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This Chinese New Year, will you be a friend to the foreigner?

by | 31 January 2018, 4:58 PM

Bright lights, red lanterns and overplayed Chinese festive songs — Chinese New Year is back! But have you ever considered this: Not everyone can return home to be with their families this festive season.

He or she could be a colleague who recently fell out with family. Indeed, he might be a friend scheduled to work during the celebrations. Or she might be someone’s daughter who’s studying overseas and can’t afford to return home.

There are so many “aliens” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19) in our midst. Away from their families, they’re in our everyday lives: Along the roads, in coffee shops – perhaps even working in the same company as us!

Migrant workers. Have you ever stopped to think about them?

Recently, I visited Healthserve, a non-profit organisation that provides holistic care to disadvantaged migrant workers. I wanted to find out what life looked like for migrant workers unable to return home during the festive season.

“Some migrant workers wanted to go back to their home countries because their parents passed away — but couldn’t.” This was just one of the regrettable anecdotes shared with me by Yvonne Loo, a case worker with Healthserve.

And given that the migrant workers don’t even fly home despite family crises, Yvonne told me there’s no chance they could return for festivities. Special Pass holders are migrant workers who have had their work permits cancelled. They are usually workers who got injured and subsequently dismissed by their companies before their contract ends.

Yvonne noted that she has yet to come across a beneficiary of Healthserve who is able to return home as and when he wants.

Instead, what most migrant workers resort to is connecting with their families online: Text messages and video calls are the order of the day. But in person, they celebrate festivities with their immediate neighbours — fellow foreign workers.

Ye Hong Wei, a migrant worker I met at Healthserve, described his longing for home: “想家肯定是想家。但是没有办法。作为家庭主力,为了家,没办法。” I definitely miss home, but as the sole breadwinner of my family, there’s nothing I can do.

I also spoke to injured workers, who are awaiting delayed medical compensation: “不敢抱这个希望。” I don’t dare hope I’ll be able to head home soon.

To meet their needs, Healthserve organises activities for migrant workers to get together. The most recent event was a dumpling-making session with university students, where the Chinese migrant workers showed the latter how to prepare dumplings.

But beyond just having an event to go to, what migrant workers really benefit from are the relationships forged.

Willy Lau, who works on developing volunteer engagement in Healthserve, noted the importance of relationship building: “We want more of that between the volunteers and beneficiaries, where they get to know them and even share life with them.”

Yvonne and Willy highlighted some benefits migrant workers experience through spending time with the volunteers.

Firstly, it boosts the migrant worker’s self-esteem: When migrant workers arrive in Singapore, their value becomes measured by their productivity. Do they work without complaining without giving employers problems, and with their best efforts?

But at Healthserve, they are valued differently. They receive care and attention. They experience friendships with volunteers so deep, that some volunteers even send the migrant workers off at the airport when it’s time for the latter to fly home.

Yvonne told me: “We don’t ask volunteers and staff, ‘Are you coming for to send him (migrant worker) off?’ We just say this person is leaving. That’s sufficient for them to come on their own accord because they’ve already built a relationship with the migrant worker. So they really want to come.”

The strong bonds formed between the migrant workers and volunteers help the former leave Singapore on a positive note, no matter the challenges faced while here.

Once you have a mindset that this person is of less worth, you will have a tendency to want to give, and not also receive.

Willy added, “Once migrant workers come through the gates of Healthserve and experience overwhelming genuine friendship, when they go back to their countries, they start to pay it forward to their neighbours.”

When volunteering, we often merely meet the physical needs of the person. But as Christians, it has to go beyond that. Willy pointed out, “We are all relational beings. God is relational to us as well.” He also reminded me that humility is needed when befriending migrant workers.

“Generally, everyone comes with the mindset of ‘Migrant workers so poor thing, I want to help them. How can I help them?’ But once you have a mindset that this person is of less worth, you will have a tendency to want to give, and not also receive.”

