Thursday, 17 December 2015

The Children's First Mission Trip

We have just returned from a mission trip to Thailand. The trip included a two nights' stay at a village and the journey to the village from the city was three hours long. As the village was on a mountain, it could get pretty cold at night. It has been ten years since I went to that village. I was not quite sure what to expect ten years on.

Before we left on the trip, we had mixed responses from people. Some were encouraging and prayed for us. Others expressed fear and worry that the two children would not be clothed and fed properly during the trip. I just learned to trust God to look after us.

Packing for the trip alone was quite stressful. Lyn had left for the trip earlier and I was to bring the two children there myself. Usually, Lyn would settle the packing of the medication while I packed clothes and toiletries for the children and myself. Lyn did pack a box of medicine before he left though I was still concerned that I would forget to bring things that were important. I also could not bring too many bags as I had to hold on to An and her stroller. J could probably help with one luggage at the most.

Thankfully, God blessed us with the company of my good friend Celia and her daughter during this trip. They provided much help and were very good company. Celia was also vigilant in spraying insect repellent on all of us and providing vitamins and hand sanitizer when required.

Initially, I was concerned about how the two children would react to the village. Here in Singapore, we live in comfortable homes while they had to sleep in sleeping bags on hard grounds there.

There was also no heating system in the room we slept in and experience told me that it got very cold at night. They might also have to bathe in freezing water unless we boiled water. (For that matter, I used to bathe in the river as the water seemed slightly warmer.) By the grace of God, the two children seemed to take to the village and did not suffer from culture shock. In fact, J rated the river experience amongst his top five highlights of this trip.

He also enjoyed his first and last meal at the village as the hospitable hosts prepared his favourite noodles with pasta sauce. J loved admiring the stars against the night sky which was untainted by bright lights and even invited others to join us to stargaze on our second night. He was disappointed that he fell asleep during the debrief session and missed the stargazing on the second night, but cheered up when he thought of going there again in the future. I also praise God for the free Grobag we received from Bloom and Grow that kept Little An nice and warm at night.

Was the long journey to the village worth the while? What did the children and I learn from the trip? How did we contribute to the betterment of the villagers?

Upon reflecting, I felt that I did not contribute much to the team. I found it hard to memorise Christmas carols in Thai or in the tribal language and could only sing a few familiar songs confidently. We were also not given roles in the skit and did not manage to learn a dance that everyone had to do. I had to look after An, which meant I could not even help in washing dishes when it was my team's turn to do it.

Nonetheless, we did try our best to help whenever we could. J and An gave gifts to the villagers when we went carolling. J managed to carol at 31 homes while An and I went to about a third of that. We also tried to help out during the school outreach. J helped to tie marshmallows for a game while I was happy to help out with face painting. I thank God for using us in these small ways but if I were to go on such a trip again, I would want to contribute more.

I was blessed in various ways. For one, I enjoyed the unhurried pace of the village life. Not having internet connection meant there was no distraction from electronic devices. We got to interact with others and to know the youths from church a little better.

One afternoon, I had the chance to play on the keyboard and together with two guitarists, we had a lovely impromptu time of worship. It had been eight years since I served in the worship ministry, so I felt blessed to be able to play music with others again.

The simplicity of life in the village captivated me too. The games that were played at the school were simple, yet the students were squealing in excitement.

In the afternoon when there was no programme (due to the passing of a villager), we just sat around playing the guitars and singing worship songs. Indeed, when the music fades and all is stripped away and I simply come, I'll bring You more than a song for a song in itself is not what You have required. There is no need for fanciful instrumentation. A heart of worship is all that is needed.

For the children, I guess they may not have sensed the spiritual aspects as I did, but Lyn and I felt that it was good to expose them to missions. May God use us to reach out to others for His glory.

My main task during the mission trip was to share at a city school how mathematics is taught in Singapore. I asked to observe some lessons so as to ensure that my sharing is relevant. Initially I found that there was a language barrier but as I got the teachers to demonstrate how to use the concrete materials I brought and how to draw models, I found they were able to understand what I said and my concerns were allayed. I hoped the sessions I conducted were beneficial and I thank God for the opportunity to teach.

God was with us on the trip and I thank Him for that. At the end of the trip as we were disembarking from the plane, the passenger behind us commented that our kids were very well-behaved. I thank God for sending that encouragement along our way. Praise God.

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