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.

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“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.

“Saya boleh tahan (I can withstand it).”

One of the most difficult things I’ve embarked on was a series of in-depth interviews with foreign domestic helpers caring for elderly patients with dementia.

While we have seen specific cases highlighted and punished for elderly abuse, many of us have never heard the silent stories of being spat upon, cursed, hit, soiled on, by patients who are ill, day after day after day.

In an aging society where elderly care is continually being outsourced, have we failed to recognize and appreciate the sacrifices made by people we have invited into our homes, no longer as housekeepers, but as companions to our ailing loved ones?

In the face of extreme circumstances, many of them continue day after day, “saya boleh tahan” (I can withstand it), because “I see Ah Gong (Grandpa) like my own father. I know he dementia, old already.”

Those who do not know about the illness, plod on nonetheless, through the sleepless nights of shouting, door-banging, wandering and aimless pacing… which are some manifestations of the illness in its severe stages.

Is it a paradigm shift we need? That perhaps, the privilege and responsibility of caring for our elders remains ours to own as a family and society. That perhaps, there is more we could do to support them, and alleviate the mental burden they carry in this challenging role as caregivers?

Let us appreciate the vital role our helpers play, and recognize the resilience, compassion and dedication they display, to help us care for those we love.

With special thanks to my mentors and friends, for believing in this.

Published in The Straits Times, Singapore, 31 Mar 2018.

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I knew I had blown it.

On the other line was someone I couldn’t believe was calling me… and there I was dumbfounded.

With her being the ex-marketing director of American music bands like Delirious from Nashville and Founder of an NGO organizing a big conference coming up in June, I desperately wanted to impress.

I was certain it would be useless. After all, she had never even met me. I was stuttering. I spoke in an accent that was difficult to hear. Why would she even trust me?

As I ruined the moment with stuttery ahs and errs, she finally interrupted me, “OK so, what will you be speaking on next week at Hopkins?”

“What? You mean next week on Sarah-Faith’s birthday at the Kitesong Launch?”

This time, I knew it was over.

At her conference, were leaders in the field speaking about therapy, clinical recovery and counseling. Celebrity singers were being featured. Now that she had found out I was from Hopkins, I was certain my answer would be a letdown.

“Dreams.”

As soon as the word left my mouth, I cringed.

I had seen people cringe at the word before, associating me with being fluffy and of no substance. In my mind, I saw her shaking her head, face-palming at her waste of time on a phone conversation with me, one which had taken a long time to coordinate.

Instead, she went wild.

“Seriously?! Because I have ALL my speakers lined up for the event and I’m missing the keynote closing speaker whom I want to speak on Dreams. You’re the person I’ve been praying for all this while! I’ve read your story, now I’ve heard your voice. You’re coming to Nashville! And I want your husband to come speak to us on marriage too! You both HAVE to come!”

Suddenly, at that moment, a million memories, fragmented like broken glass through the years of pain and darkness, became mirrors that reflected the sun’s infinite light.

That week, was the final week she was finalizing speakers for the conference. Had we been connected a week later, it would have been too late. She was connected to me through her psychiatrist friend, who was the sister-in-law of a faculty at Hopkins who found out about my burden to help women with eating disorders when she accidentally picked up a copy of “A Taste of Rainbow” displayed on my professor’s desk at her office.

I know. It could only be God.

For so many years I had grappled with the meaningless of my experience with depression and anorexia. Besides making a good news story, I often saw little meaning in it. I kept filing it away, determined to bury this dream of trying to help others. Although people approached me for advice occasionally, either for themselves or loved ones, things often stalled once they found out I did not have a miracle answer, and the way out was a journey of faith and courage to seek help.

Uncannily enough, on International Women’s Day, when women around the world were being celebrated, I received the finalized flyer for the conference, and a link to an online support group for people suffering from struggles with weight and identity.

As I saw my name printed on the brochure, I thought of the thousands of women like me who struggle with this silently and publicly, daily and continuously, to small and debilitating extents, as they are sold the lie that one can never truly be free of the bondage of comparison and worthlessness.