He told me of a group of Junior College students who wanted to do an interview with a migrant worker at a coffee shop, who were all surprised when the migrant worker stood up to buy drinks for them.

“They were like, ‘Shouldn’t we be the ones to offer him drinks?’ But now he’s buying them drinks … We always have assumptions and narrow views of things. But if we are able to open our hearts, minds and be humble, we will be able to learn and receive.”

As I left Healthserve, I found myself reflecting. Was I truly willing to get to know migrant workers for who they really are?

This Chinese New Year, Thir.st is partnering Healthserve to provide opportunities where you can befriend a migrant worker. It can be as simple as treating him or her to a meal.

Whoever you choose to invite for a meal this year, remember that Jesus Himself frequently ate with the marginalised in society so He could minister to them. There’s always space for one more rice bowl at the Father’s table.


If you’re interested, sign up here! It doesn’t matter if you’re doing this alone, with your family or your cell-group. We look forward to hearing your stories.

/ siqi@thir.st

Siqi loves to eat. Except for peas, egg yolk, cucumbers, livers, intestines. Among others. She also happens to be a writer.

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Culture

A culture of blessing

by | 20 April 2018, 4:55 PM

I was scrolling through Facebook recently when I saw a remarkable video.

The video was about what it means to honour others. It made me think of our culture, and how we can do a lot more to bless those around us.

Jesus had quite a lot to say about loving people. In Luke 10:25-37, He talks about the two greatest commandments. The first is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” The second is to “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

And when asked who’s the “neighbour” in question, Jesus replies with a story about an injured Jewish man who was lying on the road. A priest walked by, but instead of helping him, he walked away. Another Jewish man did the same. But when a Samaritan (an enemy of the Jews) saw this injured man, he picked him up and cared for him. And when the Samaritan had to leave, he paid someone to care for the injured man.

THE GOOD SAMARITAN: 3 PRINCIPLES ABOUT BLESSING

1. Be a blessing to those who the world ignores

When was the last time we thanked the cleaner aunties and uncles for maintaining the cleanliness of the streets in our community? When was the last time we complimented the hawkers for the food we ate?

There are groups of people like CEOs, celebrities and even pastors who we deem to be worthy of honour. We have no problems blessing them. But then there are those aren’t quite worth the time: Cleaners, hawkers, construction workers … What if we were blessings to them as well?

The Samaritan could have just walked on as culture instructed – but he chose to love the injured man by helping him. The pastor could have just taken the pizza and gave her a standard tip – but he chose to bless the woman by giving her an amount that went above and beyond.

It’s not about the money. We can bless people in small ways for an incredible impact too. A quick thank you, prayer or lunch treat goes a far longer way than we might think.

2. Acts of blessing are infectious

Watch the video above. Did you see how 77 men and women came up to bless the delivery driver when only 10 were called?

When we bless and help the least of our brothers and sisters, others will notice and be encouraged to follow suit.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

You are a blessing catalyst. One way to encourage others to do good works is by doing good works ourselves. Taking the first step to bless others, we create a butterfly effect and ultimately a culture of honour and blessing within our families, communities and nation.

Even simply clearing your trays after a meal encourages your friends at the table to do the same. It blesses and honours the elderly auntie who will have an easier job to do, and also encourages those around you to perpetuate this culture of blessing.

3. Blessings go further than we think

That pizza-delivering single mother would never have guessed that she would be blessed so richly, delivering to the Church that morning. Likewise the injured Jewish man couldn’t have imagined a Samaritan would be the one to come to his rescue in his most desperate hour.

By blessing those who society neglects, we might well be the answer to the prayer they’ve been desperately making. We might be the love they need in that hour. We have an opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ in a tangible way.

So why not bless someone today? It doesn’t have to be a big thing like giving hundreds of dollars to a pizza delivery driver – you can also start small.

Let’s be the change we want to see, and create a culture of blessing in Singapore.

/ junheng@thir.st

JunHeng is a 100% extrovert who loves caffeine – lots of caffeine. He also likes HTHTs, jamming and eating good food. Did he mention he loves caffeine?

