HOPE Youth Corps Malaysia- Part 1
Where do we come from? Are we products of nature; formed only by fragile genetic and ecological systems? Are we products of our environment; where our life exposure, or lack there of, has shaped and molded us towards how we navigate the inconsistencies of this world? Or are we more than that? Are we in fact spiritual, the result of God’s creation? Do dreams and ambitions come from a higher source, God engraving our life’s destiny in our hearts?
I have so often asked myself these questions throughout my life, and after my adventures throughout Southeast Asia this summer, I have come to know the answer. Before I tell you my answer, I must first go about the course I took to arrive at its discovery. Serving on Hope Youth Core Malaysia as well as attending the International Leadership Conference in Singapore, has helped give me new vision for the world we live in. The following is my journey through Malaysia and Singapore, the things I was challenged by, the values I learned, and most of all the display of God’s vast creation.
After thirty hours of travel, painstaking layovers, and two days worth of airline cuisine, I arrived in Kuala Lumpur. The Hope Youth Corps met one another and then together took a flight to the island of Penang. For the next three days we worked at the Centre of HOPE Worldwide in Penang, giving all the walls a fresh coat of paint, replacing the floors, and painting murals inside and out.
On the first day of our renovations, our team took a break and hosted a reading program for some of the local children. We performed a short rendition of “Goldilocks and the Three Little Bears”, receiving roaring amounts of laughter and applause. After, we spent time with the children, playing games, doing a scavenger hunt, and teaching them some basic English grammar. The children were incredible. They pinched my cheeks telling me I was ”so cute!” and possessed a deep hunger for learning that I had never experienced before.
One child, who I was paired with during the scavenger hunt, especially touched my heart, her name is Aquilah. Although she was only suppose to be at the Center for that one day, she returned for the next three days to help us with our work. She became our local guide, bringing us to best stalls of the surrounding street markets. As we worked, she cleaned the paint off of all the volunteers and made us all adorable bracelets.
I am so happy to have met Aquilah, to have spent time with this amazing little girl who taught me so much about love, loyalty, and companionship. Saying goodbye to her was hard, but I am so humbled to see how much I could learn from her in such a short time.
Additional to our service, the HOPE staff took us to many cultural destinations while in Penang. We spent a whole morning riding on rickshaws throughout the city, seeing street art, waterfront shopping markets, Buddhist temples and military forts.
We also got to visit the Penang Church of Christ, them showing us love beyond compare and treated us with extreme hospitality through their caring nature and homemade cuisine. Our team left Penang encouraged and engaged, ready for our eyes to be opened even further to this whole new world.
Leaving Penang we traveled to the rural region of Gerik, where we packed boats full of medical supplies and food, setting off to the indigenous communities of Malaysia. Riding the boats through the enveloping jungle landscape, I was overcome by my surroundings. God’s creation was so evident as we rode through green encrusted mountains, jungle forests, blue waters, and sparkling sunshine.
As we arrived to the islands, it was amazing to see how the communities survived. Deep in the jungle, surrounded by endless beauty, they lived in small huts without any modern convenience. Making land on the island, we were happily greeted by the many smiling children as we carried the supplies from the boats up to the village. Our group was split up into teams who performed different tasks including the distribution of de-worming medication, the removal of hair lice, and additional medical aid.
The indigenous people lived in solitude. They did not have access to clean or running water, basic medical supplies or an abundance of food. They were never exposed to the pressures of the outside world; straining political climates, never-ending wars, strenuous careers, or social pressures. Their contentment and openness with the volunteers was so admirable and their smiles will remain within me forever. They lived off of the earth, fully encased in it, and I could not help but be slightly envious of them as we left shore.
As we were boating back to the mainland, the power of Malaysian weather revealed itself with full force. After spotting an elephant on the shoreline, the clouds behind us became terribly dark and a sheet of rain quickly grew closer to us. As the rain caught up with us, all I could see in juxtaposition to the evident downpour was slightly ahead a clear golden sky. That night, riding on the bus to our next destination, damp with jungle rain, I felt so enriched by God’s power and true artistic presence.