Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Anticipation :)

Feeling tons better :>. Okay, acknowledged and agreed... It DOES help to talk things thru instead of sweeping them under the carpet... even if it IS far more tiring to do so!

God, I need Your wisdom too... I don't know how to help my team, but I know You do. And I know there is a reason You brought me here... I keep thinking it's for a future purpose, but maybe it is not - maybe You put me here, in this team, at this time, for a specific reason.

Help me to see what it is. At times when I get disheartened, I think I'm the misfit of the team >.<... but I love my team-mates! And I love the youths too!

And never let me forget... EA is in Your hands... and You won't let any of us fall. Surely You will honour the faith of those who named the Expedition 'Agape'... for the love that it represents. <3

Friday, November 26, 2010

Finding a voice...

Hmm... let's see where we go with this...

I get very frustrated frequently because I can't really speak out very well. The worst moments for me are when there are conflicts; I literally lose my 'voice'.

I think over the years, I've learnt that when I lose my temper and say things I shouldn't, I'll have to go back and apologize to that person for those words. Because of that, I prefer not to speak the words at all, so I won't have to apologize! (not so noble a reason, eh? ;> Now you guys know!)

Besides, I hate hurting people. No matter how much you hurt me, let me not hurt you!

Yesterday, I really enjoyed sharing with Jermaine on Facebook. We were sharing our dreams of helping kids to speak - and it is so rare for me to meet someone with the same dream!

The kids we are working with will have different reasons for not speaking, but our goal is the same... to help them find their 'voice'.

For me, not a vocal voice; I want to help my kids find another way of 'speaking', if speaking is too difficult. Because I truly understand that the vocal voice, especially in times of stress, can't 'come out'. So over the years, I've picked up sign language, explored dance, sand art, play therapy and anatomical dolls... any 'tools' that could be used to help my kids communicate.

Jermaine wants to help kids find their real, actual, vocal voice. :> I find that so beautiful, as kids who struggle with mutism really need someone 'on their side' to encourage them to use their voice.

Where do voices go? And why is it so difficult to speak sometimes?

Years back, I watched the film adaptation of Amy Tan's book 'The Joy Luck Club'. One part of the movie was so poignant, I remember it to today. It was the part where a little girl was standing next to her mother's dead body. Her mother had chosen to commit suicide by eating opium to get away from her miserable life as fourth wife to her rapist husband.

She had chosen to die, her daughter believed, so that her own spirit would merge with her daughter's, and give her the strength to speak out for herself. And the daughter stood next to her dead mother's body and said, "Mama, can you see me? I understand now. And I am no longer afraid."

The little girl turned and screamed at her father, "You must atone for what you have done, because all debts must be paid by the New Year!" Quickly, her father went to the altar, lit joss sticks and offered prayers to the spirit of the girl's dead mother. He vowed that the dead mother's daughter would be treated as if she was the child of his first wife.

And the words I never forgot resonated in the background... "And on that day... I learnt to shout."

Why did those words have such an impact as to stay with me all these years? It is because they were shocking to me.

Society trains us that a good girl, and especially a good Chinese girl, does not shout, yell, argue etc. etc. Cry if you will, but swallow your tears, and remember that bitterness is the lot of a woman. Confronting, and demanding change, is 'unwomanly'.

Strong in my memory are the first times I lost 'my voice'.

The first time I psychologically lost my voice, is when I tried to tell a friend about something that had happened to me as a child. I was talking and suddenly... no sound came out. I was puzzled, and tried to speak again. No... my voice had gone! My friend asked a question instead, as she saw that I couldn't speak, and I nodded in reply. Psycho-somatic, I'm sure, but thereafter I understood that there are moments when it is possible to 'lose your voice'.

The next memory is when I truly lost my voice for a physical reason :>. My voice had been going in and out as I struggled with a bad cold. And then at one point, at my sister's graduation from ACCA, it just disappeared altogether! I panicked as this was the first time I could not utter a sound, only whispers, no matter how hard I 'shouted'.

