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Hannah Lois Ng

Remembering A Father’s Heart

taken from our writer’s social media page – a poignant personal reflection after the loss of Singapore’s founding father, Mr. Lee KUAN Yew

What I valued most about this week was seeing glimpses of Mr. Lee’s personal life. I love hearing the stories of those who knew him not just as a politician, but as a father. Because I’ve never been interested in politics or national affairs (my parents constantly chide me for not reading newspapers), I never knew or cared much about what exactly LKY or LHL or anyone else did. To me the name “founding father” was merely a formality people used, just because he was in politics at the time Singapore became independent. I was never fully interested until this week.

I’m up late tonight watching some of his old interviews, reading accounts of his life from his family, hearing the Parliamentary tribute speeches made by those who worked with him, and they all say one thing in different ways: He loved Singapore with a father’s heart, just as he loved his biological family with a father’s heart. For the first time, I understand why people call him 国父, and I’ve begun to see him as not just “a founding father”, but MY father too.

One of my friends put it this way:
“You see, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew was not just a leader, or a great. He was our father. People may say that calling him that is glorifying him, but I think it is only befitting for the type of love and dedication that he showed us. Mr Lee was not just a leader, he was a father. In the words of his grandson Li Shengwu “When Singapore was cut adrift from Malaysia, you adopted an orphaned nation and made us all your children.” Fathering is different from leading. It is leading with love and desire for the next generation to survive and succeed.”

A father trains up his children in the way he knows to be good, and a father takes extreme measures against anything if it threatens his family’s stability. Mr. Lee, being mortal, did not always do it perfectly. But like a true father, his purposes were always for us, not against us and not for himself. As Former DPM Wong Kan Seng said in his parliamentary tribute: “He often reminded us that some policies were like bitter medicines which might be hard to stomach in the short term. But, as long as the purpose of the policy is to benefit the people, then we must persist.”

What strikes me is that Lee Kuan Yew’s three children graciously shared their father with the nation. Hearing Lee Hsien Yang’s eulogy at the state funeral, it sank in that his own children were growing up while he was running around the world and working crazy hours to father Singapore. I have no idea how he managed both fathering roles without crumbling under the stress.

I’m amazed that his three children also chose to take up work that involves the difficult path of leadership, just to serve this country. These children shared their Papa with us, didn’t hold a grudge against this country for occupying so much of his attention, and then proceeded to serve us with their lives too.

Maybe, that’s what you do when you have experienced the love of a father – you walk in his steps.

Hannah writes because it helps her think more clearly. She finds it pretty nerve-wrecking to put her thoughts out in public view but she does it because maybe, hopefully, these thoughts will point readers to see the invisible God in their visible world.

Youth Christmas Outreach 2014

COOS Youth celebrated Christmas in a different way. Or more accurately, we should say, we celebrated in many ways.

Recognizing that every person has been created with unique interests & talents, our ministry decided to create 3 different teams under our Christmas outreach ‘Being A Giver’. The Street Team, the Serve Team, and the Stage Team each contributed something distinct to the outreach, but were united by the common theme of giving.

Why ‘Being A Giver’?

Among Christians and non-Christians alike, Christmas is often known as “the season of giving” – but is there a certain kind of giving God desires? In line with our youth ministry vision, “Being the kind of people God wants us to be”, we spent some weeks pondering the question “What kind of giver does God want us to be?”. Through this ‘Being A Giver’ journey, we as a youth ministry hoped to grow more into being the kind of giver Jesus himself was.

In addition, we also wanted our friends outside of church to join us in this journey. Many of our non-Christian friends are already ‘givers’ in their own ways, and we welcomed them to come and give together with our church community. We believed that our non-Christian friends could catch a glimpse of Christ by actively serving alongside us and being part of what we do as the Church. So, we invited our friends to join us in door-to-door carolling, in performing for our Christmas concert, and in preparing welcome gifts & hospitality. The idea was simple: If you are serving, invite a non-Christian friend to do what you do. Quite a few friends agreed, and gave generously with us!

