Top Stories

Sign Up for our newsletter now.

Do Good

The last place I wanted to be on Christmas

by | 20 December 2017, 8:56 AM

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)

Beloved.

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 hello@thir.st! You could also pop by one of the many Churches celebrating Christmas this weekend – find one near you using our Christmas directory!

/ christina@thir.st

Christina is a designer who memorises Pantone swatches. She is an INFJ who loves matcha, 80% dark chocolate, beautiful typography and folk jazz. She also dreams of raising her own pet penguin one day.

Conversations

We Recommend

Faith

How to walk on water (and not sink)

by Darius Leow

Culture

Sex in the Church: An interview with Ben KC Lee, veteran speaker on sexuality issues

by Lemuel Teo

Relationships

What’s in a surname that I should change it when I marry?

by Sherrie Han

Do Good

My true fear is growing comfortable

by Joey Lam | 18 June 2018, 3:05 PM

This is a response piece to A Chinese girl in the Congo: Working in war zones 5,000 miles from home.


I was reading Jemima’s article when I was struck by a line in it.

‘Then it dawned on me. I hadn’t fled for my life, lost everything I owned, hidden in jungles for days, watched people I love die in front of me, starved in refugee camps, endured squalid conditions with little hope for survival … “

Stopped dead in my tracks, a singular thought came to mind: Have I become too comfortable?

While God doesn’t necessarily call us to live in dangerous places, He has called us to die to ourselves so that He can use us wherever He has positioned us.

So my true fear is being too comfortable in full-time ministry. And I never thought I would ever start feeling comfortable.

There are a number of reasons why I thought I would never be comfortable in full-time ministry.

For starters, I don’t have a regular income. Many of us working in mission organisations have to raise our own funds, and few are able to consistently hit their needed income for a stable salary. Few of us have adequate CPF contributions, taking a salary way below market rate. But God is faithful to provide.

Next, Interserve Singapore for a very long time did not have an office space. To save money on rent, we worked from our own homes or anywhere with WiFi. So I regularly did my work from coffee shops or on the train. Only recently were we blessed with office space by Geylang Church of Christ.

My prayer is that no matter where the currents of life bring me, I will never grow too comfortable, to die to self and follow Him into the field.

Third, for a very long time, my only other colleague was Christy, my director. The working relationship between Christy and I is precious, as we can share vulnerably and openly, but it was still strange to a fresh graduate. I can’t complain about my director to my director, can I? Though honestly, there isn’t much to complain about – it’s been my privilege to work with such a visionary, energetic and earnest leader.

Also, for most of the questions I did not know (I was doing graphic design when I was trained in political science) I had no one to ask but Google and YouTube. So in a sense, if I were ever to ask someone how to do something, I would be inquiring from other agencies like YWAM or OM.

In short, agency work broke all my stereotypes and mindsets about a fixed office, fixed working hours, colleagues to have lunch with, and most crucially – a fixed salary.

Yet after one year plus in ministry, I still caught myself getting comfortable.

During team prayer one week, we received news from a friend serving in Kabul that there were 15 impending bomb threats to be carried out at any time.

I just sat there shaking my head. 15 bomb threats at the same time? I couldn’t imagine how the security forces were rushing to track the bombs and diffuse each one. How did their wives and children feel when they watching them leave to work against time-bombs?

And how about this missionary’s family here in Singapore? What would they think if they knew they might lose their daughter serving in Kabul to one of these bombs?

That was when I asked myself: If God called me to drop everything, to go live and serve in hard places, amidst danger and suffering – would I go?

While God doesn’t necessarily call us to live in dangerous places, He has called us to die to ourselves so that He can use us wherever He has positioned us.

I didn’t dare to answer because I knew my answer. That was when I knew I got comfortable. That I had not died to my own desires, crafting up excuses to avoid God calling me to hard places.

I am working in a mission agency and I dare not go?

