ally is collaborating with Kallos to conduct an embroidery workshop, “Stitched with Joy!” on Saturday, May 19, 2018, for young women aged 13-25 years old. Register your attendance here

Kallos is a ministry that helps young women discover their God-planned design and is excited to share what it means to have joy in a world full of worries.

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Saving Earth: How one man gave up everything for a street child’s future

by | 12 May 2018, 4:35 PM

His name is Geng. 29 years old. Thai programmer turned businessman. Comes from a family of doctors.

Right off the bat, he sounds like quite the eligible bachelor — a pretty outstanding guy by any means. And then he tells me he just shut down his business to pursue the dream God placed in his heart – to care for children.

I first got to know Geng through our common friend, and learned that he’s currently supporting a 13 year-old boy named Earth. His radical love for a child who’s not his own amazed me, and I wanted to hear the story from the man himself.

Over a video call, Geng shared with me that his dream started in his university days, but it wasn’t all smooth-sailing.

“On the 3rd year of my degree, God brought me to a school camp where we worked with an orphanage to care for the kids. I liked it so much that I ended up working in the orphanage foundation for 3 years with no salary after graduation.

“I knew working with children was what God wanted me to do, so He kind of moved me in that direction at first … But I lost it.”

Geng then began telling me how reality overtook his dreams: He decided to extend his family business by opening two more shops. For the next two years money became his focus. But he had no peace and he began losing profit.

“I pursued money — and I failed,” Geng admitted. It was at this point when Geng first met Earth.

Meeting Geng and his foster child, Earth, over a video call.

At that point of time, Earth was simply a kid from the streets who a churchgoer had taken pity on and brought to Church. The churchgoer had seen Earth wandering around the railway terminal a few times, before finding out that Earth has a troubled background and was constantly running away from home.

“That was how I knew him,” Geng explained, “But he was just another kid in Church to me.”

Just another face in Church indeed. Geng barely bat his eyelid when Earth disappeared. “To me it was like, so what? He’ll return,” Geng said with a shrug. And Earth would. He would disappear for a time, and then he would come back again.

“I never called you to take care of you. I told you to take care of others. It’s my job to take care of you.”

All throughout these recurring incidents, Geng couldn’t care less … Until one particular day when Earth went missing again.

“This time it was different. I felt so hurt, like something hit me. It’s like losing your own child. I never had a kid, but I felt so strongly in my spirit that I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t work. I kept thinking about Earth. Why is it so painful?”

Earth continued like this for another two to three weeks until one night, God told Geng that He was going to choose him to take care of Earth.

“I’ll arrange the situation so that you’ll be able to take care of him. But when he returns, be careful. He’ll be harder to manage than the kids in the foundation.”

“My dream is to be like Daddy Geng. Look after children who are like me,” says Earth.

God’s words proved true. When Earth came back, Geng took him in and began to care for him with the permission of Earth’s uncle. But Earth was so broken inside that he would become violent at times.

“In the first month, Earth said, ‘You’re gonna leave me anyway. Just leave me now.’ When I refused, Earth started to take advantage of me because he thought I would one day leave anyway,” Geng recalled.

“There were times he would scream vulgarities saying he never wanted me to love him.”

Words like these broke Geng’s heart. Yet the pain could never compare to that life-changing moment when Earth went missing. Geng offered me an analogy: “Mothers suffer for 9 months, but when the baby is born, she loves the baby because of what she went through.”

Love is the feeling of surrendering myself. That I can be less, to raise someone up.

He mused that might have been one way God used pain to mould him. “I’ll always remember the day when Earth did not return, how hurtful it was …  I’d rather be yelled at than to lose him. It’s too painful to lose him.”

But Geng’s relationship with Earth isn’t just built on love — it’s also built on learning to understand each other.

“The first time Earth apologised … That was the moment I saw the real him. The true Earth humbles himself and says sorry and wants to start over again.

“The world hurt Earth so much that he never felt true love in his life. Ever. His life was always in fear and insecurity. Everything was survival mode to him. From that understanding, I told him I’ll know it’s not him when he’s angry. There’s good inside him. He’s still a child, so there’s still hope.”

Geng’s investment in Earth’s future didn’t come free. He shares with me how he was left with just six more months to complete his MBA when he decided to forgo everything for Earth.

“I knew it wasn’t God,” Geng said, “It was my idea to do an MBA without even consulting God.” His parents understandably disagreed. His mum pleaded with him, “If you love me, just graduate for me.” Even his pastors pressured him not to not give up.

Only one person encouraged him to drop out. “God has no part for you in it, right? Just quit,” said a prophet whom Geng had met. After weeks of thinking it through, Geng eventually decided to pull out of his MBA programme.

“I made a difficult decision, but I followed God. I know God is proud of me.” Then, he folded his business because he knew it wasn’t what God wanted him to do. But it wasn’t easy — Geng told me more about an incident when he doubted God.

“I was telling God about how everyone around me has a stable income and is successful in life. What am I doing here? I feel like such a failure. I have Earth here too. I need to take care of him too!

