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When my mentee came out to me

by Olivia Lee | 26 June 2017, 11:22 AM

“I have something to tell you. I’m attracted to the same gender.”

Someone I was mentoring in church had suddenly asked to meet me. She looked extremely jittery and it was clear something was up.

“I … like girls. And there’s this girl …”

Her voice was shaking, her eyes fixed on the table. It was a side of her I had never seen in our years of friendship. She sat before me, completely vulnerable, her life peeling apart like layers of an onion.

She told me that she’d been in a secret relationship with a girl from our church for some time, but she wasn’t proud of it.

In that moment, what I saw wasn’t her coming out to me. It wasn’t her relationship with a girl. Instead, what I saw was her vulnerability.

“I know it’s not natural. We both know it. I want this to stop. But I just can’t.”

In that moment, what I saw wasn’t her coming out to me. It wasn’t her relationship with a girl. Instead, what I saw was her vulnerability. I saw her trust – her trust in me that allowed her to bare her darkest secrets. Her fears. Her hurts.

“Aren’t you going to get angry?” Her eyes were welling up with tears.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people around me speaking about same-sex attraction in hurtful ways. Ever said “that’s so gay” as a joke or to describe something you don’t like? These things are insensitive. They hurt.

The church needs to be ready and equipped to walk this journey alongside brothers and sisters. Through my own experience of journeying with Christian friends who came out to me, I’ve learnt that we really should rethink some things we often hear.


1. “Love the sinner, hate the sin”
This overused line has become the top offending statement for many. To say “love the sinner” often sounds as though we view others as “the sinner” and that we are holier than them, which isn’t the case.

2. “Struggling with homosexuality/SSA”
This is only appropriate when referring to someone who admits to be in conflict over their sexuality and is resisting the tendency. People who accept and live with their same-sex attraction are not struggling with it.

3. “The gay lifestyle”
This implies that everyone who experiences same-sex attraction has the same lifestyle, which is untrue. Many may frequent gay bars and clubs, but there also many who live very sedate and conservative lives.

I thanked my mentee for trusting in me enough to share with me whatever she was going through. For a Christian to come out about her sexuality to someone in the Church was definitely something that required more than just a bit of courage.

We need to learn to walk alongside them rather than just telling them what to do from the bleachers.

So if you are someone who is struggling with same-sex attraction, I know that you didn’t ask for this. It’s not just a phase. I won’t tell you that it’s a passing thing that will be over soon. Because we both know that it won’t. You didn’t create this. It’s not your fault. There is nothing inherently wrong with you.

But here’s the catch: You are not to blame for your feelings and inclinations, but you are responsible for managing them wisely and properly.

And you are never alone in this journey of managing your feelings.

Paul wrote in Galatians 5:17, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”

We all deal with various kinds of temptations and inclinations that yield to the flesh — just that some are more common than the others. Most people don’t toy with the idea of cutting themselves every time they are sad or angry, but some do. Many people aren’t tempted to indulge in pornography to destress or to feel better, but many are.

This is the reality of the struggle between the flesh and the spirit. You are not meant to give in, helplessly, every time you have an urge. The need for self-control is part of the reality of Christian living.

Not only should we try to make it easier for someone to talk about their sexual struggles, we must avoid making the mistake of always talking about it. By only talking about this aspect of their life all the time, it reinforces the wrong idea that this is all there is to them and that this is their identity.

I made that mistake we made. I briefly shared about the situation with my leader just to keep myself and my mentee accountable and in check. But unfortunately, it blew out of proportion. Leaders kept asking me, “How is (insert mentee’s name here) and her struggle with that?”.

No how have you been or have you eaten, but it was always how is the SSA situation going?

Here’s the catch: You are not to blame for your feelings and inclinations, but you are responsible for managing them wisely and properly.

I would like to think that they came from a place bearing good intentions at heart. But the constant questions about just that particular issue in my mentee’s life made it feel as though it was all there is to her as a person.

There were also other battles going on her life. Her financial worries, her parents’ disapproval about her faith, the stress she’s facing in school …

Our identity isn’t built on our sexuality. Or our achievements. Or what school we go to. Or where we work. Or our relationship status.