I thought of the many whose stories of freedom and hope continue to await to be written because within the very same box which the enemy has tried to keep them in, lies the very key to the very destiny that God has called them to, to set other captives free.

This month, as millions of women around the world are being celebrated, you might know someone struggling with an eating disorder or self-esteem issue and feel at a loss as to how to help them. You know it’s not an issue about vanity, but identity. You know there is hope, if only they would reach out.

You are not alone. For years, I struggled with how to reply the desperate voices struggling to find help for their loved ones, and struggled to find resources.

Today, something that I’ve only dreamed of being a part of exists.

If you know someone longing to find the freedom that she deserves, tell her that she’s not alone. If she’s in America, encourage her or go with her to the conference this June in Nashville- it will not be just an event, but a life-changing milestone. http://www.findingbalance.com/hfh/

And if she’s unable to, share this online support program with her. Wherever she is around the world, and at whatever stage of struggle she’s in, there is hope. She is not alone- http://www.findingbalance.com/support/

This June, Cliff, Sarah-Faith and I will be in Nashville speaking on the miracles in marriage and the hope of freedom. We hope to see you there.

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“And it will all be wasted.”

Seven years ago on this day, those words hurt like pelting hail.

As the news reporter threatened to ditch the interview story unless I provided her with more sensational details, I stood my ground on truth.

But after having published Rainbow, a book which was meant to raise awareness of eating disorders and depression among youth, after my own recovery from depression and anorexia, it felt like it had all gone wrong.

The calls persisted till midnight.

“If you don’t tell me more, our paper won’t run your story. Your book will be a waste.”

At the age of 24, it was then I experienced one of life’s deepest, most existential fears- to even think, that the pain and struggles we experience, have all been for nothing.

Back then, with hands holding a tear-stained face, I remember wondering what a way it was to turn a year older, with the weight of failure and hopelessness upon me.

In the following years, Rainbow was shared with patients in a few clinics, occasionally at schools, but nothing more. Because of its limited reach in Singapore, its impact hardly grew.

As I received the occasional email from a parent struggling with a daughter with an eating disorder that was killing her slowly, I would hope it could bring them some encouragement.

But a big part of me ached to do more.

One crazy day, I dreamed of speaking in the States, for Rainbow to make a deeper impact among women struggling, on a larger, global scale.

Call it stupid. It was.

Fast forward seven years later, here in USA, God rekindled the dream for Rainbow to be used to bring hope to those struggling with depression and issues with weight, self esteem and identity. But as I knocked on several doors for partnership opportunities, none opened.

I remember sitting in front of a well-known specialist at her office, praying nervously that after having knocked on so many doors, that perhaps she would consider using Rainbow for therapeutic programs for her patients.

“Your book is very nice,” she said. “But I have no use for it. Look at all these books people give me for my patients. Yours is not special.”

I walked out of that office in that famous hospital that day, wondering if it had all been a mistake.

Rainbow was useless. What a stupid dream.

Who here would listen to me speak anyway, with my localized Singaporean accent. I’ll never be a good speaker, at least never for an American audience.

I grappled with God sending me to the States. Really? Did You really spend more than $100’000, orchestrate three impossible scholarships and create this inexplicable block of time for us to come all the way to the States… just to start Kitesong Global? Seriously? And I can’t even seem to find open doors for the books. Is it not a waste, God?

At times, that’s all our struggles seem to be- expensive, exhausting, and altogether meaningless.

Yet, perhaps we often forget, that only the passage of time and the trust of hope allows the dusk to melt into dawn, and for treasures gleaned in the darkness to be shared in the light.

A week before the launch of Kitesong Global on Sarah-Faith’s birthday, just as I was preparing my talk called “A Chance to Dream,” I received a phonecall from a woman, a conference organizer from Tennessee, who was the ex-marketing director of renowned Christian bands like Delirious.

It was an abrupt phonecall, connected by a friend of a faculty member, who had chanced upon Rainbow when she picked it up in my professor’s office.

” I want you to come and speak at my conference this June. Come to Nashville. Talk about Dreams. Talk about Kitesong. Talk about Rainbow and how God healed you to do what you’re doing today. Will you be my keynote speaker? Will you come?”

