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What’s the point of life? Everything is meaningless

by | 7 November 2017, 11:48 PM

Here’s an honest thought: There are times I wish I was dead. 

I’m not suicidal – I don’t want to kill myself – but I’m not averse to the idea of death: Wouldn’t it be nice to one day sleep and never wake up? It seems so peaceful, being detached from the pain and suffering on earth.

Life often seems like a cycle of repeated patterns: Sleep. Work. Eat. Repeat. There seems to be no end – no meaning to the things I’m doing. What’s the point of trudging through life? 

A friend once told me that his purpose for living is to make the world a better place for the generations to come. He wants to leave behind a legacy like Edison or Einstein did. He wants to impact the world so that no one would forget he existed.

It’s a noble cause, but it doesn’t resonate with me. We can certainly improve people’s lives, but in the grander scheme of things, will we ever change the world?

I’m not the first to think about the meaning of life. King Solomon dedicated the entire book of Ecclesiastes to this topic alone. After spending 12 chapters lamenting the futility of life, he concludes in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 that the only purpose behind it all is to know God and keep His commandments.

To know God and to keep His commandments.

Similar reasons for living are found in other parts of the Bible. To have a relationship with Him (1 John 3:1); to grow in Christlikeness (Romans 8:28-29), to usher others back to Him before it’s too late (Ephesians 3:8-12).

Increasingly, I’m seeing that our time on earth is simply a period of preparation for our future in eternity.

So as I seriously questioned the purpose for my existence earlier this year, I was convicted that there must be a reason why I’m alive. There must be a reason for my life. And I concluded that life – our time on earth and what we do – is only meaningful in light of eternity.

Recently I attended an event where numerous Singaporean missionaries gathered together. There, the missionaries shared personal stories of what they’d seen and experienced, travelling to some of the most dangerous parts of the world to share the Gospel. Think the Congo in Central Africa.

The weight of reality suddenly came crashing down on me as I listened to story after story of prisoners, prostitutes and broken people.

That night, I felt a bit of the Father’s heart for His suffering children. I realised how myopic I had been all this while. I was so caught up with myself I failed to recognise there were many other lives out there waiting to be touched – desperate for salvation. 

I’m not just talking about building houses for the impoverished or providing the starving with food. Those are important, but beyond meeting the physical needs of this life, what difference was I making to their eternity? Where would they go when they die?

life lived for oneself is short, but a life lived for God reaps eternal value.

I know many people who work hard for achievements. For a legacy. But I’m not one of them. I don’t see the value of that, especially when death can so easily take it all away.

Unlike my friend whose focus considers only this lifetime, I want to leave those around me with something even death cannot touch or snatch away. I want to show them the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).

Because in the end, there’s only one thing that has an eternal impact: The lives we help to save and the souls we point back to God.

Nothing else has lasting significance. life lived for oneself is short, but a life lived for God reaps eternal value (1 Corinthians 15:58). It’s counterintuitive, but I truly believe that within this manner of living lies the meaning of life.

/ 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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Where in the world are our young missionaries?

by Joey Lam | 21 February 2018, 10:12 PM

It’s becoming somewhat of a perennial question: How can we engage and mobilise millennials for missions, both within the Church and across cultures?

Here’s something my cell member said in one of our discussions about the millennial generation that stayed with me.

‘The highest dropout rate from church happens between the ages 17 to 19. It is the age of enlightenment for young adults. They have a new-found freedom. They realise they can do something else with their time rather than go to church.

“The church leadership keeps thinking that there is something wrong with the programmes they are running. They think their transitional initiatives aren’t good enough, or it’s just the ‘A’ Levels.

“But I have seen those who went to church through the ‘A’ Level period ultimately leave the church; and those who disappeared during the ‘A’ levels come back to church after their exams.

“So it isn’t exams, it isn’t transitions, it isn’t programmes.

“It is about the authenticity of our faith.”

I sat there chewing on his words.

I replied, “But I am heartened that the discourse within the Church body is happening. And the answers are starting to get passed around.”

I said that because I’ve seen with my own two eyes how the Holy Spirit has already started a unity movement across the larger Church in Singapore. He has been blowing us out of our silos, causing individual parts of the body of Christ to interact and work together.

During the GoForth Millennial Influencers Gathering on February 1, 2018, we had four individuals from diverse backgrounds come together to exchange and make sense of the “puzzle pieces” of insight they’d received over the years. I believe their revelations are more valuable than their titles.

