'God blew my mind'

"There was no big blueprint, just the fingerprint of God," shares Dr Goh Wei Leong.

If ever there were a motif in Dr Goh Wei Leong’s life, this would be it: God blew his mind. Constantly. It happened once in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, in 1995, when a German couple was ushered into his medical camp, toting their three-month-old baby.

The cheerful young family lived in a ger without running water or electricity and had travelled over 100km to see him for a medical checkup. Despite their hard circumstances, they were curiously “content to live their lives for Jesus.” “That really blew my mind.” So transformative was the encounter, in fact, that it would alter the trajectory of Wei Leong’s life. 

It happened again in South Asia, when “the very safe world I grew up in” collided with the reality of multitudes subsisting in the face of constant struggle and abject poverty, bald-faced injustice and furtive crime. The shock challenged his notion of faith. 

It happened three years ago at a conference when a Southeast Asian couple told him how they had volunteered for a posting in a remote part of the country where nobody else wanted to go. There, the wife set up a dental clinic providing holistic care to the villagers while the husband provided education. They wanted to “walk alongside” the villagers, to be a voice for them, to advocate for them against the exploitation of big plantation owners. Their willingness to go where nobody else would go both moved and inspired Wei Leong. 

It even happened in the quiet of his living room overlooking lush gardens as he opened the pages of a book by Father Richard Rohr and read the words: Falling Upward. The notion that those who have failed or fallen “down” are the ones who understand growing “up” intrigued him and challenged him to come into the fullness of his spiritual growth in the second half of his life.

An OM global board member today, Wei Leong revealed how, every time God blew his mind, He also rattled the cages of his complacency and freed him to find new ways to collaborate and innovate for the Kingdom.

What made Mongolia in 1995 a turning point for you?

It was Revd Rodney Hui, the first national director of OM in Singapore, who invited me to Mongolia. No one really knew about Mongolia then. I went as a doctor to do the annual medical assessments for the missionaries and NGO workers there. 

For a week, I had the opportunity to talk to different missionaries from different agencies and different countries. The evenings would be like an international night, with stories and cultures shared over BBQs. To be a part of their stories was special for me. God opened my eyes, and I rediscovered Jesus in Mongolia. 

Before that, I’d lived the life of a “regular” Christian — did the right things, attended the right Bible studies and played the right worship songs. But, in Mongolia, I saw people who were open to God’s world, one that is much larger than just our home church. It ignited something adventurous in me and got me excited. 

Seeing partnerships and collaborations at work was formative for me. I was a guest of Joint Community Services (Joint Christian Services then), one of the most successful partnerships in the mission world. Since then, I have always believed and encouraged collaborations.

What did you feel led to do after that turning point?

Rodney and I travelled to South Asia. Right away, I was hit head-on with a world of injustice and poverty. The very safe world I had grown up in collided with the reality of what I saw in other parts of Asia. It was a slow revelation — largely through the people whose stories I heard. Looking at my non-Singaporean brothers and sisters, I realised we each have a special calling to contribute to the other. I had so much to learn from the people around me, especially those who served in remote places. They changed my perception of faith. 

There was a young couple from Southeast Asia who took their faith, explored it, expressed it using biblical principles and just went for it. The husband, who was a teacher, went on to take his law degree because he saw the injustices in the community and wanted to be a voice for them. 

Too often, our Christian life in Singapore is quite safe. We are not imaginative enough. Perhaps our Singaporean culture of comfort and protection is a barrier. But what is biblical culture? What would Jesus do? I’d encourage Singaporeans to think laterally!

Can you relate an instance when you encouraged your team to think out of the box? 

Some time ago, Logos Hope visited Singapore — it was their 34th and last visit here. We had 23 people, largely outside of OM, to help run this visit. They were young people from different churches, different agencies. We brainstormed and asked ourselves: What would a visit like this do for Singapore? How can we leverage on that? 

When I was told the ship was coming right smack during Chinese New Year, I was dismayed: Everything will be closed; no one will come! But when I spoke to one of our young leaders, his reaction was, “Wow, that’s great! During Chinese New Year, everything is closed and we’re open, so everyone will come!” 

True enough, we had a record number of visitors. We also opened up the ship to the migrant community who had nowhere to go on a public holiday. 

How did you see God’s hand in HealthServe?

I had a rough idea that I wanted to serve the local migrant workers who had poor access to healthcare. It was all from a medical lens; I wasn’t really thinking holistically. There was no big blueprint. But, I tell you something, there was the fingerprint of God. 

When we started as a medical clinic, we realised we had to think about the social, emotional and financial aspects, legal counselling and advocacy. We also needed to be research-based in order to present credible cases to the authorities. So HealthServe grew into what it is today. I had to learn to be open to God’s leading at every turning point. So when God opened doors, we went in by faith.

What should we keep in mind as we move from season to season in our mission journey?

I think “seasons” is a wonderful word to describe the journey that each of us has. Very often, we try to extend a certain season beyond its life. But I think there is wisdom and beauty in every season! 

In my own life, my spring was in Mongolia. That led to a summer of activity — lots of discovery, ploughing and planting, and even awards and accolades. But God has now brought me to the season of autumn. 

Autumn is a burst of colour, a reflective season. But it is also when leaves fall and become compost for the next generation of growth. So how does one “fall upwards”, in the words of Richard Rohr? In the world of missions, pre-retirees are a tremendous resource. They’ve got talent and also expertise to bring to the table. The mission world would do well to help them flourish. 

What wisdom would you like to share with young adults about the mission field?

I would say be open, exploring and courageous to walk into the unknown. The world today is changing all the time. If we don’t walk into it, we will never discover the joys of mission and what God has in store for us. For the young person who is very energetic, develop a rhythm of rest and reflection. Be a reflective practitioner. Keeping a strong spiritual core is key: The being is more than just the doing.

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