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“I was told I was doomed to fail”: Belinda Lee’s journey from insecurity to purpose

by | 26 January 2018, 2:20 PM

Artiste-host Belinda Lee is no stranger to most Singaporeans. You’ve seen her on TV, at the Star Awards (where she was voted one of Mediacorp’s Top 10 Most Popular Female Artistes four times), in adverts for her various endorsement deals, and even on the cover of the book she authored.

But while she seems to permanently be in the limelight, her past was far from glorious.

“I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth,” Belinda shares.

Belinda’s parents had three children to feed – she was the youngest. To make ends meet, Belinda’s mother took on various odd jobs, ranging from babysitting to sewing umbrellas, to folding joss paper or drying ikan bilis in baskets under the sun.

Each job paid a meagre wage – hence, every dollar and cent Belinda’s parents earned was precious.

“I felt that no one loved me, that I was nobody’s child.”

“As children, we were taught to be as thrifty as possible. My schoolmates would buy a few sets of school uniforms a year – but I could only afford one set a year. And I had to wear my school shoes till they were completely worn out and had holes in them.”

She adds: “Because of that, I was often judged and looked down upon by my school teachers and friends. Because of my shabby appearance.”

For example, Belinda says, as a Primary 1 pupil, there was an occasion when Primary 6 seniors came to bring their juniors to the canteen. One by one, they picked other children, until in the end, Belinda was the only one left in the classroom.

“没人选我。没人带我去吃东西。我觉得好难过,很伤心 。” I was so sad that no one chose me.

“At seven years old, I picked myself up and went to the canteen to eat alone.”

PICKED ON AT SCHOOL

She didn’t just feel judged by her fellow students, but by teachers as well. A teacher once made her stand on a bench as punishment, in front of her classmates.

“It was like I was standing on a stage so that everybody could see me. My teacher pointed her finger at me and told everyone that I was a bad role model. She said, ‘Don’t be messy like her! Look at her – she’s like a jungle girl. You must never be like her.'”

Aged about 8 or 9, young Belinda learnt the meaning of humiliation.

“I had never felt so ashamed, so rejected, and so condemned in my life. I felt that no one loved me, that I was nobody’s child,” she says.

“Since young, I’ve always yearned for acceptance, but no matter how hard I tried to please others, I was never accepted.

“I never had any words of affirmation when I was a little girl. I grew up believing that I was a low-life – people told me I would be doomed to fail when I grew up.”

INSECURE IN LOVE AND WORK

And true enough, life as a grown-up did not get any better. Belinda admitting to looking for love and acceptance in the wrong places.

“I had one failed relationship after another, and I’m not proud of it. All I was searching for was security and a sense of belonging with the man whom I was with,” she confesses.

She plunged deeper into darkness after each broken relationship. With her love life in a mess, her career wasn’t doing much better, with Belinda battling deep insecurity in her early years in the entertainment industry.

“I was very concerned with how people would look at me – do they like me? Do they not like me? The public’s opinion mattered so much to me that I became a people-pleaser. I would only say yes, and I would never say no. I didn’t dare to stand up for myself.

“I was afraid of offending or rejecting other people because I was afraid of being rejected.”

“Some would see me on the streets, come up to me, and tell it in my face that they would switch channels whenever they see me on TV.”

This led to her taking on projects she wasn’t comfortable with. In her own words, “I wasn’t exactly in my element hosting wacky variety shows. I just didn’t know how to be strong and to be something that I wasn’t.”

And if she didn’t like her own performance, the audience felt it all the more.

Recalls Belinda: “Some would see me on the streets, come up to me, and tell it in my face that they would switch channels whenever they see me on TV.”

It got so bad that Belinda was once voted “turn-off of the year” by a local newspaper.

“It was a very big blow to me. I tried my best, but my best was never good enough.”

Over time, she grew detached from work. Belinda was miserable – and on the verge of giving up.

FINDING HOPE

“I was still living life and resolving issues based on my own strength, but I was so tired,” she recalls. She was a Christian by then, but “still had no faith in God”. She questioned God: Did He even know or care about her situation at all?

She slipped into depression and wanted to end it all – both her work and her life.

At this lowest point of Belinda’s career, her company called her and told her about a new travel show, Find Me A Singaporean, which required her to travel off the beaten track around the world in search of Singaporeans in unique places.

But even this silver lining began with a dark cloud. “The reason they chose me was because another host wasn’t available. I thought to myself, ‘Huh? Why am I always the second choice? Why can’t I be the first choice?'”

