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One More Rice Bowl

by | posted 2 February 2018, 4:57 PM

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by | posted 17 May 2018, 5:36 PM

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Your identity isn’t tied to what you do

by Woo Jia Qian | 17 May 2018, 4:42 PM

When I was in school, I consistently topped the class in maths and sciences.

I was a straight-A student except for the consistent B’s I got for languages and humanities. I went to top schools and I was always referred to as “the smart one” among friends – the go-to person when my friends needed help with their homework.

I represented my school at Science Olympiads and even got a “Merit” award for the Chemistry Olympiad. I took H3 subjects in the sciences at A-Level, so my friends and family were certain that A-Level H2 subjects were going to be sure A’s for me.

But when I took the A-Level Chemistry examination, there was one paper that I felt was difficult. Deep inside, I kept my fingers crossed I would still get an A.

I got an A for the Chemistry Preliminary Examination, and I thought: “No one actually goes on to do worse in the A-Levels right?” I always believed that the A-Levels was the part where people suddenly got their As despite having never got one before. 

On the day they released the A-Level results, I had lunch with my friends. All of us knew that the top students would get called up and congratulated by the school early in the morning. So my friends asked me: “Jia Qian, did you get the phone call this morning?”

I didn’t. Now imagine my shock and sadness when I finally saw my result slip – B for H2 Chemistry.

My parents were just as shocked and I’ll always remember their response: “What? I’ve always expected you to get an A since day one. You’ve always aced chemistry and topped your class – your school even chose you to go for the Chemistry Olympiad!”

Our job and profession are temporal, but our relationship with God is eternal. 

I encountered more setbacks in the months following the released results. I faced countless rejections from all the scholarships and top overseas universities I had applied for.

Eventually I accepted an offer to study physics at NUS, though it was definitely not my first choice. My dream was to study physics at Imperial College London with an A*STAR scholarship. 

So throughout university, I would always feel a tinge of sadness when friends asked about what scholarship I was on. “Parents’ Scholarship” was the answer I usually gave, but deep down, I had become uncertain about the future. I envied my friends who were scholarship holders – assured of jobs after graduation.

That was 7 years ago, and since then, I have been on an adventure. I experienced different industrial attachments during school, entered the semiconductor industry, went back to school, and now I’m in my second career learning the ropes as a software engineer in a local bank.

It’s been a long journey, and I’ve learnt some very important lessons along the way.

Our identity and security doesn’t come from grades or jobs. They come knowing that we are children loved by our Father. 

“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:15-17)

As a professional in the finance industry, there are days I’m tempted to think that I’ve made it. It’s much wiser to pray against idolising my job and attaching my identity to my profession. After all, our job and profession are temporal, but our relationship with God is eternal. 

There is no need to compare salaries across different professions or feel envious if someone earns more than you. While we should all be good stewards of money and save regularly, there is no need to be doubtful about provision.

God is our Provider. This facet of His character is seen countless times in both the Old and New Testaments. You need only to read classic verses like, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want”(Psalm 23:1) to know this. Other good ones include Genesis 22, where Abraham places his faith in God as provider and Matthew 6:25 -33. 

If we identify ourselves first as God’s children – how then should we respond? 

One practical way is to skip the “What do you do for a living?” question when meeting newcomers in a Church setting. Because our professions really don’t define us. God places us in different fields according to His will, and we are all His beloved children.

A Biblical example of how profession does not matter can be seen in how Jesus called his twelve disciples (John 1:35-51). His disciples had different jobs: Some were tax collectors, others were fishermen or even zealots. Commentaries describe that while fishing was highly regarded at that time, tax collectors and zealots were not as well regarded – even despised. Tax collectors were deemed as extorters of money, while zealots were people who wanted political revolution. 

Jesus called them all. 

The next time you miss out on your dream job or scholarship, remember that your identity in Christ is constant – God is still your Provider. The hierarchy is this: You are a Christian who happens to be a policeman. Or you’re a Christian who happens to sell street food.

You are first and foremost a child of God – ready to do His will.

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How could you take from me what I deserved?

by | 17 May 2018, 12:26 PM

When I was in secondary school, my number one ambition was to become a cell leader.

The thought of being able to change people’s lives was something I desperately wanted. Unfortunately, this led me to suck up to my leaders in the hopes of getting on their good side.

