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Doctors Winston and Shermin Chin were high-flying professionals in the prime of their careers, when a series of miraculous encounters convinced them to give it all up to serve God's people in Nepal. All photos courtesy of the Chins.

He had a scholarship for an Oxford MBA. She was to take up a leadership position in a new healthcare establishment, after potentially pursuing a Masters in Healthcare Management on scholarship.

Four months later, they resigned from their jobs, rejected the Oxford offer and shelved their plans for further study. 

Reckless? Maybe.

But God had been authoring their story for over a decade and, this time, He had spoken all too clearly.

The papers were still being processed, but medical school sweethearts Drs Winston and Shermin Chin, both 38 this year, were overseas-bound. God had set their hearts, irrevocably, on Nepal.

Netflix and minimalism

A few years following their graduation from medical school, the couple did something radical.

Despite mutually flourishing careers, they gave away half their belongings, stopped driving and downsized to a small, humble apartment.

“We were just watching a documentary on minimalism on Netflix and felt very moved by the character’s desire to focus on the important things in life and decided to slowly pare down.”

“Looking back, simplifying our life back then made it easier for us to say yes when God’s call came.”

The show in question, Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, profiles a man’s journey to simply live, free of the trappings of material goods.

“We had come to a point where we realised our things were consuming a lot of our energy,” Winston shared. “After decluttering everything and simplifying my life, I found I had a lot more time on my hands, time to run, talk to God and think about life.” 

“Looking back, simplifying our life back then made it easier for us to say ‘yes’ when God’s call came.”

As they cleared out their belongings and shifted to a smaller home, Shermin discovered a tiny watercolour set and this artistic gift would later prove useful.

They didn’t know it then, but God had already been preparing this young married couple’s heart to serve overseas.

God came calling just months later.

Holy Land tour

When they packed their suitcases for an Israel tour with their church in November 2018,  Winston and Shermin were expecting a peaceful retreat in the Holy Land.

They had spent the past week exploring the mountains of Southern Italy before touching down in Israel.

But on the third day in Israel, they found themselves deep in worship in a service atop Mount Carmel.

The worship was led by Karen Davis, a prominent Jewish worship leader who had given up a comfortable life in the United States to serve God in Israel.

Said Shermin: “I heard it so clearly in my spirit: Are you willing to be like Karen, to give up everything to serve me in a difficult place?” She began to tear. “I couldn’t help it, His presence was so strong.”

Sharing her experience with Winston later, they were troubled and frightened, but agreed to pray about it together.

“Are you willing to be like Karen, to give up everything to serve me in a difficult place?’

The next morning, God began to speak again.

As was his habit, Winston got out of bed for his early morning run.

As he wended his way along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he paused and asked God for a sign on what to do next.

A few hours later, they boarded a boat on the sea. The moment Winston stepped onto the boat, he felt strangely pensive. Gazing out to the sea, the image of Peter walking on the water to Jesus played in his mind, over and over again.

“What would that feel like?” he wondered.

During worship, the ship captain, a Messianic Jew, sang the song Still by Hillsong.

At the lyrics: “Find rest my soul in Christ alone, Know His power in quietness and trust”,   Winston began to tear. 

“I couldn’t fathom why, but I was just so deeply moved.”

Less than a day after the first call to serve in a “difficult place”, Winston and Shermin look out at the Sea of Galilee.

“Thankfully I was wearing sunglasses, so no one could see!” he said with a laugh. 

Their church pastor then led a short devotion. The passage he chose? 

Peter walking on the water. 

“Do you just want a safe and comfortable life? Or are you willing to step out of the boat and follow Jesus?” his pastor said.

Winston was moved. “It felt like God was speaking to my heart.”

What did this mean? They had already set their sights on going to UK just a few months after this Israel trip. Everything had been going according to plan.

“Do you just want a safe and comfortable life? Or are you willing to step out of the boat and follow Jesus?”

But God had more in store. After returning to shore, the tour group was whisked away to a chapel at Magdala.

Within the chapel were four beautiful stone mosaic pictures of scenes from the life of Jesus. One of them – depicting Peter walking on water – captivated Winston.

“Excuse me?” came a voice.

It was a petite lady from the tour group. He recognised her, but she was otherwise a stranger to him. 

She looked slightly sheepish, but cleared her throat and said: “God asked me to give you a passage from the Bible.”

