Bashing into West Timor Soe

Bashing into West Timor Soe

Bashing into West Timor Soe
Article on Faces (YWAM Singapore Publication) in 2009

Got to know a brother-in-Christ this week at an event and realised we lived just across the road from each other. Strangest thing was that our direct train back home had so many unintended diversions. We even got on a completely different train line and ended up having an extended conversation. It is amazing how he resigned from his job that demanded him 14hrs work day, six day weeks with his wife’s encouragement, and now working in the Diocese and doing missions. When he first said he is going to West Timor, I honestly thought I heard wrongly. No Singaporean I knew ever mentioned West Timor the last 10 years. The YWAM article did a great summary of the journey there but there are a lot more details that brought me to my knees in full amazement of God, even to this day.

I wrote the details in my old blog but that blog was long gone when the platform closed. I did not save my posts. So I am recounting from memory right here as my journal ten years ago is tucked deep in storage. This story was in the year 2009.

Getting To West Timor

I had a year term to be in East Timor as a missionary after my YWAM School of Frontier Missions training. Due to the unrest of the new independent East Timor then, the departure to East Timor was delayed for almost a year. Deep within my spirit, I knew I had to be there. So I started a 40 days fast and pray to seek God. One of my intercessor friends praying with me told me to read the book “Like a Mighty Wind” by Mel Tari.

Like a Mighty Wind – The Book

This book was out of print being first published in 1971. Getting hold of the book was a challenge as the friend who suggested the book could not locate his copy. I tried all bookshops and none had a copy. Finally I called a second hand Christian bookshop, The Whale’s Belly. The lady boss Mildred said a copy just came in. I went down to the shop and was surprised to find a copy that was in great condition. It felt that it was prepared just for me. Every book that I own and read is wrapped with plastic. Just a pet peeve that I have. This book came wraped the way I like my books. =)

“Like A Mighty Wind” recounts the mighty revival poured out in a small village of Soe in West Timor in September 26, 1965. Accounts of dead being raised, food multiplication in a poverty stricken island and many miracles were recorded. It was an exciting read but what did it have to do with my term in East Timor? It became clear that God was directing me to West Timor instead of East Timor as we prayed into this more.

As crazy as it was, I knew deep in my spirit that I had to be in Soe on 9 August 2009. 9 August is the National Day of Singapore, the day of Independence.   

Preparation to Depart

I am so thankful for the intercessors and friends who helped in so many ways. One of the foremost task was to find a mission agency who had operations in West Timor. YWAM has a East Timor base, but none in West Timor. There was a missionary who went in and out of West Timor periodically but somehow even with his mobile number, no contact was made. None of the mission organizations we knew had any connections in West Timor. So this search went to nothing.

God placed such a strong conviction in my heart that even if there was no mission agency to receive me, I will go. Alone. It will be for seven days. So it was decided and as crazy as it was, my mother had the peace to release me. The intercessors praying with me also confirmed this. 

The next practical step was to book my flight. I found out online that my flight had to land in Kupang airport and Soe is at least 3-4 hours uphill drive. Ten years ago, domestic flights to small towns in Indonesia were not available online. I had to call several travel agencies to enquire about the flight. Most of them did not even know the existance of Kupang airport. Two agencies got back with flight prices and they cost over $2000! I did not have that kind of money to pay for the flights. Plus, it was completely ridiculous to pay so much for flights when West Timor being part of Indonesia is the second nearest country to Singapore after Malaysia. 

I asked a church friend who traveled frequently to Jakarta to help me check with the travel agencies in Jakarta. He managed to get me a flight from Jakarta to Kupang at 10% of the quotations I got. So I booked my Singapore flight to Jakarta departing Singapore on 8 August 2009. My friend offered to book me a hotel in Kupang upon arrival as my flight arrived at night, around 9pm. Kupang is no big city. Once the sun set, everywhere was dark and people were at home. Yet, I heard the Lord said so clear and loud “You don’t need a hotel. Someone will pick you up and you will have somewhere to stay.” I had to turn down the security of a hotel booked upon arrival. I felt there was no room for plan B or backup plan as God was directing so strongly in this whole matter.

Flight to West Timor

I boarded the flight to Jakarta on 8 August without knowing who was going to pick me up at Kupang airport and where I was staying. Backing out was not in my mind at all as there was a very strong sense of God’s leading. I remembered boarding the airport bus that brought me from the international airport to the domestic airport in Jakarta. Fear did set in as my human thought process kicked in. The struggle went on at the domestic airport. If no one picked me up at the airport, I will just spend a night at the airport anywhere. No big deal. This was not the first time I traveled alone. But it was my first to a place where I had little information about.

