Saturday, January 30, 2010

My Actspeditions Evaluation for Cambodia Missions Trip

1. What was your most "memorable" single experience during this Actspedition?
Whoa! It's a hard question to answer, because there's really too many to write down. But I'll try.

Think the best memory was when Mesa and I were sharing our prayer requests with one another. We talked and talked... and Mesa was encouraging me and sharing verses from the Bible, and also about the importance of impacting the children for God. And even after praying together, I sensed that Mesa was burdened for his family, so I asked him again, "What can I pray for your family?" He shared accordingly, and when we got to pray together again, he knelt down right there and then, eyes closed in intense prayer and knees on the dusty concrete. So I joined him too.

What was so meaningful about this was that his father had been opposed to his becoming a Christian, and not just that, had neglected Mesa's mum and himself, so Mesa had to go through a lot of financial hardships, especially after becoming a Christian. But his heart of wanting his family, especially his dad, to know Jesus was very strong.

Thus, as we both knelt down there together, right in front of all the other people, and prayed together, these words came to my mind: "You are no longer a Singaporean and a Cambodian... You are simply brothers in Christ." Whoa!

It touched me so much, because I actually got to taste and see for myself the goodness of universal love, friendship and brotherhood, that only God can bring; that sets ACTSpeditions above a normal cultural community service trip; that for a very brief short moment in eternity, it is no longer a Singaporean and Cambodian talking together, but simply two brothers praying together as one.

I experienced Galatians 3:28 personally right there and then: "There is neither [Singaporean] nor [Cambodian], slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

2. What did you appreciate the most during the mission?
I think I appreciated the children so much. The children really are very sweet and innocent, even the rowdier ones, as compared to the children at home in Singapore. Perhaps it's because of the simplicity of their lives - no computers and fancy toys, but they somehow enjoy themselves on their bicycles and running around. Felt very deeply refreshed in the presence of the children!

And also for our Cambodian friends, especially Mesa and Sukian! They were a great help and blessing to us despite their busy schedules.

I also grew in my appreciation for my teammates - though I had known them for a long while already back in Singapore, when we got to rub shoulders together, I was touched to see how they went the extra mile to resolve conflicts, contribute and chip in to help overcome the many problems that we encountered along the way. I learnt so much from my team leader, Marcus, especially - the way that he led and his patience in resolving a conflict with me. :)

3. What did you appreciate the least during the mission?
I think the thing that I appreciated least was myself. Through the experience, I learnt how selfish and self-centred I can be, and also how, when I make decisions and think, I usually think first of myself. I also saw the ugly side of myself when it came to being responsible for my own roles and taking stronger ownership of the entire mission. But I'm grateful that my teammates and facilitators shared their own experiences and insights, and through their sharing, I uncovered some significant misconceptions that I had about teamwork and people in general. :)

4. What were the greatest lessons you learned during the mission? What helped you learn these lessons?
I think it was the service learning time, where we had open discussions and evaluation. Personally, I think it's one of the most important highlights of the trip, because doing these reflections help us make sense of our experiences. Through the service learning sessions, I learnt to appreciate others' perspectives of events, and especially about what is involved in taking ownership and other aspects of teamwork. I also learnt not to assume that some questions were aimed at me personally, but learnt to see these questions in a more objective way. 

One very important practical tip that I learnt is to write down everything and not trust my memory. Because on the missions field, because we are in a new and unfamiliar territory and culture, and have so much to keep track of, it is very easy to forget important little details. (Thanks Serene for the tip!)

On a more philosophical note, while chatting with Mesa, our translator, he was telling me about his farm that he used to work on. He was waxing lyrical about all the beautiful land and scenery and animals... I was starting to wish I was a farmer! :) 
But yes, come to think of it, I realised that God has given different peoples different kinds of riches. We Singaporeans may be materially richer than the Cambodians, but it turns out the Cambodians are so much richer in being able to enjoy lots of land, as compared to us. Which, come to think of it, every nation has its own glory, as given by God. (Rev 21:26)

Also, I saw how God can use everyone of us in the team, each with his own giftings and strengths. The key attitude is to give the very 110% of whatever we have, no matter how insignificant our gifts/strengths may be. Seeing Spencer in action really put his heart and soul into playing music and singing, I learnt a lot from this brother's spirit. And even if our gifts may not be appropriate for the moment, a positive, yes-we-can! spirit is always appropriate for any moment! :) Seeing the little "Michael Jackson" boy really give his everything (and boldly try out new stunts) in his dancing, I can see how God used him to bless an entire service of youths.

For the children's services, I personally had to learn to let go of my ego and be more collaborative when my plans had to be changed. It was a humbling experience, but God reminded me that the entire missions trip is not about me or him or her... but it is totally about Him and the people we want to serve

And I learnt a LOT, going through the challenges of communicating with children from a different culture and different language! It was very challenging, but very rewarding at the end of the day, seeing how God helped us in cross-cultural (and cross-generational) communications! It will be a great help in doing future missions work with children!

Also, simple little gestures of kindness such as spontaneous buying of gifts can go a long way in building friendships. I saw how Marcus and Yufen bought ice-creams for the Cambodian sisters when the ice-cream man came along.

And if I forget everything else, I think the most important lesson ever would be what Serene said: "Team unity is what makes or breaks a church-planting effort." That's why I really appreciate the service learning sessions very much. When I returned back to Singapore, I had a new perspective on teamwork and how to be a better support to my CL as a coreteam member

Finally, I learnt (I think Peiching said this to me) that God doesn't call the qualified; He qualifies the called! :)

5. What would you recommend to make the next Actspedition to this area even more effective?
- I think more practical tips on working together in teams / principles of interpersonal communications.

Please rate yourself regarding future mission service.
Maybe: I am going to be a Missionary
Agree: I am open to being a missionary, but I would like more information
Agree: I will be a strong supporter of full-time missionaries
Agree: I will return on another short-term missions trip
Agree: I will be a strong supporter of missions volunteers
Disagree: I do not think I will go on on another missions trip.

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