She took out her phone, showing him Matthew 14:28-29: “and Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.”

“God has a purpose for you!” she said, before turning and walking away

He was stunned. 

Before he could even react, she shuffled over again.

“One more thing – when Jesus called Peter to come, he did not hesitate. So do not hesitate!” she said.

Magdala Chapel, located on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, where the couple received a few more signs to serve overseas.

“It was too obvious at that point in time already,” they reflected, laughing.

Having affirmed God’s calling to serve Him in the still unknown “difficult place”, what was next?

In truth, their story had only just begun.

The parting of seas

Dawn was blooming as they quietly awaited the airport bus outside their hotel in Milan. 

Winston had been staring at his phone for the past few minutes.

Having been offered a scholarship to study an MBA at Oxford, a blissful year at the school of his dreams was just a click away.

Yet, the words “do not hesitate” had been ringing in his ears the night before.

Having been offered a scholarship to study an MBA at Oxford, a blissful year at the school of his dreams was just a click away.

“I felt God telling me to reject the offer from Oxford University, and see what God had in store for us.”

“I clicked the ‘reject offer’ button. But I couldn’t bear to press ‘submit’,” he said.

They boarded the bus. Shermin turned to God and asked for help.

She opened her devotion for that morning. Staring at them was the verse of the day, Genesis 12:1: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.”

“Again, it was so obvious to us,” Shermin said.

Resolutely, Winston picked up his phone and rejected the Oxford offer.

Left: Picture of Winston declining his MBA offer from Oxford University. Right: The devotion of the day from “Holy Land Moments”.

How did they feel following the rejection?

“Quite frightened,” admitted Winston.

 At the Milan Airport, Winston and Shermin chanced upon a chapel. The entrance was a narrow ,curving corridor, lined with blue-tiled walls rising high like walls of water. They wandered through, fascinated. “It really felt like God was parting the seas for us,”  Shermin shared. Bizarrely, they found a poster of Jerusalem, Israel, in the chapel.

Upon their return to Singapore, they both met their supervisors and informed them of their change in plan.

“We didn’t know where to go, but we were convicted,” Winston said.

Nepal, Nepal, everywhere

Having been to Nepal before during their medical school electives, the country had a special place in their hearts.

And then, suddenly, Nepal began appearing in strange places – unexpected conversations, Nepali Gurkha soldiers at a reservoir, even Nepali shampoo products in a random store!

“It was like Nepal, Nepal everywhere!”  Shermin said, laughing.

Seeking wise counsel, the couple got to work. One coffee date with a Singapore-based Nepalese doctor proved serendipitous.

“You have to link up with this organisation,” their friend said animatedly. It was a non-governmental organisation in Nepal. Health and development work, Christian, a strong commitment to community – it checked off many boxes.

They were intrigued.

“Replies like these can take months, this one took less than three working days.”

What’s more, it wasn’t the first time they had heard of it. Just a year before,  Winston had drafted an email to the organisation, keen to explore a partnership with them.

It had been left in his outbox for a year.

“It hadn’t felt like the right time, then,” Winston said.

They reached out to the organisation following the coffee date. Just three days later on Sunday, the executive director replied.

He invited them to meet in Nepal and talk about the details.

“Replies like these can take months, this one took less than three working days,” Winston said, shaking his head in disbelief.

Two months after that first call to “a difficult place”, they found themselves on a plane to Nepal.

Land of green pastures

They met the organisation’s leaders in Green Pastures Hospital. Their first morning there,  Winston rose early to read his devotion, Streams in the Desert, in the hospital guesthouse garden.

Winston and Shermin  during their medical school electives in Nepal, decked out in traditional Nepali ethnic costumes: Winston wears a dhaka topi, and Shermin a sari.

Describing the Lord as the Shepherd who goes ahead of the sheep (John 10:4), the author shared that “It would not be in our best interest to always remain in one happy and comfortable location … The shepherd leaves the fold so the sheep will move on to the vitalizing mountain slopes”.

“We were literally sitting in green pastures, looking at a view of the Himalayan mountains in the distance.”

It went on: “Forward, in His name, to green pastures, quiet waters, and mountain heights!” (Psalms 23:2)

“We were literally sitting in green pastures, looking at a view of the Himalayan mountains in the distance.” Winston said. “So that was when we realised this was probably the place God wanted us to be.”

That hadn’t been the only sign, either.

