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I Never Saw It Coming

I never imagined that I would one day be thinking of heading out on a short term mission trip for close to six weeks in a foreign country on my own. I have been a Christian for some time, but…. Serving overseas? Really? Now…? Me??

I thought mission trips were for more spiritually mature, extroverted and older Christians. Given my naturally more introverted and reserved personality, I never saw it coming that I would be applying for a Serve Asia trip.

It was only when my best friend from university had decided she was going on a mission trip that I started to consider if this was a good idea for me too. I started researching more and praying about it. It was important to me that I was doing this out of the right desire for God and not simply because other friends were doing so. After some deliberation, I felt that God had indeed placed in my heart an eagerness to step out of my comfort zone and to just go for it. I wanted to observe missionary work first-hand, to serve others overseas, and to simply learn and grow closer to God!

Then, COVID-19 came. I never saw this coming. I didn’t expect the severity, the global spread, and the extent to which it disrupts lives. I was disappointed (perhaps, also frustrated and angry) that all my plans for the Serve Asia trip in the summer and the school term ahead had, in just a few days, been reduced to nothing. In particular, it was difficult for me to reconcile why God would allow this trip I had thought through, prayed about, consulted others and decided upon to simply fall through so soon! I thought the trip was the best plan for me and one that God was pleased with too. Job 17:11 says, “My days have passed, my plans are shattered.” I felt this encapsulated how I saw the whole situation.

A few weeks have passed since then, and I have been richly blessed by the support and encouragement from friends, family and church. I never saw it coming how, despite all the pain, fear and suffering this pandemic has inflicted on the world, it could actually also present opportunities. It could provide an impetus for us to really think about the hope we have in Jesus and how to love one another in new, intentional and practical ways! For example, I have been very encouraged by many of my brothers and sisters in Christ who have started blogging again to share their reflections on this situation.

Here is one reflection, which I have rephrased and summarized, as it really spoke to me from this time:

It was a reflection about Paul’s letter to the Philippians while he was in prison. I was struck by how he continued placing his hope in Christ and still made plans despite not having much control over the situation.

Philippians 2:19, 23-24 says, “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you… I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon”.

Here, Paul gives us a timely reminder that even when facing uncertain circumstances and disrupted plans, we can still remain invested in hope, in the Lord Jesus. Paul does not entirely give up on making plans or try to empty himself of any desires and hopes. Instead, he holds onto plans loosely and doesn’t seem to mind where things go because his hope is anchored on Jesus’ reliability and goodness.

Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails”. Many of my plans have been disrupted. But what really matters are not my plans, however well-made or well-intentioned, but God’s plan and purpose! It challenged me to appreciate that even though plans like my Serve Asia trip have been disrupted, I can have faith that God has a better purpose that will never be thwarted and is being worked out right now. This has been both humbling and encouraging, for we can put our hope in him and simply pray that we will be in line with his greater and better plan.

For me, I was meant to go on the trip in July. Clearly, it won’t be happening now. But I will continue keeping it in my diary, praying and being anchored in the rock-solid hope that one day all this will come to pass. Perhaps I will be able to go again in the future after graduating from university. Or even if that doesn’t happen, I pray I will be content with that. Because while I never saw all these things coming, God did – and in that, I have reason to trust, and hope, and believe.

Serve Asia Worker

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