It takes a miracle to feed a whole village – and we did
by Kaiting Teo | 11 December 2017, 4:44 PM
There’s a good chance you’ve heard of the story about how God multiplied five loaves and two fish to feed 5000 people (John 6:1-14).
If you haven’t, it goes something like this: Thousands of people had gathered to listen to Jesus and be healed from their sicknesses, and after a long day out in the hills, Jesus asks His disciples how they were going to feed them.
The question is rhetorical because He already has a plan, but the disciples respond with their own logic, telling Him there’s no way to get food out in the countryside, and even if they did it’ll cost them thousands of dollars, which they don’t have.
Jesus persists and tells them they were to feed the people anyway, and one of them brings to Him a little boy who was willing to offer Jesus His packed lunch of five barley loaves and two fish. Jesus then prayed over the bread and gave it to His disciples to distribute. They not only feed the 5000 people present, they have 12 baskets leftover after the world’s greatest picnic ends!
I wouldn’t blame you if you’re wondering if that actually happened. But today I have no doubt God’s power, because I’ve experienced that amazing scene myself.
Last year, I took part in a school trip to Cambodia. On our last day there, we had a “cultural night” where we cooked for the villagers and celebrated with them.
As the time for the big dinner drew near, everyone was busy cooking and getting the dining hall ready. Things weren’t off to a great start as it was raining very heavily and there was a chance that our programme had to be cancelled.
Anxiety built even further when twice the number of families than we’d prepared food for showed up – almost 200 families. We were certain there wouldn’t be enough to feed everyone.
However, God always makes a way out.
Serve My people and I will provide for you in abundance. I was sure I heard Him speak to my worried heart, but I wasn’t sure what He meant. Joining my team as we distributed the food to them, I felt faith arise that with the Lord, we’d have more than enough to give … somehow.
I wanted to show them God’s love, even if what I had to offer was so little.
As I gave out bowl after bowl of chicken curry, I made it a point to smile and pat their shoulder, believing even the smallest gestures of love would bless them. I wanted to show them God’s love, even if what I had to offer was so little.
You wouldn’t believe it – and we barely could either – but at the end of the night, there were so much leftover food that there was enough to feed my whole team, our lecturers and every household in that village.
The rain didn’t stop the whole evening, but as the festivities and laughter swelled in the small community hall, I sensed the presence of the Lord moving in that place, and my heart was so full. I never forgot what I learnt about the God of the so-much-more through that simple dinner.
The same God who multiplied the five loaves and two fish is still providing for us in abundance today – we simply have to place our faith in Him.
This is a submission from a participant of our Christmas Gift Exchange. From now till the end of December 2017, we are giving away a limited edition Thir.st Tumbler in exchange for every story on the Christmas themes of love, joy, peace, hope and giving. Click here to find out more.
Christopher Chng is a 27-year-old Youth Worker at a local Methodist Church. Prior to his entry into full-time ministry, he was part of a discipleship training programme with missions organisation YWAM (Youth With a Mission) after graduating from the University at Buffalo, New York with a Bachelors of Arts in Communication studies.
I was 22, fresh out of military service and at a young Methodist leaders conference when I first received that much-spoken-about burning sensation in my heart. That struggling-to-respond moment when a speaker called forth young leaders with a passion to serve God full time.
I did not want to accept it at first, but in the mix of confusion and excitement – mostly confusion – I responded and stood up for prayer.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into, in fact, in my zeal, I shortly wanted to head straight to the nearest local seminary, but both my Church mentors and parents told me to wait and pursue a local degree first. This was the first testing of my full-time ministry calling.
What followed was a testing of my faith and identity. During my two years in university I started to lose sight of this call and, furthermore, was growing discouraged in my faith in God. I was starting to make plans to live a “normal” life with a job that wasn’t full-time ministry, not traditionally anyway.
It was in early 2014 – amidst the uncertainty of what I wanted to do upon graduation – that I had a prompting in my heart to join YWAM and do a 6-month discipleship programme with them. After praying about it and processing my decision with my Church, a few days after the last exam paper of my university life, I flew to join YWAM Perth in July 2015.