Why am I always the second choice, she wondered. When Belinda hung up the phone, she wrestled with God.

“If this is a project that is planned by You and given by You, then You perform a miracle,” she told Him.

“I told Him what I wanted. I said I wanted the show to be on prime time, so that it would touch and impact the lives of many. That was my specific prayer,” Belinda recalls.

God answered that prayer. Find Me A Singaporean was aired on prime time. Starting with an airtime of half an hour, it got so popular that it later became an hour-long show.

“Most importantly, the stories that we featured were so inspirational that many viewers wrote in to share with us how impacted they were by the show.”

For example, while filming an episode in a rooftop shanty town in Hong Kong, Belinda realised that it was a misconception that Hong Kong is a city of affluence. In reality, poverty exists in Hong Kong too – families live in cramped rooms on the rooftops, in fear of bad typhoons. These houses are easily destroyed in extreme weather.

In that tiny, rickety house, Belinda allowed her conscience and emotions to guide her. Through hosting Find Me A Singaporean, Belinda experienced God’s overflowing love and compassion for the poor and needy.

“For the very first time in my life, I felt that I could afford to be the real Belinda on TV. While filming, I could cry whenever I was moved, and smile or laugh whenever I was happy. I didn’t have to pretend to be something that I am not,” says Belinda.

BROKEN TO BE A BLESSING

She says it was then she came to understand how her difficult childhood and numerous setbacks in life helped her grow a heart of empathy.

“If I had never tasted what it was like to be poor, rejected, condemned, abused and depressed, I would never have been able to understand and feel the pain of the people whom I have interviewed, and even weep silently with them.”

Now, Belinda believes that God worked through her brokenness to prepare her for His work.

“God has chosen to use my past hurts and weaknesses for His greater purpose. He has seen me go through brokenness, so that I can be used as His vessel to reach out to the broken-hearted, to be a mouthpiece for Him, to be a voice for the voiceless, the rejected, abandoned, wounded and depressed,” reasons Belinda.

“It was very, very clear that all God wanted for me to do was to stop pleasing the world, just go please Him alone.”

Through her travelogue, Belinda also had the opportunity to become the goodwill ambassador for World Vision, a non-profit Christian humanitarian organisation – a role she remains involved in. Her experiences with her travelogue also inspired her to write her book, Larger Than Life: Celebrating the Human Spirit.

In 2016, Larger Than Life won Popular book store’s Readers’ Choice Award.

Says Belinda, who had grown accustomed to rejection, of the accolade: “I was overwhelmed.”

SCHOOL OF FAITH

As she closer and closer to God, Belinda felt a desire to go to Bible school.

“I took that leap of faith and took six months of no-pay leave. But many people talked to me and told me, ‘Belinda, are you crazy? It’s not a wise move if you want to do well in the industry. You shouldn’t take leave. You should work very, very hard.'”

But for the first time in Belinda’s life, she “did not go around seeking advice and approval”, she says.

Twenty-eight days after Belinda started school, she attended Mediacorp’s annual Star Awards ceremony. She went to the awards ceremony with Matthew 6:33 – Seek HIM first! – engraved in her heart, and ended up bagging three awards that night.

She made sure to thank Yahweh – God – on stage.

“The reporters actually asked me who was that ‘Yahweh’ whom I thanked on stage,” Belinda says, laughing at the memory of how the media thought it was the name of some romantic interest.

“It was clear – it was very, very clear that all God wanted for me to do was to stop pleasing the world, just go please Him alone.”

OUT OF THE COMFORT ZONE

Belinda left Mediacorp at the beginning of 2017, a choice she made in order to get out of her comfort zone, to pursue a greater purpose in life.

“Was it difficult? Yes. Was it a struggle? Yes. Did I take a long time to think about it? Yes,” she admits.

“But I knew I had to do this. I chose to get out of my comfort zone to pursue a greater purpose in life.”

She appreciates the freedom of being able to decide on her schedule, so she can prioritise serving God. The lack of a fixed contract means she’s learnt how to depend more on God, to trust Him no matter what.

It’s a lesson she is learning how to apply in every area of her life. As she looks back at the mistakes she’s made, and sees how her life has turned around, she knows it can only be the grace of God at work.

“I gave my heart to all the wrong people. They abused it, even crushed it, and threw it away,” she says.