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I went from conference attendee to Africa missionary

by Regina Flueckiger | 16 April 2018, 12:56 PM

Six years ago, I watched a video which changed my life.

Attending the 2012 Kingdom Invasion Conference, the video I watched was about Heidi Baker’s IRIS ministry in Pemba, Mozambique. It stirred my heart and deposited a dream in me: I will be there someday!

Yet in the following years, this dream of mine would prove difficult to realise due to parental objections. And even after I was given consent to set sail, the entire process was tedious and challenging.

The first hurdle was financial difficulty. After counting all the costs, I estimated that I would need a total of $12,000. I was wondering how on earth I would get this amount since I was also taking no pay leave from work.

I prayed and committed it to the Lord. I was shy and had never fundraised before, so I asked God to send me people who would give me $1000 each without having to ask them to. I only told my mum about this, who was the first to offer me my first thousand (which I ultimately didn’t even need to take).

After a month, nothing happened. I began to ask the Lord if there was anything I needed to do to raise the money I needed. The Lord then gave me an idea to bake cakes and cookies – a skill I had learnt from my mum when I was in Switzerland.

A batch of cookies I made to raise funds for my mission trip.

The Lord blessed me greatly. After my fundraising – along with love offerings from all over – I received a total of $24,100!

I even received money when I was there in Africa. I asked the Lord, why did I receive so much extra money and what did He want me to do with it? He told me clearly that the money would be used to build a shelter in a village on a rubbish dump in Madagascar! So I quickly drew a sketch of how the shelter would look like.

When I got to Madagascar, I met with the chief of this village. As we talked about building a shelter, I realised he had a passion to get people into school. He used two small rooms in his house as a classroom for villagers who could not afford to go to school, where IRIS hired a teacher for them. The rooms were tiny: One had no tables and chairs, while the other had tables and chairs that were all broken.

They may not have many possessions, but they are rich in joy and full of the Holy Spirit.

That was when we realised we could build a multi-purpose building: A school for the mornings, and a shelter for the afternoons! Today, the villagers have named the building “Sekoly Fanantenana,” which means “Hope School” in Malagasy. It certainly stands as a testimony of hope to them!

When I think about how this building is located at a rubbish dump, I am delighted because I know that Father God’s heart is to establish His kingdom among the least of these (Matthew 25:40).

The school I built with the money raised from the baking sale.

As I spent time in Mozambique, learning from Rolland and Heidi Baker (as well as many missionaries who serve in South Sudan and war zones in the Congo), I began to see what it was like for Christians who lay down their lives.

They may not have many possessions, but they are rich in joy and full of the Holy Spirit. They are used to having knives and guns pointed at them. They have seen the police and army seize all their possessions. Each day, they risk their lives for the gospel.

One day, while we were on the IRIS base – there was a shooting. Heidi had told all of us that if there ever was a shooting, we were to run for our lives. But she would walk straight into it because it is her ministry.

After the chaos, when the shooters were caught, Heidi went to the jail to speak to them. And she saw the shooter’s gun lying on the table in halves! Apparently, after firing a few shots, it broke in two. And she knew that God did that. What radical faith and dependency on Christ!

But I wasn’t quite like Heidi Baker a lot of the time. Occasionally, I would struggle to trust God with my life – even when it wasn’t being threatened. Due to the bacteria and insects in Pemba, I had to take antibiotics and receive many injections for three out of five weeks. I already had six injections before I went to Africa, and I couldn’t believe that I would take six more when I got there!

In my final week in Pemba, Mozambique, I experienced my worst injury. A spider bite had caused my leg to swell until it was double its size! It was so painful. At one point, I could not walk – I had to be carried to my room. The doctors wanted me to go to the hospital to get it drained, and asked me to reconsider heading back to Madagascar.

I was very down but I surrendered the situation to the Lord. The very next day I was healed supernaturally! Through this time, God was also teaching me how to minister even when I was uncomfortable or unwell.