After the six months, I joined YWAM on staff and was based in Perth. There, I participated in a worship ministry, joined the staff team of the same programme and led a 3-month outreach.
Outdoor worship with YWAM Perth
But being a part of YWAM Perth had been an uphill battle. I was battling against my parents’ wishes for me to stay in Singapore and against a culture of financial stability as I had to raise support for my finances every month.
In my parents’ pre-believing eyes, I was begging for money and they had no idea why I had to travel so often to other countries, many of them unsafe in their eyes.
My friends and mentors from my Church also had differing opinions. Some discouraged me from going, others encouraged me to think about it carefully so as to not regret anything. It was a tough decision, but after God’s divine provision of the necessary finances, I made up my mind and officially joined YWAM in 2016.
My time in Perth were some of my best years. Being able to pursue my passion in music and getting trained by some of the best musicians I know, all while living and breathing the Great Commission of making disciples of all nations with a vibrant and loving community … I was living the life. The full-time ministry life.
I received hurtful comments like “welcome back to the real world”,as if life in Perth had been an illusion – or my delusion.
But soon after I was unexpectedly re-routed back home due to a family emergency. It was the second test to my full-time ministry calling.
I had to make the painful decision of leaving my YWAM family and coming home. And if that weren’t bad enough, I even received hurtful comments like “welcome back to the real world”,as if life in Perth had been an illusion – or my delusion.
Unbeknownst to me at that time, God had different plans. While I was wallowing in my frustrations of being back in Singapore, He opened the door for me to join my local church as a Youth Worker. One thing led to another, and I found myself still able to serve full-time in Christian ministry back home.
Of course, there were still many new challenges that presented themselves. Here are a few lessons I’ve carved out for myself.
Campus ministry time
LESSONS FROM A MILLENNIAL MINISTRY WORKER
1. Expect some loneliness
One of the early challenges I faced was the loneliness of full-time ministry. If you work in Church, you might not see your volunteer team mates from Monday to Friday. I found it hard to work and move things forward when I could only see my team on the weekends.
And when I started to apportion my weekends for meetings with my youth, I stopped meeting up with my peers, who also only had the weekends to hang out and chill.
It’s thus important to surround yourself with like-minded Kingdom warriors who carry their crosses for the sake of Christ. They will be your most loving and understanding support group.
2. Know the point of your work
I had to reconcile within myself that the work I’m doing, despite not being a regular 9 to 5 job, has eternal significance. The work of discipleship that Jesus calls all of us to is investing in relationships – in people and their spiritual growth.
We can miss this crucial point when we busy ourselves with too much programme, especially as ministry workers. You could very well become an efficient events coordinator and an ineffective minister of God’s grace.
3. Create space for yourself
One of the biggest things that I struggled with in the first few months (and still do) was creating a healthy space for myself to care for my own soul. I tend to pack my schedules with meeting people and never-ending work – and am usually left with little energy to exercise, listen to music or even just rest!
So I’ve had to forcibly create space for self care, and I highly recommend it. Do things that refresh you, whether its art, music, exercise, movies, reading or sleeping. You are equally important.
4. Always keep God in the picture
The most important takeaway that I’ve gained from this journey is that my faith and relationship with God is key to the entire process.
It was through personal meditation on Scripture and spending time journalling my ups and downs that the wisdom and understanding from God came through. It held me through the toughest times and guided my decision making.
As full-time ministers, we have an authority greater than our earthly bosses to stick close to, and that’s the Word of God – and the God of the Word. We need to spend time studying and pondering over what He’s saying in Scripture and speaking into our hearts.
5. Don’t give in to discouragement
I remember one time I preached what I thought was a terrible sermon and was flooded with thoughts of condemnation and discouragement.
When I prayed about it later that night, God deposited a simple truth in me, to not take myself too seriously and to keep my heart aligned with His through the tough times. That it was okay to be discouraged, to not have done well at times – but I needed to go easy on my heart and to follow Him closely through the journey.
