Thursday, July 29, 2010

African saying

Oh gosh.... Serene just shared this with me:

"Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty; and your purpose when you are confused." African saying

It is so perfect! I want this painted in the waiting room of the centre for sexually abused kids that I want to set up someday... running along the four walls just below the ceiling, so that they can read it and know, and their healing will begin before I even see them and begin counselling them.

It addresses these four 'feelings' and 'thoughts' that I've been wracking my brain as to how to address:-

... the feeling of guilt
... the feeling of being ‘dirty’
... the thoughts of being a bad person who deserves this and the confusion that arises from that
... the brokenness inside that arises from feeling worthless and cheap and used

There are things that words don't seem to have the power to heal.

But this saying addresses it from another angle; sending a gentle reminder that these are 'feelings' and 'thoughts' and not reality... that inside, you are still beautiful and good and whole.

I love it so much! <3 Thanks Serene! Agape!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Time to change

Something a friend shared today really broke my heart. I don't know why... I mean, I hear things like that so often. People get so disgusted and turned-off by the way we Christians behave that they decide if we are His representatives, then they want nothing to do with such a God.

It made me examine my own life; and I know I've often had this niggling thought at the back of my head about the way I behave. And it grieved me to think that many, many people have been so hurt by what we do and what we say that they don't want to know Jesus.

It is one thing to not show Jesus to people, but to turn them off Him completely? Will God truly not hold us accountable for choosing to not walk His way? And don't give me platitudes about 'You tried your best' and 'Each person has to decide' and all those trite messages with which we try to cover our eyes to the truth. Trite words will mean nothing when we face God one day.

It reminds me of a sermon I heard about Mahatma Gandhi. And I found this in a blog by John Mark Ministries ...

"Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most respected leaders of modern history. A Hindu, Gandhi nevertheless admired Jesus and often quoted from the Sermon on the Mount. Once when the missionary E. Stanley Jones met with Gandhi he asked him, “Mr. Gandhi, though you quote the words of Christ often, why is that you appear to so adamantly reject becoming his follower?”

Gandhi replied, “Oh, I don’t reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Apparently Gandhi's rejection of Christianity grew out of an incident that happened when he was a young man practising law in South Africa. He had become attracted to the Christian faith, had studied the Bible and the teachings of Jesus, and was seriously exploring becoming a Christian.

And so he decided to attend a church service. As he came up the steps of the large church where he intended to go, a white South African elder of the church barred his way at the door.

“Where do you think you’re going, kaffir?” the man asked Gandhi in a belligerent tone of voice.

Gandhi replied, “I’d like to attend worship here.”

The church elder snarled at him, “There’s no room for kaffirs in this church. Get out of here or I’ll have my assistants throw you down the steps.”

From that moment, Gandhi said, he decided to adopt what good he found in Christianity, but would never again consider becoming a Christian if it meant being part of the church."


Time for me to change. Oh God, help me change!

Monday, July 19, 2010

The ones who don't quite make it...

X, is still on my mind....

The other day I saw someone whom I thought was X, and I almost called out to her... but it wasn't her.

I don't know what it was about X... what caught my eye about her, if you will. Maybe it was that aura of... just not quite being able to make it...

I remember on the last night of Camp Vision when I was talking to Suan, she asked me how I found camp. I enthusiastically told her that I loved it because I had wanted to work with at-risk youths for quite a while.

I told her that the youths who I am always drawn to are the ones who just don't quite make it. The ones who keep falling.... the ones who find it hardest to climb out...

And she asked a very perceptive question, "Why is that? Is it something in your past that causes that?"

And I was struck dumb.

I didn't know why. I was literally paralyzed as a myriad of images flew through my head and a wave of emotions swelled and crashed...

Finally, I choked out, "Just stuff."

And Suan was astute enough to say, "Okay." and leave it at that.

But that stuck to me... why couldn't I answer? What had been triggered by that swift, penetrating question?

And I thought back... and I remembered....

Me.

I'd forgotten...

I WAS one of those misfits. I WAS one of those who was always getting into trouble. I WAS one of those whom people shook their head about and thought there was no way I could possibly make it....