What then do I believe in? Do I even believe in what I am mobilising people towards? These workers we’re talking about are single ladies who face death threats, rape threats, lack of electricity, no WiFi, no hot water, no air con, not even a fan … How dare I quietly tell myself my life is more valuable than those serving and suffering in these hard places?

It’s not about chasing after adventure and danger, it’s about choosing to die to self and go to places to live amongst people who God loves dearly.

In Christy’s words, “Do not be afraid to come close to suffering. Jesus came close to our suffering.” And truly, we often read about the co-suffering with Christ in the Bible.

The call to serve overseas in hard and painful places isn’t the easiest decision to make admittedly. Like the rich man (Matthew 19:16-28), we have great possessions. We serve Jesus faithfully but dare not sell all that we possess, to give to the poor and follow Him. The rich man couldn’t, even after Jesus promised him that he would have treasure in Heaven.

At this juncture, I myself am transiting to a slightly more marketplace setting in the community services. Here I have fixed income, a sizeable team of colleagues, career progression to speak of.

I took some time to share with Joseph Chean about this transition I was about to make. “Go in with your eyes wide open,” were the words spoken straight into my spirit.

“Go in with your eyes wide open, knowing that when the day comes for you to make the jump into the mission field, and you can’t – don’t regret.

“By that time, you would have got a wife and children, a house, a much higher salary, most probably in management level. And at that moment, if you can’t make the jump, don’t regret. But go in with your eyes wide open, knowing that today, you have considered the choice you are making.”

His words echoed deep within the recesses of my heart. Upon surveying all I have ten years from now, will I – out of fear – conjure up excuses to avoid the honour and privilege to partner with Christ in hard places where great suffering abounds?

“Do many not make the jump in the end?” I asked. “Yes. Many,” was his reply.

My prayer is that no matter where the currents of life bring me, I will never grow too comfortable. I will die to self and follow Him into the field. After all, He jumped.

I’ll jump too.


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.

Conversations

We Recommend

Studies

I was so sure where the path would lead – and then the music faded

by Chantel Tay

Relationships

For many years, I thought my dad didn’t love me

by Pauline Wong

Faith

Youths of Singapore, now is your time to pray

by Eugene Tan

Do Good

How could you take from me what I deserved?

by | 17 May 2018, 12:26 PM

When I was in secondary school, my number one ambition was to become a cell leader.

The thought of being able to change people’s lives was something I desperately wanted. Unfortunately, this led me to suck up to my leaders in the hopes of getting on their good side.

Around that time, I responded to a challenge by my cell leader to pray for a friend and invite him to youth camp that year. Joshua, a childhood friend, came to mind. I secretly thought: “Why not? Maybe if I integrate him into the cell, I could get more credibility from the leaders!”

To my surprise, not only did he accept the invitation to attend camp that year – he became really well integrated into the community within a short span of time. Almost too well …

When it was time to pick a new leader, within the short span of a year, they chose Joshua to step up instead of me. I felt betrayed.

How could they! After all I’ve done for the cell, all the contributions I’ve made, how could they deny me the one thing I wanted the most! I have my rights too!

Looking back on those days, I realise that I behaved like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32).

He had seen his young brother essentially ask his father to die, run away to spend his money on parties, luxurious food and prostitutes – only to come crawling back into the house begging to be taken back as a slave.

But instead of sending him back to the depravity he had left them both for, the father welcomed the younger son home with open arms – even throwing him a big party. I knew well how the older brother felt.

Where is justice? Where is the reward I deserved? What about my rights too?

Because I felt the same: What gave Joshua the right to inherit what I believed was mine? But rereading that parable, I saw something I hadn’t seen before. Just as much as the younger son was lost – so was the older brother.

In The Prodigal God, Timothy Keller writes that both sons wanted the father’s possessions rather than the person. Both were far from their father, but while one ran away from the father’s love by being extremely bad – the other did so by being extremely good.

I, too, was undeserving of God’s grace. When all I deserved was death, He ran to me and welcomed me with grace.