Our identity is fundamentally found in the person of Jesus. We are defined by God and God alone. He identifies each and every one of us as His own (2 Corinthians 1:22).

We still have a long way to go in terms of learning about how to walk alongside each other, for better or for worse. But what I have learnt in my years with my mentee is that only the revelation of Jesus in our lives – the awe from finding our identity in Christ – can spark the beginning of any transformational work in our lives.


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Numb – the cry of a generation

by Darius Lee | 22 July 2017, 12:15 AM

I’m tired of being what you want me to be
Feeling so faithless, lost under the surface
Don’t know what you’re expecting of me
Put under the pressure of walking in your shoes
Every step that I take is another mistake to you

Those are the opening lines of the popular Linkin Park song Numb (2003), a song sung from the perspective of a young person crying out against the expectations imposed by those in authority.

As he enters the chorus, Bennington’s voice turns into an angry, anguished and angsty declaration of independence and identity:

I’ve become so numb, I can’t feel you there
Become so tired, so much more aware
I’m becoming this, all I want to do
Is be more like me and be less like you

For many of my generation, the youthful-sounding voice of lead singer Chester Bennington deeply resonated with many teenagers as he put their feelings in words. It echoed what they felt in their hearts. It was raw and authentic.

Perhaps that is why many people were shocked and deeply saddened at the news of Bennington’s apparent suicide in his Los Angeles residence on July 20.

It was not just the loss of a lead singer of a popular band; it was the loss of a spokesperson for what they felt.


Chester Bennington led a hard life, and he acknowledged that Linkin Park’s often dark subject matters were inspired by his own emotional turmoil.

He was sexually abused by an older friend when he was seven, beaten up and forced to do things he did not want to do, and suffered in silence for six years.

His parents divorced when he was 11.

The death of Chester Bennington was not just the loss of a lead singer of a popular band; it was the loss of a spokesperson for what a generation felt.

“It was an awful time. I hated everybody in my family,” he said in a 2008 interview with Kerrang magazine.

“I felt abandoned by my mom, my dad was not very emotionally stable then, and there was no one I could turn to – at least that’s how my young mind felt.”

Bennington turned to alcohol and drugs to cope with his pain. He carried on these addictions into adulthood, until his Linkin Park bandmates intervened in 2006.

He was married twice; his first marriage ended in divorce in 2005 because of his time spent touring with Linkin Park.


Numb remains one of the band’s most popular and iconic songs. At the time of writing, it’s racked up more than 560 million views on YouTube.

The music video tells the story of a young girl who is a social outcast. As we look at her arms, we notice that she’s been cutting herself, with the word “numb” carved into her skin.

She spends her time drawing, apparently looking toward the transcendent as she sketches pictures of angels, Mary and the baby Jesus. She is rejected by her classmates and repeatedly told off by her mother for failing to live up to expectations.

The girl hardly utters a word in the video, but Chester Bennington’s voice speaks her mind:

Can’t you see that you’re smothering me
Holding too tightly, afraid to lose control?
‘Cos everything that you thought I would be
Has fallen apart right in front of you
Every step that I take is another mistake to you
And every second I waste is more than I can take

Though the girl knows that she might end up failing too, she knows deep within her that her mother had likewise failed to meet her parents’ expectations (“And I know/I may end up failing too/But I know/You were just like me with someone disappointed in you”).

All this time, the band are in a church, the distorted sounds of the electric guitars, rapid drumbeats, deep basslines and Bennington’s anguished voice constantly giving a voice to the girl’s inner thoughts.

Finally, numb from the pressures and expectations, and keen to be herself and apparently having heard the band, the girl runs into the church where the band was – only to find the church empty.


Bennington does not appear to have been a Christian, instead, according to fellow band member Mike Shinoda, the late singer had “his own really unique views on religion”.

Neither do I know if there had been anyone close to Bennington who reached out to him in his difficult times, or who brought the love of Christ to him in his final moments.

Yet there can be little doubt that every single song, and every raw cry, was and is heard and treasured by God.

If this generation needs a sanctuary, will it find a church willing to receive them with open arms?

But this song and cry is not just the cry of Bennington or Linkin Park: It is the cry of a generation crying out in pain because of impossible expectations that no one is able to meet.

