Learning Discipleship through a 3-month Missionary Odyssey
What are some of the experiences and lessons you have gained from this 3-month mission trip to South Asia?
This mission trip has taught me numerous invaluable lessons, of which I would like to share four significant blessings.
Firstly, I was deeply moved by the evidence of God's love for each individual.
In contrast to the situation in Singapore, there were fewer believers in the ministry, which prompted me to develop a greater appreciation for the inherent value of each person.
The pioneering work began in 2019 with only the missionary couple and their children. Through their unwavering dedication and hard work, God has significantly expanded their ministry to what it is today.
Upon reflection on why they chose to dedicate their lives to the locals, I came to understand that it was solely because they had personally experienced God’s love — a divine, unconditional love that compels one to love others.
“Since you are precious and honoured in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life.”
– Isaiah 43:4
Remarkably, I observed the same selfless love for others being reflected in the lives of the labourers. One labourer even chose to stay with her disciple for two weeks at her home to assist in her exam preparations. This disciple had many internal struggles which had been affecting her academic performance. Nevertheless, this labourer went above and beyond what was expected of her, dedicating her precious time to help her disciple.
When I inquired about her reasons for extending such help to her disciple, she explained that it was simply because she loved her disciple as her own sister. Having experienced God’s love, she felt motivated to follow the example of Jesus, by extending unconditional love to others.
“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live
for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”
— 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
Secondly, I have also learnt to recognise the value and importance of apartment training.
In addition to practising our spiritual disciplines, such as prayer and Bible Study, apartment training equips us with life skills that are equally essential. As Jesus’ disciples, we are called to be good stewards in managing all aspects of our lives, including our finances and the maintenance of our homes.
Apartment training has helped me to cultivate a broader vision. Having a vision gives us purpose — the purpose for which we were created. God has a great plan for our lives, and His vision for us is to reach the world for Him.
In September, our apartment’s objective was to carry out “one-to-one follow-up” with the aim of instilling the “One Man Vision” and “World Vision” in us. It is essential for us to have a vision so that we do not lose sight of our goal.
Apartment life may, at times, follow a repetitive and predictable routine as we engage in the same activities everyday — starting with Quiet Time with God in the morning, followed by Bible Reading, Scripture Memory, Prayer, and breakfast. We then go about our day and have dinner fellowship together upon our return. These activities are accompanied by the upkeep of the apartment.
At one point, I found it puzzling how these seemingly insignificant things could contribute to my mission of reaching the world for Christ.
But God brought my attention to His promise in Luke 16:10, which reads,
“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.”
While God has called us for greatness, great things do not happen overnight. It is through our daily obedience and surrender to God that He can accomplish great things through us.
Suddenly, the predictable and seemingly mundane routine of apartment life seemed to have taken on new meaning for me because of the great promises of God.
“To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end,
I will give authority over the nations.”
– Revelation 2:26
One of the more challenging aspects of apartment training was character building. I learnt the hard way that the process of developing Christlike character requires much testing and refinement. Living with the other sisters had revealed not only my weaknesses to them, but also to myself – my self-centredness, pride, and need for control.
On one occasion, I found myself upset with a sister for not properly capping the oil bottle, leading to an invasion of ants, which rendered the oil unusable (oil is very expensive there).
In hindsight, I regretted showing my frustration to that sister. She was young and inexperienced in cooking, and I failed to empathise with her and extend grace. It was uncomfortable to have my shortcomings revealed, but I came to realise that acknowledging them was the initial step towards becoming more like Jesus.
I am grateful for the fellowship that we shared because it is through our interactions with others that our true selves are revealed, providing opportunities for growth and transformation.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
– Proverbs 27:17
My third takeaway was about the “One Man Vision”.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising 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
The ministry leader shared from Matthew 28:19-20, emphasising that Jesus called us not only to be His disciples, but also to be disciplemakers who would equip others to do the same.
In the past, I was solely focused on being a disciple and had never considered how much Jesus desired for my disciples to be disciplemakers as well. It was difficult for me to envision how they could fulfil this role; my vision was grossly limited.
To illustrate her point, the ministry leader shared an insightful analogy from Matthew 13:31-32,
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
Do we consider our disciples to be small mustard seeds with seemingly limited vitality, or do we envision the grandest tree in the garden when we look at their lives?
Upon my initial arrival, I learnt that the apartment housed only a handful of sisters. When a fellow Singaporean sister visited last year, she encountered a larger fellowship of sisters. Therefore, I had hoped to meet more people.
However, the ministry leader repeatedly reminded me about the preciousness and potential of each individual. Ministry is not about having many people, but understanding and investing in at least one faithful person.
Communal living with the ladies in the apartment
Through my time with the sisters, I began to see that, though they are few, each one has the potential to reach the world for Christ.
“Look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth. When I called him he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many.”
– Isaiah 51:2
My final lesson revolves around our endurance in suffering for Christ.
The ministry leader emphasised the importance of practising thanksgiving amid our struggles. She drew a parallel from her daughter's English learning experience, where the teacher would often stress the importance of placing a full stop at the end of every sentence to complete it.
In a similar vein, thanksgiving serves as the "full stop" of every "sentence" of hardship or suffering. Our struggles would lack meaning if we fail to acknowledge and give thanks to God for the challenges we encounter in our lives.
I thank God for the difficulties and struggles I faced during the trip. There was a particular incident where a fellow labourer and I encountered security issues while sharing the gospel on campus, leading to lingering fears and concerns afterward.
Knowing our concerns, one of the ministry leaders offered us encouragement through 2 Timothy 2:9:
"For which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained."
Through fervent prayer and empowerment from God’s Word, we returned to the campus the following week. We managed to share the gospel with a girl who was receptive and listened attentively to us, and we exchanged contacts.
As I walked around the campus, I was suddenly reminded of Acts 18:9-10, which recorded that Paul had also encountered many troubles because of the gospel –
“One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”
While reflecting on the entire incident, Acts 5:41 flashed in my mind –
“The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”
Having experienced God’s Word and power in such a tangible way, I was able to revisit this challenging incident with a joyful heart and a spirit of thanksgiving.
It is my prayer that through the labourers’ daily obedience and training in God's Word, they may mature into authentic disciples of Christ. May they become faithful labourers for the harvest field, deeply rooted and firmly established in Him.
I pray that we too, here in Singapore, can have the same vision for our lives and ministry as we continue to live in obedience to God’s Word each day.
Ruth spent three months with the Navigators in South Asia from July to September 2023. During the trip, she learnt about the missions in South Asia, and the experiences she gained have helped her grow in discipleship and in sharing God’s heart for the nations.
Ruth was a medical student from the National University of Singapore (NUS), and is currently a practising doctor by profession.