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Everyone deserves a moment with God: Special needs and the Church

by | 27 July 2017, 12:07 PM

Several years ago, a life group in Hope Church Singapore found itself with four unique cell members – each of whom had special needs. With no experience in caring for people with special needs, a few leaders in Hope Church decided to meet and pray over this life group’s new situation.

They then set out to serve and disciple their Friends – this is how members with special needs are addressed – through informal meetings. 

Thus was birthed SHINE, a ministry that now conducts a church service for almost 20 people, which includes both Friends and their family members.

“God goes before us – we just follow,” says Edison, one of SHINE’s founders. It’s a bold and radically different sentiment from what he once thought in private: “Can’t ‘they’ just go somewhere else?”

Edison setting up tables and chairs for the service.

Edison is the first person I meet early the morning I visit the church. He’s a large, cheerful man in his 30s, preoccupied with moving dozens of chairs and tables around the auditorium we were in.

As he offers me a firm and sweaty handshake, I notice Yingqi and Tivona – SHINE’s co-leaders – also working hard alongside him.

I realise they aren’t even setting up for their Friends yet — service would not begin until much later. SHINE’s volunteers are setting up for a session they call Heart Prep — a short thematic study of the Bible and a time of prayer for the service ahead.

There’s an air of excitement and anticipation in the air.

After Heart Prep, we proceed to the ground floor, by the busy main road. Eventually an old battered bus pulls in, filled with Friends who disembark to ebullient high-fives by Aaron, an experienced volunteer who had been waiting with a well-worn wheelchair.

The wheelchair is for Ah Wen — one of the more challenging Friends who SHINE serves. Ah Wen is in his late 20s, severely autistic and non-verbal. Ah Wen isn’t physically disabled, but he needs to be strapped to his wheelchair because he hits people when he’s moody.

Ah Wen has to be strapped to his wheelchair to prevent himself from hitting others or himself.

He also has to wear a helmet because when he can’t reach other people, he hits himself on the head, either with his hands or whatever he’s holding. Ah Wen is a very large man – he’s taller than everybody in SHINE – and he’s very strong.

That morning, Ah Wen refuses to get out of the bus. His mother looks on for a minute, before trying to pull him onto the wheelchair. But when she attempts to do so, Ah Wen resists, tugging at her blouse with surprising force.

After they finally manage to move him off the bus, Ah Wen has to be held by male volunteers as they strap him into the wheelchair, tying his hands to its armrests as gently as they can. Such physical restraint is practised with love in SHINE, with the consent of Ah Wen’s mother. It’s for his safety — as well as the volunteers’.

Once he is fully secured, we head up to the service upstairs.

With Ah Wen safely taken care of by SHINE volunteers, his mother collapses into a chair, relieved to finally have some time to herself.

As we wheel Ah Wen to the lift, we pass by a group of youths who glance over furtively. They can tell that Ah Wen has special needs, and are visibly uncomfortable with his grunting and involuntary shaking. None of them will look him in the eye.

Ah Wen is the biggest and loudest person in the church’s hallway – yet he is invisible. That breaks my heart.

As we enter the doors, Ah Wen’s mother sighs, “这两天我真的受不了了.” The last two days have been unbearable.

I can’t even begin to imagine her daily routine with Ah Wen — even just getting from the bus to the lift was an ordeal. For such caregivers, coming to Hope’s SHINE ministry must be an indescribable relief, like stepping indoors during a storm.

With Ah Wen safely taken care of by SHINE volunteers, his mother collapses into a chair, relieved to finally have some time to herself. Every morning the struggle begins anew, but for these 3 hours in SHINE — it’s like there’s a divine ceasefire. 

I’d never seen it this way till now. A mere 3-hour “sacrifice” for some of us might well be the most treasured and anticipated block of time in the lives of these Friends and their loved ones.

Edison and Yingqi with Ah Wen.

Worship begins, and strangely enough I can no longer hear Ah Wen acting up. He isn’t grunting anymore, the way he had been on the ground floor. I glance over to see Yingqi and Edison kneeling by his wheelchair.

They stay with him the whole service, praying over him, just being with him. Not once do they leave his side.

Whenever Ah Wen grows restless and starts to shake, Yingqi holds his hand and reassures him gently. She is a petite young woman, and it’s a beautiful display of kindness and boldness.

