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“God showed me 4 digits”: The 22-year-old jewellery maker with a vision

by | 6 March 2018, 5:26 PM

“Is this like Vogue’s 72 questions? I’d better get rid of this dead cactus!”

Laughter fills the small studio as Caroline, 22, welcomes me into her studio. It’s a small space – smaller than a usual single bedroom, but it is evident that she has made that place her second home.

Warm ambient lighting nestles the room, and an acoustic R&B playlist plays softly in the background. I recognise the scent in the air; it’s the same cedarwood freshener I have at home.

This is the newly opened studio of local artisan jewellery brand, 3125. I sit down with Caroline to find out more about the greater story and vision behind her brand.

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Caroline Goh, 22, the founder of local jewellery brand 3125.

It was 2014. 18-year-old Caroline was working on a school project that required her to come up with her own fashion brand and product line. Something that could be sold at an actual pop-up market. Caroline, then a final year fashion design student in LASALLE College of the Arts, was struggling with the project.

“The entire process of getting approval from my lecturers and digging for ideas was very tiresome,” she shared.

“I realised I was trying to do everything on my own and not seeking God — our actual source of creativity.”

Caroline then decided to take some time out during class and went to the library to pray. What happened next sounded incredibly unbelievable.

“God showed me these 4 digits: 3125. And no, it wasn’t for 4D! I wish,” she laughs.

She didn’t quite know yet what He meant back then at that moment. But she remembers heading to the cafe downstairs in school right after. In the washroom hung a frame with the Bible verse: “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the future without fear.”

“I went back to Google where that verse came from, and spooks! It was Proverbs 31:25!”

Caroline headed back to class with this new God-given vision and pitched an entirely different proposal to her lecturers. To her shock, everything went smoothly from then on.

Looking back, she believes that God’s intent was to give her the opportunity to share His Word everytime someone asked her what 3125 meant.

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"I went to the library to pray ... And God showed me these 4 digits!" Caroline shares the moment God gave her the vision for 3125.

It is not conventional to have someone at Caroline’s age to start a venture from ground-up.

“After I graduated, I was actually involved in quite a few freelance projects – some design projects here and there, creating a fashion line for the disabled and working at a local jewellery brand,” she tells me.

Like any other fresh graduate, the thought of looking for a “real job” also crossed her mind multiple times as well.

“I knew that I wasn’t as ready as other entrepreneurs.”

But she couldn’t ignore the question that kept tugging at her heart: If not now, then when?

She gives credit to her freelancing experience for sharpening her vision and helping her to know better what she wants to do.

“I found myself more inclined to set up my own business and work for myself. It’s not that working for others is bad or working for myself is any easier, but I just wanted to take this risk with God. If all else fails, I am not afraid because He is with me.”

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Everything at 3125 is handmade by Caroline, and occasionally her family members.

I asked her if she’s ever felt lonely running the business on her own. Afterall, it’s a one-woman business and she usually spends her days alone in her studio crafting new designs and working on new orders.

“I think I struggled the most when I was transiting from student life to this. It was fun managing the business while schooling back then. But as I pursued this full-time, there were many things that I didn’t know that I had to know! Like business registration and bank accounts … Figuring out all this adulting stuff alone was really tough.”

That wasn’t all. While any friend of hers might think that she’s got it all together due to her funny and outgoing persona on social media, she reveals that she’s faced some internal battles over the years too.

“I struggled a lot with self-confidence. You can’t tell at all from the outside, but frankly a lot of times I can’t help but to compare my works with others,” she says.

“People have more following, more business going on, more mentions … But I find a lot of comfort when I am reminded that God works in His perfect timing. My ‘best’ cannot be compared with others because we all have our own battles to fight and our own race to run.”

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One of Caroline's biggest struggles starting up her business was figuring out the administrative matters with the relevant authorities and businesses. "I didn't know what I had to know!"

Thankfully, Caroline’s family has been more than supportive of her venture. I have seen for myself over the years how her parents and siblings would come down and help out at 3125’s booth during the pop-up markets that she goes to twice to thrice a month.

Besides helping to tend the booth and even doing sales, her family members have contributed their own strengths to value-add to the business.