The cell leader position was just a symbol. Like the fattened calf at the feast, it masked an underlying issue: My devotion to God wasn’t founded on delight in Him but on trying to curry favours out of Him.

I have done so much in Your name. You owe me. 

That was what my bitter heart was actually saying. But regardless of which son we resemble, God’s response to us is still the same. Like the father in the story, God runs to welcome wayward children back into His arms and joy. He desires his children to lay down their pride and reenter his joy.

The older son couldn’t do so because he held on to his rights – what he felt he rightfully deserved. And just like him, by clinging onto what I thought I deserved, I denied myself the joy of seeing one of his sons come home again – of witnessing a warrior of faith rise up to expand God’s kingdom.

The solution was ultimately simple but painful: I had to lay down my rights and all the things I thought I deserved to reenter God’s joy. But I couldn’t do it. I felt God had been unjust and that his mercy to one person had come at my expense.

How is it that when God is unjust I was the one to pay the price for it?

That was what I actually thought! Eventually I gave up my rights not because I had to – but because I finally realised that I had been the younger son many times as well. I’m all too guilty of running away from God and laying waste to my life.

I, too, was undeserving of God’s grace. When all I deserved was death, He ran to me and welcomed me with grace.

The one who paid the price for my redemption was Jesus. He was what an elder brother should be. My redemption came at His expense, but he never once complained. He simply and completely obeyed his Father and took on the expense so I could be restored to the family.

/ 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?

Conversations

We Recommend

video

#THIRSTACOUSTIC – Remind Me

by Nicole Chan

Culture

The most important thing in the Church: Unity

by Gabriel Ong

Faith

Youths of Singapore, now is your time to pray

by Eugene Tan

Do Good

A Chinese girl in the Congo: Working in war zones 5,000 miles from home

by Jemima Ooi, Justice Rising | 16 May 2018, 7:02 PM

Sleeping in mud huts on hard-packed earth. Rats crawling all over you. Making fires every night because there is no electricity to speak of. Pulling worms out from the feet of children. Running for your life from rebel armies.

These are experiences that will make good stories for the grandchildren, I always think. But as of now I’ve only just turned 30, with a long way to go till then.

At 23, I finally answered God’s call to “go places with Him”. I didn’t know how or where, but I packed my bags, signed up to train with international missions organisation Youth With a Mission (YWAM), and left my family, first class honours and first-world living behind.

My beginning years in the mission field were spent in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, after which I served with Iris Global in Mozambique, under Heidi Baker. It was here that I encountered one of the hardest seasons of mission work – enduring a drought. Water was so scarce that a friend of mine didn’t shower for six weeks!

From there, God moved me to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where I have been working for the past five years with Justice Rising, a missionary organisation serving war-affected countries including Syria and Iraq.

Infographic courtesy of Justice Rising

A quick search on Google will show you how many times the Congo has been officially renamed, which is telling of the number of hands it has passed through over the decades of its troubled history. The amount of bloodshed and brutality in the land is an even darker story.

Mostly unknown to the rest of the world outside of Africa, the war in the Congo has been one of the worst since World War II, spanning more than 20 years with a death toll of almost six million and many, many more displaced. The United Nation’s largest peacekeeping base is there, officials naming it “the rape capital of the world“.

Much of the work at Justice Rising stems from a God-given directive that if we wanted to get to the people of the war-torn republic, we needed to start building schools in the poorest and most broken communities.

It is through the many kinds of schools we’ve set up – schools for all ages, vocational schools – that we get to dig deep into communities in hope of sustainable change. These schools target people in different age groups and contexts to help make them viable for life.

Infographic courtesy of Justice Rising

With our sewing schools, many women no longer have to prostitute themselves to soldiers just so they can feed their children. With our primary and secondary schools, we can offer children a future apart from killing or slavery. A school in a broken community can stop many young boys from becoming child soldiers; it can keep many young girls from being sold as child brides or slaves.