Ah Wen stomps his feet, and Edison intuitively knows that he wants a leg massage. He crouches in front of his wheelchair to ease his discomfort.

Witnessing such acts of love, I realise I’m seeing the people I first met earlier in the morning in a new light. To my mind, they’ve transformed into superheroes of the faith, all in the span of a few hours.

If God won’t turn His face from any of us, why should we look away from others in His church? How could we?

After worship, I ask Tivona if there are cases of Friends they are unable to take on. “There are no rules and no exclusions,” she says, although SHINE volunteers must exercise wisdom in the way they minister to various individuals.

Despite the caveat, I see unconditional love in her answer. 

My mind is filled with thoughts as the service ends and I head home on the train.

When we walk into a room before our Father God as His children, does He love one more than the other? Does He look at an athlete admiringly but pretend a person like Ah Wen isn’t there? 

If the answer is no – and surely it’s a resounding no – then we, too, must love all our brothers and sisters equally.

If God won’t turn His face from any of us, why should we look away from others in His church? How could we? 

Edison and the SHINE ministry volunteers.

I think back to something Edison shared during our conversation. It was about a dream he had about Ah Wen.

“It was me and Ah Wen in heaven. And Ah Wen looked at me and said, ‘Edison, thank you. Thank you for all your help to me when we were on Earth.’

“And I just cried and cried. I woke up crying.”

I see now that the need is so great. The harvest really is plentiful (Luke 10:2).

Some of us still perceive our Friends as people with broken minds, broken bodies. But we are all broken vessels – and in the spiritual realm I don’t believe they’re any more broken than we are.

So it makes perfect sense that we worship one God, under one roof, as one Church.


SHINE is a Special Needs Ministry from Hope Church Singapore. It aims to embrace people with special needs in God’s love, empowering every individual to be whom God has created them to be. It runs services every fortnight, on Saturday mornings. For more information, contact shinehopesg@gmail.com.

/ 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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Who made you the judge?

by | 12 December 2017, 1:54 PM

In every court case, there’s always a hearing.

The judge, before pronouncing the defender innocent or guilty – and meting out due punishment for the guilty – has the obligation to hear both sides of the story in order to give a fair sentence.

This is typical court procedure to best uphold justice, but I find this practice unfortunately absent from our day-to-day life, when we judge people without giving them a chance to explain themselves first.

There was once when I struggled tremendously to love a particular friend of mine. He was going through some difficulties in his personal life and it was affecting his mood and behaviour. I had a brief idea of what was going on, but did not know the details.

Initially understanding, I soon got frustrated. It didn’t help that the way we processed our emotions and problems in life was so different that I couldn’t understand why he was acting the way he did. He was also easily irritable, and I bore the brunt of it. His mood swings eventually rubbed off me and my attitude towards him became defensively volatile as well.

To make things worse, he was in charge of a project we were both tasked to handle. It was difficult to work together when we were not on good terms. How could I trust his judgement when it was hard to even think good thoughts about him?

His healing process took quite some time, but he eventually got better. It was only then that he began to confide in me what he was going through and how he felt.

Listening to him softened my heart. It didn’t change the fact that he’d acted unreasonably or that he shouldn’t have done certain things, but it helped me clearly identify the struggles he was going through.

It also made me realise I could have been too harsh with my mental pronouncement of him.

INNOCENT TILL PROVEN GUILTY

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” (Matthew 7:1)

The word itself in the English language makes it slightly more confusing. Judging, as referred to in Matthew 7 and other similar verses in the Bible (1 Corinthians 4:3-5, Romans 2:1-3), can be understood to be similar to what is done in court – the measuring or meting out of a sentence, a determination of what is deserved according to the law.

You’d recognise this sort of judgement – we’ve all done it, pronouncing sentences or even carrying them out ourselves. She deserves this for what she has done. He should be paying for that with his life. Revenge movies are always the rage.

But it’s clear as day in the Word: Don’t do it. Why? More on that later.

I want to point us to this “other” type of judging first. Judging doubles up as a synonym for discerning – which is to distinguish right from wrong, true from false. The Bible tells us to correct fellow believers in order to point them back to the right paths (1 Timothy 5:20, 2 Timothy 2:23-26, Galatians 6:1). We can’t do that without the discerning judgement, which judges the act but not the person.