Will the church be the voice pleading on behalf of this generation to the One who has said that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30)?

And, if this generation needs a sanctuary, will it find a church willing to receive them with open arms? Or will the church be empty?

One suicide is one too many. But there are so many – too many to ignore the pain that permeates a generation. If numbness is the problem, love is the solution.

Love for the church – as the source of hope – and love from the church. Because, as the life of Bennington showed us, we can’t count on people to get it right. So we need Jesus to guide our steps.


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The melting pot that is Singapore

by | 21 July 2017, 6:53 PM

“Is it Masterchef today?”

Nadzirah’s eyes sparkled with excitement. It’s a quiet Saturday morning but there’s a buzz of excitement in the air. Everyone’s come armed with pots and groceries.

It’s an unlikely bunch we have in the kitchen today: Ze Qiang, an engineering student, together with exhibition designer Nadzirah and graphic designer Veneetha.

Their challenge for the day: To teach each other how to make a signature dessert from their own culture.


Nadzirah starts the ball rolling by explaining her dish for the day – ondeh-ondeh. This well-loved dish only requires a few simple, common ingredients.

The trio splits the work between them efficiently. Nadzirah instructs Ze Qiang to cut the gula melaka – the ingredient crucial to the dish – into little cubes, along with the pandan leaves into very precise 4cm strips. After all, precision is key to Nadzirah’s interior design background.

“Pandan leaves are there to add flavour and for the coconut to last longer. That’s what my mum told me,” Nadzirah says confidently as she puts the grated coconut into the steamer and begins on the dough.

“Why do you use glutinous rice flour?” Ze Qiang asks.

“Err … actually I don’t know, ask my mum.” Nadzirah answers with a little laugh. This is far from the only time their mums are mentioned throughout the day, as the source of the recipes and tips.

“I hope this will make my kampung proud!”


“I’ve actually never made gulab jamun myself before.”

Veneetha looks sheepishly at Ze Qiang and Nadzirah. Out of the snacks her Indian family makes on Deepavali, gulab jamun is the easiest to make. And it is also her personal favourite.

“It’s is a milk-solid-based ball that is deep fried and soaked in syrup. Many people think that it originated from India. But we kind of stole it from the Persians.”

Everyone laughs. The dry ingredients are poured into the mixing bowl. By now, the trio has clearly warmed up to each other in the kitchen.

“Before I saw the recipe, I didn’t know that it was mainly milk powder. I always thought that it was made of something luxurious.”

Ze Qiang asks Veneetha about the origin behind the name of the dish.

Gulab refers to rose water in Persian, so they used to use rose water-infused syrup. Jamun refers to an Indian fruit with a similar size and shape.”

“Food does bring people together!”

They split the load of forming evenly-shaped balls from the dough. No one’s made this before, so the trio decides to experiment frying just one ball first.

Nothing happens.

“I guess it is a little too calm,” Ze Qiang says, laughing. Then they realise that the stove hasn’t been switched on and everyone breaks into laughter.

“When I told my mum I was going to add honey to the syrup, she was a little doubtful. I think it’s a modern take to this dish,” Veneetha explains as she starts on the syrup. The traditional recipe uses cane sugar.

The frying continues and the sweet fragrance of milk fills the air. Nadzirah shares about her experience buying gulab jamun from a stall at Little India.

“The uncle just put that one ball and the syrup into a teh peng bag, I was just carrying it around like that!” She recalls the overwhelming sweetness from that time, but is excited to try it again today with Veneetha’s modern spin on the recipe.

For the rest of us, it is our first time ever hearing of this dessert.


It’s almost lunchtime as they move swiftly through the preparation of the ingredients for the final fish. Nadzirah attempts at chopping the yam into chunks. Looking at the amount of strength she is using, Ze Qiang steps in to take over.

Orh nee is served at almost any Chinese restaurant. It is usually paired with gingko nuts and pumpkin. But this recipe is passed down … It’s like a family recipe,” he says.

“My mother was quite insistent that I made this.”

