Flora Man always had an inkling that she would serve in missions someday. The question was when, where and how? Growing up, she went on trips to Thailand and Cambodia with her family to visit churches and villages there. When she began working, she also considered taking some extended time off to do God's work.
But then, as her career progressed, so did her inertia. “I was carried away with the comfort, ease and fun I was having in my life in my 20s, so I put off the idea,” Flora confessed.
It was not until Logos Hope docked in Singapore that she was reminded of this desire she once had. Describing her first visit to the ship as “a small taste of heaven”, she observed how the multinational crew members had so much energy and joy and lived together harmoniously.
However, there were still things that held Flora back from taking the leap of faith to sail with Logos Hope. She had finally found a job she really liked, having gone through a few difficult experiences since graduation. She also enjoyed and excelled at her work and got along well with her colleagues.
“I was in a very safe harbour where I was financially independent, and I had a good group of friends,” Flora said, explaining her reluctance to move out from her comfort zone. “It was very tempting to keep myself in that status quo.”
Although her parents were fervent Christians, they were worried about her safety as a female travelling to different countries and what this would mean for her future. It was a valid concern, one that Flora herself thought about.
In the end, both Flora and her parents agreed that it was the right thing to do, trusting that God would be the one to provide. Their faith was proven true — through the many hurdles that Flora had to overcome, from raising financial support to finding a suitable role she could contribute to on board, she saw the hand of God at work.
Next steps in the journey
After serving on Logos Hope, a door opened up for Flora at OM in Singapore as a Field Communications Facilitator. God also provided an unexpected life partner for her — someone she had met ten years earlier in university, and they got engaged. Despite having a wedding in the pipeline, she was keen to join the OM Riverboats ministry when she heard they were recruiting.
While Logos Hope can traverse seas and oceans as a large ship, the riverboat presented new opportunities to reach hundreds of towns and villages along Europe's extensive river network, which connects many major cities.
That was how Flora ended up in this inaugural project, serving as a journalist and photographer on board Andante. She sailed with 80 other like-minded crew members for three months to six ports in the Netherlands, France and Germany.
Riding on the popularity of the “Escape Room” game that was still fairly new in Europe at that time, this was the highlight of the OM Riverboats vessel sailing through the heart of Europe via the picturesque Rhine River in 2018.
“It was such a radical idea, and so fitting of OM's can-do spirit, to haul an entire escape room onto the top of a boat so that it may be effective in reaching tens of thousands of people with the gospel.”
Participants were recruited for a mission by “El” and had to go through training to receive their identity as an agent. They could then go on to complete their mission which had to happen on shore. There, they would engage with crew members who played the roles of the marginalised, such as refugees and homeless pe,ople as well as other characters they would meet in daily life.
“That was the most powerful part of the escape room. The participants had to practise what they had learnt and share the gospel with these groups of people,” explained Flora.
Through the interactive experience, participants learnt what it meant to be sent by God (El) and carry out Jesus' command to make disciples of all nations. Aiming to inspire the Church in Europe to share about Christ, The Agency's tagline was: The secret that can't be kept.
“We welcomed almost 10,000 visitors on board during the three months,” said Flora, who added that the riverboat attracted a diverse crowd, from the young to the elderly.
Despite the positive feedback the riverboat received, Flora observed that there were a handful who did not see beyond the experience as mere entertainment. That was why it comforted her to know that OM had staff in those countries who could continue working with local ministries and offer the necessary support. Besides helping out on the riverboat, Flora shared that she also had the chance to visit refugees and the homeless during her onshore ministries.
In the Netherlands, she participated in a Bible study class for refugees from West Asia, where she was touched by their positivity and passion to learn about Jesus, in spite of their trying circumstances.
Over in Germany, Flora joined a local organisation to distribute food, warm clothes and Christian tracts to the homeless. This took place under a train track during the height of winter, so it was freezing, to say the least.
Once the riverboat left the ports of call, the local offices, churches and partner organisations would reach out to those who expressed interest in wanting to know more about Jesus. They also continued the work of caring for the needy and ministering to them. While the Rhine riverboat was just a start, there are many other major rivers in the world, like the Mekong, the Amazon and the Nile, that are teeming with potential for the work of the gospel to be established.
Looking back in wonder
Speaking from Japan, where she lives with her husband and young child, Flora is a Strategic Communications Manager with OM International. Looking back at her journey over the last six years when she first decided to step out in faith, she said, “God opens doors and paves the way.”
“Our job is just to remain close to Him, listen to His voice amid all the distractions and noises in the world, and keep our eyes on Him. Even though you don't know what to do, God will show you step by step.
“The first step is the toughest — it takes courage, faith and obedience. But if you do take it, God will surprise you, and you will begin an amazing journey with Him. You will experience Him every step of the way.”