However, I find that even in discernment, we also tend to jump to conclusions too easily, and too readily.

A story that surfaced on Facebook comes to my mind: In a shipwreck, a husband and wife were struggling to stay afloat in the open sea. When a plank of driftwood big enough only for one person appears, the husband clings onto it, leaving his wife to fight against the tide. Eventually, the husband survived, while the wife drowned.

Upon reaching this point in the story, many would feel enraged by the husband’s decision. How could he be so selfish?

Yet, that wasn’t the end of the story. It was later revealed that the wife had been diagnosed with an incurable disease, and her chances of surviving – even if she had made it out of the shipwreck – were low. Knowing that one of them had to live on for the sake of their child, the husband decided to save himself rather than his wife.

When we look at a situation as it is, with our human eyes and logic, we tend to react rather than respond. It’s intuitive. Psychologists term this as heuristics – mental shortcuts people use to form judgements and make decisions.

In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, psychologists Daniel Kahneman frames it like this: “When faced with a difficult question, we often answer an easier one instead, usually without noticing the substitution.”

The confidence that individuals have in their beliefs depends mostly on the quality of the story they can tell about what they see, even if they see little.

Based on intuitive logic, it’s hard to comprehend why a husband would ever leave his wife to die, and so we substitute this with an easier question – why would anyone ever leave anyone to die? The easiest answer is: Self-preservation. And with that conclusion, we label this husband as a selfish man.

Quick judgement, or instinctive discernment, is not a bad thing. It is required in our daily lives, especially in times of danger. When we see a person acting suspiciously, we have to quickly sum that individual up as a potential threat and be prepared to act accordingly.

But we also need to be aware of our tendency to jump to conclusions. After all, it’s easy to overestimate what we know based on what is revealed to us.

As Kahneman discovers, “The confidence that individuals have in their beliefs depends mostly on the quality of the story they can tell about what they see, even if they see little.”

RESTORATIVE, NOT RETRIBUTIVE 

In the recent case of Annie Ee, many angry netizens flooded online forums and comment boxes with hateful comments, wishing the worse upon the perpetrators.

I understand the rage and the vicarious pain – even though I’m clear on what true justice is, it’s still difficult to not be furious over what has been done.

But what also saddens and scares me is seeing public sentiments – and sentences – such as “string them up”, “send them to hell” and “the couple should be eaten by dogs” proliferate.

Will cursing them help? Will these judgements rectify anything? And who are we as sinful beings ourselves, who must also be judged for our wrongdoings, to be trusted with pronouncing the right judgements on anyone? Take it from the wisdom of the Bible: Judge not. Sentence not.

“For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)

I’m currently reading the book of Ezekiel. Prophet Ezekiel was appointed by God as a watchman to warn Israel of the impending consequences because of their wrongdoings (Ezekiel 33:7).

You can refer to Ezekiel 16 for the full list of sins that the Israelites had committed in the eyes of God, but one offence stood out to me – child sacrifices. People literally offered their babies through rings of fire in order to appease whatever gods they were serving (Ezekiel 16:21).

This is, to me, as appalling as torturing an intellectually disabled person to death. It is no wonder why God was so enraged! Page after page, Ezekiel penned down the punishment God would inflict on Israel if they remained unrepentant.

After ploughing through the depressing chapters, I came to a part where God revealed the heart behind His judgement.

Therefore you, O son of man, say to the house of Israel: ‘Thus you say, “If our transgressions and our sins lie upon us, and we pine away in them, how can we then live?” Say to them: “As I live,” says the Lord God, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?”‘ (Ezekiel 33:10)

Turn from your evil ways and live.

At the end of the day, God desired for Israel to come to repentance through their punishment more than it simply being a sentence of what they deserved. He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked – for the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) – but He is delighted when they turn from their sinful ways.

God’s judgement was rooted in love and compassion for His sinful people, as it is for all of mankind. And knowing that no man could ever be sinless and thus worthy of a place in Heaven, He offered the free gift of eternal life for all who believe in His son Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23), who was sent to earth as a baby – the reason for Christmas – and later took on the full sentence of death for the sins of the world.

God’s judgement was rooted in love and compassion for His sinful people, as it is for all of mankind.

The heart of God’s judgement for those He loves is always to restore, not to repay.

