LifeFest 2019: So that every child may have the chance to live
All photos courtesy of LifeFest 2019
Arriving at St Andrew’s Cathedral, I was greeted by a large inflated arch with the words “LifeFest” printed across it. Ahead of me, a family of three walked under it hand-in-hand, creating an image that encapsulated what the event stood for.
Amidst an overwhelming narrative of abortion (more than half a million babies have been aborted in Singapore since the abortion bill was passed 50 years ago), LifeFest 2019 was birthed by the Heartbeat Project to encourage churches in Singapore to celebrate children and take a stand for life.
The message? Every life matters. Not just the baby’s or the mother’s, but also every person in the community.
The weather was bright and sunny, perfect for kids to run around. Tentages dotted the open field, offering games, craft activities and stage performances. Over at one corner, there was even an obstacle course for kids dubbed The Brave Race.
The event attracted some 3,000 people from 100 churches during the course of the day, who would come to learn about pregnancy support, foster parenting, adoption and volunteering.
SUPPORTING WOMEN IN CRISES
At the pregnancy booth, I met Roxanne Tan who was led by God in 2018 to create a home that welcomes single mothers. Together with her husband, they’ve opened their home to two single mothers to date.
One of whom is a 20-year-old single mum who was kicked out of her home, which she previously lived in with her dad.
Her dad had constantly pushed her to get an abortion but with the help of her friends, she eventually made up her mind to keep her baby. However, the tension at home and her own fears and confusion still left her feeling depressed and suicidal during her pregnancy.
Seeing her incredibly chubby and cute 10-month-old daughter sleeping peacefully, I was amazed and left in awe that such a difficult time could lead up to such a beautiful creation.
The young mother smiled as she happily told me that keeping her daughter was the best decision she ever made and one she was very proud of.
While not all of us may know someone facing an unexpected pregnancy or can open our homes to a child-at-risk, that doesn’t make us any less able to help.
From running errands such as helping to pick up children from school if their mums can’t get away from work, to babysitting, or simply befriending them and being a listening ear, all of us can contribute in some way.
Since life begins in the womb, I also realised that if we are to be protectors and encouragers of life, we should start by being protectors and encouragers of the women carrying them.
During her talk, Jennifer Heng, founder and director of Safe Place, offered suggestions on how we could support pregnant women and their families to make life-giving choices.
What she shared was not an anti-abortion campaign that merely advocated Christian doctrine, but realistic solutions to unquestioned misconceptions surrounding this issue.
“What’s important for us to understand is that the pregnancy itself is not the problem. It’s the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy that solicits the response and where the woman needs some help,” she said.
If someone were to come up to you and share about their unexpected pregnancy, Heng’s tips were: Listen without judgement, respond positively and offer practical help and support.
I also attended a sharing session by two foster mums, Tay Li Ping and Joy Chua. Both mothers have their own biological children, but were convicted to foster a child.
A foster family is simply a temporary home for a child who is at risk. Some cases involve physical abuse or financial instability.
Joy said: “I began asking myself: What is the purpose of having a good family? Good income and a good marriage? Is that all to life?
“So I asked God: ‘What can I do? I’m just an ordinary working mum.’ Then God spoke to me and said: ‘You can love a child.’”
She added: “I really learnt more about the Father’s love; how it’s so unconditional and how it’s so deep. His love is not too short to reach – and transformation can happen through God’s love.”
Another testimony I heard proved this to be true. A young woman shared how she ran away from a violent home where her mum would beat her after finding dust on the window grills.
She slept at McDonald’s and void decks until her dad (who was divorced from her mum) offered his home for her to stay in. Yet he had drinking and gambling issues. One night, he had even inappropriately touched her while she was sleeping.
She was eventually placed under child protection and brought into her current foster home. Over the course of four years, she learnt to trust and accept the kind of love that she had never experienced before.
She also came to know of God’s love – which eventually brought reconciliation in her relationship with her father.
She said: “Fostering may be scary because you don’t know how the child will adapt to you or the family. But if God is in the picture, then nothing is impossible. And you’d never know what kind of impact it will have in that child’s life.”
I can relate. Having volunteered for several years with underprivileged children, I’ve come to understand the impact a healthy home and family has in the development of a child’s life.
Not all of us can become foster parents to children, though there are other ways we can lend our resources to the cause – either by volunteering or through providing respite for foster families who may need some time off from their fostering responsibilities.
You can also consider volunteering at an organisation such as Gracehaven Fostering under The Salvation Army. They have a tuition programme that gives academic support to foster children as well as a befriender’s programme. Or you could simply offer to drive foster children to and from school.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
At the end of the day, I was reminded about Jesus’ love. How He truly cares about and values the life of every child.
“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'” (Matthew 19:14)
LifeFest was a great start to building more pillars of support for single mums, children-at-risk and families-in-need.
It is now time for us to take the next steps to becoming a greater vessel of His love.
If you’re facing an unsupported pregnancy or would like to know more about how you can help single mums, children-at-risk and families-in-need, get in touch with the Heartbeat Project. If you’re interested in connecting with Roxanne and being part of her informal network of volunteers, you can also reach out directly to her through email.
THINK + TALK
- What are your views on abortion?
- How can we be a better model of Christ’s love in these areas?
- In what ways can you offer practical help to children, women and families in crisis?