Read on to find out what each of the 3 teams did, and hear reflections from youths we interviewed:

Street Team

84 youths // 14, 18 & 19th Dec // 780 rental-flat households across Ghim Moh, Commonwealth, Stirling & Mei Ling

 Youth - Street1                                                 The Street Team practicing
their songs together before visiting the residents.

 

The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) highlights a love that overcomes barriers and compels us to give extravagantly. We were challenged to love in like manner and be uncomfortable for God in reaching out, taking to the streets to bring the Church out of our 130 Margaret Drive walls and into the neighbouring communities.

We pioneered a work in Ghim Moh on 14 December, going door to door to give out calendars for the new year to the residents. The two objectives of this work were to increase awareness of our church in the nearby community, as well as to prepare them for a follow-up visit by the Community Outreach Ministry (COM) in February 2015. 

Following that on the 18th and 19th of December, the streets of Commonwealth, Stirling and Mei Ling rang with (hopefully) melodious voices, as the Street Team carolled their hearts out unto God

The repertoire of Christmas songs included Jingle Bells, Silent Night, Joy to the World and We Wish You a Merry Christmas, in English and Mandarin.

Youth - Street2A resident gamely participates in the songs by playing the tambourine.

Each group also prepared Christmas Bags to bless the households they were visiting. The Christmas Bags consisted of whatever the group wanted to give, and came from the group members’ own pockets. COM also contributed cakes for each household.

Alicia Chew, 17, was a group leader from the Street Team. She says, “I think personally, I’ve given my time (and energy) this outreach. (: I wanted to serve in an area this Christmas and was super interested in carolling! I was super busy (camps + trainings) during that period... But I’ve promised to set aside time to serve people this Christmas so despite having to rush from one place to another, I decided to go for the outreach! During one of the visitations to a lady's house, I asked if I could pray for her and she was very willing to let me. But she only spoke in Chinese and I suddenly panicked abit because I didn't know how to pray in Chinese. Then the lady reminded me, 'it's okay you can pray in English, after all your God can understand any language'. And it hit me how much sometimes when serving people, I bother more on the little details and get so worried about it than really serving from my heart.”

Youth-Street3
Alicia (middle) and her team with one of the residents.

Indeed, we learnt that what God really wants is a Giver who gives from the heart.

Joyce-Lynn Chua, 12, says, “I’ve given my own time as well as my love. Through this outreach, I think I’m a less self-centred person. I’ve learnt to give more to people and give with a cheerful heart.”

Similarly, Stephanie Lee, 18, says, “Being the Christmas season, I've spent quite a fair bit on presents which made it quite tight on my budget to part with a few extra dollars for the street Christmas Bag. But my dad reminded me that it really doesn't matter how much money I spend. What I have is an opportunity to bless someone, so why not just make the full use of this opportunity and give just as God himself gave. He gives lavishly and generously, so why shouldn't I?”

Youth - Street4
The Street Team after a night of carolling.

Serve Team

61 Servers // preparing + serving for the 20th Dec concert

The next team on board were the Servers. 61 of us - COOS youth as well as non-Christian friends - contributed behind the scenes, preparing gifts and food to welcome those who came for our concert on 20th December. 

The Serve team made souvenir bookmarks for concert-goers, prepared welcome packs for newcomers, sourced for refreshments, did the decorations, and ushered for the concert, among other things. A member of the Serve team committee, Jacqueline Lee, 19, shared about how the team put a lot of work into planning and re-planning for better food and gifts. "The team decided to strive for excellence when we give stuff to the newcomers; we really wanted to give them the best we could possibly think of. So if I learnt something, it would be 'to be an excellent giver'." 

Youth - Serve1
The Serve team committee – Jacqueline, David, Elvira and Natasha.

Working within a tight budget and timeline, we faced many challenges in our quest to give the best. For instance, we wanted to put a gospel booklet into each welcome pack, but the bookstore didn’t have enough copies of the one we selected, nor did we have enough budget for a more expensive option. It's here that we experienced God’s grace in miraculous provisions: Without much experience or money, we took a step of faith to write and print our own gospel booklets. God gave inspiration for the content in a short time, and a non-Christian friend generously helped do the layout and design of the booklet in the midst of her exams. And the biggest surprise? The printing company offered us a price far below market rate, and even gave us 50 extra copies for free, after they heard that we were doing this for a church Christmas event. They even went the extra mile to improve our booklet’s design before printing it! 