I boarded the flight to Kupang, which made a stop at Surabaya to pick up more passengers. I had my usual window seat and my left was empty. I appreciated that “space” to connect with God, without distractions to keep my line with God open at all time. At Surabaya, an elderly well-mannered man sat next to me. He had several missing teeth but a very endearing smile. He tried to make conversations with me, but my almost non-existing Bahasa was aided by a simple electronic translator. So he typed in word by word to ask me questions and I did the same. It was quite amazing how far the conversation went. I knew he was a pastor for a church that is outside of Surabaya. He was visiting his son who was teaching at a Bible School in Kupang. I told him I was going to Soe. I did not even pronounced Soe correctly. He taught me that it was two syllabus, “Soh-eh“. 

Arriving Kupang

As the flight was on its descent and just after the announcement to buckle up, the elderly pastor popped the million-dollar question, “Where you stay?” I managed to tell him I did not know. He immediately offered me a night’s stay at the Kupang’s Bible School, which I did not even know what is its proper name. True enough, I was picked up on a motorbike as an unexpected guest. The roads were dark as there were no street lighting. I had absolutely no idea where I was going, except to trust God.

The teachers and staff at the at the Bible College were cracking their heads in how to help me with my mission. The final decision was that one of the teachers would take me to Soe on the motorbike the next morning. It amazed me that they never once doubted my mission. They were fixated on helping me fulfill it. No one dismissed me, a young lady from a city, who was completely clueless except for the call I heard from God.  

Upon sun rise, we set off. I thank God that I was a light traveller. I only had a duffle bag with me and not a trolley luggage. I could easily sling my bag over myself as a pillion rider. Riding a motorbike was not unfamiliar to me but this ride was different. We were going up the mountain. It was back breaking. We were not on a big bike, but a small one with a small engine.

Arriving in Soe

We got to Soe in about four hours. We first arrived at a house in Kupang when everyone was having lunch. So we had lunch with them. After a very brief introduction to the owner of the house, the men went into some deep discussion. I could not understand what they were saying but I figured they were deciding on what to do with this Singaporean girl who just appeared out of nowhere. Finally they made a decision to bring me to this particular family because the wife could speak a little English.

We came to this lovely home of the Selan. We sat in silence in the living room for a long time. The presence of God was strong but no one spoke. Everyone was seeking the Lord, needing to hear from Him. Finally Mrs Selan broke the silence. She said seven days ago the Lord told her and her husband to fast and pray. On the seventh day, the answer to their prayers will come. I landed in their home on the seventh day. A silence of awe fell again as we took in the implication of all these. They got me settled in their guest room. I had a nice single bed, table and a wardrobe. Better than what I imagined. I was prepared to sleep on the ground before I started on the trip.  

Ministry in Soe

That very evening after an early dinner, I hopped on the Selan’s car. They told me that I will be sharing the Word and do ministry in the evening. I was NOT prepared to be sharing the Word. So I hid in my room seeking the Lord that whole afternoon. John 15 was the Scripture passage. Excited but I was terribly nervous. They managed to find an English teacher to be my translator when I spoke. The people in Soe gathered in different homes every night for prayer meetings. They meet to worship, to listen to the Word and pray. I shared in 3 prayer meetings that very first night. Once I finished speaking and praying, I was whisked off to another. In the short car rides between these homes, I saw houses with lights against the pitch dark night. To think that these homes were prayer houses were just so amazing. 

When we got back to the Selan home, I was told that I had to preach a sermon at the largest church in Soe of 12,000 members. Mrs Selan was concerned about my attire. I was not prepared to be on a pulpit to preach. I was prepared to rough it out, and perhaps more a prayer and recce trip. She was trying to give me her jacket but it did not fit me. As a well-trained missionary, I had my long skirt and put on a long sleeve top. Decent, but perhaps not formal enough. My heart almost went into my stomach when I was how high the pulpit was. It was not a stage, it was a pulpit similar to those in some old European churches. Really intimidating to speak from there, at least for me. This was a Lutheran church. I had to take many steps up to the pulpit. The people were 60% smaller from the pulpit’s vantage point. That service probably had 4000 people as they had a few services.

My Start in Soe

There were many more miracles and testimonies in the remaining five days in Soe. Perhaps I will recount them as the memories surfaced. I even met Mel Tari’s brother who is now living in Bali. The Selan became my Soe family. I had been back several times with long stays. I truly believe that if we seek to obey God, amazing things can happen. The window of time for Soe for me closed in about a year and things came to a complete halt. I had not been back there the last ten years. They never left my heart. Unwillingly, I had to put down the baton and I always wondered who the Lord called to do the work. My heart leaped for joy when I knew that a small group had started to go to West Timor five years ago. God is so good! 

