Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Seriously?

Just completed... well, most of it... our feedback session on EA Malaysia 2014.

I have to say, I do love this Team. Quite an exceptional Team who are passionate about what they do and give their all. Most of all, they love the youths.

Still, there are moments when I am tired of snarkiness... And there are the odd one or two who give snarkiness. What is it with those who join volunteer activities and are snarky? Like seriously, go be snarky somewhere else! We are not THAT hard-up for volunteers! And I know you forget all too often, but I'm a volunteer too. I'm just tired of reminding anyone else about it. Not that anyone cares, honestly.

Slightly shaken by tonight. I wonder if I'm on the right track. The track stretches so long in front of me, and the future is so uncertain on it. I don't have any prospects of income except whatever is leftover from what I fundraise. And I've heard plenty of criticism about people who earn a salary from a charity, as if staff are expected to work for free in a charity.

And ... for what? That's what my heart asks all the time.

One of our youths shared during the Closure that she felt so stressed during the EA journey. She shared that before to one of our new volunteers who was shocked enough to repeat it to us. The 'older' volunteers explained that this youth in particular is very easily stressed and very sensitive... She takes on too much responsibility on herself. But today when I'm disheartened I think, why are we doing this at all if it only leads to you feeling stressed? We could all save so much time, energy, money by not having EA Malaysia at all. What knowledge and what guarantee do I have after all that I AM making a difference?

What qualifies me to do this? Nothing at all. I have no special gifts, no talents in this area. I'm not even trained to do this. And I feel that I bomb out... Really. Today's feedback... well... after listening, you know what? I can't do this. For the lack of trying? Really? Seriously? I try and work hard at it all the time. I'm sick of courses, trainings, programmes, camps... everything that I can possibly try to learn and be better. AND FOR WHAT?!!! If it made a difference I would be satisfied that it is worth it. But all I'm doing is bumbling around trying to make a difference that never happens.

Evaluation time.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Insensitive

I was really furious, the other evening. C was sharing about a girl who had disclosed to C that she had been sexually abused as a child. The girl who disclosed the abuse had also said that she had 'liked' the sexual touch. C told us how shocked C had been to hear this, in a funny way that made some of the listeners laugh.

I didn't laugh. I thought of the brave girl who had made such a courageous choice to disclose.

And I wished that I could tell C a few things...

I wish I could have told C...

... That some sexual abuse victims do get aroused by the sexual touch, and that is normal. It's just the way the body is made.

... That the sexual abuse survivor often feels shame and guilt because they think they must have wanted and instigated the abuse, because they 'liked' it.

... That children's bodies are capable of and do respond to such touch, and it is something some abusers use to hold against them, to keep them silent.

... That by laughing and making fun of it and getting others to laugh with you, you are only compounding the shame and silence other survivors feel.

But... Then I wonder, maybe all people think the same? I don't know...

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The White Protest

This is a picture of 6,700 Christians wearing white... To protest against Pink Dot in Singapore.

When I saw this, I really felt uncomfortable with it. To me, it just gave such an impression that they are protesting LGBT relationships in a way that will make LGBTs feel that they are the ones being protested against.

I posted it on FB. And I was quite surprised to see the post picked up and shared by another guy who normally has strong views but who agreed with how I felt.

Then I saw a guy whom I knew reply to him in the comments. This guy and his good friend are NOT on my friends lists. I dislike very much some of their ways of looking at things... Distinctly unloving and very self-righteous. I remember asking his good friend once if he had led anyone to Christ before and he said no, he had shared with his friends but THEIR hearts were cold. I couldn't help but think to myself that I would not like to believe in the kind of God that he represents! A cold and merciless god!

Anyway, this guy had a strong debate with the guy who shared my post. He disagreed strongly.

At the same time, I read another article published by the same magazine, about a lady who is a Christian. She is no longer in an LGBT relationship. But she first got to know Christ because she was drawn by the love and acceptance that other Christians showed her. Some of the Christians said, "She is embarassing! She is a bad example!" but their leader told them to treat her with love. Today, she is a beautiful testimony of Christ love and salvation.

Isn't that the crux of the whole matter?

Monday, June 16, 2014

It Is Well

We sang this in church last Sunday. Much to my surprise, tears came to my eyes. 

