A Life-Changing Trip to South Asia
What experiences and lessons did you gain from this trip?
Just two days before my scheduled departure for my mission trip, I tested positive for COVID for the first time in three years. The next day, my parents decided that I should not proceed with the trip, leaving me feeling discouraged and frustrated.
Amidst my physical exhaustion, I found solace in the Book of Esther during my daily Bible reading. Esther's story conveyed a powerful message that inspired me to seek God. Like Esther, who found herself in a strategic position of influence to deliver her people, I held onto the belief that God had a higher purpose and a greater blessing in store for my situation.
Taking inspiration from Esther's example of fasting and prayer, I decided to embrace faith and faithfulness instead of succumbing to discouragement. I humbled myself and submitted to my parents, trusting that God would change their hearts.
A day later, my dad also tested positive for COVID, which resulted in us having to share the same room. Given the frustration I still harboured towards my dad, I dreaded the situation. However, during our time spent in isolation together, God orchestrated a miraculous process of reconciliation. We bravely confronted our present grievances and actively worked towards healing past wounds, engaging in meaningful conversations that fostered mutual understanding.
Unexpectedly, one morning, my dad gave me his blessing to proceed with my mission trip without me even having to ask. Moreover, my recovery from COVID happened suddenly, and subsequent tests confirmed that I was free from the virus. I was immensely grateful to God because His plan surpassed my own expectations, bringing about reconciliation and imparting valuable lessons about prayer, submission, and trust.
The mission trip proved to be a treasure trove of blessings and profound lessons. One instance was the inspiring life story of a father, a devoted disciple entrusted with overseeing an organisation. Their organisation played a pivotal role in providing much-needed relief aid to the locals affected by the catastrophic 2004 tsunami.
What struck me deeply was his poignant expression of regret; despite their remarkable humanitarian efforts, he believed that a crucial element was missing: the proclamation of the gospel. In his eyes, the greatest need in their country was not merely material resources, wealth, safety, or a better government — it was the transformative power of the gospel itself.
Witnessing his perspective left an indelible mark on my heart, igniting in me a renewed commitment to faithfully preach the gospel, irrespective of the circumstances.
I learned a valuable lesson while we were preparing dinner around a portable BBQ pit. Coaxing the coals to ignite required diligent fanning and blowing, which inevitably led to sweat-soaked brows and weary arms. As certain sections of the charcoal began to glow, we carefully spread them out to ignite the remaining pieces, until eventually, every coal radiated a warm ember orange hue, signalling their readiness for cooking.
At that moment, God reminded me of the essence of fellowship in a community. Each of us possesses the potential to bless and encourage others through our own life examples, much like the glowing coals igniting the dormant ones. Though the journey may present challenges and requires perseverance, the key lies in not giving up.
The remarkable lives of the ministry leaders and local believers were truly inspiring. Their humility and eagerness to learn, grow and serve deeply challenged me.
One girl memorised 24 new verses in a week before her exam. Another guy used his spare time, such as during his commute, to memorise Bible verses.
1 Timothy 4:12 resonates with these experiences:
"Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity."
This trip has taught me how to cultivate a deeper love and trust in God’s Word. I had the privilege of witnessing the transformative power of the Word in the lives of the locals, which has been a truly eye-opening experience.
The life story of a particular brother left a deep impression on me. Coming from a broken family and having to endure the presence of an abusive father, he had strained relationships with his family and indulged in vices during his youth. He lacked academic qualifications, and seemed to have little by societal standards.
However, after relocating to the city and joining the community, his testimony spoke of the abundance he now experiences — healing within his family, educational growth, the blessings of fellowship, and a burning desire to serve God. The realisation that "these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33) struck a chord within both him and me. It made me reflect on how I often take for granted the blessings that come so easily to me in my comfortable life back at home. My worries pale in comparison to the greatness of God.
Remarkably, despite having no income, this local brother consistently sought to cover our expenses and serve us diligently, even during the 4-day public holidays when most people return to their hometowns. His life exemplifies the living truth found in Matthew 6:31-32, which reminds us not to worry about our basic needs, as our heavenly Father knows them. His example underscores the importance for me to cherish and treasure God's Word even more deeply.
Learning from the ministry leaders and fellow believers in the fellowship was an incredibly valuable experience. Through intentional sharing about our lives, we gained profound wisdom. The ministry leaders shared openly about their lowest moments, highlighting the importance of prayer.
They recounted how, even in the face of losing everything, including the fruits of their labour (ministry, house, belongings etc.), they discovered hope and the assurance that their salvation could never be lost. This revelation gave them the renewed zeal and strength they needed to press on.
Prayer has played a pivotal role throughout their life journey. In a challenging time marked by heightened security due to terrorist bombings, gaining access to witnessing grounds proved to be an arduous task. Arriving without an established ministry, they had to rely on prayer anchored in God's unwavering promises. The power of prayer enabled them to embrace God's vision of transforming the least into a thousand and the smallest into a mighty nation, all in His perfect timing.