If I’d had this same spirit with regards to my difficult-to-love friend, I would have gently pointed out his mistakes to him in order to help him grow. But I didn’t. I simply let my frustrations bubble and spill over, and sought my own restitution in my not-so-loving thoughts and remarks towards him.

Looking back, I found justification for my bitterness when I repaid his attitude with my attitude, his frustration with my frustration. It was my judgement, my punishment – my sentence on him. Better, love-driven judgement would have discerned the need to restore our relationship with a kind but firm word.

We need to be clear of our motives. What is the root of our judgement? Do we seek to restore others? Or do we simply have a thirst for vengeance?

When the teachers of the Law brought an adulteress before Jesus and demanded to know what they should do with her – the proper answer being to stone her to death, as written in Mosaic Law – Jesus’ reply was “let him who is without sin, cast the first stone” (John 8:7).

Hearing this, the crowd slowly dispersed, till only the woman and Jesus remained. Then He said to her, “Has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more.”

People tried to expose the adulteress, but Jesus exposed their hypocrisy.

It’s easier to cast judgement from afar than to come close and understand a person’s plight; it’s easier to see the flaws in others than to acknowledge our own. But aren’t we all the same? People in need of compassion and mercy.

Instead of condemnation, let’s help each other to lead a changed life – to go and sin no more.

/ 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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It takes a miracle to feed a whole village – and we did

by Kaiting Teo | 11 December 2017, 4:44 PM

There’s a good chance you’ve heard of the story about how God multiplied five loaves and two fish to feed 5000 people (John 6:1-14).

If you haven’t, it goes something like this: Thousands of people had gathered to listen to Jesus and be healed from their sicknesses, and after a long day out in the hills, Jesus asks His disciples how they were going to feed them.

The question is rhetorical because He already has a plan, but the disciples respond with their own logic, telling Him there’s no way to get food out in the countryside, and even if they did it’ll cost them thousands of dollars, which they don’t have.

Jesus persists and tells them they were to feed the people anyway, and one of them brings to Him a little boy who was willing to offer Jesus His packed lunch of five barley loaves and two fish. Jesus then prayed over the bread and gave it to His disciples to distribute. They not only feed the 5000 people present, they have 12 baskets leftover after the world’s greatest picnic ends!

I wouldn’t blame you if you’re wondering if that actually happened. But today I have no doubt God’s power, because I’ve experienced that amazing scene myself.

Last year, I took part in a school trip to Cambodia. On our last day there, we had a “cultural night” where we cooked for the villagers and celebrated with them.

As the time for the big dinner drew near, everyone was busy cooking and getting the dining hall ready. Things weren’t off to a great start as it was raining very heavily and there was a chance that our programme had to be cancelled.

Anxiety built even further when twice the number of families than we’d prepared food for showed up – almost 200 families. We were certain there wouldn’t be enough to feed everyone.

However, God always makes a way out.

Serve My people and I will provide for you in abundance. I was sure I heard Him speak to my worried heart, but I wasn’t sure what He meant. Joining my team as we distributed the food to them, I felt faith arise that with the Lord, we’d have more than enough to give … somehow.

I wanted to show them God’s love, even if what I had to offer was so little.

As I gave out bowl after bowl of chicken curry, I made it a point to smile and pat their shoulder, believing even the smallest gestures of love would bless them. I wanted to show them God’s love, even if what I had to offer was so little.

You wouldn’t believe it – and we barely could either – but at the end of the night, there were so much leftover food that there was enough to feed my whole team, our lecturers and every household in that village.

The rain didn’t stop the whole evening, but as the festivities and laughter swelled in the small community hall, I sensed the presence of the Lord moving in that place, and my heart was so full. I never forgot what I learnt about the God of the so-much-more through that simple dinner.

The same God who multiplied the five loaves and two fish is still providing for us in abundance today – we simply have to place our faith in Him.


This is a submission from a participant of our Christmas Gift Exchange. From now till the end of December 2017, we are giving away a limited edition Thir.st Tumbler in exchange for every story on the Christmas themes of love, joy, peace, hope and giving. Click here to find out more.

