Ongs in Malawi

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Dark Days

Posted on October 9, 2009 at 5:20 AM Comments comments (0)

The journey to where we are today in our desire to serve God overseas hasn’t always been an easy road. In fact there have been some dark times along the journey. As Jo and I were recently talking about Reachout 2006 (See previous blog entry) and how that was a milestone for us in our journey, we came to realise that this event came after a period when Jo had gone through some dark times battling what we think might have been depression.

 

This event in lives was not something that I have openly shared before but felt it was important to record as a milestone to serve as a reminder of God’s grace in getting us to where we are today. I remember those days as being the lowest point in our lives, our ministries at church, and certainly it was perhaps the lowest point in Jo’s relationship with God. I remember the times when she questioned her own worth in God’s eyes; she didn't want to go to church even though she had been so actively involved for a number of years; she didn't want to meet with her friends and instead just wanted to be alone. I can remember making excuses to get out of meeting with friends and feeling that I couldn’t tell them what was really going on. We have shed many tears during that time, and it was also perhaps the lowest point in my life so far to see my wife go through what she went through and feeling helpless to do anything about it.

 

The Jo today is a very different Jo to back then, and I praise God for the love and support from dear friends such as Steve and Jan who walked with us through this period and supported us in key decisions that we made. I am also thankful to God for giving her the courage to see a professional counsellor during this time which really helped her in talking through the issues. It was also around this time that we also started attending DBC, which the counselling office was part of.

 

As I reflect back on this period, I remember thinking about our mission plans and what would become of it. I was not optimistic and selfishly felt disappointed. I knew in my heart that the plans to serve God overseas would be parked indefinitely. At that time I had also made the decision to step aside from the church ministries I was involved with at CBC in order to focus my emotional energy in dealing with the circumstances at hand. I had tried to make things work by juggling ministry and Jo’s needs but after some time, I was not getting anywhere with anything. I felt that I could not give adequate attention to both Jo and my ministries and that one had to give. Given Jo’s circumstances, the choice I had to make was clear but it was not personally an easy one to make. The love to serve in the ministries I was involved in was strong but God was teaching me through this that the love for my wife should be stronger. Serving my wife (and family) should always be my primary ministry and everything else second no matter how important I may have thought of my ministry. Back in my uni days, I remember listening to a talk by Josh McDowell and he said something that has stayed with me to this day (and more relevant now that I am married and studying Bible college) He basically said that if you are not loving your wife by looking after her needs then you should not be in ministry or studying Bible College. I guess he was addressing a potential pitfall that all in ministry may face from time to time and that is the elevation of ministry or ministry plans over serving your primary ministry of spouse and children. Of course the wife and kids aren’t just passengers on your ministry but partners! As partners in life and ministry, it was important that Jo and I had the same goals and outlook in life. This dark period in Jo's life was a disjunct in our goals and outlook, so the desire and plans to serve God in missions overseas had to take the back seat while we dealt with the more fundamental issues of our personal relationship with God.

 

The significance of these dark days in relation to Reachout 2006 for us was that it was a realignment of our mission goals and rekindling of our passion to serve God overseas. It was the first step after having parked those ambitions and plans for a number of years to once again bring it to the foreground of our thinking. In light of this, Reachout 2006 was a very significant milestone for us!

 

~ Pete

 

Oh how I remember those 'dark days'. I remember feeling like I was worth nothing in anyone eyes and worst of all - an unimportant speck to God. I also remember questioning my belief in God.

I'm thankful to God for blessing me with Pete. Part of my memories of those days, in the midst of the darkness, was of Pete supporting me thru it. He never once made me feel guilty that I was not where I 'should' be in my walk with God. Never once did he force me to 'step up' in my ministries. Never once did he get upset at me for not wanting to be involved in church activities, though at the same time quietly encouraging me and praying for me. I knew that the thought of our mission plans being put on hold would be on his mind and that he would be disappointed about it, but he never made me feel like I was to blame, but walked beside me all the way. Pete trusted that God will bring about healing in his timing, and that He did! Thru all this, he loved me for who I was, as he vowed to do on our wedding day.

