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Do Good

Here I am, send … him

by | 14 August 2017, 5:05 PM

 “But Moses said, ‘Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send somebody else’.” (Exodus 4:13)

Early last year I was jogging along my usual route, to the bridge by the river. When I got there, I took my headphones off and, in the corner of my eye, I saw a migrant worker sweeping up leaves.

The first thought that came to mind was: Pray for him.

I simply began to pray. I offered up the usual words: “Lord, be real to him and let him find You. Send godly people into his life – send them his way that he may know You.”

But as I was praying, I felt a sudden weight in my heart which seemed to say: Maybe I am the one who should go. I should be that guy I’m asking God for.

I pray these prayers so often. But behind such prayers, there was a part of me that was hiding from what He’s called us – me – to do: Love one another and share the Gospel.

Please send somebody else. That’s what I’ve been praying.

HERE I AM, SEND …

I walked over to him. I greeted him, shook his hand. And we became friends: Sambak from Tamil Nadu, and Gabriel from Sengkang.

I didn’t really know what to say beyond the usual small talk, so I thanked him for keeping our country clean as he flashed a warm smile, nodding.

It was time to leave, and I said “Goodbye Sambak, see you.” He replied enthusiastically: “Tomorrow!”

Please send somebody else. That’s what I’ve been praying.

That night I wrote a letter with a verse, and put it – along with some money – into a red packet for Sambak. In the morning, I made the short drive to the bridge, praying along the way that God would help me to find Sambak.

I got out of the car and walked to the river, where Sambak was standing, at the promenade. It was just him and I at the water – a strange providence must have cleared the crowd for a conversation. We shook hands and I explained that as it was Chinese New Year, I wanted to bless him with the red packet.

He took it with both hands, with delight – but I had the distinct sense that he valued our new bond forged more than the money. I managed to pray with him, and he even introduced his friend Valaidum to me.

I see now that as I took a step of faith into Sambak’s life, God moved and blessed him through me.

MOVING WITH GOD

Later as I drove home, I listened to Evidence by Elevation Worship, which features the church band playing a musical backdrop to Pastor Steven Furtick’s exhortations. The impassioned Pastor was shouting at the top of his lungs:

“We’re not waiting on the move of God, we are the move of God! We can’t stay here, we gotta go. We’ve got a church to keep, we got a God to serve. We’ve got a Gospel to preach. We’ve got broken hearts to bind. We’ve got hurting people to heal! Move, Church!”

It made so much sense to me. We must pray constantly, but we must also move.

This isn’t strictly theologically-sound practice, but because I had met Sambak at 9:12am, I decided to look up 9-12 in Romans 12 when I got home. In it, Paul says: “Do not be slothful in zeal”.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:9-12)

I realised my prayers were just that at times – slothful in zeal. I speak of change and desire it – yet am too lazy or unwilling to do anything about it myself.

At the end of the day, what is faith without deeds? (James 2:14-26)

We must pray constantly, but we must also move.

I write this without being legalistic. Neither am I on a performance treadmill. Prayer is amazing, but our work as disciples doesn’t stop there.

I believe there are times when it isn’t enough to just pray. We also need to move for God, and actually do what He has called us to.

Let’s be that guy we’re praying for God to send.

/ gabriel@thir.st

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

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Looking beyond appearances

by Tay Yong Thai | 22 September 2017, 2:10 PM

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7)

I recently watched a movie, The Dropbox. It’s a documentary about a pastor in South Korea, Lee Jong-rak, who built a “Dropbox” at his front door, through which nearly 600 babies have been saved. He built the Dropbox in one of the poorest districts of Seoul, after finding a little girl with Down Syndrome on his front steps in winter.

He wanted to find a way for mothers to surrender these abandoned babies without the babies dying.

As I watched the movie, tears kept flowing out of my eyes as I witnessed Pastor Lee’s single-mindedness and dedication to protect and love the abandoned babies, most of whom were born with disabilities. It really moved me to see his love and persistence in caring for the many children under his charge.

Some of these children are so severely disabled that they will have to rely on the help of others to survive their entire life.

“Many people think it is better for them to go to heaven as quickly as possible, because life on earth would be too difficult for them. But God sent them to the earth with disabilities,” Pastor Lee said.

“They’re not the unnecessary ones in the world. God sent them to earth with a purpose. Disabled children teach many people, change many people and help people reflect upon themselves, which is why they are the educators of society.”

