“I always thought I came with no expectations. But the truth is that we always have hidden expectations,” said 37-year-old Kamala Devi.
On February 9, 2020, Kamala arrived in Johannesburg for her Missions Discipleship Training (MDT) programme, a six-month journey in training, mentoring, cross-cultural community life and ministry.
Within a month and a half, the country went into lockdown due to COVID-19, throwing the plans for the programme into disarray.
The original outreach activities could not proceed, while the trainers that Kamala had been looking forward to learn from were not able to fly in either.
“It was a little disappointing,” she admitted.
Highlighting the irony of the situation, Kamala shared how she had been working as a nurse in Singapore up until the time she left for South Africa.
She said: “I was questioning God, “Why? Why? Why am I here when I could have been more useful back home?
“Why would I want to be here in a foreign land in lockdown when I could have been home and helping people?”
In fact, Kamala’s decision to serve in full-time missions was not an easy one. For more than a year, she had been deliberating about it before finally biting the bullet.
This was partly because of a significant incident that happened during Kamala’s first short-term mission trip just two years before.
Kamala recalled how she became aware of the cost of missions when she went to South Asia in 2018.
While trekking up to remote villages to share the gospel, her team was stopped by the local police. As such outreach activities were prohibited in the area they were in, they were in danger of facing imprisonment.
Thankfully, no charges were brought against the team, and they were let off the hook. Nevertheless, this left a deep impression on Kamala.
It was then that she wrestled with the sobering reality of putting her life on the line for missions to unreached people groups.
“I was put in a spot. I could say, ‘No, missions is not for me. I’m not going to sacrifice my freedom just so people would know the gospel.’
“However, I decided to respond to God with a ‘yes’.”
When Kamala returned from that trip, she started exploring training programmes with Operation Mobilisation (OM) Singapore. Her initial intention was to go for six months and then return to Singapore before deciding on next steps.
Instead, she was challenged by a staff member to commence serving in South Africa immediately after the training programme was complete.
“I have bills to pay and a family to take care of. Is this really what I want to do?” she said, verbalising the struggle within her.
But neither did Kamala want to only sing “Christ is Enough” and “Be Thou My Vision” in church without living it out. She wanted to put her money where her mouth was.
“God, are you really my vision? Are you really enough in my life?
“If so, then can I leave the so-called security in my life – to do missions, to go to the unreached and tell people who God is?” Kamala asked herself.
Bringing her concerns before God during a silent retreat, she received an answer.
Kamala shared: “Matthew 6:25-34 was very comforting to me because God will not forsake me. God knows my needs and He will provide.”
Assured that God would take care of the rest as she took that first step of faith, Kamala decided to commit to extending for another year in South Africa.
However, despite her courage to obey, her experience in South Africa turned out to be very different from what she expected.
Not only did the pandemic affect her MDT, it also affected the team’s outreach work in schools.
And yet Kamala continued to see God’s hand at work even in these unforeseen circumstances.
“Wherever we went, I had constant brushes with people who had COVID-19. But I haven’t been affected by COVID-19 myself. How is that even possible?” she exclaimed.
“Seeing God’s protection and sovereignty in all of this made me consider: Maybe He brought me here because He wanted to help me see who He is in all of this.”
Furthermore, other timely mission opportunities came along, such as partnering another organisation for street ministry.
“We rode around the area at King William’s Town to look out for homeless people and invited them for a time of worship and gave them food,” she shared.
Aside from meeting their practical needs through a soup kitchen, the ministry also set out to journey with the homeless community, walking together through problems such as joblessness and drug addiction.
They also had the chance to share about the good news of Jesus.
Kamala also pointed out how the pandemic inspired her to be more creative in ministry.
Faced with new restrictions on how she can conduct classes as well as a lack of facilities, she had to put a lot of thought into how to keep the children engaged whenever she had Bible study lessons with them.
“I hope that through my presence and the conversations that I have with people, they will understand who God is and their lives will be transformed,” she shared of her one-and-a-half years in South Africa.
Now that she is back in Singapore, Kamala plans to return to nursing work in the immediate future. However, she is waiting for God to direct her steps in the longer term.
“I do have plans to continue my missionary journey. I’m praying about a specific country to go next year,” said Kamala. “I’m hopeful yet leaving the results to God.”
After all, her trust and confidence in God has grown, having seen how He has led her through uncertain paths during her time in South Africa.
Kamala also holds fast to the conviction that the work of missions never ends – even if you’re no longer in the mission field.
Reflecting on a book she was given when she first came to South Africa, Kamala remarked: “Radical Christian living doesn’t mean leaving your family behind and going somewhere to reach the world.
“Radical living starts from wherever you are. The Great Commission is for all of us. Each one of us are accountable to live out a missional life wherever we are placed. It can be lived out in a simple manner in a simple way.”
This story is part of a special series produced in collaboration with OM Singapore, which is celebrating 40 years of God’s faithfulness in missions this year.
Missions is a lifestyle undeterred by a pandemic. Keen on being equipped and mentored in missions? Connect with OM Singapore at [email protected]. To find out more, you can also visit their website or follow them on Instagram and Facebook.
- Do you see God’s hand at work despite the disruptions you’ve faced since the pandemic started?
- What does a missional life — right here in Singapore — look like to you?
- Is there something that God is calling you to say “yes” to? What’s holding you back?