As some of you may know, Grandpa Zhou was an elderly, angry busker with cerebral palsy playing the harmonica by the dirty train steps when I first met him 8 years ago in Singapore.

His life changed drastically when he caught a glimpse of God’s love. Through journeying with him, we’ve always kept in touch- even while we were in Uganda and Canada, as passersby and friends would update us and him through our blog and spontaneous Whatsapp calls.

More than a month ago, he went missing. Nobody knew what had happened. We kept praying. I expected the worst and yet hoped that somehow, he was well.

Today, I found out that he had injured his leg and is now warded at a rehabilitation hospital. Knowing him, I know he would so love to be visited, to have a listening ear, to have someone read the Bible in Mandarin or Cantonese to him. I know he would love for someone to listen to him play the harmonica again, to clap to his vintage tunes.

If you find time in yr busy schedule over the weekend and new year’s and would like to send him a word of comfort and give him much-needed company, please email me for more details and show him this photo.

Please let him know he is often on our hearts and in our prayers, and that we would love for him to hold Sarah-Faith (心恩) someday.

We miss you, Grandpa Zhou. 我们会一直为你祷告,你要坚强,好好康复。我们盼望着你抱心恩的那一天。上帝保佑你.

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Was walking out of a lift at Hopkins as I stepped into a crowded corridor, when a group of grad students stared at Sarah-Faith and collectively said “Byebye Baby!”

To which she lifted her arms and responded in turn, “BABAH!” (her new feat this week)

All the awwwws that followed gave me all the feels.

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Her growing in joy, expression and enthusiasm:

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And us catching the first snow on her first Christmas!

Blessed Christmas!

Wishing you all a Blessed Christmas (Sarah-Faith’s first!) from the Team Tam Trio.

“Rejoice, for unto us a child is born…

and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God,

the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

– Isaiah 9:6

People said I should celebrate. But really, I was petrified.

It was out there now, and it made me feel scared, vulnerable in some way.

What if no one noticed? What if no one read them? What if they were just… insignificant?

So when my publisher told me, “Your books are on Amazon now,” I felt a surreal sense of gratitude. Gratitude, from knowing how long this journey has been. But it also me made me scared.

Recently at Hopkins, my Program Director asked me to consider giving a talk on my experiences, at the intersection of art, philanthropy, and global health. Some friends egged me on, encouraging me to share it through a talk.

” Talk about- How do you write? How do you publish? What do you do?”

But I was dumbfounded- what would I say?

Of all the experiences I’ve had around the world, perhaps the closest analogy I’ve had to this journey has been carrying our baby to term.

All through those ten months, I had no part to play in her creation… her fingers like flower petals and hair like the rain, her toes like sweetpeas and her heart like the sea… and yet, when I delivered her, I claimed a preposterous amount of congratulatory wishes, as if I myself had performed the grand miracle of breathing divine life into being, a life of glorious creation which I had no part in, but merely to hold and carry and pray over faithfully, as a vessel.

Like all the dreams He gave to me, those that birthed into fruition, were those I carried… as I did Sarah-Faith.

I did not need to compete or contend, strive or strain. God gave the seed, I carried it through prayer, and the birth was the result of travail.

Would that be content for a talk perhaps? I wondered.

No one knows, that over the past 12 years, I was told repeatedly that people would not read these books: my publishers told me they were difficult to market- they looked like children books and yet were not. Commercial bookstores would not take them- they fit neither in the fiction nor non-fiction section, neither in the kids nor adult section.

They were right.

And still more people told me: You should market yourself. You should network. You should sell your products. You should do. Do more. Do, do, do.

Products? Since when were they “products”?

Just a little while ago, I lost myself momentarily, in between the clouds. Caught up in the glamour of big international partners related to Hopkins and mesmerized by the potential opportunities, I went with people who counseled me to dream big, think bigger. You did Kitesong. You can do it again- bigger this time.

I believed it.