Until God came into my life, a difficult, messed-up teen... to say, "I will redeem this one and make her my own."

And He did.

Because I always knew deep in my heart how precious was this second chance in life, this faith in me, I purposed very early on that someday I would give to others a second chance... yea, a third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh chance, if need be!

I know no one is 'hopeless' and 'useless' because those were words thrown at me... and today, I'm not that.

Somebody once believed in me and gave me another chance in life. Today, I give that same gift back to others.

EA: First Volunteers' Meeting

Our first volunteers meeting was in the amphitheatre at Dhoby Ghaut station. Serene and Calvin bought snacks and drinks and we sat on the steps and talked.



The volunteers were so varied - David, Nicholas, Pei Fern and Shu Fen (the two Fen's :>), Nina, Sophia, Lin Lin, Firdaus and myself. All of us were from different walks in life and had no doubt different backgrounds. But we had common issues too! David, Pei Fern and I were all from Malaysia (though the other two live in Singapore now), Sophia, Nicholas and David were all trained in engineering, and Shu Fen, Pei Fern and myself are all dancers. Cool huh?

Each volunteer brought so much enthusiasm and a willingness to contribute something to make the Expedition happen. Of course, none contributed as much as our husband-and-wife-to-be leaders couple - Serene and Calvin. We were flooded with carefully prepared, detailed notes from Serene!



Before we began the committee meeting, we had a short time of getting to know each other. Each of us chose a piece of manila cardboard and on it, drew something that would help us share about ourselves. This was quite a moment for hilarity as we drew funny little pictures that... looked somewhat different from what we wanted them to be... like David's elephant... ;>


When we'd finished our introductions, Calvin shared more with us about Expedition. Calvin and Serene had met up with a guy from Sikkim earlier that week and brought from him the beauty of the people in Sikkim to share with us. Both Calvin and Serene believed that the people in Sikkim did not need our financial contributions as much as the people in Cambodia as they were not in as desperate a situation as some of the Cambodians the previous Expedition had encountered.

Instead we would contribute through the activities we were going to conduct with the children and through small items like stationery.

The height of the area we would be in was emphasized to us... Sikkim lies 3000+ metres above sea level! For that reason, Calvin said that we would probably bring the youth leaders this year - those who are older (18/19 years old) and better able to stand the rigours of the journey.

The amount we would need to raise in order to sponsor each person was somewhat daunting - an est'd. SGD$2,000 per pax.

But for the effect that it would have on each youth's life, yes, we believed it would be well-worth it. Serene shared with quiet inner passion about why she believed so strongly in Expedition and the difference that it would create for the youths. Calvin also shared about some of the other youths who had gone for Expedition before and the changes that had been wrought in their lives. It was inspiring to listen to the stories!

Lists of duties and upcoming activities were handed out to us... ooh.... finally it dawned on the first-timers how much commitment was involved! Week after week of activities had been planned in order to prepare the youths for the Expedition!

Calvin also told us that each youth would have an adult 'buddy' and two adult buddies with two youths would make up a team. I really loved that idea as it gave the opportunity to work one-to-one with a youth.

Then Serene passed out a list of responsibilities to look over and from there, to choose which we did not like and which we liked. Firdaus cheerfully chose about half a page of activities that he really liked, and said he did not 'not like' almost any! :>

Serene also asked what special skills we had. Wow, Firdaus' special skill was cooking! Since on Expedition, we cook our own meals, that was an especially much-needed skill!

Nina had a highly-in-demand skill... she could do physiotherapy! She offered to do massage on the youths who had aching muscles from trekking into Sikkim! All the rest of us were pretty eager to let us be her 'guinea pig' to practise her skill on too!

We broke up after setting our next meeting date (this coming weekend!). To close, we had an affirmation circle (soooooo Camp Vision!) and affirmed the group as a whole.

I think one and all of us agree... this Expedition is going to be something special, and we are all looking forward to the journey ahead!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Camp Vision - the 3 day 2 night camp

Yuk Wai, since you're not on my Facebook, I'm copying this here just for you!

