Glue-sniffing, theft and violence marked Andrew Ong's teenage years. At 17, he was arrested for rioting, sentenced to 30 months in jail and five strokes of the cane. It was only during his time in prison that he found the understanding and support he craved, albeit from an unexpected source – someone had left a #Bible in the cell. “I did go to church before, so I knew about Him, but I didn’t know Him. First-hand you read – it’s different,” Andrew, now 40, says. “As I read more of His teachings, I saw how much love He has, and how holy He is at the same time. I was convicted of my sin, and I repented.” Andrew’s jail term was reduced following a successful appeal, something he says was only possible with God. So transformed is his life that he has even changed his name. When he read about Jesus inviting Peter and Andrew to follow Him (Matthew 4:18-19), he felt his spirit stir. “I felt as if Jesus was calling out to me as ‘Andrew’,” he says. “The old me (Kelvin Ong) is no more. Now in Christ, I am Andrew with a new mission in life ordained by God and I embrace His call. I’m no longer looking back.” After achieving career success, Andrew decided to use his story to help others re-write theirs. This desire led him to volunteer at social enterprise @aolsg. Andrew explains that AOL aims to mentor and encourage ex-offenders and youth-at-risk to become “archetypes” or role models of society. “We’re not interested in you just re-integrating, being ashamed of and hiding your past. Come tell your story, make good your past for the betterment of society,” he says. Andrew says his conviction comes from the power of the #Gospel to “redeem and repurpose”, citing 2 Corinthians 5:17. To commemorated AOL's fourth anniversary, the enterprise published a collection of short stories from ex-offenders – Andrew’s included – entitled From Stereotypes to Archetypes. “I hope there’ll be more acceptance. Don’t label ex-offenders; don’t limit their potential because of their past. The past does not define who they can be.” Interested in getting a copy of the book? Head to https://architectsoflife.sg/aolbook/ #secondchances #yellowribbon #hope
What is the ONE thing that is true of every single country in the world today? In every single country, there are functional and vibrant groups of believers who meet to worship Jesus, reveals Jason Mandryk, author and researcher of Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation. Even in places like North Korea, there’s a highly persecuted and very much vulnerable but vibrant and growing network of people who follow #Jesus. Operation World is known to be a definitive guide to country information and the spiritual needs of 229 nations with the purpose of mobilising #prayer for the nations. Mandryk says: We depend on the relational networks of over 2,000 leaders around the world to find out how God is at work, country by country and issue by issue. We tap into their expertise, experience and perspective to help the global church be aware of the situation and the most significant ministry needs of each country, and how Christians can pray and act accordingly. Despite the heavy responsibility, there are many joys in the ministry. We’re having an impact on mission mobilisation, says Mandryk. People often say, 'When I was praying through Operation World and I was reading the section on Turkey or wherever, God called me to be a missionary to that place.' It’s like God says, 'I want to send you as the answer to your prayers.' While missionaries face persecution and indifference, there are also joy and breakthroughs. Churches are being planted, people movements developed and new ministry innovated. Mandryk sums it up: Remember the both-and. Find the stories that resonate and causes tears to well up. Be in touch with the reality of the suffering and the desperation of the Church. And at the same time, be aware of how God is at work globally. Because on the whole, it’s an encouraging story: The Church is growing and the #GoodNews is reaching into pockets of planet earth and the human race where it hasn’t been before.
