Since an early age, Lee Kok Joo had an unrelenting interest in mission work. He remembered burying his nose in books about missionaries in his spare time. Moved by his interest of human society in varying cultural contexts, Kok Joo chose to pursue a course in the Social Sciences, majoring in Social Anthropology in university. During his first year in varsity, he had the opportunity to attend the First Asian Student Missionary Convention in Bagiou City, Phillipines.
“At the convention, I was made to see that the task of bringing the gospel to those who have not heard it has not been completed and that there is a call for laborers to go out to the harvest field,” shared Kok Joo.
Whilst in university, he also conducted a research of the Orang Asli in Malacca. To assimilate himself into the culture, he stayed with them on two occasions, three weeks for the first, and a month for the next.
After graduation, he taught in schools before working as a “Guru Bahasa” (Language Instructor) in the Akademi Islam Universiti Malaya for six years. It was during then, that he ventured into Nepal on a short-term mission trip for a month. His experience in Nepal left him with a deeper conviction and certainty to commit himself to long-term mission work.
Two years after the trip, Kok Joo boldly handed in his resignation letter. His youngest brother had successfully graduated from college, leaving him unencumbered by his responsibility to care for his younger sibling. He therefore, felt ready then, to embark into long-term mission work. Application to the mission agency was made and he fully trusted God to pave the path ahead of him.
Kok Joo did not anticipate the ‘period of waiting’ God intended for him to undergo, before sending him off into the mission field. Months passed and he received no news from the mission agency. During this period of waiting for his application to be approved, he decided to equip himself at the Malaysia Bible Seminary (MBS) for three months. Wondering why when he was ‘ready’ to go, there was still not a green light to ‘move’, he chose to teach in a private college for another three months. Some time after, he was invited by Peter Young to join Malaysian CARE.
Looking back, he is ever grateful for the “waiting room” God allowed for him to be in. Kok Joo shared, “During the waiting period, I learnt to trust God concerning my future as there were many uncertainties. Personally, my faith grew as I depended on the Lord to show me each step of the way.” Also, he saw how God used that period to strengthen and build a more meaningful relationship between him and his home church, The Life Chapel. To equip him during that season, God provided opportunity to delve into various ministries in church. Altogether, Kok Joo waited for one and a half years before he ventured into the mission field.
Journey in Pakistan
In April 1990, God opened the door for him to serve in Pakistan. He served in Peshawar, Pakistan with SERVE (Serving Emergency Relief and Vocational Enterprise). SERVE was a Christian NGO working among Afghan refugees in the country and also in Afghanistan. Kok Joo was involved in the Support Services department for the organization. He first served as the Office Manager before moving on to take up the role of the Administrative Support Coordinator.
In August 1990, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait led to a confrontation between Iraq with the United States and her allies. At the end of December 1990, the U.S. issued a warning that the Allied Forces would attack Iraq after 15th January 1991 if they refused to withdraw their troops from Kuwait.
During the month of December 1990, two of his American colleagues took leave to return home for Christmas, leaving him in charge of their portfolios. These colleagues were serving as the Liaison Officer and the Logistics and Protocol Officer. Come the new year, the tension between the US and Iraq continued to escalate and anti-American demonstrations were rampant in Pakistan. On January 14th, the Executive Director and some workers made a decision to leave for Islamabad or India. Despite safety concerns, Kok Joo, alongside a Japanese, a Korean and a few western colleagues bravely chose to stay on in Peshawar instead of moving to the capital city, which was less anti-American.
Kok Joo relayed, “Before the Executive Director left, he asked me to be the Acting Executive Director and to take care of the Guest House. In the midst of a tense situation where there were anti-Western demonstrations in Pakistan, taking on all these responsibilities was overwhelming. Praise God that He enabled me to go through that difficult period with the help of other colleagues who stayed back in Peshawar and prayer support from Christians around the world.”
Adapting into the Pakistani culture
“Pakistan, is an Islamic republic whereas here in Malaysia, we are a multi-racial and multi-religious society. At the same time, the majority of the population in both nations is Muslim. One significant difference in culture is that a male guest only dines with the men and never together with the women.” Kok Joo also shared that the culture had not affected the manner in which he carried out his ministry.
In fact, being a Malaysian Chinese, he was greatly accepted by the locals. China and Pakistan had a good rapport where China had sowed and instigated development in Pakistan. This made it easier for him to reach out to the locals and journey with them in Christ. He revealed, “One highlight in my service overseas is being able to have fellowship with the local believers and help them in their spiritual growth.”
Also, he saw nothing short of favor and welcome upon him during visits to the Pakistani government departments. “While waiting for the person I wanted to see, the office clerk would bring me tea and biscuits, which they never did for the Westerner colleagues,” he recalled.
In 1996, Kok Joo returned home from Peshawar. He continued to serve God in his home church, The Life Chapel as the church’s administrator from 1997 to 2013.
He steadfastly holds on to the verse from John 15:16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”
“Knowing that God has chosen me and that He has my best interests in His heart, I am able to continue to serve Him in whatever circumstance I am placed in.” Keeping this word close to his heart, Kok Joo continues to avail himself to serve God. Currently, he is helping the Christian Brethren Education Board on a part-time basis.
Lastly, when asked what advice he would give to those preparing to go into the mission field, he said, “One must have a clear calling to serve God in a cross cultural setting. Be prepared for the unexpected when you are in a foreign country and have a group of people praying for you on a regular basis.”
Cheryl Loo is a former vice-principal for Kits4Kids Foundation specializing in Early Intervention for children with special needs. With a burden to bring Christ’s love and see the Cambodians grow to know the Lord personally, she has recently moved into the country for mission work.
If you are interested to sow financially into her mission, details for banking are found below. For further insight as to what she would be doing in Cambodia or if you express an interest to stand with her in prayer and would love to receive frequent newsletters, contact her at email@example.com (Maybank acc no: 1123 6233 1003). Read her story here.
This is part of an initiative together with Jason Lee who will be attending the 2016 Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering (YLG2016) which will be held on 3-10 August 2016 in Jakarta, Indonesia. YLG2016 is a gathering of 1,000 younger leaders from over 160 countries who will connect, pray, and discern together God’s leading of their generation for His global mission. He has had the opportunity to work with churches, orphanages and youths in Cambodia, Sri Lanka, India, Philippines, Thailand and East Malaysia. If you would like to find out more about YLG2016 or connect with Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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