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An arts festival with purpose: Make room for the displaced this Christmas

by Jonathan Cho | 11 December 2017, 1:53 PM

Places are significant. Whether it be an actual physical space like our homes, a seat at the dinner table, or something less tangible like having a place in someone’s heart, we all appreciate it when people make space or hold a place for us.

“Having a place” reminds us that we belong, that we are of value. Yet the reality for some is that by circumstance, they have little or no reason to believe that they carry such inherent worth or significance.

I’m reminded of the people groups that many of us have come to expect to read about in the news – those who float about at sea in desperate hope of finding a place to take refuge, or those who get pushed about across countries/regions with no place they really belong.

Closer to home, my heart turns to the displaced and the destitute, who often find themselves outcast in society, with no place to call their own and nowhere they can really feel welcomed.

Jesus entered a world that had no place for Him, and His first sight of it was dark, dirty and definitely not welcoming.

That experience of exclusion is something that many of us can identify with on different levels and for a variety of reasons. When we experience this alienation from the community around us, that unshakeable sense of being inconsequential and non-existent – it can feel like we count for nothing at all.

In Luke 2, we read the story of a person who had every reason to feel inconsequential and non-existent, even though that could not have been further from the truth.

In the story of Jesus’ birth, we learn that when He first entered our world, there was no room at all for Him: “And [Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son [Jesus] and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).

Jesus entered a world that had no place for Him, and His first sight of it was grim to say the least – dark, dirty and definitely not welcoming.

The darling of Heaven, the very Son of God, left His place in the heavens to enter a world which had no room for Him – the brutal reality and ordinary pain of the human condition. God the Father too, was also willing to let His only Son be born into these conditions, almost as if to tell us that He doesn’t mind the brokenness of our fallen nature and lack of room that we have for Him.

The beauty and good news of the Christmas story is that someone significant willingly gave up His heavenly place and lived as a man who had “no place to lay His head”. 

Whether it be a physical manger or the equally dark and dirty conditions of our hearts, it seems to me that all Jesus wanted was to enter into our lives and to have a relationship with us. Places are significant to Him, and however small the room or the place in our lives we’re willing to give, He will take it – because that’s what He came for.

The beauty and good news of the Christmas story is that someone significant willingly gave up His heavenly place and lived as a man who had “no place to lay His head”. Not only that – He also took our place and died for our sins, so that by this sacrifice and our belief in Him, He could give us a new place in His Father’s house.

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:3)

He just wants to be with us.

This Advent season, I am reminded of the sacrificial, unconditional love of my Saviour and His desire to lift up a people who often find themselves feeling insignificant. He gave us dignity and worth – He gave a place in His family, although we did not deserve it. Would we do the same for others?

I have resolved to take on His example: An example of place-making for the people around me who may feel as if they have no place in this world, whether it be the vulnerable in the community, family, friends or just anyone who needs a place to call home – anyone who feels like an inconsequential, insignificant placeholder.

The Placeholders team preparing a floor mural for the festival.

In doing so, I have found my place in a community of people working to do just that by putting together an arts festival called Placeholders, which will be held at the abandoned building over at 10 La Salle Street.

Using the convicting nature of art to explore and surface issues of displacement amongst the poor and needy in Singapore, festival goers will also discover how a simple act of making room for someone can possibly change a life.

Jesus gave his place in heaven to take our place on the Cross, so as to create a place for us in His Kingdom. By the life He lived, we are always reminded that we each have inherent value and significance in His eyes – and that we too should see those around us through His.


Placeholders is an arts festival that seeks to engage the community to reflect on what it means to make place for marginalised individuals and families alike, particularly during the Christmas season. All are welcome!

Date: 16 & 17 December 2017 (Saturday and Sunday)
Address: 4 & 10 La Salle Street
Time: 10am-9pm

For more information, please visit their Facebook page and Instagram page.

The Festival is partnership between Bethesda Frankel Estate Church and New Hope Community Services, a voluntary welfare organisation working with displaced families in Singapore. All proceeds raised from the event will go towards the Kampong Siglap Lifeskills Training & Retreat Centre, an initiative by New Hope Community Services which provides shelter for these displaced families.

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Not just a passer-by: Taking time for tissue paper sellers

by Lemuel Teo | 1 December 2017, 5:58 PM

Having walked the same route from the MRT station to the bus interchange countless times, I knew the drill: Avoid colliding into others, stay glued to my smartphone, flash a polite but firm smile to insurance agents.