Changsha 2015

This year our Changsha trip is just before summer holidays rather than the usual before school reopens in Spring. Three of us, Nic, Wilson and myself set off on 2 July (Thu) while Ps Ronald & Howard (translator) set off on 7 July. It was very heart warming to see familiar faces of brothers and sisters in Christ who have the same love for our Lord Jesus!

The key and primary focus was the 4.5 days Praise and Worship Summer camp in Hunan Bible Institute on Sat, Mon-Thu. This was the first trip that we ministered in a church, Cheng Bei Tang as we arrived slightly earlier due to flight schedule of the airlines. Cheng Bei Tang is is more than a century old church, with more than 1000 members. Their worship ministers, inclusive of worship leaders, musicians, vocalists and choir members are almost 100, but those who were able to attend amounted to around 60.

It has been less than a year since I have been back and there are so many significant changes. The church that worships in Hunan Bible School building now has youths involved in their praise and worship. The youngest participant in our camp is 9 years old! Besides training the students in the Bible School who will be pastors and leaders of churches, it warms my heart that even the teens in church is rising up too!

Another unexpected event was the salvation of six people at a praise and worship service on Sunday night. The praise and worship service was not evangelistic in nature. Little did we know that our Sunday afternoon worship and fun time at the river will reap the soul of one into the Kingdom and also others.

Teaching basic keyboard within 3 afternoons to a class of students who has never played before is a crazy challenge! On Sat afternoon, there were quite a number of senior ladies who had zero concept of music what more than play. I took a long while to help them find the note C on the keyboard. I went on to teach basic chords in C major even though some of them were not able to play. I focused on getting them to understand so that they can practise. To my amazement, on Monday afternoon, the ladies came back and were able to play the C progressions and even do simple accompaniment! They practised hard on Sunday, this I am sure! By the end of the third day, they were able to play a full song in C major in very simple accompaniment!

I am also very glad to be present for the year 3 students’ graduation. I got to see most of them before they leave the Bible school back to their respective home towns or placement. Only a small percentage remains in Changsha city. This graduating batch has a good number of talents in praise and worship. I pray that God will use them mightily in the places that He has placed them.

It was also unknown to us that the Sunday we were in Changsha is the first service of Xing Sha Tang. a church plant in the Xing Sha area of Changsha. The church’s building is right across this temporary meeting space and its hall can sit up to 2500 people, not including the overflow room capacity! The Hunan Bible School will also be moving to the same compound when it is ready. We led worship for the first service and witness the goodness of God in bringing double the expected number of 20 people!

All I can say is that God is soooo good and I believe He has more things under His sleeves to bless Changsha city, Hunan Province and the whole of China!

Christmas in Changsha and New Year in Guang Zhou

Christmas is not a public holiday in China as it is in Singapore and many parts of the world. Although New Year is a public holiday, it is not as important as Lunar New Year. So both days are subculture holidays.

There were 3 adults (Nic & wife, Hillary and myself) and an almost 2-year-old baby (Maranatha) on this trip. Our luggage weighed 75kg because we hand carried a brand new set of electronic drums for HBI (Hunan Bible Institute) for use of their weekends outreach trips to the various churches outside of the city. We nearly missed our high-speed train from Guangzhou to Changsha. In our mad rush, one of our luggages (thank God it is not the one with the drums) tumbled down the long escalator. The long escalator was completely empty as ALL passengers were already on board the train! We made it in the nick of time. Once we stepped into the train, the doors were locked and it started moving. Phew! Thank God for his protection as Hillary is 5months pregnant carrying the 2 year old Maranatha in the rush, and Nic was carrying the electronic drums (weighing almost 40kg).

CHANGSHA

Christmas in Changsha was a very different experience. First thing was the weather! Temperature was around 0 degrees. Although there was no snow, but the wind was bone-piercing cold and extremely dry. I completely lost my voice on 27 Dec!

The students of HBI put up an amazing evangelistic Christmas Concert on Christmas Eve. With little resources of time, manpower and finances, the concert was extremely good and makes me wonder if we in Singapore are able to match up to them if given the same amount of limitations. The hall was packed to the brim with many squished at the doorway throughout the evening. I didn’t keep my seat and was standing all the way taking photos and videos using my iPhone (eventually ran out of memory)! I was actually too excited to sit and just so very very proud of each of them! I am so blown away by the demonstration of their love for God through the hard work they put in to perfect their presentations that evening. I was told they only had about a month or so to prepare for this concert. About 30 people accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour that evening. Praise the Lord!! You can see snippets of their performances in the video.

