2020 has been a year of the unexpected. At the beginning of the year, many of us may have made a lot of plans and looked forward to entering a new decade. But many of our plans were dashed. We grappled with many questions: Was it going to be only for a few months? When would things get better and life get back to normal again? Now, the end of 2020 is fast approaching. What is happening here?
“Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.” (Isa 43:18–19)
At the end of 2019, as I was doing my personal devotion, God showed me these verses. At that point, I did not fully understand what it was about. I thought that perhaps it involved new projects we were about to embark on, new involvement with the Methodist Church in Cambodia, or new development plans for the Methodist School of Cambodia. I felt a sense of excitement and anticipation.
In March 2020, when the COVID-19 situation began to unfold, many of the ministries here in Cambodia had to be approached in whole new way. Previously, many of the ministries depended heavily on foreigners for leadership and, to a certain extent, funding. The pandemic meant that the local leadership had to take the lead as many missionaries had to return to their home countries.
I was privileged to witness first-hand how the local leadership stepped up and navigated the challenging time. They also undertook responsibility to organise the distribution of relief packages to families affected by the economic fallout of the coronavirus. This created opportunities to show the love of God in action and has caused the community to ask, “Why are they doing this to help us?”
Another area I witnessed was the sharing of God’s Word where we had thought impossible to penetrate—families with elderly members. In the past, the Word could be heard only in the churches or in seminars and training sessions. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Gospel was heard in the homes through online services which the local church leadership quickly adapted to. The online preaching of the Gospel aroused curiosity amongst the community and created opportunities to share personal stories with non-believing relatives.
I have seen Isaiah 43:18–19 coming to pass. God’s promises will never fail. He will make a way even where we may see it as impossible, in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
With this pandemic, I have begun to ask myself, “As a missionary, what then is my role?” After more than eight years in the field with my family, I am seeing that God does not really need us for the spread of the Gospel. It has caused me to re-think my posture toward missions.
The insight I have gained this year is “to be where God wants me to be”—to be used by Him as an instrument to encourage the people I work with. It is not to show that I am superior or more knowledgeable, but rather to share the “burdens” of the Gospel with the people in the field and to walk alongside to cheer them on. It is truly humbling for me as I partner the pastors, church leaders, and even with the youth and children, and see that there is so much to learn from them.
2020 has been a year when God in His sovereignty showed me that “for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa 55:9). It has been a year of just walking the path which God has crafted for me. And this is the reason for the season.
Benjamin Lee is a Missionary (Country Director) with MMS based in Cambodia together with his wife and children. They worship at Trinity Methodist Church in Singapore.