“But the moment I gave my heart to Jesus, not only does He cherish it, He actually engraved my name in the palm of His hand (Isaiah 49:16) – that’s how much I knows He loves me.”

/ eudora@thir.st

Eudora found herself writing on public platforms by chance. Apart from writing, she likes many random things, including spoken word poetry, adult colouring books, tea, stationery and fresh, clean laundry.

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Billy Graham dead at 99

by | 21 February 2018, 9:29 PM

Billy Graham – probably the most well-known and influential evangelist of the past century – has died at the age of 99, according to various news sources.

He died at his home in North Carolina, according to a family spokesman.

Estimates suggest he preached to hundreds of millions of people in his lifetime, including tens of thousands at Singapore’s old National Stadium in a multi-day rally in 1978.

Graham, known as “America’s Pastor”, was a familiar face on TV and a much-loved voice on radio broadcasts in America. He was also honoured for his part in the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, alongside Rev Martin Luther King Jr.

/ edric@thir.st

Edric has spent a lifetime in mainstream and digital newsrooms, and has the waistline to prove it. He is a lapsed divemaster, a father to four and husband to one. Could use more sleep.

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Are you a part-time Christian?

by | 21 February 2018, 4:17 PM

I’m in the middle of a life transition, and the one question I keep getting is, “Are you going into full-time mission work?”

Well yes, I’m committing a fairly big portion of my life to YWAM. And I know what people mean when they ask me that, but still … What is full-time mission work exactly?

When we talk about full-time mission work, are we just referring to giants of the faith like missionaries, pastors and church workers?

I wonder, if there’s such a thing called full-time mission work, does that mean that there is part-time mission work? Part-time mission work must be for part-time Christians who only serve in ministry once a week, like cell group leaders – or that sweet old lady who plays the piano for the benediction on Sundays!

Just to be clear, I was trying my hand at satire back there.

But this is serious: Many of us have restricted our relationship with God to a weekly affair on Sundays, when He wants the other days too. Indeed, He wants your entire life! God is far too large to be reduced to a time-slot in a schedule that revolves around you – He wants your whole life to revolve around Him.

So this is the truth about our walk with God and our service to Him: Whether you’re holding a microphone or a mop – God wants to make your work count for the Kingdom.

Lay aside all your titles: You are first and foremost a child of God. So it is not the duty of “giants of faith” to preach the gospel. Every Christian must carry the mandate of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15).

We are all charged with the responsibility of evangelism. Ours is the missional life wherever we are.

Does that mean that we have to be constantly talking about Jesus with our colleagues?

Well, the simple answer is no. We must, however, be constantly communicating who Jesus is. And to be clear: That’s something everyone can and should do.

How? One way is by having a spirit of excellence. Martin Luther once said, “The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”

So one way to shine our light as Christians (Matthew 5:16) is to produce fantastic work – so that others will see and glorify God in heaven. But there mustn’t be a speck of self-glorification, it’s all about Him.

Good Christian work isn’t about slapping a “Jesus” sticker onto the product. Good Christian work is going the extra mile, not cutting corners, working excellently – excellence which reflects the God you serve.


Another way is to imitate Christ (Matthew 5:48) wherever we are. To that end, there are many questions we could ask ourselves.

  • How can I show compassion to my sister?
  • How can I show mercy to my brother?
  • How can I show grace to the new intern?
  • How can I show humility to my boss?

These are a just a few questions to get your ball rolling. But they must be asked every day in our constant walk with God.

If I am the best Christian in Church on Sunday, but a wife-beater on Monday night – I’m a part-time Christian. If I’m a penitent sinner in my men’s group on Wednesday night, but see no issue in ogling girls on the train home – I’m a part-time Christian.

The last thing I want for you, after reading this article, is to walk away feeling condemned. What I desire is for you to go full-time. Yes, be a full-time Christian!

From the big things like your career, to the smaller things like what you’ll eat for dinner – involve God! Do it all unto His glory. He cares. The question is if we really believe that.

In Abraham’s time, whenever the Israelites presented a sacrifice to God, the animals sacrificed had to be perfect – no blemishes whatsoever. So when we present ourselves as living sacrifices to God in worship (Romans 12:1), we must strive for godly perfection in every area of our lives as we align ourselves to Him.

You are a missionary wherever God puts you. If God means everything to you, He will be in everything you do. Go and be a full-time Christian.

/ roytay@thir.st

Roy has a peculiar appreciation for subtle wordplay, an inexplorable passion for competitive sports, and an insatiable hunger for delicious food.