One of those who was changed by the children was Brian Ivie, the director of the movie who was not a Christian at the point of making the movie. But he saw Pastor Lee going all-out to protect the children. He heard the Pastor saying: “No one dies here – I’m going to take care of you. I’m going to go after you, even though you may never know that I’ve done this for you, even though you may never know that you needed to be rescued.”

Pastor Lee’s love for the orphans mirrored the love of the Father. And everything changed for Brian when he saw himself as one of those children.

Indeed, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).

In a world that idolises beauty, success and perfection, outward disability goes against the grain of perfection which many strive for.

Yet God does not look at man’s outward appearance – He looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). To God, sin is a much more obvious disability then physical disabilities. The sins we harbour in our lives and in our hearts make us the ones with true disabilities and in need of love and help from God.

Which is why we need to put even more effort into getting our inner, spiritual life right than in our physical pursuits.

In our interactions with people who cross our path daily, are we able to look beyond someone’s physical appearance and look with compassion at the spiritual needs that are waiting to be met (Matthew 9:36-38)?

Do we diligently and intentionally seek out the lost, just like the women in the parable of the lost coin (Luke 15:8)?

It is my prayer that God will grant us the discernment to look beyond the outward appearance and look with compassion on the heart that yearns for the love of God.


This article was first published on YCKC website and was republished with permission.

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‘We want to be their family while they’re in Singapore’: Migrant Worker Ministry

by Tan Wei En | 22 September 2017, 11:24 AM

The Migrant Worker Ministry in Hope Church Singapore was started in 2014, by a few church members who felt the need to advance the Gospel to migrant workers from China who are based in Singapore.

I was one of those we started the cell group for those involved in the ministry, and later on took over the co-leadership of the ministry. Since then, we’ve witnessed how the lives of these migrant workers were changed when they came to know God.

Initially, I thought it would be very difficult for them to understand what we were sharing with them. Apart from the language barrier, I thought that their cultural background might hinder them.

But God is amazing. While not all migrant workers have many years of education, it has never been a barrier – God’s love can be experienced by anyone who sincerely seeks Him. Proverbs 8:17 tells us: “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.”

At the beginning, it was quite encouraging to see many migrant workers joining us. They all came with eager hearts to receive and find out more about Christ.

But soon, it became challenging when many of them stopped coming due to their work schedules. We also found it quite difficult to find time and disciple them individually as well.

So each time we plan for our services or cell groups, we never really know how many people will turn up. Our services’ attendance can vary quite drastically – we can never predict the attendance of our events. We only know when the event starts!

During these times of uncertainty, there were many moments when I was losing hope that people would come.

But we do it all by faith. We continue to persevere in meeting them, and encouraging them to come for cell group. We really want them to experience the grace and love from God.

Our vision is to see these new believers start their own cell groups in China. We hope that when they return home, they’ll bring the Gospel with them and start their own cell groups and churches there.

I’ve come to see that God is always faithful. We are merely His vessels, and He will see His work come to completion in His own timing.

And God has been faithful in leading His people to Him in every service we have conducted so far. Sure, we don’t have hundreds of people in each service. But there still really is no greater joy than witnessing the transformation of lives in Him.

Our vision is to see these new believers start their own cell groups in China. The idea is to be their family, and disciple them well when they are in Singapore. We hope that when they return home, they’ll bring the Gospel with them and start their own cell groups and churches there.

We’ve learnt a lot from our mistakes along the way. We’ve gone through many changes, like how our programmes are run, and where they’re located. 

We started at a place in Chinatown, then shifted to Lavender. Now, we are based in Geylang. The previous locations were comfortable places, with good facilities. However, because they weren’t near supermarkets, or the migrant workers’ living quarters, many would hesitate to come.

We really saw how we needed to meet their felt needs before sharing the gospel effectively. We’ve evolved to better cater to their needs and find more ways to engage them.

It’s difficult to have faith in the midst of messiness. The team experienced an especially tough time when we became really busy with our own work and personal life. The number of volunteers were dwindling, and the ministry seemed to be dying out. We were exhausted.

So we decided to start this ministry-specific cell group. The leadership team bonded when we witnessed how God was with us through the ups and downs. We held on to our Maker and continuously reminded each other that God must always remain at the centre of what we do, no matter what happens.

Thankfully, God kept us together.

If anyone out there is thinking of starting a similar ministry, my advice for you would be: Don’t do it for anyone, or even for yourself. Do it for God. He is the only constant in life, one that will never fade away.

