The year was 1975. Rodney Hui was only 20 years old. Having had a long break before starting university, Rodney decided to use the time to join Logos. “I wanted to serve the Lord. Seeing the world was a bonus,” Rodney shared. “So at the age of 20, I sailed all over the world in South Asia, the Mediterranean and Europe.”
Little did Rodney expect that the five months would become a 50-year-long commitment that would eventually see him becoming the first National Director of OM in Singapore and serving with OM in six countries on board three ships — Logos, Doulos and Logos Hope.
In one of the countries he went to, Rodney discovered that there were only two Christians in the entire population of 13 million. His heart was so moved that he made the decision to dedicate his life to missions. “At that time, I was preparing to go for my studies in Canada. But I gave that up and signed on full-time with OM,” Rodney recalled.
“My elder sister got so upset with me,” he said. “My mother and my father had passed away when I was younger, so my sister was like my guardian. She cared for and looked after me, and she really hoped that I’d further my studies and be successful in my career.”
As a missionary, Rodney had to live from hand to mouth. In fact, he was unable to afford a car for his wedding day and had to rent a trishaw instead to ferry his wife, Irene, whom he had met in OM.
But God has never short-changed the couple despite their simple lifestyle. In the following years, Rodney and Irene would be blessed with two children, Justin and Marianne, who are now raising their own kids to follow God’s path for their lives.
Like father, like daughter
The year was 2010. Marianne, aged 18, had been inspired by stories that her dad told her while she was growing up. “One of the things I particularly enjoyed from his travels, besides all the gifts he brought back, was that we got to hear lots of stories about missions,” she recounted.
During her second year of junior college, a mission conference Marianne attended also left a really deep impact. “I remember just feeling this burden of wanting to be part of what God is doing in missions and not just going on a short-term one-week trip at the end of it.”
When Marianne talked to her parents about it, they encouraged her to do it after her A-Level national exams as there would be a long break before university started. As it turned out, Marianne would still need to take a gap year to go for OM’s REACH programme in Africa.
“I expected them to be more apprehensive, but they were quite okay,” Marianne admitted. “Dad and Mum were like, ‘Oh, it’s fine. You just have to come back to study.’ When they said that, I was like, ‘Of course I will come back right?’”
“But actually, at the end of one year, I realised why they had made me promise, because I didn’t want to come back anymore,” she laughed. “They knew from experience that they had to make me promise to come back.”
In fact, supporting Marianne’s decision to head to Africa was really a leap of faith for Rodney and Irene because she had actually been planning to go to medical school at the National University of Singapore. During the interview, Marianne raised the concern that she might need to take a gap year and asked if the school would be able to reserve a place for her the following year. The answer was “no.”
“We thought, so be it. School will always be there, but this opportunity of a gap year cannot be repeated. When she comes back, she can always reapply and see what happens,” Rodney explained.
Unbeknownst to them, that step would change the course of Marianne’s life forever.
Finding her own path
“Africa was a turning point for me,” Marianne expressed. “I spent my whole life until that point trying to be the best student, the top student, chasing all the grades and all the awards. But when I was in Africa, nobody ever asked me about my awards or my grades. When poverty was right in front of you, nobody cared how many As you had.”
And as she spent more time ministering to the people, she realised what she wanted to be was a nurse, not a doctor. “The interactions with people were what I enjoyed. But as a doctor, you don’t have that opportunity for prolonged interactions. If I was honest with myself, I was only applying to medicine for the prestige,” she confessed. “I felt like I was done with that life. I didn’t really want that anymore.”
Naturally, her parents were surprised by her career choice. “As a father and mother, we thought, ‘Would that be a mistake? Would it be a waste not to study medicine?’ But Marianne told us that during her time in Africa, she had learnt to serve people, and she wants to serve people. And being a nurse puts her in a better position to serve people directly,” said Rodney.
Besides, Marianne gave them an ultimatum, he recalled with a laugh. “She told us that she would want to stay in Africa forever, or come back and do nursing. My wife and I discussed it, and between staying in Africa forever at the age of 19 and coming back to study, we said, ‘Well, come back to study first!’”
Pursuing God’s plan
The year is now 2021. It has been 11 years since Marianne returned to Singapore to train to be a nurse, spending three years working in a local hospital in preparation for going back to the mission field.
Marianne is also married to Ian, an ex-auditor. After years of praying, both of them decided to leave their jobs to become full-time missionaries. With their infant daughter, they plan to live in Japan, with a heart to share God’s love in the world’s second-largest unreached country.
Rodney told us how he rejoiced over their decision, “I think normal Singaporean parents with such bright young children would say, ‘Why waste that? Why waste your life in missions?’ But I don’t see it that way. When they came to me, I was delighted. I thanked God that He would choose them to be His servants.”
Recounting the first time when he and Irene decided to “release” 19-year-old Marianne to Africa, Rodney said with a smile, “My wife told her, ‘You have followed us everywhere we went. Now you have to follow Jesus’. So Marianne followed Jesus to Zambia, and Jesus met her in Zambia. And now, it’s time for her to follow Jesus with her husband and her child in tow.”
Marianne, 29, urges others to do the same, “If you feel that God is impressing missions on your heart, I just encourage you to follow the Lord. You can plan a good life for yourself, but God’s plan is the best.”