Around that time, I responded to a challenge by my cell leader to pray for a friend and invite him to youth camp that year. Joshua, a childhood friend, came to mind. I secretly thought: “Why not? Maybe if I integrate him into the cell, I could get more credibility from the leaders!”

To my surprise, not only did he accept the invitation to attend camp that year – he became really well integrated into the community within a short span of time. Almost too well …

When it was time to pick a new leader, within the short span of a year, they chose Joshua to step up instead of me. I felt betrayed.

How could they! After all I’ve done for the cell, all the contributions I’ve made, how could they deny me the one thing I wanted the most! I have my rights too!

Looking back on those days, I realise that I behaved like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32).

He had seen his young brother essentially ask his father to die, run away to spend his money on parties, luxurious food and prostitutes – only to come crawling back into the house begging to be taken back as a slave.

But instead of sending him back to the depravity he had left them both for, the father welcomed the younger son home with open arms – even throwing him a big party. I knew well how the older brother felt.

Where is justice? Where is the reward I deserved? What about my rights too?

Because I felt the same: What gave Joshua the right to inherit what I believed was mine? But rereading that parable, I saw something I hadn’t seen before. Just as much as the younger son was lost – so was the older brother.

In The Prodigal God, Timothy Keller writes that both sons wanted the father’s possessions rather than the person. Both were far from their father, but while one ran away from the father’s love by being extremely bad – the other did so by being extremely good.

I, too, was undeserving of God’s grace. When all I deserved was death, He ran to me and welcomed me with grace.

The cell leader position was just a symbol. Like the fattened calf at the feast, it masked an underlying issue: My devotion to God wasn’t founded on delight in Him but on trying to curry favours out of Him.

I have done so much in Your name. You owe me. 

That was what my bitter heart was actually saying. But regardless of which son we resemble, God’s response to us is still the same. Like the father in the story, God runs to welcome wayward children back into His arms and joy. He desires his children to lay down their pride and reenter his joy.

The older son couldn’t do so because he held on to his rights – what he felt he rightfully deserved. And just like him, by clinging onto what I thought I deserved, I denied myself the joy of seeing one of his sons come home again – of witnessing a warrior of faith rise up to expand God’s kingdom.

The solution was ultimately simple but painful: I had to lay down my rights and all the things I thought I deserved to reenter God’s joy. But I couldn’t do it. I felt God had been unjust and that his mercy to one person had come at my expense.

How is it that when God is unjust I was the one to pay the price for it?

That was what I actually thought! Eventually I gave up my rights not because I had to – but because I finally realised that I had been the younger son many times as well. I’m all too guilty of running away from God and laying waste to my life.

I, too, was undeserving of God’s grace. When all I deserved was death, He ran to me and welcomed me with grace.

The one who paid the price for my redemption was Jesus. He was what an elder brother should be. My redemption came at His expense, but he never once complained. He simply and completely obeyed his Father and took on the expense so I could be restored to the family.

/ junheng@thir.st

JunHeng is a 100% extrovert who loves caffeine – lots of caffeine. He also likes HTHTs, jamming and eating good food. Did he mention he loves caffeine?

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Stop trivialising favouritism

by Melvin Ho | 17 May 2018, 10:13 AM

Growing up as the middle child, I always felt that my parents favoured my brothers.

I wasn’t as good as they were in both my studies and swimming, and I would feel pangs of jealousy whenever my parents praised my brothers for their achievements and gave them first pick of all the food and presents.

I also felt the injustice of being scolded the most and forgiven the least whenever we made mistakes together.

Though I may have unfairly judged my parents as a child, this perception of being unfairly treated had significant negative effects on my emotional well-being—my self-esteem took a blow and I often felt inferior to my brothers and unloved.

It was not until I became a Christian in my youth, that I gradually started to recover my self-esteem. I was convicted of the truth that regardless of how I performed, God loves me unconditionally.

Admittedly, I have also been a perpetrator of favouritism. In school and at my workplace, I have treated certain classmates and colleagues better because I liked their personalities more than others.

In doing so, I never stopped to consider what effects my actions had on those around me. When we are the ones being favoured or the ones perpetuating it, we are likely to trivialise it.

James, however, reminds us that favouritism contravenes the royal law of Christ to love our neighbour as ourselves. He even mentions favouritism in the same breath as murder and adultery, placing them side by side as violations of not just one component, but the whole law of God (James 2: 8-11).

When I look back at my past experiences, I realise that at the heart of favouritism is a glaring lack of brotherly love toward another. Isn’t that essentially at the heart of all sin? As Galatians 5:14 tells us, “the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”

Let us examine our lives and turn to God in all humility.