The doctor calmly inspected my throat and told me it had swollen shut over my vocal chords. After a few days (during which I tried REALLY hard to speak!), my throat healed and I could speak again. But ever since then, I've been plagued with throat infections of every kind causing me to 'lose my voice' intermittently.

But the struggle I have is the voice to be heard. I know that people read the things I write, follow certain examples in behavior... but nobody tells me they 'heard' me. And in a team situation especially, I sometimes feel as if I'm back to my days of illness when no sound comes out!

I don't know how to change this. But maybe, the change will come as I help children to find their voice? And yet, I have always wondered - if I can't find my own voice, how can I help kids find theirs?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Please listen...

One thing which happened during the recent camp that I really appreciated was when Suan, founder of CampVision, just took time out to listen to the volunteers.

It had been a pretty confusing day for all of us. Suan and Rena sat us down and asked us how we were feeling. And for once, all of us could honestly express how we felt.

We were too.... I dunno... exhausted to explain very much, but at least, we could be honest.

One thing which I've learnt in EA that I will never forget is, how important it is to listen to real feedback from your team. I appreciate how Shufen emailed us to say, Don't be sensitive, everyone, or nobody will dare to raise up any issues again.

I've always been someone who prefers to hide everything under a rock and determinedly and single-mindedly push through a project until its completion.

But recently, I've changed my mind... I believe it is the people and not the project that matters. It may take time to listen to your team, but if part of your objective is to grow your team, to develop the people involved in the project, then taking that time out is not time wasted.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Singaporeans

I have to say, volunteering in Singapore has really given me a battering in the self-esteem department :>.

Everyone seems so much quicker, smarter, brighter, funnier, more talented, more fit and healthy etc. etc. than me!

Suan is from Raffles Junior College (for non-Singaporeans, that is the elite-st of colleges! You can't get higher than that in Singapore - only the cream of Singapore students get in!) and started CampVision at the tender age of 27... Serene is from Nanyang Girls School (cream of all the Chinese-ed students in Singapore!) and, I don't know, the other day I couldn't help but think, she's better than me in every way!... Phi Fern was ex-Head Prefect from my school in Singapore...!!!

I really feel so small and intimidated amongst all these 'greats'.

But then yesterday, when I was miserably talking to God about this, He reminded me that He HAD given me a talent - I pick up sign language quickly! It made me *smile*!

I was like, "God, I would have loved to be talented in singing like Pst Kim, or dancing... or something showy like that. Instead, You've given me a talent to empower me to serve others!"

My God has a plan for my life - and the plan is so beautiful. I can't believe sometimes that He would use me to help others... but He does. And He didn't just give me a mandate, He equipped me.

I love You, God. Thank You for Your beautiful plan for my life.

Possibilities = Endless!

Really excited...

Yesterday, I received an email from Woon with all the upcoming activities for the Deaf. Woon really tries her best to come up with great programmes for the Deaf.

I wrote an email to thank her and told her I couldn't attend any because I'd be either in Singapore or India during the upcoming events.

She wrote back to ask for more details because she thought it'd be an interesting possibility for the Deaf youths in Malaysia!

I told her about my plan to adapt it for Malaysians to take them to East Malaysia. It also involves physical activities which is more ideal for the Deaf.

I really hope this can take off, as one of the things that's in my heart is to get the Deaf and Hearing to integrate more with each other.

Helen Keller once said, "Blindness separates you from things. But Deafness separates you from people." I couldn't understand why, until I mixed more with the Deaf.

I still remember so clearly joining a friend from Penang Deaf Association for a celebration dinner for different community service associations. We sat in full view of everyone, had dinner and conversed in sign. People around us were mingling and getting to know each other, but nobody approached us. I heard voices whispering, "Oh, they're deaf!"

At one point my friend looked at me sadly and signed, "In this whole party, I only talk to you." I didn't know what to say...

Community service is something I want to share with the Deaf, because it is my favourite-st activity! I've invited Deaf friends to concerts, parties, events... but I've not shared this one part of me that I love the most yet.