“My dad is more of the business guy. He reminds me to do my PNL (profit and loss), finances and operations. On the other hand, my mom is more of the creative person. Recently, she learnt a bit of jewellery-making just so that she can help with the production. She follows me overseas for material sourcing too.”

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In her free time, Caroline also practices handlettering. Samples of her works line the walls of her studio.

Besides just crafting trendy minimalist jewellery, 3125 is also committed to larger causes. Caroline shares with me that she’s been involved in projects revolving around entrepreneurship, volunteering and community work since young.

“When I decided to study fashion, I somewhat knew that I wanted to do something different in this industry. Apart from just producing beautiful jewellery, I wanted those products to actually mean something to someone.”

3125 currently gives 10% of their sales proceeds to Tamar Village, a daytime restoration centre for people affected by or involved in the sex trade. Interestingly, it wasn’t just a random choice.

“I came to know about Tamar Village through three friends who completely didn’t know one another — one of my clients Jin Yong, Amanda from SELAH and then my friend Elisa. I guess when God has reiterated something thrice, it means something right?”

Spurred on by this thought, Caroline reached out to Tamar Village in 2016 and shared with them the possibility of a partnership. Ever since then, 3125 has been giving financially to support their ministry.

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Photos from 3125's latest campaign.

In December 2017, 3 years after that school project, 3125 moved into its own brick and mortar space at Sultan Plaza. Tucked away in a corner of this deserted strata mall, Caroline got to know of the available space through a church brother who runs a tailoring business a few doors down.

It’s an unconventional location for young businesses and business-owners, she acknowledges. Human traffic is minimal and many shops have their shutters down even in the day. The washrooms in the building are dingy, and Caroline admits that she’s heard of strange rumours about the building. But the bubbly 22-year-old is undaunted.

“I think the studio and showroom is a great testimony of how a beautiful space can exist in an old and forgotten building,” she laughs, recalling the times that her family and friends have reminded her to watch out for her safety.

Caroline hopes that the doors of 3125 will see more people coming in for a different kind of retail experience. Besides being her own workspace, the studio also retails products from other local brands.

“This space is small and cosy, so that people who enter into the shop don’t feel pressurised to buy anything. I am more interested in building relationships and making meaningful conversations actually!”

She has one more dream for her studio – to hold a live worship session here one day.

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3125's brick and mortar shop located on the third floor of Sultan Plaza.

She reflects on her journey for the past three years, and tells me that she has learnt many lessons big and small along the way.

“Although it can get tiring sometimes, but it taught me a lot about building your spiritual stamina. If I can invest so much time and effort into an interest of mine, how much more should I in Kingdom affairs?”

“God has really blessed me with a lot of mentors too, from fellow entrepreneurs I met through the markets to lecturers, and really supportive friends who are not just interested in the business but yourself, as a person. Sometimes you really need to hear from others and communicate with them, just to remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing.”

I ask Caroline how long does she envision herself doing this. She ponders, and tells me that she’s taking things one step at a time.

“I trust that this is just one of the many things that God has given to me to steward. Should there come a time when it’s time to move on, I hope that I would gladly move on to the next season God is bringing me to.”


3125 is a local artisan jewellery brand dedicated to empowering women. 10% of their proceeds goes to Tamar Village, who supports the street women of Singapore by providing job opportunities, training and workshops to improve their livelihood. Besides crafting regular product lines, 3125 also does bespoke jewellery.

Their studio is open strictly by appointment only. To make an appointment, click here.

/ christina@thir.st

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

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Belinda Lee: My mother’s unwavering faith

by | 15 February 2018, 3:37 PM

As she recalled her mother’s final days in her 6-year-long battle with cancer, Belinda Lee took a moment to compose herself before she continued.

The former Mediacorp actress and host spoke of moments when her mom would get up in the middle of the night, when she was in great pain, to cry out to God.

“At that time, she was already on morphine and was very weak. I don’t know where she got the energy from, but she would shout with all her strength for God to take her home.”

“She would cry out with all her might like this: ‘Jehovah, I beg you to bring me home.’

“It was then that my family knew that she was ready to go home. It was painful for us to let her go but we knew that she was ready,” Belinda said.

It was the beginning of the end of a journey which saw her mother go from being anti-Christian to embracing the love of Jesus.

Said Belinda: “My mom, who told the whole world that she would never become a Christian, received Christ when I was in Bible college, and she actually got water baptised on her own without telling the family.

