I dated a man who felt clearly called to Mongolia to be a missionary.
My only problem: I knew nothing next to Chinggis Khan (Genghis Khan) about Mongolia.
All I wanted was to be a good Christian witness who shares the gospel. Location and vocation simply didn’t matter.
Just when I was wondering about our future together, I read this Bible verse from the book of Ruth:
“…where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”
Ruth wasn’t an Israelite. She probably didn’t really know the LORD God well. Yet, the love she had for Naomi made her willing to go to Israel and even worshipped Naomi’s God.
I knew God was encouraging me to accept my boyfriend’s mission as mine and follow him wherever he goes.
Ronald and I eventually got married in 2010 and started a new chapter of our lives in Mongolia very quickly the following year.
My husband’s role was to be an IT professional for Mongolia Campus Crusade for Christ. Just when I was settling down in a foreign land, struggling to pick up the Mongolian language, I discovered that I was pregnant.
We had to pack up our bags once again during the third trimester of my pregnancy and return home to await my son’s birth.
Caleb was born ten weeks earlier than the expected date of delivery. As I stared at him in the incubator, I blamed myself for being unable to adapt to the Mongolian weather, causing him so much suffering as a preemie.
I hated myself. I most probably blamed God but was too scared to admit it.
We pulled through a trying 18 months of helping Caleb survive as a preemie, and bravely–some say foolishly–uprooted ourselves once more to return to Mongolia to obey that missions call.
It was that very winter when Caleb contracted pneumonia, I reached my breaking point, I sat in the taxi, hugging my son tightly, sobbing uncontrollably all the way to the hospital. These thoughts kept ringing in my head— You are a bad mum... It’s all a big mistake!
In the next 10 days during Caleb’s hospitalisation, I had many deep conversations with the Lord. He directed my heart to Psalm 23:4-6. It was then I realised that when King David wrote, ‘The Lord is my shepherd’, he was also keenly aware of the valley of the shadow of death he had to pass through.
Yes, even though we’re all not exempted from suffering, God has promised to be with His children through thick and thin.
With this renewed understanding, I started to embrace all the ordeals that I went through in Mongolia. At that instance, a deep supernatural sense of comfort came upon my heart.
On hindsight, in a span of two years, I’ve actually understood better the challenges of the Mongolians I am gradually learning to love and serve. Because of the air pollution in Ulaanbaatar, not only the babies in the city have a higher tendency to be preemies, pneumonia has seemingly become a mainstay for the kids.
I began to understand that God led me through the valley of the shadow of death to experience what a typical Ulaanbaatar family goes through.
God not only needed to open my eyes, but also my heart, to the Mongolians.
The doors to serve just kept opening. Three years ago, while going through the wide range of preschool materials I’ve gathered over the years for Caleb, God put within me a desire to share them generously with the Mongolians.
What started as a volunteering stint in my own son’s kindergarten propelled me into a new ministry trajectory as a teacher. From a class of preschoolers, I now teach English to classes of college students, taking every chance to guide them, hear them and love them for who they are.
Jesus Christ can turn our songs of mourning into songs of dancing. Through it all, I’ve learnt the necessary lesson of turning our focus back to Him and let Him take the wheel.
For Grace Tan, who serves in Wow Mom, it started with the simple desire to know God more.
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