In the words of panelist Claire Carter, a young lady who’s been organising mission trips to countries such as India before she was even 20: “The antidote to short-lived excitement is to get us millennials acquainted with the person of God, the exciting character of God, and His heart for His people.

“If we make missions about programmes, we will only see the power of the programmes – instead of the power of God.

“Missions are exciting because God is exciting. Young people need to see that the greatest thing they can be a part of is God’s exciting redemptive mission.”

Claire Carter, the youngest panelist and representative for her generation.

Jason Chua of Burning Hearts House of Prayer, the next youngest on the panel, had this to add: “The way we are raising leaders today is to run good programmes.

“But there is a lack of leaders today who have been raised to first know God and to seek Him. To cultivate a life with God that goes beyond just a Sunday or Saturday affair and is instead, a daily living. And the younger ones need someone older who can model that for them.

You can only reproduce who you are, and you can only reproduce something that you have.

“Because you can only reproduce who you are, and you can only reproduce something that you have. If we as their leaders don’t have that lifestyle, there is no way we can tell a young person to do it. They will never be convinced. They have to experience it with the people who are leading them.

“If we can model that, then young people will catch on the spirit of living that life. You don’t have to try to convince them or make them do missions.

“We need to create a greenhouse that emphasises values rather than methodology.”

Jason Chua of Burning Hearts House of Prayer shares his convictions.

He continued, “You want to engage millennials, you want to challenge them – but you should never lower the bar for them.

“One of the problems in churches today is that there is so much fear that the next generation is going to run away, so we lower the bar. That is dangerous.

“We have to model our faith to them, show them our faith is real. That the cause of missions is worthwhile.

“That is when they will give 10 years, 20 years or even their whole lives to missions.”

David Tan, director of Wycliffe Bible Translators (Singapore), shared a similar heart for young adults. “The key to engaging millennials is to build strong relationships with them. Then you will never have to tell them to “Go!” – instead you can say, “Let’s go!”.

David Tan, a seasoned missionary with a heart for millennials.

“It’s easier to go when there people are coming with me. We are all in this together. When you have a group of friends – the body of Christ – going with you, it’s not just easier – it’s more exciting.

Instead of telling young people to “Go!”, you should say, “Let’s go!”.

Dr Goh Wei Leong, co-founder of Healthserve and Singaporean of the Year 2018, had simple advice as well: “Sometimes the simple things are important, like coffee. Think coffee, conversations, Christ. I think with that, we build relationships first. Then we get the values in.”

Dr Goh Wei Leong, Singaporean of the Year with a simple love for coffee, conversations and Christ.

During the tea break, I went up to Jason Chua to appreciate him for his sharing. He simply replied, with a nod towards David and Dr Goh: “These are the real heroes.” I knew he was also referring to all who have walked the missions journey ahead of us younger ones.

Besides actively caring for migrant workers in Singapore through his work at Healthserve, Dr Goh also serves on the global team of advisers for Operation Mobilisation. He has been deeply involved in integral missions for years.

David Tan’s decade-long work in the mission field has included translating the Bible into a language that over 1 million people speak. And, by the way, he also has a PhD in Mathematics.

Observing this, it’s plain to see that what the Church can and must do with regards to missions in this day and age isn’t really mobilising just the younger ones – but the whole body of Christ, young and old. Everyone has valuable things to bring to the table.

After all, in Biblical terms, everyone alive during the same time was considered to be part of the same generation. And if we can figure out how to tap on the strengths of the two ends of this generation and bring them together, we will then be able to move forward powerfully.

It is not so much about not pouring new wine into old wineskins. It is about offering both old and new wine from the same cellar.


If you are interested, there will be another GoForth Millennial Influencers Gathering on March 1, 2018, at Bartley Christian Church’s café corner. Sign up here.

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Do Good

Are you a part-time Christian?

by | 21 February 2018, 4:17 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

/ roytay@thir.st

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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I got stood up on Valentine’s Day

by Geraldine Koh | 15 February 2018, 3:48 PM

It was Valentine’s Day. I could have gone on a date with my husband. But I had looked forward to meeting Miss L. She was a freelance sex worker from East Asia, pacing the streets of Geylang’s red-light district to eke out a living.

In her 30s, she was new to Singapore, having travelled a long way here from her hometown.

