Reflections of A Spiritual Journey on the Green Desert Project
By Rachel Tay
I am Rachel,18 years old this year. I will be sharing my overseas journey of how God has been leading and protecting me.
Over the past one year many opportunities were given to me in school to serve the Lord and to experience His love for the world in different parts of the earth. I was given the opportunity to go Seattle to pack and distribute food for the refugees and to Inner Mongolia in China to participate in the “Green Desert Project” for environmental education.
Both experiences were amazing as I was given much support as I prepare and not forgetting the presence of the Lord was with me as I travelled. Be it financial or material needs, God provided for me.
I had never dreamt that I would be able to go Inner Mongolia nor be part of the “Green Desert Project”. Please let me share about my journey to Inner Mongolia. I was able to go with Asian Journeys Ltd, a partner of ITE under a Youth Expedition Project (YEP) with a group 40 students and 4 teachers. Asian Journeys Ltd was founded in 2002 by Lawrence Ko, a former pastor, writer, cultural researcher cum HR trainer, who has a burden to help young people grow into global youths with character, courage, creativity and competency in the 21st Century. Through this project, we were given the chance to fight against 2 degree war. But how?
Inner Mongolia has been combating desertification over the years due to overgrazing and industrialisation in the region. Grassland had turned to sand dunes and deserts so when the winds blow, the sand particles were being blown and many houses and farmlands were being covered by sand! The situation grew so serious that sand storms are happening in Beijing! That was how serious this environment issue is! On our way from Beijing to Duolun, Inner Mongolia, we actually experienced a hailstone! The whole land was covered in white within seconds! Thank God we were safe! In another occasion, we did experienced a sandstorm as we were about to step out of the hotel to the plantation area. That was how the seriousness the environment had become.
The Chinese government made a commitment to save this grassland and tremendous efforts were made over the past decade or more. One of the efforts were partnering with companies and schools like us to participate in ‘greening’ the desert by planting various kinds of trees and shrubs. For this project, we have a goal of planting 2,500 trees in Duolun, a county in Inner Mongolia about 8 hours bus ride, north of Beijng city of China. We were taught one of the ways we can help to save the Earth is by using less plastic and other harmful materials that can harm the environment. It caught me thinking about how sinful are we to destroy the wonderful creation that God had created in the beginning by our day-to-day life activities and how much changes the earth has right now.
During the process of plantation, we took several days to do the marking and digging of holes before we planted in the baby ‘fir’ trees into the holes dug. It was really tiring and exhausting to dig under the dry and hot weather of nearly 39 degrees. The students were divided into 2 shifts to dig the holes all day before sunsets. At the end of the day our bodies were aching but seeing the number of holes being dug grew each day, even on some days that were raining where we had to put on our raincoat to continue digging, was satisfying. No matter how fast or slow we dig, the process of digging the proper way is important because if the foundation is not done properly, the fir tree will not grow but die. It is the same as we follow our Lord, in Colossians 2:7, “Let our roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”
After digging the holes, it was the time to plant fir trees in to complete the process. As I put down the fir trees into the holes gently, I said a prayer to each tree, “God, please give the tree a life to grow healthy and not wither”. It was because if each tree was not placed properly, the root may be damaged and it will kill the tree as it was not able to receive nutrients to grow. I can’t wait for the next 5-10 years down the road to be back in Duolun, Inner Mongolia to see the growth of the trees that was planted by us.
We finished in the early evening and it was the time of sunset. Seeing the whole field filled 2,525 trees (to celebrate ITE’s 25years anniversary), that is all the hard work, patient and love we put in, all of us are beaming with smiles on our faces even after a tiring week. I thank God that He still provided me energy to continue to mingle around with friends and night time going to the park in town to experience the fun time and eating smelly tofu. I am thankful that God sent us guarding angels around us to protect us as we go out during our free time at night.
For the remaining days of our trip, we were being stretched to our limit while immersing in the Chinese culture by conquering the great wall of China, eating Mongolia dishes (many dishes were made from fresh milk made and it caused discomfort in my stomach after I ate as I was not used to the cooking style), staying in Ger, a Mongolia tent in very cold weather after a rain, attending a Mongolian cultural night, hiking along the Guniang lake with a beautiful love story, rolling down the sand hills and riding horses. While I climbed up the great wall of China, I remember God as I was at the midst of giving up and I decided to worship him as I climbed and it gave me unexplainable strength. Finally, after I reached the top, my friends stood on the wall which I was really scared that I would fall over. But God reminded me ‘Do not limit myself in anything that I do’. So I decided to have faith in God and have the courage to stand and capture a memorial photo with my friends and it reminded me how I had used to live in fear and it gave the devil a chance to stop me from deepening my relationship with God.
God indeed protected me through friends and teachers who took good care of me by providing Vitamin C pills in the morning, who prayed for me when I was sick in Inner Mongolia. And I was also able to see many miracles that happened during the the trip. This trip not only taught me about importance of caring for our environment and becoming a global youth but also deepened my relationship with God – letting God protect me and lead me as I ask. He taught me how to overcome my fear, and to have perseverance and patience in anything that I do. Even as I touched down to Singapore, I received continuous blessing with many appreciation letters given to me from friends and teachers. These would be memories I treasure reminding me how the trip was filled deep relationships that were built together with God. In Galatians 6:9 it says “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up”. No matter where, the things that I learnt are slowly building me up and shaping me to serve God in various ways.