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Faith

I was looking for love in all the wrong places – until love found me

by Thir.st | 22 November 2016, 11:01 AM

There is a peculiar air about Jaime Wong – speaking to her, it feels as if she does not have a care in the world, while still being deeply engaged with it.

The tennis coach is an accomplished woman, having won multiple awards in sports and school. Yet as she sits down with Thir.st to tell her story, it is clear that life hasn’t been an endless victory parade for her. She bares her scars not as trophies, but as testimonies, of God’s goodness and grace in her life.

“THE SINGAPOREAN DREAM”

Top student. Top athlete. Jaime Wong had it all. At 12, she was Singapore’s youngest national tennis champion; at 17 she received an athletic scholarship to attend the Georgia Institute of Technology.

“It almost appeared on the surface that I was living the Singaporean dream – top student, top athlete – but beneath the surface it was a very different story.”

Without her parents around to keep her in check, Jaime got addicted to pornography while in the United States, and began to embrace the notion of the freedom to love.

In 2003, upon graduation, she fell in love for the first time while on a short trip back to Singapore.

“Usually falling in love is not a bad thing. But this person was a woman, and she was a Christian. In other words, a recipe for disaster. And my mind told me: Don’t pursue this, walk on,” she said.

“But my heart was a bit more stubborn.”

In pursuit of love, Jaime gave up her life in the US – only to have her world crumble beneath her. Her friend told her: “I’m so sorry, I love you, but I love God. And I cannot walk down this path with you. I will love you as Ruth loved Naomi, as Jonathan loved David, but I just cannot be the person that you want me to be.”

This enraged Jaime.

“Just imagine the heartbreak that I felt. I gave up everything to get this in return. I could not believe this friend actually chose God over me,” she said. “I was not prepared to let go, so I thought the most logical thing for me to do was to prove to this friend of mine that there is no such thing as God, and that the Bible is nothing but a book of lies.”

HEART OVER HEAD

For two years, she was relentless in her pursuit, attempting to debunk God through the study of science, logic and history. But at the end of it, she came to believe that everything pointed to Jesus as the son of God and the Saviour of the world.

“I was prepared to accept any God except for the Christian God, but everything pointed to Jesus at the end of the day. So in 2006, I became a very unwilling Christian in 2006.”

This also meant that she could not continue pursuing the friend she fell for, the friend who shared the love of Christ with her. Jaime said she knew early on that she could not act on her same-sex attraction, but it took her seven years to completely embrace the truth.

“I hated God for suddenly becoming a high authority in my life. I was always on my own, living life without parental influence or much guidance, so I made a lot of decisions on my own. And here, suddenly, I have this book of rules telling me all these things,” she said.

Jaime made multiple attempts to stop viewing pornography, only to fall back into the habit a few days later – a vicious cycle that was eventually broken after an encounter with God.

“It was always this battle – trying to do what is right, but not being able to. And as a result of that, I fell deeper and deeper into pornography. I was angry with God, and I continued doing what I was not supposed to do,” she said.

“On the surface it looked as though I was doing the right things: Going to church, going to cell group, serving in church. But behind closed doors, everything was raging. Emotionally I was raging; physically I was not getting what I wanted. It was a really tough time.”

Her struggles drove her to contemplate suicide several times. One particularly poignant period stands out: Jaime had fasted for 40 days, thinking things would get better after that, only for her situation to continue to look despondent.

“One day, as I looked out into the ocean, I thought: ‘This is it’,” she said.

Yet before she could act on the suicidal impulse, she caught a glimpse of a message written in a book her friend had given her.

“Hang in there. One day your mess will become your message,” it read.

“I completely broke down because the timing of it was impeccable. I just said to God: ‘You know God, I give up. I don’t want this life. Take it, do what you want with it.’ And that prayer became my defining moment. It became the moment where everything just turned – the amazing transformation came.”

AMAZING GRACE

After that act of surrender, Jaime said she was miraculously healed of all her sicknesses. All mental illnesses, all physical ailments – including a diagnosis for Ulcerative Proctitis, which doctors said was incurable – were gone.

“God didn’t just stop at that. He did more for me. He set me free from this prison of sexual immorality. It’s been two and a half years now, or more, and I’ve been completely free from pornography. And I’ve turned away from same-sex desires,” she said.

“I realise that I have lost my sexual appetite for the unclean because my heart had just received that pure, perfect love of Jesus.”

That moment when God truly entered her heart turned her life around. Where she once feared public speaking, Jaime now wanted to tell the world about the transformation that could only come through God.