Meeting people who lay down their lives for the gospel and seeing the joy they carry – I came to realise that trusting God with my whole life and giving my all to him is the only way. God was so real to me in Africa – I wish people could experience that reality in Singapore too. To that end, maybe it’s not so bad to have things stripped away from a cluttered life!

Missions fire up my spirit like nothing else even though it can be very challenging in all aspects. It demands the surrendering of your life – even life itself.

I remember when I was 17, hand scrubbing clothes on a washboard in a mission trip and thinking to myself: There’s nothing else I’d rather do in this world than missions. I’ve been on many mission trips locally and globally since then – and I’ve never looked back.

When you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, it increases your need to trust in God. It increases your need to exercise supernatural faith – to be prepared for anything and everything. Yes, it can be scary to give everything up for people in developing nations, but I believe God has blessed us richly to bless others.

We are so blessed to live in Singapore. The challenge and onus is on us to carry God’s heart for the less fortunate – one that is always desperately hungry for Him and set on serving His people.

May this generation send out the greatest number of missionaries across the world!

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Our purpose is His pleasure

by | 12 April 2018, 11:27 AM

Do you regret something bad that you did or said recently? What would even make your list of “bad things?”

I don’t suppose our lists look the same – everyone holds themselves to different standards. There are obvious things like murder and adultery that we know are definitely wrong, but what about the convictions we must decide on for ourselves? 

  • Will I use vulgarities?
  • What’s my view on sex before marriage?
  • What kind of spouse will I be?
  • What’s my most important goal in life?

But we don’t really talk about such things anymore. In a world where anything goes, many of us aren’t absolutely sure about a lot of things or our decisions.

So we just go with the flow, we just let it be – not realising how dangerous that sort of spontaneity can be. But it costs to be careless about the way we handle our self, relationships, and money. And the most important, most costly decision we’ll make is in how we relate with God.

Our view of who God is and who we are to Him must dictate all of life’s decisions. The most important thing we can do for ourselves is to align our life and will to His (Romans 12:2).

  • If you’ve ever asked who the “real you” is – your Creator God has the answer (Psalm 139)
  • If you feel like you just don’t know what to do anymore – your Creator God has the answer (Psalm 86:11)
  • If you don’t know how to surrender your life to God – your Creator God has the answer (Matt 16:24-25)

When our desire is to be right with God, we are freed to know and follow Him. 

“So we make it our goal to please him… For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:9-10)

Do you know what we’re born for? So many spend their lives chasing the wind. We make it our whole life’s goal to bring God pleasure.

Pleasing God is not the same as pleasing a superior at work, or blind subservience to a narcissistic control-freak. It is a winning strategy in the war against a real enemy who schemes against us.

Pleasing God delivers clarity to the decisions we make. The more we know and spend time with God and His Word, we more we will find out what pleases Him. After all, when we draw near to God, He will draw near to us (James 4:8).

Are you pleasing Him? It was said to the believers in Rome that those “in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8). The goal of pleasing God brings to light our sinful selves and all the ways we are naturally at odds with Him.

When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘Repent,’ he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.” (Martin Luther)

When was the last time we repented of doing something that wouldn’t please God? A life of repentance sounds like a hard and tedious one. But it’s a blessed life: Repentance takes the burden of sin off us (1 John 1:9) – a gift of grace that we might live free.

The things that please God are worth contending for. We can either gratify the desires of our flesh and live in careless disregard of who God is – or live in His forgiveness and love as pleasing sacrifices.

“To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness…” (Ecclesiastes 2:26a)

God desires to lavish wisdom, knowledge, peace, love, joy, and every other good thing upon us. As our Father, He does not want to withhold any good thing from us. If we align our will with His and desire to please God, our choices will reap rewards for our eternal souls.

We are accountable for every choices we make. At the end, we have to give an answer for the kind of life we lived and all the things we did.

Thank God for His mercy – that He would help us today by guiding us (John 16:13).