I met someone whom I shared my journey on a personal, intimate level with. At the end of the conversation, he called me “fluffy.”

“You really should think about working in the UN and put your gifts to better use.”

That made me angry.

Still another said, “Setting up a social venture through your books to help the underprivileged is a really, really fluffy idea.”

I felt I had something to prove, that I was positively, absolutely, undeniably un-fluffy.

One day while listening to a message, about the story of the tower of Babel being built to the sky, God gripped my heart.

I realized, that all this while, while I was busy being angry and striving to feel and look and be and do something significant, I forgot what “Kitesong” really stood for.

Twelve years ago when “Kitesong” was first published and a $100,000 was raised to build a Children’s Home to change the lives of girls of a generation, I forgot, that it had nothing to do with my gifts or talents, but everything to do with an awkward, depressed 18-year old who did not know how to paint, who had no reason for anyone to believe in her dream, who had nothing but her hands and knees on the ground, and a tear-stained face, with tenuous faith in a God she was not even sure would hear her.

It was then that I decided to let go, and let my dream of Kitesong Ministries, a social venture to help the underprivileged, be His, not mine.

Just as how Sarah-Faith was never truly mine to begin with but God’s child for me to steward, I surrendered the dream.

Instead of striving and knocking on more doors, I decided to do the foolish thing- pray. Oswald Chambers once said, that prayer is the work, and I started to believe that again.

It was then that I heard God’s still small voice, that the books would go round the world in different languages.

I laughed out loud. How? All these months I had knocked on doors and strived and contended, strained and competed. No doors opened. I was at Hopkins- this was unbelieveable.

But I forgot, that perhaps, all that God requires is for us to be still, and simply, be the faithful vessel to carry His dreams to term, in His ways and in His time.

As I let go and let God, that was when miracles started to happen.

Six days after that divine encounter, a woman living almost 10,000 miles from me whom I had never met before contacted me.

A linguist by training, she said that for years she had followed my blog and had been burdened to write to me but could not find the courage. That week, she said the burden was so heavy within her that she had no choice but to write to me, to ask if she could translate and print my books for literacy programs for the needy. “Your books are not just children’s books,” she said. “There is so much more to them than I could explain.”

And just days later, after a long hiatus of delays and obstacles, my publisher successfully put the books on Amazon.

I admit, a part of me keeps worrying if anyone will read them. I worry if this whole Amazon thing is just “fluff,” if my books are “just children books,” nothing of significance.

I admit, a part of me wants to lap up all the advice I’ve been given, to partner with the big NGOs, hire videographers, web designers, marketers, revamp the website, go big, go global.

But as I remember the mind-boggling nature of God and His ways, I am amazed by how He brings His promises to pass, how He does things in His time when we stop trying to do them for Him.

I remember how when I carried Sarah-Faith to term, there was such a peace and rest in the process, even though the most amazing miracles were taking place within me, hushedly, ceaselessly, away from the eyes of the world. All I had to do was to sow my life in prayer, wholeheartedly, authentically, and be faithful to carry her through.

Carry her through every day, minute by minute through those ten long months, with the faith that it would all be worth it, even when I wanted it to end sooner.

And when the time, His time, came to birth her at home under that starlit winter sky, though the travail was not painless, what a birth into the world that was- an unstoppable event of combustible energy enthused with a Power far greater than I could ever imagine.

I gave into that Power, and she was born- the greatest miracle I had ever seen.

So if you ask me how I “did” it, how I “made Amazon happen,” perhaps it would be truthful to say, “It happened like how Sarah-Faith was birthed- not by contending, but through carrying a seed of faith to fruition through prayer.”

Thank you all for journeying with us. For those of you who have loved the books, we would so appreciate yr support. Please feel free to spread the word- we hope they will bless your friends and family around the world this Christmas. All the royalties go to supporting those in need. https://www.amazon.com/author/waijia

Finally, if God places a burden on your heart to be a part of Kitesong in any way, we would so appreciate your prayers- we are praying for a global team. Please write to us at cliffnwaijia@gmail.com. We would so appreciate hearing from you.

