Monday, August 14, 2006

Journey to Excellence

This Memoir is not complete without me sharing how God has started the PhD with me and carried it on to completion.

It all began in 2002 - 4 years ago. The idea to do the PhD was actually shared to me by two of my ex-colleagues. One of them is a PhD holder, whereas the other one was pursuing it. Both seem to have more confident in me, than myself. They gave me some ideas on the areas of research as well. I shared these thoughts with my prayer partners - Luan and Yoke Kheng. My Growth Group members prayed with me as well. Since then, they have been praying faithfully for me. We prayed for God's confirmation through open doors and various opportunities. I needed the right research area, the right University, and supervisor.

Moreover, the commitment is considered long - about 3 years. My desire is to do it to honour and glorify God. As I am in the education line, it is a natural progression for me as well. But I desired to be in God's will, and I sought His Words for confirmation. As I seek, these verses came to me -

2 Peter 1:5-9
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;
6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;
7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

Ironically, these verses were first shared to me by my Mentor - Aunty Luan, during our bible study together. The part about making every effort to add to knowledge convicted me about pursuing the PhD. Yup, pursuing PhD is about increasing my knowledge. Through this, I envisaged that it would increase my opportunities to serve God. With these verses, I felt more confident.

I began to read up articles and journals on the Internet, and did a bit of research on my own. Eventually, I discovered my interest in Intelligent Tutoring Systems. My first choice was to pursue the PhD with one of my College's partner University. That didn't materialize because of the high tuition fee. By faith, in 2003, I applied for the College Staff Study Grant, and the grant was approved on 17 March 2003. As part of the Study Grant, I was paid RM1500 a year for book allowance. During the period when I was pursuing my programme of study under the Study Grant, I was given a day a month as special leave to conduct my research or meet up with my supervisor. I was also given a special 3 weeks at the end-stage of my study programme to enable me to prepare my dissertation.

After signing up for the Study Grant, I was still praying for an open door - University and supervisor. Then, something happened. I became pregnant. I was feeling really excited - to be a mother and doing the PhD at the same time. Prayers continued - for strength. However, it was not God's time yet for a baby. I had a miscarriage. It was a painful experience. But God was there. My family and church members were there to support me. I could still keep on singing - "Lord You are good, You are good. And Your mercy forever endures."

Months past by. Praise the Lord! The door was finally opened. My friend Yoke Lai introduced me to her supervisor at the University of Malaya (UM). Surprisingly, her supervisor has the same research interest as me - Intelligent Tutoring Systems. I sent him my proposal. He accepted it and within a month or two I registered myself with UM. That was in July 2003.

So, I officially started my research after my registration. I conducted literature review for about one year. With the encouragement from my supervisor, I commenced the writing of the dissertation as I reviewed existing research. Eventually, I came up with a proper problem statement. Of course, I persevered on in prayers - prayed for more wisdom.

James 1:5
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

I completed the literature review in 2003. With the help of one of my ex-students, the development of the system began in 2004. We met almost every week to discuss the development. He is indeed a wonderful brother in Christ. We shared our struggles with one another, and often encouraged each other through prayers.

God gave us a surprise gift. I was pregnant again! I was actually more fearful than excited when I first discovered the pregnancy. I had doubts as well. More prayers continued. I got through the first trimester of the pregnancy. Miraculously, I didn't suffer much morning sickness. I was able to continue with my research. God's strength was even more evident. As the development of the system continued, more and more bugs appeared. Things looked discouraging and I was looking for a breakthrough in my research. During these dark times, sister Selvi encouraged me with this verse...

Philippians 1:6
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Amen to that! What God has started, he will bring it to completion. To me, it was a promise from God. There were times I wanted to postpone my research or even give up the whole thing. Two other things kept me baby and my Study Grant. If I failed to complete my PhD within the stipulated time stated in the Grant, which is 3 years, I might need to pay compensation to the College! I couldn't afford that. So, I must complete it. The baby growing within has also motivated me to finish it once and for all.

Little by little, I experienced breakthroughs in my research. Eventually, the errors were fixed and I started the evaluation of the system in October 2005. Praise the Lord that the results were positive. Otherwise, I really don't know what to do. With that, I commenced the writing of the remaining chapters of my dissertation. Thank God that my mum came and she helped me to proofread. She is a super mum! She gave me ideas for my Introduction as well.

During the whole time, I prayed for the perfect delivery time for my baby Jordan. I was afraid that he would want to come out earlier but he didn't. He was late but a wonderful timing from God. He was with me as I spent long hours at night writing my dissertation. He had probably complained because I often experienced minor 'earthquakes' in my tummy area.

Finally, I submitted my first draft to my supervisor almost one week before I gave birth to Jordan. Seng Chor helped me with the submission. One week after Jordan's birth, my supervisor gave me the feedback. With God's strength once again, I made all the changes and additions during my confinement. Seng Chor actually had to meet up with my supervisor. My supervisor explained to him all the required changes. Seng Chor didn't really understand the whole thing, but he just nodded, and related them to me. :)

Amazingly, I submitted the final draft before Christmas. Because of that, I don't have to pay for another semester's fee. That was just the first hurdle - the most difficult one.

Yes, God was faithful. He gave us a surprise gift last year - Jordan, and this year my PhD award. I believed that he has more in store for me.

Proverbs 3:5-6
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Psalms 37:4
Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.


1 comment:

Ken said...

Yes Amen, our God is an awesome God.
Jesus be blessed.