As I write this reflection, I realise that it’s only been 6 weeks since my family returned to Singapore.
My husband George and I moved to Auckland slightly more than 4 years ago as we felt God leading us there. Over the last 4 years, we experienced many unprecedented events. Even those living there for over 30 years had never experienced such things – a religious terror event, a volcanic eruption, a global pandemic and most recently, a massively disastrous cyclone that set New Zealand’s supply chain back 20 years.
Through these events, I had the privilege of witnessing and being part of what God had already started doing in the land. The Spirit of God moved mightily behind the scenes, compelling Christians and local churches to give generously of their time, money and talents to bring the country back on its feet.
But more than that, the Spirit of God has been calling New Zealand back to faith in Christ. While New Zealand seems to be a post-Christian society, migrant churches are growing rapidly and the people are hungry for the Word of God. In faith, I see God using the displaced to reach out to those who belong, calling them back to Christ.
… in the midst of the “out-of-place-ness” I very keenly felt, God used me …
In my own ministerial journey, I too sensed the tension between being displaced and belonging. When I first moved out of Singapore, I had moved from a place I belonged to a country where I did not belong – I was out of place.
Similarly, I moved out of the local church where I had started to grow roots, build relationships, and had a support network of friends and church mates/leaders to pursue what God had put in our hearts for our families and for the church, to a local church where I was of a minority race and cultural background, and operated differently from what I used to.
Yet, in the midst of the “out-of-place-ness”, God used me – during a time of significant change for the local church – to bless, disciple, and shepherd both those who were out-of-place as well as those who belonged. As a result (all thanks be to God), I was ordained by the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Aotearoa New Zealand in November 2022.
As so many people in today’s world struggle with loneliness and not belonging, perhaps the solution is to share in their discomfort and vulnerability of being out-of-place.
Though there are many more learning points while away from home, this is the one I wish to share here. As so many people in today’s world struggle with loneliness and not belonging, perhaps the solution is to share in their discomfort and vulnerability of being out-of-place. For out of such discomfort, God can and will make something new.
“Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.”(Isaiah 43:18-19)
The truth is this: as people of God, we live in a world in which we no longer belong and at a time vastly different from any other in human history. Yet, we can take heart that God is not surprised or bewildered by the state of the world. The Spirit of God has been bringing, and will continue to bring, all things under the loving power of Christ (Eph 1).
If we as the body of Christ are willing to take our places where He has planted us – whether or not we may seem or feel out-of-place, there is no doubt in my mind that He will make something new in His time.
Rev Stephanie Oh
Pastor, Chinese Annual Conference