“We claimed the promises as we prayed. These promises were the ‘bricks’,
and prayer was the ‘mortar’ that brought them together.”
Dawson Trotman, The Need of the Hour
The joy of my salvation constantly reminds me of the power of prayer in my walk with God. Prayer fuels my desire to seek God more, and it is through prayer that I find the strength to persevere even when the path ahead of me is unclear.
The invaluable lessons I have gained from this trip are too precious to be forgotten. It is my prayer that I will hold God's Word in even higher regard, cherishing it with a deeper love than ever before. In addition, I earnestly pray that there will be a rise of faithful labourers in the near future who will boldly proclaim the gospel to the nations without fear or shame.
The opportunity to witness for Jesus was a tremendous blessing. Many were willing to engage in conversations with us, and it was truly precious to share the gospel with those who had never heard it before.
However, follow-up meetings with the individuals were discouraging, as many of them showed reluctance to engage in further discussions. It was during this time that I realised my struggles mirrored those of the local brothers and sisters.
Through prayer, God brought to my attention the difficulties I had previously encountered during follow-ups. I realised that I had become desensitised to the pain caused by certain experiences in the past, and I was merely pushing forward without guarding my heart against discouragement. This has led to me losing hope in my ability to effectively reach out to people.
However, my spirit was lifted by the testimonies and life examples shared by the ministry leaders and local believers. I learned to find joy in hope as I continued to share the gospel with others. God enabled me to give thanks for opportunities to witness for Jesus, helping me to rediscover the joy and preciousness of proclaiming the good news.
I also discovered the importance of practising unconditional love in witnessing, even when it is not reciprocated. This aligns with the message conveyed in Galatians 2:20, urging us to crucify our own standards of love and live a life of faith.
At the end of my trip, I met someone who responded positively to the sharing of the gospel and the follow-up efforts made by the local believers. This experience taught me to value God's perfect plan in shaping and training me, renewing my hope in His faithfulness.
and the follow-up efforts
A conversation with a local deeply impacted me. He asked me about my starting salary, which I answered without much hesitation. Curious, I inquired about the average salary for recent graduates in his country. His response shocked me — it was about SGD$200, which was barely enough for basic living expenses. The cost of renting a place for a month alone was at least SGD$50, and each meal typically costs at least SGD$1. I sincerely apologised for such inequality, as it didn't make any sense to me.
However, his perspective stunned me. He expressed gratitude to God for the poverty he experienced, as it led him to recognise his need for Jesus and receive salvation. He believed that the value of salvation far surpassed any material wealth, and he wouldn't trade it for anything. This encounter made me reflect on the significance of salvation in my own life.
Another inspiring encounter that I had was with the ministry leader. There is no doubt in my mind about the value that he places on a person's soul. Witnessing his tireless dedication and commitment to serving and encouraging others' growth, I couldn't help but sense the exhaustion he must have felt when his efforts did not yield the expected results. It seemed like he invested so much effort, yet the outcome often appeared minimal.
However, the ministry leader imparted a fresh perspective to me. He shared how understanding God's vision is similar to a child growing up and gradually comprehending the father's business ventures. As we mature, we develop a desire to participate in the same business, eager to assist our Heavenly Father.
Listening to his daily devotionals, I observed how he nurtured and safeguarded this vision by continually remembering Christ's sacrifice on the cross and His unwavering love. Just as 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 reminds us, the love of Christ compels us to live not for ourselves but for Him who died for us. Every day, I am reminded that my labour for the Lord is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).
I yearn to cultivate such a vision for individuals and for the world, so that I too can find joy in hope, willingly surrendering myself and experiencing the abundant life found in Christ.
I have recently embraced the practice of praying before each activity, seeking God's revelation on how He can accomplish great things through seemingly mundane tasks like sweeping the floor, cleaning the toilet, or participating in group activities. This practice has helped me to recognise God's purpose even in the smallest of tasks, leading to a transformation within my own heart and a deeper understanding of His vision.
"Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
(Matthew 6:10, NIV)
I yearn to comprehend the abundant scope of God's will for my life and those around me. I long for His vision to manifest, where the least becomes a thousand and the smallest becomes a mighty nation.
As my vision expands, I am beginning to understand that God's primary purpose for my profession as a doctor and the challenges I may face is to train me to be a "fisher of men," a calling that far surpasses career success. I trust that professional competence will come in due time; my task is to fix my eyes on His vision, seeking His kingdom and His righteousness first.
I humbly ask for prayers that God would daily fill my lamp with oil, so that my actions may radiate a deep and sincere love for Him and align with His vision. May every action I take be purposeful and filled with divine power to impact lives for His glory.
About Aaron, Winston and Aldred
Aaron, Winston, and Aldred are medical student graduates from the National University of Singapore (NUS). They are now qualified doctors by profession and are also actively involved in the NUS Navigators Ministry.
In April of this year, they embarked on a short-term mission trip to South Asia with the purpose of serving alongside the local leaders, learning from them, and cultivating a heart for the lost.