Thank you.

 

When I heard what he said, my heart skipped a beat.

Not again. Not here, not now. Not a day before our 5th wedding anniversary.

“My blood results came back,” said my husband Cliff. “The Bilirubin ain’t good.”

My heart and mind raced. Bilirubin. Liver transplant failure. Crisis.

Six years ago, just before we married, I remember Cliff’s first medical crisis after his liver transplant from cancer sent me to my knees in prayer. Back then, so many people questioned my choice, challenging me why, why someone with a transplant, why a “high-risk” choice, why.

As shared on our wedding video which had gone a little viral back then, I felt it was God’s way of challenging me whether I was willing to take a step of faith, which has since become a theme in our journey, and a part of our daughter’s name.

Back then, I never dreamt we would have much time together, much less have children. I never knew if the immunosuppressants he was on might affect our chances of having children- part of me never wanted to know.

Specifically, I had bargained with God for three years of marriage. It explained the insanity of our choices, why we kept ourselves mobile, why we left to serve in Uganda for a year. Having a glimpse of the brevity of his life put a brake on the whirlwind race in my life, that was set on a path of success, wealth and prestige, without any meaning.

Why this news, why now. I thought of the irony of the matter- six years ago when Cliff proposed, I was fuming because I had applied to Johns Hopkins for a Masters of Public Health. In my own childish words back then-“You’re ruining my plans!” Truth be told, it was the best decision I had made- to drop my application to marry him.

Fast forward to today, we’re at Johns Hopkins, only because he kept reminding me of the dream I had laid down six years ago.

“It’s time,” he said. “I’ll do everything I can to support you.”

His little sacrifices in dying to himself, day by day, to give life, hope, and dreams to his wife and daughter for us to be here, have made not only our lives all the richer, but has set ablaze an example for many fathers who watch the testimony of his life in awe. My friends at school remind me daily, how much they admire his dedication in looking after Sarah-Faith, his commitment to our well-being by dropping her off to school to me every day at lunchtime, his funny antics in keeping our marriage fun, and thriving.

So why the news now, God. When I’m finally at Hopkins. Just a day before our fifth wedding anniversary. Is this some sort of joke?

“Are you certain?” I asked. “You sure it’s bilirubin that’s high?”

“Yes, I’ll show you the results.”

And there it was, the numbers in red, the numbers that don’t lie. And above it, the heading which was brazenly printed “Bilirubin,” explaining Cliff’s reply.

My medical eye scanned the section furiously.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “There’s a technical glitch!”

And there it was, the heading “Bilirubin” when it was supposed to be the section for fasting glucose. A misprint, an error, an online formatting glitch. His bilirubin and liver panel were printed next to it, and were entirely normal.

How we laughed!

It all made sense. That just a day before our fifth wedding anniversary, I was reminded once again of the miracle of his life, the value of our marriage and how much I ought to cherish him, and us.

In a day and age where marriage has become disposable, I remember the commitment we made five years ago, till death do us part, however soon or later death might be, and my heart swells with gratitude.

Thank you Cliff, for the past five years. And Thank You God, for every day gone past, and each one to come.

And here’s sharing that short video that went round the world and back, five years ago.

 

We were incredibly touched to receive this handmade surprise from a classmate from Congo, who spent 2 days making this for our little one- it even comes with her signature bow!

Above all, we are filled with gratitude for the generosity of our new friends in this new land blessing our little one since school started- with pajamas from a classmate from Russia, a precious book and teether from a classmate from China, clothes and a toy cat from two classmates from Syria, and an Indian outfit from a group of friends from India!

Thankful for this precious international community of friends at such a young age!

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Team Tam’s First Fall together apple-and-pumpkin-picking together.

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All set for the cold!

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Was walking along the school corridor one day when I was accosted by two Hopkins administrative staff, “I just HAVE to give this to you for your baby girl!”

