Full-time under 30: The mission trip that changed my life

Isaac Ong // October 25, 2018, 5:42 pm

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We featured Isaac in “Some save Batam: Taking the heart of Singapore beyond our shores.


I grew up in church.

My mum and dad, and even grandparents were in church. But when I was 17 years old, I became a little bit indifferent to the things of God. I came to this point where I thought: Is God really my God? Or is God my parents’ God?

I didn’t want to be a part of church any longer – I even went to tell my pastors and leaders that I didn’t want to be a leader, I just wanted to explore and see the world, and do whatever I wanted to do.

So I would spend late nights out getting drunk; there were times I’d be on the Clarke Quay floor, completely wasted, and people would have to carry me, put me in a cab and send me home.

There was once I was so drunk I fell asleep in the toilet with the door locked, and the next morning my parents had to break open the door to get me out. Another time I slept in my own vomit after throwing up, and because I had dreadlocks I had to shave my head as my hair couldn’t be washed.

I’d become a person who was very indifferent and cold, especially to the things of God.

When my church leaders told me that they were praying for me, I actually told them to stop because the person who needed prayer was them, not me. That was the kind of person I was – but what’s really beautiful was that my cell leader never gave up.

One day she asked me, “Isaac, would you like to go on a mission trip?” And I told her that I didn’t want to pray, or hold hands and shout “God, we love you!” – I just wanted to go there and play some games. That was the most I’d do because I didn’t know if I loved God – I probably didn’t – but I definitely loved people.

And so my church allowed me on this trip, and we went to a refugee camp on the borders of Myanmar and Thailand.

There I saw kids who’d lost their parents, who’d seen their parents murdered in front of them, women who’d been raped and abused, men who’d lost their limbs from stepping on landmines.

These were people rejected from nations and forced into exile, yet I witnessed how they worshipped God and loved Him.

I remember thinking, this is absolutely crazy. And God met me there; He won my heart.

I walked away from that place saying, God, I really want to pursue life with You. I want to go all the way for You. You are not my mum and dad’s Father, You are not my mum and dad’s God. You are my God.

You are Isaac’s God.

Ever since then, I would always go back to the mission field.

From the age of 17, all the way till now, I’ve gone to India, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar … All sorts of different places. And I would go back and love the people simply because they have taught me so much. I feel like they saved my life.

They helped me to see things I didn’t see, and when I got back from that first trip, I remember asking myself: Isaac, how are you able to wake up every day and get drunk every other night when around the world there’s so much social injustice happening?

I found it hard to read a Bible that says, “Therefore, go make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20) and “Go and love the poor” (Proverbs 19:17) – if I did not intend to do what was written in it. How could I say that this is my Bible, my Word, my truth, the God I serve – when I did not carry His heart?

I think if you take out every verse that tells us to love other people, much of the Bible would not be left.

In the beginning, it was a little tough because this meant giving up my own resources and finances. But when my grandma passed away, she left with me a little bit of inheritance.

I used that inheritance to spend the two to three years after National Service doing humanitarian work instead of going straight to university. I just wanted to really see what was going on in the world, what was God doing.

So that was the beginning of my journey to pursue God. I was far from perfect, and even till this day, I’ve not arrived. There’s still so many things that I battle with in my head and in my heart. But that’s the beauty about God’s grace and God’s mercy. He loves on us, He lavishes on us, not just a bit but with a generous portion of His love.

Lord, tell me what are You doing on this earth. Tell me what is Your plan, how can I partner and collaborate with all that You’re doing?

And any generosity that we show, as Christians or just human beings, is only a glimpse of the generosity of God.

People say things like “Wah, Isaac, you’re so inspirational” or “Isaac, how do you do all these things?” – but that’s not the point. Because at the end of the day, this is simply my response to a generous God.

It is simply a response of obedience to a God who has called us to love, and a response of love to a God who loves us so much.

When I was younger, I would always go: “God, this is my plan. Tell me what You want to do with me.” But as I grew older, I changed that question to: “Lord, tell me what are You doing on this earth. Tell me what is Your plan, how can I partner and collaborate with all that You’re doing?” – not “God, come and collaborate with me.”

That’s when you really begin to see the heart of God.

If you just open the Bible, the Scripture tells you clearly to love one another, and that there is no greater love than when a brother loves another. That when you feed the poor, or clothe somebody, give them a drink – you give it to Jesus.

“Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:37-40)

And all of this is worship, the same worship that you gather in the hall and sing “Through You, I can do anything” – this is absolutely worship. And we don’t look at someone in the hall who’s worshipping with all their heart and say, “You look so inspirational” because we know that’s a response to God’s love.

In the same way, we know that every good work we do here on earth, across cities and nations is not “inspirational” but a response of worship unto God.

I hope that people looking at my life will think: “If God can use this fellow, He can really use anybody.” Because that’s the truth of what and who we are – in our weakness, He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9). His power is made perfect.


Isaac serves the community with his social company Colours Global, is the youth director of Emmanuel AOGand was a finalist on both Channel 5‘s The Final 1 and The Voice (SG/MY). He often speaks in various church circles and leads the FOPx worship team. The annual FOPx Youth Conference will take place on November 29-December 1, 2018. Register here.