Good evening everyone! My name is Janelle, and I’m humbled to be standing here representing the graduands of 2019. Words are not enough to express the privilege to be part of this batch of graduates, who each has an inspiring story to share. From struggling with our fears, dramas, doubts and personal issues, to overcoming them, we certainly have come a long way.
I believe that we all have loads of fond memories from our journey in Victory Life. I certainly do. It brings a smile to my face whenever I recount moments like erasing the colorful words written on my PACEs by “you know who you are,” listening to a dear friend practice her Aussie accent almost every day, hearing one of my classmates shout “Fire! Fire!” in class, sitting beside Conrado (who insists that I mention his name in my speech), exchanging countless texts with a supervisor about waiting for the right one (wink wink), and experiencing the Regional and International Student Conventions. Finding out that I was chosen as the valedictorian was definitely a big moment for me. If you had told me five years ago that I would be graduating from high school – let alone as a valedictorian – my parents and I would have thought, “Impossible!”
Five years ago, I was drowning in anxiety, eating disorder, and plagued with suicidal thoughts. I came into Victory Life broken and rejected. Trapped in the past and negative thoughts, coming to school every day was a struggle because I was constantly fearful and anxious. I remember how I used to stand outside the door in the Balestier campus, trembling as I struggled to even ring the bell to enter the school, and I had to work on my PACEs in the conference room instead of being in the Learning Center. However, those days are so far behind me now. In the past, I used to dread break time, during which I would always hide away in quiet places, silently crying by myself. But break time has since become a huge anticipation of the day for me, a time when I can put aside PACE work and just enjoy the company of my friends. I remember that I used to break down at the mere thought of having to be around people and would even go to the extent of hiding in the reception room during chapel time. Now, I join in chapel and engage in many school activities, including the recent International Student Convention held in Missouri. It’s ironic how I used to be fearful of making friends and opening up to any supervisor when I first entered VL, because I have not only made lifetime friends but gained another family here, who each has played irreplaceable roles in my transition from despair to hope. It’s also amazing how out of them are also a few whom God has used to inspire me to want to bring hope and education to under-privileged kids. You guys know who you are. You have a long-standing place in my heart. Pa and Ma, you are included.
It has been a journey of growth, filled buckets of tears, and buckets and buckets of joys. I came into Victory Life empty and broken, but I have since been filled by God with love and hope and I can only give Him the glory for my transformation. Throughout, I have learned that we mustn’t allow our past mistakes to define who we are, because transformation is possible and nothing is beyond hopeless. As Corrie ten Boom said, “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.”
Graduates, would you join me as I reflect about how far we have all come? Through this journey it is evident, for me, that there was never a second that God was not with us. We have become more than conquerors through God’s ever-present help and mercy in obstacles and through His unfailing love that drives out fears when we draw close to Him.
And to my fellow school mates: God has already begun a good work in you, and He will bring it to completion and fulfill His plans and purposes for you. Keep walking with Him. You are priceless to God.
So, friends, I was just wondering… Why don’t we begin availing ourselves to live out our destiny in Him? Why not let us live for dreams and visions far beyond ourselves, sculpted by God in love? He’s calling you. I’m in this, so why not let us all do it together?
Thank you, and all praise and glory to Jesus!
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When I was 15 years old, I left public school with a strong desire to be homeschooled. I had been struggling with some difficulties — mostly emotional — that hindered me from attending school like any other student. My parents, however, were unable to homeschool me. Through a series of events (that I believe did not happen by chance), I found Victory Life Christian School (VLCS).
I, for one, can testify that VLCS is a school like no other. In VLCS, character building is always the primary focus. Character traits and moral values are weaved into our curriculum and we learn about them as we study English, Math, Science, etc. These character traits are further emphasized through chapel services and morning devotions. VLCS is also a place where these character traits can be readily applied — we are always encouraged to reach out to the young ones and the students with special needs, whether through tutoring or through school events. It is certainly a breath of fresh air to have teachers (or supervisors and monitors) who care about the people we are becoming, rather than how well-developed our brains are.
