Jiamin Choo (in orange) celebrating her 30th birthday with her then-boyfriend Minghui (in red) in their second month together. All photos courtesy of Jiamin Choo.
It was my 21st birthday. Wanting to catch the first rays of light, I woke up early and made my way to the beach. As I stood on the shore, I said a prayer, thanking God for His love and care all these years, faithfully providing for my family after Papa passed away when I was 13.
As the sun rose, I made two promises to God: Having experienced Him personally as my Heavenly Father, especially during my short-term mission trip as an 18-year-old onboard Operation Mobilisation’s ship Doulos, I’ll follow Him all the days of my life; and because He is Lord of my life, I’ll wait on Him for my future husband.
Even though I didn’t know who my future husband was, my desire was for him to be a man after God’s own heart.
I took out the ring that I’d bought – a simple band engraved with “WAITING 4 U” — and put it on my left middle finger. It represented my promise to wait for my future husband, to keep myself for him, and I hoped that one day the ring would be a gift to him on our wedding day.
I wore the ring daily, as a commitment to entrust my heart to God, and as a reminder to pray for my future husband – that even though I didn’t know who he was, where he was, or when we would meet, my desire was for him to be a man after God’s own heart. I hoped he was waiting for me, too.
The following year, I graduated from the National University of Singapore. While friends were sending in resumés for job applications, I was preparing to follow God’s call on my life – to serve Him in full-time missions back onboard Doulos, the place where God first opened my eyes to His love for the nations.
Wanting to offer my first fruits after graduation to God, I signed the form to rejoin Doulos for two years with my family’s blessing. Ship life and ministry wasn’t going to be easy. Some were concerned I wouldn’t receive a salary. Some feared for my physical safety. I had counted the cost and was prepared for those things, but what I wrestled with was the area of relationships.
By being away, will I lose the closeness with my mum and younger siblings? What if I missed out on significant moments shared with family, friends and church?
And while friends are starting to find their special halves, am I prepared to put my love life on hold, to delay the possibility of starting a relationship as I would be sailing around the world and not be able to settle?
As those scenarios played on my mind, the tears kept coming. Relationships were most precious to me, and I couldn’t bear the thought of losing them.
Then I felt God impress on my heart: “Jiamin, if your fear of losing relationships were to come true, will you still be willing to go?”
My heart was aching, but I said: “Yes, I will go. I entrust my relationships to You, Lord. I believe You are more than able to protect my relationships with my family, friends and church. But even if I were to lose them because of my being away from home, and even though it would hurt deeply, I know I’ll be okay because You are with me.”
So off I went, joining Doulos in the port of Beirut, Lebanon, where we sailed around Middle East and Africa for the rest of the year.
As the crew of 350 international volunteers, we worked in various departments to keep the ship going – we ran a floating book fair that provided quality literature at low cost for locals, we went onshore to serve alongside churches, we shared God’s Word in cities and villages, spent time with children in orphanages, and shared testimonies in prisons.
They modelled for me the sacredness of marriage, and I learned how to guard marriage with faithfulness, forgiveness and love.
It was a privilege to meet people from all walks of life.
I especially enjoyed befriending families onboard the ship and in various ports, where couples shared openly about their joys and struggles in marriage.
They modelled for me the sacredness of marriage, and I learned how important it was to guard marriage with faithfulness, forgiveness and love.
In choosing a life partner, a cross-cultural married couple advised, “Marry someone who is like-minded in the faith, someone who’s running the same race as you. Not someone who’s by the sidelines cheering you on. But someone who’s running alongside you towards the same finishing line.”
Memories of close brushes with potential suitors surfaced. I was reminded not to compromise, not to give my heart away to someone who was really good to me but didn’t have a heart for God and missions.
So I continued to wait on God for my future husband and surrendered my longings to Him.
My two years onboard Doulos gradually extended to four years.
I was glad to have set apart that time to serve God in the strength of my youth, and to witness God’s glory and wondrous works in the 31 countries that I had sailed to. As the season onboard the ship drew to a close, I knew it was time to return home, where a new chapter would unfold.
Readjusting back to life in Singapore meant lots to catch up on, especially with friends who had gotten married or had become parents while I was away. It was wonderful to celebrate with them and to see new faces in church.
Though things seemed to be going well, there remained a void that longed to be filled.
My younger siblings had also grown into young adults, so it took time to know them all over again.
I slowly settled back home, began writing a book about my Doulos journey, Out of the Harbour, and took up a new role with OM Singapore as missions coordinator.
Though things seemed to be going well, there remained a void that longed to be filled: A desire for someone special to appear in my life. Someone who shares my love for God and missions. Someone who will notice me, choose me, and take that risk to love me.
But when I thought there was a potential someone whom I was drawn to, I found out he was “taken”. He was pursuing a lovely woman who had won his heart even before our friendship began.
“No, Jiamin, he’s not yours. He belongs to someone else,” I felt God impress on my heart.
Feelings of sadness rose from within. “But God, what about me?”
In the midst of the silence, tears began to fall.
Complete in Christ
I had been waiting for God to fulfil the dream that had been seeded in my heart since I was 21.
Having waited through my twenties, to the mission field and back, with some potential suitors along the way but nothing that had ever worked out, I wondered if God had forgotten about me.
I wondered if my desire for marriage was only wishful thinking. I wondered why this unfulfilled desire could cut me so deeply and bring about nights of lonely tears.
Was this dream really worth waiting for?
This season of singleness was God’s portion, His gift to me.
However through it all, God’s presence remained near.
His words in Psalm 30:5 brought such comfort: “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
I realised that even though marriage was a good gift from God, I was desiring marriage so much to the point of making it an idol in my life. I was seeking the gift and not the Giver.
I also doubted my worth and identity, fearing I was incomplete as a woman unless I became someone’s wife, someone’s mum.
But I was so wrong.
As a child of God, I was already complete in Christ. His love had redeemed and restored me, and was that not enough? That led me to confess: “God, I’m sorry for not being satisfied in You alone. I surrender my dream of marriage to You. Whether I get married or not, You remain good. Help me be content to delight in You alone.”
My heavy heart was lifted, and I believed this season of singleness was God’s portion, His gift for me.
Some months later, a young man named Minghui walked into the OM Singapore office. He was applying to join a short-term mission trip onboard another OM ship, Logos Hope, before entering Bible School.
I was pleasantly surprised to meet a like-minded person who shared the same desire to serve in missions and full-time ministry. Even though it was our first time meeting, we hit it off and the conversation just kept going. His warm personality, adventurous spirit and gentle nature left an impression that day.
Little did I know that this new friendship would blossom into something more.
In God’s perfect timing, five years down the road, He joined our hearts and lives together, with me walking down the aisle towards Minghui, thankful and excited because my ring had found its owner – someone special who had been waiting for me all this while too.
Looking back, I realise that through those years of singleness, God had brought me through highs and lows, and even across the seas, so that I could fully know Him, delight in Him and come to a place of joyful surrender such that my heart was ready for whatever that was to come.
And that was worth the wait.
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