Our journey began at the totally unseemly hour of 10:30 p.m. I met up with Samantha at the bus station. It was surreal to see this young lady whom I had once brought to another youth camp, now coming alongside to volunteer!

Then Yen Yen and June, the Malaysian youth leaders, came up, and so did the RACTAR girls.

We reached Singapore at 3:45 a.m. The bus fetching us to the camp was lost, so it took a while for it to come. We reached Camp Christine at 5:30 a.m., jolting poor Paul, one of the volunteers, out of his nap.

He took us up to the dorm where the other volunteers were sleeping and told us that volunteers briefing would be at 7:30 a.m.! Goodness! I had a quick shower and we all flopped onto the mattresses. Who knew short naps could be so restful?

Coming out of the dorm I realised what a beautiful area Camp Christine was in.... we bordered the sea and it was picturesque all around with wooden cabins and tents and the stilt houses on the sea.

We met the other volunteers, and I met the volunteers for my group – Thomas, this really kind, gentle guy – and Sze Shiang, a tiny diminutive lady who turned out to b a soldier! She’s also a lovely person, very organized and clear-thinking. Nicholas, a powerfully built all-round sportsman, joined us later.

Mel was our youth leader and she was to be a powerful, loving force in our group as she encouraged the youths and gave tough love to each member.

Soon the buses came and we were busy getting to know all the campers. I think we were ALL nervous! The campers came from different centres and shelters and of course, they were split into groups as soon as they arrived.

The campers were welcomed into camp by our great, and caring MC – Paul! The first thing he organized was... ICE-BREAKERS! And boy, does Paul know some wicked ones! We played "yes (shake your head no!) and no (nod your head yes!)" and got happily confused, scissors/paper/stone caterpillar, arranging yourselves in your group according to age/ birthday/ forgot what...!!!

Then, in our groups, we had to choose a group name... ours was CHAMPIONS! We came up with a group cheer, decorated our group’s banner and decorated our 'affirmation envelopes'. Affirmation envelopes are envelopes which are hung up behind the hall and anyone can drop in notes of affirmation throughout the camp. I noticed a lot of youths throughout the three days checking their envelopes daily!

We had about half an hour for lunch (!!!!) and those of us who had kitchen duty (like our group!) had 5 minutes for lunch (!!!!!!) because we had briefing after that!

After lunch, an authoress who had interviewed and written about youths who had faced different challenges in Singapore came to share about her book and gave one to each youth and volunteer for free.

Jermaine and Paul took turns reading out excerpts from one of the chapters of the book – about a young boy who at 15 years old, was in solitary confinement. I think this hit so hard for the youths.

In the afternoon, we played station games. The groups had to guess the name of a popular song. After completing each station, they would be given a clue to help them figure out the song.

I was manning one of the stations so I can't tell you what each station was like... I know mine was charades and it was hilarious! I learnt a lot! Who knew the ‘I-Love-You’ symbol for the Deaf now means ‘Rock’ to the young people?!

The absolutely funniest was one girl who was trying to sign ‘black’ and her way of doing it was jabbing a finger at a friend who was wearing a black t-shirt and jumping up and down with frustration when nobody could figure out what on earth she was trying to say!

The high point of the day for me was when one of the RACTAR girls came up to me and said, “Gillian, thank you so, so much for giving me the opportunity to come. I enjoy myself so much! Even though I am from Johor, I’ve never had the chance to come to Singapore!”

My heart melted! I told her all the thanks went to Camp Vision who were the ones who raised the funds and sponsored the Malaysians each year to come for their great camp. Luckily Suan was nearby, so I could re-direct the girl’s thanks to where they were truly due!

Jermaine came forward to give us a 'gift'... she signed a beautiful song and took out its essence in her dancing fingers to give the meaning to the youths.... it touched hearts as music alone sometimes cannot.

Later in our groups, each group member took turns to share his/ her goal. There were so many tears as my group shared about their families.... One thing which I learnt; I could really see that the absence of father figures in the lives of these youths cause major breakdowns in their homes.

