Reflections on a mission trip
ONE of the objectives of the 10-year Vision for Pentecost Methodist Church is being involved in missions.
To encourage responsible leadership, the Local Church Executive Committee (LCEC) organised a mission trip to Cambodia to familiarise leaders with the work that Pentecost MC is involved in there, in particular, the work at the COSI Children’s Village, managed by the Methodist Missions Society. This exploratory trip would also give leaders an insight into the various missions opportunities in Cambodia.
When the opportunity came in March 2003 for me to participate in this mission trip, I knew that I had to take it. I have always been afraid of the word “missions”, as it has always meant to me great sacrifices and physical deprivations. But this trip looked fairly comfortable and there was great company. And it promised an experience.
There were nine LCEC members, the pastor, six mission team members from Pentecost MC and three from Bedok Methodist Church on this trip. The LCEC team had a different itinerary from the mission team.
It surprised me when I realised how much is being done in Cambodia – even before we arrived there. We were at the airport and noted that another large Christian group was also departing. We were easily recognisable, checking in with boxes and boxes of stuff intended for the Cambodians.
My first small sacrifice of this trip was to forego my check-in luggage entitlement so that it could be used for the several boxes of medical and other items we had brought for our trip. I had to pack five days of clothing into a carry bag. I realised then how often I have over-packed! It was my first lesson on changing the mindset.
The trip to Cambodia proved to be very revealing. Besides noting the poverty and deprivation in Cambodia, I have also seen what the Lord wants me to see. It is remarkable how much I have observed over the few days in Cambodia. Things that I have taken for granted, not only in the poverty-stricken country of Cambodia but also in my personal life. In many ways, the trip was more rewarding and meaningful than going for a holiday. The team spirit that prevailed among the participants will surely provide for a better working relationship in church.
The visit for the LCEC team covered two days in Phnom Penh and another two days at COSI. We visited the churches sponsored by The Methodist Church in Singapore and the Anglican Church.
We renewed friendship with an Anglican Church missionary. A former member of Pentecost MC, she and her husband, a church pastor, have served in Cambodia for the last eight to 10 years and they speak fluent Khmer. She took us to a village where the villagers conducted their Sunday worship services. We participated in a children’s programme followed by worship with the adults. The simplicity of worshipping in the natural environment, under a tree with children, and in a shelter with the adults, brought new meaning to worship and what a church is. It is not about buildings and structures, but about God being in the centre of it all. And here, this was very evident. It was awe-inspiring.
A gripping experience was a visit to the garbage disposal dump. There were 75 families living in makeshift huts there. They scavenge the rubbish dump for whatever items that they could use or sell. I have never imagined walking through such an environment with all the stench, the flies and the filth.
The last two days of our trip were spent at the COSI Children’s Village. We send teams every quarter to work with the children and to provide medical services to the villagers living around COSI. Providing for 118 orphans may not be much, but it is a start. In the long term, looking after these 118 orphans will be a challenge to the local church ministry in Cambodia.
My immediate response to this trip is that I will look into areas that I can contribute and I am sure the Lord will show them to me in His time. My prayer is that He will provide me with the courage and conviction to put these plans into action when the time comes.
The Lord is doing great things in the harvest field. He has promised to empower and transform us so that we can perform. All we need to do is to have faith and live our lives exemplifying His love and grace. But first, we have to remove mental modes that impede our personal spiritual growth.
Noel Tam is a member of Pentecost Methodist Church.