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Faith

What I learnt from pottery making

by Darius Leow | 21 February 2018, 10:33 AM

On a backpacking trip to Vietnam recently, I had the opportunity to try pottery making.

I’ve sang “The Potter’s Hand” many times in church, and I’ve heard many sermons about the Potter in Jeremiah 18 – but actually trying to shape pottery myself gave me a deeper appreciation of both the song and chapter.

I’d like to share three things God taught me in my day at the pottery village.

1. Moulding often feels like it is about me – but it’s not

Moulding clay looked easy to me. It seemed like all that was involved was to moisten your fingers and spin the wheel. But it wasn’t nearly as simple.

As I had no experience making pottery, an in-house potter was assigned to assist me. Despite professional guidance, I still struggled to shape the clay into the design I had in mind.

Spinning the wheel while applying pressure onto the clay required a lot of concentration. One mistake would mar the work, in which case you’d have have to restart the entire moulding process.

“But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.” (Jeremiah 18:4)

Imagine we are the clay: When we think of being moulded by God, what comes to mind is how painful and difficult the process might feel.

But I learnt in the workshop, that the process is not so much about me as it is the potter. God is the one in control. The process might feel painful, but it is necessary if we want to see God’s design and destiny come to pass in our lives.

2. The potter’s design guides the moulding process

No potter goes to the wheel not having a specific design in mind. It is the potter’s intended design that guides the entire moulding process.

““O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.” (Jeremiah 18:6)

In Jeremiah 18, God’s intended design for Israel was to hand them over to the Babylonians to be chastened – so they would turn away from their idolatrous ways and back to God (Jer 18:11).

I like how Warren Wiersbe puts it: “God uses many different hands to mould our lives.” Just as Israel is in God’s hand, so are we. It’s true, God uses many ways to carry out His moulding.

Perhaps like Israel, your season of moulding is God’s way of turning you away from the allures of this world and back to Him. Or it may be that He wants to equip you for His work.

Whatever it is may look like, God has a specific design for our lives. When we are malleable, He will see it done.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

3. Every piece is a unique reflection of the potter

Pottery making requires patience. I had to wait to see my finished work, because after the wheel stopped turning, I had to send my pottery into the fire to be baked. Then it had to be cooled, followed by a number of other steps.

But what a feeling it was to see and to hold my finished piece, knowing that just moments before it was just a formless lump of clay! As I looked at my work, it was as though I could see myself in it. Its edges and faces reflected my own personality, style and preferences.

The same goes for our Potter. We are all made in the image of God, yet each of us are unique and special in our own way. Some show the world a glimpse of Christ’s tenderheartedness through gentle and encouraging words, others His creativity through music, art and poetry. What do you show?

We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works and make Him known to all the earth (Ephesians 2:10). We are daily moulded through unique experiences and training grounds to make us more Christlike – more like our Potter.

If your season of moulding is proving extremely difficult, take heart. Shift your focus away from yourself to your Potter because He knows best. Know for sure that all of our days are held in His hands.

In faith, ask the Potter to help you say: “Take me, mould me, use me, fill me. I give my life to your hands.”

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“Clean Hands, Pure Hearts and Beautiful Feet”: Bringing Good News to the next generation

by Emily Soh | 21 February 2018, 10:27 AM

When given the proposition to write short stories for a children’s book – based on true accounts of missionaries sent from Singapore as early as in the sixties – my first thought was: “But I don’t write stories.”

Sure, I considered myself a writer, but creative non-fiction for children was uncharted waters. Thankfully, the hesitation stemming from my feelings of inadequacy did not last for long. I became intrigued by the opportunity to write the stories of men and women who heeded God’s call to surrender their lives for His purposes – to do good in the world and demonstrate God’s love for all peoples.

God provided me with a two-month window to concentrate on this project. The entire process to produce the book took much longer, of course – but it was great timing.

The book is a work which resonates with Christ’s prayer for His followers “to be one” – unity – as it cuts across denominational lines. It shows us the broad scope of missionary work that has been afoot since the sixties, detailing the stories of missionaries sent from our tiny island to far-flung places and how they served.

Children’s stories have great mileage – they travel with them for the rest of their lives.

Then there was the flight of imagination required. One example was the mystical and treacherous landscapes in Papua New Guinea. When such a locale was first described to me, I found myself thinking, “How can I convey this sublime beauty that could capture the imagination of children?” And in another story, “How can I portray a wartime scene that could relate to children, yet at the same time retain its raw authenticity?”