At night, we did this activity in groups of four - one person will step up and mention his/ her dream, the things people say that discourage them, and the things they would like to hear that will encourage them. Two people will act as 'blockers'. The remaining one will be a supporter.

The blockers stand in front of the dreamer shoulder to shoulder. The dreamer will try to push through the middle of these blockers, and the blockers will try to 'block' him/ her whilst shouting all the negative words that the dreamer mentioned discourages them. They represent the things stopping the youths from reaching their dreams. The supporter cannot touch the dreamer but will shout all the positive words the dreamer wants to hear.

I was advised not to take part in this activity because of my asthma. Just watching the demo, I realised how seriously this activity was taken... sheer brute force was used by the dreamer and the blockers used all their strength to block.

The volunteer in charge of this activity was very tough on the youths and would not let them get away with anything less than 100%... the dreamers had to go back again and again to try to push through and there were many tears because the blockers gave their all too and did not simply let the dreamers through.

I could see how much the blockers loved their friends; to be willing to put up with so many bruises as the dreamers slammed into them again and again, just to drive home this powerful message for the dreamers.

Some of the dreamers gave up, it was so tough. They got to see for themselves how easily they give up when things get tough in their lives and learnt they had to push through again and again if they wanted to achieve their dreams.

What was scary was when our youth leader fainted! Mel had not enuff sleep. I was so afraid something was seriously wrong, but she was fine. Everyone was sweating loads by the end.

When we debriefed, the youths in my group mostly agreed that it was not the blockages that bothered them but the negative words that were shouted at them that made them want to give up.

After that, the youths were given blocks of wood. On one side, they painted/ drew their dreams. On the other side, they wrote the negative words they heard every day.

The dreams were different, but many just wanted a simple dream - to go to college and university. One of the youths' in my group wrote such negative words like "Study for what, waste time" "Quit school!" "Go school do nothing" at the back of her block. Such were the negative words she was used to hearing.

I noticed some of the youths were asleep at the side of the hall as the night wore on... it was a truly a long, fun-filled and meaningful day!

When I got back to the dorm after volunteers de-briefing, the (single) bathroom had a long queue in front of it! I was so exhausted from a sleepless night that I ko’ed for an hour or so, waking up past midnight to take my shower.

I thought the youths would sleep till late in the morning (or as late as allowed) but no... at 5:00 a.m.(!!!!) I heard squirrelly shuffling sounds as the girls started making their way to the lone bathroom.

Oh me oh my, my bunk was nearest to the bathroom! The volunteer next to me, Barbara, whispered repeated reminders to the girls to, “Keep the noise down!”

Ah well, no point sleeping then! So....

The second day’s activities were rock climbing, station games, kayaking... the youths, especially, I know, RACTAR girls, absolutely loved it!

I was busy helping some of the volunteers create the Spider Web. Boy, was it fun! We pulled string here and pulled string there and examined it again and pulled some more... It began to look impossible, as the teams had to go through the web with linked hands!

My station was helium pole where the groups had to bring down a hoop with all their fingers touching it. It taught them that it takes one leader to give directions for successful completion.

The teams also did trust fall from really high... three chairs stacked on top of a table high! I didn't get to see much of my group but I was glad to have the chance to watch them do trust fall as the station was near mine.

And my group did drop Thomas on the ground the first round.... but really proud of Thomas, he went a second round! I saw him wiping away tears after that...

Ooh... and most exciting... at the rock climbing wall, one of the girls in my team – Jocelyn - got almost all the way to the top of a very, very high wall! She's tiny and very quiet, but she is very determined. Jocelyn was one of my heroes during camp!

I was too late to join my team for kayaking, so I sat at the shore and watched them stand on their kayaks (very successfully, I might add!) and do formations before swinging back to shore. And of course, very near shore... two kayaks capsiized! Hmm... I think that was done on purpose, eh, Effa? ;>

Nick from our group was the PIC for kayaking and he was SUNBURNT red for the rest of camp! *lols*

I did get to try out my own spider web with my team though, and one of the girls called Munirah, lead our group. She was very good and we got through very fast by the easy method of lying on our backs and slipping underneath the whole web! The funniest bit was when little Fahmy had to suck in his round tummy as absolutely far as it could go in order to slip under the very last rope. When he made it, we screamed!!!!