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A group photo with HBI students after the Christmas Eve Concert. The atmosphere was super joyous!!

Part of the plan of our trip is to track down Hudson Taylor’s mission work in China. Quite a large portion of his work was in Changsha, the inland, which is why his ministry was first names, Inland China Mission. To our surprise, on 23 Dec we were told that Nantang Church (南堂), which was the church planted by Hudson Taylor and is the appointed custodian of Hudson Taylor’s archives in Changsha, invited us to lead worship on 25 Dec evening during their Christmas concert. The church leaders never met us before. Blown away by the grace of God we gladly rushed through the preparation. We are so thankful for the full support by HBI. With the limited resources, and students all spread out to various churches/events doing various work, HBI staff and students brought sound board, cables, instruments, and the basic necessary equipment to support the 30min worship. The team went to the church at 12pm to assess what was needed and brought in the equipment past busy and jammed traffic on taxis. Contemporary praise and worship is very new to this church. I salute the whole team in tearing down all the equipment within 10min immediately after the worship to clear the stage area for the Christmas program after, also HBI needed the equipment for other events that same night! We praise God that the church’s ministry worker Mr Jiang was so appreciative of the session. Last minute I was roped in to play the piano for a solo item by their choir master who is about 70 years old who initially was going to sing acapella. A little fearful but am glad I can serve the Lord in this small way. 

Playing the Piano at Nantang Church for the Choir Master’s Solo
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Photo taken after the Christmas concert at Nantang. On the extreme right is Nantang staff worker Mr Jiang. In the middle is Esther who runs a travel agency that focuses on trips to Israel. Extreme left is a 2nd-year student at HBI and Nic, second from the left.

We also visited another key city church Changsha, Beitang (北堂) Church. The Taoist architect of the church building is a very good example of missions that is sensitive to the local culture and arts. Possibly a heritage left by Hudson Taylor, a missionary who ate local, dressed local, spoke local and even behaved local.  Praise God for a good relationship built after a nice long chat with their senior pastor (although I didn’t have any voice to speak!).

This is the side of the church building. I would not be able to tell that it is a church if I was not informed.
This is the side of Beitang church building. I would not be able to tell that it is a church if I was not informed.

We did a very short teaching on 27 Dec morning in HBI. The students were all tired from the Christmas events and also needing to prepare for their exams in January 2014. We spent more time fellowshipping over meals with a few of the teachers, students and friends, which we did not manage to do this September due to the packed teaching schedule. I am filled by the time in Changsha, overflowing with God’s love and grace! What an awesome way to spend my Christmas.

GUANGZHOU

We took the high-speed train to Guangzhou with a lot less luggage and without rush on 29 Dec. Guangzhou was intended to be a vacation stop and to meet with a few friends there. One of them was a graduate from HBI, Pastor Ou. We also met a lovely musician couple, Gong Zheng and wife. Gong Zheng is a flutist who plays not only the mainstream Chinese wind instruments but also some of the almost lost indigenous instruments from Yunan. You can enjoy a musical piece by Gong Zheng at the end of the video.

New Year Eve was spent having hotpot at a friend’s place, Canto-style. It was a good time of making new friends too! I will say that it was a quiet crossing into the New Year from a position of rest. I was still fighting an inflamed throat at that point so we basically rested, walked around the city and ate. Such a blessing! What more can I ask! =)

Changsha 长沙 2013 Part 2/2

Three of us, Nic, Manson & Pauline, set off the Changsha on 31 August 2013 to conduct a summer worship camp for the students of Hunan Bible Institute (HBI). An invitation to lead worship and share a message at Bei Zhen Jie Church in Changsha came on Wed (4 Sept) for Fri (6 Sept). We agreed to do it with very little preparation. Praise the Lord for the hour worship and a message that God used. Although our schedule is very packed, we did have our share of fun and sights in the city too! God is good!

Changsha 长沙 2013 – Part 1/2

Three of us, Nic, Manson & Pauline, set off the Changsha on 31 August 2013 to conduct a summer worship camp for the students of Hunan Bible Institute (HBI). It was such a blessed time to see how the students have grown over the last 3 years. I didn’t plan to do any videos but thank God for the few who diligently videoed and passed us the videos. Such fond memories. Praise the Lord!

Biblical Studies Program: Genesis to Deuteronomy

For those who are in Singapore, this is a Biblical Studies program that some of you might be interested in. We are going to start on Genesis to Deuteronomy for the coming term starting in July 2013. Examination is optional so no pressure. You can do online registration with the Singapore Bible Society at http://www.bible.org.sg/engagement/biblical-studies-programme/

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