VLCS teaches students how to learn independently. We set our daily goals and work at our own pace. We never have to conform to expectations of our academic abilities. We grow to understand ourselves and how we “function” best. No particular study technique is forced upon us. We are also always reminded to be mindful of the little things. Hence today, almost two years after I graduated, I still set daily goals for myself, practice neat cursive handwriting, keep a Bible journal, and push in my chair after I get up — something my friends from public school are always impressed by! These little habits have certainly prepared me for greater pursuits in life, such as going to study Speech Science at the University of Sheffield in UK!
When I left public school, I thought everything was “over” for me. I never would have thought I could come this far. VLCS gave me a second chance at education, helped me come out of my shell, and sharpened my interest in working with children. Above all, VLCS brought me back to the arms of the ever-faithful God. I still have a long way ahead, but I will carry every big and small thing I learnt at VLCS with me to university and beyond.
Miss Lim Min graduated from VLCS in August, 2014, and is now preparing to study Speech Science at the University of Sheffield in the UK.
“If there’s one thing we learn from the Scriptures, it’s that we can NEVER place a period where God has placed a comma.” This sentence struck me like a slap in the face. Flashing back to 2013 – one of my toughest years ever – I remember wanting to toss away the idea of graduating from high school early. The amount of PACE-work that I had to do was just so overwhelming that I procrastinated like crazy. (Procrastination doesn’t get you anywhere, by the way. Learned that the hard way.) That year, I had my parents choking me with their constant nagging, an interview that gave me so much stress, and internship at a restaurant that pretty much took away most of my precious time. To make the long story short, I was on the verge of giving up, but God picked me up at the right moment and got me back on my feet. 2013 was so full of ups and downs and I even thought that I made a mistake transferring from a public school to an unrecognized, private school that uses the ACE curriculum. I’m not trying to promote anything here, but as I look back, I felt that I made the BEST decision in my whole entire life! My 5 years in Victory Life Christian School was a BLAST and I’m thankful that God brought me there.
My last year in VLCS (2013) was the most memorable. Just when I thought that nothing good was going to come out of my “dilemma”, I saw that it had brought me closer to God and I learned that God is, was, and will always and forever be faithful. I said that I was on the verge of giving up right? Well, God placed people in my life who strengthened me daily in His Word, people who cheered me up every morning (I remember waking up and just crying out to God everyday in my last 3 months of school), and with people who are ever ready to listen and just encourage me whenever something was wrong. He placed people who gave timely sermons and sharings too! It was amazing.
I’m writing this to encourage myself, and any of you, that whenever a situation seems hopeless, God is always there. HE IS FAITHFUL! Remember that! His grace is sufficient for us, and His power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9) His arms are not too short to save, nor are his ears too dull to hear. (Isaiah 59:1)
“Because only God can turn a mess into a message, a trial into a triumph, a test into a testimony, and a victim into a victory.”
Nadia graduated from VLCS in November 2013, and is now studying Psychology in Seattle. Visit her original blog (used with permission).
Here are a few personal reflections that we felt about LTC, DTS, the orphanage and the worship there:
Elisha: LTC taught me how selfish I am being with my life.
Timothy: They sacrificed a lot to learn about God and to come to LTC.
Ramona: The simple life they led touched me.
Ecclesiastes: Fun, loving experience.
Samantha: Though there was poverty, there was also happiness and contentment.
Jeremy: If they could sacrifice so much for God, having so little, how much more can we sacrifice for the glory of Him.
Karlo: They are nice.
Eunice: Their lives are simple and they’re very innocent. I can see that they are content with what they have.
Mrs Valluvan: They are contented.
Mrs Lim: I was very, very impressed with their commitment and devotion. I felt that the students knew how to honour the speakers that came up to speak by giving their full attention. I feel they live close to God.
Mr Raj: I feel the peace and love of the Lord, and the love for the Lord fills this place.
Mrs Rajan: It was a very warm experience for me. Everyone I met was superb, and I was able to learn and observe their simplicity, obedience and unity.
Mrs Kwang: I think that LTC is physically self-sufficient as they don’t have to worry about money to feed themselves because they grow their own food.
