Author Archive
Deanna Chiong

The Cheerful Giver

I recently went on a personal hiatus during which, I made a conscious effort to draw back from many social events, including several ministry activities. The impetus for this was to declutter and consolidate my personal life. I have, over the past few months, learnt to slow down and do less (literally). I made it a point not to stack my daily and weekly schedules with activities and managed to do away with unrealistic to-do lists.

Apart from the daily routine of taking care of the household, managing my children’s school obligations, and selective gardening and art projects, the simplicity of my life seemed to pale in comparison with many of my peers both here in Australia as well as those in Singapore. During this time, my family faced an additional challenge of waiting for a decision on the status of our family visa application.

While we remained confident that our life destinies were rightfully anchored in Christ our Lord, I couldn’t help but wake up in the morning and ask the Lord to show me our future. If He had called us to serve in this land, then where was our visa?

As we waited, I felt the Lord challenging my perspectives – to think beyond my own needs. I sensed him calling me “to think and do out loud”, a concept that seemed like a contradiction to my season of slowing down.

During this time, I volunteered to serve at a local soup kitchen organised by the church. I was put solely in charge of preparing and cooking a six to seven course dinner for a community of 40 people who were either marginally housed, disadvantaged or mentally challenged. Through this outreach, I got to do what I loved – creative cooking within a very strict budget. By using my homegrown vegetables, I was able to reach out to the locals through food and the sharing of God’s goodness. While I thought that the outreach was a great idea for the community, I didn’t intend to make it a long-term commitment.

Slowly however, I began to understand that the heart of the Father is much bigger than each of us individually. He views the needs of the corporate body as dearly as He views our personal needs. I was brought to the awareness that every plate of food handed out, every God-filled conversation and every prayer counts. I had a deep sense of God challenging me to revisit what it means to inherit the mindset of “a sower and a reaper”. As an avid food grower myself, this concept should be a no-brainer.

“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, 
“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”
2 Corinthians 9:6-9  (ESV)

Yet, I found myself asking, What am I sowing? Where should I be sowing? When do start or end my sowing? How must I sow?

I began to realise that with the organically grown produce from my little garden plot, I was able to provide a nourishing meal for those who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford a decent dinner. This has given me the courage and confidence to believe that I am able to think and live beyond just caring for my needs and the needs of my family. This one-off encounter has led me to feel drawn by the Lord to commit to doing this on a more regular basis.

As we continue in our journey of life, we are bound to meet with good and not-so-good days. I am challenged to think and and make decisions based on my knowledge of who God is and precepts of His word as well as His calling upon my life.

It is also in this moment as I am writing this, that we have just received an email informing us that our visa application has been approved and we are granted a long-term visa!

Oh God, you are my Ultimate Giver, no less!

Deanna is married to John Chiong and is a stay-at-home-mom of 3, currently based in Melbourne, Australia. A former staff of COOS, Deanna loves to create art, enjoys experimental cooking and is an enthusiastic organic gardener who dreams of one day using creative therapy and food to reach out to the marginalized throughout Australia. You can follow her on Instagram @deefatfarm or @weareakrylic

Water

New Spring, New Rain…

September marked the start of Spring here in Melbourne but in Melbourne, the start of any season is never that clear cut.

This past winter proved to be one of the wettest winters Melbourne has experienced in the last few years. While most urbanites were complaining about the inconvenience of a wet winter, my farmer friends were rejoicing at the excessive amount of rainfall that their plots of land were receiving this year. Even in the middle of Spring, we experienced weeks of heavy rain and wind.

So what is the big deal?

From my discussions with friends who are farmers, I have come to understand that each adult, on average, consumes around 100 litres of water a day for general consumption, kitchen use, bathroom use, laundry and other functions. Farmers in the country-side take water conservation very seriously as they have to survive mainly on rainwater collected throughout the year. On top of human consumption, these farmers have to factor in their livestock and agricultural needs. I was told that a 600kg cow can consume up to 250 litres of water a day. Just imagine how much water they would need if they had 50 cows and calves on the paddock!

Due to global warming, there have been years when drought and forest fires put these farmers at a high risk where property, livestock and human lives could be lost.

Why is this important ?

Growing up in Singapore during the 70’s, we had fresh, unfiltered running water at our disposal. Many-a-time, I admit that I have been guilty of taking water for granted. We, humans, can survive for about 2 to 3 weeks without food but after 3 to 5 days without water, we will experience dehydration and our body systems will rapidly deteriorate. This demonstrates just how important water is for our daily survival.

Water brings life to everything – from our basic subsistence, to our hygiene, to the ecological system.

