I was a student in Perth

                                                                          Learning valuable, precious experiences

By David Lee

David-Lee-150In 2001 I arrived in Perth airport after midnight and was left stranded. 
The university had forgotten to pick me up and I had no local coins to make a phone call.  This was my “welcome” to Australia.

My father is a taxi driver and my mother was a factory worker.
They were separated.  My mother took out all her savings to pay my tuition fee (AUD $11,500 a year then).  My father sent me about $600-$800 every other month depending on his job, gambling wins and commitment to the other family that he had.  My parents could afford to send only one child overseas so my brother had to forgo his Monash University offer.  I came to Perth with the burden that I had to “make it” – the cost and the sacrifice my family had to go through gave me no other option.

I moved out of the university hostel on the third day of arrival, as it was way above my budget.
During orientation, I bumped into a friend from Singapore.  He owned a house and rented me a room for $60 a week – God’s provision undoubtedly.

I did well in my first semester so I decided to start working.  God provided two jobs and great bosses. At Kido Japanese Restaurant, I earned $7.50 per hour as a kitchen hand, with dinner provided if I was not late. I washed bento boxes for 4 hours on my first day at Kido.  I also worked at Kong’s Oriental Store for $10-$11 per hour.  My job was to carry and stack cartons of canned food, rice, crates of Chinese vegetables and gallons of cooking oil.  The owners John and Sandy were exceptionally kind and we developed a good friendship. They would allow me to take some food and a drink after I finished my closing shift.  I usually took the pork bun and a 1-liter soya bean drink as that would fill me before I headed to the library to study.  It was challenging having to work part-time and being under pressure to excel in my studies.

I was unable to participate in different social activities such as watching musicals and attending different dinner functions due to my budget.

I asked God why my life was different from the rest of the international students who had cars with personalized plates, could go for social functions in suit and tie while I had to always follow a bus schedule.

 My moments of self-pity always ended in sadness, followed by repentance when I realized how my parents and my brother had given up so much so that I could have a better opportunity.

Little did I know then that God was teaching me an important lesson of true happiness?

church-family-01The church family was a tremendous blessing, a true Acts 2:42 church.
My Christian brothers and sisters gave me lifts to church; on many occasions bought extra food much more than they could eat, with the intention of giving it to me.  Different people cooked for me when I was rather tired of consuming bun and soya bean several times a week.  I remember being invited to different peoples’ houses for meals.  I am forever grateful for my church family.

God’s providence was bountiful during my student days.
Through jobs, I managed to raise my airfare for an YWAM mission trip to Japan.  My church supported me with a love-gift to cover my food and accommodation.  During this trip, I met an YWAMER Tim Bergman who was the team leader of the trip.  I followed him like I was Timothy following Paul as he walked and preached the gospel of Christ in the streets of Yokohama.  I was inspired by his example. The following year, God provided a scholarship from my university to go to UCLA for a 6 months exchange program in Psychology. In addition to not having to pay UCLA fees, the Singapore government also gave some money to their citizens and I was entitled to a generous amount as I lived in a small flat in Singapore.  So I used the extra money to cover my living expenses for 6 months.  I felt that the trip was a gift from God for me to go see the “world”!

The time came when my mother told me that she had no more money for me to study.
It broke her heart that I could not continue and it broke mine to see her having no more savings for herself.  At that time, I was invited into the Honours program at UWA.  I remember sharing about tithes and offering one Sunday, thinking that it would be my last sharing in church as I had already prepared myself to go back to Singapore.  God moved my pastor Patrick Chen of Zion Praise Harvest Church to challenge the church in tears to take up an offering for me. That was a very dramatic and emotional Sunday.  The church raised the first semester of my honours tuition fee of $5750 plus enough for health cover for that year.

Towards the end of the year, I was concerned with the next semester’s fees and asked the Lord what to do.  Surely He didn’t provide for one semester to send me home halfway?   A Christian brother whom I had been in touch occasionally since I left Singapore felt that the Lord wanted him to give me a sum of money.  His brother who lived in Perth came to my house and gave me a stack of 50 dollars notes amounting to $3000.  This convinced me that God moves people who hear Him and act in obedience to Him.

God’s hand was not only on me but on my family as well.
My father came to know the Lord.  He gave up his gambling habits.  He left the other family and re-married my mother.  She waited about 16 years for this. God did not short change my brother. As he gave me a chance at a bachelor’s degree, God blessed him with a good job in Dubai managing the supply and distribution of an electronic brand in the Gulf region.  He eventually gave up his very high-paying job to be a missionary – something far better than a degree.

On graduation, God gave me a job and paved the way through believers and non-believers for me to step out into my own business – a migration and education agency. I find much fulfillment in being able to make a difference to people’s lives through education and migration. God gave me a great wife and two children. (See Facing Barrenness)

God has taught me many valuable personal lessons in these 15 years in Perth. One being that I can only gain true happiness through my intimate relationship with Him and not by wealth and material things like house, car, money, gadgets, etc.
God has walked with me through my lack and I testify that He has been faithful. Now with the plenty that He has given me I will use it to be faithful to Him in return. END

David runs Unireach, an education and migration agency based at Waterford Plaza near Curtin University, Perth. He has recently been appointed as a Justice of The Peace serving the Perth Bateman electorate.  He is also in the midst of setting up an NGO to look into community development projects for marginalised communities in Sri Lanka. David is married to Inez.


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