In my few years here, I have witnessed the rehabilitation of child-soldiers and trauma work with rape victims and refugees. And such social ills are just one of the many faces of mission work in Africa’s “heart of darkness“.

Last year, I contracted both malaria and typhoid at the same time. It was the weakest I’d ever been, and I was suffering away from home. Still, there was so much grace, my local families treated me with such love and care.

In times like this it is obvious that I’m no expert on the different fields I serve, most times I feel like a clueless child. I’m dependent on the locals to guide me, interpret for me, shelter me – dependent on God to instruct me, to heal broken lives through me.

Like a little child, I potter to the marketplaces, point to different vegetables and ask the mamas – their version of our aunties – in stilted Swahili: “What is this called?”

Congolese mama chopping wood

Honestly, transiting from Singapore to India, then across different African nations was not as difficult as people might think. Transition is easy when we enter the foreign field as a child, acquainted with our limitations and ready to learn. It endears us to the locals and empowers them to rise up. It takes away the pressure to have it all together.

I must say, transiting into the field is arguably easier than transiting out of the field and into first-world settings! I’ve learnt that when I exit a war zone, it’s so important that I have some time off with God to process my thoughts and emotions before I continue ministering in another country.

Sometimes, it even requires some trauma-counselling to process all the hardships we see, hear and experience.

No one can choose where they’re born, whether it’s in a first-world nation or a war zone – but we are our brother’s keeper.

I remember the very first time I exited the Congolese war zones to take a break. For the first time in a long while, I lay down on a comfortable mattress, had a hot shower with running water, a toilet that flushed, electricity … And I wept.

I was no different from my people in the Congo; who was I that I could leave the scene any time I wished – while they spent their entire lives amidst destruction and unrest?

I wrestled and came to the conclusion that no one can choose where they’re born, whether it’s in a first-world nation or a war zone. But we are our brother’s keeper; and “to whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48).

One of the children I work with, who is also called Jemima!

There are many challenges we face on the field, both physical and psychological – droughts, bullets, threats of rape, kidnappings … But the greatest challenge for me is to truly see the suffering of the people God leads me to. To embrace their brokenness, identify with their suffering, and treat them with the love of the Father.

Many times we are tempted to gloss over the appalling reality of their struggles, not because we’re apathetic, but because the enormity of what they face can make us feel so small, inadequate and overwhelmed.

While I must always be careful not to take on false responsibility, daring to see the depths of brokenness and allowing God to break my heart for what breaks His has enabled me time and time again to draw on His plans and resources for the people He loves.

Sounds abstract, but let me illustrate this for you.

Two years ago, I started a housing initiative in Kenya for a starving family with six children. It all started with me sitting in their tent on a visit, aghast as the father sadly recounted how they had witnessed two of their children die as they fled for their lives.

They were living in a refugee tent that was caving in, and I was greatly moved in my spirit to help them, although I also remember thinking, “Building a house is quite an undertaking!”

Refugee camp in the Congo

When I left their tent, I found myself scratching my legs with increasing intensity. To my horror, I looked down to see that I’d been bitten all over by fleas while sitting with the family. I had more than 100 flea bites on both legs.

It was excruciating, and for the next few days I couldn’t sleep – painfully falling asleep but waking up soon after, scratching furiously. One night, in my frustration, I prayed, “Jesus, I thought you were interceding for me, did You forget the fleas?”

In that moment I could almost hear Him chuckle, and one word emerged in my heart: Identification.

Then it dawned on me. I hadn’t fled for my life, lost everything I owned, hidden in jungles for days, watched people I love die in front of me, starved in refugee camps, endured squalid conditions with little hope for survival … I’d just experienced the tiniest fraction of what these people had gone through; I’d just been bitten by the same fleas this family couldn’t escape from.

That was how I ended up building my first refugee house, built from the funds I had saved. Soon after, God prompted my local pastor and I to budget a simple house-build prototype that cost USD$1,000. He then sent individuals, families and intercessors our way, some sowing into the building of one house, others, five houses, and more.

