Saturday, March 14, 2009

Report: Thailand Mission Trip

I wrote a report on our mission trip to Thailand for FGA's monthly magazine.

I thought I'd put it up:

“My expression towards the end of the trip was like the total opposite to my expression at the start of the trip... in the beginning I was like, all apathetic and stuff and towards the end I was like a hyperactive jihad man of hilarity and doom.” – Andrew Au

I have never seen a change in anyone that can match up to Andrew’s incredibly inspiring conversion from a nihistic pessimist chained down by many years of self-alienation and isolation into a wittingly hilarious man who has gained acceptance and a sense of belonging in Christ.
As the trip progressed, the group continually showed Andrew that he was valued and very well loved. Our numerous meaningful conversations allowed Andrew to open up and reveal the internal conflicts and struggles that he faced. He told us that it was a fear of rejection, coupled with his inability to trust others, which was the underlying reason for his self-alienation. I remember telling him that we chatted to him and prayed for him not because we had to, but because we genuinely love him. I could see that he did not believe me at the start, but our continual acts of love eventually convinced him. The love of Christ enabled him to “break free” from his shell of bondage and rediscover his exceedingly entertaining sense of humour.
Our mission trip to Thailand stands as a fervent testament of God’s faithfulness. His hand was with us from the beginning to the end of the trip; continually filling our hearts with courage and encouragement.

Our pioneering mission trip for Fungus consisted of a team of 7 lead by Quentin Loke. Despite the small size of the team, there was a contrasting array of different personalities in the persons of Gabriel Goh, Haney Kang, Grace Ling, Andrew Au, Brian, Quentin Loke, and Isaac. Some were very out-going and enthusiastic, whilst others preferred to keep to themselves. We had several training sessions and fundraisers prior to the trip. However, the stigma of formality and stark personality clashes were obstacles that restricted us from getting to know each other genuinely. Personally, I felt that it was going to be a difficult challenge to generate synergy within the group through deep friendships.

Against all my expectations, God filled our group with great joviality and unity. Everyone seemed genuinely interested in sharing their lives and struggles with the others; while the others seemed even more interested to listen. Our morning devotions were a particular highlight for me. Regardless of the topic, we could sense a strong presence of the Holy Spirit within our midst speaking to us. We would share with open hearts and in complete trust. I can still remember the powerful prayers that we prayed over one another – I felt encouraged and my spirit was joyful within me because of our love for one another demonstrated through fervent prayer.
God blessed our fellowship. Our trip to north-eastern Bangkok was a 10 hour van ride. During the ride, he filled our conversations with heart-wrenching humour. Andrew and Haney had deep philosophical discussions concerning ethics and food wastage that were simply hilarious. There was no end to the laughter and noise within the van.

Compassion runs projects in various towns in Thailand. Each project consists of a church, a multi-purpose area, and a canteen. The Compassion staff overseeing each project consist of a minimum of 1 pastor, 1 director, 2 child workers, 2 teachers, and a cook (food is essential!). We spent most of our time at project TH-422 in a town called “XXX” northeast of Bangkok. I can still remember the sheer excitement on the faces of the children upon our first arrival. There were two major highlights during my stay at TH-422.

Firstly, I got to meet my sponsor child, Nat. Gabriel, Grace, Haney and I decided to sponsor a child for $44/month a month prior to the mission trip. What I had regarded as a mere donation to a charitable foundation turned out to be a gift of love to someone I genuinely care for. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to meeting Nat, yet an overwhelming sense of excitement filled my heart when I first saw her. She was beautiful! She had silky brown hair, hazel eyes that emanated innocence, and a smile that made my heart go soft and feeble. We got to know her more of the span of two days. Our interaction was interesting because of the language barrier – she couldn’t understand English, while we were as good as deaf to her. We communicated through the use of verbal “noises”, facial gestures, hand signs, and pointing to objects. She loved taking pictures with our cameras – she made a significant contribution to the 3,500+ photos we captured on the trip collectively. I remember the joy on her face whenever we gave her a hug or performed a funny gesture. My heart was, in turn, filled with an inexpressible joy accompanied by a sense of complete fulfilment. By God’s grace, I had brought some joy into someone’s life!

We visited Nat’s home to get a first-hand experience of her lifestyle. Her father works as a janitor at the local school while her mum sells food by the roadside. They live with Nat’s grandmother at the moment, but they are in the process of saving up for a house of their own. It was comforting to know how our small contribution of $44/month helped give Nat an education and food for most of the week. However, our hearts were wrenched when we heard about the 3,000 baht (AUD 150) loan her mother had to take up to buy a rice-cooker, other essentials and contingency food for the family. We felt compelled to help, so we relieved them of their debt. In just two days, I developed a strong bond of love for Nat despite the fact that I wasn’t able to mutter a single comprehensible word to her. I think about her even till this day, and I still pray for her.

Sponsoring a child and visiting them makes a real difference in their life; it is by far, the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Being able to put a smile on a face that has been disfigured by poverty brings a transcendental joy and a fulfilment like no other. I urge you, as reflectors of Jesus’ love, to sponsor a child and make a difference in their life.