The campfire task given to us was to put on a skit using ‘snow white’ ‘shrek’ ‘durian’... you gotta love the zany humour of our camp leaders! But my group soon realised, we didn’t have a problem with finding good characters for those roles! Tiny beautiful Suriati became Snow White, tubby little Fahmy became Shrek, Thomas cheerfully assumed the role of Durian, and Effa made a wonderfully hilarious Princess Fiona!

Suan lighted the campfire with a blazing torch and declared the Campfire open! Unfortunately the energy levels after a full day of activities was pretty low, even for campers! Everyone was zapped out on their chairs!

At the end of campfire, was a beautiful poignant moment when the camp committee linked arms and went round to receive the thanks of the campers whilst the campers sang “I’ll stand by you” ... oohz... tissue moment!

After the campfire, we sat in our groups again, and lit a candle. Each group member got to hold the candle in turn, and everyone in the group would affirm the member by telling them thank you and all the positive things they'd seen in the person in the two days. It was a solemn, meaningful time ... and I was so touched to see each group member being affirmed especially by the leaders.

What I remember best about MY turn was being told by Munirah, “You’re so tiny!” I was like, HUH?! And Mel pointed to Suriati and said, “If Gillian is tiny, then what about Suriati?” and Mun was like, “Suriati’s SMALL, but Gillian is TINY!”

Go figure! I must be at least four times the size of little Suriati!

The campers had free reign on bed-time, so you can imagine.... bedtime? WHAT bedtime?!

And all the committee and camp leaders were busy writing the last few notes to stuff into the affirmation envelopes! Lots of swollen eyes as they busily, and faithfully, scribbled away just to make sure each camper had that extra note of affirmation to build upon. Awww....

The last day was more frantic as we packed up and cleaned up.

Then the final activity of camp... each person took their blocks of wood with their goals on one side and negative words on the other and placed them on top of two piles of cement blocks with the negative words facing up.

One by one the campers used their fists to smash the blocks of wood (and the destructive words on them) in two! (take note, the blocks of wood are at least ONE INCH THICK!!!)

Watching my group do this activity was such a powerful moment as we supported them as they tried and tried and tried yet again when they couldn’t do it. Some members did it immediately and were ecstatic. But it was those who kept trying, including our group’s youth leader, that just caught my heart with their amazing courage and perseverance.

I didn't get to smash my board, though, as I was quite adamant that I did not want any of my group members to be the last... I know it feels awful to be last and have everyone gone on to the next activity and you're the only one still stuck.

Sze Shiang gamely joined me to the last station still set up to smash our woods together. Our powerful little soldier took just one hefty blow and the board split right open! But just as it was my turn... Paul interrupted us as one more youth needed to have a last try.

Whilst waiting for that last youth to smash her plank of wood, I was talking to Serene, who is one of the sweetest volunteers in the camp. Just asking and sharing, we learnt more about each other and... the thing that I feared the most would happen at camp, did happen.... I cried! ;> *lols*

Throughout camp I avoided every breakdown moment as I was so afraid I WOULD cry... it was such a powerful, personal-development camp! Thanks Serene. Agape!

By the time we finished drying our tears... the last station for smashing the boards had been dismantled! Oh well... I packed my board for the next Camp Vision! ;>

When it came time for my Malaysian youths to go back - we had to go back early so they will not miss the bus home - the Malayisan girls cried SO MUCH! Floods! It took forever for us to say goodbye and leave. Camp Vision had a special completion of camp certificate presentation for them and gave them their affirmation envelopes stuffed with notes to take back.

Suan followed us to get their bags... and the girls were still crying. She followed us to wait for the bus... and the girls were still crying. Thank goodness she was there, as Suan gently talked to the one girl in particular who had told me thank you on the first day and who was particularly inconsolable!

We got on the bus, the girls still in tears and missed the last part of camp. And ko’ed right after immigration!