As Pete mentioned above, it wasn't until we talked about the significance of Reachout 2006 the other day, that we realised how God has worked everything according to His perfect timing. We had both initially thought that we made that decision as a couple before/during the dark days and had both wondered how that could be. Then after doing some maths, we realised that it was actually about 9 months down the path of recovery that God again reaffirmed his 'calling' for us, not just as individuals, but as a couple to serve him whenever wherever. This is huge, as I believe that unless if God calls us as a couple to serve overseas, neither of us can coerce the other into going if they do not feel that that was what God wanted them to do. That just wouldn't be loving to each other nor obedient to God. Perhaps what happened was a bit of a 'test' for us?? that if we can survive that as a couple, then we can survive working as a couple overseas?

~Jo

Smells of Africa

Posted on October 2, 2009 at 4:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Today as I was walking with Teaghan and Lucas to playgroup, I was reminded of Africa.

 

It was in the air. Always around this time - the season of bush fires and backburning, especially in the semi rural area in which we live, the smells remind me of Africa.

 

When I was in Addis Ababa (capital of Ethiopia), it was a combination of the smell of burning bodies from the hospital across the road, burning rubbish, and burning whatever else I didn't know about. In Makki (rural Ethiopia), it was burning crops. In Kenya, I suspect it was probably burning rubbish and organic matter.

 

Whatever it was that was being burnt, together it gave off a smokey smell which to this day still brings me back to Africa. Every time I smell it, I am reminded of our plans to return one day to serve the people there. Perhaps it's God's way of 'keeping the fire burning' in us to return to Africa?

 

~Jo

 

 

Ethiopia 2002 (short term mission with SIM)

 

 

Kenya 2005 (Pacific Hills Christian School mission trip)

Reachout 2006

Posted on October 1, 2009 at 4:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Reachout 2006 (missions conference at Katoomba) was another milestone on our journey. Reflecting back on the event, it was a milestone because it was the first time that we had made a commitment as a married couple to serve God wherever and whenever. Previous to this, we had made separate commitments. We had been married for 3.5 yrs by then and Jo was about 3mths pregnant with Teaghan!

 

I can't remember the specific theme of Reachout 2006 but I remember we had responded to a challenge issued by the speaker. One of the things he spoke about was giving your life to serve God whatever/wherever/whenever He calls you to do, like giving your life as a blank cheque to God for Him to do whatever He wants with your life. The speaker also spoke about how often when we consider about serving God in missions, we tend to think of the personal sacrifices we need to make. He said something that has stayed with me today and that is... it is not so much the sacrifices we make for God but rather whether Jesus was worth making the sacrifices for. Do we consider Jesus more valuable than the things we are sacrificing in order to serve Him in missions? Is He worth it?

 

I remember the trip home down the Mountains talking about the commitment we had made that night and pondering what that would mean for us now that we’ll be starting a family soon. We know that our decision will now directly affect another person, and not knowing what the impacts on this little life will be was hard. Teaghan is now 2.5 and three years on we are still pondering on what the impacts may be if we follow through on our commitment and this time with Lucas thrown into the equation. But I am always brought back to that question I heard at Reachout 2006, "Is Jesus worth it?"

 

~ Pete

Crossing home cultures

Posted on September 25, 2009 at 10:15 AM Comments comments (0)

We've been going to Dural Baptist for more than 3 years now. We'd come out of a Chinese church background into this majority caucasian church.

 

Many of our chinese Christian friends who go to Chinese churches ask us why we'd decided to go to a caucasian church.

 

Well, we decided that with missions in mind, we wanted to stretch ourselves to 'cross cultures', rather than going to a church where it would not take much effort to understand the culture. Though we've grown up here in Australia, sometimes it still takes a little time to warm up to caucasians. I guess growing up in Chinese families means that you automatically understand the culture of others who have also grown up in Chinese families. It is not strange for us to see plastic on couches or shoes at doors, because we've grown up in that culture)

 

We thought, if we don't even feel comfortable attending a caucasian church -the culture in which we are immersed and have grown up in, then how are we to feel comfortable in a third culture when we reach the mission field?? or when we are surrounded by other caucasian missionaries when we are in Africa, as will most likely be the case. At least this way, it is one less thing to have to adjust to when we get there.

 

So with that in mind, we started at Dural Baps and have not regretted it. It did take us a little while to warm up and we did feel a bit strange the first few weeks there being the only Asians walking into a sea of white...! But now we don't even think twice about it and at times probably even forget that we look a little different! People know us, the Ongs, now and I no longer wonder if poeple are wondering if we can speak English!! We have learnt so much from being at DBC. It's great to see how another church does things.

 

~ Jo