By Ryan Soon, Come As You Are (CAYA)
Having been diagnosed with epilepsy in 2019, I was distraught and felt like the world has turned against me. As I was about to enter into army, this also meant that I would be down pes-ed from A to E, and felt that my whole NS life would change drastically, not what I had expected and wanted. I was genuinely looking forward to a normal recruit life in NS but due to my medical condition, I felt that I was deprived of the opportunity to experience that. This, along with a whole host of uncertainties, made me question God, “Lord, why me? Why not somebody else?” I was also afraid that having this condition, I would be judged by others.
During the BMT phase, I found it difficult to have Christ-Centered conversations with my bunkmates and struggled to see God in my everyday life. After BMT, I was vocationalised as a clerk, hence most of my time was spent in the office. It felt as if I was going through the motions, booking in and out of camp every day, leading life aimlessly without any direction. Uncle Melvin, the OYP staff in charge back then when I was in SP CSS, suggested that I join CAYA, the army community in OYP.
Being an introvert, I was initially hesitant of joining CAYA, but I thought to myself, since I have the time, why not? Hence I took a leap of faith and joined the CAYA community at OYP, and this was probably the best decision I made in 2020! At CAYA, I met many amazing individuals, all going through the same phase of life. Though each of us come from different backgrounds, all of us have one common purpose: “Growing closer to the Lord”. This community is truly the embodiment of “Come As You Are”, regardless of background, we are all made to feel equally welcomed, never a feeling that we do not belong. I felt that I was able to come as I was and felt comfortable during sharings without any judgement. Such a respite from the secular environment of army life and my health issues. Upon reflection, with me pursuing an allied health course in university, I will be able to empathise with patients having the same medical condition as me. I am able to bring joy and hope into their lives, and cheer them up. Today, I am proud to say that I can look at my condition in a new light!
I come to realise the importance of having a community of guys going through the same phase of life supporting one another. This eased the anxieties of transition to army life. What really stood out to me was the extra effort by the facilitators to engage us in small groups despite the strict measures enforced in light of Covid-19. Everyone at OYP, from the priests, the staff to the facilitators – their genuine interests in our well-being touched me deeply. Through CAYA, I find myself gradually more inspired to spend more time with the Lord in prayer and reflecting on His Word. I also became more comfortable in joining other community-based sessions which became my source of strength.
For me personally, my pending health issues also added much uncertainty and apprehension. At times when I feel totally down and lost, I could feel God’s reassurance through the community of brothers and sisters that He has blessed me with. Their fellowship and constant prayers have helped me stay positive and focused on the truth that I am a beloved child of God, and that whatever is happening to me is not a mistake, but rather I am intentionally created with a purpose.
As I continue through life’s journey, I am aware that the road ahead will be filled with obstacles and challenges. But I hold on to the truth in Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”