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“Previously, I would have a plan to fall back on. But God convicted me that I was living as an orphan. I didn’t even give him space to provide for me," says Dr Sarah Hoon, seen here serving the community in Vanuatu. All photos courtesy of Sarah Hoon.

“If war broke out tomorrow and you didn’t have to go to school anymore, what do you see yourself doing?”

At 18 years old, Sarah Hoon was asked this question by a doctor, while on a medical mission trip to Timor-Leste. That question sparked a train of thought that led to her becoming a doctor. 

Dr Hoon (centre) in Vanuatu, where she served in outreach with YWAM.

With YWAM’s Discipleship Training School (DTS) friends in Vanuatu.

“I could see myself practising medicine, if ever there was a war,” Dr Hoon recounts, 14 years after she first pondered that question.

“Medicine is a practical way to connect with, and help people. There’s an instant connection over what the patient seeks you out for.”

But becoming a doctor wasn’t the only thing that was on her heart. Missions was, too.

Opportunity cost

A year after graduating from medical school, she considered going on a Discipleship Training School (DTS) with YWAM, but the timing did not feel right then.

Fast forward to 2019, and the desire was reignited, but this time, it was harder to take that step. By then, she was practising at a polyclinic. She had what most Singaporeans strived for – financial security, job stability and regular work hours.

During her DTS in New Zealand, she felt challenged to give away all the money she had saved to finance her one-year sabbatical. “I clung on to the money. I asked God, ‘Can I really trust you? Please help me to trust you.’”

“The opportunity cost of leaving was higher. I also wasn’t sure where DTS might lead to next. Would I still practise medicine full-time?”

Dr Hoon readily admits that she has often wrestled with fear in her journey of following God.

“Previously, I would be calculating everything, and I would have a plan to fall back on. God just convicted me that I was living as an orphan. I didn’t even give him space to provide for me. In case He failed me, my life could still go on.”

She felt challenged to give gradually away all the money she had saved to finance her one-year sabbatical.

Throughout the interview, two phrases crop up repeatedly – that of “creating space” for God, and “building trust” with Him. Those have been the keys for her, in her walk of faith.

“As I learnt to trust Him and give Him space to come through, He keeps showing up faithfully.”

Dr Hoon remembers a time during her DTS in New Zealand when she felt challenged to gradually give away all the money she had saved to finance her one-year sabbatical.

“I clung on to the money. I asked God, ‘Can I really trust you? Please help me to trust you.’

“A couple of months later, I heard a still, small voice asking, ‘Do you trust Me?’”

It was also at that time that she decided to go back to Vanuatu to serve. During her DTS, she had served in outreach there and felt God’s call for her to return for a month.

At first, Dr Hoon was skeptical but she soon realised she had witnessed a miraculous healing.

Dr Hoon recounts how she witnessed two healings when her team ran medical clinics in the bush. One case was that of an elderly man who reported pain in his shoulder. Writing in her blog, Dr Hoon admits to feeling skeptical initially that the patient had “full range of movement of his shoulder just minutes after praying”, but as it slowly sank in, she realised she had witnessed a miraculous healing.

“I still can’t fully describe how it feels to have prayed for someone myself and seen that happen. To have that prayer answered and confirmed it doing the physical examination personally was really special.”

As it turned out, the border closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Dr Hoon was unable to return to Vanuatu as planned.

Through her journey, Dr Hoon realised that God, in His grace, is trustworthy and faithful, and “even when plans change and things don’t turn out the way I think it should, I won’t be left stranded”.

Even in the shutting of that door, she sees the hand of God in guiding her steps. She returned to Singapore on March 21, the day that the mandatory 14-day Stay-Home Notice for all inbound travellers kicked in.

“God convicted me that I was living as an orphan. I didn’t even give him space to provide for me.”

“Taking risk isn’t dropping to the bottom of the ocean and drowning. Every step of the way, God’s been with me.”

In choosing to break out of the system, she has come out of her comfort zone, and in so doing, experienced God as provider.

“I like to plan months and years ahead. It’s challenging to be in a season where I don’t know what’s the next step. In the past, I would struggle with fear about whether God will provide. Over the past year, He’s shown me how He is truly a provider.”

Honouring the Lord

In a year of uncertainty and disruption, Dr Hoon highlights Proverbs 3:9-10 as a constant guide in her decision making.

“Honor the Lord with your wealth
    and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
then your barns will be filled with plenty,
    and your vats will be bursting with wine.”

Even after international travel became impossible, she knew she could still offer up the firstfruits of her season in Singapore unto God.

Serving at a migrant worker dormitory, Dr Hoon’s heart was broken by the stories she heard: “They have families depending on them, and people who love them.”

This was the time when the number of COVID-19 infections was spiking in the foreign worker dormitories. She began looking for opportunities to help.

Right at that moment, her ex-boss rang up and asked if she would be interested to serve in the migrant worker dormitories.

“I told him that’s exactly what I’m looking for. I saw the hand of God in guiding me.”

Her parents were initially worried about releasing her to serve on the frontlines of the pandemic.

“My mom told me, ‘You don’t have to go.’ But I told her, ‘Our training in healthcare is for times like these.’ That really resonated with her.”

Dr Hoon says looking after the migrant workers, first in the dormitories, and then at an isolation facility, has helped her appreciate them as individuals with unique stories.

“Previously, there was no need for me to interact with them. It’s easy to see them as faceless entities.”

“It was hard breaking news of positive results and seeing their responses. Some shared their stories with us. They have families depending on them, and people who love them.”

After her commitment to serve the migrant workers ended in June, she had to seek God afresh for her next steps.

“It all comes back to knowing Him as a good Father, and myself as His beloved child.”

Her original plan was to return to New Zealand to enrol in another YWAM school, but the border remained closed. Just as she decided to set aside the month of June to pray for direction, she found that it was possible to do an online school starting in September.

Another door opened the very next day. She received an offer to serve in palliative care in a hospice from July to September, the exact window of time that she was able to commit to.

“It was another reassurance that God is with me in this journey. Palliative care is something on my heart. I want to explore how to bring palliative care to the mission field – whether it be fighting to save someone from the brink of death, or sharing the hope of eternity with someone in their last moments.”

In a year when plans are going up in smoke, she has learnt to trust God more than before.

“It all comes back to a relationship of trusting God – knowing Him as a good Father, and myself as His beloved child. There is the reassurance that there’s Someone walking with me. Even when plans change and things don’t turn out the way I think it should, I won’t be left stranded.”

I asked her what she would say to her 18-year-old self, as she looks back on her journey thus far. She was momentarily stumped and could not give me an answer. Later, she replied in an email: “Step by step, with our loving Father.”

True words indeed, in a year of uncertainty and disruption.

 

My two copper coins: A doctor returns to the frontlines

 

“Through thick and thin, God has delivered. He will again”: OM International on massive disruptions to missions worldwide

 

 

About the author

Ting Siew Lee

Siew Lee has been a missionary in Timor-Leste since 2007. She enjoys deep conversations with friends and making people think. She believes that dark chocolate is the answer to every question.