The words that stirred my heart the most were these:-

"So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name"

I wondered where the tears were coming from, and I realised that they were tears left over from the strain of organizing EA.

It's something that only another Founder of a charity can understand. There are tears that you cannot cry in front of the people you are leading. There are fears you can never express to your team. Instead, you must always look confident and be the support of the others. I had one volunteer who was really temperamental during the Expedition; I have to be that person's support and patiently guide her through the tantrums. There are times when things go wrong, and the one who must give the assurance that everything will turn out okay, is the Founder. There are people who don't do the work they are allocated, and the Founder must take up the slack. 

So the only shoulder that I can cry on is God's. No one else hears the tears, the desperate whispers when I lack faith, the cries of frustration and hurt when volunteers are deliberately hurtful, the feelings of guilt when I take too much time out of what should be family time and friends time just so I can handle things with the charity... no one but You. And God reminded me, He is always there

Verse 1
Grander earth has quaked before
Moved by the sound of His voice
Seas that are shaken and stirred
Can be calmed and broken for my regard

Chorus
Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well
Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
It is well with me

Verse 2
Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can't see
And this mountain that's in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

Bridge
So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul

Thursday, June 12, 2014

You'll Be In My Heart

I was so touched yesterday. One of our youths - hmmm... let's call her Y - wrote on FB about how happy she is to be back for a visit with her mom. Another of our youths - let's call her Z - 'liked' that post.

It touched me so much because Z has never known the love of her mom. Don't get me wrong; she HAS a mom. Most of our kids DO have moms and dads... Somewhere... But Z, I know, has never felt loved by her mom. Yet, she was sensitive and sweet enough to 'like' something that made her EA team member happy.

If only I could heal Z's wounded heart too...

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

All of it

How can I write in full what Expedition Agape Malaysia 2014's expedition to the Philippines was like? Especially since I'm supposed to be hard at work finishing up a report on the lecture that I missed to be handed in at 1p.m. ;).

So much happened that was just incredible. Let's start with the fundraising. I still remember how desperately frustrated I got with the slow fundraising. And at the same time, how very inspired I was by new volunteers who took up the challenge and ownership of fundraising the most. Finally, two weeks before the deadline with still over RM30,000 to raise, I gave my monthly tithe and told God, "God, You said to test You in this. I'm testing You. Here's my tithe; give us the RM30,000 that we need to take the youths to the Philippines." God is so faithful... The money fell like a waterfall into our account filling up what we need with time enough for us to remit the money to Manila and to withdraw it for our own expenses. More money came in the last two weeks before we left for Manila then we had fundraised in the two months prior to that.

And my learning on leadership. I learnt that not all people are meant to be leaders, in the traditional sense of leadership. They are meant to be the leaders in the area that they are called to lead. They may lead in servanthood, they may lead in kindness, they may lead in technical ability, they may lead in administrative ability, but not all are called to stand in front and organize. That is a particular form of leadership. And it is frustrating to put those who are not called to do that in that position because it is like forcing a squirrel to swim! It is also frustrating for those who need to take up the slack on behalf of the 'leader', because those who are supposed to be the leaders 'run away' as they are uncomfortable in that position!

This year's EA was so topsy-turvy; I often felt that God must be purposely turning everything upside down just so He could stand and laugh at my desperate scrabbling to get things arranged in 'my way' and 'my order'! I finally gave up in frustration on the last day on the immigration procedures because I was just so darn tired! We had run all over KL trying to get this document and that document done and it seemed never enough. I was sick and tired of the jolts that I would get every time I checked the list of 'documents required' and could not find a particular document in my stack on that list. Finally I briefed the other volunteers on how to take care of the youths in case of immigration issues and some of us needing to go back home and just waited to see. And... Everything went totally smoothly. The immigration officer who looked stern at first even chit-chatted with us about how she would like to visit Malaysia someday!

I felt deep gratitude for love poured out to overflowing to the youths. The staff at Metro were so patient and friendly and affectionate that if it was possible for the youths to be spoiled by love, they would have been! How they soaked it up; to the point that there were tears when it was time to go home and many wails about how they missed this person and that person amongst Metro staff. There is healing in love.

I was also deeply thankful for an amazing volunteer Team this year. They were a full-on volunteer Team, and knowing how much work they had outside the Expedition, I was just so touched by the time they took to give to the youths and do all they can for them to have a change.

