Learning is not confined to a classroom. The students of Faith Community Bible School's (FCBS) 2014 intake experienced the reality of this commonly heard statement when they were treated to an experiential learning trip in Batam in July 2014. Through the short three-day mission exposure trip, they took home uncountable enriching insights and blessings that they wanted to share with the rest of the FCBC family.
The highlight for me was being able to experience something different with the new friends I made in FCBS. We were only briefly told of what we were going to do in Batam. I had little expectations because it was merely a three-day trip and it was not my first time visiting a village and orphanage in a developing country. However, the trip, though short, was nothing short of enriching. I got to understand that being a missionary is not just about serving and living apart from our family and friends, but rather, we should live frugally and exercise empathy.
The sharing session we had at the end of the trip was most impactful for me. Listening to my friends share their reflections and experiences encouraged me to think deeper. Their passion and compassion for children and the next generation inspired me to reflect on where God has placed me, as well as who He has placed in my life that I should plough into.
Overall this trip was a good break from the fast pace of life in Singapore. I was able to pause and remember that there are many others in the world that are not as privileged as myself. They need Jesus, His comfort and blessings, as much as I do.
During this trip, I learned so much from Pastor James as he shared on culture. He said culture is something that is universal as every one of us is part of a community. What's most important is how we make ourselves relevant to influence a culture, be it the culture of a cell group or a village, towards Godly values.
At the village we were assigned to in Batam, I was exhausted by the heat and poor living conditions. I couldn't comprehend how people could live in such conditions. I always knew that there were people in this world living in less than ideal conditions, but it did not impact me as I was living in a first-world Singapore, where I had a home, bed and air-conditioning. This experience in the village made me interested to know more about their lives, though I did not pity them. After all, what we have on earth is temporary, and it is more important that we work towards our eternal destiny with God. I would be doing them great injustice if I considered their living conditions as a lack, as much as the world would paint it to be, for as long as they had Jesus in their lives and lived their lives according to God's plan, they were fulfilling their destiny in Christ.
We also visited a church and listened to the story of the church's founding pastor. Over the years, he has been faithfully maintaining the church and meeting the needs of its people. The simplicity of the place touched me. All they had was an old drum set and a worn out pulpit, yet it was complete because what mattered was the people who gathered to worship God.
We visited the orphanage thereafter and held a short programme for the children. We played games and sang songs. I noticed some older kids hanging around apart from the main group at a nearby staircase. We never expected such a wide age range of children and it seemed the programme was not tailored to some of them. In spite of that, they tried to take part and have fun. Though they probably did not understand what we were saying, I trust that we have established communication in the spirit, and believe they will remember this event.
Now, it has been a month since the mission trip and I can testify that it definitely left a mark on me as I strive to make a difference in the community I am placed in daily.
The mission exposure trip to Batam was a refreshing, enjoyable and eye-opening experience for me. There were many lessons I learnt and I also felt God speak and reveal truths to me over the three days.
Our visit to the village was similar to that of a school trip to Cambodia. I was reminded of the harsh conditions these people had to live in, yet amidst their struggles and hardship, I saw the children enjoying their day to day lives.
I looked forward to the orphanage visit as I served in GKidz. In fact, I chose the trip to Batam instead of China as I was told by FCBS alumni that they had a chance to work with children at an orphanage. I have always enjoyed working with children but I knew the language barrier would certainly be a challenge. I struggled to connect with the children because I could not speak their language. I recall my encounter with a boy wearing a football jersey. I approached him, pointed to his shirt and asked, "Football?" He smiled and nodded. "World Cup?" I asked, and he nodded again, his smile widening. "Ronaldo?" I asked with a thumbs up, and before I knew it, a group of boys surrounded me shouting "Ronaldo! Ronaldo!" with excitement, and with their thumbs up. I went on naming football players and they would respond with either a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Through this short but memorable encounter, I felt I established a connection with them.