Mrs Boey: LTC was purposeful in fulfilling its call to make disciples for all nations. The students’ aspiration to reach out to their villages for Jesus is inspiring.
Vino: LTC was a learning experience; one I would never forget.
Jeremy: They are spirit-filled people with a fire for God.
Ecclesiastes: It’s amazing how they came all the way from Burma to Thailand just to study.
Mrs Valluvan: They are hungry for His Word.
Mrs Rajan: DTS was a very short but lasting experience. I will never forget their smiles and warm greetings, even before entering the class.
Mr Raj: A small place where big dreams are realized.
Samantha: They were innocent and humble, yet content and they love God.
Elisha: I felt that God was telling me family is not always about blood, but about bond.
Ramona: God is all that matters, and He is family.
Eunice: We must be more thankful that we have our parents.
Mrs Lim: It touched me very deeply. Especially their singing and how they reached out to serve us. I would have loved an opportunity to spend more time with them and for our students to share with them as well. They were very appreciative of the gifts, and when I embraced them, it really touched me for some of them really needed someone to hold them.
Mrs Boey: I was touched by the caring couple who rented a bungalow to house the seven orphans. I was also touched to see them well provided for, especially in the spiritual aspect. I could see that they worship with conviction. It was really good to see the VLCS girls extending love to them through gifts, hugs and friendship.
Vino: Though they had lost much, they still could be sweet and gentle. That’s something really valuable to have.
Ramona: We are to be ashamed of our school’s worship.
Karlo: Their worship – phenomenal.
Eunice: They really sang with their hearts. We should learn from them.
Jeremy: Truly inspiring. Even the people not “performing” were worshiping, thus drawing the focus away from the band, but to God.
Ecclesiastes: We can learn a lot from them to improve ourselves.
Samantha: I think they were very enthusiastic. Even though they are less fortunate, they are more sincere in worshiping God.
Elisha: The people in our school are so technical in our worship, but the people there are very sincere as a whole.
Timothy: I really loved their hymns. Loved the sincere way they sang it.
Mrs Kwang: Their worship is fantastic as they worship from their heart. They actually took pains to memorize the hymns.
Mr Raj: The fragrance of praise and worship was evident.
Mrs Lim: Their worship, be it LTC, or the Lahu church, was one of excellence. It was very much for the heart and engaging the Spirit! The worship leaders were also very good. Although I didn’t understand what they were saying, I could feel their connection with the Lord. Everyone was also worshipping with one heart and voice. Very inspiring!
Mrs Valluvan: They were sincere.
Mrs Rajan: I am ashamed of myself; they gave their whole heart and sang with one accord, worshipping in spirit and truth. Their zeal can be heard and seen in their voices. They find joy in God. Though a little flock, but great in the sight of the Lord.
Mrs Boey: Their exuberant worship is amazing, especially knowing that they do not have much, but they are full of hunger and thirst for the Lord. The Spirit of the Lord is there to encourage, educate and empower them to do great things for God.
We finally arrived! Uncle Terry and Aunty Linda came to fetch us at the airport in two trucks and a van. It was late and we didn’t do much. After reaching the house, which was owned by a man named Kitichai who generously lent it to us for our stay, we unpacked and sat for debrief. Uncle Terry once again told us to be prepared to leave with our hearts stolen away. Not knowing what that meant, many of us didn’t pay heed to it. Little did we know how true that statement was. After the debrief, we went to sleep.