But what the RACTAR girls had to say was, "It was the best camp I've ever attended." "I've never attended a camp like this where I learnt something from EVERY activity." "I got to do activities I've never had the chance to do in any other camp." "I learnt to trust myself and to trust my friends... before this, I couldn't trust anyone." “I believe in myself; I can do my dream.”

Just to hear their feedback brought the happiest tears to my eyes. To see that joy, that new-found trust and faith in themselves and others, to see the growing confidence and purpose... nothing in the world beats that. It made the whole journey worthwhile.

Thank you so much, Camp Vision for bringing the youths of Malaysia to join you guys every year. Agape... Love you guys always!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Volunteers Appreciation Night

I'll let the pictures tell the story...


Me at the Volunteers Gathering.


Really happy to meet Thomas again - my group leader in Camp Vision and one of the most amazingly kind-hearted and patient people.


*lols* Stella tied up everybody's hair to fit in with the theme 'Youths' Night Out'


Some of the volunteers went the extra mile to dress up to fit the theme...


As in, I really mean they went way, way, WAY far out to fit the theme...!!!


Camp Vision volunteers... people with great hearts full of love who put that love into action and make a difference!

EA: Pushing thru!

Yuk Wai, I know I promised to keep updating on 'the journey', but I don't know how I'll ever find time!

Right now I'm busily trying to expand the network to get the funds for Camp Vision Expedition. I believe that we need to get that cleared out of the way and then we can concentrate on our favourite part - spending time with and impacting our youths!

Yeah, we can leave a margin of fund-raising to be done 'together', but at the end of the day, it's the 'adults' who will raise most of the funds!

So I've written to Tony Fernandes of AirAsia to ask them if they will sponsor the air tickets to Kolkota.

Su Yin has given me a great network with a lady who doesn't even know me but offered to allow us to post about the work we're doing with the RACTAR girls on her online mag. She has biz contacts who read her mag; what an amazing opportunity! Have to write that article and pass it to her.

Have sent letter asking Marina Mahathir if she would speak to the RACTAR girls and inspire and empower them...

And you know what this all reminds me of? The 'push' we practised in Camp Vision... to push through to achieve your goals. Because this is what it feels like.... keep going, keep pushing through every blockade... go through one, and another springs up! But keep going!

The weird part is .... I didn't even take part in the push activity! *lols* Like every other activity where I was afraid I would 'breakdown' at some point, I sneaked out of it. Hmmm.... curious how life works out, huh?

In short, I'm doing things I never thought I'd do. I'm 'too shy', 'not my thing', 'too quiet', 'who'd listen to me?'.... And yet... wow... I AM moving along the journey!

Exciting!!!!!!!


Perseverance PUSH!!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

EA: 1st week back to Singapore

I promised Yuk Wai that I'd document the journey through Camp Vision Expedition for him. So here goes...

It's 4-something a.m. in the morning. I'm typing frantically on a proposal that MUST go out on Monday. If mice want to play, mice must pay! I recognized when I first signed up to be part of CV Expedition 2010 that I had to sacrifice everything else for the privilege of being part of this journey.

People sound pretty amazed when I tell them I'm going to Singapore each weekend just to join the CV Expedition preparation. I guess I learnt something important about myself from just signing up. That I'm a pretty tenacious bulldog of a person! *lols*

Camp Vision gave me a glimpse of what COULD be done in the lives of the youths. The feedback from our own youths - that they learnt something from EVERY activity; that it had changed their lives - alerted me to the fact that this was a possible successful program to bring back to the orphanage youths of Malaysia.

What is the difference about Camp Vision? I think I agree with Yuk Wai - the difference is they work with their HEARTS. It makes all the difference when you bring your heart and passion to the youths and show them you're willing to give your all for their sakes. Nobody in their lives could care less about them otherwise!

So I've got to finish up this proposal and get myself ready by 7a.m. God must have put the bus stop for the bus to Singapore within walking distance for a reason ;>... He knew this krazy child of His would need it every week at some point!

