Ejuen: Faith at the Front Lines

Ejuen Lee, 26, found her calling in medicine when she came to a Melbourne church conference. There, they played a video about children in need and something moved in her, changing her forever.   “At that point, God just broke my heart,” she says. “I knew this was something I wanted to do.”   Three years later, Ejuen finds herself working night shifts at the COVID ward. Being a frontline worker, she mentions how grateful she is that the situation in Australia is a lot more stable than in other countries. Shortage of medical equipment is not an issue and emergency rooms are not overflowing with patients. Overall, she has encountered four positive patients in two different hospitals.    “There is some heightened anxiety for sure,” she explains. “But we also acknowledge that Australia is quite good. It’s pretty well-controlled.”   Ejuen tells me that she has been pretty lucky.    “Honestly, I’m grateful that I still have a job and I still get paid. I think this is [also] just the time that people get to help one another.”   One problem, she points out, is how isolated COVID ward patients are, and how this affects their mentality. Being surrounded by people in masks and facing a potentially fatal disease alone is challenging for anyone.   “When you’re in the COVID ward [the patients are] isolated and there’s all the stigma. You’re meant to have minimal interaction with them, so it can be quite a scary time. They’re all alone in the hospital. That’s what I’m praying about before going into my shifts, so I remember in the small interactions we have that I can still bring a bit of hope and joy.”   When asked how she remains positive in this period, she simply answers, “I get lots of comments about how ‘you’re always happy, you’re always smiling, you need to share whatever it is that you’ve got’. And I’m like, well, I can. It’s God.”

Jance: A Life of Recovery and Not Looking Back

Jance Deiker, 42, lives a life filled with love. 20 years have gone by since his recovery, yet his life of drugs, music, and sex doesn’t seem so long ago as he recalls his old ways.   Everyone looks for self-love and a sense of identity. When asked what started his drug habit, he answered, “70s and 80s rock bands were my inspiration, and I fell in love with the idea of becoming like them. At one point, I found my answer in drugs.”   He continued to describe how he spiraled further into drugs. “Using drugs made me feel like my life is awesome. It allowed me to see life from a different angle, it expanded my creativity horizon, it made me feel like I could slow down life as I like it. It made me feel at peace with myself.”   Despite feeling like he was on top of the world, the people around him knew he needed help. However, when a therapist was provided, he denied the need for one. “What was the need for a therapist when I feel like my life has never been better?” He could not have known the euphoria was only temporary.   As with drugs, all highs were followed by a comedown. He went through a paranoid phase for a month where he was isolated, thought he had lost his mind, and felt as if the world was coming for him and his loved ones. His whole identity that came from his desire to become like the 70s and 80s rock bands were instantly stripped away when he had no choice but to stop using. He felt–and was–lost.   During his path to recovery, Jance traveled to Japan for a year. It was there that he found the true value of his relationships. “It was funny how during my drug-filled days, I became distant with my family. And after my recovery, most of my friends who had used drugs with me since high school were instantly gone.” He realised that for his recovery to stay permanent, he needed to reprogram his mindset to heal and rediscover who he was.   His relationship with God made him discover his true self, helping him reconcile with himself. “Relationships became primary in my life. I built relationships that are healthier after my recovery,” ones that were with the right people, himself, and God.   When I asked whether he was ever tempted to return to drugs, he chuckled and answered with no hesitation, “Never”.        

Weng Yew: On Passion, Clouds and Self-Discovery

A dash of white and grey, feathers ruffling on the wings of a bird, rushing past the image. And beside it, its twin, except softer, the light less contrasted, less in a hurry. A bird reaching the shore and taking a moment to rest. ‘In your light I learn how to love’ - like a final sigh, a quote by Rumi completes the photograph. After ten years of experimenting, Wong Weng Yew, 35, has found something in clouds that reflects the way he looks at life. “Clouds make you think of the movement of time. They are there for one moment and they quickly disappear. It shows us that things are not permanent,” he says. The idea behind his art is to make people pause. To make them look twice at reality. What do you see when you use a different lens, a different exposure button? This reflection also influences the way he looks at relationships. “When you see both images, they’re actually the same cloud. Part of the idea of putting them together is that I want the viewers to experience this tension that exists between the images. They are the same, and yet they are different.” There is a subtle unease, Weng Yew describes, in personal relationships when he rubs shoulders with someone who is too similar. “If I am competitive and I see someone else who is very competitive, I will view that person as not very friendly. But then I realise, after taking such photos and putting them together, that perhaps the reason I don’t feel comfortable with them is because they are too much like me.”