“To me, that shows how true her conviction was, because she willingly did it on her own without pressure from anyone – she did it on her own accord because she truly wants to know who this amazing God is, and she welcomed Him into her life.”

(Belinda Lee’s sharing on her mother’s faith begins at 40:44 in this video)

Belinda shared that her mother, who was illiterate, would pray for God to teach her how to read the Bible.

And He did.

“A miracle happened one day. She came to me beaming with joy, sharing that God answered her prayer and she could finally read the Bible! Not every word, but she was able to at least understand the gist of what she was reading.”

Belinda found it hard to believe, but was encouraged by a neighbour, who said the same prayer had come true for her own elderly parents. “She told me that I have too little faith in God!”

And the way her mother spent her last days stood out to Belinda.

“A week before she finally took her last breath, she instructed one of my aunties to cook a scrumptious breakfast to serve her friends, the members, and the pastors of the Chinese Church she was attending – because that was what she used to do when she was still mobile.”

Belinda recalls her mom saying this to her in Hokkien: “Belinda, I wasn’t educated and I’m not good at studying, but I know how to cook. With my gift, I hope that I can serve God and His children.

“My mom was a dying women, but while on her deathbed, she wasn’t thinking about her own needs or blaming God. All she was thinking about was how she could continue serving God and His people to the very end of her life.

“Mom did not fear death because she believed with all her heart that our Abba Father was going to welcome her with open arms and personally lead her through the white gates of heaven when she meets Him one day.”

“I was told I was doomed to fail”: Belinda Lee’s journey from insecurity to purpose

/ fiona@thir.st

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

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Celebrating Selah: 4 years of realigning a generation

by | 15 February 2018, 1:08 PM

“Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a Relevant in Singapore?” was a question I found myself asking back in the early 2010s, sometime after I’d graduated and was wondering how to creatively contribute to the Kingdom.

It was a rhetorical question. In our own quiet spaces, we appreciated the faith-based, culturally savvy content that had made its way from the USA to our digital shores, even though there was always something slightly misaligned for the local reader. 

We didn’t always get references to US politics or their cultural landscape, and neither were their Christian young adult issues always resonant with us. A Singapore Relevant was the dream.

But it was a stalemate, of course.

We had never seen anything close to a “Singapore Relevant” on our social media radars, much less local editions of DesiringGod or The Gospel CoalitionAnd from the looks of it, we probably never would. Producing digital content at that quality and quantity was going to take a full-time job, my friends and I concurred, every time the topic was raised.

At that point, most of my peers were waist-deep into our first jobs, barely able to even enjoy a stress-free week night. If we were still serving in church, that included our weekends. And where would the money to do any of this come from? The dream would remain what it was – a dream.

Until one day in 2015, as I was scrolling through Facebook one Sunday afternoon and a post from selah.sg caught my eye. It tackled a familiar Singaporean topic, so it had to be local, but it was all polished and hipster, and the writing was on point for a young adult reader.

I don’t remember which article it was, but I will never forget how it made me feel.

Thank God someone’s finally done it.

SELAH SEES FIRST LIGHT

In 2013, a 23-year-old Joseph encountered God in the Scandinavian woods. He was on exchange in Copenhagen, Denmark, at this time, when God addressed the growing discontent he’d long felt in his heart over Singaporean Christians having only western literature to read online.

He tells me this in the most millennial way – over Skype, in a midnight conference call with two of his SELAH teammates, Lemuel and Natalie.

There’s more than 10 of them in the group, church friends who’d been super tight since their teens. From what I gather, they were the teenage version of the Acts church: Studying together, hanging out regularly, staying over at each other’s houses, even holidaying together. They prayed together. Worshipped together.

The friendship that made SELAH.

“But we all felt a dissatisfaction that there had to be more to life than just hanging out,” Joseph admitted. “We knew there could’ve been a reason why God put such a diverse group of individuals together.”

So when Marvin, one of the members from the group, dropped by Denmark for a visit and told Joseph that the rest wanted to work on a project together, it immediately clicked with the dream he’d received. So when he returned to Singapore, he pitched the idea of starting a hyper-local, faith-based website to the group.