The writing may fall short of doing justice to these people, places and experiences. But I’m praying it will allow the children to imagine the wondrous world of God, while not shying away from accurate depicting a world that is scarred by sin, injustice and cruelty.

Children’s stories have great mileage – they travel with them for the rest of their lives. That’s the power of stories which engage children intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. Powerful storytelling inspires curiosity, provokes thinking and provides children with a counterpoint for the harsh realities of the world they will encounter.

We are praying that this book will inspire children to receive the fullness of what God has prepared for them as they grow up. With clean hands, pure hearts and beautiful feet – they can be a light to the world wherever their journeys take them.

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” (Isaiah 52:7)


Written by Flora Man and Emily Soh, and illustrated by Jearn Ko, “Clean Hands, Pure Hearts and Beautiful Feet” is a children’s book featuring 10 inspiring stories of Singaporean missionaries serving in different parts of the world. If you are interested, you can visit their page to purchase a copy, or send them an email for further enquiries.

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by Senior Pastor Jeffrey Chong, Hope Church Singapore | 20 February 2018, 11:08 AM


The illustration used in the video was adapted from a sermon by Pastor Michael Strickland from The Cove Church


TWO NATURES

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” (Galatians 5:16-17)

The Bible shows us that there are two natures: One of the Spirit and one of the flesh. But we can only have one.  If we really want to see life transformation, we need more of the Spirit because what the flesh desires is contrary to what the Spirit desires. They are in conflict with each other.

“Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:26)

As vessels of God, what we need to do is flee the evil desires of the flesh and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace. When we have more of God – there is less of ourselves. Where there is more of the Spirit – there is less of the flesh.

It’s one or the other.

SEALED AND DELIVERED

If we’ve received Jesus into our lives as our Lord and Saviour, the Bible says that we’ve received a seal of the promise of God.

“And who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” (2 Corinthians 1:22)

But there’s another experience that God wants us to have in our Christian walk – it’s the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says that we will be filled – to the brim – with the Holy Spirit!

That’s not all there is to it. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, though we may have changed, we are not removed from our usual environments that test our responses or reactions.

So we will react either according to our “old self” or respond through our “new self” which is being renewed in the knowledge of God. If we are not in step with the Spirit, it’s easy for us to respond in the flesh.

1. Anger
Whether you’re driving on the road or responding to your children: Are you aware of the situations and things that tend to draw anger out of you? Are you an angry person? Even though we are filled with the Holy Spirit, anger can seep into our lives through cracks and open windows of impatience and intolerance.

2. Self-righteousness
When you place white vinegar in a glass jar, it looks just like water. But vinegar stinks. We may look like water on the outside but we’re not.  We can do many Christian things yet still have a spirit of self-righteousness – trust and reliance on ourselves instead of the grace of God.

3. Jealousy
Things get nastier when you throw jealousy into the mix. Some of us get jealous when others do better than us: We write off others’ successes and we point fingers at them. We cannot stand not being the best. Don’t let jealousy make you a miserable person.

4. Other sinful desires  
Lastly, there are the darker things that we may not talk about openly – or at all. Things like adultery, pornography, stealing and backstabbing. These desires belong to our fleshly nature.

In order to keep in step with the Spirit and defeat our fleshly nature, we can’t just be filled with the Spirit one time. We need to continually be filled and continually be empowered so that God’s light won’t dull in us.

Think about the first thing you do in the morning. Do you reach for your smartphone or for the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit? Each morning, tell the Holy Spirit, “Speak and I’ll listen. Lead and I’ll follow.”

Jesus said, “Let those who are thirsty come to me and drink, and out of your belly will come out an abundant flow of the Holy Spirit.” When we are continually filled with the Holy Spirit, not only are we filled – Jesus says we will be filled until we overflow!

By the continual empowerment of the Holy Spirit – through the overflow of our revived heart – we can bring revival everywhere we go: Our homes, schools, army camps, and workplaces.


This article was adapted from a sermon first preached on Jan 14, 2018, by Senior Pastor Jeffrey Chong of Hope Church Singapore.

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Article list

“I was told I was doomed to fail”: Belinda Lee’s journey from insecurity to purpose

Billy Graham dead at 99

Are you a part-time Christian?

What I learnt from pottery making

“Clean Hands, Pure Hearts and Beautiful Feet”: Bringing Good News to the next generation

Empowered for a purpose