Far from Home, Near to Christ

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Far from Home, Near to Christ

Posted on 28 May 2024



How did you come to embrace Christianity? How did you become involved in The Navigators disciplemaking community? 



Vincent

I was raised in a Catholic environment influenced by my grandmother. I grew up thinking that doing good works and being present during Sunday mass was sufficient. But years later, in college, I was introduced to The Navigators' disciplemaking community through a short-term American student who happened to be assigned to my city in the Philippines. It was then that the ministry leader shared the full Gospel with me. Romans 3:23 and Ephesians 2:8-9 impacted me as I learned that I am still a sinner even if I do a lot of good works; only faith can save me because of God’s grace.


“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

— Romans 3:23


“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast.”

— Ephesians 2:8-9



Gemma

My journey to becoming a Christian is deeply personal. It began with a transformative experience at a church camp in Bulacan, Philippines, where genuine fellowship, shared devotions and praying for fellow campers left a lasting impression on me.


I had always believed in God, but I had never felt a close connection to Him. Growing up in a Catholic household, I knew I could turn to God in times of need, but I did not have a personal relationship with Jesus. However, everything changed after attending the church camp in Bulacan. It was during the camp that they introduced me to Jesus, prayed with me, and accepted Him as my Lord and Saviour.

After the camp, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy with my newfound faith. Despite this experience, the fear of disappointing my Roman Catholic parents led me to keep my faith hidden and turn my back on God.

Many years later, I would arrive in Singapore to embark on a new chapter of my life. For 2 months, I struggled as a foreigner in the land looking for a job without direction and meaning. However, God spoke to me in Matthew 6:33, which says,

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."


This promise helped me navigate uncertainty and challenges in life. It deepened my relationship with God as I discovered the importance of prioritizing my spiritual journey, ultimately leading me to know God intimately and make Him known to others.

My journey into The Navigators’ disciplemaking community began in 2013 at a Navigator-hosted workshop in the Philippines. It was during this event that I met Chung Lee, a Navigator staff, and asked if we could continue our fellowship in Singapore, where I was based for work. During our next fellowship in Singapore, I asked Chung Lee if she could mentor my co-labourer, Daphne, and I. Chung Lee graciously accepted our request. It was truly an answered prayer.

This marked the beginning of our weekly Bible studies, shared Quiet Time and scripture memorization. A significant turning point occurred when Chung Lee invited Daphne and me to join a Navigators Singapore meeting with co-labourers, where I was convicted by Isaiah 60:22. This verse affirmed my role in God's plan for growth and multiplication. Thereafter, Chung Lee introduced Daphne and me to Robert Yeun, deepening my involvement in The Navigator’s community ministry and fostering my commitment to disciplemaking and spiritual growth.


"The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation. I am the LORD; in its time I will do this swiftly."

— Isaiah 60:22



Gemma’s (middle) first meeting with Chung Lee (left) together with her co-labourer, Daphne (right)




As an expatriate, were there any challenges you faced as you integrated into the life and culture here in Singapore? How did you navigate them?


Vincent

The first hurdle I had to overcome was language. I was unfamiliar with certain terms used at my workplace. I also struggled to understand my colleagues as they spoke faster than I could comprehend.

Over time, The Navigators' disciplemaking community provided me with opportunities to familiarise myself with common jargons used in daily life and the workplace. I am thankful that language is no longer a struggle for me.

The homesickness I experienced was another challenge I faced. Choosing to work in a foreign country meant that I would be apart from my family in the Philippines for a longer period.

However, The Navigators community gave me much comfort and support in navigating various life challenges. Our common faith, shared struggles and challenges, and offering of mutual encouragement was a picture of Hebrews 10:24-25.

Though we work in different industries, I remember one of the believers in my community sharing his frustrations at work coupled with his homesickness and yearning for his family. There was always the striking thought of giving up and returning to his family.

I was able to relate to his experience and that encouraged me, knowing I am not alone in this journey even if many things seemed uncertain. Many “What if?” questions and concerns would flood my head - “What if I lost my job right away?” and “Can I still provide for my family’s needs?”. When I spent time together with fellow believers, their sharing served as a reminder for me to trust God fully.