I had met her on a warm Friday night under the faint neon lights of a corridor in Geylang. I was on one of my regular walks with a group of volunteers who were committed to expressing the love of Jesus with marginalised communities working in the red-light district.

Miss L had been friendly during our first meeting. She was chatty, talking incessantly about her hometown. She was clearly missing home badly. She had no friends, never taking the initiative to mix with fellow sex workers from her home country who stood along the same glitzy street.

I met her the second time on another Friday. I braced myself to ask if she had someone to celebrate the Lunar New Year with. She looked down forlornly and shook her head in silence. I suggested having reunion dinner with her.

Her eyes lit up, and she said “Yes!” without much hesitation. Having a reunion dinner together would have made her feel at home during this festive season which can ironically be superficial, long-drawn and lonely.

I suggested having reunion dinner with her. Her eyes lit up, and she said “Yes!” without much hesitation.

She had agreed to meet me on Valentine’s Day, the same week of the Lunar New Year celebrations. I got myself ready and travelled quite a distance from my home to Geylang, looking forward to meet Miss L and bless her with a sumptuous meal.

I waited and waited. The dreaded message came. Miss L texted, I have not slept since I finished work with a client. I am very tired. I need to have a good sleep before heading back into the streets again. I cannot meet you for dinner.

I had a surge of mixed feelings. I did not feel too much disappointment. This was not my first time being “stood up”. Several other street ladies I had arranged to meet before also did not turn up, citing similar reasons as Miss L.

On the other hand, I felt immensely sorry for Miss L. She needed her sleep from working long hours in the prostitution trade. In fact, she needed more than a physical state of rest. She needed the rest only Jesus could give her.

I hope to have that reunion dinner with Miss L soon. Reunion is about families reuniting and getting together to celebrate love and kinship. For my reunion dinner with Miss L, it would be special; it would include having fellowship with a very special family guest — Abba Father — someone I know it would be worth it for Miss L to know and embrace.


Operation Mobilisation (OM) Singapore has a ministry reaching out to marginalised communities working in the red-light district of Singapore with the love of Jesus. If you and your friends are interested to pray, give and go with this ministry, please write to info.sg@om.org

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A cut above the rest: The 26-year-old barber for the underprivileged

by | 9 February 2018, 1:09 PM

“Don’t come in first, it’s a mess!” yells Chu Yin, as she rushes into her little studio to clean up.

A Bangladeshi man follows her in. Wordlessly, he picks up a broom and begins to sweep the floor. He seems to know where things should go, deftly picking up random tools and arranging them in the shop.

After the dust settles, Chu Yin ushers me into her cosy workspace – it’s a one-chair concept barbershop. She sits the man down in front of a huge mirror, as she gently fastens the cutting cape over him. “The usual?”

His name is Mahmud. He nods to his friend Chu Yin, who has been giving him free haircuts here at Telja Studios for half a year now.

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From dream to reality, it took Chu Yin 2 years to set up Telja Studios. "Nobody glorifies the job of a barber," she says, "But I feel like I will look back and regret not trying."

In December 2016, Chu Yin founded Telja Studios to positively impact people’s lives.

It started with picking up barbering as a hobby. “I used to have really short hair and so, I was able to appreciate a good short haircut,” she tells me. 

But she began to wonder how could she benefit the community through the skills she had acquired. Apprenticing under Lex Low – a Malaysian barber who gives free haircuts to refugees and the underprivileged – Chu Yin improved her skills and saw how barbering could help people.

“Basically Lex was doing everything I yearned to do. That gave me a lot of hope and encouragement.”

Despite family opposition and the risks behind starting a business, Chu Yin opened her barbershop as a tangible way to help others. While she is passionate about barbering, Chu Yin admits that the relational aspect of her job is what she enjoys most.

I’m not here to make a big impact at this point – but to transform the life of one person. When you’re transformed, you’ll live for something greater than yourself.

“To me, haircuts are almost secondary. If I’m just cutting hair without intentionally connecting to the person, it will get very boring after a while because how many variations can a guy’s hair have?”

“It’s the relationships that I value most.”

As a barber, Chu Yin has many opportunities to engage with her customers. And as Telja Studios is a one-chair barbershop concept, both parties can converse without worrying about being overheard.

“You don’t have a choice. You sit here, you’ve got to listen to me talk, or talk to me,” she laughs, “Over time you meet your barber more than you meet your friends. You have to come almost every month. With that, you get to know a person and you get to speak life over them.”

