I vividly remember my thoughts when my family and I took off in 2005 to leave Malaysia in order to start a new life in Australia. My driving thought was ‘yes, I’m finally out of this horrible hole’. To be sure, Malaysia is a beautiful country. It is marked by rich culture, excellent food, and beautiful people. But flick through your newspapers and you’ll quickly be exposed the social inequalities and political corruption that have scarred generations. The worse thing about that is that what you read in the media is only the tip of the iceberg. Those who live in those contexts experience the ramifications of poor decision making and greed on a daily basis, and it ain’t pretty. So for many, ‘yes, I’m finally out of this horrible hole’ is a common thought if they are fortunate enough to start a new elsewhere; a place where you are judged by your merits rather than your ethnicity or connections.
However, looking back, my heart is filled with so much grief and sorrow that I would think that. A few years after not having returned to the country, I started a routine of visiting Malaysia at least once a year starting in 2010. My family had returned to Malaysia to serve once again at the seminary, and I would thus make a trip around Chinese New Year to see them and my extended family. And God was doing something in my heart over the course of those 5 years. Each year, God was softening my heart and opening my eyes to see that despite being very rough around the edges, Malaysia was still a country that our Heavenly Father loves very much. Sure, the people aren’t always polite and drivers cut you off as if their grandfather owns the road. But God was humbling me so that rather than anger and hatred, my response began to grow to that of empathy and compassion. God began to peel the pride off my eyes to see that I’m no better than them and began to give me a real heart to love and serve my people. I really began to identify with the culture and see that these are people are in deep and desperate need of God, and their experiences of inequality and injustice can only be fulfilled and satisfied by the One who is truly able (and has through Jesus Christ) to right all wrongs and deliver justice.
So happy independence day my dear country. You are the land that overflows with teh tarik and curry, and I can’t wait to spend 2 weeks there in December to show my bride all that you have to offer and the ways that you’ve shaped me to be who I am today. And who knows, God-willing, I may return for good to witness firsthand and be part of all that God is doing in and through this beautiful country.