Nothing had gone to plan. Nothing of our plans, anyway.
It was in late 2021 when it became clear we couldn’t go back to live in South East Asia. The past two years of waiting had been tedious and turbulent, characterised by a recurring cycle of roadblocks barring our return. Finally, a lack of suitable schooling options for our two growing children necessitated that we remain in Australia.
We were confused and disappointed. How could we serve God in South East Asia if we couldn’t live there?
Yet, at the same time as we were riding the pandemic rollercoaster, God had been slowly revealing to us a new way of doing ministry in collaboration with the local church—one that we could not have imagined pre-Covid.
In 2020, when many expats returned to their home countries, the local church remained. Video calls allowed us to communicate from afar, but it was the local church who distributed food parcels, showing love beyond their own ethnic and religious borders.
Through this period, God continued working through the local church. And as we heard of what was happening from afar, we were challenged in how we could better partner with them.
Over the past few years, we had become interested in recording and sharing people’s faith stories in their own languages and contexts. Being in Australia gave us the opportunity to produce a video of a friend’s testimony.
Setia, like us, was unable to return to South East Asia. But for him, it was the only home he’d known. Raised as a Hindu, Setia had come to faith in Jesus a few years before, and he wanted his family, village community and others to hear about Jesus, too.
As we worked with Setia to record his testimony in his heart language, our eyes opened to the possibility of this becoming our main focus, producing faith stories that could be shared near and far to bear witness to God’s transformative power.
Now we are based in Australia, where our kids have the stability and education opportunities they need at this time. Every few months, we travel to South East Asia to record people’s stories and share them with others.
Stories like that of the rapidly multiplying women’s discipleship groups in one region. Or of a family in another city, ministering to marginalised communities and mentoring future leaders. It is exciting to hear from those who have engaged with these videos and become inspired to think about their own faith journeys or to pray for the regions where these stories originate.
Each project impacts us, too, as we closely follow someone’s life to authentically document their story. Like that of our Iranian friend, who has lived as a refugee for more than 10 years, his faith and hope in God sustaining him through this indefinite period of instability. Or witnessing how another Partner’s business is positively impacting his staff and creating a space for interfaith friendships and dialogue.
Two trips back this year have helped to clarify this new way of working, but they have also brought up new questions: How can we better partner with the local church in telling their stories? How can we work with the diaspora here in Australia?
As we have met with people, produced stories and seen their initial impact, we are encouraged by the opportunities opening up to connect with new people and places in partnership with the local church. While a little daunting, our vision continues to develop and we trust that God will enable us at each new turn.
But one thing is clear. While we make plans, it is God who determines our steps. And His ways are always better than our own.
Alice and Chris serve in Australia and South East Asia.