After his first mission trip with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) more than 20 years ago, YWAM National Director Joseph Chean took home the greatest lesson that continues to impact him until today.

Chean, along with a team of youths, had gone to Mumbai, India. While there, they visited the largest slum in the world. Upon reaching the entrance, Chean was left in shock.

He was greeted by the sight of a hill of human and animal faeces, both fresh and rotten. Standing at the top of that same hill, Chean shared how he looked out and saw slums as far as his eyes could see, housing a population of around a million men, women and children.

“I can understand why Jesus would live in Singapore… But why would Jesus be in this slum?”

He shared: “When I saw that scene, I was speechless. I didn’t know how to pray.” When he asked himself what he was doing there, that’s why he heard Jesus say to him: “I live and I walk amongst them.”

But he was still confused: “I can understand why Jesus would live in Singapore because Singapore has air con and it is clean. But why would Jesus be in this slum?”

“I discovered then that missions is not about doing something for God, but… discovering who God is in the nation,” Chean said.

That revelation taught him that Jesus is already out there in the nations, but not everyone recognises Him. As a missionary, it was not Chean’s job to bring Jesus to a nation, but to reveal who He is. 

“I want to change your perspective. If you think missions is about bringing Jesus to the nations, you’re wrong. Because Jesus is already there.”

Sharing this story during a workshop at FOPx Conference 2019, Chean candidly admitted to the crowd that doing missions is hard work. Yet knowing full well the price one has to pay, he went on to implore the room of 50 young people to say yes to God.

“Missions is about cultivating a friendship with God,” Chean said, telling the audience that our driving force for missions should be our love for God.

The fuel, or the fire, for the Great Commission must come from the commitment to the Great Commandment, he added.

Chean said: “The work of the nations is driven by your love for God and not the needs of the world. If you look at the slums and see their needs, I tell you, you will just give up.

“God won’t do anything without first having a chat with us. That’s why missions is about walking with Jesus, cultivating a friendship with Him, learning to listen to Him and then doing exactly what he wants us to do.

“The work of the nations is driven by your love for God and not the needs of the world…”

Growing up, we might been taught that Jesus is our friend. But Psalm 25 reverses that paradigm.

“The Lord confides in those who fear Him; He makes His covenant known to them.” (Psalm 25:14)

The verse shows us that Jesus is not only our friend – we are a friend to God too. So the question is: Are we someone God can confide in?

“God is always looking for people He can have a coffee chat with,” Chean continued, referring to Amos 3:7, “as opposed to someone who is only interested in telling Him all their problems.”

Recounting a personal example of how this happened in his life, he said that God once asked him to buy lunch for a homeless lady. Upon hearing it, Chean asked himself: “Is this me or is this God?” He doubted it was God’s voice because of how simple the command seemed.

By this time, the lady was no longer at the spot where he first saw her, but as he was opening the door to his office, she passed by behind him. He hesitantly walked over to her before handing her the packet of rice he’d bought earlier.

As she accepted it, she thanked him and shared how she had been starving the whole day. She had actually just come from the back alley scrounging for leftovers in the dumpster.

After this exchange, Chean asked God: “God, all you asked me to do was to buy lunch for her and you did not say anything else. What is this about?”

How would the lady know that the lunch came from God? Should he have at least drawn a cross on the packet of food? 

God’s reply to Chean was: “I know her. I heard her stomach growling in pain and I was looking for someone that would buy food for her without rationalising. Thank you for your simple obedience.”

Chean urged the audience: “So I guess my last question would be, are you available and are you willing to take God’s hand and ask Him to take a walk together with you?

“Because if you were to take His hand, I guarantee you, your life will never be the same again. You will experience something so real. You may not have what we call the riches of this world, but I promise you that you will gain so much.”

For those who aren’t sure about how to make that first move, Chean gave these five steps for anyone who is keen to explore missions:

  1. Go on a short-term mission trip of 8-10 days to an unreached or a thriving field. He recommends countries that really need help, like Laos, Bangladesh and Myanmar, rather than places that are oversaturated.
  2. Explore a 1-3 months internship with a missions agency overseas or a missions partner.
  3. Take a gap year and go for a missions programme. YWAM, for instance, has such options.
  4. Partner with a missions agency, which are the experts in field leadership, placements and member care.
  5. Be educated and trained in a specialised skill and be ready to be launched into a nation.