I don't know where this will lead, nor do I understand why so many exciting possibilities are opening up after Expedition. But I know my God sees my heart because He is giving me all the desires of my heart just as He promised He would.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Stormie O'Martian

I don't know where my Stormie O'Martian book is... Nadine, with you, kut? Or did I lend it to someone else?

Stormie's mom suffered from paranoia shizoprenia all through Stormie's life. She was amazed to find out after her mom died that, symptoms of the disease were present the day her mom and dad got married. Her mom insisted Stormie's dad drive to another motel for their honeymoon because, "Somebody is following us! Aliens are tracking us!"

When her mom was dying from breast cancer, Stormie, in one of her broken-hearted days, cried out to God, "God, restore the relationship between my mom and me. I never had that... The most basic of relationships - that of a mother and her child - was taken from me."

And God promised her, "I will... Through your daughter."

And Stormie thought, "WHAT daughter?" She only had a son at that time and was certainly not planning on another child!

But God was faithful, and after her mom passed away, Stormie had a daughter. And in the days watching her little girl growing up, with childish giggles and white dresses and ribbons and bows, she grew to understand how her mom must have felt when she watched Stormie at play as a little girl.

She remembered little things like mini pancakes that her mom had made on her good days... birthday treats and happy moments.... The moments hadn't last too long, and they were swamped by the mud of the miserable hours that followed as her mom would succumb to the disease soon after...

But... she had been loved. Through the disease of schizoprenia, at the base of it all, there was deep, abiding mother's love.

And that was enough.

What a beautiful story and what a blessing it has been. I'm so glad she had the courage to share.

Few understand... how precious are the ones that do.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Tribute

A couple of weeks ago, I dropped by a friend's house. They were just about to have dinner and invited me to join them, but I had had my wisdom tooth extracted, so I couldn't. Instead I pulled a chair up to the table and just chatted whilst they ate.

As we chatted, my friend's husband told stories about their little boy. The little boy smiled shyly as all the old childhood stories started coming out. At one point, he moaned in embarassment, "Daa-a-a-a-a-a-addddd!" whereupon his father stroked his hair and said, "It's okay, son!"

Throughout the dinner, I kept a close eye on the interaction between father and son. The love that the father showed his son touched me so much.

You see, I know some about the background of my friend's husband. He grew up in a tough and violent family. He didn't have a good role model in his father who was a violent man, and never gentle with his children.

When God blessed my friend and her husband with a son, it took a while for my friend's husband to know how to be a good father. He did not discipline his son very much; indeed, he seemed afraid to hit his son in case he hit too hard.

He used a stern voice to scold instead, sometimes bordering on shouting. It was, I think, a reflection of his childhood.

But then, some friends of the family gently pointed out to him that his little son was very afraid of his father. His son would not go near the father and became quiet and withdrawn when the father was around.

So my friend's husband decided to change. He interacted more with his boy. He talked to him, spent time with him and played with him.

And today, I can see the change in the relationship between father and child. I can see the little boy opening up to the dad and sometimes playfully batting back at his father when his father musses his hair or pinches his cheek. I can see the trust in the son that it is okay just to be in his father's presence.

I respect my friend's husband so much for choosing that different way. I know it's not easy. But the passing-down of violence through the generations is going to end because my friend's husband decided that it would stop with him. His son is going to have a different relationship with his grandson, because he will remember a different tone of voice, a different touch of a father's hand...

Would that all hurting families could heal by the children deciding, "This stops here."

Our miracle

I just finished preparing the receipts for all the donors in Expedition Agape (well, except for a few whose scribbled address and name I really couldn't decipher!) When I looked at my list of all the receipts that I had issued, I was deeply touched.

You know what, all in all, more than 100 people have donated to Expedition Agape. More than one hundred people, who have never seen our youths, never met the children and people of the impoverished village in West Bengal, have given whatever they can to make this dream of Expedition Agape come true.

Some days, I just sit back and look at the Expedition at this stage of the journey, and I'm just so amazed...