“I remember hearing Joseph asking with raw passion: ‘Aren’t you all pining to read content that is relevant to the Singaporean culture?’” Natalie said, and the three of them laugh as she re-enacts his speech.

“Personally I couldn’t see it happening – God spoke to Jo, not me – but as I saw how everyone was getting on board with it, I started think that God could do something with this, and we would be missing out if we just let it fly by.

“It sparked something in me to believe in the vision, that if we put our hearts to it, worked hard and obeyed God, the dream could be realised. And I could commit to what it was going to be.”

One of the first concept drawings for the SELAH site.

Lemuel was one of the first few to cast a positive vote. “I’d already started a blog to write about my lessons from the Christian walk, but it was getting really hard to sustain alone. So when Joseph mooted the idea for SELAH, I thought it was perfect.”

Not every member of the group was gifted in writing, but together they were a creative dream team: Photographers, videographers, singers, communication executives … And by August 8, 2013, SELAH held their first official meeting to bring the dream to life.

DREAMING FOR A GENERATION

“We just wanted Singaporean faith stories to be told and published,” Joseph replied when I asked him about the big vision for SELAH in the beginning. “And over the years, people have told us that what we do has ‘discipled the nation’, even though we’re really not the most competent in the media publication space.”

Their mission is threefold: To glorify God in the edification of the Singaporean body of Christ, to inspire readers to pause and realign – their tagline, and also selah‘s Hebraic meaning – and to ignite Christ-inspired living.

“Christ-inspired living is a cornerstone of all SELAH does,” Lemuel added, “We referred to it often in the early months, when we were still wondering what we were doing.

“And now that we all have full-time jobs somewhere else, we also try to pause and realign ourselves first, because balancing SELAH with our other commitments can be really challenging.”

Late night SELAH meetings in the early days.

The response to SELAH since they went live in February 2015 has, however, proved the long fight worthy.

“We wanted to throw in the towel at least three times before the launch,” Joseph shared. “It was a coordination nightmare.”

Natalie interjected, “We couldn’t even agree over whether we were good enough to call ourselves a ‘magazine’!”

But the initial rate of uptake surprised and humbled the team, and keeps them doing what they do. “Comments like, ‘Wah, that was a good article, I was really blessed’ help keep us going,” Lemuel said. “Writing is an incredibly personal experience and some articles draw from places so deep within my soul, making it very difficult.”

Natalie, also one of the main writers, agrees. “Needing to bear your heart on the Internet is a struggle. I ask God, ‘Why do You have to take me through such pain in order to produce this article? What or who is it for?’

“But as God has laid it on our hearts to steward these stories well, our hearts are constantly renewed to do so.”

FOUR YEARS AND COUNTING

On February 15, 2018, SELAH celebrates their 4th anniversary. It’s also the start of a year that will see most of the team get married – including Natalie and Lemuel, respectively. Nobody can say how things will unfold from here for SELAH, Joseph said. But who knew they’d even be where they are today four years ago?

“I look back fondly on the moments of bouncing ideas off each other in the early days,” Lemuel shared with a smile. “Back then, every article posted, every interview done, every image taken was a milestone. We celebrated every little thing.”

A huge milestone for the team: SELAH’s first worship night at CHIJMES.

“We all knew Ronald would be the very first one to fall asleep during our meetings,” Natalie added in jest. “We’re more ‘business-like’ today.”

“Business-like” has even meant creating a separate work-chat for the group of friends, as not everyone was ultimately part of the current SELAH team.

And though things may continue changing as the team grows up, the work is far from over for SELAH.

“The digital space is where transformation happens in this day and age, and we have a mandate to put something out there that is relevant to a Singaporean,” said Lemuel, his tone now serious. “I love Singapore and I want the church in Singapore to be strong.”

With SELAH, we’ve always wanted to break that perception of Christian perfection; we’re all struggling, and we all need grace.

Joseph agreed. “With SELAH, we’ve always wanted to break that perception of Christian perfection. The narrative we’ve tried to write is that we’re all struggling, and we all need grace. We all need saving and help and God.”

It’s the same heart that Natalie has for their contributing writers. “I wish we could disciple our contributors more,” she shared later, in another conversation. “That I would be discerning and sensitive to what the Lord is saying to the one who’s writing the story.

“I believe God wants transformed lives over great stories.”

