By Asian Beacon

Would you give up everything you are familiar with to follow the call of God in your life? Terence and Deborah Chan, are a young couple that did just that. They left the comforts of city life in Kuala Lumpur to work with communities in rural areas. They are both currently working with Starfish Malaysia Foundation, an NGO based in Sabah with a vision to empower, educate and elevate the marginalized natives. They travel back and forth from Kota Kinabalu to the northern interiors where the work is. Recently Asian Beacon had the privilege to interview Terence and Deborah, where they answer the many questions of living such an adventurous and sacrificial life while bringing up their own children.

Over the past 10 years, their prayers have been answered and presently their ministry is in 10 nations which are Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Philippines, India, Bangladesh and Nepal.

  1. Can you give us a brief background of your journey, since the time in Cambodia, to Sabah. Was it difficult adjusting from city life to that of the villages?

We heeded the call of God to go into the mission field for a longer stint and this meant quitting our professional jobs, raising our own funds and leaving the city for a simpler kind of life. We made the big leap of faith to Cambodia when our first-born son, Seth turned one. He took his first steps in Cambodia and graduated from sitting in his comfy baby car seat to a front seat on a motorbike.

We lived in a home where chickens roam free and cows came to graze in our garden. Occasionally, we would find snakes, scorpions and palm-size spiders lurking around. Life in the village runs on a rhythm of its own, people are friendly and simple. Yet, the day-today living was a challenge to us initially – grocery shopping in wet markets, getting around on a motorbike in the heat of the day or getting drenched in the rain, travelling for hours at a time and coming home to no electricity or water. Yet, this change of lifestyle was beneficial. We found ourselves seeing life through a different perspective and our resilience grew.

Courageous Couple
Terence and Deborah with their son Seth riding around in Cambodia
Courageous Couple
Cambodian Food
Courageous Couple
A Cambodian Christmas
  1. How did your friends and family respond?

They were initially surprised when we broke the news about our move but quickly came around and gave us their blessing. Our family and close friends have been very supportive from the get go. Both families have visited us in Cambodia and Sabah and our friends have taken the opportunity to visit us and made it their holiday experience.

Courageous Couple
Terence and Deborah in Cambodia
Courageous Couple
Cambodian Literary Centre
  1. What sort of preparation did you have to make?

When we responded to God’s call, we gave ourselves 8-10 months to prepare financially, spiritually and work-wise. Financially, we calculated our expenditure and raised the necessary funds needed. Spiritually, we saw a need for accountability and covering and we spoke and prayed with our mentors and came under the banner of a missions organisation. Additionally, Terence was also taking correspondence classes on Bible and Missions. On the work front, we took necessary steps to ensure a smooth handover.

Courageous Couple
Terence and Deborah with their son Seth
  1. How did you come to know about Starfish and work together with them?

Just as we were wrapping up our season in Cambodia having spent about two years reaching out to the locals through education, training and teaching. By God’s grace, we built four (4) literacy centres that double up as churches on weekends, trained teachers and pastors and led numerous missions and volunteering teams – we felt deep in our spirits that we had completed what God sent us there to do. As we were preparing to leave and return to KL, a director from Starfish contacted us and told us about the work in Sabah. We then made a recce visit and felt God place two words in our hearts, “nation building”. We saw the need and was moved with urgency to return to Malaysia for this appointed time.

Courageous Couple
Seth making new friends
Courageous Couple
Seth chicken catching in Cambodia
  1. What were the challenges you face living in a rural community? In terms of basic necessities and raising a family. How did God help you go through all this?

Sanitation and hygiene was and is still a concern when living amongst rural communities.

While adults may have stronger immune systems and iron stomachs, young children are more at risk at infections, or waterborne diseases. There was an incident where Enya, our second child contracted scabies when she was 1.5 years old. We did not know where, when or who she got it from. For 2 laborious months, we treated every member of the family with medicine, washed and rewashed everything she came into contact with. It was painful to see and frustrating at times and it left scars on her skin – but she was as happy as can be. God taught us to truly trust Him for healing and protection.

Health care was also a concern during our time in Cambodia. I remember stepping into a hospital where patients were lined up on stretches and visitors sat on the floor. We constantly prayed for God’s protection and health and took necessary measures to safeguard our children.

Yet, in all of this, our concerns never outweighed the reason why we are in the mission field. There is a special grace that follows us even as we are obedient. We have also learnt the power of serving God as a family. Though it takes a lot more work to to bring the children with us, we know that they learn best when they see, experience and participate in the work. Our children have opened doors for us to start conversations with local communities and they help us soften the ground of the hearts of people we are trying to reach.

To be continued in part two….