Being immersed in the culture and lives of the locals is a defining aspect of being a missionary to an overseas community. With the onset of Covid-19, many Cru missionaries meant to be based overseas found themselves either called back to or grounded in Singapore, uncertain when they would be able to go to their mission field.
We hear some experiences from the missionaries who found themselves unexpectedly stationed in Singapore and how they continue to reach out in their ministries amid uncertainty.
Loh Weng Kong and Jaine Chung, missionaries to Japan
No disruption to the Lord’s plan
Coming back from Japan where they have lived and served in for 25 years, Weng Kong and Jaine returned to Singapore in March this year and have stayed the longest they have lived here since 1994.
Weng Kong shared, “At first, it was frustrating not being able to return to Japan. However, I’m thankful we can still meet regularly online with our teams in Japan and USA. We were able to get more things done and set more goals for our projects. Amazingly, I was able to complete the evangelistic manga I was working on—both in Japanese and English.”
Adding on, Jaine said, “While Covid-19 may have disrupted our plans and schedules in many ways, there is no disruption to the Lord’s plan. I am reminded of Proverbs 19:21 that men have their plans but only the Lord’s purpose prevails. Romans 8:28 sums it up so well for me—that He causes all things, even this pandemic, to work together for good. Although it’s not been ideal, He has given us much needed and precious time with family through this season. He has weaved in every detail that has happened in the past months and made it beautiful in His timing.”
Jonathan and Michelle, missionaries to a Creative Access Nation*
Adapting, adopting and applying creative ways to reach out
Although physically brought back to Singapore, Jonathan and Michelle’s hearts remain overseas. “We are planning to return to our adopted country as soon as the infection numbers reduce significantly. We realised that it’s not our timing, but the Father’s timing. It’s not our plan, but the Father’s plan for us,” Jonathan shared.
“In the meantime, we will learn to continue operating in this “new normal”—working remotely to connect with the lost, equip and mentor our disciples. Adapting, adopting and applying creative new ways of reaching out is the triple “A” strategy forward for us,” he continued.
Michelle brought up this example, “Together with our disciples, we overcame obstacles and learnt new ways of doing outreach. One challenge was starting a conversation over an unstable internet network with a contact who was learning to speak English. It required from us much effort, a lot of creativity and a change in mindset. Thankfully, we were still able to build bridges and seeds were sown. Another challenge was the difference in time zones which meant we had to be awake while most of Singapore is asleep.”
*names have been changed for confidentiality
Tan Chih Chiang and Wimonrat Sawatcheewan (Bee), STINTers** with Thailand Campus Crusade for Christ (TCCC)
Interceding for team members and student volunteers
Despite plans being put on hold, Chih Chiang and Bee continued to do good work and grow relationships through this season.
“My wife, Bee and I had planned to serve a one-year STINT with TCCC this year. Our original plan was to go to Thailand in July to prepare ourselves for the university academic year starting in August. However, due to Covid-19, our plan was pushed back and we were not able to travel there and join our team members to do ministry together physically,” Chih Chiang explained.
He continued, “Thankfully, we are able to join the TCCC Staff Team virtually via Zoom calls. We meet up weekly for prayer and ministry updates. Although we are not able to join our team for evangelism and discipleship in the university, we intercede for our team members and key student volunteers as they labour in the campus.”
Bee added, “We had the opportunity to be involved in Cru’s digital missions initiative, REDproject (Reaching Everyone Digitally), and shared the gospel to university students in Thailand during a digital mission trip. We have continued to build friendships with our contacts from the REDproject trip and I’m also following up with Fai and Nana, Thai friends that I met over Facebook.”
**Short-Term Internship: a one-year missions exposure programme
Ashley Yang and Ho Jin Cheng (top and right most), with fellow STINTers with Japan Campus Crusade for Christ (JCCC)
Connecting with students through English class
The Japan STINT team were grounded in Singapore as the travel ceased in March 2020. However, they have since left for Japan in late November.
During this season, both Jin Cheng and Ashley shared that discipleship was more challenging because of the lack of face-to-face interactions, as well as not being able to physically do ministry together with their disciples in Japan.
Nonetheless, they still found opportunities while stationed in Singapore. “We had the privilege to be involved in a Japanese professor's English class at two Japanese universities since October. He is also a Christian and, through his connection with JCCC, our team was invited to join his classes over Zoom. He not only gave us opportunities to interact with the Japanese students, but even encouraged us to talk about our Christian worldview and share about Jesus!” Jin Cheng described.
Ashley added, “During this English class, I got to meet a law student who was not spiritually open but really wanted to improve her English. She readily added me on the messaging app, LINE, and though she was not confident about her English-speaking skills, she was excited to come for the JCCC English conversation sessions we were helping to lead. She later invited a high school friend studying at another university in Tokyo to join us.”
Lisa*, missionary to Mongolia
Pointing others to hope in Christ
After living in Mongolia for the past 2.5 years, Lisa has not been able to return to Mongolia due to its borders being shut. Despite this, she says “I thank God for technology! I am able to continue reaching and maintaining contact with some of my students in Mongolia, and disciple them online.”
“I'm also involved in Cru’s digital missions initiative, REDproject, where my team coordinates and organises digital mission trips overseas. I get to connect with people from different parts of the world, build relationships with them, and God-willing, share the gospel with them too.”
During this season, Lisa realised, “In this digital space, maybe it's the lack of human interaction due to lockdown, maybe it's the security of being behind a screen, but people—even strangers, actually—I meet tend to be more open and willing to share about themselves and their lives. Sometimes it feels like I'm an Aunt Agony, but I'm thankful for the opportunity to be able to listen, encourage and point them to the hope that I have in Christ.”
*name changed for confidentiality
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