Advent is a period of spiritual preparation when Christians ‘get ready’ for the coming, or birth of the Lord, Jesus Christ. It is a time for sacred prayer and repentance, followed by hope and joy.
Last Friday, many parishioners came together at BSC for a combined English and Chinese service of Scripture readings, Reflections, Testimonies, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Benediction, and Carols…to prepare us for the celebration of Christmas.
I would like to share with you a heart-warming testimony of conversion from Lillian Law.
“Fear not” or “Be not afraid” was mentioned in our reading, Isaiah 40 verse 9.
In 2012, Our Lord showed me a profound experience based on these words, “Be Not Afraid”. This was on my first overseas mission trip during the Advent season. That experience would be my sharing for this evening. Essentially, it is a story about a pair of shoes.
We are all called to serve God where we are. Some of us are called to serve outside our communities. For me, that first invitation came in 2012. A group of us were invited to share the Good News and to bring Christmas cheer to the Burmese Migrants’ children in Phuket city, Thailand.
Most of these children, due to their socioeconomic and political circumstances, cannot travel back to Myanmar nor know enough Thai language to be in the Thai schools. Hence, The Good Shepherd Sisters started a small learning centre at the construction work camps where these children roam. The centre offers them basic Thai, English and Burmese education so that they can get a legs-up to enter the Thai schools. The centre has grown a lot since our first visit.
Despite saying yes to the mission trip, to come face to face with abject poverty at that time, filled me with…fear. I had the “Kia Su, Kia Si” mentality. Where would we sleep? What would we do? How would we communicate? My greatest fear of all was, “would we be prepared for all life and death situations”? I was plagued by fear and anxiety before the trip.
The day before the trip, I suddenly had a strong urge to buy a new pair of shoes and to bring them along on the trip. It was very strange. I did not need an extra pair. However, I trusted my gut feeling and bought a pair of comfortable shoes. I told my friends in my group at the start of the trip, that it would be interesting to find out what would happen later to those shoes.
We were at Good Shepherd Learning Centre Phuket for a few days. Within these few days, the children taught us so many life lessons. We also learnt that building relationships with the community there was the greatest gift that we could give and that we had received in return.
On the third day, we did a Christmas skit at a shopping mall in the nearby town, Pa Tong. While coming back to the centre, more than ten of us were packed into a covered pick-up truck. While we were going up a very steep mountain road, a motorcycle in front of us suddenly stopped. Our driver slammed her brakes and stopped the truck on a steep incline. Behind us, there were many vehicles in the jam, all stuck on the slope. While our driver tried a few times to restart the truck, the truck went backwards and nearly hit the cars behind.
At that very precarious moment, a few locals appeared. They jammed our truck tyres using rocks and told us to get out of the truck to prevent it from slipping further. Another redirected the flow of the traffic and another told our driver that he would attempt to drive our truck over the mountain and meet us on the other side. By then, a few more locals appeared and offered to take all of us in their separate vehicles over the mountain. It was really a heart-stopping moment when the truck slipped further while we were trying to get out of it. Thankfully, we managed to get out safely.
We were grateful to those who had helped us. When we got back to the centre, I found out that our centre’s truck driver, a teacher, had lost one of her shoes during the hectic exchange. Then it struck me. What a coincidence that I had brought extra shoes and they were new! So, I gave them to her and they fitted like gloves.
Upon reflection, I realized that Our Lord had truly, truly gone before us. Those shoes were needed after the near-accident. If we had really had an accident, those shoes would not have borne such a significant meaning nor would I be here to share this story with you.
This experience brought us back to Phuket the year after. We raised funds and presented the community with a new pick-up truck! Some of us went back again after that. I still have fears but through this beautiful experience, I now know in my head, and in my heart too, that Our Lord truly goes before us. I can choose not to give in to my fears and to trust Our Lord, one step at a time.
Through this incident, Our Lord materialized the words that we sing in the chorus of this hymn: Be not afraid, I go before you always, Come, follow me, And I will give you rest.
Indeed. Fear Not (Isaiah 40: 9) helped Lillian conquer her fears.
As Christmas will be upon us soon, let us look forward with anticipation, hope and joy for a glorious Christmas!
Photos: Crystal Chong