I think back to where we started from on this journey when we first met outside Dhoby Ghaut MRT - We were a bunch of volunteers who didn't know each other (will I ever forget Phi Fern telling Shufen, "Eh, you are Fen ah? I also Fern leh!"), had no bank account let alone money to put in it, had no youths signed up for the Expedition, and no activities or program planned for them whatsoever!

Serene told us, "We're going to create this from scratch!"

Fast forward to today... 3 and a half months after that first meeting. Our bank account holds enough to cover the expenses for 12 youth leaders and 10 adult leaders to make the trip to West Bengal, India and build an extension to a school and a fence around the playground. Bit by bit, drop by drop, the contributions from loving people who willingly extended their hands to give, have filled our financial needs in EA.

The youths are busily preparing the programme for the local community service they are going to do in Singapore prior to the trip, and the activities for the children in Kolbung Primary School during the two-week period we'll be up there.

Our team has formed and bonded. Last week, we had a camp in Pulau Ubin. We had a night walk where the youths positively insisted on swtiching off torchlights (and saw ghosts! ha ha!), cross-dressing (ahem!), trail activities in the pouring rain... and most of all, as with any CampVision activities, open-heart sharing of our lives, our dreams and hopes.

At the end of the camp, youths and volunteers alike had faces soaked in tears... the youths sharing, "I felt accepted for just being myself" "I've made friends"... the volunteers sharing, "It was worth it, to give up what I had to to be here" "I remember again why I do this"

How did we get from there to here? Our air-tickets purchased, activities and itinerary planned, and strong friendships of Agape love formed within the Team? I don't know.

But this song ran through my mind yesterday as I mused about all we'd been through, and the journey yet ahead, and I think it speaks of just what the journey through Expedition Agape has been so far....

There can be miracles
Many nights we've prayed
With no proof anyone could hear
In our hearts a hopeful song
We barely understood

Now we are not afraid
Although we know there's much to fear
We were moving mountains long
Before we knew we could

Chorus:
There can be miracles, when you believe
Though hope is frail, it's hard to kill
Who knows what miracles you can achieve
When you believe, somehow you will
You will when you believe

In this time of fear
When prayers so often prove in vain
Hope seems like the summer birds
Too swiftly flown away

Yet now I'm standing here
My heart's so full I can't explain
Seeking faith and speaking words
I never thought I'd say

Chorus:
There can be miracles, when you believe
Though hope is frail, it's hard to kill
Who knows what miracles you can achieve
When you believe, somehow you will
You will when you believe

Bridge:
They don't (always happen) when you ask
And it's easy to give in to your fears
But when you're blinded by your pain
Can't see your way straight throught the rain
(A small but )still resilient voice
Says (hope is very near)

Extending the Dream

It was a very inspiring meeting with Marina Mahathir for me and for the RACTAR girls. And yet again, there was this sense of divine appointment in this whole meeting.

I have to be honest - I was feeling disappointed that EA would not take place for the Malaysians, and apprehensive for the time after EA. Apprehensive because, I put down so many things in order to be part of EA.

That really came home to me on Wednesday especially - I woke up at 1:30 a.m. to get ready to go to the airport in order to make it for a 2 hour meeting that started at 10a.m. in Singapore. After the meeting, I wandered around until my 6:45p.m. bus whereupon I reached home and fell into bed at almost midnight! When you're 350km away from home, a single meeting equals an entire trip!

So I had to give up ballet classes, volunteer work, church duties... just to be part of EA. And I wondered, now that EA was not happening for the Malaysians in the forseeable future, what I would do when I finally could 'go home' for good again.

I knew that CampVision's Journey Continues program would continue for the youths, and that would be once a month. But the EA program, which we thought could be modified so that the orphanage youths could go to East Malaysia to do community service, seemed to be not so soon in the pipeline as Yuk Wai wanted the UTAR psychology interns to do it.

And also at the back of my mind, I thought, easy enough to build a school so that the children in East Malaysia do not need to walk so far or ride a lorry to go to school. But who would teach?

