We live in a culture of vanishing #grace, says renowned author Philip Yancey. Do we truly represent Jesus by the way we live, or are we just getting in His way? Speaking at an Eagles Leadership Conference 2019 workshop, @philipyanceyofficial shared the stage with Willy Tan, who works amongst the #Yazidis, an ethnic minority group who endured a genocide and sexual slavery in 2014. Tan is not unfamiliar with serving refugees, but the magnitude of need that he saw was on an entirely different scale. By known estimates, over 10,000 Yazidi men were killed and more than 7,000 Yazidi women captured as sex slaves in a span of three weeks. Tens of thousands fled into the Sinjar mountains of northern Iraq. Through @habibi_intl, Tan works with the local government to provide humanitarian relief. His perspective provided a strong real-life example to this radical concept of “grace-dispensation”. “The Yazidis are still trying to understand why this happened and how they can move on, said Tan. “But the most powerful thing is that they are searching for something beyond their ethnicity, their culture and themselves. They are searching for truth and for a higher being.” Five years after the atrocities, the Yazidi people are in the midst of “discovering grace. “None of us foreigners will ever understand. I tried. I tried very, very hard to put myself in their shoes. “But I can never be in those shoes. And I don’t pretend to, Tan acknowledged. To that, Yancey offers this hopeful point: “There are a lot of people who are lost, not knowing why they are here on planet Earth and where they are going. And Christians aren’t morally superior; sometimes Christians are worse. “But Christians just happen to have gotten a map that says: Here’s why you’re here, and here’s where you ought to go. “That’s really the only difference.” All that remains for a Church that has been entrusted with communicating the grace and truth of Jesus in this world, is to be grace-dispensers who “see to it that no one misses the grace of God” (Hebrew 12:15).
Wondering how to have meaningful conversations and navigate conflicts with your #teenage children? Learn how from Dr Andrew Goh, editor of IMPACT Magazine and Wee Boon Choon, a parenting and communications trainer. Dr Goh will be speaking on how to hold conversations that bear fruit with teens and tweens, and how parents can listen better, while Wee will be speaking on how parents can turn disagreements with their children into opportunities to reach out to their children. Organised by @impactchristianmag, this #parenting workshop will be held on October 5. For more info, head to the EVENTS tab at http://saltandlight.sg.
“You’ve never loved me.” When Mercy Ho, head of @tamarvillage, heard those cutting words from someone she’s helped for years, she wanted to shout back, “How can you say that?” Instead she said in humility, “I want to understand where you’re coming from.” For many of these young #fostered adults, all they’ve ever known was brokenness, coming from homes fuelled by alcoholism, drug addiction, physical violence and emotional abuse. Several staff at Tamar Village have opened their homes to these brothers and sisters. “They may quarrel with you, steal things and not know why,” says Ho. “You realise that you haven’t loved them in the way they need. So you learn to love better. But such a love is not ordinary, and you can only do it by the power of the Spirit who works both in you, and them. “These broken individuals need to be placed in a healthy family environment, where preferably a married couple can serve as spiritual mother or father figures to them. So much of their restoration takes place by returning them to a healthy family context.” Being invited into these homes shows them that they are #family. The simple acts of receiving a house key and having a bed to sleep in restores stability and peace. It goes a long way in healing their identities as sons and daughters of God; they see that they are loved. As they share a dinner table with the family, they feel a sense of belonging. As they hold onto their new house key, they know they are trusted. When others see us sharing selflessly, giving abundantly and loving unceasingly, they will know that God is real. If every Christian home receives unconditionally at least one broken person who needs a place to stay, we'll see a drop in society’s issues, says Ho. “For even though it is done and lived out in such an ordinary manner, such a love is extraordinary.” (via @ywamsg)
To date, at least 1.5 billion people still do not have the Bible translated in their language and there are about 2,000 languages where no Bible translation work has even begun. More than 2,500 languages have “active translation and linguistic development work” that is ongoing. But times have changed – and the work of Bible translation has not been spared either. The job of Bible translators used to be a linear and clear-cut task: Get to an inaccessible and remote village. Live there, learn their culture and language. Translate the Bible with the help of native-speakers. Check, proof-read, print and then use the translation to teach and disciple the community. Each project, usually consisting of the New Testament and several other key books of the Old Testament, would take at least 10 years to complete. Today, the key task at hand is still translation, says David Tan, Executive Director of Wycliffe Bible Translators (Singapore). But the subtasks of use and distribution happen in smaller and faster cycles. And the role and work of a Bible translator has become something closer to that of a trainer and facilitator, sometimes even church-planter. The power of the Word means that native-speakers who are involved in the translation work almost always become followers of Christ as well. This is central to the work that Wycliffe engages in: Translating the Bible with an understanding of the culture of those whom it is meant for, and then discipleship through Scripture engagement. Through daily and close interaction, Wycliffe’s Bible translators take on the roles of spiritual parenting to these new believers. They build spiritual disciplines, create small Bible study or “Bible-storying” groups that help believers mature in the faith. One day there will be “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelations 7:9). Despite the change in the nature of the mission fields, Wycliffe’s raison d’etre remains: Translate the Word, transform the world. One life and one tongue at a time.