Just a week before the trip, Winston had flipped to the first devotion of Streams in The Desert, to find the passage Deuteronomy 11:11-12: “The land you are … to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys.”

“I nearly fell out of my chair!” said Winston.

A land of mountains and valleys: The view of the Himalayas from Winston and Shermin’s accommodation in Nepal.

Nepal was precisely that.

Yet Nepal was not all they had expected it to be – the earlier words of the area being a “difficult place” were proving true, too.

Without electric heating, the couple boiled multiple batches of hot water in a tiny kettle, bathing from a bucket. Still Shermin  woke up in the middle of the night in the frigid Nepali winter: ”It was so cold, I was wrapped up like a dumpling but still shivering!”

While moved by the Lord’s words from the devotion, she shared her doubts with the Lord.

Christ is enough for me

That morning they wandered out to a cafe near the hospital called Twelve Baskets, a reference to the 12 basketsful of leftovers in the feeding of the five thousand.

Still pensive from the morning’s devotion, they sat together in silence.

Shermin in Twelve Baskets Cafe, where the couple experienced a Youtube miracle.

Suddenly, the speakers crackled on. The comforting chords of “Still” began to play, and then, “Christ is Enough”.

Find rest my soul in Christ alone, Know His power in quietness and trust.”

When the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with you above the storm … I will be still and know you are God.”

“It was as if God was controlling the algorithm for us that day!”

And the next worship song:

“Christ is my reward, and all of my devotion, and there’s nothing in this world, that could ever satisfy.”

“Christ is enough for me. I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back!”

Just as suddenly as it began, the music stopped.

The couple turned to each other, shocked.

They came back the next day expecting more worship music, only to hear Korean ballads.

Turns out, the cafe didn’t have a playlist: The owner simply played random songs from YouTube.

“It was as if God was controlling the algorithm for us that day!”  Shermin said.

“I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.” Deeply moved by the lyrics of the songs, they embarked on discussions with the organisation with renewed vigour.

“Like Copy-Paste for our CVs”

It was becoming increasingly clear that God was indeed preparing the way for them to Nepal.

Winston, who for many years had been working in health services policy and planning, was offered a role in strategic planning for further development of the organisation’s medical services.

Shermin had been helping to set up a new palliative care service in Singapore. Here, they wanted her to support the setting up of a new palliative care centre in Green Pastures Hospital.

“It was like a copy-paste for our CVs,” Shermin said in wonder.

As they chatted with another doctor leading the new palliative care centre project, she shared that the project had been besieged with setbacks in resourcing for the longest time.

But in November 2018, God opened the floodgates.

Flipping through her calendar, she squinted at the marked date.

What had happened on November 6, 2018?

“We had an important leadership meeting that opened the doors for the project to go ahead,” she replied.

That very same day, Winston and Shermin had been at the Sea of Galilee, where they received their calling.

“It was crazy!” the couple declared.

God had used the same verse to speak to two people about the same place, 86 years apart.

On the last day of their trip, Winston chanced upon a book on the history of the organisation at the check-out counter of their guesthouse. On the back cover was a brief history of the organisation.

The organisation was founded in 1952 by a British doctor after Nepal opened its borders to foreigners.

But in truth, the call to Nepal happened much earlier.

Almost 19 years prior, that doctor flipped open her Bible and read Deuteronomy 11:11, describing the possession of the land of mountains of valleys.

On January 1, 1933, she received the same verse Winston had encountered in his devotion book, on January 1, 2019.

God had used the same verse to speak to two people about the same place, 86 years apart.

“I returned to the room with my mouth agape. It was the icing on the cake.” Winston said.

Covid-19 Woes

The couple returned to Singapore and promptly drew up their resignations, even though it would be months before the process for joining the organisation was completed.

“We were so sure that this was what God was calling us to.”

But this was the start of 2020, when the global coronavirus pandemic took off.

“You will need to seek the Lord’s leading – His call is never without danger or hardship, but He will be with you if that is your calling.”

The first case of Covid-19 hit the shores of Nepal just a week after, on January 13, 2020.

“Are you sure you want to go at this time?” asked a worried friend. There were concerns about the ability of Nepal’s health system to handle the pandemic.

They prayed about it, and consulted a friend who was a prominent infectious diseases physician.

“You will need to seek the Lord’s leading – His call is never without danger or hardship, but He will be with you if that is your calling,” she replied

It was exactly what they needed to hear. 