And this is where Marina Mahathir came in.

She told me about a beautiful idea that graduates from overseas universities had come up with and proposed to her. They wanted to take the American idea of Teach for America and modify it to create - Teach for Malaysia! Graduates from University, promising, bright, enthusiastic young people would be offered the chance to teach for 2 years in a local school and make a difference in the lives of the children attending government schools of Malaysia.

I was so excited! East Malaysia is one place where these young grads can go to to make a difference. And a constant stream of teachers (I'm realistic; I know not many people will want to settle long-term in the underdeveloped hamlets of East Malaysia) is just what I need for the schools that we are thinking of building.

So cross two fingers, and seeing how the dream pans out. But this has brought home to me again, the messages that my God has spoken to me, "I am with you... I have a plan for your life. Wait and see My purpose worked out in your future."

I know I don't need to worry. He holds the future, and His plans are all for good.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Soar Higher

Yesterday, I couldn't resist re-wording the verse in the Bible that says: "Blessed are the peacemakers..." by adding, "Because they desperately need the blessing!"

Sometimes, it's so easy to 'sink down' to do the things that you know are not pleasing to God. It's easy to choose to snap at someone when they tell you off, it's easy to do a sloppy job in the office when everyone else seems to get away with it, it's easy to park illegally because you just need to run in for just a second... It's easy.

But it's not what God has called us to. He called us to be our BEST.

I was reading a book that illustrated this very beautifully with the story of the eagle... The majestic eagle has an annoyance... that annoyance is the crow! Goodness knows why, but the crow likes to 'disturb' eagles by going up to them and 'caw! caw!'ing at them, flapping it's little wings and just distracting the eagle in its solemn flight.

What does the eagle do when the crow starts annoying it? Does it fight back, flap its wings and open its curved beak to give a high-pitched scream? Does it use its razor sharp talons and strong feet to tear at the little bitty crow and give as good as it gets?

No. The eagle just simply searches another warm draft and .... soars higher! You see the eagle doesn't need to flap its wings to soar... it rises on draft after draft to reach altitudes that crows can't. Ultimately it will reach a level that the crow cannot when the crow will drop away and leave the eagle to continue soaring the skies alone.

God has given us a draft to deal with the petty 'crows' in our lives. It's the spirit of grace.

When aggravations and troubles and annoyances come at us, God doesn't expect us to react the way the 'crows' do, flapping our wings, screaming and giving as good as we get.

He knows that He has given us the grace to overcome the problems and difficulties. He expects us to behave at another level, because we HAVE his grace to help us to behave in the way that reflects the children of God.

In the Word, it says, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in your weakness." Whatever we need, that is insufficient in ourselves, God has made perfect in Him.

We can choose a higher way for His glory.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The God I KNOW

I was thinking about Joshua and Caleb this morning... about how all the people of Israel who came out of Egypt did not make it into the Promised Land except them.

What stopped the others from entering? I believe that it's simply because they did not KNOW their God. They looked at the situation - big, huge men and thick strong walls - and said, "Oh, we can't do this in our own strength."

They forgot that it is not them but God who would give them the city!

I looked at Numbers 14 and I was struck by these words that God spoke, "How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?"

And God said, "But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it."

What was that different spirit, Caleb had? A simple difference - he KNEW his God.

I believe that that knowing came from spending much time with God, just getting to know Him for who He is... and that rose a spirit within him that could face the giants in the land - the Amelekites.

Recently I bought this CD from City Harvest Church, and out of all of the songs, this is my favourite - The God I KNOW...

THE GOD I KNOW
KC Gan / City Harvest Church
When the stage is bare tonight
There's no one else
Just You and me
When the curtains close behind
There's no pretense
I'm on my knees

(pre chorus)
I will lay down my life
For the love sacrifice
You gave to me
It's all because of You
All because of You

Chorus:
The God I know
Righteous and Holy
The God I know
Faithful and true
The God I know
My tower of refuge
Hearts are healed
Christ revealed

The God I know
Light of the City
The God I know
Strengthens the weak
The God I know
Your heart beats within me
As You are, so are we

(bridge)
This is my cry
My one desire
More of You
More of You

(last chorus)
The church He knows
Righteous and Holy
The church He knows
Is faithful and true
The church He knows
A tower of refuge
Hearts are healed
Christ revealed

The church He knows
Light of this city
The church He knows
Strengthens the weak
The church He knows
Is strong and mighty
As He is, so are we

But the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. Dan 11:32b

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Two little boys

Don't know where my thoughts are drifting with this...

