Friday, 14 October 2016

A calling

Yesterday I was in Penang and on the way back I was with my good friend Teguh.
Somehow our conversation went about how we ended up in Malaysia (Teguh is from Indonesia).

Here is my own little story.

The first month I had arrived in Malaysia, I was staying in a real 'kampung' house.
There were lots of people everywhere and privacy was at a strict minimum.
It was in the middle of the raining season.

I remember so well the afternoon, we had come back from a trip to Kuala Lumpur. We had rented a relatively cheap car, an old Proton Saga that had broken down along the way.When we reached "home", it was raining cats and dogs and the relatively narrow access to the house had been completely flooded. Some wood had been placed in the water for people to walk on towards the house. Coming back with our bags, with my only pair of "good" shoes on, I walked on the wood and slipped into the mud. The children who had thought all the while I was a kind of attraction, thought it was very funny.

These moments, I really thought that my parents, the rest of my family, my friends who had thoroughly advised me against moving out from Belgium had been right. I agreed that I had done a major thing in my life that really went against reason. Why leave a place like Belgium where everything, including quite a predetermined career as paediatrician would have been easy; and go for the unknown?

But I truly had no choice. I had no choice because right inside of me there was something that people call a calling. An inside determination that you HAVE TO do something. It had started when I was 11 years old in 6th grade. Our teacher was a bit of an idealist himself (if Mr. Stevens of that time or his family happen to read this, I think he was perhaps my best teacher ever) and he told us with such passion the story of Dr. Albert Schweizer who had been an extremely successful doctor and philosopher and who had sold all of his belongings to create a hospital in Lamberene in Africa, where he spent the rest of his life caring for the sick. When I heard that story, something inside had clicked: that is what I want to do in my life.

After that, puberty had been a bit of a tough ride. I was not a popular kid during puberty, but the one thing that really rendered even that period quite bright was my bright ideal, my calling to go abroad and help where help was necessary most. Whenever I talked about it with family or friends, they were not breaking it down too much but definitely they were not approving it either. Often I heard the comments there was so much good to be done in Belgium too. I remember seeing a documentary on TV about a Belgian doctor who had gone to the south of Thailand and did fantastic work there for the poorest of the poorest and I had envied her, because a job like that would have been a dream coming true for me.

As life unfolded, the "calling" remained. I did not want to go abroad alone. I wanted to go with a wife who had the same ideals. I knew, not many girls had ideals like that but somehow I knew that perhaps in medical school I would be able to find people thinking alike. I thought I was quite right because in the first year of medical school there were many of us who talked about Médecins Sans Frontières, but nothing really happened that time in terms of getting into such a relationship. When I was in the second year of medical school, a group of Malaysian students joined our University. One of them stood out in beauty and it was not too difficult to think, that this was like a "God-made" arrangement for me to realize my "calling".

As I grew more and more adult, my logical thinking brain grew stronger, my parents really advised me against moving out of Belgium, and it made so much sense. But somehow that calling remained. 
A calling, an ideal, can make us do the most illogical things, but deep inside we know for sure, that this is the thing we HAVE TO do.

No matter how tough my first month in Malaysia has been, I can see clearly now that it was the right thing for me to do, to follow my calling. I have done here the work, I had always dreamed of doing. My work here has been like a huge hobby. Of course nothing is perfect and sometimes stress goes quite high taking care of the smallest premature infants, but my work with the babies, the support I can give to the parents, the work with the students, the many international contacts, my social life in Malaysia; I have truly no regrets up to now. Looking back, I still feel that this was the path that I had to walk, perhaps a road not very much traveled. 

I have a small message for my younger friends: if you have an ideal, a calling, please follow your calling. You may be choosing the more difficult path but following your calling, somehow the universe or our God will take care of you and let you thrive in the work of your dreams. I wish you all the very best in achieving your calling.  

PS: Some time ago, I wrote a small poem on calling: 
and please read the comments below it from spiritual seeker and Martin O'Neall 


I have a sister blog with inspirational quotes
If you have time, please pay this little sis a short visit:
I have also a brother blog with small prayers for the big world
If you have time, please pay this little bro a short visit:


  1. Thank you for the very nice sharing! You should write a book on that!

    This reminds me of Buckminster Fuller's quote:
    "We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims"

  2. Always inspiring, thanks prof :)

  3. Thank you Prof
    *shedding tears*
    You're such an inspiration. :')


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