And over 180 of those great stories later, I can still say: Thank God someone’s finally done it.


This story was originally featured on SELAH, in collaboration for their 4th anniversary.

SELAH is an online magazine that seeks to tell Singaporean stories of Christ-inspired living. Find out more at: www.selah.sg.

/ joanne@thir.st

Joanne is a bundle of creative energy commonly heard before she is seen. She believes in the triune power of good conversation, brilliant writing and bold ideas. She also likes milo.

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“I was told I was doomed to fail”: Belinda Lee’s journey from insecurity to purpose

by | 26 January 2018, 2:20 PM

Artiste-host Belinda Lee is no stranger to most Singaporeans. You’ve seen her on TV, at the Star Awards (where she was voted one of Mediacorp’s Top 10 Most Popular Female Artistes four times), in adverts for her various endorsement deals, and even on the cover of the book she authored.

But while she seems to permanently be in the limelight, her past was far from glorious.

“I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth,” Belinda shares.

Belinda’s parents had three children to feed – she was the youngest. To make ends meet, Belinda’s mother took on various odd jobs, ranging from babysitting to sewing umbrellas, to folding joss paper or drying ikan bilis in baskets under the sun.

Each job paid a meagre wage – hence, every dollar and cent Belinda’s parents earned was precious.

“I felt that no one loved me, that I was nobody’s child.”

“As children, we were taught to be as thrifty as possible. My schoolmates would buy a few sets of school uniforms a year – but I could only afford one set a year. And I had to wear my school shoes till they were completely worn out and had holes in them.”

She adds: “Because of that, I was often judged and looked down upon by my school teachers and friends. Because of my shabby appearance.”

For example, Belinda says, as a Primary 1 pupil, there was an occasion when Primary 6 seniors came to bring their juniors to the canteen. One by one, they picked other children, until in the end, Belinda was the only one left in the classroom.

“没人选我。没人带我去吃东西。我觉得好难过,很伤心 。” I was so sad that no one chose me.

“At seven years old, I picked myself up and went to the canteen to eat alone.”

PICKED ON AT SCHOOL

She didn’t just feel judged by her fellow students, but by teachers as well. A teacher once made her stand on a bench as punishment, in front of her classmates.

“It was like I was standing on a stage so that everybody could see me. My teacher pointed her finger at me and told everyone that I was a bad role model. She said, ‘Don’t be messy like her! Look at her – she’s like a jungle girl. You must never be like her.'”

Aged about 8 or 9, young Belinda learnt the meaning of humiliation.

“I had never felt so ashamed, so rejected, and so condemned in my life. I felt that no one loved me, that I was nobody’s child,” she says.

“Since young, I’ve always yearned for acceptance, but no matter how hard I tried to please others, I was never accepted.

“I never had any words of affirmation when I was a little girl. I grew up believing that I was a low-life – people told me I would be doomed to fail when I grew up.”

INSECURE IN LOVE AND WORK

And true enough, life as a grown-up did not get any better. Belinda admitting to looking for love and acceptance in the wrong places.

“I had one failed relationship after another, and I’m not proud of it. All I was searching for was security and a sense of belonging with the man whom I was with,” she confesses.

She plunged deeper into darkness after each broken relationship. With her love life in a mess, her career wasn’t doing much better, with Belinda battling deep insecurity in her early years in the entertainment industry.

“I was very concerned with how people would look at me – do they like me? Do they not like me? The public’s opinion mattered so much to me that I became a people-pleaser. I would only say yes, and I would never say no. I didn’t dare to stand up for myself.

“I was afraid of offending or rejecting other people because I was afraid of being rejected.”

“Some would see me on the streets, come up to me, and tell it in my face that they would switch channels whenever they see me on TV.”

This led to her taking on projects she wasn’t comfortable with. In her own words, “I wasn’t exactly in my element hosting wacky variety shows. I just didn’t know how to be strong and to be something that I wasn’t.”

And if she didn’t like her own performance, the audience felt it all the more.

Recalls Belinda: “Some would see me on the streets, come up to me, and tell it in my face that they would switch channels whenever they see me on TV.”

It got so bad that Belinda was once voted “turn-off of the year” by a local newspaper.

“It was a very big blow to me. I tried my best, but my best was never good enough.”

