Have you ever organised any conference or seminar without any funds to start with? I never did until October 2005 when some of us were co-opted to form the organising committee for a regional meeting the following year. The six of us had just attended the 2nd Southeast Asia Prayer Consultation in Sihanoukville, Cambodia and were informed that Malaysia would be the next host. We graciously accepted the challenge! The National Evangelical Christian Fellowship Malaysia (NECF) would be the umbrella organisation for the committee but no funds would be requested from them. None of us belonged to any organisation except for one, and we were just volunteers in the service of Christ, attending various churches. We had no organisational resources to depend upon; most of us had little or no experience; and there were no financial resources at hand. The challenge to organise and fund the whole conference was daunting and seemingly impossible!
In my many years of organising conferences as a civil servant this was mind-boggling for me! In order to organise a conference it was necessary to prepare a budget, obtain approval and receive the funds from the Treasury in the following year. The budget would usually be inflated to cover all contingencies and if it was a regional or international conference, every effort would be made to ensure that it was successful and impressive – which meant more funds! Also, the organisation of the conference would be supported by strong institutional support, encompassing facilities, transportation, manpower and various logistical requirements.
The Prayer Consultation was birthed as a result of the prayer conference held in South Africa a few years ago. It was a culmination of a prayer movement which spread like wildfire across the continent of Africa. So it was felt that a prayer movement that would spread through the length and breadth of Southeast Asia would provide the spark for change in the region. Consequently, the first and second prayer consultations were held in Cambodia, funded by various private organisations.
So here we were without any funds or resources. As host, we were also required to sponsor five participants from five access-restricted countries in Southeast Asia; which meant paying for air-fares, hotel and transportation. At the same time, we offered partial sponsorship to participants from other countries and from Malaysia, based on needs. Our first main task was to seek donations from local churches and individuals. A budget was drawn up – about RM80K was needed; a frugal but prudent budget without any frills. Later we would realise that many items of expenditure, essential to the running of the meeting, had been overlooked. The budget also included the amount of sponsorship needed to bring the 25 participants to Malaysia for 5 days. Later, we would discover that the amount budgeted was conservative as air-fares escalated (due to rising oil prices). The very high cost of bringing in participants from Timor Leste would burst our budget as it would take them two days to arrive in Kuala Lumpur due to the scarcity of flights. This was further compounded by an increase of fully sponsoring one more because of the need for an interpreter. At the same time, some sponsored participants chose to arrive in Kuala Lumpur a few days earlier even though no provision was available for their food and hotel!
We experienced a crisis of finance. Did we have a crisis of faith? Many were praying for the success of this Consultation and we believed our Father in heaven who owns everything, would provide for all the needs of this Consultation. We actively solicited for funds through appeal letters to international organizations, churches, friends and colleagues; it was difficult at times trying to explain why we needed to sponsor the less privileged countries or to explain why such a meeting was necessary. I remember when I first attended the consultation in Cambodia my mind was full of misgivings, knowing that meetings usually end up in a lot of talk and a lot of resolutions but no action. But I was proved wrong.
This was not just another meeting.
The Consultation was held in October 2005, in a 4-star hotel in Kuala Lumpur. Funds flowed into our coffers, quite miraculously. There were enough funds to pay for printing a conference report (which originally was to be photocopied!), a conference bag, transportation and many other expenses too. There was an expenditure overrun for sponsorships and even for those unplanned for especially partial sponsorships, but there were more than enough funds to cover all these. Participants even received free t-shirts, CDs, water, snacks, souvenirs etc. There was an overflow of kindness and goodies!! When the accounts were tallied, there was an excess of a few hundred ringgit! GOD IS ABLE!!
I salute my fellow workers in Christ, for their dedication, diligence and faith! When everything seemed impossible, no one complained! Everyone hung in there by faith, believing God for a miracle. And for the Chairperson, the burden must have been tremendous, seemingly impossible to carry through but she quietly kept the faith and pushed through! Many of the participants agreed this was the best Consultation organised so far not only because of the overflow of blessings but also because of all that was achieved during the Consultation.
Praise God for His enablement and His blessings!!
retired from the Malaysian Administrative and Diplomatic Service, where she served for more than 20 years. She is married to Dato’ Leong Ah Hin.