Praying over a Bible. Photo by Samuel Nee.

God will make a way

Andrew and Cynthia used their skills from the corporate world to serve God in the mission field, trusting in His providence and timing.

The question: "How are you glorifying God with your life?" posed by a mentor in 2009, got Cynthia* thinking. Caught up in the corporate world and with two young sons to nurture, Cynthia and her husband Andrew* had been too busy to be involved in full-time missions.

In the early 1980s, Cynthia attended a global mission conference for students in the United States, where she responded to a call to be a missionary.

She would go on to be involved in short-term mission trips and serve on the church's mission committee. But she never went further.

Just about the same time that question was posed, Andrew also felt "there should be change" in his life, having been in the same job for 17 years. He started considering full-time work in his church, but the door never opened.

As a couple, they began searching for an opportunity to serve in missions. Through a series of twists and turns, they found themselves using their industry skills on the mission field to help build up local communities and share the gospel.

Things fall into place

Visa issues delayed a planned family holiday to Australia, and on the way back from the Australian High Commission to settle the matter, they chanced upon a residential development being built. Spur of the moment, they decided to buy a small unit on the property as their retirement home.

The buy was a wise investment.

"When it came time for us to quit our jobs, we sold the apartment and used the money to clear our debts and finance our children's education," said Cynthia.

They were also required to enrol in a Bible school before being sent out. In 2011, Andrew and Cynthia left their jobs to study at the Singapore Bible College (SBC). While they did a course in Intercultural Studies, they also explored where to go.

"In the two years at SBC, we met another missionary couple and asked them for advice. They told us, 'You don't have to worry. When the time comes, the Lord will open the door and show you where to go.'"

That was precisely how things unfolded. Though they had their hearts set on going with one mission agency, circumstances kept leading them to OM.

Turning mountains into roads

Even when they went on a vision trip with the first mission agency, they ended up in a part of Asia where OM had a project. Andrew and Cynthia decided to visit the OM-run welfare centre. They also visited some newly built guesthouses nearby in the mountains. Constructed after a natural disaster hit the place, the development was nearly impenetrable but for a single, rocky road.

As a result of that visit, the person in charge of the area's rejuvenation went to Andrew and Cynthia on their last day in the country to ask them to work on a project to revitalise the area.

Andrew told her, "There is potential in that area. It's possible, but the road is terrible."

The person in charge said, "We will build a new road up and a new road down."

Throughout that trip, during their devotions, Isaiah 49 had "come up a few times". That morning, Andrew and Cynthia had just read Isaiah 49:8-12. The passage seemed to describe the area they had visited exactly — desolate and mountainous, yet full of promise.

There were also plans to run a leadership training programme within the centre for people from the "north, east, west and coastal region". This was, to Andrew and Cynthia, the very scene in Isaiah 49:11-12 that they had been meditating upon: "I will turn all my mountains into roads and my highways will be raised up. See, they will come from afar – some from the north, some from the west, some from the region of Aswan" (NIV). 

Said Cynthia: "It was as if the Scripture had been talking to us throughout the vision trip. It just fit. We took this into our hearts."

When they returned to Singapore, two other mission field possibilities opened up. From not knowing where to go, they now had three choices. After considerable prayer and consultation, in 2013, they settled their sons at university, graduated from SBC, packed their bags and headed out.

Provision in unexpected ways

Their first task was to work on a manual for the greenhouse farming-cum-welfare centre to be used as a guide for those interested in running such a business and using it for outreach within the community. Andrew and Cynthia had just months to complete the task because they were due to start a two-year course at the local university to learn the native language.

Their lack of a good grasp of the local language was a major barrier to communicating with those they interviewed. Even with a translator, many things were lost in translation.

Thankfully, they had taken a course in International Development while at SBC, where they had learnt about natural farming in one of the Southeast Asian villages. They ended up relying on their copious notes, Cynthia's drawings and the photographs Andrew had taken during that visit to write the greenhouse manual.

Then, the welfare centre asked them to run leadership and management training for the staff. Falling back on their years in the corporate world, they developed a curriculum. But there was no one to translate the material. Cynthia said, "We prayed, 'Lord, we need a translator because we can only write in English.'" Someone at their local church's 40-day prayer meeting heard about their need and volunteered to translate.

"The Lord just kept providing along the way," marvelled Cynthia. They also facilitated the building programme of the welfare centre, helping them to manage their funds. "As the Lord opened the door, we did different things."

This was exactly what they had learnt to do at Bible college — meeting local communities where they need help and equipping and empowering them to take the initiative and ownership.

"But this has to be done with Christlikeness. If you have no Christlikeness, it is just pure humanitarian work. But when you put Christ in the centre of this, the gospel message is worked out in word and deed," explained Cynthia.

The favour of the Lord

Their work in Asia was the fruition of a promise God had given them even before they left Singapore for the mission field. While on a silent retreat, Cynthia happened to read Psalm 90.

"Those words in verses 16 and 17 jumped at me, 'May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendour to their children. May the favour of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us — yes, establish the work of our hands'" (NIV).

Fearful that she was "putting words in God's mouth", Cynthia asked for a ray of sunlight though the day was gloomy and overcast.

"At the 59th minute of the second hour, I was looking up at the thatched roof and I saw this orange light. I realised that the Lord was answering by giving this ray of sunshine. I cried because it was so amazing," said Cynthia.

She shared this verse with Andrew and, since then, they have continued to claim it together to this day. "It has carried us through."

*name changed

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