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
SALT&LIGHTxLEELAND GIVEAWAY! Enjoy a night of worship with @leelandofficial from Bethel Music on Feb 28! The 4-time Grammy nominees will be performing favourites such as “Lion and the Lamb! Since their 2006 breakthrough debut album, Sound of Melodies, Leeland has become a key voice in an emerging generation of worship music. Leeland (Leeland Mooring & Casey Moore), joined the Bethel Music Collective in 2015 and carry a deep history of songwriting and passionate worship. Their lives, ministry, and music are a true extension of their passion to worship God personally and with their community. Win a pair of tickets to Leeland's one-night-only performance! To take part: 1) LIKE the post. 2) COMMENT below, tell us your favourite worship song/moment and why! 3) TAG a friend! Hurry, two pairs of tickets are up for grabs! Our GIVEAWAY will end on SUNDAY night, Feb 17 at 2359hrs!
Chinese New Year marks the start of spring for Chinese worldwide. It’s a time to enter a new season of life with a full belly and good cheer. But for others separated from family, the occasion can beget loneliness. Several faith-based organisations in Singapore, from @homelesssg to @acsoldhamhall, have taken the step forward to offer companionship to those who spend the holiday in solitude. Homeless Hearts of Singapore ran their first Chinese New Year dinner this year at Yio Chu Kang Chapel on the seventh day of the new year. Abraham Yeo, Homeless Hearts’ founder, says the party was a chance for Christians to give Jesus, who was homeless when He was on earth (Luke 9:58), the honour He deserves (Matthew 25:40-45). Migrant worker charity @healthservesg also organised a meal for their foreign beneficiaries on day seven, where 32 of them – one third of South Asian ethnicity – turned up, ready to feast. Many of the workers tell the staff that HealthServe is like a second home to them, says Jeff Chua, the casework and social assistance head. “As a family, we should celebrate this event together.” In the east of Singapore, cell groups from @bbtcians have been making their rounds at the blocks of flats around the church with mandarin oranges and snacks in tow since end January. Pastor Sharon Liau, who coordinated the effort, says: “If we don’t share the Good News with our neighbours, who will? Out of our love for God and for the people He wants to save, we are willing to come out of our comfort zone to go out and reach them for Christ.” The visits are also a way for the church to find out which residents need help. @bethesdacare step in to assist specific individuals that need further social support. Pastor Liau sums up the attempt to love one’s neighbours: “It involves years of faithful sowing. We need to avail of ourselves to be that channel and depend on God to draw men unto Himself.”
We did a lot of things backwards, says Hannah Yeoh. Where others dated, we got engaged first. We only began holding hands after that. Hers and Ram's #lovestory is one that defied logic. They first met at church in January 2007. Their friendship grew, given their shared love for Malaysian politics and church ministry. A meet-up with friends that same month led to an unexpected prophecy: Yeoh would receive a marriage proposal in June from a godly man. The prophecy tugged her in opposite directions. She would be delighted to marry a godly man. Yet, the prophecy sounded impossible – five months was too short a time to consider marrying someone! In June, Yeoh’s pastor invited her to preach. The day after, she flew to Australia for a friend's wedding. There, the bride gave her a present and a note inscribed with Psalm 16:6: The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. It was the same verse that Yeoh had flagged in her Bible years ago as an assurance regarding marriage and having children. When Ram picked her up from the airport, he said: I know you are going to be my wife. But you need to get your own confirmation. Go pray about it and once you’re certain, tell me. He revealed how he had had recurring visions of his future wife wearing white and preaching in his church. His visions were fulfilled precisely. She asked for a supernatural confirmation. And God gave her a vision of rain that melted into snow, telling her: You wanted a supernatural sign. You thought of thunder and lightning but that’s nothing unusual in Malaysia. Snow in the tropics had to be supernatural! Yeoh re-read the love stories in the Bible, realising with a start that she was like Sarah, mocking something good that God wanted to give me (Genesis 18:11-13). Finally, she saw everything in alignment. Yeoh and Ram were married in January 5, 2008. That is the beauty of having God plan something for you. My part was only to say yes! says @hannahyeoh. #hannahyeoh