As cancer riddled both their young sons’ lives, Brenda Tan and Marianne Lam found each other in the corridors of National University Hospital in 2008. Tan’s son, Nicklas, was suffering from a relapse of his nerve cell cancer. Lam’s younger son, Joel, was warded for another episode stemming from his leukaemia, which he had since 2005. “It didn’t take long for us to click,” Lam recalls of their first meeting about a decade ago. The experience of being in the crucible of a mother’s suffering meant they instinctively understood each other’s hearts. Beyond the nail-biting suspense of waiting for test results after each procedure, there were the shared day-to-day experiences: “The sight of the IV drips hooked onto your child’s frail and weak body, the needle that poked their tiny hand to find a good vein to set a plug for medication or draw blood … It’s worse when it fails and they have to find another good vein to repeat the same. “Your world can turn upside-down, not once but again and again, when treatment doesn’t go as planned,” the homemaker describes. “It’s another infection, another relapse, another this and another that. “Times like these, only those who walk the same path will understand and they are a shoulder for you to really cry on. “Praying and encouraging each other to keep our faith is so crucial and utterly needed.” Brenda, who had then only just started exploring Christianity, viewed Lam with admiration. “We’re all going through different journeys, we have different stories and things, but when you start meeting people, it just registers – who are the Christians. “Brenda’s loving messages were often sent into my desperate moments, to lift me up and to remind me, I am never alone. God is watching, God is with us, God is in complete control, said Marianne.
“I knew that when I started caring for these HIV-infected people, there was a chance my family and I could get infected. So, I’m prepared. I told God, ‘If I’m infected also, no problem. I will continue to serve’,” says Pastor Nant Nan Dar Aye of Explosion Cornerstone, a church based in Yangon, Myanmar. Trained as a nursing assistant, she regularly helps those suffering from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) to dress their wounds. “Sometimes, there is a lot of the blood and I need to help them every day. Yes, if I have an open wound, I could get infected, but love overcomes fear.” (1 John 4:18) Pastor Nan Dar stumbled into the ministry 12 years ago, at a time when new HIV infections were at an all-time high in Myanmar. She was ministering to the wife of an old friend who had died of AIDS. Along the way, Pastor Nan Dar got to know many others like the widow, who are HIV sufferers. The lack of public education about HIV/AIDS and misconceptions on how the infection is spread continue to contribute to the stigma. The rejection – from family, community and society – faced by HIV sufferers often drive them to the brink of suicide. One by one, she invited them to stay with her – seven women, along with their eight children. “They stayed with me, ate with me, slept in my house,” shared Pastor Nan Dar. “The most important thing is you need to show the love of God. You cannot give them hope, only God can.” (Romans 5:5) The love and care that she showed shocked them. And many came to accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. “The miracle is God has healed three women of HIV! Now they’re leaders in the ministry, so we work together to show God’s love to the people who come to our church!” The Lord has grown the HIV ministry as well. From one house, her own, they now have more than 20 houses where women with HIV can stay and be ministered to. While living with HIV is tough, the hearts of the women are filled with gratitude. “They thank God because they got to know the love of God, they heard about Jesus Christ and they got saved,” said Pastor Nan Dar. “They are no longer sad. They are happy, living life to the fullest.”