I think she likes it, thank you!

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Three months ago before we moved, a stranger-turned-friend insisted we meet. When we could not, she drove more than an hour to drop off a little red bag with a gift for us, because “I had a dream that Sarah-Faith was wearing this dress, a dress I had bought for my own daughter 9 years ago but she never got to wear. I want you to have it.” 

Since we began our journey of continuous moving, we’ve been so thankful for the many angels who’ve continually blessed us, especially since because we’ve travelled light.

Over the past two months, Sarah-Faith has been the recipient of thoughtful gifts, mostly from my classmates at Hopkins and new neighbours, and we are beyond grateful.

I named her 心恩 (heart of grace and thanksgiving) because of the blessings poured out onto her life since her conception.

Thank you for the blessing of love you gave to us. I think she feels like a princess.

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It had never happened before.

But when I saw it, I recognized it.

So I got up, carried my baby out and left.

Before school started, I always wondered how people would view a full-time Masters student who was also a new mother.

I was certain- those who were serious about work might discount me as “fluffy,” “distracted” or “tied down.” Those who had sacrificed their own dreams of pursuing further studies to care for their children might say I was too ambitious, too selfish. Either way, I didn’t win.

However, it didn’t take long for those thoughts, niggling at the back of my mind like an insatiable itch, to be put down. When I started school at Hopkins, the response I received from my Program Director, professors and my classmates shocked me.

In Sarah-Faith’s early days when I held her in class during Orientation, nursed her at the back of the lecture theatre, or brought her to lunchtime seminars or lab sessions, everybody loved on her. There she would sit, playing with her fingers and toes, smiling to herself.

As the days passed, my husband, Cliff, and I found a routine that worked- I would spend time with her in the car in the early morning till I was dropped off to school, after which she would nap at home till lunchtime. At lunchtime, Cliff would drop Sarah-Faith off to me while I nursed her and brought her to lunchtime meetings or seminars while he could take a mid-day break, before I handed her back to him for her afternoon nap. By the time she woke up again, I would be home.

Save for a fair number of crazy days where I would eat on-the-go and find myself carrying a heavy mom’s bag in one hand, Baby in the other and using my foot to open the door to the nursing room in the basement and running up 6 flights of stairs to get to class… this ran like clockwork.

Not once did I ever get a dirty look from anyone. Not once did I ever feel I was less than anyone else because I had a baby. Instead, the response was and has been one of overwhelming support, encouragement and joy.

“I don’t know how you do it.”
“Whatever you’re on, I want that too.”
“You give hope and inspiration to so many women.”

Not until today.

I left just minutes after the start of a lunchtime seminar to pass Sarah-Faith back to Cliff, who had driven back.

I returned to class without her.

When it ended, so many asked, in an incredulous tone, “Why did you bring her out?”

My reply was a wry smile.

I didn’t want to say, “Didn’t you see?”

I thought I might have been over-sensitive, but it was a close friend who approached me after class who said “I saw it, Wai Jia. I know why you left.”

All at once, I was saddened and joyful all at the same time. Saddened, by the professor’s taciturn response to having a baby at the back of the room of a lunchtime seminar, and yet, unthinkably, bizarrely joyful… in knowing that all this while, I have had the marvelous and rich privilege of being supported by amazing classmates and professors who had welcomed and continue to welcome Sarah-Faith to school while embracing me as their equal.

When school first started, I remember often feeling awkward about attending lunchtime talks or events, even though I might have been madly excited about the topic, because I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate to bring a baby. I would always write in to ask, prepared for a negative answer.

My professors always shocked me with their replies:

“Of course she’s welcome. BOTH of you are.”
“You mean you’re the mother of that precious doll? She’s precious!”
“She’s going to be so smart- grad school before pre-school!”

