My journey with God serving in WEC
My 20-year journey with WEC can be likened to a roller coaster ride – it was unpredictable but exhilarating. Let’s go!
First, the queue…
When WEC caught my attention, I was serving as a youth pastor in my church. God had called me to serve Him cross-culturally when I was 18; by then, I was 33. The following year, I took leave from church to visit a WEC project in Cambodia for ten days. A couple of months after my return, I woke up in the middle of the night for no reason. Then God gave me His “PowerPoint presentation”, which ended with a question: “Where do you want to serve?” I knew without a doubt that it was time for me to leave my parents and my church youth, and start a new life ministering to people in Cambodia. The leadership of my church and WEC Singapore met up and agreed to send me off to Cambodia by July 2003.
Fasten your seat belt, pull the bar down and hold tight
When I arrived in Cambodia, I had the sense of being home, although in the initial months I missed my youth groups the most; they were my greatest joy and fulfilment until then. Our wise Father showed me this ‘hole’ in my heart, I gladly offered it to Him, and He filled it up with His presence. “It is well” in my soul indeed!
The months of learning a new language were a very humbling experience but rewarding- from baby talk, making mistakes and learning to laugh about it, to finally being able to understand conversations and then share God’s Word with others. It was not my sheer hard work but God’s grace and mercy on the Khmer people that the Lord enabled me to learn to communicate in my first year. I think He did not want me to mutilate this ancient language!
As I started to understand the culture of the people whom I worked and lived with in my neighbourhood, I began to realise why the Lord had held me back from arriving in Cambodia too soon. All of my past 35 years, including the unhappy life experiences, were God’s preparation to minister to the people of this nation. In turn, I learned from many who suffered huge personal loss, extreme poverty, exploitation, betrayal, inequality, lack of access to education and justice, etc. What drew them into the Kingdom of God was the message of hope. God gave them a hope and a future. They were loved and not forgotten. God is the Defender of the defenceless and Father to the fatherless.
Drops, slopes, fast bends and inversions
One of the first things I needed to get adjusted to was unlocking three locks before I could enter the office for my Khmer language lessons every day. Despite locks and high fences in the home I had rented, my guests had their motorbike stolen while visiting. The neighbours were sitting outside their homes, but they did not see anyone take the motorbike. How could I build trust with people whose fabric of trust was destroyed, and for whom betrayal is deemed a virtue?
On another occasion I woke up, and to my horror found my kitchen door broken, the contents of my purse scattered over the floor, but no cash. This happened just a few days before the WEC conference. I am thankful that my teammates were supportive, and the Lord’s peace that passes all understanding kept me secure in Him, even though I was rattled by the violation of my personal space for a few days.
Traffic in a city of two-lane roads, crammed with pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, rickshaws, cars, trucks, and occasionally an elephant, was truly a reminder of how varied people are and how creative our God is. As a foreigner on those roads, I made the mistake of thinking of my right of way instead of complying with the Cambodian way, which caused my first car accident in Phnom Penh. The lesson learned was that God did not bring me to Cambodia to change the traffic laws!
On the move constantly
Prior to living in Cambodia, I had only moved house once, when I was ten years old. Hence, I had no recollection of what it took for the house search, packing, unpacking, cleaning, etc. I only remembered that we moved to a bigger house because I had more siblings and we needed more space.
In Cambodia however, circumstances beyond my control, such as flooding, an unsafe environment, and change of ministry placements prodded me to move from one place to another over the span of 13 years in one city. I learned to be content with little, and decluttering became my pastime! Unfortunately, my internal decluttering was not as effective.
The twists and turns, pushes and shoves of living and serving in Cambodia took their toll on my mental health after my second term. Unbeknownst to me, I was just surviving and functioning from day to day, not thriving in my ministry. Thankfully, the leadership intervened, and adjusted my roles and responsibilities. My friend kindly connected me to his wife, a visiting therapist. We met for a month. During the sessions, God gave me visions that not only showed me the cause but led to my freedom and healing. Her visit was God’s timely gift to me indeed.
In my final term, I travelled regularly to visit my team members in different provinces, spending hours on the bumpy roads, rain or shine. When I offered my body as a living sacrifice on His altar, I belonged to Him. He had the prerogative to send my body to where He wanted me to minister to the people – WEC members, non-WEC members, Khmers and non-Khmers. It was exhausting physically but fulfilling.
I asked the Lord why I find relationships with a group of people who love Him to be so challenging. His gentle reply to me was, “Because I made you like sandpaper.” What? That was not something I expected. Eventually I embraced His answer, and humbly accepted this role. When I am worn out, I go to Him, and He renews me.
Yes! Thank you for “riding” with me as I recapitulated my journey serving God with WEC in Cambodia. I believe that my journey has not ended. I am now being prepared for a new beginning. My new teammate is my husband. We are back in the waiting line for a new track. There are many spaces available on the train. Hope to see you there some day!