by Teresa Tan

“Just letting go” is easier said than done. This I have felt and known for a long time, but a recent Mission Trip to Zambia taught me the importance of allowing God to take charge of my life—and the lives of others—in ways that I could not have previously imagined. I simply had to let go of my desire to control what was happening to me and around me, in order for the trip to achieve what it was meant to. It was a humbling and rewarding experience that brought me closer to others and gave me a deeper appreciation of God’s majesty.

I had to learn to trust others and to leave much of my work to God.

The trip to Zambia was set up by Matt Coulson, Missions Pastor at The Vine, and it was he that raised the idea of me leading it. At first, I wasn’t too bothered, as it was a medical mission combined with a kids’ ministry, and I have had plenty of experience with both. I am a doctor, specialising in reconstructive surgery, and I have operated in the field on medical mission trips. I haven’t been on a kids’ ministry, but I have spent time at Kid’s 4 Christ (The Vine’s Children Ministry).

However, I had always been a participant of missions, not a leader. Leading, I was soon to discover, was a whole new paradigm.

The biggest challenge, I realised, was my character. I am the kind of person who micromanages. I want to be in control of everything, making sure things are “done right”. On a trip like this one, there was so much to be done and so many variables to take into account that micromanagement wasn’t possible. I had to learn to trust others and to leave much of my work to God.

Anxiety turned to frustration once the ball started to roll.

The planning stage of the trip was a time of high anxiety. I didn’t even know where to start, as I knew nothing about southern Africa, let alone Zambia. I was extremely worried about whether we would have enough funds to cover the trip’s costs, and whether we would be able to get enough volunteers to sign up. Medical expenses, flights, transport, and a bunch of other costs seemed very high, and interest was low, as we had not yet spread the word at Church services.

Anxiety turned to frustration once the ball started to roll. We encountered a lot of obstacles along the way. There were issues with medical licenses, while communication lines between Hong Kong and Africa were slow. I wasn’t accustomed to “African time” in getting things done. I was too used to the frenetic pace of Hong Kong in making decisions and sending enquiries.

Compounding this, it seemed like recruitment was a test of my nerves, as people kept joining and then dropping out.

But then Grace stepped in.

But then Grace stepped in.

Money and people began to show up. I didn’t know how. Volunteers started getting in touch, without me looking for anyone. They just appeared out of the blue. And then, despite not making a big fundraising effort, contributions started to come in, too. We soon realised we were able to raise a substantial amount for the trip.

Meanwhile, God was working in me, too. I was slowly learning to let go of my desire to control. And I was able to entrust and empower people on the team. I found someone to lead the kids’ ministry, and I began delegating tasks. My faith in others was growing. I was able to focus on what I know and do best. And, most importantly, I was able to be more engaged, more relational, with the people I encountered.

As the trip got underway, I was amazed by how my worst fears had been unfounded. I had been anticipating loads of hiccups, delays, and issues. But things went remarkably smoothly. Transport was mostly on time, no one got lost or sick. “African time” was not a concern.

We did good work. We gave health talks, leaving behind materials such as posters that raised awareness of health issues and preventative steps that could be taken. We conducted health screening sessions among local populations. And our kids’ mission reached out to a wide range of people, helping them train up their own teams.

Most importantly, everyone was working as a team. After the first day, when it took a bit of time to integrate with the local partners (OM/Aidslink), we bonded quickly. Quality time spent together became priceless. We were so moved by the sharing of our local partners. Their humility humbled us, in turn. They had prayed so much for us before we came, they said, and they had been initially nervous because doctors were seen in their culture as being a class above, almost superhuman. But we bonded as brothers and sisters in Christ.

The stories we heard were unforgettable. One was from a woman, Nancy, a nurse. She had been paralysed for four years due to a meningioma near her spine, and she was told she would never walk again. She kept her faith, however, and went on praying until one day she heard God tell her to stand up and walk. And so she did.

Another was Chris. He spoke about how he had renounced his faith after his father’s death and entered a life of drugs and fighting. But God’s grace brought him back, and he is now serving at OM Zambia.

Matt gave me a quotation that sums up quite well how I feel about the trip. It is from Henri Nouwen:

“I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.”

Inspire us and others!

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