To date, this housing initiative has seen the construction of more than 100 houses. That’s shelter provided for hundreds of lives.

Little children in the Congo

Every bit of the work I’ve done as a missionary is purely God’s doing. I feel so small and incredulous in the midst of it; more and more convinced that God just needs us to have willing hearts and to dare to share in the suffering of our brothers and sisters in the faith.

I may not always have the resources or solutions on hand, but He does, and truly seeing His people as He sees them has helped me connect with them at a deeper, more profound level. I have also been blessed with the best local men and women of peace, the real heroes that make such extensive work possible.

As missionaries, I believe we are sent to come alongside locals to serve and to bless the community. But by the power and grace of God, it will be the Congolese themselves who will change their country and bring healing to their land.


Besides her primary work in the Congo, Jemima currently oversees two slum schools in India, is helping to develop a large refugee settlement in the central Kenyan desert while working with survivors from the genocide in Rwanda, and is supporting a Burundian refugee community.

She will be speaking at Kallos Missions Morning next Saturday, May 26, 2018, along with fellow missionaries Jea Ng and Jiamin Choo-Fong. Register for the talk here.

Conversations

We Recommend

Relationships

To the grandfather I never knew

by Fiona Teh

Relationships

Why do I feel this anxiety?

by Jolynn Chia

Relationships

Are you tired of being a cell leader?

by Gabriel Ong

Do Good

Sewing into His Kingdom

by Alison Choo | 15 May 2018, 12:24 PM

“Did you sew this?” is a question I’ve been constantly asked when people learn that I sometimes sew my own clothes and crafts around the house. Compelled by an interest in anything related to yarn, thread and fabric, I taught myself over the years to cross-stitch, knit, crochet and embroider as a hobby.

Requests to sew and customise handmade items for family and friends grew more frequent, and I wondered whether I should turn my hobby into a business.

And when the relationship I was in ended with my ex-boyfriend cheating on me, I spent even more time sewing. The long insomniac nights that followed were painful, and sewing was an outlet to process the tumult of thoughts and emotions.

I considered starting a local non-profit initiative like Tiyamike Sewing in Africa, a charity started by Australian missionary Jo Ong. By teaching women from low income families how to sew, the organisation has helped increased their capacity to provide for their households.

But as a speech therapist by profession, I already had my hands full. Perhaps something later in life when I’d have more time and resources, I thought.

Until one day, as I was reading through Matthew 25:14-28, my perspective shifted when I was meditating on the Parable of the Talents. The Master had distributed talents – what their coins were also known as – among his three servants before he left on a long journey.

While he was away, two of the servants invested their talents and doubled their wealth. Well done, he told each of them upon his return. But the third played it safe, earning nothing but his Master’s scorn. Maybe it was time for me to be a better steward of the gifts the Lord has blessed me with.

I was initially apprehensive about taking Ally Crafts Co into a social media space, not knowing where it would lead me, or if it would take off at all. But there was a calm assurance and deep confidence within, knowing that I had God on board with me on this. He the captain, and I, the servant.

As I started with baby steps, I continuously prayed for every decision made to be in line with God’s. Some of them were unconventional and counterintuitive to growing a business, but I did what I could to honour Him.

Over the months, I saw how God indeed used my gifts to reach out to His people, and to use it to honour and glorify Him. Orders for customised embroidery hoops grew, requests for workshops poured in, and opportunities for collaboration came my way.

I’ve partnered with Kins, a social skills and training programme by Hello Flowers! to empower local women from disadvantaged backgrounds by equipping them with crafting and simple entrepreneurial skills. And last year, my work was featured on YMI and in an art exhibit at Kallos Conference 2017.

What I embroider are usually a result of my thoughts, faith and reflection. Knowing that many ladies have been encouraged through my embroidery hoops and hand embroidery workshops, the grief and sorrows I felt earlier on in this journey have also gradually turned into joy. I’ve seen firsthand how God has been with me every step of the way.