Because of this perspective, I now have a better understanding of what it means to serve from a position of “rest”. It sounds like a contradiction, but the amazing thing about God is that our service to Him will never be more important than our relationship with Him. We want to be Mary – not Martha.

So, when we serve from a position of rest and as a recipient of His Grace, we are able to witness the power of God working through and in us. And all glory belongs to Him.

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Chicken soup for the Cineleisure Auntie

by | 20 September 2017, 5:39 PM

“Have you bought anything from her before?”
“No …”

I still wish I could change my answer. I wish I had bought something from her.

My friend was referring to the “Cineleisure Auntie” – a familiar white-haired stranger who used to sit at one of the busiest intersections on Orchard Road. Perhaps you’ve seen her between Mandarin Gallery and H&M, ever-present with an assortment of food items to sell.

Feeling guilty, I did think about buying something from her every time we crossed paths, maybe stay for a chat. Yet I chose not to, for there was always somewhere else to be – I never had enough reason to stay.

Next time, I reasoned.

Several months later, I would finally do something for that old auntie – just not in a way I ever expected.

 JUNE 6, 2014. I was in a morning class at school.

Out of the blue, Cineleisure Auntie suddenly popped into my head. I was surprised at the sheer strength of the impulse to look for her. 

I knew I had to.

I messaged a few friends who also knew her about my decision so I wouldn’t back out. I began to think and plan that afternoon: What could I bring for her? Does she drink coffee? Maybe I could bring doughnuts …

Then, one of my friends replied my text message.

Cineleisure Auntie had been hospitalised. I would not be able to find her at her usual spot anymore. This setback would surely have ended my quest in the past, but somehow, it was different this time.

As I waited for more news, I decided to go home to see if there was anything I could bring along in the event someone discovered her exact whereabouts. On my way back, I received another text message.

In the message was the name of the hospital and ward number Cineleisure Auntie was staying in.

When I got home, I was greeted by a surprised Mum – I wasn’t supposed to be home till later. She pointed to a large pot on the dining table and said, “I had a prompting in my heart that I should make soup today, even though none of you will be home for dinner tonight.”

The voices of doubt that had been stirring in my heart faded away.

Later, at about 2 in the afternoon, Mum and I arrived at Singapore General Hospital – armed with a thermos flask of chicken soup.

Block 6, Level 4, Ward 64, Room 18, Bed 5. I recited those lines several times in my mind while waiting in line to get a visitor pass.

I wondered what Cineleisure Auntie would be like: Would she welcome us? Does she speak Mandarin – or only dialect? Why is she in the hospital?

It was a big and open ward. There were eight beds and no privacy. Bed 5 was all the way inside, but it was by the window, at least. Cineleisure Auntie’s hair looked a lot whiter than I had remembered.

“Hello, Ah Ma.”

And with that, we became friends. Cineleisure Auntie warmed up to us quickly, especially when I told her I was a student. But what really worked was that pot of chicken soup.

Mum told Cineleisure Auntie that Heaven is where God is – a place where there would be no more pain.

Over the next two days, we bonded over Ben & Jerry’s and bird’s nest. We learnt that she was suffering from Stage 4 colon cancer. Her condition was deteriorating fast; her doctor had lifted her dietary restrictions so that she could enjoy the time she had left.

Though she would drift in and out of consciousness, Cineleisure Auntie’s wits were always sharp whenever she awoke. In her lucid moments, we talked about our Teochew roots, and sometimes about the discomfort that she was feeling in her abdomen.

Mum talked to her about Heaven. She told her that Heaven is where God is – a place where there would be no more pain (Revelation 21:4).

It was my first time hearing about Heaven in dialect, and while I only understood bits and pieces of what they were talking about, I could see in Cineleisure Auntie’s eyes that she was listening intently. I believe she understood everything that was being shared with her.

Finally, my Mum asked her to pray to Jesus and welcome Him into her heart. She did.

Four days later, she slipped into a coma and passed away shortly after.

Although Cineleisure Auntie lived alone and had no kin, she wasn’t alone in her last days at the hospital. A group of friends were there for her daily, rallied by a young student named Shermaine, who had befriended her during her hawking days. 

Facebook user Tere Han had posted about Cineleisure Auntie’s deteriorating health condition. Shermaine responded by tracking her down, from her house to the hospital she was admitted to.

If it wasn’t for Shermaine, who persisted in looking for an old lady she was not obliged to care for, or our mutual friend who helped me connect the dots, I may never have been able to meet Cineleisure Auntie.