The commute was quicker rushing this way, and it was also easier to ignore the tissue paper sellers and buskers by the wayside. I felt like they were an impediment to my journey.

Honestly … I found them annoying.

Three months ago, after a long day spent in the city, I noticed a man selling packets of tissue paper along my usual route. I’d never seen him before and thought of blessing him with a few dollars.

But weary, I was reluctant to slow down for him. Immediately, I felt the Spirit asking me, “Would you stop for him?”

“Not today, Lord,” I said in my heart as I walked past the man.

The Spirit tugged at my heart. I remembered then how I committed to not grieving Him, and how I wanted to obey His every prompting.

Turning around, I walked over to the man and asked if he’d eaten. “你好,吃饱了吗?”

I introduced myself and enquired about his well-being. He shared that he could not find a proper job because of his physical disability.

I felt compassion growing in my heart, and I told him that he is valuable in God’s eyes. Though he had seen many walk past him and ignore him, I told him God loves and cares for him. By grace, I then led him in a prayer of re-dedication to Jesus Christ and invited him to my home church.

That was the start of our unlikely friendship.

In time, I made friends with another lady who was also selling tissue paper in the same area. Despite our significant age difference, our conversations were meaningful and comfortable. We talked about everything from religion, to her family, even her health conditions.

I always felt like I was speaking to a friend.

I began to look forward to these simple conversations in the evenings as I travelled home. I knew my new friends’ personal stories and the reasons behind their livelihood. These conversations were no longer impersonal small talk – we would actually catch up on each other’s lives.

However, after two months of consistently seeking them out and chatting with them, I somehow developed compassion fatigue.

I ran out of patience and love. Previously, I wouldn’t flinch at spending $10 or even 15 minutes of my time with them. But suddenly, I was tired and unwilling to share my time and money with them.

The initial zeal of loving my neighbour gave way to weariness. I elevated my personal convenience above loving others and obeying the Spirit.

Soon, I found myself taking a detour whenever I walked between the MRT station and bus interchange, just so that I wouldn’t bump into them and need to stop for a simple conversation.

I was back to the apathy of square one.

A fortnight ago, the Spirit prompted me to read John 4. In that chapter, John records Jesus’ journey from Jerusalem towards Galilee.

Taking the most direct path would lead him through Samaria: An area occupied by the Samaritans who were despised by the Jews for their half-Jew, half-Gentile ethnicity.

They were marginalised for their mixed race and pagan religion. So Jews commonly avoided Samaria, taking a detour along the Jordan River in the east.

But Jesus “had to” (John 4:4) pass through Samaria. There, He stopped for one Samaritan woman at a well, promising her living water. Consequently, her entire town was brought to salvation (John 4:1–45).

Even in His travels, Jesus submitted to the Spirit’s leading. Though tradition meant it wasn’t necessary to pass through Samaria, Jesus was in tune with the Spirit, and knew He had to travel through a place normally avoided by others.

In the original Greek, “had to” indicates a necessity arising from a command. For Jesus, obeying the Spirit was the most important thing. Societal pressures or personal comforts were not part of His considerations.

Jesus’ compassionate commute was a stark contrast to my recent approach with the tissue paper sellers. I was deeply convicted that I had a selfish and loveless heart for others.

Jesus told His disciples, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” (John 4:34). He lived with the sole intention of accomplishing God’s purpose. To this end, Jesus was always in close fellowship with the Father (John 17:21), doing exactly what the Father showed Him.

If we are to imitate Christ, we need to first experience God’s love. We only love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). It is only out of a loving relationship with God that we are able to love other people.

In other words, without regular and personal encounters with the love of Jesus, it is impossible to conjure up genuine love for those by the wayside.

It is only out of a loving relationship with God that we are able to love other people.

Meditating on John 4, I was moved by Jesus’ intentionality in loving the Samaritan woman. I endeavoured to emulate his pattern and told God, “Help me to love others like you would, Lord.”

In time, I started walking my normal route again – purposefully stopping for my friends.

Who is God telling you to stop for? As we go about our daily business, let’s remain mindful of those by the wayside: Tissue sellers, office colleagues or even next-door neighbours.

Your one conversation could possibly be the only godly one they have with anyone the entire day – perhaps even their whole life.