Couples in Singapore are facing unprecedented levels of distress in their marriage and family life, revealed charity @thrivingfamilysg. A 2016 Prudential online survey of 500 Singaporeans found that some 32% of respondents felt that their partners prefer spending time with their mobile phones and not them. A Singapore Department of Statistics report indicated that couples married for five to nine years accounted for 30% of all divorces, in 2017. Recognising the urgent need to encourage and support married couples, especially those in their first decade of #marriage, Focus on the Family Singapore has launched Celebrate Marriage, which runs from February 8 to 19. The objective of this year’s theme, “Re:Connect”, is to encourage greater understanding and intimacy, especially among young married couples. Videos by marriage mentors, articles on everything from sex to handling tech as a “third party” in the marriage and a quiz have been designed to equip and encourage married couples who are struggling to connect with their spouse. “As humans, we tend to prefer the hype of events over the drudgery of a long journey, so as couples, we would spend more money, time and effort on preparing for our wedding (event) than for the marriage (journey),” Joanna Koh-Hoe, CEO of Focus on the Family Singapore told Salt&Light. “Anything worthwhile requires effort and intentional investment of time and money. A great marriage requires hard work – but it has guaranteed returns. One simple thing couples can practise is to make intentional effort to reconnect each day – even if only for 10 minutes. “What’s more important than finding the right person to marry is being the right person – before and after the wedding. If we each take effort to commit to improving ourselves, our marriage will also improve. “Through Celebrate Marriage, we hope to encourage healthier and happier marriages, and by extension, happier children and healthier homes. The best gift parents can give their child is to love their spouse.” #marriage101 #sgmarriage #familysg
Business owners look good on the outside – they make big bucks, eat at fancy restaurants and drive luxury cars – but many could be struggling. Besides the stress of running a business, they could be grappling with issues at home. “A lot of them have very tense family situations because they have spent their lives building their business. When they look back in the rear-view mirror of their lives, they realise that the family is gone – bad marriage, estranged children,” observes Jeffrey Chong, senior pastor of @hopesingapore. And that was what prompted the church to begin its Business Life Group meetings in 2015, with a focus on meeting the needs of those in the business community. “In every single meeting, except for one, we have always had people say ‘yes’ to Jesus for the very first time!” says Pastor Jeffrey, adding that #businessowners struggling with family problems have been transformed through the fellowship. “A lot of them, their spouses are in our church together with them, their children as well. It’s very rewarding for me to see these testimonies.” This would not have been possible without #community. With Hope Business Life Groups, business owners, whether they are Christians or not, can meet in a small group setting and engage in more in-depth conversations. The congenial environment allows pre-believing business owners to find answers to the questions they may have and also help those who receive Christ to be discipled and subsequently invited to the church’s Sunday services. Christian entrepreneurs and second-generation business owners testify to the value of meeting together (Hebrews 10:25). Businessman Jonathan Tay says: “In business, you just hustle. But when I see people who are more successful than you putting God first (Matthew 6:33), seeing what it looks like to walk down the same path and how God has honoured them because they have honoured God … that is one of the biggest take-homes I’ve had.” #hope #restoration #ministersinthemarketplace
Birthdays typically happen once a year for most of us, but for the cultural Chinese, birthdays occur twice a year – once on the anniversary of their birth but also on another special day known as #人日, (pronounced: ren ri, literally meaning Human’s Day or People’s Day). Celebrated on the seventh day of the #ChineseNewYear, it is regarded as everyone’s common “birthday. As we celebrate人日 or Human’s Day today, I'Ching Thomas reflects on what does it mean to be human. This is a perennial question that philosophers have endlessly ruminated on. Chinese philosopher Confucius was no different. He believed that becoming human calls for a harmony of the two dimensions of self and others; individuals realise their humanity in community. But on our own, our efforts will never bring us any closer to the Confucian ideals because our sinful condition will always taint our good intentions no matter how noble – unless there is external or divine intervention. And this is where the #GoodNews for the cultural Chinese comes in. Our aspirations of a harmonious society towards human flourishing may not be attainable on our own, but we do not have to do it on our own. The path towards that hope is open to us in Christ: Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ (John 14:6) The Good News is significant to the cultural Chinese because it restores the #relationship of humanity with the Heavenly Father, which, in turn, positively affects all our relationships. For us to find harmony in our social relationships, we must first seek to be reconciled to the Heavenly Father through the mediation of His Son as we read in John 10:9-10. As we celebrate everyone’s birthday on 人日, may we find #harmony and #peace within ourselves and in our relationship with each other – our family, loved ones and, most importantly, with our Father in heaven. “May we also bring the abundance and blessings of the Good News to our family feasts this year. #cny #新年快乐 #celebration #family #happybirthday