So my fellow full-time ministers, take it from our Heavenly Boss: Enjoy the ride and don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh a lot and carry the joy of God in your heart wherever you go. That’s what people will remember you for.
If you are interested in finding out more about full-time ministry, feel free to drop us an email. For those interested in YWAM’s Discipleship Training School, you can visit their page here.
YWAM Singapore is a growing part of a dynamic global movement of mobilising the worldwide Church to reach the peoples of Asia. As a mission, they see themselves serving as a springboard from which many launch off into the Asian harvest fields.
If you haven’t heard it enough, welcome to 2018. I hope it’s been a good first few days for you.
There’s a fixed “budget” when it comes to days:We have only 365 each year. And we don’t get to “save” them up – they get spent no matter what.
So given that we have to spend our days, we should hope to get a good return on our investment. Annie Dillard puts it this way, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
This was in my year-end reflections: How much of what I do is out of self-interest, with no regard for others? And am I hard-hearted towards the poor?
“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:16)
This year, will we dare to ask ourselves these questions and answer them honestly, in order that we might become people who please God?
In the Bible, a group of religious people was asked to consider those same questions when they wanted to know why life wasn’t turning out the way they wanted to, even though they seemed to be doing everything right: They fasted, they asked God what they should do, and even seemed eager for God to come near them.
But in their preoccupation with rituals and self-gain, they could not see their hypocrisy and hard-heartedness towards the poor. They asked to be satisfied by God, but they withheld help and kindness from others.
Our call then is to stop blaming victims, stop gossiping about other people’s sins, stop condemning others, lend a hand instead of finding fault, put ourselves in the shoes of others and meet them where they are – love them.
It calls us to consider the commandment that carries as much weight as loving God: Loving our neighbour as ourselves. It is as true for us today as it was for them. When we ask to draw near to God, should we not also draw ourselves near to those whom He is near: The broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18).
But loving our neighbour requires the giving of ourselves – “Spend yourselves,” the Bible instructs.
“Do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk. Spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed.” (Isaiah 58:9-10)
We need to spend time in order to hear about a person’s day when no one else will, we need to be present when a lonely heart needs someone most, and we need empathy to see and understand the invisible hurt that has been inflicted upon the person in front of us.
“There are plenty of charities and soup kitchens there and people can get fed every half an hour. But such a charity model fosters a one-way relationship and a taking mentality.We believe that people’s hurt and brokenness occurs in the context of relationships and often their families, and so healing and transformation will also come in the context of relationships – healthy ones.”
(Craig Greenfield, founder of Alongsiders International)
Who knows if we will also receive healing and experience transformation through our willingness to step out in willing and confident obedience to God?
If we would yield our individuality to God, lay down our ideas and judgement of what people deserve or do not deserve, and simply do what He says, this is what He promises: “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58:11)
Don’t we want this to be a picture of our inner lives? God keeps His promises, so we can be sure that spending our days doing justice and loving mercy will yield the best return on investment.
What we have – it all comes from God. With God’s help, we can use what He has placed in our lives and in our hands so that the glory goes back to God.
“Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” (Isaiah 58:12)
Walls signify protection and dignity. But our city is surrounded by broken walls – do you see them? Think about the brokenness all around us: In homes, hearts, marriages and all types of relationships.
Is there anyone around us who needs protection? Is there anyone around us who needs dignity restored to them?
This is our year to stop with the gossip, turn away from condemnation, rest our pointing finger for good – and give of ourselves to those who need a healing touch, a helping hand, or even just a word of encouragement.
We’d be mistaken to think that the brokenness all around our city has nothing to do with us. The walls are broken, but God Himself is our Repairer and Restorer.
The God we serve? He is able to bring dead things to life and call into existence things that do not exist (Romans 4:17). If we answer the call to – with His help – be a repairer and restorer wherever we go, God will guide us and satisfy all our needs. It’s a promise. Trust Him.❤️
This December, I spent a week in a rural town on a mission trip.
