It was an eye opener for me.
Over the weekend in Batam, I was brought by the house-masters to view the dormitary of bible school students. I must admit I was not prepared to see what I saw. Making my way up the dimly lit stairway, I reached the first level which housed the male students. First, the smell of footwear strewn all over hit me. Walking on, a more powerful stench of unwashed clothes overwhelmed me. The narrow corridor made it very difficult to have any proper ventilation. On the next level, where the girls stayed, it was not as bad; but not any much better either. I had a peek into the small rooms shared by two students … very low lighting, small shelf crammed with personal belongings and two mattresses leaning against the wall, only to be lowered when it was time for bed. On each level, the students shared one washroom, a multi-purpose area for toilet, bathing and laundry needs.
“How could anyone live like that?” I thought to myself. And yet, these have answered the call to be trained for the Lord, for the work of the ministry, and have left their families to come to Batam to study. They are all on scholarship, so studies are free. But to live under such conditions? I must admit that it was difficult for a Singaporean like me to fully comprehend.
I was also informed that funds have been hard to come by for the bible school. Donations received are channelled to meet other more pressing needs. There was a time when the 43 students had to go without water and electricity because bills were not paid in time! Sometimes, they don’t get to eat. It is not uncommon for them to only have rice and nothing else. A side dish, if at all, would be a luxury. Another complication is that there is no proper accounting system to provide figures to potential donors or supporters. This made accountability and reporting difficult, and organisations are not as willing to give.
Before leaving Batam, the Lord impressed upon my heart to give something to the house-masters. I didn’t have much in my wallet and so I gave what I could at that time. The next day, they SMSed me … “Thanks so much, bro. We’d just enjoyed our break fasting food – chicken – with all the students, something they have not tasted for two months. Thanks for blessing us.”
It was a privilege for me to be a blessing to these students. The little I gave became an encouragement to them. But I sure learned a lot more about contentment, endurance, obedience and discipleship through this one exposure.