How many questions did Jesus ask during His time on earth? How many did He answer? The numbers will surprise you, says Nicholas Pang, creator of Smol Tok, a game which uses questions to facilitate conversations. Jesus used questions to create opportunities for dialogue and the revelation of truth. Similarly, Pang believes that questions are a powerful tool that can help a person “unlock” his sense of purpose. Smol Tok, by @starknicked, was the product of Pang’s own search for meaning. But Pang says: “Being able to make games is one end; it cannot be the end in itself. “The game is merely a tool. Ultimately, it’s an instrument to help people find meaning and purpose. “People have fun, a few laughs, but if it leads them to change, to be more aware … the seed is planted.” Since Smol Tok's launch in 2014, Pang has gotten married and Smol Tok has expanded to include booster packs such as Pillow Tok, which Pang created together with his wife, Shihui, after they met in 2017. Shihui, who now runs the business with Pang, quips: “If meaningful but not fun, then very scary. If fun and not meaningful, what’s the point? “A lot of my own learning came when I allowed myself to have truthful conversations with myself and with God. “The presence of God in that journey cannot be understated.” #smoltok #isnotsmalltalk #madeinSingapore #findmeaning
One in five Singapore residents aged 65 and above lives alone, according to 2017 figures from the Singapore Department of Statistics (DOS). It is a factor that is linked to loneliness and depression, which may in turn have an effect on health problems, quality of life, and even mortality rate. Struck by the sobering news, both Isaiah Chng and Clement Ee decided to do something for the #elderly living among us. Chng, the founder of Empower Ageing, launched a series of fitness classes and opened a gym tailored to #seniors last October in collaboration with Cornerstone Community Services. The sessions also encourage neighbours to mingle and form friendships. LoveAid, the voluntary welfare organisation Ee founded, is doing something similar for those living at MacPherson. Every Wednesday, about 30 seniors gather to have tea and get creative. In the Bible, Caleb was 85 years old when he asked Joshua to give him his inheritance (Joshua 14:9), which he still had to fight the giants for. But he knew victory was his (Joshua 14:12). The story of Caleb highlights God’s mandate for every person to live his or her entire life to the fullest. It is the responsibility of the Church and Christians to help their parents and grandparents fulfil their destiny, Chng says, since we are called to honour them (Leviticus 19:32; Proverbs 23:22-25). Ee goes back to the 10 Commandments, which states that believers are to “honour your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12). When Caleb claimed his mountain, it wasn’t just for himself, but for future generations as well. Chng believes if Singaporeans want to see a #revival in the nation, it’s necessary to obey God by restoring dignity among the country’s forerunners. God wouldn't raise up Jacobs and Isaacs and leave out the Abrahams. Data from the DOS showed that in 2015, only 18.3% of people aged 55 and above are Christians, leaving more than 80% of them untouched by Christ. Serving them creates an opportunity to make the #Gospel known by offering #hope, says Ee. “There is a message of redemption behind our actions – that life was once meaningless but is now renewed.”
Chloe (not her real name) was planning to take her life as she felt that life had become meaningless. But, at the invitation of a colleague, she attended an Alpha group near her office. Despite her initial struggle, she encountered God at Alpha and accept #Jesus as her Lord and Saviour. Her story is what keeps Michael Chiam going. He witnessed first-hand Chloe’s transformation and how her countenance was lifted as each session passed. “There are people in the CBD that are actually seeking. It is just that there is no avenue, so Alpha in the workplace can play a very good role here,” says Chiam, a vice president in a local bank who has facilitated about 10 Alpha runs in the marketplace. Chiam recognises the challenges that some may face when trying to invite colleagues and friends to an Alpha course as it may not be easy to broach the topic of religion and our need for God in the marketplace. His advice: “Create opportunities – in conversations, during work – to testify of God’s goodness. (Psalm 71:15) It will stir them ... when I start Alpha, I just ask them, ‘Are you curious? Do you want to come?’ Most of them accept.” For Christians who are keen to start an Alpha course in their office or home, he advises them to get trained by @AlphaSingapore. Having gone through an Alpha course is different from hosting one, he explained as the host’s job is to encourage participants to speak and not to hijack and dominate the conversation. “Our #faith is not about selling or coercing, it is about leading people to open up their hearts. We plant the seed and then we let the Holy Spirit and God take control. (1 Corinthians 3:6-8) “The transformations that you see when you run Alpha is beyond any worldly rewards. You can really see how people look at life differently – relationships and almost everything else – when they’re touched by God. “I’m just an instrument, giving people the chance to know who God is. If nobody steps up to give people the chance, then there’s no chance. So I would encourage anyone who is thinking of running Alpha, to just do it.” Keen to host an Alpha group? Head to the EVENTS tab at http://saltandlight.sg.
Discover God's vision for you – the same vision that empowered Jesus to live His life with joy, hope, and single-hearted passion. The upcoming Perspectives course aims to enlarge believers' view of God, and to equip you to fulfil your individual role within God's purposes. To sign up, head to the EVENTS tab at http://saltandlight.sg.