They practise pronouncing the name of the dish while waiting for the yam to be ready. Veneetha and Nadzirah repeat the words after Ze Qiang slowly a few times. Singaporeans know it as orh nee, meaning yam paste in Teochew.

The sliced shallots are lowered into the hot oil. Everyone is mesmerised by the fragrance and sizzling sound of the shallots being fried. Ze Qiang motions for the girls to try the perfectly fried shallots. Everyone’s eyes widen upon tasting the shallots and Nadzirah goes back in for more.

“This will go so well with mee soto. Or briyani!”


It is finally time to taste the three dishes after a hectic morning.

As they taste the dishes before them, their eyes light up in delight. Smiles appear on their faces.

“I would never have thought of having shallots in my dessert,” Veneetha casually comments.

Nadzirah is also pleasantly surprised that the gulab jamun turned out to be less sweet than she expected. Veneetha guesses that it’s due to the honey substituting the cane sugar, as well as a shorter soaking time. Traditionally, the balls are soaked in the syrup overnight.

“Well, I like it better this way!”

As they eat, laughter fills the air, along with nods of approval, relieved faces and satisfied tummies. Which is your favourite, we ask the three.

Eyes dart left and right. They say it’s hard to pick a favourite because they’re all so differently unique: The savoury yam paste, chewy ondeh-ondeh and not-so-sweet gulab jamun.

We realise that that’s the trademark of Singapore – where vibrant and diverse cultures live together in harmony.

As Ze Qiang puts it, the diversity we have is what makes Singapore unique.

“Having diversity in races adds colour to our country. For example, the different kinds of food that each race brings gives us a variety of food which allows us to experience the different flavours we would not have known otherwise. This includes the traditions and cultures too.”

Nadzirah agrees that it is important for Singaporeans to make the effort to get to know different races and understand the different cultures.

“Getting to know different races, understanding different cultures just add colours to your life. Colours are very important to me. I don’t like to lead a dull life.

“I’ve learnt that there are so many other desserts out there that we have yet to try. If we just stick to what we know, our own culture, we tend to miss out on a lot.”


The trio also acknowledged how blessed we are to live in a country where there’s an intrinsic respect for each other’s roots, and where we have a culture of openness in asking and learning.

Ze Qiang believes that being conscious and respectful towards each other’s beliefs and culture is also key to maintaining racial harmony in such a diverse society. Everyone has a part to play in this.

“I think generally Singapore is quite harmonious. However, there can be some unintentional segregation that happens naturally if we are not careful. Like how people tend to stick to their own kind. We are also bound to have conflicts over different beliefs and cultures,” he says.

“But if everyone takes the effort to understand and reach out to the other races, everyone can live in harmony.”

“Having diversity in races adds colour to our country.”

Veneetha adds that the openness to working together is key.

“Before coming into this, I thought the other recipes were going to be complicated and probably something that I will never be able to do on my own. But with some help and guidance from my friends, the recipes that were shared turned out to be surprisingly simple and I will definitely make them again.”

She also felt that finding a common interest also helps to bridge the gaps between people and their differences.

“This simple experience made me more knowledgable about the other cultures in Singapore and I think everyone should make an effort like this. Food does bring people together!”

Nadzirah recalls that as part of the preparation process prior to this shoot, everyone brought brand new utensils and crockery to ensure that halal standards are respected and adhered to.

While this made things logistically more complicated and troublesome, everyone chipped in without complaints.

“Thank you for complying to the halal standards, I really appreciate it,” she tells the other two.

Singapore: We may be made up of different ingredients and cultures, but we’re still good and sweet together.

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In the end: Reflections on death and the lives of Chester Bennington, Chris Cornell

by | 21 July 2017, 10:23 AM

An unashamed confession: About two weeks ago, the entire team was huddled in a karaoke room celebrating our In-Dependence Day, throats going hoarse as we screamed into the mics:

I tried so hard
And got so far
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter

A fortnight later, we woke up this morning to the news that the original singer of those lines – Chester Bennington of Linkin Park – had died in an apparent suicide.

2017 has been as brutal as 2016. All the marquee names of my youth are falling.

Following on the passing of David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, George Michael and Carrie Fisher in 2016, among the celebrity deaths this year: Tween heartthrob Tommy Page and Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell.