As I stood speechless, it suddenly dawned upon me, that just when we think that our pain has all been for naught, God has His timing. And His timing is perfect.

The truth is, we all have been created and called to a purpose far greater than we know. Yet, for most of our lives, until we arrive at the crossing of preparation and opportunity, our lives will seem fragmented, lost, and at best, meaningless.

Yet, God never forgets our dreams. He never does because before the passage of time, He created them, us; He had called us each by name, and put those dreams in our hearts before time began, pulsing and burning with a longing for eternity.

A few days after that phonecall, as Cliff drove us through the most beautiful sunset, I started to ask God what my life was meant for. That if I were a candle, what would the flame my life was laid down for be used to bring light to?

And right there in the sunset melting into a million hues, He reminded me of the meaning of my name: 蔚 (Wei/Wai) which describes the splendor and glory of the skies, and 佳 (Jia), goodness and excellence.

And as I watched the sky melt into the glimmery twilight, I started to tear as the full meaning of my name came to me- the display of God’s goodness in the sky.

That was what Kitesong stood for, what its purpose is, and what my name means.

He had written it before time began, before my birth 31 years ago before this day.

So often, we think our pain has been for naught, a thought that exemplifies our pain further.

Yet, do we not realize that very often, before arriving at a sense of destiny, that perhaps, our entire lives are a series of preparatory steps, a probationary rehearsal waiting and anticipating for something greater?

People often look at the awards and accolades of others and think, “Oh wow, what a success.”

But the preceding years, decades even, before that point of convergence, where the nexus of passion and purpose meet, is a painfully mundane and seemingly purposeless course called preparation, waiting patiently in trusting hope for a spark called opportunity, to catalyze it into God-ordained Purpose.

At the Kitesong launch, I was surprised to see eyes filled with tears as I shared my talk- as people related to the stories of this universal, unexplainable thing called pain, so inextricably tied to our purpose. And just yesterday, as a I led a young woman who had come for the Kitesong launch to Christ, she shared with me the bizarreness of her pain. It was a pain I could relate to, without which I would never have heard her heart.

I am learning- that what the enemy tries to rob from us, is often the very thing God has planned for us to triumph over, to bring victory into the lives of others.

As I turn 31, I thank God for the seemingly senseless pain in our lives, that finds its purpose in His hope. I thank God for you for journeying with us through those moments, and for exulting in the joy He gives us when our pain turns to purpose.

Because that is only pain worth living for, the kind that never goes to waste.

Here’s sharing the video-recording of the message at Sarah-Faith’s birthday and the Kitesong launch:

 

Thank you once again for journeying with us.

We are always looking for people whose hearts are longing to make a difference.

If you have a gift, however small-

writing, photography, videography, reaching out through social media, teaching etc,

and you would like to

take a risk to be a blessing through Kitesong Global,

please write to us at waijia@kitesong.org.

Love,

Team Tam

Since the high of the launch of Kitesong Global and Sarah-Faith’s 1st birthday, an incident happened which had left me feeling low.

Yet, how God has His special ways of reaching out to us, reminding us how much we’re on His heart.

I was just about to leave the auditorium at church because Sarah-Faith had started to babble loudly during a guest speaker’s sermon when he stopped midway in his message and said over the microphone with a joke, “Hey I was once a baby too- Mama, please don’t leave,” asked for her name over the pulpit (which the audience shouted back) and then announced, “I want to give this children’s book of mine to Sarah-Faith.”

Sarah-Faith then gave a loud “BAAAAHH!” which rang through the entire auditorium at church, that met with warm laughs and applause.

Thank you God, for the special ways you remind us of how special and loved each of us are and for the gifts of joy you give to us daily.

This baby just makes a splash wherever she goes!

Happy Lunar New Year

 

It’s been a week since she turned one,

but she still loves leafing through all the birthday cards she’s received.

“From the bottom of our hearts, thank you!”

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Never in a million years.

I had dreamed it perhaps, twirled the thought around between fingers perhaps, but never in a million years, did I expect what happened.