When we show favouritism, we do not consider the feelings of the one who has been victimised and and how he has been impacted. Instead of loving them, we are hurting them.

This not only reduces that person’s self-worth – it leaves a scar on his heart. And it denies him his identity as a much-loved child of God, negatively shaping his character and future actions.

In the Bible, we read of accounts of favouritism which led to resentment and ultimately, undesirable outcomes. Sarah’s preference for Isaac and her ill-treatment of Hagar and her son Ishmael led to a break-up of Abraham’s family. Isaac’s unequal treatment of his two sons, Esau and Jacob, drove a wedge between them. And Jacob’s favouritism toward Joseph led to his older brothers resenting him and selling him off as a slave.

Are we also guilty of trivialising this sin of favouritism? Do we cast a blind eye to this hideous sin when we commit it, not realising how grave its consequences really are?

Let us examine our lives and turn to God in all humility. Let us ask Him to help us attain an understanding of His law and remove this subtle sin from our personal lives, so that we may live a life of authentic faith with the genuine love of Christ for our neighbour.


This article was first published on YMI.today, and is republished with permission.

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A Chinese girl in the Congo: Working in war zones 5,000 miles from home

by Jemima Ooi, Justice Rising | 16 May 2018, 7:02 PM

Sleeping in mud huts on hard-packed earth. Rats crawling all over you. Making fires every night because there is no electricity to speak of. Pulling worms out from the feet of children. Running for your life from rebel armies.

These are experiences that will make good stories for the grandchildren, I always think. But as of now I’ve only just turned 30, with a long way to go till then.

At 23, I finally answered God’s call to “go places with Him”. I didn’t know how or where, but I packed my bags, signed up to train with international missions organisation Youth With a Mission (YWAM), and left my family, first class honours and first-world living behind.

My beginning years in the mission field were spent in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, after which I served with Iris Global in Mozambique, under Heidi Baker. It was here that I encountered one of the hardest seasons of mission work – enduring a drought. Water was so scarce that a friend of mine didn’t shower for six weeks!

From there, God moved me to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where I have been working for the past five years with Justice Rising, a missionary organisation serving war-affected countries including Syria and Iraq.

Infographic courtesy of Justice Rising

A quick search on Google will show you how many times the Congo has been officially renamed, which is telling of the number of hands it has passed through over the decades of its troubled history. The amount of bloodshed and brutality in the land is an even darker story.

Mostly unknown to the rest of the world outside of Africa, the war in the Congo has been one of the worst since World War II, spanning more than 20 years with a death toll of almost six million and many, many more displaced. The United Nation’s largest peacekeeping base is there, officials naming it “the rape capital of the world“.

Much of the work at Justice Rising stems from a God-given directive that if we wanted to get to the people of the war-torn republic, we needed to start building schools in the poorest and most broken communities.

It is through the many kinds of schools we’ve set up – schools for all ages, vocational schools – that we get to dig deep into communities in hope of sustainable change. These schools target people in different age groups and contexts to help make them viable for life.

Infographic courtesy of Justice Rising

With our sewing schools, many women no longer have to prostitute themselves to soldiers just so they can feed their children. With our primary and secondary schools, we can offer children a future apart from killing or slavery. A school in a broken community can stop many young boys from becoming child soldiers; it can keep many young girls from being sold as child brides or slaves.

In my few years here, I have witnessed the rehabilitation of child-soldiers and trauma work with rape victims and refugees. And such social ills are just one of the many faces of mission work in Africa’s “heart of darkness“.

Last year, I contracted both malaria and typhoid at the same time. It was the weakest I’d ever been, and I was suffering away from home. Still, there was so much grace, my local families treated me with such love and care.

In times like this it is obvious that I’m no expert on the different fields I serve, most times I feel like a clueless child. I’m dependent on the locals to guide me, interpret for me, shelter me – dependent on God to instruct me, to heal broken lives through me.

Like a little child, I potter to the marketplaces, point to different vegetables and ask the mamas – their version of our aunties – in stilted Swahili: “What is this called?”

Congolese mama chopping wood

Honestly, transiting from Singapore to India, then across different African nations was not as difficult as people might think. Transition is easy when we enter the foreign field as a child, acquainted with our limitations and ready to learn. It endears us to the locals and empowers them to rise up. It takes away the pressure to have it all together.