When the hustle and bustle of each day winds down and the quiet and stillness of the night creeps in, I pick up my needle and thread to embroider. The repetitiveness of the stitching always brings me much solace and peace. These moments are when I have my long conversations with God.

Like the intricate stitches in my embroidery, where every stitch matters, God too doesn’t skimp on the tiniest of details; I can trust Him and the grand tapestry He is weaving with my life. I take comfort in letting go and resting in Him to provide the help, strength and guidance I need.

While the work of Ally Crafts Co isn’t done and hasn’t been entirely fulfilled yet, I look back at how far and wide God has lovingly brought me, and am truly excited for the beautiful things He has in store.


Want to pick up embroidery? Ally is collaborating with Kallos to conduct an embroidery workshop, “Stitched with Joy!” on Saturday, May 19, 2018, for young women aged 13-25 years old. Register your attendance here

Kallos is a ministry that helps young women discover their God-planned design and is excited to share what it means to have joy in a world full of worries.

Conversations

We Recommend

Faith

Youths of Singapore, now is your time to pray

by Eugene Tan

Faith

Hold on to the rope

by Lim Junheng

video

#THIRSTACOUSTIC – Remind Me

by Nicole Chan

Do Good

Saving Earth: How one man gave up everything for a street child’s future

by | 12 May 2018, 4:35 PM

His name is Geng. 29 years old. Thai programmer turned businessman. Comes from a family of doctors.

Right off the bat, he sounds like quite the eligible bachelor — a pretty outstanding guy by any means. And then he tells me he just shut down his business to pursue the dream God placed in his heart – to care for children.

I first got to know Geng through our common friend, and learned that he’s currently supporting a 13 year-old boy named Earth. His radical love for a child who’s not his own amazed me, and I wanted to hear the story from the man himself.

Over a video call, Geng shared with me that his dream started in his university days, but it wasn’t all smooth-sailing.

“On the 3rd year of my degree, God brought me to a school camp where we worked with an orphanage to care for the kids. I liked it so much that I ended up working in the orphanage foundation for 3 years with no salary after graduation.

“I knew working with children was what God wanted me to do, so He kind of moved me in that direction at first … But I lost it.”

Geng then began telling me how reality overtook his dreams: He decided to extend his family business by opening two more shops. For the next two years money became his focus. But he had no peace and he began losing profit.

“I pursued money — and I failed,” Geng admitted. It was at this point when Geng first met Earth.

Meeting Geng and his foster child, Earth, over a video call.

At that point of time, Earth was simply a kid from the streets who a churchgoer had taken pity on and brought to Church. The churchgoer had seen Earth wandering around the railway terminal a few times, before finding out that Earth has a troubled background and was constantly running away from home.

“That was how I knew him,” Geng explained, “But he was just another kid in Church to me.”

Just another face in Church indeed. Geng barely bat his eyelid when Earth disappeared. “To me it was like, so what? He’ll return,” Geng said with a shrug. And Earth would. He would disappear for a time, and then he would come back again.

“I never called you to take care of you. I told you to take care of others. It’s my job to take care of you.”

All throughout these recurring incidents, Geng couldn’t care less … Until one particular day when Earth went missing again.

“This time it was different. I felt so hurt, like something hit me. It’s like losing your own child. I never had a kid, but I felt so strongly in my spirit that I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t work. I kept thinking about Earth. Why is it so painful?”

Earth continued like this for another two to three weeks until one night, God told Geng that He was going to choose him to take care of Earth.

“I’ll arrange the situation so that you’ll be able to take care of him. But when he returns, be careful. He’ll be harder to manage than the kids in the foundation.”

“My dream is to be like Daddy Geng. Look after children who are like me,” says Earth.

God’s words proved true. When Earth came back, Geng took him in and began to care for him with the permission of Earth’s uncle. But Earth was so broken inside that he would become violent at times.

“In the first month, Earth said, ‘You’re gonna leave me anyway. Just leave me now.’ When I refused, Earth started to take advantage of me because he thought I would one day leave anyway,” Geng recalled.

