Civil war has been raging in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for more than 20 years. Jemima Ooi has been there for the last five.

And to think the 30-year-old is there with her parents’ blessings. 

A missionary based in the DRC, she has traversed the perilous areas of Africa with her sunny personality and girlish giggle. Her resume reads like it could fill the “World” section of any newspaper, and it really would take a while for anyone to reconcile this young lady with the work she has been doing in the war zones she calls home.

“I help to develop a refugee settlement in central Kenya, work with survivors from the genocide in Rwanda and support a refugee community in Burundi,” she says easily, earnestly. 

Expand that into: Rebuilding war-affected communities; helping to rehabilitate child-soldiers; perpetuating trauma work with rape victims and refugees; pioneering discipleship efforts; preaching the Word of God.  

God’s truth is the same in any language: Jemima preaches regularly to the local congregation.

Backtrack eight years, and that was when she graduated with First Class honours in 2010, the top student in National University of Singapore’s School of Communications and New Media, with Best Honours and Well-Rounded Student awards to her name.

In Singapore on furlough before she ventures out again in August, Jemima shares with infectious passion the testimonies of God’s provision and protection in some of the toughest mission fields anywhere in the world. SaltandLight.sg sat down with her and her parents, Paul and Hannah Ooi.

What was your reaction when Jemima talked about going to a war-torn country?

“I would be more concerned if she was not doing God’s will, for that would have been the real danger.”

Hannah: When I first heard of it, I was like, wah! But having walked with the Lord for so many years myself, I know that the best place is to be in the centre of God’s will. I would be more concerned if she was not doing God’s will, for that would have been the real danger. 

Jemima: When I told my mum that the Lord has called me to dangerous places, she said: “Jem, as far as your father and I are concerned, it’s our honour to give the best to God even if it’s one of our kids. The truth is, only you can stand before God to answer for your own life. That means you need to follow whatever He puts on your heart.”

That conversation is something I will not forget.

Gems of God’s grace: Jemima with her bundles of joy, in a rare moment of quiet in war.

Hannah: God also gave me the grace to know that’s what the Lord wants her to do. On my own, I also checked that it is of the Lord. Besides, there were many earlier prophecies. So, I knew for certain that it is God’s will. 

“The truth is, only you can stand before God to answer for your own life. That means you need to follow whatever He puts on your heart.”

Paul: It is naturally difficult for any parent, and there was some struggle. My number one thing is, she needs to know God’s will and then go do it. For Jemima, it was her responsibility to figure out whether it is God’s will. Once she figured that out, we would help in whatever way we can.

Subsequently, God also gave me a dream with ideas to support her endeavours in a small way, so I felt more assured. I checked all the boxes: For protection, she has seen visions of guardian angels, so that’s okay; God’s will, box ticked; the skills and knowledge box, also ticked.

But I did tell her to pick up some self-defence skills for physical protection.

I also did my research, and I told Jemima that since it was a war-torn country, it would be better for her to spend a few months in the mission field, then come out to recuperate before going back in again. That way, she can sustain for a longer period. And she has been doing that.

What were the faith lessons you instilled in all your six children?

Hannah: My husband and I always emphasised that the children should check with and listen to the Holy Spirit. Up till now, we still say that. And my husband will always add: “Trust and obey!”

Jemima: Dad’s the strict one!

Paul: I told them, cultivate a loving and living relationship with God. It is the number one thing and it’s critical. And to remember “PTA” – pray, think and act. For everything, you need to pray first, think and then act on it and not in the reverse order.

Jemima: My parents always emphasised doing God’s will whatever the cost. When dad lost his job, I was always amazed at how my parents could say: “Don’t worry. God has a plan. We just need to follow and stay close to Him.” That really helped me when I was growing up.

Even now, in the mission field, I am relatively unfazed by danger or in trying circumstances. I have learnt a lot about faith from them.

Hannah: We would ask them to pray with and for us. They saw God leading us through tough times, and how He delivered and blessed us. Life is not trouble-free, and if they make a mistake, they need to ask God for forgiveness.