Over time, she grew detached from work. Belinda was miserable – and on the verge of giving up.

FINDING HOPE

“I was still living life and resolving issues based on my own strength, but I was so tired,” she recalls. She was a Christian by then, but “still had no faith in God”. She questioned God: Did He even know or care about her situation at all?

She slipped into depression and wanted to end it all – both her work and her life.

At this lowest point of Belinda’s career, her company called her and told her about a new travel show, Find Me A Singaporean, which required her to travel off the beaten track around the world in search of Singaporeans in unique places.

But even this silver lining began with a dark cloud. “The reason they chose me was because another host wasn’t available. I thought to myself, ‘Huh? Why am I always the second choice? Why can’t I be the first choice?'”

Why am I always the second choice, she wondered. When Belinda hung up the phone, she wrestled with God.

“If this is a project that is planned by You and given by You, then You perform a miracle,” she told Him.

“I told Him what I wanted. I said I wanted the show to be on prime time, so that it would touch and impact the lives of many. That was my specific prayer,” Belinda recalls.

God answered that prayer. Find Me A Singaporean was aired on prime time. Starting with an airtime of half an hour, it got so popular that it later became an hour-long show.

“Most importantly, the stories that we featured were so inspirational that many viewers wrote in to share with us how impacted they were by the show.”

For example, while filming an episode in a rooftop shanty town in Hong Kong, Belinda realised that it was a misconception that Hong Kong is a city of affluence. In reality, poverty exists in Hong Kong too – families live in cramped rooms on the rooftops, in fear of bad typhoons. These houses are easily destroyed in extreme weather.

In that tiny, rickety house, Belinda allowed her conscience and emotions to guide her. Through hosting Find Me A Singaporean, Belinda experienced God’s overflowing love and compassion for the poor and needy.

“For the very first time in my life, I felt that I could afford to be the real Belinda on TV. While filming, I could cry whenever I was moved, and smile or laugh whenever I was happy. I didn’t have to pretend to be something that I am not,” says Belinda.

BROKEN TO BE A BLESSING

She says it was then she came to understand how her difficult childhood and numerous setbacks in life helped her grow a heart of empathy.

“If I had never tasted what it was like to be poor, rejected, condemned, abused and depressed, I would never have been able to understand and feel the pain of the people whom I have interviewed, and even weep silently with them.”

Now, Belinda believes that God worked through her brokenness to prepare her for His work.

“God has chosen to use my past hurts and weaknesses for His greater purpose. He has seen me go through brokenness, so that I can be used as His vessel to reach out to the broken-hearted, to be a mouthpiece for Him, to be a voice for the voiceless, the rejected, abandoned, wounded and depressed,” reasons Belinda.

“It was very, very clear that all God wanted for me to do was to stop pleasing the world, just go please Him alone.”

Through her travelogue, Belinda also had the opportunity to become the goodwill ambassador for World Vision, a non-profit Christian humanitarian organisation – a role she remains involved in. Her experiences with her travelogue also inspired her to write her book, Larger Than Life: Celebrating the Human Spirit.

In 2016, Larger Than Life won Popular book store’s Readers’ Choice Award.

Says Belinda, who had grown accustomed to rejection, of the accolade: “I was overwhelmed.”

SCHOOL OF FAITH

As she closer and closer to God, Belinda felt a desire to go to Bible school.

“I took that leap of faith and took six months of no-pay leave. But many people talked to me and told me, ‘Belinda, are you crazy? It’s not a wise move if you want to do well in the industry. You shouldn’t take leave. You should work very, very hard.'”

But for the first time in Belinda’s life, she “did not go around seeking advice and approval”, she says.

Twenty-eight days after Belinda started school, she attended Mediacorp’s annual Star Awards ceremony. She went to the awards ceremony with Matthew 6:33 – Seek HIM first! – engraved in her heart, and ended up bagging three awards that night.

She made sure to thank Yahweh – God – on stage.

“The reporters actually asked me who was that ‘Yahweh’ whom I thanked on stage,” Belinda says, laughing at the memory of how the media thought it was the name of some romantic interest.

“It was clear – it was very, very clear that all God wanted for me to do was to stop pleasing the world, just go please Him alone.”

OUT OF THE COMFORT ZONE

Belinda left Mediacorp at the beginning of 2017, a choice she made in order to get out of her comfort zone, to pursue a greater purpose in life.