This article was first published on Selah.sg and was republished with permission.

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Running for HOME: The race for social justice for domestic workers

by Joanne Ong | 1 December 2017, 4:58 PM

It all started after graduation this year, when my good friend Isabel and I decided to courageously fly ourselves to Tiruchirappalli, India, to visit our migrant worker friends back in their own villages.

We had forged a friendship with our migrant worker friends while they were working in Singapore for the past 7 to 10 years. We enjoyed this special friendship with them, and often exchanged jokes and shared pictures of our families with one another.

However, due to unfortunate circumstances regarding their work permits, they were sent back to India earlier this year without our knowledge. We lost contact and were not content with the abrupt end of our friendship. Fortunately, we retrieved their addresses and, hence, the grad trip of our lives!

To our delight, Isabel and I not only reconnected with our migrant worker friends miles from Singapore, but were also introduced to their village and family members. We stayed with them, milked their cows, visited their plantations and visited cultural sites together.

Witnessing and experiencing their lives back in their own village reminded us once again that migrant workers have their own stories to tell. They are more than a statistic; their lives are more valuable than our nation tends to acknowledge.

Meeting with their spouses, children, and even grandparents opened up our eyes to the incredible burdens these workers carry to support their family by earning a living in a foreign country.

Isabel and I have always shared a passion for justice and the marginalised, and upon returning back from India, hearts gripped with the plight of migrant workers’ lives and rights, we got connected with HOME.

HOME stands for the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, a non-profit organisation dedicated to assisting and advocating for foreign workers in Singapore. We’ve enjoyed building relationships with the lovely HOME staff, and have had various visits to their help desks, shelter for abused domestic workers and training academy that empowers them with skills.

Some may say it’s time-consuming to build relationships with migrant workers and domestic workers, and at other times, it also means offering practical financial assistance for them. These are the questions people may have: Is it really worth it? Why do we do what we do?

As believers of Christ, we recognise that social justice is the very heart and character of God (Deuteronomy 15:11, Psalm 146:7-9, Isaiah 58:3-7). Since it is the very nature of God to uphold the poor and vulnerable, likewise God’s people must pursue the same. Loving and responding to the needs of the marginalised thus is an outflow of the love and grace God has first shown us.

Photo taken from the HOME website

Isabel and I have learnt so much from the HOME team and their work, and we’ve recently decided to raise funds to support what they do.

Coming December 3, 2017, I will be running the Standard Chartered full marathon with two beautiful and strong domestic workers from the Philippines, Nancy and Jannah, to raise funds for HOME under a personal initiative we call Run for HOME. I’ve always enjoyed running, but this time round, I’m excited to be running for a cause dear to my heart.

Run for HOME carries a meaning greater than my interest for running; it also represents our shared vision and passion for justice. I’m excited not just to run for, but to run with the domestic workers for this cause – which symbolises my commitment to being a part of their journey.

I believe the physically and mentally exhausting distance of 42.195km would also allow me to identify with the challenges that migrant workers and domestic workers face, although what I will experience is minute compared to their real, everyday struggles.

Hope for the many women HOME has helped looks like this: Stepping out of a place of abuse into a place of warmth and refuge.

The one image that will keep me running to the finishing line is the memory of meeting a group of Punjabi women at the HOME shelter.

“Last time not good, but now very good,” said a Punjabi lady who’d been abused by her employer, her face brightening up as she shared how the shelter had been a safe place for her.

Hope for this woman and the many women HOME has helped looks like this: Stepping out of a place of abuse into a place of warmth and refuge. To see them holding onto hope again in their lives drives me to keep running – not just in this marathon – but in the race for social justice for all.

Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9)


Joanne is a social worker based in Singapore, having been exposed to the exploitation and injustice faced by the migrant workers as an undergraduate in university. Other social concerns her heart is burdened for include poverty and community development.

HOME does not receive funding from the government and relies solely on donors. Their shelter for abused domestic workers alone takes $350,000 to run annually. Donate to Run for HOME and contribute to a culture of justice in Singapore, where all lives are seen with equal dignity and worth. To find out more about HOME and volunteering opportunities, visit their website here.

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It takes a miracle to feed a whole village – and we did

An arts festival with purpose: Make room for the displaced this Christmas

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Running for HOME: The race for social justice for domestic workers