Today, Karlo, Jeremy, Ecclesiastes and Mrs Lim made our breakfast. Once we ate our fill, we headed down to LTC. For those who don’t know what that is, LTC, which means Lahu Training Centre, is basically a Bible college. To get there, we took a truck. Instead of sitting in a stuffy air conditioned area with all of us squishing each other, we road at the back of the truck with the cool winter wind and a whole lot of fresh air. It was a wonderful experience, one that many of us had never done before. When we got to LTC, the first thing we saw was their soccer field. It was big! The boys were all excited to play with the other LTC students but we had other things to do first. Mrs Boey shared about the Holy Spirit, Karlo shared his testimony and Mr Raj shared with the LTC students on the beatitudes after a short but wonderful worship session. When done, we broke up into small groups to share and interact with the other students. We found it quite hard as the language barrier posed a huge challenge for both us and the students. Mrs Valluvan, Mrs Lim, Mrs Rajan and some of us students helped out with cooking lunch for the whole school. The menu: chicken curry. It was wonderful! Finally we got to play with the students. The guys played with the guys from LTC, and the girls played with the girls in LTC. After playing, the boys from our school went with the students of LTC to learn how to cut banana trees and the girls climbed the hill to pick tea leaves and mustard seeds. One thing we learned from this was how patient the LTC students were with us. Even when we kept making mistakes, they just laughed it off and showed us the right way. When we got back, Nabi, our translator braided the girls’ hair. By then it was dinner time and we headed to church where we had a scrumptious thanksgiving dinner. After that, we took trucks to Uncle Terry’s church where we had a wonderful church service. Our students played a song, and Mrs Kwang shared her testimony. We finally ended the day with a debrief.
Morning came and Elisha, Ting Yi, Mrs Valluvan and Vino helped set the table and make breakfast. When we were all ready, we headed to LTC once more. It was our last day to be with the LTC students so we were all quite upset. Today Mrs Lim shared, and Mr Raj continued the sharing of the beatitudes. Then, Mrs Rajan came up to teach the students basic English. It was a fun and interactive way of teaching, where our students demonstrated how to use phrases such as, “good morning, how are you and how old are you,” and the LTC students practiced with each other. For lunch, apart from rice, meat and vegetables, we had one extra dish – fried worms. For those who have never eaten them, fried worms are crunchy and salty, a wonderful add-on to a simple dish. After lunch, we tried out the traditional costume of the Lahu people. The design was one of bright colours set on a black background. For added design, there were silver bells on it that jingled, making a soft delicate sound as you walk about. We had a time of photo taking while the students crowded around us looking. Though we didn’t want to leave the LTC compound at all, we went to see the Myanmar-Thailand border and then went for a picnic on a beautiful forest area. When we came back to LTC, it was already dark. We had a campfire complete with games, dancing, singing, a time of sharing of testimony by Timothy, prayer and food. It was here that we finally had to say goodbye to all of the students. We were touched by the simple way they lived their lives and how much on fire they were for God.
After eating a scrumptious breakfast made by Ramona, Samantha, Eunice and Mrs Rajan, we brought our luggage down and onto the truck. We were on our way to Mae Sai. First, we stopped at the Golden Triangle where we shopped and ate lunch. After that, we went to our hotel to unpack and unwind. When that was done, Elisha, Ramona, Ting Yi, Eunice, Samantha, Mrs Lim, Mrs Boey, Aunty Linda and Vino went to an orphanage, while Karlo, Jeremy, Ecclesiastes, Mrs Valluvan, Mrs Rajan, and Mr Raj went to DTS, Discipleship Training School. The orphanage was made up of 7 girls, the couple who ran it and their two sons. At the orphanage, Mrs Lim narrated the story of the prodigal son and shared her life story with the girls. We hugged each of them and gave the gifts we had made or gotten for them. Many of the girls were touched and cried. It was a touching experience and we stayed longer than we intended to. At DTS, Mr Raj shared his life story, and many were touched as well. The students made friends with our students and left a lasting impression on them. The one thing that stood out in both the orphanage and DTS was the degree of sincerity in their worship. Afterwards, we had a steamboat dinner and headed back to the hotel.
On the last day of our mission trip, we ate the breakfast buffet provided by the hotel, did some last minute shopping, and then headed to the airport. None of us wanted to leave, and we were all sad. True to his word, Uncle Terry was spot on when he said we would have our hearts stolen. However, each of us knew we were touched by this experience, and through it we became more certain that there really was a true God, Jesus Christ.
When asked to comment on the trip, Karlo said, “Life is short. We need to use our short life to glorify God.” What he said was what each of us students felt. None of us wanted to leave, and each of us would love to go back there, not only to help the people in Thailand, but also to learn from them.