I was only 20 years old, and it happened when I was in Perth doing a Performing Arts Discipleship Training School (DTS) with Youth With A Mission (YWAM).
The focus of the week’s teaching was missions, and I felt a deep stirring in my heart throughout the whole week, like I was anticipating something.
On the last day of lectures, as the guest speaker showed us a video, I remember seeing faces of people of every colour, of every age, from every nation. The vivid images and scenes of people from every continent were so diverse and yet all the same.
As the video faded to black, the speaker asked: “What is God telling each of you?”
This was the defining moment for me.
In that moment, God spoke to me. It wasn’t a thunderous voice or a soft whisper. I felt such a deep conviction to do something, but I didn’t know what I could do or what I should do. So all I wrote in my journal was: “Here I am, send me.”
This profound sensation eventually expressed itself in my head with a challenge. A challenge to lay down my plans for my life and follow wherever He was leading me.
I felt He was specifically asking me to commit two more years to YWAM Perth as a full-time staff because He was not done with shaping me yet.
Honestly, I couldn’t believe that it was truly God who was speaking at first!
So I asked Him: “If it’s really you, then show me a sunflower three times!” Immediately after I prayed, I actually saw one as I walked into the next room!
But it wasn’t the signs that gave me the courage or the peace. By that time, I already felt such a strong sense that if I chose not to obey God, then everything I believed in and learned about in the Bible since I was 13 was all fake.
Even as a youth, I just wanted to be used by God in any way. I really wanted to use what I had for God’s glory.
You could say that this was the defining moment for me. I could either choose to believe that God is real and obey, or live my life based on the premise that God doesn’t exist.
No more sitting on the fence or being lukewarm – it was either all in or all out. I had to choose a stand. So I went all in!
After finishing my DTS, I returned to Singapore and talked to my parents, church leaders and friends about joining YWAM Perth as a full-time staff.
It wasn’t an easy decision, as it also meant that I had to give up my place to study Mechanical Engineering in university, but I knew that God had spoken clearly about going back to YWAM.
Supported by close friends and family who gave generously in finances and surrounded us with prayer, I spent two years in Perth and two years in Chiang Mai with YWAM Perth’s performing arts ministry, Island Breeze. I’m so glad I did because I was really discipled so well by my leaders there.
We ministered in local schools, nursing homes and public spaces, sharing the hope and love of Jesus Christ through cultural songs and dances from the Polynesian Islands. We also travelled out to South Korea, Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore for ministry.
In one such occasion, we had the opportunity to present our show to around 300-400 soldiers in South Korea, where I felt led to share my testimony of how God used my time in National Service to mould me in my character as a young man.
At first, I was quite hesitant to do so, but I found the courage to share under my leader’s encouragement. To my surprise, nine soldiers stood up in front of all their commanders and peers and came to the front when we gave a call at the end to anyone who wanted to respond to God. So bold!
Through that, I learnt that God can use my testimony, and that I shouldn’t belittle the experiences that I’ve been through.
Having said that, there were times when I wrestled a lot with the call to missions, questioning if I was doing the right thing.
Seeing my peers move on in university, graduate and get jobs while I was still away from Singapore and not progressing on any of that… it made me feel quite insecure.
I often had to remind myself of the call I heard from God.
Yes, I had laid down my own plans before I left for Perth, but I would occasionally feel like I was missing out, or that I was throwing my future down the drain because I gave up my university education.
Serving as a young missionary in a different country, I faced many challenges with finances, culture and health, but my biggest struggle was with trying to understand God’s purposes and plans for my life.
I often had to remind myself of the call I heard from God, and to remind myself of why and how I started this journey.
But here’s the amazing thing: His good plans for me included a wife!
Going back to the start of this story in 2014 when I arrived in Perth for my DTS, that was also when I first met (drumroll)… Gracia!
There were 20 of us who had gathered for brunch at our leader’s house, and we turned the tiny living room into a super lit cypher/dance battle! Gracia was dancing her heart out, and I was just mind-blown. My first impression of her was: incredible dancer!
As time went by, I saw more and more of her inner beauty.
I was genuinely interested in getting to know her, especially since she came all the way from Peru. I imagined that she probably had a very different childhood, growing up in such a faraway country in South America.
As it turned out, we clicked easily, shared many common things like our passion for dance, and became really good friends.
I liked how she was able to laugh at her own mistakes, how she had the determination not to quit when things got difficult, and how she was such a good encourager.
Through our friendship, I also saw that she deeply loved the Lord, was selfless and genuine in her care for others, and embraced all the little kids that came to her. As time went by, I saw more and more of her inner beauty.
Soon I realised that I was attracted to her, but that posed a challenge because this wasn’t what I came to DTS for. I wasn’t here to start a relationship!
So I took it to God and prayed about how I felt. I knew that the right thing to do was not to act upon my desires then. It was neither the right time nor a wise thing to do.
To cut the story short, it was only after two years of surrendering it to God and talking to my leader that I shared with Gracia how I felt about her. To my very pleasant surprise, she had the exact same sentiments!
And that’s how we began dating.
Coming from different cultures, there were certainly things that we had to work through, like the way we show affection to one another. We talked about it several times and had to manage our expectations, but we learnt to love the differences we had.
Our relationship also grew quickly because we were serving in the same ministry and had the same group of friends. We literally saw each other almost every single day!
But right from the start, I went into this relationship with the goal of marriage, so this gave me a good perspective of how it would be like to spend the rest of my life with her.
After dating for two years, I popped the question, and we got married a year later.
I’m happy to share that we recently celebrated our first wedding anniversary here in Singapore!
After praying about the decision on where to be based, we felt that as newlyweds, it was important to be grounded in a strong community before rushing straight back into ministry again.
As Island Breeze was transitioning out of Chiang Mai, we also felt that God was directing us to Singapore while we grow as a married couple.
Over the past year, we’ve been trying to establish a home here while figuring out what exactly to do. That has proven to be difficult after being away for five years, but we’ve definitely seen the grace and provision of God through this experience.
As I was looking for jobs, a full-time ministry role opened up in my church and I started working right smack in the middle of the circuit breaker!
As a Youth Worker in Aldersgate Methodist Church, I continue to see God’s hand in how He is sharpening me in my ministry to youths.
Looking back, I think this was a journey that God wanted me to take – discipling me away from the comforts of home and then growing in me a desire to use whatever that was in my hands for Him, which was my passion in dance. (I can’t even say I had any talent or gift for dancing then because I just really liked dancing!)
Gracia and I still share a passion for street dance, and we believe that God has given us this tool to engage, encourage and bring the gift of eternal life to all. We feel called to disciple young people through dance, and we know that God has put in us a heart for the nations.
To be honest, I don’t have all the answers to my life laid out even till this day. But God has showed me that it’s more important to be obedient and joyful in the next thing He has for me.
Finally, my advice to those who are thinking of going into full-time missions but are worried that they might “miss out” on a husband/wife is… don’t worry!
Trust God and let Him lead. I believe that the most fulfilling relationships happen when you know that they have been orchestrated by God.
If you keep walking in the will of God, all these things will come in His perfect time.
All photos courtesy of Maverick Leong unless otherwise stated.
- What are you finding it hard to trust God for?
- What do you have in your hands that God can use?
- Do you believe that it’s important to seek the following in order: master, mission and mate?