I was freaking out.

What was I doing? What did this mean? It was just ridiculous.

A day before the event, with my slides and script in hand, I felt like hiding under a stone. I went to my professor and told her this was all a mistake. Was it too late to back out?

After being nudged to do so by two mentors, I had submitted Kitesong Global as an application. I was certain I would hear nothing back.

But I did. And for the final selection round, they required a 2-minute presentation followed by a 3-minute Q&A.

There was no way I would ever be able to share the story of Kitesong Global in 2 minutes. But worse, I didn’t want to subject something so dear to my heart to the scrutiny of a panel of judges. Kitesong Global wasn’t just a practicum project, a thesis or the blueprint of a non-profit venture.

It was my life.

I didn’t want it to be graded, critiqued on, awarded or not awarded based on the KPIs strangers thought I had hit or missed. I know, it all sounds ridiculous- an award cannot and does not validate or invalidate who I am.

But it was far too personal.

Awards would be given to “outstanding public health practice contributions, in recognition of a practice effort that has made or has great potential to make a sustained impact on a health-related outcome.”

Kitesong Global was none of that. Some days, I am not even fully convinced I did the right thing.

Some days I still wonder, “Did I waste my degree here on this?”

The thought of it was unbearable. I wanted out.

My professor convinced me to stay, “Take it as an opportunity to tell the judges how much being here has helped you.”

We were asked to invited friends, family, colleagues to attend. But I didn’t want anyone to come. So I did not.

As the other candidates presented their slides and got grilled at the podium, my mind went blank. With my stomach churning, I went up, expecting to be asked about the sustainability, feasibility, scalability and over-the-top idealism Kitesong Global reeked of. Who was I kidding, really?

“Stop all of this- the world doesn’t need Kitesong. It was just a book an 18-year old wrote. Keep it that way,” came the flashback of an ex-mentor’s phonecall. This would all have been a farce to him.

But the judges didn’t ask those questions. Instead, they asked me to share the story of each book, how I expected each story to make an impact, and how much they are needed, not just in low and middle countries, but in America too.

As I got off the podium, I felt like retching. So close was I to tears I had rush out of the hall.

As I listened to the other candidates share about the groundbreaking things they were doing in public health, I knew I was out of place.

Up to now, I don’t have grand plans- I don’t have a fancy evaluation model, a sure-win funding mechanism, an impressive blueprint. When people ask me how Kitesong Global is going, I genuinely mean it when I say, “I’m still praying.”

People have suggestions on what Kitesong Global could do to be bigger, better- social marketing, advertising, this and that… and I often feel so small and foolish, thinking, ” That sounds really great, but God didn’t show us this or that way.”

At least it was over.

This afternoon, the results were announced. Kitesong Global received the Excellence in International Public Health Practice Award.

As I teared, I thought about the many times I had felt foolish and fluffy, the many times I had lost my words when someone asked me for my slick elevator pitch, when I wondered why I could not dream the dreams I wanted to but could not.

I was reminded of what happened two weeks ago, when an American lawyer wrote to me to say she was committed to seeing Kitesong Global registered in the States. I asked her how much it would all cost- about $5-8000, a figure that made me laugh out loud then cry myself to sleep. That night, with my head on my pillow and Cliff’s arms wrung around mine, I said “I quit.”

This was all a joke anyway. In a few months, I would be out of the States. All of this was plain illogical. Who would help me run the organization, do bookkeeping, file taxes? I know nothing about those kinds of things, still don’t.

The next morning, on a cold, white morning, a billowy snowstorm snowed us all in. No one could go out. The entire woods facing our home was cloaked in a magical white. And there on our doorstep, God sent us an angel, an aged, wise missionary friend we had met in Singapore, who had served 15 long years in China and had now moved back to the States, who drove hours just to spend the day with us, just to catch up.

I will never forget his words, “If you could trust God to raise more than $100’000 for the Children’s Home in Nepal when you were 18 years old, and that same amount for you to come to Johns Hopkins to do your Masters degree and provide for your family, can you not trust Him for $8000? Can you not?”

The next morning, as the snow melted quietly, he came for breakfast. A phone call disrupted our conversation. And as I ended the call, my face was washed white, as I shared that just over the phone, someone unexpected had called and offered me a cheque to help underwrite these costs of setting up Kitesong Global in the States. I had not solicited, not advertised, not written a thing about this on my blog or an email.

I was speechless.

I am learning, that just because I don’t understand what God says, I have no right to determine that He must be mistaken. I am learning, that it is haughty and precarious, even, to think that my obedience to His directive would dishonor Him. I am learning, that when I am befuddled by my own foolishness, God has a different way.

Exactly a week later, as I began to process this craziness, I read from Oswald Chambers, “Are you debating whether you should take a step of faith in Jesus, or whether you should wait until you can clearly see how to do what He has asked? Simply obey Him with unrestrained joy. When He tells you something and you begin to debate, it is because you have a misunderstanding of what honors Him and what doesn’t. Are you faithful to Jesus, or faithful to your ideas about Him? Are you faithful to what He says, or are you trying to compromise His words with thoughts that never came from Him? “Whatever He says to you, do it” (John 2:5).”

I am still, learning.


“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise;

God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong…”

– 1 Cor 1:27

Thank you to Cliff, my professors, classmates and those of you who have believed in Kitesong. Thank you for helping Kitesong fly.

* If you feel led to be involved with Kitesong in any way, please drop us a note at waijia@kitesong.org. We are praying for people to help with web/graphic design, photography, videography, bookkeeping, social media and more.

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