“I got through the weekend with hardly any sleep because it was so stressful, but it was such a wonderful experience,” recalled Ng Su-Ling, former Associate International Director of OM.
Su-Ling was referring to the Logos Hope fundraiser weekend in 2008 which culminated in a gala dinner attended by around 700 guests. It provided crucial funds to launch the ship into service and was one of the largest amounts ever raised at a single event in OM's history.
But how did she get to this point?
Launched into uncertainty
Full-time motherhood on board a non-operational ship had not been part of her idea of the mission field. But Su-Ling's early days in missions could be described as thus: unanticipated and entirely out of her control.
From the get-go, Su-Ling and her husband Han Teck had been “blindsided” by God.
The couple was preparing to move to New York City in 2000 for Han Teck to pursue his PhD. They had already quit their jobs and shipped several boxes to New York when they felt a strong prompting to missions during a talk by OM veteran Chacko Thomas.
It was so unusual for the couple to both feel so strongly about abandoning their current direction that they knew they had to explore the feeling further. Su-Ling explained, “Usually, we would have the wrong timing and quarrel about what we should do next.”
Within three months, all the necessary arrangements had been made and the couple joined one of OM's former ships, Doulos, in January 2001. Towards the end of their two-year term on Doulos, Han Teck and Su-Ling were invited to help guide the project team to acquire and launch OM's fourth-and-yet-unnamed ship into ministry.
Their unique mix of professional experience and ship ministry filled an important role — Han Teck was in organisational development while Su-Ling was a business consultant.
The couple felt God telling them to stay on “just a little while longer.” They thought: “Another two years — that's doable. We can do that.” And that was the sum of what they understood from God at that time, Su-Ling said.
'God, what are you doing?'
Neither saw the five-year curveball coming.
“In hindsight, I think God just led us one step at a time. Because if He had revealed the full picture, we may never have taken the plunge,” Su-Ling said of the detour-ridden journey. “We ended up getting caught in these cycles of uncertainty. And we were in a holding pattern for a long time.”
Eventually named Logos Hope, the fourth ship project was fraught with challenges and unexpected delays. And it was especially frustrating because these were mainly marine-related issues which lay outside their expertise.
From thinking and dreaming of how and what they would do, it became a “God, what are you doing? And what is our part in this?” Su-Ling summarised. “It was start-stop-start-stop for, gosh, almost five years.”
Ever practical, the couple decided to go ahead and start their family despite the uncertainty. God had called them to the project and, while it seemed to be going nowhere, the couple were committed to staying. “God will just have to take care of things,” Su-Ling concluded with a wry smile.
Katelyn was born in the United Kingdom and Anna, born in Singapore, spent most of her first two years on board Logos Hope. Life for Su-Ling would change significantly as she transitioned from a full-time project team member to a full-time mum.
Loneliness and bitterness were a regular feature for Su-Ling as a full-time mum in missions. Before going into missions, she was used to thriving in the fast-paced world of business.
“But now, how come my husband gets to do all this exciting work, and I'm stuck in the cabin with the housework and two kids? I couldn't do things that I felt I would have enjoyed doing.”
Su-Ling's young family was part of the pioneer crew of Logos Hope while it was still undergoing extensive refurbishing. Anna, her youngest, was a wee nine-month-old baby and Katelyn, at two years, was only just learning to speak in full sentences. With Han Teck heading the personnel department, and with the expectation that families had to care for their own kids, Su-Ling found herself taking on the role of primary caregiver.
“It was like living in a construction site. And with two little ones, it was particularly challenging,” Su-Ling said. “Just feeding, cleaning, pooping, napping, playing.”
'I just said yes'
The fundraiser for Logos Hope was an unexpected assignment that Su-Ling eagerly accepted.
“I was so desperate for something to do besides looking after my kids, I just said yes.”
Su-Ling led the planning and coordination with a team from different OM offices, while based on the half-furnished Logos Hope — no small feat, considering that the members were based in five countries across three continents, and international phone calls were expensive back then.
“Through that, there was that sense of God both using me and allowing me to flourish,” Su-Ling said.
Soon after, Logos Hope was fully commissioned into ministry. Su-Ling and her family lived on board for a few more months, sailing to the Caribbean before returning to Singapore.
Prepared for the next season
Su-Ling returned to the rhythm of corporate life in Singapore, but soon in 2013, fellow Singaporean, OM International Director Lawrence Tong called her with an invitation to head up a new global initiative, and then later to join the Global Leadership Team to facilitate change management and strategy implementation in OM.
“I've learnt to be a better facilitative leader, often being in conversations where I need to make sure that I am understanding the real pain and frustrations of people on the ground, … trying to lean in to see, hear, and feel other people's positions.”
Seeing the people in the task and not losing sight of the bigger story, Su-Ling was able to facilitate greater collaboration among OM leaders during a significant time of organisational restructuring amid a changing mission landscape.
Seen and met
Having had to deal with uncertainty all through her ministry, does she have regrets?
“I don't think I would have chosen it, but I don't regret it either. God did something in me that could not have happened any other way.
“I have a very good relationship with my kids. When I'm with them, I'm 100 per cent with them. But I really appreciate being able to put aside the 'mum-hat' for a while. When I go away to attend to OM work, it gives me this space to inhabit a different me that's also me.
“As Hagar (in Genesis 16:13) said at the well, God sees me. There is the me He created, and even though things were difficult at times and not always a perfect fit with how I was made, He had His hand on me.”