“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

— Hebrews 10:24-25



Gemma 

I encountered various obstacles especially when I first arrived. Loneliness was a significant challenge, as I grappled with feeling isolated in a foreign environment. Adjusting to the fast-paced lifestyle of Singapore posed difficulties, particularly as an introverted individual who struggled to find a sense of belonging. However, through prayer and the comfort found in reading the Bible, I discovered the strength and courage to navigate these challenges and embrace God's calling for my life.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, my family faced additional hardships, particularly, my father's declining health and eventual passing. The inability to return to the Philippines due to work commitments, compounded our grief, as we were unable to be physically present with him during his final moments. Yet, through the grace of God and the support of technology, we found solace in connecting with our family and sharing our sorrows despite the physical distance. Isaiah 41:10 provided comfort during this trying time, reminding us of God's unwavering presence and promise to strengthen and uphold us in moments of fear and despair.


“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”


— Isaiah 41:10



Gemma’s joyful reunion with her family (last row, second from the right)


Navigating the challenges of integrating into life and culture in Singapore has been a journey of faith and gratitude. While initially daunting, I gradually came to appreciate the significance of my placement in this vibrant city-state, viewing it as a testament to God's providence. Embracing this perspective allowed me to see God’s goodness in the various facets of life here, from the diverse neighbourhoods to the rich culinary scene and efficient governance.

In moments of brokenness and loneliness, I found support and strength in deepening my relationship with Jesus Christ. His presence became my refuge, instilling hope and faith for the future, as expressed in Psalm 46:1—


“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”


Engaging in the discipleship community and participating in Bible studies provided not only joy and purpose but also a sense of belonging and encouragement to love and serve others. This echoes the teachings of Hebrews 10:24-25. These experiences have empowered me to navigate life in Singapore with resilience and gratitude, continually discovering the transformative power of faith in God's plan for my life.


Having a meal and engaging with the disciplemaking commmunity


How does being part of the life-on-life disciplemaking community influence your life as an expatriate? 


Vincent

The community bridged my understanding of cross-cultural fellowship. This often amazes me and helps me to see that God's love transcends racial boundaries. They also emphasise that disciplemaking is meant to be a way of life, beyond being a command. This principle applies not only to the people God entrusts to you but also to your immediate family.

I see that I have the responsibility to teach and pass on the knowledge of God to my wife and 2 children during our weekly night virtual calls. I try to remind my brothers and sisters in my hometown of God’s love as well.

Though they have been ministered to by other ministries—which I praise God for— I also pray that my family will be followed up on by someone who can teach them spiritual disciplines such as Quiet Time and Bible Study.  I am always filled with joy when I consider how God answered my prayers for my family’s spiritual condition. I remembered what I had planted when I was a student - I had written down the Bridge illustration verses on my wall to memorise and to show my family.



Vincent (in the middle wearing black) having Bible study with the community



Friendships formed in the disciplemaking community


Gemma 

Being part of The Navigators life-on-life disciplemaking community has profoundly influenced my life as an expatriate. Having a mentor who doesn’t stop nurturing my spiritual growth but also caring for me holistically has been a tremendous blessing. Like a guiding mother, she invests her time and prayers into my life, echoing the spirit of 2 Timothy 2:2, where Paul encourages Timothy to pass on what he has learned to reliable people. Witnessing her humble service inspires me to emulate Jesus' example of serving others with intentionality, expertise, and humility, as depicted in John 13 when He washed His disciples' feet.


“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”

— 2 Timothy 2:2


The spiritual basics of Quiet Time, Bible study and scripture memorisation have become a regular part of my life, shaping my character and deepening my faith. These disciplines have instilled in me a desire to pass on the knowledge and wisdom I've gained to others, embodying the principles of discipleship and multiplication. Through The Navigators disciplemaking community, more than receiving spiritual guidance and support, I found purpose in sharing the love and teachings of Christ with others, both locally and globally.


