Precious Friendships Forged in a Foreign Land

Oct 2013    

What is it like to leave home, family and friends to serve in a nation where you often have to learn the language from scratch? It takes faith, passion, courage and an unwavering desire to do God’s will. In the first of a series on getting to know our missionaries, Doris Chan, Methodist Missions Society (MMS) missionary in Cambodia for the past 14 years, shares her personal reflections with Methodist Message.

“When I was in my teens, I was very much influenced by missionaries serving here. One of my Sunday School teachers was an OMF missionary doing her language studies. After she left for the field, we continued to keep in touch.

At a youth retreat, and later at a Missions Conference, I dedicated my life to God to serve Him full-time wherever He might send me.

After having been a teacher for 11 years, then going on to complete my Bachelor of Theology at the Singapore Bible College and serving my home church – Faith Methodist – for nine years, I finally entered the mission field.

MMS Cambodia needed a teacher to help kick-start the primary school there. This was clearly what God had been preparing me for, and it was time for me to move out of my ‘comfort zone’.

The decision was both hard and not so hard to make. Hard because I had very strong ties with the members in my church. The small group ministry that I was in charge of was challenging, but very satisfying. I was doing well, and things were comfortable.

But then, the decision wasn’t so hard to make either – I was reminded of my commitment to God, and it was time for me to move on. By then, both my parents had passed on, and I did not have family obligations. So it was easy to pack up and leave.

In Cambodia, I taught English to the first Primary One class made up of 22 students. I continued to teach them for most of their primary education till they completed Primary Six. By then only 11 students were left. Today I am in touch with nine of them.

I am proud to say that they are all doing well. One has gone on to be a pilot, and the rest are in university.

Their faith in God is what encourages me most. What they learnt in school, they have kept and are growing in the Lord. Several of them also help out with translation when teams visit from Singapore.

I moved on to teach at the Cambodian Methodist Bible School after six years in the primary school. Here I had the opportunity to influence and mentor students who were preparing to be pastors in the local churches. Teaching and children have been my passion, so I concentrated on teaching Christian Education at the Bible School besides teaching other subjects as and when the need arose.

One area I looked into was the children’s ministry in the local churches. It was one thing to tell them what to do, but another to actually do it. My challenge was to put into practice what I taught in the classroom.

About two and a half years ago, I started an English centre in a village to reach out to children, and of course their parents as well. Called ‘The Upper Room’, five villagers now regularly attend our Sunday cell group, and 25 children attend Sunday School. I believe that this form of outreach would be a good church-planting model in other villages.

Although I have reached retirement age – 65 – I am extending my time here to see this ministry through and for as long as my health permits. I am also grooming and mentoring my co-workers Bopha and Chorvin to be more independent, so that they can be part of the succession plan to see this ministry through.

When I came into the field, I did not expect a smooth road. Language was always challenging, the values and expectations were very different. But what has made all the difference has been the precious friendships that I have forged, especially with my domestic helper. At first, she and I were like a ‘chicken and duck’- we couldn’t communicate at all! When I needed help with groceries, I sketched out the vegetables and learnt the names from her. Our friendship continued even after she stopped working for me. A fervent believer, she has sadly gone home to the Lord.

At the Bible School, I became close friends with several of the students, who would later become pastors. We shared our struggles and meals, and prayed together. It has been a great joy to see some of them married and with families.

I thank God for these very precious friendships with some of the people of Cambodia.”
PRAY for * stamina and good health to keep going u two more persons to join The Upper Room ministry u Doris to be a role model to those she is teaching at the Bible School.

For more details, contact: The Rev Teresa Wilborn at 6478-4797 or teresa.wilborn@gmail.com

Pictures by Methodist Missions Society


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