Greetings from Durham, a lovely and quaint city tucked in the northeast part of England where I’m currently on a year-long exchange programme at Durham University. Back in Singapore, I’m an undergraduate majoring in English Literature at the National University of Singapore, but I’ve chosen to spend my third year of university abroad.
Although living and studying English Literature in the UK has been a lifelong dream, my experience as an overseas student has had its fair share of challenges. Possibly the most significant cross-cultural challenge I’ve faced thus far is the dominant drinking culture. Although I was raised in a liberal westernized manner, my parents still inculcated traditional Asian values in me and hence, I couldn’t reconcile what I perceived to be binge drinking as a way of socialising among my friends in the UK. However, God has blessed me with a dear British sister-in-Christ who showed me the possibility of being a powerful witness despite enjoying a good drink. Hannah was able to hold her liquor well and knew her alcohol tolerance so she was never drunk nor did anything questionable in a drunken stupor. Instead, she was sober enough to bring her drunken friends home and took it upon herself to clear their mess. As such, God has been working among Hannah’s floor-mates and they have seen how a truly born-again Christian can socialize with alcohol yet within limits. In fact, one of her floor-mates who was notorious for his philandering ways has begun attending Bible study and church service with her.
As for me, I’ve realised that perhaps my ministry lies in cafes instead of nightclubs. Although my alcohol tolerance is low, I love engaging in a good conversation over a nice pot of tea, and sometimes scones. However as a student of Literature, the only companion I often find myself engaging with over tea is quite predictably, a novel. Nonetheless, God knows my personality and brings friends who share similar interests into my life, and with whom I’ve had countless meaningful conversations about life and love through the eyes of my faith. These have been invaluable opportunities to share about how God has been working in my life and providing ever so faithfully for my emotional and spiritual needs despite being in a foreign land away from family and friends. Yearning for a fulfilling exchange experience, I’ve also chosen to be connected with a Bible study group at Christ Church Durham consisting of local British girls my age instead of confining myself within the comfort zone of fellow Asians. By divine provision, my Bible study group leader lives in the same college and we meet every fortnight apart from the weekly Bible study sessions to study Colossians and pray.
Honestly, I must admit that being overseas certainly makes it tempting and convenient to forget the burden or dilute the passion for missions that God has placed in my heart. But I’m thankful for my friendship with Margaret, a middle-aged doctor who lives in the next town and who has been involved with WEC UK’s work in Africa. I’ve been greatly blessed by Margaret’s kind hospitality through hosting and taking trips to the countryside. Regular contact with Margaret keeps me updated of the latest WEC events so we’ve attended the Yorkshire WEC Fellowship Day held at WEC UK’s Northeast headquarters at Leeds together twice. I’ve also had the opportunity to help out at the WEC booth when the Durham University Combined Christian Fellowship organised a missions event at which various mission agencies came to talk to the students about opportunities that exist for them to engage in missions. Sharing with peers about my mission trip experiences with WEC’s work in Thailand and praying for missionaries around the world at the Fellowship Day have helped me to reconnect with my passion and interest in partaking WEC’s ministry. It always awes me to know that only God in His omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience is able to take such good care of His children in their personal lives and who is also at work in spreading the gospel of grace around the world.
(** Since then, we have also connected other overseas or exchange students like Kezia to Sheffield-UK, Joy to Holland, Arielle to Hong Kong, Joshua to Canada, Gloria to Scotland & Rachel to South Korea.)