“I was suddenly filled with this new purpose, this new desire that God has put in my heart, and there was new ability that He gave to me to tell people about what Jesus has done for me.”

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REAL LOVE IS UNCONDITIONAL 

While it was initially difficult to open up to others on the issue of same-sex attraction, Jaime has found herself slowly being drawn into the topic during different conversations with different people.

When asked about what she would say to someone facing similar struggles, she said the answer is always to go back to the Word of God.

“It’s not about what I say to the person about this issue, but what the Word says. And so my duty to God is to love the person the way Jesus has loved me and to give them a glimpse of His love, and to share the truth and love them. At the end of the day, it’s to let the Word speak – God will speak for Himself – and to let the Holy Spirit convict them.”

In fact, it was the friend she was initially attracted to who demonstrated this love to her.

“She became a friend to me in the way that I couldn’t understand. On one hand, I felt rejection but yet on the other hand, I sensed a love that I could not comprehend – love that stood by me and stuck with me. She didn’t walk out of that friendship; she stayed there even though I put her through hell,” Jaime recalled.

She admitted to stalking and verbally abusing her friend, who chose not to walk away and to love her like Jesus did.

“For all the things that I’ve done to her, I didn’t deserve any of it, yet she gave it freely and she loved me wholly and she loved me, and she gave me a glimpse of what God’s love is like – enduring and longsuffering and waiting with hope that one day I would turn around,” Jaime said.

While it was ironic that she sensed both rejection and love at the same time, Jaime said this was how real love revealed itself to her.

“I felt loved in a way that I could not explain and I believe that is the kind of love that I want to mirror. The love that Jesus had for me – I want to mirror that and to love those who are broken,” she said.

READ MORE ON JAIME WONG: IT’S NOT ABOUT HOW MUCH MONEY WE MAKE. IT’S ABOUT HOW MANY LIVES WE IMPACT

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Faith

No matter how you fared for your A Levels, remember: You are not your results

by Thir.st | 24 February 2017, 5:27 PM

This rainy afternoon, multitudes of students went back to their Junior Colleges to receive their A level results. Some, however, went home with more than one results slip.

The More Than One Result initiative, which first ran in 2015, aims to remind students of their self-worth and identity by handing out redesigned results slips to students collecting their actual A Level results. In place of the usual academic subjects, this alternative certificate lists out a number of positive character traits, all of which are given a “U” grade.

While this sounds like a shock to our A Level students, the “U” here stands not for “ungraded”, but “unconditional” – for unconditional courage, resilience, gratitude, love and joy that will follow our students for life, regardless of what grades they receive. It’s a call to try hard, but always remember what truly matters.

This year’s effort was organised by School of Thought, a civic centre focused on developing the character of the youths while concurrently providing tuition to secondary school and JC students. Ian Mun, an alumni at the School of Thought, personally designed the alternative results slip two years ago. He said he knows how it feels to be disappointed when receiving your A Level results.

“When I saw my grades, my world crumbled. I did not know what to do, where to go, how to move on. My life was suddenly in limbo,” he shared in an earlier interview.

He credits the ability to see beyond his “failures” to the support of the people around him, who believed that he was more than his grades and told him so. Hoping to pass on the gesture and offer support to his juniors, he started the original More Than One Result movement with some of his friends.

Despite the afternoon’s heavy downpour, Thir.st joined in the heartwarming initiative, heading down to our Creative Producer’s alma mater, Victoria Junior College, to hand out 100 of the pink slips. The official release time was 2.30pm, but by 1pm, many of those collecting their results were grabbing lunch in the canteen. Most were relaxed and happy to be reunited with ex-schoolmates, although a few we spoke to were visibly anxious.

When we expressed empathy for the daunting experience, as well as encouragement as those who’d gone before, there were smiles all around. “I was right where you guys are 10 years ago and it was terrifying,” our Creative Producer told some of the waiting students. “But look, we’re all still alive and well. Whatever happens today, you’re going to be fine.”

As the back of the alternative pink slip reads: On this day, you might feel that your entire world has expanded or shrunk based on the letters on another piece of paper you’ve just received. But dear student, those letters don’t set you down a fixed path. You are more than one result.