The difference between the names that went in 2017, compared to those in 2016: Bennington, Page and Cornell went by their own hand, all three deaths reported as apparent suicide.

*     *     *

You know the headlines that have significantly affected your life by the fact that you can remember where you were when you heard the news.

I remember exactly the moment on September 11, 2001 when someone told me to turn on the TV, just in time to see the second tower being struck. I remember the urgent, pounding footsteps in the newsroom that were my first indication that Lee Kuan Yew had died.

I remember April 5, 1994. I was in Sec 3, walking to Far East Plaza after school as was my daily habit, when a friend stopped and said: Kurt Cobain is dead.

Now Bennington and Cornell, joining a sad honour roll that includes INXS’ Michael Hutchence, Ian Curtis of Joy Divison and Elliott Smith.

I used to play all of their songs, train ride after train ride on my Discman, night after night in my room.

*     *     *

All the clues you need are in the lyrics.

Chris Cornell, dead at 52. From Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun (1994):

Hang my head
Drown my fear
Till you all just disappear

Ian Curtis, dead at 23. Twenty-three! His bandmates would recover from his suicide to carry on as New Order, adding irony to the agony. From Joy Divison’s Shadowplay (1979):

In the shadowplay
Acting out your own death
Knowing no more

Elliot Smith, dead at 34. I probably had him on repeat the most, waltz after waltz, tear after tear, night after night. I felt I knew him, and he knew me. From Last Call (1994):

It’ll all be yesteryear soon
Church bells and now I’m awake
And I’ll sing the praises of my maker’s name
Like I was as good as she made me
And I wanted her to tell me that she would never wake me
I’m lying here waiting for sleep to overtake me

When is a lyric just a lyric, and when is it a cry for help?

When Kurt Cobain sang that “I swear that I don’t have a gun” (Come As You Are, 1991), why did we believe him?

*     *     *

But the lyrics weren’t just theirs. Each word was mine, too.

When Elliott Smith whispered that Everything Means Nothing To Me (2000), he was doing colour commentary for my life.

When Cobain insisted “I don’t care/I don’t care/I don’t care/I don’t care” (Breed, 1991) – I didn’t either.

“I’ve become so numb,” screamed Bennington (Numb, 2003).

And so had we.

There’s a reason rock and roll, dark and depressing as it can be, is so popular. There’s resonance.

There’s a theory that the summit of a mountain is the same shape as the entire mountain. The pinnacle reflects the people.

Depression and suicide aren’t the exclusive preserve of rock and roll stars. They’re just the most visible ones to go. Whatever they sing – that’s the echo of our deepest hearts.

That in the end/It doesn’t even matter.

*     *     *

But … Bennington was wrong. In the end, it does matter.

I learnt this late. I wasted more than a decade bearing nothing but hatred for life, scorning those who insisted there was joy to be had. The meaning of life, I then believed, was to accelerate its ending.

I was wrong.

Over the years I very slowly slid off the peak of pain. Over the years the veil that depression had drawn over my eyes was lifted.

And eventually, I wasn’t numb any more. I wasn’t closed off to the purpose and the pleasures of life as it has been gifted to me. There was no epiphany, no glorious moment of revelation. The walk into the light was long and slow.

I only realised I was no longer in the same place when I was listening to a song by a band called Teenage Fanclub. They were once signed to Geffen Records at the same time as Nirvana, and briefly in the early 1990s were considered a better bet for superstardom. They were all long hair, torn jeans and flannel shirts.

But somehow they shed their grunge sound, the darkness, and started bathing their songs in light and hope and summer sounds. They settled down, had children.

And one day, walking through a lallang field near Tanah Merah which no longer exists, over my headphones played Teenage Fanclub’s Ain’t That Enough (1997):

Days that found you
Embrace that found you
Here is a sunrise – ain’t that enough
True as a clear sky – ain’t that enough

And I realised: Yes. All this I have been given – it is enough.

*     *     *

In the end, what happens in this life does matter. Why?

I was trying to think of a subtle way to explain this, but I don’t want to patronise you or waste your time.

This is what I believe to be true: In the end, almost everything on this Earth and in this life will fade away.