“But God replied, ‘I never called you to take care of you. I told you to take care of others. It’s my job to take care of you.’ So I just surrendered to God.”

Geng was sure he was going to spend all his money in the first few months, so he could only trust that God would take care of him. And God did. Amazingly, someone flew from Singapore to do a crowdfunding video for him – something he never imagined.

I asked Geng about how he envisions his own future. He said: “I don’t know how my future will be like … I did not plan that far. But it’s OK. In the past, I tried to plan a lot of things. I used to pray for God to bless me in my business, but every time it fell apart. God has a different plan.”

Quoting Matthew 6, Geng said, “God says to leave my life to him. I just live day by day. And it’s been 4-5 months of living on the edge. It’s all about faith.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25-27)

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:31-34)

I don’t know about my future, but my security is not in my plans or my finances — it’s in God.”

As we got ready to put down the phone, I asked Geng a final question if he had any tips for readers who might be afraid to live radical lives for God and for others. He said that before even asking God what they can do — they need to know God’s love first.

“The first step is to know how much God loves you, and how patient He is with you in your life. We don’t need someone to tell us how bad we are. We know how bad we are — the secret part that we don’t want people to know. Yet God still loves you and looked past your sin. At one point, the love will overflow in you, and you’ll want to love others too.

“Love … How do I explain it? It’s not a sentence I can write. It’s the feeling of surrendering myself. That I can be less — to raise someone up.”

/ siqi@thir.st

Siqi loves to eat. Except for peas, egg yolk, cucumbers, livers, intestines. Among others. She also happens to be a writer.

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Do you want to be extraordinary?

by | 23 April 2018, 12:19 PM

“How many of you believe that God can do extraordinary things?”

This was a question that Loren Cunningham, founder of Youth With A Mission (YWAM), once asked a group of youths. Every person in the room raised their hand enthusiastically. He paused.

“And how many of you believe that God can do extraordinary things through you?” This new question garnered only a fraction of the previous raised hands, from the crowd which had become uncomfortably silent.

Most of us believe that God can do great things. But how many of us believe that God can do extraordinary things through us? Unless we believe that God uses ordinary men and women to accomplish extraordinary purposes – we will never be able to change the world for His purposes and glory.

My low self-esteem has always been an issue that I’ve struggled with. Even today, there are still times I find it hard to believe that God loves me, wants a relationship with me and would use me to do great things!

Maybe some of that was due to the fact that I was different growing up. As I stuck out like a sore thumb and was always made fun of, I became a person who strove for acceptance from others. A large part of who I am today still reflects those early struggles, even though God has done a great deal of healing in that area of my life.

“The greatest revelation a person can get is to find out who he is to God.”

I can’t remember who I heard this quote from, but it was still fresh in the mind when a pastor felt prompted to share another truth bomb to me: “We often hear that God loves us, but do you know that God likes you too?”

God loves us because of our intrinsic value in His eyes. We were made in His image (Gen 1:27). God likes us because He created each of us uniquely – one of a kind (Psalm 139:13-18)! I didn’t like myself because others didn’t like me. If only I knew then how much God liked me – I wouldn’t have changed for the world.

Perhaps one thing that keeps us from believing we can be used mightily for God, is we don’t even acknowledge that He likes us. But He loves and values us.

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

The reality of this truth hit me hard when I returned to Singapore from South Africa: I decided to be intentional about sharing my faith with my extended family members. But I felt wasn’t able to achieve what I had set out to do during Chinese New Year.

But what I didn’t know was that God was working in their lives through my testimony without me even doing anything. Relatives began coming to me, fascinated and encouraged by the purposeful nature of the missionary life – even the non-Christian ones!

Yet I have often felt inadequate as a missionary. Just like Moses, I’ve often been tempted to ask God, “Why me? Choose someone else. I’m not good enough.” Each time I do so, God gently reminds me that He is a God who does not call the qualified – He qualifies the called!

I didn’t like myself because others didn’t like me. If only I knew then how much God liked me – I wouldn’t have changed for the world.

Hebrews 11:1-33 is about the giants of faith – people who trusted entirely in God and saw their generation transformed.

Abel, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Gideon, Barak, Samson, David … These were some of the names on the list. I remembered turning the page over, expecting to see other names like Joseph, Elijah, Elisha and Daniel – but their names were left out.

Surely if one wanted to use examples, one would use the best ones? I thought that the people quoted were alright when it came to having faith, but in my mind they weren’t perfect like Joseph and Daniel. Why didn’t God include them?

I think the reason why God chose unprivileged and fallible men like David, is to show that He can work through anyone as long as they say “yes” to Him – even a shepherd boy. When Jesus came to Earth, He did not choose the cream of the crop to be His disciples. He chose the insignificant. He chose the sinners. He chose the inadequate.

So no matter who you are, what you’ve done or how incapable you feel: You are able to do whatever God is calling you to do solely because He will empower you for it!

He is a God who does not call the qualified – He qualifies the called!

Are you willing to say yes? If you are, Jesus can do unimaginable things with your life.

