Sunday, December 21, 2014

Awakening

You're never going to be 'well' and 'normal', are you? It's always going to be like this, isn't it? One day up, and one day down. That's okay... I think I'm getting used to it. I think I'm ready to let go of childlike hope now.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Trust along the journey

Dee got back to me recently to confirm that there will be no difficulties with me volunteering full-time in Dayspring. We were both a bit concerned about the visa issue, but we'll figure it out as we go along. I really honour their trust in me to come in and learn from them. We've talked about setting up a Dayspring in Malaysia. We are both amazed that God has led us together. Dee shared that God had told them, "This is not your dream. It is Mine." when they set up Dayspring. That has always felt like what my dream is - not mine, but a much higher dream than me. I'm not much more than the carrier of the dream.

I've been going for Dramatherapy to get ready for the time when I will be in Dayspring and for the future as well. It's been a rough journey, and many old behaviors that I thought settled started coming back again. But most interestingly, I felt 'taller'. It's not that I grew at all (I would have loved that :)), but instead I realised that I had been this tall for quite a while. But until I reintegrated all the different parts of me that had been kept in boxes, both good and bad, I had always felt 'small'. I still remember my first year in Camp Vision when one of the youths said, "Gillian is TINY" and Thomas said, "What about S?" The youth replied, "S is small, but Gillian is tiny!" I think I know what she means.

We've finished our last academic class, and I'm rather sad about that - I could have listened for hours to our lecturers. But it's time to move on to the next step in the journey. I'm honoured to be on this journey, honestly, strange as that may sound. I've frequently thought, "Who am I to do this?" But knowing that this is a much bigger dream than myself, gives me courage for the journey. 'Lead me on, and I will go/ Lead me on and I will follow/ Lead me on to where so few have gone/ And I will go... I will go/ Lead me on'. I sang that as a youth of 15 years. I never imagined the journey would be this interesting.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sensitivity Camp

I received so much healing last week during sensitivity camp. It's crazy to think that it took less than 24 hours.

We were so so so blessed to have Dr. Anasu to be our counsellor. If ever I learnt how important it is to speak up, having her be our counsellor was proof of it. It's a long, and anyway not-to-be-published story of how she became our counsellor, but I am so grateful, as are most of my classmates.

The exercises were simple. Ones that I would use myself with our kids. But her counselling of each person... Oh wow....

But I was stuck. I couldn't cry, couldn't feel, couldn't... Well, pretty much how I am a lot of the time...

She seemed to not press very far with me which puzzled some of my classmates with whom she took a long time.

And she shared about her personal story. At that point, relating to what she was sharing, I was close to tears, but still managed to hold on.

I chose to sleep downstairs on the wooden bench in a sleeping bag. My classmates were like, "WHY?" but I just needed that space. Was chatting with the guys who were sleeping downstairs till like 4:30a.m. I'm so grateful to Alvin who took the time to read scripture over me and pray with me. It meant so much.

When I woke up at about 6a.m. (barely had any sleep!), I woke up in tears. Finally the questions and statements that Dr. Anasu had made the night before struck home. I cried and cried as silently as I could.

Dr. Anasu emerged from her room at about 8:30a.m. and seeing me sitting in the living room, she came over. She asked a couple of questions about coffee and stuff and then she was like, "Are you ok?"

That was enough for me. In tears, I poured out how I felt... How tired and frustrated I was that the same issues had popped up again in her counselling last night after all the work I had done on myself... And right then and there she affirmed that I HAD done a lot of work on myself. Then I told her that her question of, "What if I took away your dream right now?" had struck me so hard. Because I have nothing left in the world that I want besides my dream.

She reminded me that I can always build a new dream.

I'm not going to put much down here as a lot of it is private but just what I want to remember...

"Even if you don't do anything else, right now, you would still help a lot of people. That's why you are amazing."
"There is NOTHING WRONG with you."
"Do nothing... relax and reconnect with yourself. You can connect with many people but there is a disconnect with yourself."
"Why is it so hard to love yourself? You love so many people, but why aren't you worthy of that same love that you give to others? Why do you need to earn the right to be here?"

Healing... just healing... to know that there is nothing wrong with me, and that I just need to relax and reconnect with me. I keep reminding myself of this and I feel so much peace and hope inside me.