“Very cute, not dainty. Rough and sporty”: Hannah on young Jemima (extreme right).

Jemima: When I was about four years old, I had a slew of bad dreams. My mum told me to just imagine yourself in Papa God’s arms and you will be in the safest place you could ever be. Ask Him to take care of you and then go back to sleep.

It was something special that I really treasured – my first tangible experience of God. Even now, in a war zone, when I hear people yelling and screaming, bullets flying around at night, I still do the same exercise: Imagine I am in Papa God’s arms and go to sleep. 

Did you expect Jemima would one day be a missionary?

Hannah: When she was in her teens, Jemima would tell me about the visions she received from God. And over the years, things unfolded. The international and local speakers who visited would prophesy that she will be the Lord’s servant to go to the nations.

After a while, we got the idea that she would be going to the mission field, but did not know where.

Jemima: My mum never limits our dreams. When I told her about the different dreams and visions, which can be outlandish and off the wall, she was still very open. She never brushed it off as crazy. She never shut it down. You never felt judged talking to mum.

If my mum had shut me down and written off the dreams and visions, I would have learnt to do the same.

Mum always told me to hide the dreams and visions in my heart and put them on the shelf. If they are of God, He will take them off to remind me again. She gave me the grace to explore.

“My dad is dauntless. He is not afraid to count the cost for God.” – Jemima on Paul.

Jemima: The journey for both my dad and I was different in timing. I had to wait for God to speak to him personally. When dad heard that it was what God was calling me to, and not just some sort of fantasy, that very night, he blessed me. So, he really lives by what he says in terms of doing God’s will. 

Jemima’s private journey

Jemima: Before I went to the mission field, I helped in the family business for almost two years. God told me I had to show my parents that I can walk with Him and hear His voice. It was my own private journey and my parents didn’t know what was going on.

“If my mum had shut me down and written off the dreams and visions, I would have learnt to do the same.”

I knew that for my parents to release me into the mission field, I needed to demonstrate I could walk in the wisdom of God, that I wasn’t brash and foolish, and had some measure of discernment and good judgment.

I think it is not just the parents who have to let go. The kids must also walk that journey of just honouring our parents and to demonstrate that we are mature and responsible. And that it’s not just youthful zeal.

Did you ever feel that Jemima has wasted her first-class honours degree?

Hannah: No, not at all. I know the work of God has eternal value. What’s the point of forcing your children to pursue something they are not happy with? That ends in emptiness.

Jemima: Mum is not a performance parent! What I learnt from mum is love. I think my threshold for love was enlarged even as a kid just by watching mum love the people around her, disciple, counsel and do inner healing with them. 

What mindset should parents have when they release their children to the mission field?

Paul: Everybody needs to make that decision of obeying God whatever it costs. That is a key decision. Once that main decision is made, every other decision just follows through.

This is the main issue: Parents must first be totally dedicated to God. As you walk with God in a loving and living relationship, whatever hard decisions you need to make will be easier because you have already made the main one. You would have totally dedicated all that you have, including your children.

Hannah: I would say: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33) 

For me, I can let go because I have gone through many trials and they helped me trust and know that God won’t fail me. Sometimes, it may not be according to what I like, or to my timing. But in the end, He will come through. So, He will also come through for my kids as well.

“Everybody needs to make that decision of obeying God whatever it costs. That is a key decision.”

Jemima: Empower your children to be able to hear from God, to have that relationship, and keep fortifying their relationship with God. That kind of proximity is what the parents can pass on to the children.

If you know the God of the impossible, then His dream for them can be beyond the realm of imagination. Sometimes we do not realise that we control the realm of possibilities our children exist within. You need to empower them to walk with God, to be confident about their value in God, and the ability to hear God’s voice and follow Him.

About the author

Karen Tan

Karen was a producer at Asia Business News (Singapore), Bloomberg News and CNBC Asia. She subsequently joined the Far East Organisation to oversee corporate social responsibility. Karen is now Associate Editor at Salt&Light.