I remembered feeling a tinge of disappointment when I received the invitation to the Hopkins’ Scholarship luncheon, wondering how I could attend the luncheon to network with other scholars and profs, while fulfilling my role as a wife to give my husband some respite, and spend time with Sarah-Faith in the middle of the day.

“But she’s part of the class. Of course you have to bring her!” Said my Program Director.

The scholarship luncheon shocked me. What I thought would be a casual mingling affair where I could disappear among the crowd turned out to be a formal sit-down session with a panel of professors who had awarded the scholarships to us.

But there Sarah-Faith sat, playfully cooing and twisting a piece of plastic, while different professors affectionately made timely, humorous references to her whenever she made a squeal and my peers glanced over lovingly at her new-found antics.

I was nervous, but they set me at ease. I always worried if I might annoy or offend others, but people would text or say to me afterward, “How’d you get such a perfect baby!”

At that moment today, I was saddened. And yet filled with gratitude at the overwhelming encouragement I’ve received from people who are committed to seeing me, us succeed.

It made me soberly reflect on my GPA of 4.0 in my first term of school (something I’ve never received in my entire life), not because I worked incredibly hard, or am incredibly smart, but because of God’s grace, an amazing husband, and because I received unbelievable support from friends, mentors and people who believed that as a mother, I had as much of a privilege and right as anyone to gain access to an education and opportunities to change the world, just as anyone else did.

It brings tears to my eyes as I ponder over the day I sat in the US embassy in front of the panel of official board members, and wonder what went through their minds when they decided to give a woman in her third trimester with her first baby a scholarship. It makes me wonder why the other board didn’t discount my abilities as a new mother when they interviewed me while I was still nursing our baby round-the-clock.

Why they didn’t hold back, why they didn’t think twice.

It made me reflect on what we’ve been learning about in class this past month about bridging inequities, because an overwhelming majority of women around the world face discrimination and stigma in quiet and overt ways, because many are gradually sifted from their workplaces because of unsupportive work and family environments, because many have held back fiery tears and hid from the watchful public, seared hearts, caused by caustic comments loud and clear, and disdainful glances, sharp and silent.

Today, was the first time I received that look which pierced right through my heart.

I count myself incredibly blessed- for this to be just the first time in three intense months of school to experience this, for my classmates to show such support and love, for me to realize what an incredible opportunity I have to be a mother and student at the same time.

I have lost count of the number of people who’ve offered to help babysit our baby so Cliff and I can have date nights regularly; I am thankful for the friends I have who don’t mind going through group assignments with Sarah-Faith with me; I have been humbled by the friends who’ve opened doors, given up seats and ran for elevators for us, because I had my hands full.

To all my classmates, colleagues and mentors, whom I’ve grown to love and admire for the heart and passion you have to saving lives around the world “millions at a time” (Hopkins’ tagline, no doubt), thank you for being culture changers in our world of shifting values, for bridging inequities that have hurt, punished and disempowered women for being mothers, and most of all, for making an intentional difference to our lives, Sarah-Faith’s and mine, one heart and life at a time.

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Joining us at our scholarship luncheon with our panel of professors and scholarship recipients!

and scholarship recipients!

It’s been an intense season being back at school as a mom,

but here’s remembering the precious moments that have

flown by all too fast.

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This adorable face!

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Our first video interview as a family of three at Trinity Church in Baltimore.

Apparently, no one was really paying attention to what we said because 

this little one stole the show!

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A memorable time speaking at a youth service on “Making a Difference” on screen and off screen on the same day! But really proudest of our littlest team member who just soaked in the limelight on film and on stage the whole time!

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Sent the husband outside to unwind when I came home from school one day,

so he could have some “me-time” after a hard day’s work of Daddy duties,

and he came home with this instead!

Cliff Tam, you are a rock star.

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Mama had to sign some official scholarship papers at the embassy, 

and this little star was the centre of attention!

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That morning hair and pajama smile!

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Papa and you.

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Mama and you.

Thankful for the many moments of

joy, laughter and love

that you’ve brought to us since the day

God created you.