“See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” (Isaiah 65:17)

At this point, only two things remain: The unfailing Word of God, and the eternal soul of man.

The rock and roll heroes of my youth were wrong. We should care. Everything means something.

Two things will happen: First, a check to see if our names are in the Book of Life; those who believe that Jesus is our Lord and Saviour will spend eternity in heaven, singing praises to the King.

And second, we will be called to give an account of our lives, for the things done in the body, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10).

So in the end, all this matters. The rock and roll heroes of my youth were wrong. We should care. Everything means something.

It starts when you give your life to Jesus, and receive abundant and eternal life in return – the most unfair deal of all, made in our favour. If you haven’t done so – there is no better time than now.

Tell Jesus you’re thankful that He died on the Cross to wipe away the stain of your sin, and you repent for these sins done in the body. Then say you acknowledge Him as Lord of your life. Amen.

Because in the end, all that matters is to make sure we see Him again, face to face. And forevermore.


Edric has spent a lifetime in mainstream and digital newsrooms, and has the waistline to prove it. He is a lapsed divemaster, a father to four and husband to one. Could use more sleep.


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Hold my hand, child of my heart: This is the cry of our fathers

by Alexandra Teng | 18 July 2017, 2:12 PM

I’m Alexandra (Alex for short), and that’s my brother, Andrew, on the guitar. We’ve been roving about and bringing worship in simple forms to different places, and that includes several sessions at Lepark.

The concept is simple: Lovers of His presence from all walks of life gather, worship, soak, get healed and recharged.

One day, I was told by Carmen, one of the owners of Lepark, that a group of fathers would join us in worship. They were from a group called Elijah 7000, and have been interceding in prayer for Singapore for years now.

As usual, there was no setlist – we usually just worship free-flow, as the Spirit leads. But God put a song in my heart, one that I had not heard for years.

牵我的手 – pronounced Kang Gwa Eh Qiu, which means Hold My Hand, by Lim Gee Tiong – is a song in the Hokkien dialect, which I do not speak.

The last time I’d heard the song was at my Grandpa’s wake. The song is a desperate man’s cry for God to take his hand. He cries out for help as he walks a road he doesn’t know how to – not in his human strength.

At the end of the road, he reaches God’s door and hears His voice saying, “Come in, My child.”

During the week, I was studying for my exams. Several times I found myself singing or humming 牵我的手, and I would feel deeply moved and weep, not knowing why.

When we met the fathers, we finally sang it during worship. Many of the fathers knew the song and sang along passionately and loudly, weeping as they did.

I later found out that many present that night work in prisons, and this was the song they sang as they led inmates to Christ. It’s also a song inmates sing on death row.

This is just one of many instances I’ve seen God orchestrating everything so the generations would turn to each other for His glory. He’s the God of our youth, our adulthood, our first to last days and beyond.

I’m beginning to see that the changes we want to see in society can only come about when we partner with our parents’ generation.

He’s the Father of all fathers – meaning He loves our parents more than we ever could, and will love our children more than we ever will.

I’m beginning to see that the changes we want to see in society can only come about when we partner with our parents’ generation.

They carry immense wisdom and the wealth of God’s Word. We in our 30s, 20s and even our teens have all the potential – the keys to unlocking dreams in each other, the language of hope that this world is thirsty and dying for.

It takes so much humility to turn back to our fathers and mothers – especially if they have not exemplified our myopic ideals. But what we did not have growing up, Father God lavishes on us. It is His will that we run back to the very ones who gave us life on this Earth.

To honour them with the way we live out our ambitions. To do our parents proud, even if that looks completely different from their “lawyer/doctor/businessman” expectations.

This is the prayer that the Elijah 7000 fathers are praying for us.

This is their heart of humility – acknowledging that only God knows how best to raise their households – and their posture of purpose – embracing why they have children.

These are the prayers being poured out on us. How will we respond?

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord
And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”
(Malachi 4:5-6)


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Article list

When my mentee came out to me

Numb – the cry of a generation

The melting pot that is Singapore

The melting pot that is Singapore

In the end: Reflections on death and the lives of Chester Bennington, Chris Cornell

Hold my hand, child of my heart: This is the cry of our fathers