2017 India – Hannah Chong

To See the Unseen

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11:1

I was appointed as team photographer for this trip, and hence my role was to constantly be aware of my surroundings so I’d be able to capture the right images at the right time. I recall one specific moment at a church during which we opened up an altar call for those who wanted to be filled with the Holy Spirit. As the photographer, my responsibility was to be keenly observant, and to understand what God was doing in our midst, so that I would be able to preserve these moments in the form of images. What I distinctly noticed was people praying as well as singing out songs to God in what to me was a distinctly different vernacular. The initial emotion that I felt was discomfort. I was in an environment I was not accustomed to, so I was actually tempted to think that perhaps the people were engaging in a counterfeit type of worship. But this very vernacular ended up being the Tamil language. Out of my own fear, I had mistaken authenticity for futility.

Then whilst quietly thinking these thoughts to myself, a woman who had been standing next to me violently began to manifest. My instinct was of course to lay my hands on her and to pray. So I did, and I asked God to fill this woman with His peace that transcends all understanding. I prayed that God would guard her heart and her mind in His Son. The initial apprehension that I had been carrying was quickly overcome by the compassion God filled me with in that moment. This was a pivotal moment for me on the trip, as I intentionally lay aside my camera, and chose to instead participate in intercession- not only for this woman, but for the entire room. After I prayed for her, I knew that God was calling me to step back to cry out for the entire nation of India. I laid out my hands before Him as a sign of surrender. Although I was initially filled with doubt, I wanted to desperately believe- just as I had prayed for the woman- that God is the One who transcends our understanding and fills us with peace. I did not want to conclude, out of my cynicism, that what these people were experiencing was idle worship. I had never felt a conviction so strong, but I was able to realise in that moment that God in Himself is our eternal reality. He needs neither visible sign nor evidence in order to justify and reveal who He is. Although I had initially been discouraged with what I had seen in the natural, I was filled with a kind of faith that was not based upon things that are visible, but rather the invisible.

I learned two vital lessons through this experience. First, as a photographer, my calling is never to place precedence on my own skills and gifts. Rather it is to humbly submit to God by asking Him to fill me with His Spirit so I am constantly led by Him in my ministry. When I deliberately chose to place my camera aside so that I could pray, God used that opportunity to further fill me with faith and vision for the nation of India. Secondly, I learned that the Gospel surpasses every cultural barrier. There is no ethnic, social nor political divide ever too great in order for God to reach His children. Thus if I had to select one word that encapsulates this trip for me, it would be: faith.