“It’s a big challenge. It’s a journey into the unknown. There
were so many obstacles that could prevent me from fulfilling my
commitment. Am I able to allocate the extra time required from
my busy schedule? It’s so worrying”

All these thoughts raced through my mind as I signed up for the
formation retreat for facilitators. The challenge – to become a
facilitator for the coming bible study program.

The formation retreat was to find out answers for myself. Was I
ready for this ministry or others?

I knew that it was not going to be easy. I had already
sacrificed so much of my time as a participant for this 34-week
study program that required me to read a few chapters of the
bible everyday, and to attend 3-hour meetings every week. And to
come for the meetings no matter whether it rains or not, in
sickness or in health. A commitment that requires me to forego
watching my favorite TV shows, and missing out on vacations and
tours with my family.

However, I did manage to complete the whole journey of 34 weeks
as a participant! That was quite an achievement.

I had been doing a bit of serving in the church – as a warden,
sharing in community fellowship meetings and doing simple
services which undoubtedly were helpful to the community. But
this Discipleship program was so different.

It focused on biblical themes each week and was very well
structured. After participating and sharing my thoughts, joys,
sadness, and challenges for 34 weeks together with strangers, I
found friendship that was genuine, intimate and very real. I
could see people’s lives being transformed.

While I was working at sea, I used to marvel at how the
ministers from Mission to Seamen, Flying Angels, Stella Maris
and other groups served the seamen who came in from around the
world. I really enjoyed what they had to offer, although at
that time I did not give them much thought. I was not even a
Christian then.

Now, it looks like I had to make a decision. Which ministry
should I serve? What resources do I have? What skills do I have?
How am I going to survive and on what income? What kind of
commitment am I willing to do? What kind of work is involved?
What sacrifices do I have to make?

These were fears that I felt. The fear of the unknown. The fear
of things beyond my control. The fear of venturing out of my
comfort zone.

Well, to make a long story short, I did get some answers from
the various insights that came into my mind as the retreat
progresses. At the end of the retreat, I had already made up
my mind – I was going to give it a try. I was going to trust
in the Lord to pull me through.

In my first attempt at facilitating, it was not easy. It was
like double the amount of preparation I had to do as a
participant. I had to make sure the meeting room, writing
materials, meeting schedule, TV, video tapes, player, songs,
refreshments and many other details were in place before the
meetings. Then I have to know the lessons well. If not, I will
have difficulty answering some of the questions from the
participants. Then the extra traveling time and expenses.
Unfamiliar faces, unfamiliar presentation materials, keeping to
the time allocated, coping with new demands from participants
as well as from core team members…

To make matters worse, there were also some people who made it
a point to bring people down by discouraging them with remarks
like, “It’s too demanding for us. How can you ever hope to
succeed?”

Yes, it was extremely difficult in the first year. It was like
the process of refining silver. It was a tough test.

But after a while, I managed to pull through.

Today, I had already done four years of facilitating and I am
looking forward to my fifth year. I share the feelings of Saint
Paul when he said, “… forget what is behind me and do my best
to reach what is ahead.” (Philippians 3:13)

There were difficult and trying times, but in all of them, the
outcome turned up to be good. I had learned a lot, deepened my
knowledge and I had gained a sense of peace by letting go of
control of situations and letting God take over.

Incredibly, not once was I too sick to carry on. Not once was I
not able to fulfill my obligation to my class participants. God
had blessed me.

God was in control all the time!