“Was it difficult? Yes. Was it a struggle? Yes. Did I take a long time to think about it? Yes,” she admits.

“But I knew I had to do this. I chose to get out of my comfort zone to pursue a greater purpose in life.”

She appreciates the freedom of being able to decide on her schedule, so she can prioritise serving God. The lack of a fixed contract means she’s learnt how to depend more on God, to trust Him no matter what.

It’s a lesson she is learning how to apply in every area of her life. As she looks back at the mistakes she’s made, and sees how her life has turned around, she knows it can only be the grace of God at work.

“I gave my heart to all the wrong people. They abused it, even crushed it, and threw it away,” she says.

“But the moment I gave my heart to Jesus, not only does He cherish it, He actually engraved my name in the palm of His hand (Isaiah 49:16) – that’s how much I knows He loves me.”

/ 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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Bridging Hollywood and the kingdom

by Sherman Ng, Executive Producer, Salt Media | 23 October 2017, 9:26 AM

I believe the film market is ready and hungry for movies with good values.

I’ve looked at the sales numbers globally, and I believe the weak numbers put up by films such as Blade Runner 2049 suggest that audiences are tired of post-apocalyptic films and are looking for hope.

Then I looked at the statistics behind Dangal – a film about family, overcoming impossibility and achieving dreams – and realised it got more than half its box office revenues from China despite being a Hindi film!

I believe that films can inspire, encourage and disciple people when used in the right way. Media content can change the culture of societies.

For Christians in the media space, it is important to recognise that we are strategically placed as agents of change.

And sure, there will always be that tension between creating profitable work that appeals to audiences and staying true to the values that you espouse.

But the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. For instance, beyond having Kingdom values in our content, we also demand a level of excellence high enough to withstand the scrutiny of the market.

When we truly understand the media’s potential for the Kingdom, we will then be motivated to take the market in the right direction.

At Salt Media, we not only produce content that is of Hollywood’s pedigree, we also import content which we assess will take the market closer towards a Kingdom direction. At this moment we already have two projects helmed by Hollywood stalwarts like Geoffrey Rush, Sofia Vergara and Joe Manganiello. These are all values-based films waiting to impact Hollywood next summer.

Likewise, we hold all the rights for distributing The Case For Christ in Singapore and Taiwan. We took a risk to bring that film in because we hoped that people would invite their friends and family to watch it. It’s a great conversation starter on the Christian faith.

Personally, it’s not just about producing values-based content. For me, I try to carry these Kingdom values into the way I do my work. The values that we stand for and want to communicate to the world must be the same ones we carry in our business’ DNA.

For example, we pay our service providers on time. We also care for the well being of our team and those who work with us. There was an occasion when we sent a talent home from an overseas shoot because of a family emergency. It cost us time and money but we valued her well being above our comfort. Ultimately, God still enabled us to complete the production below budget.

Even if you’re a Christian who doesn’t work in the media industry, you still have a role to play in shaping culture.

You can vote with your money by choosing what kind of films you’d pay to see. So when you go to the movies, look for a film with good values. Your choice impacts box office sales, which in turn tells cinemas what kind of content is being sought by consumers.

It’s so important to recognise and understand the influence that the media carries. Because when we truly understand its potential for the Kingdom, we will then be motivated to take the market in the right direction.


As a producer with years of investment and financing expertise, Sherman creates values-based content with the goal of inspiring audiences worldwide towards the Kingdom. He will be speaking at LuminoCity 2017.

LuminoCity is a 3-day forum that will bring together thought-leaders and disciples in the marketplace for conversations to shape the culture of our day. It will be held from November 3 to 5, 2017, at The Pavilion. Thir.st readers can enjoy a special discount of $50 from now till October 23, and a discount of $40 from October 24 till October 30 with the promo code “THIRSTY”. 

Visit the LuminoCity website for ticketing information, and follow them on Facebook for updates. 

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From English teacher to Hokkien peng

by Jeffrey Goh | 13 October 2017, 12:51 PM

I joined the teaching profession in the year 1965. I was a passionate primary school teacher, who aspired to become a principal in time.

Four years later, in December 1969, the Ministry of Education (MOE) sent me for a 22-day Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) course in Pulau Ubin. I had to do cross-country runs, abseiling, rowing and all kinds of other strenuous physical exercises.

