A thunderous applause filled the hall after two speakers representing different generations shared their stories.
Kate Cheah, 84, who went to Hong Kong in 1965, is said to be the first missionary from Singapore, while Sarah Chan, 29, will soon begin her long-term missions work in Timor-Leste.
Then there was pin-drop silence after both removed their shoes and this question was posed to the audience: “Who will fill their shoes?”
Throughout the night, this call would be echoed as Joseph Chean, National Director of Youth With A Mission Singapore (YWAM), invited other missionaries to come forward and leave their footwear behind as a symbolic act.
With some 20 pairs of shoes on stage, the message could not be clearer:
So many feet have already gone before us.
Would the next generation rise up to fulfil the Great Commission through missions too?
The Father’s longing
Kicking off the night by sharing about his first mission trip with YWAM in 1998, Chean said it was then that God taught him something very precious.
To get into the slum that they were meant to visit in Mumbai, their team had to cross a steep hill filled with faeces and rubbish.
The missionaries who brought them walked forward unfazed, while he and his team remained stunned at the entrance of the slum. Gingerly, they walked on and managed to reach the top of the hill.
As Chean stared at the vastness of the slum and its dismal living conditions, that was when he felt God say to him: “I live and I walk amongst them.”
“It was at that moment that I felt that I had a conversion, where I began to recognise God’s longing for His people,” he said.
“That He dwells among the slum dwellers, and they do not recognise Him! And that He has invited me to come to look for Him, and when I find Jesus, I will worship Him by revealing who He is.”
Pointing out that the 10/40 window contains the most unreached and unengaged people groups in the world, Chean said: “You will find that a lot of them are within five hours of flight from Singapore.”
The 10/40 window refers to areas that are roughly between 10 degrees north and 40 degrees north of the equator.
They include countries such as Afghanistan, China, India, Japan and Myanmar.
It was also shocking to watch a video that documented the efforts taken to reach people who have not heard the gospel.
This is why Joshua 21 wants to mobilise a younger missional force that will go to the unreached.
Whether it is working in megacities, studying in universities, serving among the urban poor or seeking out places where there are no Christians or churches, the vision is this:
To reveal God, plant transformational initiatives and see nations be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.
As the youth missions mobilisation arm of LoveSingapore, Joshua 21 has been around since 1998.
From the late 90s to mid-2000s, it challenged the young to consider world missions as a high calling worthy of the best years of their lives.
Many missionaries have since gone out from Singapore into the world, bringing the Good News with them. But a new generation has come of age.
Hence it is time to relaunch Joshua 21 to “call a new generation of teens and 20somethings to hear God and to obey Him”, explained Chean.
Explaining how God wants to reveals Himself in all major spheres of influence, Chean listed out these areas: family, education, business, communications, entertainment, government, and science and technology.
“This is where the Church is from Monday to Saturday,” he said, sharing a few examples.
“The Church in the sphere of the family, where the God reveals himself as a parent, and God’s character is nurture and safety.
“The Church is in the education field, where God reveals himself as a great teacher, and God’s character is knowledge and wisdom.
“And we recognise that every young person here, you study in one of these fields.”
Chean asked: “What if God calls you into these fields, where you will put on the robes of a missionary teacher, an artist… and go forth into the nations to show His light?”
Where did their courage come from?
Encouraging the audience by sharing their own journeys into full-time missions, there was one thing Kate and Sarah had in common.
Both missionaries did not know exactly where they were being sent to when they first answered the call.
Kate was in her mid-20s when she had an encounter with God after graduating from Bible college in Melbourne.
Although she was living comfortably (her family owned Polar Café, now known as Polar Puffs & Cakes), she gave all of that up.
“Before I flew back to Singapore, we had a retreat in the countryside. And there and then, the Lord spoke to me to the words of Isaiah 61:1.”
After telling her superintendent that she wanted to work among refugees, he handed her a newspaper clipping of the Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong, which was infamous for its criminals, drug peddlers and gangs.
The Lord then reminded her of the time when her family was living in Hong Kong.
Remembering how she encountered refugees at her mother’s apartment and saw them toiling day and night, she became even more convinced that it was the right place to go.
All that was left was to wait for the right time from the Lord.
Kate continued teaching in Sunday school and public schools in Singapore, while waiting for the Lord to show her which missionary society she should join.
When the Lord opened the doors for her to go about a year later, Kate obeyed.
She taught the Bible at a primary school in the Walled City of Kowloon as well as prepared weekly messages for assembly. She would also reach out to prostitutes in the city.
“It was very difficult for me, as I had to do it in Cantonese,” she recounted. Struggling with the language, she would prepare what she was going to say first then record it.
“I played it back on the tape recorder again and again until it got into my head.”
All those years, Kate clung onto Isaiah 61 and found her confidence in the Lord.
She has also written a book about her experiences in Kowloon, which has been translated into 13 languages.
Sarah, on the other hand, was one of the many who responded to an altar call at the Joshua 21 conference in 2004.
“It was just a very overwhelming evening, and I said ‘yes’ to the Lord with a blank cheque. I said, ‘God, anywhere’, and the first thing that stirred in my heart was the word ‘compassion'”.
The focus of that conference was about going to the poorest of the poor, and Sarah was deeply impacted by all the videos that were shown.
“My goodness, there are so many kids in this world who live so differently from me. In my head, it was just, ‘that could have been me’.
“I just said ‘yes’ to the Lord: ‘God, I want to serve people like that, people who are not as privileged as I am.'”
Over the years, God led Sarah into a deeper relationship with Himself, as well as a deeper compassion for the less-privileged.
God also revealed to her that missions was where her passions in full-time ministry and social work converged.
But like Kate, Sarah did not launch into full-time missions until God told her clearly to go.
In the meantime, she kept walking with God, served in church and chose courses in school to equip herself for a missionary lifestyle (e.g. home electricity, horticulture).
It was only six years after that Joshua 21 conference did Sarah know where she should go for her mission work.
And it took 18 long years before Sarah would finally head into Timor-Leste as a missionary.
“Missions is not for a special elite force,” declared Sarah, when asked where she got her courage to obey God’s leading.
“When I learnt that, it opened my eyes to see that He gave this call to every single disciple, and that includes myself.
“He wouldn’t lead us to a place or call us to a place that He isn’t going to be there Himself.”
Will we fill their shoes?
As I listened to all that was shared that night, this was what struck me:
The call to fulfil the Great Commission and the call to missions has never changed.
Whether we do this short term or long term, what is most important is our “yes” to the Lord and our earnest heart.
He will see us through the rest, even equipping us.
As the next generation, will we answer the call to missions?
Will we reveal the Father’s longing for His people?
Will we fill the shoes of those who have gone before us?
May we be a generation filled with boldness to go to the ends of the earth to reach every single soul.
Stirred by the call to missions?
You’re invited to the next Joshua 21 event, Day of Prayer for the Nations, on August 20, 2022 (Saturday).
Catch more details on their Instagram page @joshua21.sg!
- What about missions excites or scares you?
- How do you feel knowing that 2 billion people have no access to the gospel?
- What sphere of influence are you currently being equipped in?
- What is one nation that God has put in your heart to pray for?