As I wasn’t able to make the trip last year, I made an intentional commitment to go this year. I was eager to catch up from where I had left off with the locals two years ago.
But because this was my third trip … I knew what to expect. We’d plan Christmas events for the community there, conduct home visits and attend church with the local believers.
There were even more ideas and back-up plans beyond our planned programme. To me, we were more than well-prepared.
It was only when registration for the trip concluded and the group was finalised, that I realised that unlike previous years, the team was mostly comprised of first-timers.
This meant that the new team members were incredibly enthusiastic. They were also very curious and full of initiative. One even asked if she should get acquainted with Gospel terms in the local language! Other first-timers would also double-check on things like the trip’s logistics and whether we were up to speed on the planning.
I actually said they were unduly kanchiong – uptight – and that there was no need to make plans in such detail because from experienceI knew all our plans were always subject to change.
But as I observed the differences between the first-timers and myself, I began to wonder: I was just like them before … What changed?
Like them, I wanted to give my best. But objectively, we didn’t need this much preparation, especially if it would go to waste due to last minute changes.
If you consider a week living in a foreign land a big sacrifice, try dying away from home as a living sacrifice, like Jesus voluntarily did.
On reflection, I found the real issue was that having become more accustomed to a context that was once new and exciting – my enthusiasm for the work there had faded.
I must be clear: It wasn’t that my heart for missions had grown cold. It was just … The spark I once had wasn’t as bright as it was on my first trip.
What then? We didn’t have much time until our trip, and we had a small team too. So pulling out of the trip wasn’t an option.
I found the answer to my faded enthusiasm at Mission Sunday in church, where my pastor preached about conducting missions for the glory of God.
The message he preached was a simple one: God chose and saved us for His glory.
Simple yet profound, the message spoke right to my lack of enthusiasm. He chose and saved me. That realisation fired up my heart for evangelism once more. I wanted to see God gather His people to Himself, and I wanted to be a part of that work.
It was humbling to be reminded that the heart of missions didn’t lie in plans, language proficiencies or other human things.
Instead, it was the idea that Jesus Himself was sent on a mission. So if you consider a week living in a foreign land a big sacrifice, try dying away from home as a living sacrifice, like Jesus voluntarily did, far removed from His heavenly home.
Christ came to us with great fervour and great purpose. So I chose to go – just the way He would – knowing all that mattered was to do His will with all my heart (Colossians 3:23).
“Christmas is about exchanges – of counting costs and sacrifices – yet seeing them as of worth.”
I penned down these thoughts in my bunk on what would be my first in-camp training (ICT) since I finished National Service. As with most men, we dread ICT: The return of regimentation, outfield exercises and what not. What compounded this sense of dread were the personal costs and sacrifices incurred for me to be there.
This was my first point of pain: Because of ICT, the Church camp I’d never missed in all my Christian life was “exchanged” with army camp. I also couldn’t participate in my campus ministry’s annual ministry training – instead, here I was having military training.
To make matters worse, ICT took place over Christmas. So despite the holiday season when others were celebrating with friends, catch-up-over-coffee was “exchanged” with catch-up-over-combat-rations.
In the midst of all this, as I griped and sulked to myself, it dawned on me how Christmas is likewise all about exchange – the divine exchange that cost God everything when He sacrificed His only Son for our eternal life.
WORTHY COSTS AND SACRIFICES
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” (Isaiah 9:2)
The birth of the Great Light was one laden with costs and sacrifices.
It almost cost Joseph and Mary their marriage, if not for God’s divine intervention (Matthew 1:18-25). It cost the Three Wise Men their time and wealth – travelling days and bringing gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2: 9-11). It cost hundreds of baby boys their lives when a jealous King Herod tried to eradicate the newborn King (Matthew 2:16-18).
It cost Heaven its Prince of Peace, and God His only begotten Son, who would one day sacrifice His life and die for the sins of all humanity.