/ fiona@thir.st

Fiona is secretly hilarious and one of her dogs thinks so too. She loves a good chat with strangers, store assistants, and fluffy dogs.

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Why am I always tired in ministry?

by | 10 April 2018, 3:21 PM

I’ve been thinking about this question for quite some time now.

There are the occasional gaps of time that allow for some breathing room, but I inevitably feel spent. A couple of days ago, I was sitting in the office with a fellow burnt-out colleague in the ministry, and I asked her: “Is this how it’s supposed to feel like?”

“Nope, definitely not.” And after I mulled on her answer, I was inclined to agree — purpose can only carry you so far without joy.

So what was my problem?

Because I often feel like I’m doing all the right things.

I attend church and cell group, lead cell and serve in other ministries. I have mentors and pastors I can pour my heart out to, I’m spiritually fed through BSF, I’m well-adjusted and have good support systems …

By right, I should be able to function. Yet after a long day of writing or editing articles, when I have to sit down and write something for one of my other ministries — it’s like the well has run completely dry.

Honestly, a lot of the time, I’m tempted to feel guilty.

I want my life to be poured out for God and for others, but I feel like a dry towel being squeezed for water. So, like a good Christian, I pray to God to fill me up — fill me till I’m overflowing!

Sounds good, right? But after a long time, there’s still no change.

Then how?

“Don’t forget to top-up your tank,” is a common mantra dished out to the depleted.

And sure, without being sarcastic, it’s true. I do believe we must abide in the vine.

But when I look at my colleague, who is also a good Christian doing good Christian things, and see just how burnt out she is — I wonder where we’ve gone wrong.

God, help me to see if this is an issue of workload or something more.

Because there’s that tension in ministry between dreaming big for God — dreaming something so “kingdom-sized” it’s doomed to fail without His help — and simply biting off more than you can chew.

Lord, let me do just what You want — not what I think would be good to do. And serving where God does want me to serve, I need to pray for God to increase my capacity — for my hands to keep up with my heart.

I need God to keep me honest: Simply doing all the right stuff doesn’t equate to a life of right living.

I have to be really careful as I write this next part — I’m not trying to give you a free pass to quit your ministry.

Serving isn’t supposed to be “easy.” There are somewhat less demanding ministries, as there are very demanding ones — but all require constant fuelling from God and a measure of sacrifice.

To be very clear, the heart behind my words is simply to have you consider the nature and spirit of your service.

Where I worship, my church has a policy where every leader “steps down” at the end of the year. They then reconsider their ministry commitments for the coming year, and if they are convicted to serve again, they rededicate themselves at a special service in January.

Here’s the thing: I don’t think I did that last year …

It didn’t help that my leaders didn’t actually ask me to. To be fair, in ministries where labourers are in short supply, I can see why that question might seem unproductive — even self-destructive —to ask.

Continuing to serve just seemed like a matter-of-fact to me. These ministries I was involved in were good things! So, must be good, right?

If I could turn back time, I would have properly asked God what He thought of my involvements. I’ll serve as best as I can, to the ministries I’ve already committed myself to — but there’s definitely a lesson here for me.

A final aside: Have you ever wondered why you keep seeing the same faces in ministry? 

There might be a lack of volunteers, or perhaps so-and-so is called to the position for a long season. But I wonder if more people in our church don’t rise up because we’ve overstayed in our ministries.

Are they too comfortable? Or are we too comfortable? As the next generation steps up to take the reins, we must check if we are too proud to let go of the things we’ve had the privilege of being stewards for.

No one is indispensable, and it takes humility to walk away.

God, only let me serve where You have called me to!

/ gabriel@thir.st

Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.

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Missions under 30: I’m a millennial and I’m not bored

by Claire Carter | 9 April 2018, 4:01 PM

I wonder how many people think that millennials are bored in church? Or unwilling to go on mission trips?

Think of us as spoilt or fragile, but don’t write us off just yet. I’m a millennial and I want to live for something bigger than myself – and I know I’m not alone in thinking this way.