Three weeks after they arrived in Nepal, the country went into total lockdown. A week later, they received urgent news from the Singapore embassy in New Delhi.

The last repatriation flight for Singaporeans was in a few days. If they wanted to leave, it was likely now or never.

“You need to leave now”

The couple hesitated. With only an hour to decide, they prayed together in earnest.

“I asked God what would happen if we got sick, and I heard Him say ‘I’ll take care of you”, Winston recalled.

With much prayer and contemplation, they made the choice to stay in Nepal.

The lockdown lasted for four months.

“It was like God had parted the Red Sea for us.”

Again, the call to  “a difficult place” was proving true.

With their apartment still being renovated, they had to live in a temporary home. Government offices were closed, which meant that they couldn’t get their work visas on time.

“At some point I wondered why unexpected changes kept happening,” Winston said ruefully.

“We were speaking a different language, adjusting to a different culture and dealing with all of the hiccups. The adjustment wasn’t easy.” 

Despite this, God came through.

Miraculously, their work visas were granted in half the time, just days before their tourist visas would expire. The very same day, they moved into their new apartment.

“It was like God had parted the Red Sea for us” Winston said.

Taste and see that the Lord is good

But the journey was about to get more difficult.

In August 2021, Shermin found herself staring at a Covid-positive test result at home.

”I was very shocked, because I had been extremely careful in observing precautions.

”Is He trying to tell me something? Did I do something wrong? Was this a wake-up call for something? I had lot of ‘whys’,” Shermin admitted.

Yet, through it all, God proved faithful.

”Is He trying to tell me something? Did I do something wrong? Was this a wake-up call for something? I had lot of ‘whys’.”

The first night after the diagnosis, her the Scripture reading in her devotion was from Psalms 91.

”You know, it’s the Psalm everyone uses for Covid. So I really felt like God was reassuring me that He’s watching over me.” Shermin said.

The recovery period was long drawn. Despite the initially mild symptoms, Shermin struggled with post-Covid lethargy and fatigue.

For a month, nothing seemed palatable – Covid had robbed her of her senses of taste and smell.

One day, her prayer partner from Singapore sent her Psalms 34: “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Winston and Shermin serving in worship at a church in Singapore

Reading the verse, she felt a tune coming up. Immediately, she pulled out her kalimba (a thumb piano) and began to play.

”I pulled out my phone to record and just played. And so God gave me a song, right there in the middle of Covid.”

The song is titled, “Taste and See”.

“God had a sense of humour!” She said, laughing at the irony.

Deeply encouraged, she felt her faith being renewed. “I was really tired during my illness. On my last day of isolation, I read Isaiah 40, which said those who wait on the lord will renew their strength like eagles.

The next morning as she stepped out for fresh air after 14 days in isolation  a large eagle swooped across the sky.

”It was crazy!” Shermin said, laughing.

“It was such a visual reminder of how God has watched over me and would continue to watch over me and ministry.”

The best stories

”Actually, I had never written a song until after God called us,” said Shermin.

“God’s calling was multi-dimensional. It wasn’t just giving up things, but God also had a lot more to give if I chose to let go.”

It turned out that the worship session where they had first received a calling to “a difficult place” marked another shift, too.

After the trip to Israel, she began singing and even co-leading worship.

“On hindsight, I saw that God’s calling was multi-dimensional. It wasn’t just giving up things, but God also had a lot more to give if I chose to let go.”

Her artistic gifts proved enormously helpful in Nepal, too.

When Shermin was tasked to design a playground for children with disabilities, she drew up the sketches easily. Later, she began creating verse cards to encourage the community.

Full circle: Falling in love on their first trip to Nepal, Winston and Shermin now faithfully serve the people there.

“It was all part of God’s preparation, even though we didn’t foresee it at the time,” Winston said.

Fifteen years before moving to Nepal as a couple, they got to know each other for the first time on a trekking trip to the same country, and fell in love.

After graduating from medical school, they had dreamt of doing public health and palliative care in a developing country one day, never knowing how it would happen.

But God was already writing their story bit by bit.

I’m thanking them for the interview when they pause, putting their hands out.

“It’s God’s story, not ours.”


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About the author

Tricia Tan Hui Ling

Tricia is a medical student journeying through her undergraduate degree. She loves public health, writing and poetry, and believes in being patient with the histories of others and her own. She is a part-time intern at Salt&Light.

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