But all these are counted worthwhile in retrospect, because the promise of salvation was fulfilled through the baby in the manger.
I particularly like how Jon Bloom puts it: “For the spared Child of Bethlehem was given life that he might die a far more brutal, horrific death — one that would purchase the eternal redemption of Bethlehem’s lost boys and bring eternal consolation to any bereaved parent willing to receive it.”
THE DAILY DIVINE EXCHANGE
When the Wise Men and shepherds offered their worship and gifts to Jesus, it was much more than a physical, external offering. In that manger, an exchange of kingship took place. In the bending of knees and bowing of heads, lordship of self was laid down; the King of Heaven and earth was exalted above all.
It is only when we cast our crowns before the throne (Revelations 4:10-11) that we can truly acknowledge Jesus as the Saviour King over our lives. Our declaration of Jesus as Lord will cost us the throne seat of our lives – our kingship exchanged for His.
In the bending of knees and bowing of heads, lordship of self was laid down; the King of Heaven and earth was exalted above all.
But this exchange is a worthwhile one, for this King whom we acknowledge and worship similarly made an exchange for us. On Christmas, the promise of the Messiah became flesh when Jesus exchanged the comforts of Heaven to dwell among Man on earth (John 1:14). And from that Christmas on, He stuck to the Will of the Father all the way to Calvary, where He exchanged His life for ours.
How precious this is – Jesus counting the cost and deeming us worthy of His death if it meant a restoration of kinship with God. What a beautiful exchange that inspires my own.
JOY TO THE WORLD, THE LORD HAS COME
No one enjoys counting costs and making seemingly unfair sacrifices and exchanges. But because of what Jesus has done for us through His birth, death and resurrected life, we celebrate Christmas with a posture of thankfulness, knowing that through Him we’ve already received the greatest gift of incomparable worth.
We celebrate Christmas recognising we are no longer the kings over our lives, and that only by exchanging our kingship with Christ can we truly live. We rejoice like the Wise Men and shepherds on that first Christmas Day, for joy has indeed entered the world (Matthew 2:10-11, Luke 2:10-20). Salvation is here!
This is a submission from a participant of our Christmas Gift Exchange. From now till the end of December 2017, we are giving away a limited edition Thir.st Tumbler in exchange for every story on the Christmas themes of love, joy, peace, hope and giving. Click here to find out more.
I grew up in a traditional Chinese household. We went to temples and burnt incense. I even remember my mother buying some pencils from the temple when I was 7 because it was believed that if I used those pencils in my exams I would do well.
Growing up observing these traditions and beliefs, Jesus was a completely foreign concept to me.
Interestingly, I first came across Jesus in one of those old-school tear-off daily Chinese calendars when I was 5. They had an illustration for every key event of the month, and for April they had an illustration of a bloodied man nailed to a cross.
I remember asking my mother who was the man and why he was on that cross.
“He was nailed to the cross to die. He’s Jesus.”
The image of the nails piercing through his hands and feet with blood flowing out freely stuck to me for a long, long time.
I wouldn’t really call my younger self an atheist. I didn’t believe in the traditions my family followed, but I also had a very negative impression of Christians and the Church.
I had Christian relatives who were avid gamblers and even manipulated my grandfather to alter his will for their financial benefit.
My aunt often complained about how the Church that invited my cousins to their free Sunday kids programme ended up asking them to tithe monthly, even though they were not members of the Church or even Christians at that point in time.
My Christian classmate often skipped school and slept in classes. We even copied answers for our homework together – from another Christian!
Going to Church didn’t seem to make them any different from me, I reasoned. In fact, I seemed to be doing better than some, if not most of them.
When my classmate first invited me to her Church on a Saturday afternoon in 2008, I gave no second thought to it and turned her down.
The Easter service invitation card that Fiona gave me on the bus home from school.
I’m not free. I have CCA. There’s a remedial class happening. I have a family gathering.
I made up all the excuses I could. I didn’t want to mess up my life. I didn’t want to become like them. Church was the last place I’d ever wanted to be at.
