Missions has always been something upon my heart, even when I was in university! But back then, I had this idyllic idea of what missions was about.
To me, missions was about going out into a foreign land, with nothing but my faith in Jesus, witnessing God do miraculous and remarkable things.
So, when the opportunity came for me to go for an extended mission trip for almost two months, I jumped at the chance!
And while I did get to see God at work in some pretty amazing ways, I found God in ways I didn’t quite expect.
For one, while the trip was indeed littered with evangelism and talking to people, it was also filled with very mundane things like:
- Doing housework
- Paying the bills at the rental apartment I was staying at
- Walking down the street to get dinner
- Restocking water supplies
The point I’m trying to make is, I realised a lot of missions is living everyday life — something I could start doing well even back home.
In missions, the mundane things matter
Sometimes we get so caught up in the “big” things, we forget that the little “mundane” things matter to God too!
God is equally with us when we are sharing the Gospel, and when we are doing our taxes.
While that reality was more heightened because I was in a foreign environment, it is still a reality even back home in Singapore.
One of my most memorable experiences during that mission trip I went on, was when I was invited to the house of an extremely experienced missionary.
He had been on the field for decades, having children in the field who were older than I was!
Despite being a foreigner, it was clear that the locals saw this family as one of their own, because he lived among the people.
They saw his children being born in the land, growing up in the land, going to local schools with their own children. As a result, his family had completely earned the trust of their village!
While I was at his house, we spent the whole day playing an interesting missionary board game he had created which simulated, in board game form, the life of a missionary based on his own experiences in missions.
There were three missionary couples and myself who played this game, and we sat around the table to play for nine whole hours (of course, we took breaks to have lunch and dinner)!
As for the game, imagine a monopoly board — but slightly more complicated.
Instead of four sides to the board, this board was six-sided. The first side represented the journeys of a missionary through Bible school, raising support and preparing to go.
The remaining five sides represented each year they spent in the mission field. Along the way, on each square came different tasks to complete like mastering the local language and obtaining a place to stay in year one.
God was not just in the great moments, but in the mundane ones and the struggles as well.
Other squares would send you on holiday to rest and recharge — but the holiday squares were not free!
You had to pay for your holiday, and the less mastery you had acquired in local language in year one, the more expensive holidays were (which makes sense if you think about it, as you wouldn’t be able to haggle well with locals without the language skills to do so).
In this board game, holidays were actually important for relieving stress.
As for the game mechanics, you would accumulate stress depending on different scenarios on the board.
If you hit ten units of stress, you would be sent back to the first side of the board. That means you would be sent back home to destress before you could come out to the field again.
Alternatively, you can find a holiday square and pay for your holiday to remove some units of stress.
But if you do not have enough money to do so, that could also be a problem!
I haven’t even mentioned the instability cards that littered the board! Think of chance cards, but for disasters instead. On these cards were scenarios like:
- There was an earthquake. Lose your apartment and all your money.
- You caught a deadly viral infection. Fly home immediately for treatment.
This one was memorable too: “You have been swindled of your money by the locals and rent is due. Ask other players to lend you enough for your rent, or return home.”
The catch to that one was, players who were in the first side (on home leave) could not lend you money for this.
What struck me playing this game was, to the players of the game who were actually long-term missionaries, these instability cards were not just game mechanics — but lived realities!
I remember when some of us drew instability cards, after reading out the scenarios, everyone would break out laughing.
That was because they recalled the exact same thing had actually happened to the person who drew the card just a few years prior!
This completely opened my eyes to the realities of missions: God was not just in the great moments, but in the mundane ones and the struggles as well.
Come hang out and play this game (shortened version!) with us
When I returned home from this trip, I got the blueprints of the game and played it in Singapore with others like me who were interested in exploring missions long term.
I wanted to share with others, the powerful experience I myself had when I first played the game.
Eventually, in typical Singaporean fashion, I optimised the game so that the gameplay would take three hours instead of nine.
Finally, in order to make this an experience that even more people could take part in, I further adapted the board game with stations so that it can be played in a large group.
This means gameplay can take place beyond the board; anyone can walk around to explore the different stations like:
- Raising support
- Going to Bible school
- Learning the language
- Flying off to the mission field
- Haggling for food and housing
- Sharing the gospel
- Meeting Instabilities
The version we will play at the upcoming #ThirstYouthNight on 20 July will be this concise version with stations so as to help more people understand the struggles of missionary life.
Would you like to play this game and get a glimpse of the realities of life in the mission field? July’s Youth Night will be all about missions, and we will be playing this game!
It will be a memorable experience that will help clarify your thoughts and perceptions towards life in the mission field, so come join us at Bethesda Bedok-Tampines Church (Level 3) at 7.15pm. See you there!