Dear @saltandlight.sg, I was recently retrenched from a job I held for more than 10 years. It’s been tough to come to terms with the situation. Do you have any advice? – Steven P., 48, technician in the oil and gas industry Moving on from retrenchment requires us to depart from the old mindset of hurt and despair and move towards a new mindset of hope and optimism, says Gerald Tan of @avodahsolutions. When the Jews experienced hardship in their exile, God encouraged them through the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:11-13). Similarly, the apostle Paul also reminds us: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here.” (2 Corinthians 5:17). As followers of Christ, we are not to cling on to old desires or habits but to start living in a way that pleases Christ. Departing from our old mindsets of hurt and despair means we need to learn to accept our situation, let go of any anger, bitterness and disappointment. We need to recognise that even good employees get retrenched and it is not personal. 1. Get support quickly The best way to start moving on from retrenchment is to talk about it to people you trust and have them understand your situation. During the early stages of retrenchment, seek a listening ear and advice from friends and family. 2. Reflect and realign Unemployment can be viewed as a pitstop to reflect and adjust our direction – not just in our career, but also our lifestyle and relationships. It is an opportunity to return to Him, put Him first above all things and reflect on how we can serve Him through our work using the skills, talents and experiences that we have been endowed with. 3. Stay active and ready Plan out your finances and create a timeline and daily routine for yourself. Include a variety of activities such as seeking help from private or public career services, attending free talks, learning new skills, networking, refining your resume and social media profiles, volunteering for a cause or keeping fit. Have an overall goal in mind and share your plan with people you trust as a form of accountability. #faithatwork #asksaltandlight
Emilyn Tan sat across from a stranger at the food court – they were both polishing off their plates of nasi padang and sambal belacan. Bless her and the baby she's expecting, Emilyn said a silent prayer for the pregnant woman. As Emilyn chewed on her last mouthful, the mother-to-be ventured: You ate all that without drinking any water? I'm local, Tan replied. Are you? Thus began a conversation that meandered easily from food to family to faith, fastened by shared experiences of motherhood. Do you believe in God? Emily ventured towards the end. The woman contemplated the question, then answered: Yes. All too prematurely, her phone rang. I have to go back to work, she said apologetically. Before they parted ways, Emily asked: May I pray for you? Yes! came the reply, along with a hug. Tears flowed, and so did the words. They exchanged numbers – it was the start of an unexpected friendship. All because of Tan's silent prayer at lunch, which cracked opened the door for her to sow a seed of faith in the stranger seated across from her. #faith #obedience #goodnews #churchwithoutwalls
When Choo Jiamin turned 21, she made two promises to God: That she’ll follow Him all the days of her life. And that she will wait on Him for her future husband. After graduating from university, she became a missionary onboard @omsingapore ship, Doulos. She wasn’t as concerned with her finances or safety but what she wrestled with most was the area of relationships. Will she lose the closeness with her mum and younger siblings? And while her friends were starting to find their special half, was she prepared to put her love life on hold? Then I felt God impress on my heart: 'Jiamin, if your fear of losing relationships were to come true, will you still be willing to go?' Her heart ached, but she said: “Yes, I will go. Even if I were to lose them because of my being away from home, and even though it would hurt deeply, I know I’ll be okay because You are with me. Choo had potential suitors during her time abroad, but she was reminded not to give herself away to someone who was good to her but didn’t have a heart for God and missions. It still wasn’t easy when she came back to Singapore four years later. A crush had his heart set on someone else. Choo thought God had forgotten her. But Psalm 30:5 brought comfort: “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” She was idolising marriage, finding an identity in being a wife. Some months later, God directed the steps of a young man called Minghui to the OM office. He was applying to join a short-term mission trip onboard an OM ship before entering Bible school. They hit it off straightaway. His warm personality, adventurous spirit and gentle nature left an impression that day. In God’s perfect timing, five years later, they got married. Looking back, she realised that through those years of singleness, God had brought her through highs and lows so that she could fully delight in Him and come to a place of surrender so that her heart was ready for whatever that was to come. And that was worth the wait. #lovestory #valentine