For those unsure of your options or looking for guidance on what to do next, School of Thought will host a sharing session this Sunday afternoon for students who need advice on the opportunities and possibilities after their A Levels. Details are as follows:

Post A-Level Results Sharing Session
Sunday, Feb 26
4.30pm-6.30pm
School of Thought Auditorium, 222 Queen Street #04-02

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Serving in the spotlight: The official photographer

by Thir.st | 24 February 2017, 11:50 AM

You may be a worship leader who leads a congregation of 5,000 to worship on the weekends or the lone musician in a house church. You’re front and centre for half the worship service and a familiar face to most of your congregation. With all this attention on you, it can be easy to fall into the trap of pride while serving in the spotlight. In this series, we ask prominent, highly visible people in ministry how they take the attention off themselves and point the congregation back to God.

RY is Chief Photographer and Communication Designer of 3:16 Creative, at 3:16 Church.

As the saying goes, a picture says a thousand words.

A photograph is so powerful because of its unique ability to capture and freeze an exact moment and emotion in time. It captures a part of a story, locks down a memory, and evokes an emotion in the one who encounters it. In the same vein, you’d be amazed at how God can use a photograph to comfort a broken soul, lift up a burdened spirit or ignite joy in a hardened heart.

PICS stands for Photographers In Christian Service and as the name suggests, we serve God through our photography. We provide high quality photography for weekly Sunday services, baptisms, church camps and other various community events.

A celebratory scene during Easter Baptism 2016. Photograph by Austen Chua.

At Team PICS, we don’t just see ourselves as just photographers – we are also storytellers. Taking photos of the church is an amazing opportunity to tell the world the story of what church is all about. A simple shot of people praying for each other, sharing a good laugh, or even the expression of liberation seen in baptisms helps others to see God’s love and have a glimpse of what being in God’s family feels like.

Think about a diamond. To the uninitiated, if you came across one in a cave somewhere, you’d view it as nothing more than a dull rock, not worth anything. You’d likely throw it away.

Pastor Norman of 3:16 Church recites the Lord’s Prayer during service. Photograph by Tay Yi En.

But give that dull rock to a miner and he’d see its full potential. He will take it back for thorough processing, put it under immense heat and pressure, followed by another cycle of processing and cleaning. When all these processes have completed, you have what the world calls a woman’s best friend.

You’d think that God would create diamonds in their beautiful, sparkling form, but instead He hides these gems, waiting for someone to find them.

The lesson here is to first view something, or someone, in its fullest, God-given potential, then invest time and effort to polish it, place it under heat and pressure – and if the diamond is genuine, it will form and sparkle even under these difficult circumstances.

A once-in-a-lifetime feeling. Photograph by Tay Yi En.

Which brings me to my team. If you look at the photographs on the church’s website and social media platforms, I hope you’re assuming that all the pictures have been taken either by professional photographers or at least professionally trained volunteers. But that is far from the truth.

Many of the photographs were taken by volunteers who have never had any professional photography training or experience prior to Team PICS. Some don’t even own a DSLR. All they had was passion, an eagerness to serve God and a desire to learn.

A 3:16 Church Team PICS photographer at work during a prayer session. Photographed by RY.

Being an official photographer, whether in 3:16 Church or elsewhere, may seem prestigious, but the prestige comes with hard work and big responsibilities. The team has to go through on-the-job training and assessments, and have to acquaint themselves with various photography skills and equipment. The photographers had to learn to operate alone and in pairs. Practice is key and a humble spirit for continuous learning is vital.

I am very proud of our team as they have not only mastered new skills, but have also embraced the right attitude.

The team’s passion to serve, dedication to excellence, resilience to pressure and diligence in service have helped them to become the diamonds they are today.

An intimate moment backstage before Church Services gets underway. Photograph by Alvin Tan.

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‘If grades are all you’re chasing, it’ll be a never-ending pursuit’: From A Levels to attorney

by Kenneth Chew | 24 February 2017, 8:56 AM

In light of the release of the A-level results on Feb 24, Thir.st talked to some young adults about the day they received their A-level result slips and how their lives unfolded thereafter. The conclusion: Success in our educational system isn’t as simple as scoring straight As, and that imperfection does not mean failure.

Benjamin Kwok was born to entertain. Funny, eloquent and comfortable in front of a crowd, Ben saw his future self as a newscaster or actor, and set his sights on Hollywood. Little did he know his future audience was going to be slightly different from what he’d imagined.

The day he collected his A-Level results was a day of mixed feelings, Ben said. Leading up to that day, Ben had a feeling he’d messed up during the exams. “I was walking around with my head in the ground for the past three months thinking God had let me down, when in fact I had let Him down.”

Then God came through. “When I got my results back, I got 4 H2 As and a B for GP. Which goes to show His grace is beyond my wildest dreams.”

