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“When it comes to missions, I want to encourage Malaysia’s young believers — just go,” – Kirsten Cheong, 31, missionary to Australia’s aboriginal communities

When Kirsten Cheong first visited The Kimberley in Western Australia, she was drawn to the Aboriginal Australian communities living there.

The 31-year-old Malaysian is currently stationed in Broome, serving with Youth With A Mission (YWAM). 

Her heart desires to see more Malaysian youths embrace a life of missions, to step out of their comfort zone and see where God leads. 

“When I read Janielle’s story on Faithour, I felt there were more Malaysians with a heart for missions. My heart has been crying out for Malaysia to raise and send missionaries,” she said. 

Kirsten, 31, is a Malaysian missionary currently in Australia.

A mission trip transforms you

Kirsten hopes to dispel a common misperception that a life of missions requires dramatic lifestyle changes and a life-long commitment to the mission field. 

“I want to encourage youth back in Malaysia that it’s okay to take a study break or gap year to embark on a short-term mission trip,” she said through a video call.

Exploring a different culture and seeing how God moves uniquely in diverse communities will change the way we see the world. 

Mission trips may not lead one to become a full-time missionary, but Kirsten is confident that the experience will be transformative. 

It certainly has been for her. 

Being refreshing springs in a rugged wilderness

Since her first visit to the Kimberley in 2018, Kirsten’s heart for the Aboriginal Australian communities has only enlarged. 

She has been based in YWAM Broome since 2023. Alongside two fellow team members, they collaborate with local churches to spearhead youth empowerment initiatives.

This is a different side of Australia, one many of us don’t see on tourism advertisements or billboards,” Kirsten shared. 

Kirsten with two YWAM staff members in Broome, Western Australia.

The Kimberley is known for its rugged terrain and vast wilderness. In 2023, the region had an estimated population of 39,668 with a population density of 0.07 people per square km. 

“On one trip to a local community, we were invited to visit a school with only three students and one teacher (who’s not even Australian). Our objective was to encourage school attendance and be a positive presence for the local youth,” she said. 

The journey has not been without its challenges, but from the start, God has proven Himself faithful. 

Give God a chance to do something miraculous 

When Kirsten first felt called to return to Australia as a missionary, she needed to raise RM8,000 for her flight tickets and insurance.

God dropped in her heart to bake cookies and do a fundraiser. By her own admission, she was sceptical. 

“But many donated generously and people even contributed without taking the cookies. God raised more than RM8,000,” she recounted. For the fundraiser, Kirsten baked a lot — almost 450 cookies! 

Recently, she attended a worship school in another Australian town and did not have the funds for a domestic flight ticket. 

“In the morning, I prayed. In the afternoon, a lady from my church in KL transferred over some money, saying the Holy Spirit prompted her to give,” Kirsten said. 

When you live with God on the edge, you become more aware of His hand at work. 

Following Christ means being obedient 

The missionary life is no bed of roses, Kirsten acknowledges. But it’s not meant to be. 

She finds great joy in doing work for Jesus and talking about Him, whether it’s sharing the gospel, hanging out with someone or being present for a local family. 

There are seasons of discouragement too, because often the fruit of her labour is not seen immediately.

“What keeps me going is knowing that God has called me to this ministry for this season. I want to be obedient and be available for His use,” she said seriously. 

Kirsten added that if one feels called to full-time missions, it is important to be convicted of one’s call. This conviction will help you weather challenging times.

Kirsten on an outreach trip in Fiji.

Don’t delay God’s calling upon your life

“We know that God has a purpose for each person, but in a season of trying to figure things out, sometimes we can make excuses or dismiss what God is trying to say,” she said. 

She has been regularly praying for Malaysia’s next generation of believers. 

Early last year, she met a fellow Malaysian girl completing her Discipleship Training School (a six-month course with YWAM). 

Several months later, the girl informed her that she was stepping out to become a full-time missionary with YWAM Malaysia. 

“I knew then that God was hearing my cry, and that He is raising up Malaysians and calling them to missions,” she said fervently. 

Today, her prayer has not changed. She is interceding for more Malaysian youths to explore their God-given calling with an open heart.

And if His leading is to a life of missions, her prayer is that we will obey. 

Kirsten’s journey started with a mission trip organised by her local church to an Orang Asli community just four hours away and now she’s at YWAM Broome. Not sure where to start? Join your church mission trips, or check out some of these organisations to get started!

All photos by Kirsten Cheong.

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