Having a heart for missions, Jack serves as a volunteer with Wycliffe Malaysia. In 2016, while searching for a new direction in his life, Jack took a step of faith and initiated a short-term mission to Long San, Baram, Sarawak together with Eunice Tan, a member of Wycliffe Malaysia. Jack had a most enriching experience in this mission trip.
That day when evening came, He said to His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” (Mark 4:35)
Each new year brings about a fresh season of hope, perspective and growth. My mission to “cross to the other side” started sometime in September 2015 when I felt challenged to leave my job in the professional services industry. Looking back, God has been the key enabler in me to excel and demonstrate a spirit of excellence at work despite the challenging environment. He has blessed me with a rare opportunity to work in an overseas project as well as a secondment at the consulting arm of that organisation.
I have always had the desire to start an online business and go on short-term mission trips, but these were not possible due to my highly demanding job.
After an illustrious working life, I finally left my job after 4 years of service in February 2016. I felt that the time was right to step into the unknown and pass on the wheel to the rightful captain, Jesus. I spent the next two months building presentation slides and meeting people to share my vision, hoping to get them to join me in the online business. Along the way, I faced opposition and thought perhaps I should shelf this idea temporarily and spend some time to prepare for a mission trip in April 2016.
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:10)
Upon returning from the trip, I started to get my priorities in order and worked towards organising a mission trip to Sarawak. My first point of contact was Kok Lian whom I knew back in my university days in Sydney, Australia. He was posted to SMK Temenggong Datuk Lawai Jau, Long San, Baram as an English teacher upon graduation. The idea of having a motivational camp came to mind when I learned that most of the students lack exposure and drive to prepare for their major examinations.
I have not had any prior experience in organising a motivational camp and I asked God for help. One Saturday afternoon, I attended a Toastmasters meeting and one of the speakers spoke about the ‘3Ss to Success’, namely Spot, Surround and Strive. That became my source of inspiration but I had to tweak the content so that the students can relate better. I also felt led to include some biblical principles and values to the content. During one of my devotional times with God, I read about the Parable of the Mustard Seed and a lightbulb moment came about. The seed instantly became the main analogy which links seamlessly with the overall motivational camp content.
I am deeply grateful for friends who recorded videos of their own personal journey in their respective careers to inspire the students even though they were not able to join me on the trip physically. Thus, the segment of “bringing the marketplace into your world” was realised through sharing stories from 14 individuals across professions living in different parts of the world. This goes to show that anyone can make an impact, even virtually! Each life story is uniquely woven by God and worthy to be shared, bringing hope to others.
A week before departure, I was told by my friend, Wei Jin that a Wycliffe missionary is currently on furlough and looking to join me in Long San. Eunice Tan has a wealth of experience in linguistics and inspiring stories from the mission field. I met Eunice for the first time and subsequently sent her my flight itinerary. The next thing I knew, she had already booked her flight tickets and was ready to go! At that point, I was just amazed at how fast things were moving.
We finally arrived at Long San on Friday morning. It was what I had imagined it to be. Clear blue skies, lush greenery with lots of mountains and not forgetting the sweltering heat. The motivational camp started on Friday night and ended on Sunday evening. Each day carried a lesson theme which was represented by the “3Ss” – Spot (Day 1), Surround (Day 2), and Strive (Day 3). The motivational camp content was delivered mainly in Bahasa Malaysia and it was a great chance to brush up on my Malay language proficiency.
The camp participants numbered about a hundred and they were all in their final year at school. The camp was designed in such a way that the participants can engage and interact with one another as well as with the facilitators. Some of the highlights include public speaking, ice-breakers, skits, brain teasers and inspirational videos. Eunice even managed to share her testimony and the importance of preserving the mother tongue, especially so in the context of Sarawak with its demography.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24)
After the camp, Eunice and I had the opportunity to venture out of the school and be in touch with the local community. The Long San village is rather small with some basic amenities like provision shops, a community centre, a pre-school, a primary school and 2 churches to cater for the needs of the locals. We got to know Pastor Chris and his wife, Sarah who are leaders of the SIB Lembah Pujian congregation. Pastor Chris is blessed with amazing carpentry skills of which I had the privilege of helping him to build a wooden pulpit from scratch. Not only that, he hunts for wild boar and roasts them to perfection!
Our quest to make an impact in young lives was not limited to SMK Temenggong Datuk Lawai Jau. We managed to gain access into SK St Pius – a primary school across the Baram River through Fiona (Kok Lian’s sister) who is also a teacher. Fiona was extremely gracious for allowing Eunice and I to teach during one of her lesson periods. Eunice’s teaching method – storytelling in the students’ own words raised interest and curiosity among the pupils of the Primary 5 class. Besides that, Eunice and I also conducted a reading session in KEMAS – a pre-school located next to SIB Lembah Pujian. What a joy to observe the little ones as they gave us their full attention.
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
A few weeks after completing the project at Long San, I received a long-awaited email notifying me on the unfavourable outcome from the work visa balloting exercise. I was devastated. I had been carrying this dream for 18 months and it died. There is a saying that “when one dream dies, dream another dream”. At the time of writing, I am still thinking of what this other dream will be. Nevertheless, God has been faithful in providing for all my needs despite not having a job for close to a year. By His grace and provision, I went on another mission trip to Sri Lanka and traveled locally in Malaysia.
During times of trial, He brought people who were also at a crossroad to journey with me. One brother has been a great encouragement to me and he is Wei Jin whom I first got to know in Overseas Christian Fellowship back in Australia. We would regularly check in on each other, pray alongside and celebrate small wins. One thing I have learned in this season is to be outward looking instead of being stuck in a rut and wallow in negativity. I had the opportunity to spend quality time with family and friends as well as meet like-minded individuals. God desires communion with us and He sometimes puts us through hard times to quieten our busy lives to get our attention and to hear His voice.
2016 certainly did not end in the way I imagined. But I have come to realise that I did gain a lot more than the dream which I have written off as a loss. After all, Jesus did challenge His disciples in this manner – “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” It is by His mercy and grace to help me pursue the things that matter to God (volunteering and getting connected with Christian organisations) and be less concerned about material things. It is a season of discovery for me to start reading again, pick up new skills (coffee making) and learn 한국어 (Korean). You may be at a crossroad right now and thinking about your next step. Perhaps you can,
Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.
As you do so, remember to approach His throne of grace and seek Him first in all that you do.