I must say, transiting into the field is arguably easier than transiting out of the field and into first-world settings! I’ve learnt that when I exit a war zone, it’s so important that I have some time off with God to process my thoughts and emotions before I continue ministering in another country.

Sometimes, it even requires some trauma-counselling to process all the hardships we see, hear and experience.

No one can choose where they’re born, whether it’s in a first-world nation or a war zone – but we are our brother’s keeper.

I remember the very first time I exited the Congolese war zones to take a break. For the first time in a long while, I lay down on a comfortable mattress, had a hot shower with running water, a toilet that flushed, electricity … And I wept.

I was no different from my people in the Congo; who was I that I could leave the scene any time I wished – while they spent their entire lives amidst destruction and unrest?

I wrestled and came to the conclusion that no one can choose where they’re born, whether it’s in a first-world nation or a war zone. But we are our brother’s keeper; and “to whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48).

One of the children I work with, who is also called Jemima!

There are many challenges we face on the field, both physical and psychological – droughts, bullets, threats of rape, kidnappings … But the greatest challenge for me is to truly see the suffering of the people God leads me to. To embrace their brokenness, identify with their suffering, and treat them with the love of the Father.

Many times we are tempted to gloss over the appalling reality of their struggles, not because we’re apathetic, but because the enormity of what they face can make us feel so small, inadequate and overwhelmed.

While I must always be careful not to take on false responsibility, daring to see the depths of brokenness and allowing God to break my heart for what breaks His has enabled me time and time again to draw on His plans and resources for the people He loves.

Sounds abstract, but let me illustrate this for you.

Two years ago, I started a housing initiative in Kenya for a starving family with six children. It all started with me sitting in their tent on a visit, aghast as the father sadly recounted how they had witnessed two of their children die as they fled for their lives.

They were living in a refugee tent that was caving in, and I was greatly moved in my spirit to help them, although I also remember thinking, “Building a house is quite an undertaking!”

Refugee camp in the Congo

When I left their tent, I found myself scratching my legs with increasing intensity. To my horror, I looked down to see that I’d been bitten all over by fleas while sitting with the family. I had more than 100 flea bites on both legs.

It was excruciating, and for the next few days I couldn’t sleep – painfully falling asleep but waking up soon after, scratching furiously. One night, in my frustration, I prayed, “Jesus, I thought you were interceding for me, did You forget the fleas?”

In that moment I could almost hear Him chuckle, and one word emerged in my heart: Identification.

Then it dawned on me. I hadn’t fled for my life, lost everything I owned, hidden in jungles for days, watched people I love die in front of me, starved in refugee camps, endured squalid conditions with little hope for survival … I’d just experienced the tiniest fraction of what these people had gone through; I’d just been bitten by the same fleas this family couldn’t escape from.

That was how I ended up building my first refugee house, built from the funds I had saved. Soon after, God prompted my local pastor and I to budget a simple house-build prototype that cost USD$1,000. He then sent individuals, families and intercessors our way, some sowing into the building of one house, others, five houses, and more.

To date, this housing initiative has seen the construction of more than 100 houses. That’s shelter provided for hundreds of lives.

Little children in the Congo

Every bit of the work I’ve done as a missionary is purely God’s doing. I feel so small and incredulous in the midst of it; more and more convinced that God just needs us to have willing hearts and to dare to share in the suffering of our brothers and sisters in the faith.

I may not always have the resources or solutions on hand, but He does, and truly seeing His people as He sees them has helped me connect with them at a deeper, more profound level. I have also been blessed with the best local men and women of peace, the real heroes that make such extensive work possible.

As missionaries, I believe we are sent to come alongside locals to serve and to bless the community. But by the power and grace of God, it will be the Congolese themselves who will change their country and bring healing to their land.


Besides her primary work in the Congo, Jemima currently oversees two slum schools in India, is helping to develop a large refugee settlement in the central Kenyan desert while working with survivors from the genocide in Rwanda, and is supporting a Burundian refugee community.

She will be speaking at Kallos Missions Morning next Saturday, May 26, 2018, along with fellow missionaries Jea Ng and Jiamin Choo-Fong. Register for the talk here.

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One More Rice Bowl

#THIRSTACOUSTIC: Keep Me On Fire

Your identity isn’t tied to what you do

How could you take from me what I deserved?

Stop trivialising favouritism

A Chinese girl in the Congo: Working in war zones 5,000 miles from home