I sat in the front seat of a four-wheel-drive that was climbing up a steep slope. The ride brought me to a small village nestled high in the mountains. The village was now a tent city—all the houses had been destroyed during a recent earthquake. I entered one of the tents and was greeted by a group of ladies huddled there. They had not seen a doctor for many months as they preferred to be seen by a female doctor. After the salutatory greetings through my interpreter, I settled down to attend to them.
My first patient was a young woman who stared at me through listless eyes, silent and sad. The other ladies fussed over her and told me that she had not eaten for several days. She had lost her only child, a two-year-old toddler, during the earthquake. As I tended to her, the ground started to shake and move beneath us. We were experiencing an aftershock.
“Aren’t you afraid?” one of the ladies asked.
I smiled and said, “In God I trust.”
That sparked off a wonderful time of conversation with the ladies, as the door opened for faith conversations and for wholistic ministry to their physical and spiritual needs.
Me, a missionary?
God had planted a seed in my heart for missions when I was an undergraduate in the Varsity Christian Fellowship at the National University of Singapore. I was convicted that God has called all of us to obey His Great Commission—to go and make disciples of all nations. For some, it would be as missionaries to whom God has given a clear call to serve full time in the missions field. For the majority, it would mean involvement through praying, giving, as well as going on short term missions trips to bring the gospel of Christ to the nations.
Being involved in short term missions over the decades has taught me several lessons.
Serve with your gifts
God has given all of us with unique gifts that we can use to serve the body of Christ. As we offer these gifts, in short- or longer-term missions, God uses it to bless others.
My medical training opened doors for me to serve in situations where extra skilled manpower was needed, e.g. in situations where the community did not usually have access to medical care, or in crisis situations where there was shortage of medical aid. This helped the local church in the missions field to extend their reach to the communities they were ministering to.
In one of the short-term missions trips that I joined in with TRAC WSCS to Oikos Helping Hands in Manila, Philippines, I saw ladies on the team who brought their talents in manicure/pedicure services to teach these skills to women who were living in poverty. This sparked a microenterprise that brought a measure of hope and sustenance to the ladies there. It helped the missionaries to achieve their goal of finding sustainable solutions to lift families out of poverty.
Even children and youth can serve God with their talents in the missions field. For several years, I led a team of children and youth from my home church to run a Vacation Bible School for students at the Methodist School of Cambodia. The kids from Fairfield Methodist Church used their gifts and talents to befriend the Cambodian children and share their testimonies about God with them. As kids ministered to kids, Cambodian children were ushered into God’s kingdom. The Christian Cambodian youth were impacted by what they saw the Fairfield kids do. They then organised themselves and got their church’s support to send them to bring the gospel of Christ to the remote villages in Cambodia. So the offerings of the children’s talents used in service to God catalysed other youth in the missions field to use their talents to serve God too!
Stretch your faith and perspectives
Meeting missionaries on the field and observing their selfless service and sacrifice to God has inspired me in my own walk and service to God.
On my first missions trip, I met an Australian missionary who was serving in the remote villages amongst the Iban tribe in Sarawak. I kept in touch with him through the years—he has just turned 99 years old this year. It has been a humbling experience to have had the opportunity to serve alongside him in the earlier years as he did the hard work of tilling the ground in outreach to the Ibans and seeing him raise a team of local leaders who could join him in the work of church planting. I have been richly blessed through his role modelling and to observe his long and faithful years of unflinching service to the Lord.
When you serve in the missions field, even on a short term missions trip, you also have a front row view of the miracles of transformed lives, touched by God. I remember visiting an Iban longhouse that, I was told, was the last longhouse in the area that still had not come to Christ. This was because of an influential witch doctor that lived in this longhouse. That night, our missions team of university students shared our testimonies as well as the gospel to the villagers who had gathered to hear us. To our immense surprise and delight, the witchdoctor gave his life to Christ that night! The next morning, the whole longhouse held a ceremony as they burnt all their idols and images of the gods they had previously worshipped. We went away rejoicing, knowing that we left behind a whole village transformed for Christ!
Seed the Gospel
Jesus left the glory of heaven to come to earth for our salvation. And He has left us a clear command in Matt 28:19–20: “Therefore go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
We will be obeying Christ’s command and following in His footsteps as we bring the gospel cross culturally to the nations. It may be difficult now to travel to other nations as we continue to grapple with living with the COVID-19 pandemic. But opportunities abound, such as being involved in praying and giving to the missionaries our churches are supporting as well as the work of the Methodist Missions Society. The nations are also at our doorstep, with foreigners who live amongst us, who are here for their work or their studies.
Count Zinzendorf once said, “Missions after all is simply this: Every heart with Christ is a missionary, every heart without Christ is a mission field.”
Let’s join in work in the missions field, near and far. The fields are white for harvest!
Dr Cheah Fung Fong is the Vice President of the Trinity Annual Conference. She worships at Fairfield MC, where she is also serving as Associate Lay Leader. / Photos courtesy of Dr Cheah Fung Fong