Faith Story by Jason Ling
Getting an expatriate assignment has always been one of my top career goals ever since I joined the oil and gas industry some 11+ years ago (all in the same company). The generous pay, great family benefits, opportunity to experience different cultures, and potential CV enhancement are among the many reasons why I have always endeavoured to pursue it. But getting a shot at it is not an easy feat. In fact, in my company, only a handful will get ever get a chance. Firstly, expat openings are very limited (not forgetting the already fragile economic climate we’re in now!) with intense global competition. Secondly, in order to even get a permission to apply for an expatriate assignment, one has to fulfil a very strict set of criteria (e.g., (1) employee’s performance ratings must be of a certain level for a sustained period, (2) the employee’s application must meet both business requirements and individual development goals). Thirdly, endorsement by the highest level of management (i.e., GM and Global Discipline Head) must be attained before one can obtain this “elusive” and “prized” green card (that’s literally what they call it in my company!)
It was around June 2019, when I was first told of this possible opening in Brunei by my line manager. Back then, I wasn’t too excited and fully committed to the idea as: (1) life in KK was starting to get too comfortable? (2) I was always pessimistic of my chances. However, I wholly committed it to the Lord and during the fast/prayer season in Aug-Sept, whenever I had a chance to go to church, this was always the top item that I placed in the prayer bowl. My prayer was always to let God do His will in my life. As it turned out, I didn’t get the role. My green card was not approved for various reasons, but the primary reason being there was no successor to backfill my current position. I felt devastated after praying hard for it, but eventually I felt peace knowing that “if it was not meant to be, it was not meant to be”. Two verses in Proverbs came to mind: Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 16:9 “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps”.
Fast-forward to Year 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic swept across the globe in the most unprecedented fashion (which needs no further elaboration…) Surely, the goal of getting an expat assignment had evaporated into thin air. But two things happened. (1) For whatever reason, the Brunei expat position was not filled-up during next two advertising rounds (2) A company-wide re-organization was happening. This meant that through this exercise, my current position will get back-filled!
Again, I turned to God for His direction and committed it fervently through prayers. Again, Aug-Sept period was fasting/prayer season. I continued to put this as my top prayer point in the “prayer bowl” (which of course was now done virtually). To cut the long story short, my “green-card” was approved, and I succeeded in the Brunei job interview (humbly beating 5 other capable candidates in the process).
All glory goes to God!
To end this testimony, I’d like to provide my key reflection points to hopefully encourage others who can relate to it.
1. Only God can turn a mess into a message! – As the economic recession sweeps across the globe due to the pandemic, the O&G industry was undoubtedly one of the most badly-hit sectors. All oil majors (mine not being spared), were going through rigorous rounds of cost-cutting and job reductions measures in order to stay afloat, literally just to “survive”. Job survival and no pay cuts were miracles. So, getting an expat assignment in the midst of all this crisis and uncertainty clearly demonstrates the hand and favour of God working in my life.
2. You may not get your prayers answered immediately – “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). For me, it took 2 years before my prayers got answered. Was it easy to just give up and lose hope? For sure. But as always, God is faithful, and so as long as it is aligned with His plans, He will establish your steps (Proverbs 16:9).
3. God’s timing is always the right timing – His timing is always impeccable. If I had gotten the expat job earlier (end 2019), there was the risk that I may be impacted by the global recession in 2020 because expats are expensive and are usually casualties during times of downsizing. Furthermore, this allowed my family and I to enjoy living in KK and worshipping in Skyline for a whole 1.5 years extra – which we have absolutely no qualms about!