But then came the next dilemma: Where would he choose to go?

“Despite the unexpectedly good grades, the decision was especially difficult. Even before the results, Medicine was out – I was afraid of blood and needles. Law wasn’t even within reasonable contemplation because I never felt strong at written English. I applied for SMU and secured my place in business and accountancy with scholarship.”

Still, his father suggested that he try Law – to “be a mouthpiece for those who couldn’t speak for themselves”, Ben said.

Without much thought, Ben applied for Law. “I committed my decision to the Lord, and said, Lord if it’s your will, open doors. There was no stress because there was no expectation. By God’s grace, I got accepted.”

But the stress came quickly. He continued to wrestle with God through National Service, then Law school.

“Don’t tell my friends, but after one semester I secretly tried to quit. Looking back, I can say for sure that the journey was tough,” he said.

But God’s plans are always bigger than mountains right in front of us. Apart from the professional training, Ben – who graduated last year and is now training at a local law firm – believes the uncomfortable environment forced open his spiritual eyes to see God’s presence every step of the way, building faith and character.

Don’t tell my friends, but after one semester I secretly tried to quit. Looking back, I can say for sure that the journey was tough.”

“In all seriousness, it’s not the salary or the nice people that keep me going. It’s the knowledge that no matter where you are in life, God has a purpose for you to be there. And if it’s His purpose, then you’re in the right place. He’s free to use any course, anything you do, to mould you into Christlikeness,” said Ben.

“If grades become the be-all and end-all, you’ll find that it’s fleeting. The chase for grades will never end, because they just take a different form when you graduate, in the form of KPIs, promotions or another boss to please. If you find meaning in that, it’s a never-ending pursuit.”

Ben said he now holds loosely to his career, and tightly to God. “The job doesn’t define me. It’s always been Jesus. I can’t tell you for sure where I’ll be in a few years – God knows. But I rest easy.”

He’s not being literal. His work often spills into late nights and weekends, which he said strains his health and relationships. Yet, his greatest joy comes from being where God wants him to be. He continues to serve in church as a worship team guitarist. And when he needs a boost, he stops to look back at the path God has taken him on, from A Levels to attorney.

“In four years, or six for the army boys, I hope you will see that God carried you as he carried me. I started with a lot of regrets and the middle years were tumultuous, but God was there,” said Ben. “He was faithful and carried me each step of the way.”


Benjamin is one of three young working adults we interviewed who went through very different journeys after their A Levels, but who have all seen their paths come good. Read the journey of Vernon, the robotics otaku who wouldn’t give up on his dream, and Caron, the nurse who took a different route to hospital.

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‘Closed doors can point us to better paths’: The robotics otaku who wouldn’t give up

by Kenneth Chew | 24 February 2017, 8:55 AM

In light of the release of the A-level results on Feb 24, Thir.st talked to some young adults about the day they received their A Level result slips and how their lives unfolded thereafter. The conclusion: Success in our educational system isn’t as simple as scoring straight As, and that imperfection does not mean failure.

Vernon Chow’s romance with robotics started with a ton of Lego and the uncanny ability to undo child-safety locks. “In primary school, my mum brought me to a robotics class and I was hooked.”

It wasn’t long before he tasted victory at a National Junior Championship and knew for sure what he wanted to pursue in life. But, being mildly dyslexic, he would find the rigid educational system to be the bane of his existence.

Gunning for opportunities in robotics, Vernon’s sights were set on Mechanical Engineering. But his grades (he got an S for GP and Chinese) meant he wasn’t sure if he would qualify for university. “I was devastated,” he said. It didn’t seem fair that after the work he put in – far more than his peers, he thought – and how he’d served in church faithfully, God would even allow such a result.

All of Vernon’s applications and appeals to mechanical engineering were rejected. “I had to rethink my options: Take my A Levels again, study during National Service, go to a private school or go overseas?”

Vernon had no back-up plan – it had to be robotics. A second round of unsuccessful applications followed before he tried again, finally securing a place in NTU Common Engineering on the third try, long after the appeals deadline.

“I sent emails to the university, every department, and even a Cabinet Minister. I’d lost all hope in myself, but God was good to me. It was a gift!” After a year, after much struggle and further appeals, he was allocated a place in Mechanical Engineering.

For Vernon, there was little time for celebration because things were about to get even rougher. In university, he found himself barely scraping through various crossroads where his dream could have ended: Poor grades, rejected internships, struggling with the curriculum and almost having to delay his graduation. Often on the brink of despair, he found himself constantly doubting himself and questioning God’s plans.

