The credit analyst who left everything behind for an unpaid internship in Cambodia
Photo: Esther Lim
When I was younger in the faith, I used to hate the idea of working in the church office.
That was my only concept of what full-time ministry could look like. I had the perception that it would limit my worldview and the people I could meet, with work entirely revolving around church operations and the people in it.
After I graduated, I worked mainly in the finance field. The last role I held was as a credit analyst with a big Japanese bank in Singapore, and it was a really cushy job.
At some point, I volunteered briefly with a church located in Geylang. We would fan out into the streets each week, offering prostitutes – we call them streetwalkers – a word of prayer, homemade cookies, and hugs of care and love.
This short stint opened my eyes to the reality of human trafficking in our own backyard. As I read more about this issue, I got to know of the organisation International Justice Mission (IJM) and began toying with the idea of participating in the work of justice through their internship programme.
My journey leading to going full-time really wasn’t as dramatic and supernatural as you’d think. In fact it happened in the mundane and the daily living out of my faith. After God placed in me this seed of the possibility of taking up this internship programme some day in the future, I started to think about when it might happen, all the while still “roughing it out” in my mundane job, knowing that He had a purpose for me in the marketplace.
I thought 2017 would be a good year considering that I now have adequate financial resources – I don’t want to depend on others for support – and knowing that my parents are still healthy and working.
One day, while on my regular night stroll around the park, I told God that I’m just going go ahead and set the year apart for this work, as an act of worship unto Him. That night I felt God’s delight and pleasure over my decision. In the mundane and day-to-day walk with the Lord, I experienced having my desires transformed and seeing Him meet them, much like in Psalm 37:4: “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
Along the way I also received a prophesy confirming my decision to go at this time, at the end of my 7th year of work. Personally, though, this wasn’t a significant push – I’d already made up my mind.
And that’s how I find myself now working in Cambodia, Phnom Penh, in the third month of a one-year unpaid internship with International Justice Mission, a Christian human rights organisation that is fighting the cause of modern day human slavery.
Moving out to do something out of comfort zone is always, well, uncomfortable. In planning for my move overseas, there were many nitty-gritty details that had to be taken care of, and sometimes dealing with everything at once can be overwhelming. But being in such a vulnerable position puts you in a position to learn to depend on God and experience His provision.
For example, I experienced His leading and provision in finding my current accommodation, which has helped me assimilate faster in this foreign land. Not only did I get a good deal on my rental rates, I also confirmed my accommodation in record time, on the 3rd day of my arrival in Phnom Penh. God indeed knows our needs through and through.
Neither am I alone in the journey. I know of many Christians here who are working in various NGOs, supporting various causes in their own capacities, serving the people here in Cambodia and surrounding countries. There’s so many avenues to serve if we would just look out for it.
I’ve experienced so much in this short span of time. And I know that by the end of this internship journey, I will have had many more intimate encounters with God to talk about.
Some people have this misconception that God’s call is all-or-nothing: Either you are fully in, or you are fully out. While we should incline our hearts to seek to follow him fully every step of the way, we need to understand that realistically, God’s call in our individual lives is often progressive, and he reveals more of Himself as we follow Him in taking the next step of our faith, in whatever state of readiness we are in.
So if God is calling you to take a step of faith today, I encourage you to take it and see how God can come through for you. Even if you were to fail, know that God’s hands of grace is not too short for you.
As followers of Christ, we can count on His faithfulness and His ability to come through for us when we step out in faith towards his leading. If God is to call, he will also equip and prepare, and we can take heart in that.
International Justice Mission (IJM) is an international Christian nonprofit organisation focused on human rights, laws and law enforcement. It is currently the world’s largest anti-slavery organisation, rescuing victims of violence, sexual exploitation and slavery. To extend your support, in whatever form, please drop Esther an email at email@example.com.