When it comes to scripture, I can’t help but notice the water references in Jesus’s teachings. He often uses water as a metaphor in relation to life. Today’s farmers still understand the critical importance of water but us, urbanites, may not realize how blessed we are to have easy, unlimited access to water. This convenience with which we attain water has more often than not, led us to wasting water instead of cherishing it.

As I ponder on this, I feel called to heighten my awareness of how important water is to life.

John 4:14  

Jesus said whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.

Mark 1:8

I have baptised you with water, but He will baptised you with the holy spirit.

John 3:5

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God

John 10:10

… I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

These scriptures have impacted my personal life. As I equate water to the Holy Spirit, I have learnt that our lives cannot be sustained by earthly things or modern conveniences as these could sometimes lead to the ignorance of heavenly things.

If physical water sustains life, how much more will the Holy Spirit sustain us? It is clear in John 10:10 that Jesus came to give life to the fullest. John 7:38 clearly says, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

Perhaps today, as we change our perspectives on how we treat the daily use of water, we will similarly be transformed in the way we honour the Holy Spirit, our sustainer of life!

Deanna married to John is a stay-at-home-mom to 3 children and currently based in Melbourne, Australia. A former staff of COOS, Deanna loves to create art, enjoys experimental cooking and is an enthusiastic organic gardener who dreams of one day using creative therapy and food to reach out to the marginalized throughout Australia. You can follow her on Instagram @deefatfarm or @weareakrylic

The 100 Garlic Project

Introducing our newest contributor, Deanna Chiong who has embarked on an exciting discovery of developing a sustainable lifestyle for her family and community around her. Based in Melbourne, Deanna gives us a sneak peak into the heart of her passion…

5 years ago, my family relocated to Melbourne, Australia. The almost-immediate transition from a full-time church staff to a stay-at-home-mother was dramatic to say the least, and I found myself stepping into an adventure of discovery.

Along this journey, I discovered my love for gardening. If you had told me about my affinity for gardening 4 years ago , I would have never believed it because before then, no plants had ever survived under my care. Now, however, I’m beginning to grow in my experience and knowledge of the world of gardening, sustainability and permaculture.

We have a small garden plot near our home and I have learnt many precious lessons through my moments working on the land as well as interacting with seasoned farmers. To date, I have 50 types of herbs and vegetables that we use daily at home when cooking for our family or our friends. This has also given me a new level of understanding of the scriptures than ever before, especially when authors of the bible use agricultural metaphors.

Winter has always been a bittersweet season for me – while I enjoy the cold, the lack of sunlight really makes me miss sunny Singapore more than I think I should. In the world of gardening and farming, winter is a season that is greatly revered because the winter conditions set the tone for the following growing season. A cold and wet winter will allow farmers to store their supplies of water for the rest of the warmer months. The extreme cold will not only help to kill weeds within the soil but also increase its water retention.

This winter, I embarked on what I call the “100 garlic project”. We hope to grow enough garlic by 2017 for our household consumption and have some left over for replanting as well as for giving away to neighbours and friends.

I chose garlic because besides it being nutritious on many levels and a daily must-have in our Asian cooking, garlic is not the easiest to grow. Growing garlic is not for impatient gardeners; besides good soil preparation, we will need to set aside a designated space to let the garlic cloves sit in for at least 8 months. Garlic is typically planted in late autumn and only harvested the following summer. It requires constant care with manual weed removal and the supply of mulch to keep the soil moist and protected. It takes obedience, patience and extraordinary faith to grow garlic. This reminds me of how God put Adam to work in the garden in Genesis:

“And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.” (Genesis 2:8-9)

Being sustainable is a big deal to me and to our family. I haven’t been so impacted by the reality of man partnering with God in the whole ecological climate of this earth until I started gardening. I am constantly reminded that God is the creator of all things including nature and the things that grow out of this land. I believe that I have learnt much about the truths of God through my daily grind with my little garden plot. As I work through the soil and see its fruits, I can understand how He can and will provide for our daily needs in different measures. My small plot of land like a little Eden to me.

Gardening has opened my horizons to discover God in the most intimate of ways. His creation of the sky, earth and every segment of nature has never intrigued me more.

I hope that I will one day own a self-sustainable farm where I can grow organic produce that can help feed the poor and needy locally and around the region.

Deanna working on her little community garden.

Deanna working on her little community garden.

Planted and ready to grow.

Planted and ready to grow.

A braid of garlic.

A braid of garlic.

Deanna married to John is a stay-at-home-mom to 3 children and currently based in Melbourne, Australia. A former staff of COOS, Deanna loves to create art, enjoys experimental cooking and is an enthusiastic organic gardener who dreams of one day using creative therapy and food to reach out to the marginalized throughout Australia. You can follow her on Instagram @deefatfarm or @weareakrylic

SERVICE LOCATION MAP