We taught the children Christian songs as we did in GKidz, we also taught them songs in Bahasa Indonesia. We played games, prayed for them and had a lot of fun. I will never forget the moment the children sang in one voice, "Kasih Yesus indah indah oh indah". Their sincerity really touched me. These children who have been rejected, abandoned by their parents, or without a family, are hurt, discouraged and lonely, yet they still sang about the beauty of Jesus' love. I thoughts these orphans had nothing, but they showed me that they have everything, because Jesus is their everything.
The beauty of Jesus' love is that He loves every one of us, whether we have two parents, one parent or none. He loved us so much that He died on the cross for every one of us. We are all God's children, and He loves us all the same. That was the truth God revealed to me that I took away from the trip. I will always hold that moment close to my heart: because God loves me so much, I can mirror God's love to those around me.
This was the first time I went on a mission trip. I did not have much expectations before I went, but I was amazed by how God revealed His love when we interacted with the children from the villages. I was also blessed when a local pastor shared his testimony of how he obeyed God's voice and overcame the odds to build a small church in an unfamiliar village.
To me, the highlight of this trip was our impromptu performance for the children in the middle of their village. It started spontaneously when we asked the kids to follow us to an open area where we performed our song and dance item. At that moment when we threw out self-consciousness and dedicated ourselves to the performance, it was clear to me how much we wanted to tell the children that they were loved by God. That moment was precious and it led me thinking that if I could be this passionate about the Gospel in a foreign land, how much more zealous should I be in my home country. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is indeed Good News. It is my prayer that I will continue to catch the passion of sharing the Gospel in a child-like manner to everyone I meet.
The first place we visited on this trip was a church set up by Pastor Philip, who responded to God's call years ago. I was humbled when I saw the simple furnishings and equipment within the church, and even more humbled after Pastor Philip's sharing on his chuch-building journey. He faced several difficulties, but overcame them by fixing his eyes on Jesus. Through this experience, he became even more determined to establish God's will in the village, and even applied the G12 system in his church. Since its inception, the church has successfully established three cell groups.
After praying for Pastor Philip, the team split into small groups to conduct a prayer walk around the village. My group was privileged to be led by Pastor James, who was an experienced missionary in Batam. He taught us many precious lessons, like how the locals used recycled tyres to prevent soil erosion. On our way back, crowds of children followed us and we had an impromptu performance, where we sang songs in Bahasa Indonesia to the children.
We also visited an orphanage, where I met a child named Marilyn. I was drawn to her and wanted to comfort and be close to her, yet she remained reserved and kept to herself. I was finally able to pray for her after hearing her testimony. Although she probably did not understand much I what I said due to the language barrier, she cried and I knew she felt the touch of the Father.
Later that night, Pastor James told us that Marilyn was one of the children who got beaten by the 'orphanage mother' as she was upset with her husband who spent most of their money on the children in the orphanage when they were barely surviving on minimal resources. Upon hearing this, I thanked God for placing this orphanage under the care of the right person.
At the end of the trip, the team had a sharing session to talk about our experience visiting the village. Pastor Catherine shared what she'd heard from a lady, who told her that she grew up in a village where missionaries often came to offer help – usually in monetary form. As a result, the children in her hometown grew up asking for money without feeling ashamed, and indirectly brought up a culture of materialism.
Another incident that was shared took place during a visit to Chiang Mai. The missionary team was told by the village chief not to teach his villagers English. As if they were taught, they might get cocky and venture into town, where with their limited knowledge, they would end up as either prostitutes or labourers.
From these sharings, I learnt to perceive from a new point of view, and understood the poverty cycle that the poor goes through and their ongoing strive to survive.
Like many other members of my team, this was my first mission trip. Through this trip, I experienced the many faces of mission evangelism that include visiting an orphanage, and sharing about Jesus as well as our personal testimonies. I also learned that there are many people in this world who have never heard of Christ. They live their lives based on their own beliefs and understanding. It is our calling to open their eyes to God's love.
Pastor James taught us that there are many things we can do to bring change to their lives if we surrender ourselves to be an instrument of God that facilitates their growth and understanding of Christianity. Even the basics like our words, actions and lending a helping hand makes a difference.