“There were times he would scream vulgarities saying he never wanted me to love him.”

Words like these broke Geng’s heart. Yet the pain could never compare to that life-changing moment when Earth went missing. Geng offered me an analogy: “Mothers suffer for 9 months, but when the baby is born, she loves the baby because of what she went through.”

Love is the feeling of surrendering myself. That I can be less, to raise someone up.

He mused that might have been one way God used pain to mould him. “I’ll always remember the day when Earth did not return, how hurtful it was …  I’d rather be yelled at than to lose him. It’s too painful to lose him.”

But Geng’s relationship with Earth isn’t just built on love — it’s also built on learning to understand each other.

“The first time Earth apologised … That was the moment I saw the real him. The true Earth humbles himself and says sorry and wants to start over again.

“The world hurt Earth so much that he never felt true love in his life. Ever. His life was always in fear and insecurity. Everything was survival mode to him. From that understanding, I told him I’ll know it’s not him when he’s angry. There’s good inside him. He’s still a child, so there’s still hope.”

Geng’s investment in Earth’s future didn’t come free. He shares with me how he was left with just six more months to complete his MBA when he decided to forgo everything for Earth.

“I knew it wasn’t God,” Geng said, “It was my idea to do an MBA without even consulting God.” His parents understandably disagreed. His mum pleaded with him, “If you love me, just graduate for me.” Even his pastors pressured him not to not give up.

Only one person encouraged him to drop out. “God has no part for you in it, right? Just quit,” said a prophet whom Geng had met. After weeks of thinking it through, Geng eventually decided to pull out of his MBA programme.

“I made a difficult decision, but I followed God. I know God is proud of me.” Then, he folded his business because he knew it wasn’t what God wanted him to do. But it wasn’t easy — Geng told me more about an incident when he doubted God.

“I was telling God about how everyone around me has a stable income and is successful in life. What am I doing here? I feel like such a failure. I have Earth here too. I need to take care of him too!

“But God replied, ‘I never called you to take care of you. I told you to take care of others. It’s my job to take care of you.’ So I just surrendered to God.”

Geng was sure he was going to spend all his money in the first few months, so he could only trust that God would take care of him. And God did. Amazingly, someone flew from Singapore to do a crowdfunding video for him – something he never imagined.

I asked Geng about how he envisions his own future. He said: “I don’t know how my future will be like … I did not plan that far. But it’s OK. In the past, I tried to plan a lot of things. I used to pray for God to bless me in my business, but every time it fell apart. God has a different plan.”

Quoting Matthew 6, Geng said, “God says to leave my life to him. I just live day by day. And it’s been 4-5 months of living on the edge. It’s all about faith.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25-27)

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:31-34)

I don’t know about my future, but my security is not in my plans or my finances — it’s in God.”

As we got ready to put down the phone, I asked Geng a final question if he had any tips for readers who might be afraid to live radical lives for God and for others. He said that before even asking God what they can do — they need to know God’s love first.

“The first step is to know how much God loves you, and how patient He is with you in your life. We don’t need someone to tell us how bad we are. We know how bad we are — the secret part that we don’t want people to know. Yet God still loves you and looked past your sin. At one point, the love will overflow in you, and you’ll want to love others too.

“Love … How do I explain it? It’s not a sentence I can write. It’s the feeling of surrendering myself. That I can be less — to raise someone up.”

/ siqi@thir.st

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

Conversations

We Recommend

Relationships

Are your friends only from Church?

by Wong Siqi

Faith

Why isn’t God telling me His exact plan for my life?

by Joshua Tan

Culture

The most important thing in the Church: Unity

by Gabriel Ong

Article list

The last place I wanted to be on Christmas

My true fear is growing comfortable

How could you take from me what I deserved?

A Chinese girl in the Congo: Working in war zones 5,000 miles from home

Sewing into His Kingdom

Saving Earth: How one man gave up everything for a street child’s future