I wasn’t even sure if all the seats would be filled. So when I returned to see a line spilling out into the hallways, when I saw extra chairs being moved into the hall, I thought another event might have been going on.

Never did I dream there’d come a day where security guards and fire marshals had to lock the doors of a hall because it was at full capacity.

Never in a million years did I dare expect to be speaking at the largest function hall at Hopkins on Sarah-Faith’s first birthday, launching our first social venture.

It all happened because of a series of miraculous events, catalyzed by prayer, and fueled by the love of a community, at Hopkins and around the world, who gave us a chance to dream.

I confess, I had dreamed a little dream, prayed a little wish several months ago- that with people whom we loved and who loved us, we could celebrate these two milestones together.

As I walked down the filled hall with Sarah-Faith on my arm and took the crowd in, I stood in awe, at how that little wish which found its shaky confidence only in the walls of a tiny classroom with homemade cupcakes had grown into what it had become.

The wide hall, the banquet seating arrangements, the video-recording crew, food, decorations, flowers, cake… all would have cost thousands of dollars in total.

Yet, through the generous love of faculty, friends and anonymous donors (I still don’t know who they are), this had all been sponsored, this was all happening.

The previous day’s event had the tables and chairs in the format I could only dream about, and so we avoided the set-up cost which would cost hundreds of dollars. The hall had actually already been booked for another event that evening and the facility supervisor said “I don’t do double bookings for this venue usually” but said she would make an exception for us. A large school-wide biostatistics concentration meeting was supposedly scheduled for the same time but my professors announced it would be cancelled for our event. Someone offered to video-record my talk without charge- “I’ll edit it for you for free too, because when I bless you, I feel I’m blessing the people who are blessed by your work too.”

It was as if an entire community stopped time for a moment for us. It was as if God had had it all planned, all before I even knew it would come to be.

Entitled “A Chance to Dream,” the day mirrored the theme of my talk as I talked about Kitesong, in that it reminded me, who are we to despise the day of small beginnings?

“Our dreams, no matter how small, can sometimes have unimaginable endings.”

I was nervous. With my personal faith being so entwined to my journey in global health, I wasn’t sure how people would respond. I was also speaking to a hall of some of the most distinguished people I respected and admired, some of the world’s top leaders, in the present day and future- why should they have anything to learn from me? What could I say that they didn’t already know? Worse, I was nervous that the books on Amazon had all been sold out and couldn’t be restocked in time for the event. What would they think?

But never in a million years, did I expect the outcome.

” I cried about five times.”
” It was so moving, my entire table teared.”
“You gave me chills as you spoke.”

As a way of thanking everyone at school for being such a family to us, for welcoming Sarah-Faith and I into lectures and seminars every day, for believing in me as a mother and student- that I could have the same opportunities as everyone else and not less, I decided to give away 100 copies of the limited edition first print of my 4 titles.

Even then, we were out-blessed.

” When will you release the video-recording?”
” Security wouldn’t let us in- you need to prepare for an overflow room next time. Would you give this talk again?”
” When will the books be out?”

Once upon a time, I had shared, publishers told me the books would never find a market because the books were too poignant to be children’s books and too guileless to be adult books. They were right.

And yet here was there an entire hall of people who overwhelmed us with their love and support to make this social venture even possible.

Such is the testament of the loving kindness of this family at Hopkins. What was supposed to be my way of thanking everyone for the support and love they had given us at school, became yet another avalanche of love and blessing from the community.

Cake on a cart for Sarah-Faith. A thousand candles that couldn’t be blown out by Mama. A handmade kite with everyone’s signature on it. A bouquet from Cliff. Cards, lots of cards. Gifts, lots of gifts. Hugs. Kisses. Book-signing.

Today, Kitesong Global is being set up as an international non-profit social venture that uses the power of narrative through the 4 picture books to catalyze change and transform communities- through education, advocacy, fundraising or otherwise, by uplifting the poor and promoting social justice.

Sarah-Faith, Mama decided to launch Kitesong Global on your birthday as a gift for you, because I want you to know that you, too, can dream big dreams. But they all happen when we first give the littlest of our littlest dreams to God. He’s the one who makes things grow.