Total surprise to see a youth, sitting completely alone at the airport restaurant during lunch before our return flight. The youth was looking to the left and to the right to the tables on each side filled with laughing youths and volunteers - like a little island sitting alone. I have literally never seen that before in my life anywhere. It made me sad to see how this youth compensated by looking for attention from the opposite sex as the answer.

Resignation when I heard about how one youth had punched a sibling until blood spattered on the bedroom floor the last night before we go back. Without fail, something tends to happen the last night! But this also made me think in wry amusement, that the youths never let us forget, in our joy at their growth, where they came from and that there is still more healing to be done in the deep wounds inside.

Joy, joy, joy at seeing the youths grow and grow, especially those that we have seen from year to year. One volunteer said to me, "X has a special connection to you." I thought back to when X came in; tough as jute rope... And how X had blossomed and bloomed to be just who X is... Just oneself.

Tiredness leading to tears at reasoned and sensible criticism that was also just 'a little too much' on the second last day. Both last year and this year, for some strange reason, people must give their critical analysis of the Expedition on the second last day! ;) I appreciate it, but not when I'm so tired that I can't listen with objectivity! It makes me smile though to hear one part that sounded like criticism, but to us who have been in EA for three years, was joyous feedback as we realised anew how far the youths had come. New volunteers fail to see that because they only see in a snapshot... To us, it is a video reel of growth.

Heavy sadness when I visited little J's house. It was cement blocks barely covered with a holey roof and holes in the walls standing on a floor of wet garbage. The door and their bed was just plywood. Two people could not stretch out their arms in the entire house. Her house was one of many in a dark alley filled with many of these shelters. I was glad to get out, even if the street was in a dangerous area of Manila. At least there was sunshine instead of the heavy cloying dankness. Her little sister who is turning three is the size of a baby.

I remember looking at all the beautiful children who came to us from that area and wondering, "Will you end up living your whole life in this area; one of the most dangerous slums in Manila?" One of the women there was so drunk she kissed and hugged two of our boys and then came back for more kisses before a Metro staff pulled our youths away. Another woman tried to lie to us and grab the food we were giving out to the kids. I wondered how many of the little kids would reach home safely with their precious bags of food, and how many would be held up by older bullies who would grab them before they could reach home. And I wondered, how many kids are there all over the world just like these?

I kept my anger under check as one of my youths chatted on the van as we travelled from place to place, "Hey Gillian, you know in that Home ah... This happened and that happened..." This youth gave voice to the physical abuses that I knew were happening at a certain shelter home that I had volunteered in, and which I knew the agencies caring for shelter homes were well aware of, but which they did nothing about.

Just little snapshots of our trip... I'll write more after I finish my work! Arrghhh!!!!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Which will you throw away?

We played a game in class yesterday. Our lecturer, Ms. B, asked us to write down 10 things that we value the most in our lives right now. I came up with 8.

Then she said, "Throw away five."

"I have 8," I said.

"Yes, throw away five."

I looked at them. Throwing away dance and books were easy. The rest were not.

She told us to scrunch them up and throw them on the floor. So I did.

Finally I was left with three. And it was funny. One of the three was 'family'. For some absurd reason, I began to cry. Memories flooded me.

"Throw away the others until you have just one," Ms. B went on.

I knew which one I would keep. I scrunched up the other two, including 'God', and kept family.

The lecturer began asking some of the students what was happening with them. Two other girls were crying too.

Then she said, "It was also a really difficult exercise for you, wasn't it, Gillian?" Silence. "Extremely painful." Silence. "Do you want to share with the class?" I shook my head. "Yeah, I can see that." she said.

And the class went on.

After the class, some of us were hanging around and chit-chatting. To my surprise, two of my classmates said they threw away 'family' in the first five. They were laughing about it.

I said, "If you've ever lost family, you will value it. You won't throw it away."

"Or perhaps, you've been so badly hurt by your family!" shot back one of the girls who had thrown away 'family'.

I thought of the youths I knew. Despite all the pain and heartbreak and abuse and abandonment they had gone through at the hands of their families, they still longed to go back home to family.

"That statement is not true." I thought. But there was no use me saying anything. I knew my classmate would never understand.

Nobody can until they've lost family how desperately you will cling to whatever 'family' you can after that.