Having grown up in the age of information and at a time such as this, where we’re constantly exposed to human brokenness and injustice, my generation actually holds more potential for sending out missionaries than ever before. 

As a millennial who has been going for mission trips since young and even organised them, perhaps I could share some perspectives on what millennials really want.

Once we are baptised in compassion and a love for the lost and the broken, it will start a fire that’s not easily quenched.

Firstly, I think we want to find our unique role in God’s redemptive mission. I believe we each have individual strengths, convictions, interests … And even our nationalities are uniquely designed for us to play a specific part of God’s building plan.

I think this predisposes us to seek out opportunities that are unique to us, in whatever areas we are placed in or feel in our hearts most strongly.

But the key is that we must have tasted and seen the goodness of God. We must find that He’s worth living for, and once we are baptised in compassion and a love for the lost and the broken, I think that will start a fire that’s not easily quenched.

If you find yourself in a capacity to influence and mould millennials, challenge them to a life sold out for Jesus. Help them rise up to that standard and see what that life looks like for themselves.

I know a friend who’s previously organised two mission trips to a village in Taiwan, where her grandmother is from. It is a village that has no churches and no Christians in the community. She sensed the urgency of the need and has led two separate teams to bring the Gospel to the children there.

You see, my friend has a unique ability to fulfil this specific call because of her ties to the land. As a member of the community, she’s accepted by them. Also, the circumstances she grew up in were pretty similar to the children, so they could identify with her story when she shared her testimony with them.

Maybe millennials do feel bored with pre-planned programmes that have been set up by churches or missions organisations, but it doesn’t mean that millennials are not mission-ready.

I think the Church would do well to encourage millennials to dig deeper and observe where God is placing us specifically and then provide the know-how and the guidance as we embark on these more unconventional forms of missions.

We want to take ownership of the Great Commission, too.

At my church, we have a global awareness team that sets up platforms to create awareness about stories from the ground to reflect what young people are doing to answer God’s call in our mission fields. These stories help us remember that we aren’t all that different and we can begin to do something where we’re at.

Whether it’s an overseas internship, an exchange or a gap year – we’ve heard stories about young people who have gone out to the nations to do something for God while still studying. People come back sharing these stories of how God has used them wherever they are.

Our platform of global awareness encourages young people not to see missions as a separate, compartmentalised part of their lives, but to see it as a lifestyle. And we can live out the Great Commission by using opportunities that are present within programmes we have in school, such as summer schools and overseas internship programmes.

Missions is exciting because God is exciting.

We want to mobilise this generation and the next because we have so many opportunities in front of us and it’s paramount that we see and remember God’s heart in all of these.

The antidote to short-lived excitement is to get us millennials closely acquainted with the person of God – the exciting character of God and His heart for His people. We must keep that fire burning.

If we make missions about a programme – we will come back from it seeing the power of the programme instead of the power of God. But missions is exciting because God is exciting. It is when we begin to feel and take on God’s heart for His people that we begin participating in something bigger than ourselves.

The greatest thing that you can do in life is be a part of God’s exciting mission to reconcile the world back to Him. And that’s the least boring thing in the world.


Only 21 years old, Claire Carter was the youngest panelist at the first GoForth Millennial Influencers Gathering, where she shared these thoughts on missions.

With an expected one billion people in Asia moving from rural to urban areas by the year 2030, the number of world city dwellers is expected to rise to 70% by 2050. There is an urgent call to the Church, especially as the majority of new urban dwellers will be young (under 25 years old) and live below the poverty line ($2 a day).

The GoForth National Missions Conference, happening June 21-23, 2018, will look at an array of diverse strategies to empower individuals and churches to reach and transform cities with the love of Christ. Visit their website to find out out more.

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Article list

This Chinese New Year, will you be a friend to the foreigner?

A culture of blessing

I went from conference attendee to Africa missionary

Our purpose is His pleasure

Why am I always tired in ministry?

Missions under 30: I’m a millennial and I’m not bored