I'm.... apprehensive. I don't know whether I can contribute, what it'll be like working with exceptional volunteers (as people, they scare me - they're so hyper-efficient and with tons of mega-energy!), whether I'll run out of petrol halfway :>....

But even today when I was feeling nervous, I reminded myself why I'm going on this journey. To make a difference for the orphanage youths in Malaysia.

And that calmed me down and refocused me. Okay... gotta get back to my proposal. Ciao!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

And then the day came...

"And then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." Anais Nin

What a start to my new journey.... lately it seems as if so many people are coming along to help me look inward to the pain and hurt in my heart and to gently urge me to seek healing.

I wonder where this new journey will lead... I never expected the pockets of healing along the way...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

As You See Me ...

I love the story behind this question....

When Oprah opened her school in South Africa, she interviewed hundreds of girls to personally hand-select the girls who would make it into her school.

And out of those hundreds of girls, one brave girl gathered up enough courage to ask this question: "As you see me, do you think that I'm good enough to be selected to go to the school?"

That question just struck home with me. I think all of us ask that in our hearts when facing the people whose opinions matter to us.

Yesterday, I was chatting on MSN with a friend who is conducting sexual abuse awareness programmes in Shelters and Homes in Malaysia. That digital conversation is still fresh on my mind.

I was thinking of the huge burden and weight of shame pressing down on the shoulders of survivors of sexual abuse.

I wonder how many of them still ask inside, "As you see me, do you think that I'm good enough?"

Monday, July 5, 2010

Camp Vision Follow-Up

Last Saturday, June, Samantha and I visited the Home where the Malaysian girls who attended Camp Vision 2010 were staying.

It was really emotional when the girls first saw us... plenty of tears again! I guess they thought we wouldn't come back...

What really touched me was when we asked them how the Camp had been for them. One and all gave such feedback as, "It was the best camp I've ever attended." "I've never attended a camp like this where I learnt something from EVERY activity." "I got to do activities I've never had the chance to do in any other camp." "I felt so supported and encouraged to achieve my dreams." "I learnt to trust myself and to trust my friends... before this, I couldn't trust anyone."

It brought tears to my eyes! I was so, so happy to see the joy and happiness in the faces of each girl and to hear how Camp Vision had changed the direction of their lives.

Thanks so much, Camp Vision, for what you've done for the orphange youths of Malaysia.

Agape, I love you!

Friday, July 2, 2010

To R

R, I don't remember Anya. I remember Ariel so well... she couldn't stop chattering when I took care of her whilst you were busy with Anya... such a delightful child!

Do you know I was so happy for you when you got married?

You had the amazing courage to tell all of us who were youths at the time about your childhood and youth... the brokenness and pain you went through, how you were jealous of those who came from happy and well-off families... and because of you, the youths who came from brokenness, too, could share their stories.

I kept a space for you in my heart since then. And when you got married, I didn't tell you, but I had the happiest bubble expanding in my heart thinking that the pain that you had gone through was now behind you.

And now... this....

I do not grieve for Anya's sake because I know she is very, very happy... and a state of constant joy is the most wonderful place to be, is it not?

I grieve for you, my precious sister in Christ... the dear Friend who once looked straight through me and gave me the words someone once spoke to you... "Gillian, you are so lonely, you don't even know it yourself."

I wish I could hold you for a moment, but what good would it do? Your grief is beyond words, platitudes and kind hugs.

R, I'm praying for you. May the peace that passes all understanding guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Memories...

Sometimes people ask me why I do so much volunteering... what moves me to do this. Most of the time I shrug and say, "This is how God made me." And that's very true, because I really was born just like this and I believe it's because God made me to fulfil a need just as He made all of us to fulfil some 'space' in this world that is empty until we come along to fill it.

But also, I remember....

In my family, I was so much the Lucky One. That's how I always thought of myself. I would see my brother and sister going through so much pain... but all I could do was watch.

And I remember as a child, one day, making a quiet promise to myself... "Now, I can't help my brother and sister because I'm still small myself. But someday, I'm going to help other children who are in the same pain they are in today."

And you know what? Today... I am!