On concert day itself, the Servers arrived in church hours earlier to decorate the place and to prepare for our duties. For many of us, having to usher and befriend newcomers took courage. Server Melody Tay, 18, shared: “Personally, I think I have given up on my internal battle within me of ‘awkwardness’ versus ‘doing my duty to God’. Being part of Serve team brought me to a point whereby my role required me to remove such negative thoughts and to give all that I had in evangelizing, or maybe just saying a simple ‘HIIIIIIIIIIII!!!’.”

Youth - Serve2
Servers at the doors to usher in concert-goers!

Indeed, the Servers learnt that giving required sacrifice. While everyone was in the auditorium watching the concert, many Servers had to miss it because they had to stay outside preparing food for the intermission. Our comfort was in seeing God work even as we sacrificed. Said Geric Sim, 24, "Even though I did not watch the performance (sad face), I enjoyed myself tremendously by being able to serve beside my brother and sister, and knowing that God is indeed at work because this has never happened before in the history of my family (my mum and dad have also stepped up to serve in their church also). So this made it all the important to give Him praise!"

Above all, many Servers learnt to give humbly. Jacqueline shared that giving this way was new and challenging: "Usually I would do the more upfront stuff, like Street or Stage team. But this time I was doing Serve, which needed me to change my perspective about how I can give. Doing all these small small things, it felt like 'does it matter?' But in the end I see that it's the small things that God uses to bless the congregation."

Janelle Loh, 14, aptly sums up the heart of the team: "I have served God and learnt to give instead of wanting to be served."

Stage Team

60+ performers, overseers, and stage crew // 20th Dec "Being A Giver" Concert

Finally, a third group of youth were recruited for the Stage Team! All who were willing to contribute were welcome, even if we did not have any idea what we wanted to perform at first. Usually, some people determine what we can sing and how we should sing it, but this time we took ownership of what happened on stage and during the service, and gave what we chose to!

Youth - Stage1
The Stage Team, including those who worked behind the scenes!
 

On top of joining the Street Team, Stephanie also chose to give of her time in the long hours that it took to get her playing and singing right. She was part of The ‘A’-Level Band (TAB) that put together a medley to tell a story of their journey through the ‘A’ Levels. Beginning with “Worn” by Tenth Avenue North, TAB sang of how they were so tired of life in general - studying and going through the motions of school - and how they desperately needed God to pull them through that time. Crying out to God to be nothing but the people he calls them to be, they declared God’s power over themselves and surrendered the outcome of their hard work to God with “It is Well” by Bethel. Stephanie thanks God for “the ability to sing and to testify of His goodness through the songs that we sang” and “for his faithfulness to me through ‘A’ levels. He's been my source of strength and comfort. Though there are times when I feel so tired and dry, he reminds me that I can rest in his presence and that I have the strength to continue through his journey.”

Youth - Stage2
TAB. Stephanie is shown on the right playing the guitar and singing about God’s faithfulness to her through the ‘A’ Levels.

Perfomer Elisa Toh, 14, wanted to share what Christmas meant to her and the importance of love. The song she sang, “Grown Up Christmas List”, was a song that dreams “not for myself/ but for a world in need”. Elisa says, “This outreach has definitely sparked a passion to serve the people around me. It brings me joy, knowing that I can bring others joy just by playing a part. It also encourages me to spread the love of Christ to everyone in my midst. To give is definitely more satisfying than to receive.”

It was no mere show that was put on, for God also changed the hearts of the performers.

Brian Wong, 16, says, “This outreach changed me in the sense that it has made me a giver. Many people think that being a giver is just to give. But really, being a giver is putting your heart and soul into this particular production etc. Giving 110% and to really do it for God.”