As shared in my talk, the world often tells us that there’s no dream too big- but may I challenge us to consider, that perhaps, there’s no dream to small?

When the world said no, thank you for saying yes.

Because of you, Kitesong Global and Sarah-Faith and what and who they are today. Thank you for giving us a chance to dream.

On behalf of Sarah-Faith and Cliff, thank you for being a family to us. Thank you, to our friends all around the world too, for journeying with us all this while.

As shared in my talk, my prayer is that each of you would be set free to dream, and be free to set a million other kitesongs free.

Happy 1st Birthday, Sarah-Faith. Mama loves you.

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Waiting to start…

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Sharing my heart

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The Surprise Cakes from my Program Director

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A special kite made by my classmates for Sarah-Faith

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Surprise!

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So many candles!

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Saying Thank You

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My sweet professors, and Cliff’s sweet bouquet

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Book-signing with Sarah-Faith 

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100 books were given out as our way of saying Thank You

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Gifts and notes for Sarah-Faith

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This sweet child

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A Day to Remember

“Do not despise these small beginnings,

for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…”

-Zech 4:10

What started out as a little wish to celebrate Sarah-Faith’s first birthday in a little classroom at school with a small group of friends has gone beyond my wildest expectations.

The school program office ended up booking the largest function hall at Hopkins, professors cancelled a concentration meeting, and just last week, as I was making enquiries on catering to buy lunch as a way of thanking everyone for their love & support… my program director informed me that some anonymous donors had stepped in to sponsor the entire event, including lunch and cake for 200 people.

I’ll be giving a short talk on the intersection of publishing, philanthropy and global health, and launching Kitesong as a global social venture. If you’d like to come and enjoy lunch & cake on the house, feel free to join us tomorrow.

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“You have no idea what you’ll be doing?”

“To be honest, no,” I replied.

“But you always plan. Obviously you planned not to plan this time,” my husband said with a smile.

Six hours later on our first flight as a family of three, we arrived at my internship at IRIS Global, not knowing what to expect.

Months ago, frantically knocking on several doors searching for a practicum and internship opportunity for my Masters In Public Health program, I desperately wanted to embark on a research project of Significance. Little did I know that after a convoluted journey, God would lead me back to the start to start a social venture with Kitesong and the other picture books I had published over the years.

People had told me this was a mistake. That as a new mother and student, starting a social venture was too much and bordering on being irresponsible. They said doing something “serious” like a research project would have been much better than starting this nebulous entity, or traipsing across America with my husband and trooper baby in tow, not knowing exactly what it was I would be learning.

I don’t blame them. I felt the same too.

When I submitted my application, I knew my chances were slim. After all, starting a social venture for a practicum was very, very unusual. And in the public health world, my desired internship organization (IRIS Global) was no Gates or Rockefeller Foundation. Yet, I felt I had far more to learn from them, having been inspired by their Founder Heidi Baker several years ago, a woman who had and continues to lay her life down to serve the poorest of the poor in Africa.

Little did I expect Hopkins to sponsor our trip on the Field Experience Award. Little did I expect to arrive at a time where all the senior staff and board members around the world would fly in to discuss their major plans for the year ahead. Little did I expect to meet the Founder, Heidi, herself, a woman who lives in Mozambique serving orphans and vulnerable women, whom many and I had only seen and heard and been moved by from afar.

There she was.

If there ever was a fan-girl, starstruck moment, I would have botched it. Because so overwhelmed was I when she gave me a hug that all I could say was, “This is so surreal.”

So overwhelmed was I when she asked me to sit down with her when so many others were needing her attention. I spoke, and she listened as if no one else existed. Just as how she always spoke of “stopping for the one” in need, she stopped for me.

“I want your books translated into Portuguese for all our schools and children centers in Africa.”

I was shocked. Did she know, that after the longest silence, in a tidal wave of beautiful miracles, God had moved people all over the world to contact me regarding translations for the books in the last one month. First, East Timorese, then Japanese, then Mandarin. On the first day of my internship, an American lady texted me to say, “God impressed upon my heart to translate your books into Spanish for the Latino population. Would you let me?”