­­Gemma (second from the left) meeting her online Bible study group physically in the Philippines


Could you tell us about your experiences of living and discipling among the lost, whether at your workplace or within your expatriate community?


Vincent 

It has been more challenging than expected because Singapore is a multicultural nation. However, I recall an instance when a former colleague from Myanmar asked me about Christianity. This prompted me to share the truth with him. I then realized that I needed to ready myself always, just as Paul instructed Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2—


“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction”.


In my new workplace, there are many Filipino colleagues. I started sharing my spiritual journey early on, identifying as a follower of Christ. This has eased the way into many conversations about God. For example, during a weekend run with one of my colleagues, we talked about life and the conversation naturally led to a discussion about God. Since then, he has been more receptive to having spiritual conversations.

In my disciplemaking community, a fellow believer shared how she would pray for her colleagues’ salvation one name at a time and ask God for opportunities to share the gospel with them. I was challenged to apply this to my life, to pray for my colleagues by name at my workplace.

As I continue to evangelise to them, I want to always depend on God, strive to live out my faith and do my best in my workplace. With this, please pray that God will equip me to do what He wants me to do, living out my life and naturally extending the love of God to my Filipino colleagues.  


Gemma

Witnessing to others and discipling them has been a transformative and rewarding experience for me, both at my workplace and within my expatriate community. About three years ago, I made a conscious decision to seek opportunities to share my faith in the workplace, resonating with the call in Matthew 5:16 to let my light shine before others. While studying, I got to know a fellow believer, a Filipino lady taking the same course as me. Our friendship blossomed, and I invited her to celebrate Chinese New Year with us at my home. She expressed a desire to invite her friends, which led to a divine encounter with L.

During our initial meeting, L opened up and shared about her life, concerns and burdens. This prompted me to invite her to join our Bible study and, subsequently, to become part of a disciplemaking community where she could be trained as a disciple of Jesus. It has been a blessing to witness her eagerness to grow in her faith and her willingness to pass on what she has learned to others, fulfilling the call of discipleship in Matthew 28:19-20. Today, L is flourishing in her discipleship journey and is actively reaching out to others with the love and truth of Christ.


“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

— Matthew 28:19-20



Reflecting on this journey, John 12:24 resonates with me, reminding me that to bear fruit and produce many seeds, I must be willing to step out of my comfort zone and let go of my desires. Engaging in one-to-one discipleship sessions with L has been a source of mutual growth and encouragement, reinforcing the importance of investing in others and sharing the transforming power of God's love.


“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

— John 12:24



Gemma (right) having a one-on-one session with L (left)


Another fulfilling experience with the community was our Amazing Race event, “Agape G-race” at Bishan Park on National Day last year, where Robert delivered a stirring message. Drawing from 2 Timothy 4:7, it set a powerful tone of perseverance and faith. His words reminded us of the battles we face and the importance of remaining committed and faithful in our journey as followers of Jesus. He emphasised our shared mission as disciples, focusing on mentoring the next generation. Through this event, we invited Daphne's Chinese colleague, a fellow believer, to join us for the first time.

As the event unfolded, participants came together in a collaborative spirit, completing tasks and advancing as a team. Meaningful discussions followed, enriching our bond, and the event capped off with a delightful lunch, solidifying it as a memorable moment of fellowship and growth. Since then, Daphne’s colleague has engaged with the community, having joined us for our recent retreat. We are praying that he will grow in his desire for Bible study.



“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

— 2 Timothy 4:7




The community welcoming Daphne’s colleague (third from the right)
and enjoying their time during the “Agape G-race” in 2023







About Vincent

Born in Mindanao, Philippines, Vincent came to Singapore to take up a job opportunity. Presently, he is in the 20s30s Disciplemaking Community ministry and works as an engineer in the railway industry where he seeks to extend God’s love to his fellow colleagues.








About Gemma


Born in Batangas, Philippines, Gemma came to Singapore for better work opportunities. It was in Singapore that she received a calling from God to reach out and serve Him here (Matthew 4:19). She is currently in the 20s30s Disciplemaking Community ministry and is working as a Quantity Surveyor.







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