I also suspect that if it wasn’t for Diane – the writer who chronicled her encounter with Cineleisure Auntie in a blog post that went viral – I may not have kept her in my mind for as long as I did. Only now do I realise to my amazement that the day I made my very first hospital visit to meet Cineleisure Auntie was an exact year after Diane’s post was published.

Each of us had our own story as to how we got to know Cineleisure Auntie, but I know that God was the common thread that linked our stories together.

She may have spent most of her days surrounded by strangers passing her by, but at the end of her life, Cineleisure Auntie was surrounded by family, albeit of a different kind – people God had sent to bring her back to Him.

Each of us had our own story as to how we got to know Cineleisure Auntie, but I know that God was the common thread that linked our stories together.

He was the most important company she would keep during her final days on earth – and in the days beyond. All because we responded to the call to bring her some chicken soup and the Good News of Jesus Christ (John 3:16).

As we watched Cineleisure Auntie’s coffin roll past the viewing gallery into the furnace, the heavy atmosphere was punctured by joy when someone shouted: “Ah Ma, see you in Heaven!”

God, I’m so glad I got to meet Ah Ma. And I can’t wait to see her again.

/ fiona@thir.st

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

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What’s in a mission trip that I should go for one?

by | 13 September 2017, 6:04 PM

Up till five years ago, I was cynical on the purpose of mission trips.

I knew it was a commandment in Scripture that spanned as far back as the account of Jonah in the Old Testament, and was even able to quote the parts where the Bible’s call to missions was clear (Mark 16:15, Matthew 28:18–20). Yet, l struggled to see the place for missions displayed in practical terms – weren’t they no more than a platform for the sending organisation to assert superiority?

After my trip with Cru in late 2012, I moved to my present church. I hadn’t moved for missions-related reasons, but unlike the church where I had grown up, there was a greater focus on missions work here.

The first time I attended Mission Sunday service in early 2013, it was strange to hear the missions committee share with fervour about a community of people in a Chinese town whose name I had not heard of until that day.

As they updated the congregation with photographs of new gospel partners in the ministry, I was intrigued – for the first time, there was a name and face to missions, which had earlier been an abstract ideal.

That first Mission Sunday was insufficient to convince me of the full value of missions, but it sparked the curiosity to find out more about church’s mission work in China – where was this place, who were these people? As the year progressed, I watched as my friends made trips to China for various programmes such as English teaching, discipleship, and Christmas outreach.

Without exception, every team that came back shared how the members of the local church stood firm in faith (2 Corinthians 1:24). This was even more remarkable given the difficulties of being in a small church where members’ attendance were not always regular.

The teams also recounted the local believers’ desire for, and growth in spiritual maturity from since they first believed (Colossians 1:28, 4:12). Over time, God softened my cynical heart and by the end of 2013, I resolved to join a team for a trip when the opportunity availed.

This materialised in late 2014, where I had the opportunity to go for winter missions. In the course of a week, we attended a Chinese church service, conducted Christmas parties, and spent time in mutual encouragement and prayer with the local believers in the evenings.

As I wrote my reflections post-trip, I realised that the trip didn’t even feel like missions in the sense I had understood. Instead, it felt more like returning home to friends, since my interactions with the locals warmed my heart – they were hospitable and welcoming.

Short-term missions may not have significant immediate impact, they can serve as stepping stones to which God may call us to serve as longer-term missionaries.

Following this, I availed myself for winter missions again in 2015. By then, it was a commitment I made out of the desire to remain connected to our community of gospel partners abroad.

2015 was also the time my friends affirmed their desire to enter full-time missions through a ministry apprenticeship scheme in church. This is a two-year ministry training programme which culminates in being sent abroad for a term in the mission field. As they shared with me their motivations behind this decision, I realised that their decision to serve in missions was not a sudden, overnight one.

Instead, God had shaped their hearts through numerous short-term trips over the years, aligning their hearts to heed His call of proclaiming the gospel into all the world. This helped me see that while short-term missions may not have significant immediate impact, they can serve as stepping stones to which God may call us to serve as longer-term missionaries.

However, the opportunities to go on mission trips did not diminish my cynicism towards short-term mission trips either. While I now see the value that cumulative short-term mission trips have on their recipients, I am also mindful when helping to plan for these trips that the programmes should meet the needs of the recipients and not push the agenda of the sending team.

While not everyone may have the chance or be suited to participate in a mission trip, I think on accurate understanding of the heart of missions is crucial. As God commands the church to be His witnesses worldwide, our hearts receive this command in obedience (Acts 1:8).

