I started my own business at 24 so I could serve in missions
“I brought my luggage to the exam hall, finished my paper, left early and cabbed down from NTU (Nanyang Technological University) to Changi Airport and flew out immediately.
“People were thinking, ‘Dude, are you that desperate to get out of the country?’”
I am sitting in a cafe, laughing as Caleb Leong recounts how he would take six to seven trips a year as an undergrad.
While to the uninitiated it might seem like Caleb was jetting off for relaxing holidays, the truth was that he was going on mission trips.
A SUPERNATURAL EXPERIENCE
It all started in November 2015 when Caleb himself was touched by the Holy Spirit on one such mission trip. For the next three to four hours, he experienced the presence of the Spirit.
“It was a move of God that marked me,” Caleb describes. “That moment itself turned my heart towards the things of God, and I couldn’t turn back.”
Caleb began to involve himself in missions work in any way possible, starting out by carrying his pastor’s bags. Travelling to teach, preach and equip church leaders, their ministry included empowering believers to move in signs and wonders.
Gradually, Caleb caught his pastor’s love for missions as he served. At one point, he even thought of quitting school so that he could enter full-time ministry because of his call towards the mission field.
However, his pastor advised against it as he felt that there must be a reason for how God incredulously opened the door for Caleb to a university course not of his choice. (More on that later!)
And so, in between juggling presentations and projects, Caleb began to be more active in missions work.
“I just had this supernatural effectiveness and efficiency. I could do a lot of things (aside from studying during university),” he says.
“I had the time to meet people, do ministry and serve in missions. That became my life in those three years.”
Amazingly, God not only provided efficiency, but also saw to Caleb’s monetary needs.
“I paid for my flights and accommodations, but I never saw my bank balance dropped in three years,” he recalls.
All of the funds came from his own pocket through odd jobs.
“At one point I was doing tuition, and at the next, I was doing market research for a Korean scientist,” Caleb says. “Before I graduated, I was doing transcribing and video coding for a professor.
“I really saw what Jesus meant when He said seek first His Kingdom and righteousness. God was not just sovereign in my ministry, but also in my family, finances and academics.”
This would be a lesson that Caleb would take with him as he transited from student to working life.
AN OPEN DOOR TO BUSINESS
At this point, I ought to explain how Caleb ended up enrolling into a university course that wasn’t his choice.
“I never wanted to apply for NTU,” he admits. “It was the last place I wanted to go because it’s so far.”
But along the way, God dropped promptings about NTU in Caleb’s heart.
The turning point finally came when God directed him to a bookstore and the first thing he saw was a book on the foundations of NTU. God also revealed to Caleb that he was to apply to Nanyang Business School (NBS).
“My A-Level grades were barely enough to get into business school in NTU, so I thought there was a high chance of rejection,” he says.
It turns out that he was wrong. In time to come, Caleb also began to realise why being in NBS was a blessing.
“At first, I thought that it gave me a lot of time and flexibility to fly out and minister,” he says, pointing out that the bulk of coursework were projects that he could do while telecommuting.
“Little did I know that it also gave me the business acumen I need,” he adds, explaining that business was exactly what he was doing to fund his mission trips.
A ONE-TRACK MIND FOR MISSIONS
After graduating, Caleb reveals that he was specific in his prayer to God. “I really want time, money and freedom to do missions,” he says.
While young graduates might see the world as their oyster, Caleb was single-minded in casting his nets and being a fisher of men.
He took up a part-time role at a creative agency when the opportunity came, which gave him the flexibility to fly out for missions whenever he needed to.
But after a severe eczema flare-up in 2019, he decided to leave the job and went solely into freelancing. It was also during this period when he needed to learn how to trust God on a greater level.
“It was quite a challenging season because I didn’t see my income go up for a good nine months. I was earning less than $700.”
It was difficult, Caleb confesses, especially when he looked at what his peers were earning. Had he continued to compare, he would have been depressed. So Caleb says he chose to trust in God instead.
Not long later, business picked up. He managed to chalk up more than 20 brands as his clients in less than a year.
Two years since graduation, Caleb is now doing a lot better than most of his peers.
Caleb continues: “I realised how the goodness of God can be displayed in such a tangible manner that people cannot deny that God is real.
“It was a testimony in university, and it’s still a testimony now.”
As the interview draws to an end, I ask if Caleb has any final message to share with young adults.
“My friends envy that I have the flexibility to do all sorts of things,” he muses. “But I started my own business only because my main priority was to serve in the missions field.
“Sometimes we end up prioritising economic stability over wanting to serve God, but I’ve seen with my life how when you prioritise God first, everything else will come.”
Referencing 2 Corinthians 9:8, he says: “God provides for you at all times so that you can give to his good work.”
There will be times of trials, notes Caleb, but it is through testing that our faith is strengthened.
“I’ve learnt over the years that even things that might have seemed illogical can become logical with God,” he concludes. “So take risks with God. Because God will never shortchange you.”