Also, Lemuel Lee, 16, shares, “I would say that serving in stage has really opened up a new world for me in COOS. Before serving in the Stage team I was always reluctant to serve in church because I was afraid to. But after this year, I feel more comfortable to sign up for the next event that arises, mainly because of the leaders and participants who were really open and friendly :)”

The Christmas season may be over, but Being A Giver is not a one-time job. It is a way of being!

We celebrate three salvations and one rededication to Jesus Christ at the end of the concert! It is a joy to win souls for Jesus. More than that, it is a joy to be transformed more into the image of God, the ultimate Giver!

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” – Acts 20:35. Amen!

What’s So Amazing About Grace?

The following entry’s words are from Philip Yancey, currently one of my favourite writers.

“You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy, and faithfulness…. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” (Jesus, to the religious leaders of his time.)

Jesus did not fault the Pharisees for extremism in itself – I doubt he really cared what they ate or how many times they washed their hands. But he did care that they imposed extremism on others and that they focused on trivialities, neglecting more weighty matters. The same teachers who tithed their kitchen spices had little to say about the injustice and oppression in Palestine. And when Jesus healed a person on the Sabbath, his critics seemed far more concerned about protocol than about the sick person.

I have seen many modern-day illustrations of legalism’s trend toward trivialities. The church I grew up in had much to say about hairstyle, jewelry, and rock music but not a word about racial injustice and the plight of blacks in the South. In Bible college, not once did I hear a reference to the holocaust in Germany, perhaps the most heinous sin in all history. We were too busy measuring skirts to worry about such contemporary political issues such as nuclear war, racism, or world hunger. I met South African students who came from churches where young Christians did not chew gum or pray with their hands in their pockets, and where blue jeans made a person spiritually suspect. Yet those same churches vigorously defended the racist doctrine of apartheid.

A U.S. delegate to the Baptist World Alliance Congress in Berlin in 1934 sent back this report of what he found under Hitler’s regime:

It was a great relief to be in a country where salacious sex literature cannot be sold; where putrid motion pictures and gangster films cannot be shown. The new Germany has burned great masses of corrupting books and magazines along with its bonfires of Jewish and communistic libraries. 

The same delegate defended Hitler as a leader who did not smoke or drink, who wanted women to dress modestly, and who opposed pornography.

It is all too easy to point fingers at German Christians of the 1930s, southern fundamentalists in the 1960s, or South African Calvinists of the 1970s. What sobers me is that contemporary Christians may someday be judged just as harshly. What trivialities do we obsess over, and what weighty matters of the law – justice, mercy, faithfulness – might we be missing? Does God care more about nose rings or about urban decay? Grunge music or world hunger? Worship styles or a culture of violence?

Author Tony Campolo, who makes a regular circuit as a chapel speaker on Christian college campuses, for a time used this provocation to make a point. “The United Nations reports that over ten thousand people starve to death each day, and most of you don’t give a sh–. However, what is even more tragic is that most of you are more concerned about the fact that I just said a bad word than you are about the fact that ten thousand people are going to die today.” The responses proved his point: in nearly every case Tony got a letter from the chaplain or president of the college protesting his foul language. The letters never mentioned world hunger.

Much of the behavior considered sinful in my upbringing is now common practice in many evangelical churches. Although the manifestations have changed, the spirit of legalism had not. Now I am more likely to encounter a legalism of thought. […]

I have already mentioned the abuse that Tony Campolo has received for his pleas that we show more compassion to homosexuals. […] Eugene Peterson’s “tampering with God’s Word” in his New Testament paraphrase, The Message, made him the target of a self-proclaimed cult-watcher. Richard Foster dared to use words like “meditation” in his writings on spiritual discipline, which put him under suspicion as a New Ager. Chuck Colston told me the ugliest mail he has ever received came from Christians in response to his accepting the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, which sometimes goes to non-Christians. “Our brethren were far less charitable than the secular media during the days of Watergate,” he said, in a terrible indictment. The mail heated up even more when he signed a statement of mutual cooperation with Catholics.”

Hannah has a big heart for the youth, she loves to read and is a regular contributor to reflections on life@COOS.

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