CROSSING BORDERS, BRIDGING BARRIERS
By Anna Teoh
When I heard that Salome (not her real name) was going to be in town, I knew I had to meet her. Aside from a few brief email exchanges, the only thing I knew about her was that she serves an underground church overseas.
Asked how a typical day on the mission field is, she says on a regular morning, she goes to her work desk, turns on her computer, and continues her Bible translation work, which she works on with the locals. It is a tedious process with lots of back-and-forth coordination and verification checks.
Over the past 13 years on the mission field, Salome has created literacy materials to teach the locals how to read and write in their mother tongue. This will later enable them to use the translated Bible. Salome has also dedicated time to composing worship songs in the local language as well as started poverty alleviation projects to help the poor and needy, including handicraft and water projects. All these support her humble, yet visionary life mission, which is to touch lives with God’s love.
Salome touched down in Kuala Lumpur on Friday night, and met with me first thing the next morning. She was to catch that evening’s flight back to her hometown to vote at the upcoming GE14 (on May 9). It was apparent immediately that this down-to-earth lady with a gentle demeanour had a singular focus and an unwavering faith.
From banking to missions
Salome felt called to the mission field in her final year of university. A fairly new Christian then and with her parents being unbelievers, it was difficult to obey her heart’s tugging. Upon graduation, she did what a good daughter would do – returned to Malaysia and commenced her career in banking.
During this time that she was back in her hometown, she was tempted to remain in her comfort zone and ignore the Lord’s calling to her to missions. She thought of marrying someone who did not have a heart for missions and investing in a property, which would mean being tied down to a long-term financial commitment. But every time, she would hear a still small voice reminding her, “You will not be staying here long, people out there are waiting!”
So, she kept updated to the needs in the mission field, knowing in her heart that it was where God had called her to be. Three years after returning home, she took up her calling after she heard a small voice saying, “It is time to go.”
The next confirmation came from her church leaders. When she expressed her desire to go into full-time missions, within the same week, they agreed to give her full financial support. The final hurdle was her father. He strongly opposed Salome’s decision, saying, “You are so silly to give up such a good job to go where you have no future.” But she told him, “It is God’s call, I have to go!” In His time, the Lord softened her father’s heart and he relented. To her surprise, he even gave her a brand new suitcase for her long journey ahead.
It was time to pack her bag.
Driven by passion
It is no easy feat learning a completely new language. But Salome’s strong conviction that people need the Word of God has kept her persevering all these years. She recalled that back when she was a young believer, it was reading the Word that helped her experience God personally, grow in her faith, and experience total deliverance from evil spirits. Her desire is for everyone to have access to God’s Word, to hear Him speaking to them.
The Word reveals truths. The Word has power to convict sin and transform lives. How can people grow and stand firm through persecution if they do not know the Word? How can they know the Word if they cannot read it? How can they read the Word if it does not exist in their language?
There is also a great need for worship songs in the local dialect. When people sing in their mother tongue, they express themselves best and worship from their hearts. So, Salome works with the locals to compose and record songs in their own language.
With these, the people can learn on their own and pass on valuable truths to future generations without depending on visiting missionaries.
Simple people, simple faith
“God is amazing,” she says. On the mission field, miracles happen more often than she had ever heard of back home. God speaks to the people through dreams, the sick experience healing, the disabled and old folks find their prayers answered. God speaks to her through His spirit, sending encouragement in times when she is hurt, has little faith, and when she faces persecution.
“God is in control,” she adds. The people group she serves face social problems such as gambling, adultery, and delinquent children (left in the care of grandparents) spending their days at cyber cafes. Reality can seem daunting at times, but she has learned to surrender and create space for God. There have been times when the authorities knocked on her door to do spot checks and interrogations. One missionary assured her that if it’s not time for her to leave, no one can do anything – “The door God opens, no man can shut.” (Rev. 3:8)
Salome asserts that God has been faithful in keeping His promises all these years. He has enabled her to do tasks that are beyond her human abilities, and provided for all her needs. In the midst of challenges, God has enabled her to experience so much of His grace and presence.
Asked about her dreams for the future, she expresses hopes that the minority people she serves will mature in Christ and catch the vision to continue the work of translating the Bible in their own language, and that this translated Word will transform many lives.
Asian Beacon: Jul – Sep 2018 (Vol 50 #3, p40-41)
LIFE LESSONS FROM THE MISSION FIELD
Do you feel called to world missions? Salome shares some essential qualities a missionary should have.
- Have a close personal relationship with God
It may be tempting to rely on your own human wisdom and experiences, but only the Lord can move the hearts of people. Let God direct you to be His hands and feet.
- Have team spirit
One of the top reasons workers leave the mission field is not being able to get along with other team members. To be effective in missions, a missionary needs to be flexible and value the team over self.
- Have a humble and teachable heart
You must be willing to lay aside your pride and worldly titles, and do insignificant tasks with love and patience. Remember, we are to model servanthood to those we serve, just as Christ modelled it for us.
- Have a clear mission calling
Don’t sign up to be a missionary just because it is a good thing. First, ensure that it is God’s calling for you to go; otherwise, you may give up when challenges or more attractive things come your way. If you feel called, ask the Lord for confirmation. And while waiting, start volunteering with local causes where you are, stay updated on world missions, and study the Word so that you are ready when the time comes for you to step out.
Asian Beacon: Jul – Sep 2018 (Vol 50 #3, p40-41)