For many people, being sent to share the gospel in far-flung countries - where people are persecuted for their faith - is a mystery and intrigue. I was one such person (much as I wanted to think I was an exception!).
My expectations for a novel, mind-blowing adventure were disappointed in the ordinariness of what we were doing each day. Our assignment: to serve third culture kids (Long Term Partners’ children) to free their parents to attend a Partners' Annual Conference. To four children.
I was not put off by the small class size. But in terms of the task, well, it was like teaching at children’s church every day - in a big, empty, slightly dusty meeting room, with a treasure chest of old craft.
“Hello,” I started on day one. “Why don’t you tell me your first name, and what you like about Bangladesh?”
Welcome to Dhaka, Bangladesh's largest and capital city - view from the plane
Over the course of 3 days, Chiew Lian and I taught God’s word, praised God, prayed and played with them.
Close to the end of the trip, I was slightly disappointed. It felt so normal. I asked myself: God, why did you bring me here? What impact did I make? How did my presence matter - teaching them about Moses and the burning bush, playing hide and seek, failed attempts at origami, singing songs I knew and songs we wrote together on the ukelele, watching Toy Story and Prince of Egypt (halfway, because the children grew bored and wanted to do something else) as well as Powerpuff girls in Bengali, blowing bubbles outside, hearing them chatter endlessly about chicken tandoori...well. These seemed like such small things. There was no preaching to hundreds. No ministering to the local poor in villages. No salvations - at least, not that I could see.
Just as we were about to leave, God surprised me. The kids had put on a presentation for the adults - which had delighted many. But one reason the adults were especially delighted was because of how one of the girls responded to God - for what apparently was the first time in four months.
I later learnt that this girl was going through significant struggles of her own, with God, and our presence somehow encouraged her to connect with God again - and to use her gift of singing for Him. Our arrival had been a catalyst for a breakthrough that may not have otherwise happened.
When I understood that, the whole answer to “God, why did you bring me here?” made sense. There were, I believe, many reasons God brought me to Bangladesh. And one of them was her.
Lamb Hospital, one of the Interserve's partners. Beneath the picture of the baby seated in God's palm on the right is the scripture Psalm 139:13 in Bengali script. ("You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.")
Serving Long Term Partners' children may not seem like the most glamorous assignment, but the work that God can accomplish through us as we partner with Him is very significant. When the enemy tries to stop the work of God, if he can’t attack us, I believe that he sometimes goes through those that we love - including our children.
No - I didn’t get to minister to the locals in the hard ground of Bangladesh. Nor did I experience the persecution the Christian community might face there. But I saw that God could use me to be an agent of His light in a spiritually dark place. As we serve cross-cultural workers’ children, we are a light in a dark place, and support the work of God’s servants in immeasurable ways. He can use your ordinary gifts to serve His extraordinary purposes in the world.
A box of mishti (Bangla for 'sweet') brought by one of the conference delegate
Joanna Hioe is daughter of King Jesus. She lives in Singapore but holds many countries (like Indonesia and Philippines) and continents (like Africa and Latin America) in her heart. She loves everything that reflects God's colorful nature - rainbows, animals, kids, university students, and startups. She wants to be remembered as the girl who took a risk for God.