Nonetheless, in seasons when we are not in the frontline of the mission field, we can pray for the people who have been sent as we remain behind. In such seasons, may we then be missional to meet the needs of our local communities as we are placed.

/ eudora@thir.st

Eudora found herself writing on public platforms by chance. Apart from writing, she likes many random things, including spoken word poetry, adult colouring books, tea, stationery and fresh, clean laundry.

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Where every phone call could be a matter of life and death: The Samaritans of Singapore

by | 9 September 2017, 10:19 PM

As he walked into an austere interview room at Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) over a year ago, Shawn Lai had absolutely no idea of what he was getting himself into.

“I was quite clueless in terms of the kind of work I would be doing. I was aware that SOS was a helpline but beyond that, I wasn’t sure what else I would be tasked to do,” he tells Thir.st.

As a former Youth For Christ (YFC) staff, Shawn’s expertise was in working with young people. Suicide prevention was a new realm for him.

As Shawn was soon to find out, this people group was certainly growing and in need.

According to an SOS press release from July, 429 suicides were reported in 2016, 20 more than the year before. There was an average of about 6 suicides a month among young adults aged 20 to 29 – the highest among all age groups.

SOS is playing its part keeping this number down: It gets 100 to 120 calls a day. Who knows how many lives may have been saved by that one phone call?

Today, as a counsellor with SOS’s Client Services, Shawn supervises the volunteers who man the 24-hour hotline at SOS. He also directly intervenes when high-risk cases come up.

Shawn also supports those contemplating suicide through one-to-one counselling and offers grief support to “survivors” — those who have lost loved ones to suicide. As part of his work with SOS, he also offers professional consultation to fellow social services professionals dealing with those who are suicidal.

This all sounds like a lot for a reserved man who looks deathly shy at first glance.

“I got anxious quite easily and lacked self-confidence. I really had to grapple with my own anxiety and inner struggles,” says our hero in question, speaking softly. “But where there’s discomfort, there’s growth”.

It’s a hopeful outlook in a field which wars against hopelessness. I begin to see a spark in Shawn, and understand why he’s suited for the job.

I realise I had a lot of preconceived notions about how a Samaritan would look like or behave. For some reason, I thought someone chirpy and irrepressibly joyful would man the phones. Shawn isn’t quite those two things, but he’s proving to be another two: Willing, and a good listener.

It’s the main skill Shawn has learnt on the job, he tells me: Be quick to listen, slow to speak.

“The Bible is spot on in James 1:19, about being quick to listen and slow to speak and become angry. We need to practice active listening; it helps the caller feel understood, so he is more open for you to help him,” says Shawn.

“Too many people want to talk, but not many people are patient enough to listen.”

The paucity of open and honest conversations is a big contributor to the issues many of the callers to the hotline face, says Shawn, who is mature beyond his 27 years.

“Many of the family-related cases we come across stem from a lack of open and honest communication about issues in the family. Most people find it the hardest to talk to family, where they feel most vulnerable, and many family members can be quick to criticise.

“It’s really sad to see that many people are not willing to face their family-related issues, and would rather choose to flee from them.”

Working in a profession which daily tackles despair head on, Shawn tells me he’s come to see that “true joy can only be found in knowing Christ and being satisfied in Him”.

As I hear this spoken with an unashamed conviction, somewhere in me I commend someone like Shawn, who speaks life through the phone lines — into someone whose spirit is close to death.

I find the notion heroic until I catch myself. Why do I find it heroic? Shouldn’t this be normal?

What would the world around us look like if every Christian was a Samaritan? Each of us living out Proverbs 15:4 – soothing tongues serving as trees of life – or Proverbs 18:21?

In a culture of death, we need to be a shifting force that brings life. We’re called to love. We’re called to bring life to a parched land.


If you know anyone in distress or contemplating suicide, call the SOS hotline at 1800 221 4444, or email pat@sos.org.sg. Visit their website to find out more about SOS or their campaign for World Suicide Prevention Day 2017.

You can also seek help at the following numbers:

Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800 283 7019
Institute of Mental Health’s Mobile Crisis Service: 6389 2222
Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800 353 5800
Tinkle Friend: 1800 274 4788

/ gabriel@thir.st

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

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Article list

Here I am, send … him

Looking beyond appearances

‘We want to be their family while they’re in Singapore’: Migrant Worker Ministry

Chicken soup for the Cineleisure Auntie

What’s in a mission trip that I should go for one?

Where every phone call could be a matter of life and death: The Samaritans of Singapore