I developed an extreme admiration for the compassion staff (pastors, translators, child workers, cooks, etc.). I admired them because they had made a decision to sacrifice their lives to spend every day showing God’s love to children who so desperately need it. I envied them because they had such meaning and purpose in their lives. My admiration for them peaked into action. I want to spend every single day God grants me showing his love to others – there’s nothing more fulfilling than that! Each compassion staff had unknowingly inspired me through their selfless actions to live selflessly.

The second highlight of the trip was the way the Holy Spirit swept through the room as we worshipped and praised our Almighty God. We were to lead the youth group program on that Sunday – we had a skit prepared, a few worship songs in mind, and I was to deliver a message. To our folly, we were severely unprepared: we made significant amendments to the casting of our skit the night before; we were unsure of how we were to overcome the language barrier in worship; I changed my intended message entirely at 12am the night before as I felt lead by the Spirit. We were nervous out our skin as we gathered for devotions that Sunday morning. Significantly, Quentin shared about the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and acknowledging that we can’t do anything by our own efforts apart from Christ. I remember us praying fervently for the Spirit to empower us and to grant us faith that day.

When we got to the project (TH-422), we were still unprepared. We were still nervous. God was priming our hearts up for His grand entrance. Against the odds, we managed to pull off our skit in an understandable fashion, and I believe my message spoke to a few in the audience. But what I remember most is the worship. We were eager for the youths to worship in their tongue, but we didn’t know any Thai Christian songs! Minutes prior to the worship session, we recalled hearing their guitarist playing the tunes of “One Way” and “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord”. We decided to sing those songs. Worship started off on a slow pace but it grew into a blazing furnace (physically and spiritually!) within minutes. Quentin, Grace and I started jumping to the tune of “One way, Jesus” and a couple of the others followed. Grace then explained that we were jumping because we were excited about praising God, and that God would be pleased with us when He sees us worshipping him with such enthusiasm and passion. Once that said, the kids, aged 7-17, started jumping and praising God at the top of their lungs! They sang in Thai, while we sang in English. There was no stopping them. They held our hands and jumped with us, praising God amidst all their troubles. There was no stopping them; we repeated the songs over and over again until we were too tired to continue. The presence of the Holy Spirit was remarkably strong in that place. I know that hearts were convicted and lives were changed. God had raised the level of worship to whole new dimension. I can picture the day when “every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!”

The trip to Thailand was nothing short of life changing for me. I experienced what it truly means to find joy in the midst of tribulations, to worship God and rejoice in his sovereignty in the midst of real poverty. The significance of my problems paled in comparison to those experienced by these Thai children – I pray that my reaction to trials may be similar to theirs. Above all, this trip has given me a glimpse of what it truly means to be living each day for God; to show his love to anyone every day. I’m motivated to love my friends and my adversaries in sport, in university, in Fungus, in church, and at home. God has sparked a little flame within me; a desire to do some sort of mission work in the future. I know it’s more than a possibility. Lastly, I thank God for all the deep bonds of friendship that were woven tightly during the course of the trip. I know they will stand the test of time.

I strongly encourage you to take up the chance to go on a mission trip should the opportunity present itself.

A Fool For Christ

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I haven't haven't had to time to just relax and write my thoughts down. I came out of a difficult cardiorespiratory lecture. I was intending to do a little more catch up study so that I can finally get up to date; but I now find myself lounging in the Frank Tate. My mind feels utterly exhausted; like a race car after a continuous 48 hour race. It's been relentless from 8am this morning till now. I need a break.

My head feel sore from fatigue. I don't feel like blogging about anything that requires me to think. I'm going to write whatever comes to my mind.

I'm grateful for the peace that I can experience when I just sit back, relax, and close my eyes - not worrying about anything. No cystic fibrosis, no pleura, no ARDS, no pulsus paradoxus, nothing but silence.

I thank God for my friends. A whole heap of them are having their birthdays in March! We celebrated Gab's 18th last night. We had dinner at The Booth (like we used to in the past) last night. I'll never forget how we tied him to the basketball pole and creamed/vegemited/egged him all over. He was a helpless white platter of whipped cream stinking of Vegemite. We thought it was all over until Gab managed to rip the tape around his wrist to break free. All hell broke loose! He went around creaming/vegemiting the instigators with the cream/vegemite on his body. I had a taste of my own medicine too.. but I was glad to share in the mess. I hope you had a memorable night, Gab!

I've got my driving test booked in for tomorrow! I'm finally going to get my P's! (That's IF i pass). I can still remember getting driven by my dad and grand dad while I was young. I've always had this inate desire to take over the wheel - driving gives me a heightened sense of freedom. I can go anywhere I want without having to trouble my parents. I don't have to waste time waiting on the inefficient public transport system. Yep, Nicole's agreed to take me to Vic Roads for my driving test cuz my parents will be busy entertaining the Balmers (who've just arrived from America). She's such a helpful person. I'm gonna carve a medal out of pure gold for her for her 80th birthday.