“I struggled a lot compared to others. But God specially puts us through this journey so that we’ll be built differently.”

Thankfully, he held on to the belief that God’s grace was enough.

And he started to shine. He represented NTU at a robotics competition in Seattle, featuring teams from the world’s top universities. “It was Disneyland to me.” One of his internships landed him his current job as a Mechanical Designer, which he considers a great privilege given the niche market of his skill-set. It was the same grace that had saw him through school.

“When I failed a module in my final semester, I wasn’t worried. If God wanted me to do another semester, I could smile because I knew He had a purpose for it.”

For Vernon, who’s also an aspiring mountaineer, challenges should be embraced. “In life you cannot expect a smooth journey. There are going to be bumps and obstacles whether you like it or not. Your faith will be tested,” said Vernon, growing more animated as he spoke, shifting to the edge of his seat. “When you choose to submit to Him, you could see a closed door as His plan to bring you to an even better path.”

Any journey with God will make sense in the grand scheme of things, he said. “Everyone’s journey is different. There’s no comparison. I struggled a lot compared to others. But God specially puts us through these so that we’ll be built differently.”

As a cell leader, Vernon now encourages the youths in his care to trust in God’s specific plans that are far better than our own. His eyes light up: “If He can do it for me, He can do it for anybody!”


Vernon is one of three young working adults we interviewed who went through very different journeys after their A Levels, but have all seen their paths come good. Read the journey of Benjamin, who struggled with his choice to study Law, and Caron, the nurse who took a different route to hospital.

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‘Don’t limit your life to what the results slip says’: The nurse who took a different route to hospital

by Kenneth Chew | 24 February 2017, 8:55 AM

In light of the release of the A-level results on Feb 24, Thir.st talked to some young adults about the day they received their A Level result slips and how their lives unfolded thereafter. The conclusion: Success in our educational system isn’t as simple as scoring straight As, and that imperfection does not mean failure.

From a young age, Caron Koh believed God had called her to the medical field. “I pushed myself very hard. I wanted to save the world. I was obsessed with my grades because I needed straight As to become a doctor.”

Her studying antics led her to set up camp at various 24-hour Starbucks or fast-food outlets, where she’d regularly pull all-nighters. “My parents were very worried.”

But while the single A and straight Bs she scored for her A Levels would have been a decent result by most people’s standards, her dream of become a doctor was crushed.

“I was disappointed, lost and confused. Wasn’t it God’s plan for me? I went straight to Church and sat at one of the corridors and cried out to God.” It was as if her entire faith had evaporated into nothingness.

But God heard her prayers. “Three different people whom I rarely talked to came up to me and spoke of compassion. God opened up my mind and led me to nursing.”

A relatively smooth application process coupled with scholarships convinced her that God was still with her, and she had not somehow “fallen out” of His will. His peace returned to her.

“At the end of the day, when we meet God, all you want to hear is: Well done, good and faithful servant.”

“I looked at these open doors and it was as if God was saying, look, I know you better than you know yourself. I realised that nursing really fit my personality because I can listen to my patients and interact with them in ways doctors cannot.”

Caron, now a Senior Nurse, said she finds great fulfilment in connecting deeply with patients and helping them in addition to their medical needs. She also recounted a number of instances when she had to play intermediary between hysterical patient and doctor. “Nurses are also very involved in the social welfare of patients, such as linking them up with social workers and ensuring that there are people to pick them up or care for them at home.”

She believes God continues to lead her every day.

“Don’t limit your life and career prospects to what the paper says. I had a dream job, but God’s dreams and plans for me were so much greater.” She believes that no matter what grades we get, what truly matters holds true. “At the end of the day, when we meet God, all you want to hear is: Well done, good and faithful servant.”

As a worship leader and youth core leader in church, Caron lives for the glory of God and encourages others to do likewise.


Caron is one of three young working adults we interviewed who went through very different journeys after their A Levels, but have all seen their paths come good. Read the journey of Vernon, the robotics otaku who wouldn’t give up on his dream, and Caron, the nurse who took a different route to hospital.

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Article list

I was looking for love in all the wrong places – until love found me

No matter how you fared for your A Levels, remember: You are not your results

Serving in the spotlight: The official photographer

‘If grades are all you’re chasing, it’ll be a never-ending pursuit’: From A Levels to attorney

‘Closed doors can point us to better paths’: The robotics otaku who wouldn’t give up

‘Don’t limit your life to what the results slip says’: The nurse who took a different route to hospital