I really suffered. I asked myself: Why am I even here?

I soon got my answer. Just after my OBS course ended, I received an official letter from the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF). It read: “Dear Sir, we are pleased to call you up for National Service.”

They were “pleased”. But inside I wanted to die. I was 23 years old, en route to becoming a principal! Why did I have to do National Service?

I found out later that it was because the first soldiers who were recruited only spoke Hokkien. They were known as Hokkien peng, and they were unable to understand any English instruction from the course officers.

When Dr Goh Keng Swee, then Defence minister, learnt about this, he made a decision that changed my life: All male teachers 25 years and below were to be enlisted into the Army for 3 years to teach English to the Hokkien peng.

I can vividly remember my enlistment date: January 24, 1970. I was there together with all my teacher friends. A Member of the Parliament gave a speech exhorting us to die for our country. I remember thinking to myself: “Stupid man, you ask me to die for what? I want to live for my country, why should I die?”

My mom cried as the truck I was on started to drive off. I cried as well. It was like I was about to be executed!

When I finally reached Taman Jurong camp, I realised the corporals and sergeants were 18 or 19 years old. They were younger than most of the teachers. They began shouting at us. Get down from the truck, get down!

Can you imagine teachers being shouted at? Unthinkable! It was so humiliating! In school, students bow down and greet me, “Good morning, Mr Goh!”

I told myself: “Jeff, you’ve only been in the army for half a day and you’re crying like this. You got 3 years, you know? You’ll go mad!”

Then they lined us up at the football field. Good, I thought, we’re going to play football! Then they gave us razor blades. Good, I thought, free toiletries!

Then they asked us to squat – and cut the grass on the football field with the razors. One blade of grass at a time.

So here was “Mr Goh”, now in short pants and a smelly green T-shirt, cutting the grass.

I was crying in my heart. Why am I here? What have I done wrong? But I told myself: “Jeff, you’ve only been in the army for half a day and you’re crying like this. You got 3 years, you know? You’ll go mad!”

I couldn’t change my posting, so I began changing my mindset. I told myself I was very fortunate because I had gone for an OBS course before enlisting; at least I was physically ready. Sure enough, I was ahead of all other recruits in every run.

I became so positive about National Service that after 3 months, I was named the Best Recruit in my company. That changed my life once again, because Dr Goh decided that all the best recruits in the company should not simply become language instructors.

Instead, we would become combat soldiers. I almost died again.

All my friends laughed at me. While they were teaching English in air-conditioned rooms, I was running up and down a hill. “Jeffrey Goh gei kiang, act clever lah, now have to suffer!”

But later on, I was sent for Officer Cadet Training and I eventually became a Second Lieutenant. I was an officer, while all my friends were corporals. When they saw me, instead of shouting out “Eh, Jeff!”, they had to salute and say, “Morning, Sir!”

“Good morning,” I would reply. “Now who gei kiang?”

I served the nation as an officer until my 3 years were up. One week before I was to go back to school to be a teacher, I was interviewed by Colonel Winston Chew, who later became a Lieutenant-General and Singapore’s first Chief of Defence Force.

“Jeff, sit down. What are you going to do after this?”

I told him I wanted to teach. He asked me to sign on for a career with the Singapore Armed Force (SAF) instead.

I refused. I was a man of peace. I told him I would rather teach than fight.

“Jeff, here’s my proposal,” he replied. “Why don’t you serve 5 more years in combat? I promise to put you somewhere in SAF MINDEF where you can teach.”

And that was it. I transferred from MOE to MINDEF and served there 22 years until I attained the rank of Major. I never went back to teaching at MOE.

By putting on the uniform, I made sure we were all men of peace.

I began to realise how important and meaningful my job was. I defended the future that our leaders and the pioneers had fought for, for their children and the generations to come. By putting on the uniform, I made sure we were all men of peace. God gave me a sense of purpose and built resilience in me.

Now, I can say I’m proud to once have been a part of the SAF.

And because attaining the rank of a Major allows you to retire early, I retired at the age of 45. If I was a school principal, I would have retired at 62 instead. Thank God for that!

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Bridging Hollywood and the kingdom

From English teacher to Hokkien peng