But I had no idea how to move forward, how to build a team. “I am no entrepreneur. How do I even begin to lead?” I asked God.

All I knew was that after a series of closed doors, several ones opened, and God had led us thus far. I just had to keep trusting that He knew even when I did not.

I arrived on the first day finding myself with the staff team undergoing a Life Language training, one of the most enlightening leadership and relationship profiles and trainings I’ve ever done.

“You are a Mover. Movers are entrepreneurs, innovators and leaders.”

I nearly laughed out loud, seeing how that was exactly what I told God I was not, just the day before. Yet, in divine candor, it was the encouragement I needed.

The next day, a world-class trainer flew in for free to conduct a leadership training for the team.

Building a Team. Casting your vision. Setting your goals.

I had arrived not knowing what to expect, wondering if this all had been a mistake, but God had my itinerary all planned.

The director told me, “We’ve never had such trainings back-to-back with board meetings and conferences- it’s like God WANTED you here with us at this time. And there were no other dates you could come- Incredible!”

It made me wonder, that perhaps, all He expects of us is to trust and obey. Unlike what we think, we need not always have plans made and all our steps laid out. We need not always have all the qualifications before we answer a call.

The little we have, even when we feel like we have nothing, He can take and multiply.

Just as all this was going on, another lady, who was a blog-reader-turned-friend, contacted me long-distance to say she felt God wanting her to take the step of courage to journey alongside me and help be part of Kitesong, to use its stories to impact communities.

When I shared with her the vision God had laid on my heart regarding the books traveling to different nations reaching people of different tongues, and how uncanny it was that the very first team member He had sent to encourage me with was a blog reader who is a linguist, the phone went quiet when she replied, “There are tears in my eyes as you share this. For so many years I’ve asked God why- but I’m a linguist too.”

I thought about the many nights of tears as I struggled with not knowing what to do, wondering if I had wasted coming to Hopkins. I questioned why God would make such an uneconomical choice in sending me all the way here just to start Kitesong. I pondered upon my initial worries about traveling with a baby, and how much of a trooper Sarah-Faith turned out to be, winning compliments on the long flights and surviving the long road trips, with Cliff being a champion of a Dad and husband planning everything to a tee.

But I am learning, that He knows the end better than us, and that truly, closed doors do not mean His rejection. God’s silence do not equate to His neglect. Rather, very often, they are exactly His way of speaking to us, directing us, guiding us.

And if we will choose to see things that way, how joyful will we be to luxuriate in the knowing that He was there with us all this while, and will be till the very end.

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“Wow,” our guest marveled. “Just one look, that’s all she needed.”

It was true.

Amidst cleaning, cooking and hosting our guests over the busy end-of-year season, our baby Sarah-Faith’s curious eyes would roam the world but always returned to the same place. Just one look from Mama, and her eyes and smile would pop the room up with a thousand lights and a squeal of fireworks.

It reminded me, that I didn’t need to strive more to do better to be her Mama. I already was, and all I needed, was not to cook more, clean more, buy more, but just to stop, wait and watch the world go by as peals of her laughter bounced down the hallway like rainbow-colored balloons.

Doing less, is so often, doing more.

During my Masters program, I often got asked, “How do you do this- be a mom and study? This program is crazy.”

A friend told me, “Sabbath is impossible here. Rest a day, and the snowball effect of work just kills ya.”

Not wanting to be left behind, I too had raced to the rhythm of that frantic beat.

When I first felt called to start a social venture to help those in need, the whirlwind of work intensified: I knocked on doors between lectures, carried my baby in and out of seminars, nursed her in office and restrooms, listened to audios while cooking, pumping and cleaning. Life was filled to the brim.

Yet, as time passed, I realized I was walking in circles. Amidst the maddening mayhem, I had no idea what the social venture stood for, what its goals or my vision was.

One afternoon, from sheer exhaustion, my husband found me in tears of discouragement.

“It’s no use,” I said. “It’s all been a mistake.”