Just been thinking these past few days about two precious little boys...

One of them I saw last Sunday again... being absolutely SMOTHERED with kisses. His 'big sisters' were happily passing him one to another and he was totally enjoying the attention. His big eyes were filled with tears from having being awoken a little earlier than he'd like from his nap, but he was still capable of giving huge charming smiles at anyone who tried to make him laugh.

Another little boy I've not seen for a while and I wonder how he's progressing. The last I saw was of him on 'mommy's' shoulder, being carried around comfortably whilst he dozed.

And yes, I forgot about a third little boy in Cambodia... the last I saw of him , he was laughing merrily, clowning around in his little red shorts and t-shirt, and covering his little eyes with his chubby hands when the laughter of his amused 'audience' got too loud.

I love to see these three little boys and how much they are just 'gulung'd in love.

All three of them were abandoned. The first two boys, who are in Malaysia, had mothers who came to two different centres and handed them over, with the indifferent instruction, "I don't want my kid anymore. Can you send him to the Welfare Department?"

The third little boy was found, a weak little body, crying at the garbage dump where he was abandoned.

All three are so lucky. The workers at three different centres took the boys, held them close and swore, "If you don't want him, I will take him. And he shall be like my own son!"

And so these three boys have become. And more than that, amongst the other abandoned, abused, neglected and forgotten children living in these three centres, they have become the beloved 'di di's... spoilt and pampered by all the girls who pour out the love locked in their own hurting hearts onto these precious boys.

Indeed, sometimes looking at these little boys 'entertain' their jie jie's and giving their cheeky, charming grins, I secretly wonder if they won't become too spoilt.

But, isn't that a wonderful alternative than what could have been?

Changes in the goal....

When I joined EA, I had one purpose - to learn all I can, and ultimately to bring it back to Malaysia.

There were a few things that I loved about the program:-

1) There were activities planned for six months
2) The youths were buddied with an adult volunteer each
3) The community service 'theme' of the overseas Expedition

But one thing I had not counted on was... COST!

Today the budget stands at an alarming SGD$58,000 or MYR140,000. There are 14 youths benefitting from the program. It actually costs about MYR10,000 per youth.

I had to make an executive decision, since this is MY baby, as far as Cybercare is concerned, and I have.

We won't go through with this program in Malaysia, not in the same way.

It's not that I don't believe we can raise MYR10,000 per youth if necessary.

It's because I believe in a country with so many needs around me, I can't justify spending MYR10,000 on a single youth unless I strongly believe it will propel them to such a success that it is worth taking the money from somewhere else that can benefit more youths.

I can't say that at the moment. It's a great program, and I wish we were a rich country well-able to afford it, and that I could say, as the Singaporeans clearly can, "Nobody in our country is of greater need of this money at the moment."

In my country, I think I want to take the youths to East Malaysia. I want to take them to our own people who are struggling and poor and let them help our own people. I believe that the strong growth that comes from doing community service - seeing that "I can make a difference!" rather than "poor me" - can be drawn from Malaysia.

The one thing my youths will lose out on is the overseas experience, and I'm very sorry for that. But we will change the country, and someday, we can bring the full program to Malaysia. It won't be soon, but it will be someday.

Hurrah!

I managed to import my blog... I was of two minds whether or not to do so or to start on a fresh slate. Finally decided not to waste all the 'writings' but to delete the unhappy ones ;>.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A New Start

I have so many thoughts that I want to put down... but work first! I'll write more later on.

Enjoy reading, dear friends and family. Thank you for your love!