During a 45-minute bumpy ride back from to the capital one night, a huge van overtook us – I couldn’t believe my eyes. The signwriting on the back of the van read ‘Noah’! Intrigued, I began to read and look at Noah’s life more closely that night. A few observations stood out to me:

  • God gave detailed instructions, there was both a preparation and a waiting period
  • Noah did everything just as God commanded him
  • It was amazing how God provided all the cypress wood needed to build that floating zoo!
  • God surrounded Noah with like-minded builders eg. Shem, Ham and Japheth

I was in the last leg of my 24-day short-term placement in the Land of the Blue Sky, back in 2019. These lessons from Noah were like a heads up display in my journey of preparation ahead.

 

Exploring the Land

Preparing for the initial trip was a journey in itself; learning to trust God for his timing, leading, provision and the health of my loved ones. Each step forward was an assurance of his faithfulness.

Whilst on the field, I had the opportunity to teach a local lady English lessons, spend time at a kindergarten with children whose mothers were rescued from at-risk situations, join youth groups and meet local believers. It was a privilege to visit the local universities and sit in lectures. At a community level, I learnt to share about healthy eating in a culturally meaningful and respectful manner. Hearing of the struggles of the poor to keep warm during winter was eye-opening for me. Being able to watch, listen and discover more about the local language, history and culture were really interesting and enriching.

Taking a drive out of the city, I was greeted by vast and open plains, gently rolling hills and beautiful steppes. I was astounded by the beauty of God’s creation as I gazed forward and upwards. The abundant pasture, the flocks of sheep and cattle were grazing in reminded me of Psalm 23.

 

Tuning In to Listen

Beyond the physical needs and captivating landscapes, I saw there were great opportunities to share the peace and freedom that comes from Christ. I continued to ask the Lord to help me tune in to him, that I would hear him speak if he was calling me to return to serve long-term.

The Lord brought me to Romans 8:31-32 (MSG) – “…with God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us … is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? That verse struck many chords – God didn’t hold back, how was I going to respond? The crescendo was in verses 38 and 39, declaring that nothing will ever separate me from His love. The Lord was first reminding me of who HE was.

Then came lessons from the life of Noah. God challenged him to do something out of the ordinary. A few more instances and I knew God was challenging me to follow and obey him to serve cross-culturally longer term. I didn’t have all the details figured out, and I still don’t but that was the beginning of learning to surrender my own hopes, dreams and ambitions to God. I have only one life to live – will I allow him to chart my course?

 

The Preparation Begins

On returning home, I found myself on a windy road of excitement, encouragement mixed with anxiety, fear and doubts. Through it all in August 2020, God miraculously provided me with the opportunity and full sponsorship to start Bible school. I truly treasure this two-year period of preparation and equipping as he continues to renew my mind, challenge and correct my perspectives, mould my heart, shape my convictions and help me build a healthy rhythm. I no longer view writing my gruelling essay assignments as simply a mental exercise, but rather as opportunities for spiritual formation and growth. The Holy Spirit continues to teach me more about God and about myself through this process, whether during lectures, pre-class reading, small group discussions or essay writing.

I’m immensely grateful for the community of like-minded people he has surrounded me with – my family, leaders, church, friends and prayer supporters. I sometimes feel blind to my future and how returning to serve overseas will actually pan out. But I remain assured that my God sees the future. He will prepare me and hold my hand. I stand on the shoulders of those who have gone ahead and echo the psalmist in praying, ‘Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.’ (Psalm 143:10).

– Riley*
Serve Asia Worker

*Not her real name

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