That weekend, while listening to a sermon about the Tower of Babel, God gripped me like a fierce hug and caught my attention. I realized, that like the people building the tower which crumbled, I too had been building my own tower based on self-striving. At the end of the sermon, a bizarre event happened- as the message described the Day of Pentecost as an event of restoration, I saw a vision of the books traveling to different parts of the world, to people of different tongues.

I almost said aloud, “How can this be? The books are in English.”

But something in me changed that day. I stopped striving, running, being busy. Instead of working through weekends trying to set up the social venture and staying on top of my work, I started spending an entire full day a week in prayer instead.

It didn’t make sense, there was so much to do. But I knew it was the change I needed.

It reminded me of Labor- that the closer I got to actually delivering Sarah-Faith into the world, the less fanfare there was. In the preceding ten months, I had exercised, seen doctors, done tests, and at the last stretch, there I was on my hands and knees, single minded and focused in prayer, on the one thing that had to be done.

There was no flailing, no fancy drugs, no equipment at our home birth. From a posture of rest, came the most miraculous event of all.

Doing less, can be so much more.

Since then, doing less, a wave of events have happened. A few days later, a stranger who lived ten thousand miles from me wrote to me to say she had, for years, been wanting to translate my books but could not find the courage to contact me. That weekend, she said God gave her a burden so heavy that she had no choice but to write to me, and offered to translate my books into Japanese and Tetum (the language of East Timor where the tsunami devastated thousands), to bless those who were in need. Just like in the vision.

Sundays in prayer, became a necessity.

More happened in the following weeks than all of the preceding months.

A week later, two other people voluntarily offered to translate my books into mandarin. I declined at first, explaining that my publisher had declined before. But they persisted.

In a strange irresistible momentum of events, my publisher contacted me one morning, and said, “Our publishing house in China is very interested. Send me the translations and we’ll get this done. Also your Japanese and Tetum translations, and a few other languages.”

Part of me used to scoff when people told me, that prayer is the work. It sounded cliched, but now, it became reality.

I prayed for help- a team to start Kitesong Global as a ministry, and specifically for a millennial to help me with a website.

Two weeks later, a Singaporean man I was connected to in Baltimore met me for lunch. I had expected a middle aged uncle sort of figure. Instead, he turned out to be a 24-year old arts student, who then told me directly, “I saw your website. I’m a graphic designer. I feel God led me to you because He wants me to do your website for you. I won’t charge you a cent. I’ve been wanting to do something meaningful like this for a long time.”

That very afternoon, a serendipitous bump along the corridor with a stranger at school turned into an unexpected opportunity. Approaching me, he said, “Your classmate told me about what you’re doing- I want to record your story, I’m a videographer. Can I help?”

I was speechless.

That same week, I had been praying for an opportunity to launch Kitesong as a venture while celebrating Sarah-Faith’s birthday but had little idea how to make it happen. I asked my program director if perhaps I could do a personal sharing in a small classroom. The next day, I was informed by the program office’s staff that instead of a small classroom, they had booked … the largest function hall at school and had emailed other committees not to organize any other clashing events- they wanted it to be an official school-wide event.

Within a few weeks, God had provided everything for His purposes, once I had let go to let Him. What is impossible to man, becomes possible when we stop intervening with God’s timing and ways.

As the last year came to a close, I began to ponder upon the gift of restedness and the simplicity of being present that God truly intends for each of us.

And as I did, I saw Sarah-Faith crawling out of the kitchen squealing with incandescent delight- for in her hand, was her great prize: a bulb of garlic. So thrilled was she with her bulb that she clutched it everywhere she went, showing her newly budded pearly whites at her new prize.

But how that smile burst into fireworks when she caught my glance.

Truly, what a child needs isn’t fancier toys, electronic gadgets or expensive daycare programs. All she needed was my simple, inexpensive presence, a love-filled, present-moment look, a warm and enveloping hug.

Our simple presence and trusting faith are what delights not only our children, but our Father too.

Doing less, truly is doing more.

So as we cross into another year and give thanks to God for all He has done in 2017, let us remember these gems of greater simplicity, simpler faith and faithful trust.

For truly, prayer is the work that we all want done. It is the work and so much more.

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