I have answered the call into missions and wherever He calls me to. I have said “yes” to all that He brings my way – and I have never looked back.

What is God calling you to? I really hope you do it, because there is nothing more satisfying than walking in the ways He prepared for you and fulfilling His plans.

Your life this side of eternity is a short one. So make it count.

/ roytay@thir.st

Roy has a peculiar appreciation for subtle wordplay, an inexplorable passion for competitive sports, and an insatiable hunger for delicious food.

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by Amanda Foo & Janan Lim | 23 April 2018, 12:06 PM

While “conventional” missions continues to hold a critical place in the Church, the way we talk about missions requires a greater emphasis on inclusivity.

To reduce missions to a two-week trip to run community engagement programmes in Thailand is to reduce missions to a co-curricular activity. To limit our understanding of missions to a ten-year stint in China is to sideline most believers.

The reality is that missional living was never meant to be reserved for a small, select group of particularly adventurous people with a special calling. It is to be every Christian’s way of life.

In the words of Pastor Alvin Tan, it is important to “help the church to move their mindset from missions belonging to an exclusive group of people”.

These issues were brought forth at the second GoForth Millennial Influencers Gathering, this time with a brand new panel of leaders in missions and young adult ministries.

Alongside Pastor Alvin, the Senior Pastor of Bartley Christian Centre, were George Butron, a veteran missionary and former Senior Pastor of Community of Praise Baptist Church, Vinnie Tang, regional head of Alpha, and Wayne Sim, the youngest panelist who serves full-time with YWAM.

Photo by Joash Lee

Missional living is to live out the mission of God in every aspect of our lives. It is in the interactions we have with our families, our classmates, our colleagues. It is in the way we speak to our Uber drivers and bus uncles.

It is also in being conscious of our decisions as consumers, putting thought into what our decisions mean for the environment God placed under our care even if it comes at the price of inconvenience. Fundamentally, it is a lifestyle that ushers in the Kingdom of God and brings reconciliation and life to all of creation.

Talking about missions holistically empowers millennials to feel that they too are able to fully engage meaningfully in the mission of God wherever they are placed right now. We must also continually challenge young people to see the bigger picture and catch a compelling vision of what this mission entails.

For many millennials, it might seem that the Church “doesn’t know how to fully engage your gifts, your talents, your passions”, George Butron shared. That the Church is too preoccupied to listen, too rigid and stuffy to adapt. But the younger ones – such as us – must also ask ourselves if we have taken initiative.

Photo by Joash Lee

Have we stepped up to volunteer our time and skills? Have we spoken to and of our leaders in ways that honour and encourage them? Have we allowed them to hold us accountable for our actions and show that we, too, can contribute good ideas and be counted on to see things through?

Notably, the millennial generation is uniquely positioned and impassioned for social justice causes. The advent of the information age also means we can no longer claim ignorance. Environmental causes, migrant workers’ rights, the global refugee crisis, and human trafficking are just a few of the real-world issues we want to know how to grapple and engage with.

The question that must be asked is whether there is space in our churches for conversations about these topics.

Panelist Wayne Sim admitted that these issues can sometimes be seen as competing with other causes of our churches such as discipleship, but “it takes humility and unity in the Body to say, actually we can do this together. Let’s not fight. Let’s not compete.”

And instead of feeling restricted, disengaged, and discouraged by the church, humility means realising, as young people, that our leaders are not our enemy. They are, more often than not, simply trying to look out for us as best as they can.

Photo by Joash Lee

That being said, recognising that the church can learn from millennials and the way they see and do things takes humility on the part of leaders as well.

Similarly, while our parents can sometimes seem restrictive, they also often speak out of a place of concern for us, Vinnie added, reminding the gathering that it is important that there be “continuous conversation” between parents and children.

Contrary to popular belief, young people are not averse to involving their parents in their lives. Especially for Christian families, being able to talk about how God has been working in our lives is imperative for God’s original design for family. Ideally, spiritual mentoring and missional living begins at home.

Photo by Joash Lee

Pastor Alvin ended the discussion with this poignant thought: “When you read Scripture carefully, every disciple of Jesus is missional.”

“Let us not have this false impression that missions done overseas is somehow of higher value than the work that God has given you here.

“The soul over there and the soul here, the value is the same. For those who are called overseas, you have to be there. And those who are here, when God gives you someone to reach out to, you have to do that.

“We just have to be where the Lord wants us to be. Faithfully journeying as a faithful disciple of Jesus.”


Amanda and Janan are twenty-somethings serving at the GoForth National Missions Conference.

With an expected one billion people in Asia moving from rural to urban areas by the year 2030, the number of world city dwellers is expected to rise to 70% by 2050. There is an urgent call to the Church, especially as the majority of new urban dwellers will be young (under 25 years old) and live below the poverty line ($2 a day).

The GoForth National Missions Conference, happening June 21-23, 2018, will look at an array of diverse strategies to empower individuals and churches to reach and transform cities with the love of Christ. Visit their website to find out out more.

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