I am just so amazingly overwhelmingly blessed.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

My full-time funny class :)

For one of our classes, we need to journal about our class and its progress as a group. So I thought I'd blog about my class and put in the stuff that I can't put in an official homework assignment!

First is Alvin, our class leader! He just naturally slipped into the role with his reassuring ways. You feel anything is left in good hands with Alvin. He was a former lecturer, so he'll ask questions that are really difficult!

Then there's Haslinah, our Mother Goddess. She's so much fun everyone forgets she's not our age... She sometimes seems younger than the more serious members of our class! Most of all, she's the person that it is so easy to share problems with, because she'll listen.

Fatimah is from Indonesia. Very strong, calm-looking lady, who has the most knowledge in our class. She's the person you can ask any question and she will have the answers, despite struggling with language. She's really interesting because she's travelled a lot and has a world of experience to share. And she's just plain nice!

E-Hua is the cutie in the class. If I had a doll, it would look just like her because of her beautiful eyes and curly hair. She's the one who will be perfectly honest and just say, "I am soooooo stressed!" if she is, rather than bottling it up inside. She's also, according to the feedback from others who have done roleplay with her, is a really good counsellor!

Lauren cuts through the nonsense when all of us are confused and waffling, and she will make the firm decisions that we need to make but somehow can't! She's very sensible, but also really funny!

Deepika is really quiet in class, but I think that's coz she has her own gang amongst the part-timers and she's really nice too! I enjoy talking to her! She's very loving and warm.

Shima is the light in our class! She's so giggly and funny and she always says things that are fun and tries to make sure YOU have fun too! Without her, the light would go out in our life!

Samuel's another quiet guy in our class... but he has a quiet strong faith of his own and he does lots of stuff to help the world that he doesn't talk about. If you really listen to him, he has interesting perspectives that are different from others because of all he has seen.

Lisa is unique! I wish I could be like Lisa because she'll say what she wants to say and do what she wants to do and who cares what anyone else thinks!

Sue Wei is the one who sees everyone's perspective, rather than just her own. She'll be the one when others are angry to say, "Yes, but think from her side..." She's just kind.

So that's my funny class :)






Friday, September 19, 2014

A long day

I didn't see when the original event was posted up to say about Andy's passing away. So I only realised it when the KYC CA's posted words and photos of being at Andy's wake.

I was puzzled because he had looked really healthy the last time I saw him... Albeit that was two years ago at camp. Fit, strong, brown... Too quiet, deep thinker, mature, really interesting to talk to. I thought perhaps it had been an accident. But thinking of Andy, I wondered...

And finally one of the CA's replied to tell me that, yes, Andy did commit suicide as I'd thought. He hung himself and his grandmother found him.

Melody told me she was going for the funeral, and I quickly dressed and sped off. Luckily just in time before the service started. They were waiting for all his friends... All young, lovely people... Just like Andy had been.

I met his mom... She looked so lost. And I met the other volunteers and CA's who had managed to make it for the service.

We were all in tears... And none more so than the family. I salute their courage in the most painful time ever. They were in so much pain. His mom cried out longing for him to be back. His grandmom (he was the favourite grandchild) just could not accept he had gone.

Dear Melody cried so much. I asked her if this was her first suicide, and she nodded. She asked me, "This is what you're afraid will happen to our youths right?" And I nodded yes. This was not my first suicide amongst the youths. And when you've gone through that once, I think it will always change you. There's a part of you that fears the worst, but is ready to accept it too. A part that whispers, "I can't change your life for you.. And I have no right to make decisions for you... All I can do is pour in whatever I can and that is all."

Melody shared that one of our youths had contacted her at 1a.m. and she had had such a fright. But it turned out to be something quite routine. I laughed. The youths always do that. But it brought home to me how much some of the volunteers give outside of the standard 'volunteer time'. There ARE volunteers 'there' for the youths now.

It was hard for me to focus today though... Brought home to me P's suicide... S's attempted suicide just before last semester's exams... And all by hanging.

It's been a tough day... But it must be tougher for the others. Just need to remember that and refocus... And Andy, kiddo... I love you and I wish you'd known how much you were loved.



Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ugly

A year on and I can barely stand to see photos of myself. People tell me, "You've gained weight, haven't you?" I get dreadfully tired of going thru the litany... 'Yes, I found out I had hyperthyroid and I took the medication and gained about 8kg in 4 months." I wonder if all the people who tell me that are unoriginal or think I'm blind and have not looked at my reflection in a year!

Worse are the comments like, "Hmmm... Time to lose some weight, huh?" And, "Aiyah, rubbish la! My wife also got thyroid; she din become like that!" Whereupon rude commenter's wife gently informed her husband that that is because she did not take the medication, hence retaining the unnaturally thin size that all hyperthyroids have!

The final straw was my doctor muttering that perhaps my weight gain was due to exercise changes or food habits! I made her look at the records whereupon she admitted that yes, I gained all the weight during the time I took her medication, and yes, I had not gained even half a pound in all the months since I stopped taking it! Then she blithely informed me that 'we do not give medication to reverse that' and pressed replacement meal shakes on me instead!

I feel heavier and slower when I run and all the kms do not remove the weight. I'm panicking and there is no floor that I can stand on in this tilting crazy mocking world.

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.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Do you know why sexual abuse can happen in churches? It has to be one of the largest conspiracies of silence in the world today. I was thinking about that especially this morning, and here are my thoughts why... 

1) We deny that anything 'sinful' ever happens in our churches. Affairs? No way! Domestic violence? Absolutely not! These don't happen in our churches, let alone something as sordid as sexual abuse! Brother so-and-so and Sister so-and-so would NEVER do something wrong! And if a victim ever dares to utter even a whimper of accusation, they will most likely be hauled up for 'counselling' for 'lusting with your eyes'. 

2) Homosexuality is never accepted in churches. The LGBT community is not even allowed in through most church doors. This denial that LGBT relationships even exist only hurts victims of same-sex sexual abuse. How can a victim ever say that they have been sexually abused by someone from the same sex in church when LGBT relationships are seen as 'so wrong'? By the time the Catholic church admitted it was happening in their ranks, it was rampant. The Christian church has yet to openly admit to anything happening in theirs.

3) Leaders and church workers are looked up to in all churches. The congregation looks up to them, listens to their every word, sometimes practically fawn over them. When a victim sees everyone around him in church looking up to the very person who abused them with adoring eyes, how can they dare to speak up? It is as clear as day that nobody will ever believe them. 

4) As soon as a victim stops attending church because he feels uncomfortable around the abuser, he is at fault. He is, in Christian-ese (our very own language), a 'backslider'. How a backslider is treated depends on their particular church. I've been in a church that treats backsliders as 'goats' and warns the congregation against contact with them as they will influence the others. Some congregations are warmly encouraged to reach out to backsliders. But believe them when they make claims of sexual abuse that occurred in the church? No. Obviously their minds have been corrupted and they need to be gently shown the error of their ways. 

Ours is a culture of silence. I have qualms writing this post. I know that most likely I'll get hauled up because to criticize the Body of Christ is seen as the sin of 'rebellion'. But if nobody speaks up, this silence is never going to end. If just one person thinks, "Maybe what so-and-so told me about that incident isn't a lie", then I think this post is worth it.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Malaysians for Malaysia

I am just so touched by this beautiful project by Malaysians for Malaysia. They collected donations from Malaysians of all races and religions for the rebuilding of destroyed graves in a church in Pahang. Nobody knows who is responsible for the destruction of the gravestones. M4M took the initiative to bring healing and hope back to a nation that is quite confused and upset by the way we seem to be thrown against each other right now. What a beautiful gesture of love!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Slam poetry

I've got a new love for slam poetry! I am so addicted to it! I can listen to person after person. You know why? Because slam poetry is so RAW. Each poet comes up with their own poem so that the poem itself becomes real, instead of fake.

And what I love best is how if they're sad, they're sad... If they're angry (and they're often angry), they just ARE angry! That has to be the awesomest part for me... How cool is it to be able to express anger, and receive approval in the form of applause for it. If only real life was like that! If only we didn't all have to go around in masks of happiness and sweetness and light. Well, sadness and depression are strangely okay emotions to show... But not anger.. No, never anger.

Attaching two of my favourites to share!