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Chu Yin's barbershop only has one chair intentionally: So she can build friendships with her customers personally. "It's not just a personalised haircut – it's a personal get-to-know-you session too," she says.

It’s a business philosophy which is evident from her friendship with Mahmud. Their friendship started with a simple hello.

“I try to get to know people around here,” Chu Yin explains, “I literally say ‘Hi’, but that’s it. It was Mahmud who went beyond the ‘Hi’ and asked about the haircut.”

Because Mahmud only gets off work at 9pm, Chu Yin waited past her normal opening hours just to serve him. And at the end of the haircut, she didn’t take the money he offered because she just wanted to know Mahmud better.

That was how a friendship blossomed between the 26-year-old and 48-year-old. Today, they are even able to share their worries with each other.

Mahmud recounts one instance when he was deeply worried about a personal issue. He turned up at Telja Studios’ doorstep, distressed and dishevelled.

“She said: ‘Come in, and I shave for you.'”

It was an act of service which touched Mahmud greatly. Chu Yin also offered to keep his situation in her prayers, and texted him from time to time to make sure he was doing alright.

“Sister is very kind,” Mahmud tells me.

I see a genuine two-way friendship between Chu Yin and Mahmud: While he receives free haircuts, Mahmud occasionally brings sugarcane drinks to her studio.

Chu Yin nods, “That to me is a blessing. Because sometimes the distilled water tank outside is empty, and I can’t run down to get a drink even though it’s just one staircase away because I’m cutting hair back to back. He just magically appears at the right time.”

He laughs: “Sister shares many things with her customers. So sometimes I go down and buy sugarcane!”

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Chu Yin gives Mahmud free haircuts regularly. Personal but professional, she styles Mahmud's hair meticulously in a 45-minute cut-and-conversation.

Chu Yin tells me she has bigger plans: To mentor youths-at-risk and equip them with her skillset.

It’s why she started a barber academy at Telja Studios.

“Young people are very vain. They love to know how the hair works, how they can ask their barber to cut,” Chu Yin laughs.

Chu Yin has been volunteering at New Hope Community Services (NHCS), a charity centre for displaced families in Singapore. Beyond volunteering, she reaches out to the youths she meets at NHCS by offering them free haircuts.

“They will be like, ‘You’re a barber? Don’t bluff – show me!’ and I would be like, ‘Ya, I’ll show you. It’s so near anyway,” she says.

“Helping them find satisfaction through what they can do in the future is my way of reaching out. We believe in the potential of young people.”

It’s why she named her barbershop “Telja” – the Icelandic word for “belief”.

When asked why she doesn’t simply work with NGOs (non-governmental organisations), Chu Yin tells me that while NGOs meet the basic needs of underprivileged families – there’s still more to do. 

“It’s not just about giving them the job. It’s helping them pull out all their other roots first. This is why I want to take my time to get to know these people personally. I’m not here to make a big impact at this point – but to transform the life of one person.”

“When you’re transformed, you’ll live for something greater than yourself.”

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"I’m not just a charity organisation," Chu Yin explains, "Just like any other enterprise, I have to make money, lah. But this business will always have a heart for the community. If my business exists but people are not impacted – my KPIs are not met."

That afternoon, I left Chu Yin’s little barbershop in wide-eyed wonder.

Here is a woman, not much older than I am, who refuses to conform to societal standards – forging a more meaningful path instead. And all it took was deep passion and purpose.

Chu Yin’s friendship with Mahmud made me see that you can bless anyone anytime and anywhere. It doesn’t need to be at a volunteering organisation – it could even be in my workspace or neighbourhood!

“I hope people will realise there’s more they can do with their time. Go and do that which will bless the community and find satisfaction through it,” she told me.

The world really becomes our mission field when our heart is touched for God’s people.

Let’s ask Him to help us care like He does. Then let’s start with what we have.


Telja Studios is a barbershop with a heart for communities. If you would like to be involved in what they do – consider joining the team.

You can also sponsor someone to take up barbering course under Chu Yin. He/she will eventually be given a job at Telja Studios. For more information, write to chuyin@teljastudios.com.

/ 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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Article list

What’s the point of life? Everything is meaningless

Where in the world are our young missionaries?

Are you a part-time Christian?

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

I got stood up on Valentine’s Day

A cut above the rest: The 26-year-old barber for the underprivileged