Yet underneath the surface, my life was already a mess. I was quietly in search of a purpose and a hope in my life. But I was too proud to let anyone know about it.
One day after school, I decided to get myself a Bible and find out what’s the deal about Jesus.
In April 2009, my father was suddenly hospitalised for hypertension. I came home from school after an exam and found my mother standing anxiously at the gate.
“Your dad… He’s in the ICU.”
I’d never been gripped by such a fear as this.
One night in my room after a hospital visit, I opened up the rarely opened Bible I’d bought earlier that year at a Borders sale, thinking there was no harm in finding out a bit more about what my friends believed in.
I didn’t know where to look; I didn’t know what to do. Then my eyes landed on this verse in 3 John.
“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” (3 John 2)
That night, something changed within me. Unbeknownst to me, my heart had started moving towards this God who calls me beloved.
“Want to go to the mall tomorrow?” Fiona, my classmate, asked me.
It was Christmas Eve the following day.
A part of me guessed that we were going to Church – and to be fair her Church service did take place in Suntec City – but for some reason I just didn’t call her out on my suspicion.
I thought that showing up for once would make her stop inviting me in the future. I went wanting to leave the service as soon as possible. I went ready to confirm for myself that Church wasn’t for me.
I don’t remember much of what happened during the service, or the songs they sang. At one point I even wondered to myself, what is going on?
But I remember very clearly the message that was preached that day by the Senior Pastor – an exhortation from Romans 5.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)
Everything started to fall into place.
The illustration of the bloodied man nailed to the cross came back to my mind again. So that was why he was there.
Jesus died for me. That was how much He loves me.
When the time for altar call came towards the end of the service, Fiona nudged me and asked if I wanted to receive Jesus into my life.
Without any hesitation, I nodded and we went down to the front of the hall together.
All I wanted to do there and then, was to run to the Man who had died that painful death for me.
“Oh, you became a Christian?”
I bumped into a secondary friend on the bus and she couldn’t hide her surprise hearing that I was on my way to Church.
I couldn’t blame her for that; I had been relatively vocal about my disapproval towards Christians and the Church in the past.
Nobody could really understand what motivated this change in me. To this day, neither do I have the exact words to explain it.
Every now and then I think about my life before and after 24 December 2009.
At the age of 16, where my peers seemed to have known what they wanted to do in life and what they wanted to study in the future, I was purposeless and directionless. Life was utterly meaningless and there were many days when I wanted my life to just end. I wasn’t suicidal, but I had absolutely no clue why I was alive.
My life was a mess. But nothing in my life today is the same as my life back then.
As a new Christian, I learnt that God loves me unconditionally, wholeheartedly and continually. But to continue believing in that required an additional measure of matured faith.
I continue to believe God’s love even when I don’t see or feel it, just like how I believe and know that the Sun is still there and real even when it is not shining. I continue to believe in God’s love even when the darkness feels overwhelming. In psychology, this is also known as object permanence. It is the understanding that things continue to exist even when they cannot be seen.
In psychology, object permanence is the understanding that things continue to exist even when they cannot be seen – like God’s love even when the darkness feels overwhelming.
This is the hope that keeps me going even on the most difficult of days.
If I hadn’t received Jesus Christ into my life, I wouldn’t have known that there was so much more to my life. I wouldn’t have known Someone whom I can talk to and who knows all of my thoughts.
So this Christmas, if someone has invited you to church, I encourage you to go with an open heart. Don’t let others decide for you what Christianity is about. Come and see for yourself who the bloody man nailed to the cross is.
And if you’re wondering whether to invite a friend, a classmate, a colleague, a family member to church, I hope you find the courage to just do it. If Fiona hadn’t taken that first step to get me to Church that Christmas Eve 8 years ago, I wouldn’t be where I am and who I am today.
If you’d like help getting connected to a local Church or community of believers, feel free to drop us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org! You could also pop by one of the many Churches celebrating Christmas this weekend – find one near you using our Christmas directory!