For four years, Jiamin Choo sailed around the world to do good, and lived to tell the tale of the powerful lessons she learned.
Contributed By Bernie Guan
Her pursuit to make a difference—a decision that Jiamin Choo made in her final year at the National University of Singapore in 2004—took her on a path less traveled as she volunteered as a crew member aboard Doulos, the world’s oldest ocean-faring passenger ship, built in 1914.
For the next four years from 2005 to 2009, she sailed to 52 ports in 31 countries and in the process compiled 25 handwritten journals to chronicle her personal reflections, “prayer requests and even my emotions as I experienced the ups and downs of being a new missionary on the field” reaching out to the less fortunate who lived in places such as the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific.
Choo was not alone on this voyage. On board the ship, she served alongside 350 crewmembers from 50 different countries, each determined to “set forth to bring knowledge, help and hope to the nations, as an expression of their faith in God.” As a newly-minted psychology graduate then, she did not disappoint. Together with a maturing process enhanced by the exposure to the mission field and other like-minded believers of diverse backgrounds, Choo witnessed a transformation in her own life as she “followed God’s call in my life.”
Spurred by a culmination of years of experience and a cancer-scare, Choo was “motivated to write a book,” one that gives “insights to the realities, struggles, joys, hopes and desires” that she had as a young Singaporean. Concurrently, for those feeling lost as they search for their life’s calling, her book aims to “paint an intimate reflection of life’s most important lessons and what comes after pursuing the call.”
Her adventure aboard the ancient ship was not easy. For the first year she was like “Cinderella who was summoned to the kitchen to cook, scrub the dishes and take out the trash.” Despite the laborious hours, her role in the kitchen and in serving food to the “deckies and engineers” taught her “to be humble and to serve God and be faithful in the little things.” Even as she shared a small sleeping cabin with three others, she learned to be happy, and in the process, realized that she “did not lack.”
As Choo’s initial struggles faded away, her ministry with Operation Mobilisation’s 6,700-ton vessel and the ship’s crew flourished. Her stint as kitchen helper progressed to a role of an advanced party of the ship from 2006 to 2009. Like a project manager, her days were spent either on the ship or on land to prepare for the ship’s arrival including administrative duties that saw her knocking on the doors of government officials to secure visas, berth rights and sponsorships. Additionally, she established media networks to drum up publicity and worked with local churches on ministry opportunities. From first-world countries to third-world nations, her incredible voyage of faith eventually led her to “build schools in Sudan, comfort HIV sufferers in Swaziland, befriend street children in the Philippines, and even trail the rugged mountains of Papua New Guinea.”
Inspired by a quote from William Shedd, “A ship is safe in harbour, but that’s not what ships are for,” Choo’s first book is aptly titled Out Of The Harbour. The book, published and launched on Feb. 12 this year, has since sold over 2,500 copies worldwide and reached audiences in far-away countries such as Holland, Scandinavia and even the Farrel Island. With that, the 29-year-old leaves us with a parting shot, “Dream big dreams for God whilst we have the energy, excitement and courage to learn, change and adapt when we are young.”
Out Of The Harbour is available at Attributes (S$24.90) and major bookstores including Kinokuniya, Popular and Times. Visit www.outoftheharbour.com.