For social worker and Worker’s Party cadre Frieda Chan, 43, God has shown up in her life both through dramatic manifestations as well as simple promptings in the quiet of the night. At one point, Chan took on consulting and lecturing jobs that paid relatively well. Yet her bank balance was consistently in the range of two digits, as she would get promptings from God to give her money away to various people. “It was so frustrating to have to give away money even before I can touch it,” said Chan with a laugh. There was an occasion, Chan recalled, when God actually woke her up in the middle of the night to do His bidding. With no public transport at that time of night, Chan had to take a taxi, which she could ill afford. Upon arrival, the taxi driver waived the fee before she even uttered a word. Not only that, she discovered that the friend God had directed her to had been on the verge of suicide. When we are a channel or vessel for God, He is very real and will take care of things, said Chan. When she took charge of ministry teams that were either in financial deficit or dying through a lack of manpower, she saw how God equipped and provided – sometimes right at the last minute. Eventually, Chan joined The Workers’ Party in 2006 and ran for elections in 2011 and 2015, as she wanted to advocate for causes such as support for caregivers and single mums. When asked how her faith informs her politics, she said she makes it a point to tackle issues constructively instead of attacking a person or his character. “Values such as accountability and responsibility are in sync with God’s character and that is why I strive to present facts objectively when I advocate for issues,” said Chan, who is married to a property officer. They have a four-year-old son. Chan has seen God’s faithfulness through the big and small moments of her life. “I have learnt the lesson that God provides, and faithfulness with little can yield much later.”
In 2019, the Chinese-speaking churches across the world celebrate the 100th anniversary of the publication of the Chinese Union Version (CUV) Bible, which means “drawn together in a whole book”. Today, it is the predominant translation used by Chinese-speaking Christians across the globe. Apart from helping to spread and standardise Mandarin as the national language of China in the 20th Century, the CUV Bible has helped to shape the growth of the Chinese Church. The years after the distribution of the CUV Bible marked the formative years of growth for the Church in China. Chinese Christians began to assume leadership positions in churches; some of them even began to initiate evangelical revivals across the country. Furthermore, the translation process of the Bible produced a rich treasury of theological terms in the Chinese language, which helped to shape Chinese Protestant theological understanding and tradition. The availability of the Bible also contributed to increasing literacy rates in China. In the 19th Century, 99% of women and 90% of men in northern China were illiterate. The CUV Bible, now available in Mandarin, proved to be a useful medium for the masses to learn to read and write in the vernacular. Protestant missionaries used the Bible to teach Chinese, while preaching the Good News. Baptism regulations also became an added impetus for Chinese Christians to acquire literacy skills. To meet this need, some churches and evangelistic meeting points began running literacy classes for their members. Today, Chinese academia still acknowledges the CUV Bible’s influential role in modern Chinese literature. Since the implementation of the Open Door Policy in 1978, the demand for Bibles in China has increased exponentially. Since its establishment over 30 years ago, Amity Printing Press has printed more than 180 million copies of the Bible for Christians in China and beyond. Today, it has an annual printing capacity of nearly 20 million Bibles, producing an average of one Bible per second.
For many Christians, tithing has become a routine done once a month when the paycheque comes in. In spite of the weekly prayers before the offering bag goes around, there’s almost a prosaic way most of us offer our promise to God. We write that cheque, or key in a few numbers, and our monthly obligation is done. But tithing is really an act of devotion to the Lord, a way for God’s people to express gratitude for what He has done for his people, says Dr Calvin Chong, a lecturer at the Singapore Bible College. For the Israelites, keeping the law (Exodus 23:14-19) was a response after their incredible delivery from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 14:27). The commandment to give comes with a preface: If you love me (Deuteronomy 4:37-40). It was done in the presence of God (Deuteronomy 12:18; 14:23, 25), not in their own hometowns (Deuteronomy 12:17). There are three main purposes to tithing, based on Deuteronomy: 1. CELEBRATION The Jewish population didn’t eat much meat during their time, but when families came together to present their tithe, the occasion was a time to remember that God is the source of a bountiful harvest, and to give thanks for His provision. (Deuteronomy 14:23, 26). 2. SUPPORTING FULL-TIME MINISTRY WORKERS The Levites were our ancient day pastors, church workers and missionaries who lived on the offerings brought by God’s people as they were not allotted any land to till (Numbers 18:24). The fact of their special calling and economic disadvantage was not lost on God (Deuteronomy 14:27), who grouped the Levites together with “the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow” (Deuteronomy 14:29). 3. PROVIDING FOR THE DISADVANTAGED The sojourner who entered Israelite society for the first time, the little girl who just lost her father, the old widow who had no more savings (Deuteronomy 14:29) – these were people who could not help themselves even if they wanted to. As a compassionate Church, we are to find the helpless and disadvantaged – migrant workers, orphans, elderly poor, ex-convicts (the list goes on) – and provide them respite from their difficult circumstances.
When it comes to our work and careers, we need a sense of purpose which gives foundation and an anchor when the challenges and headwinds of life set in, writes Andy Moore, director of @festivalofthought. If we fail to correctly establish what the greater goal of all our efforts is, or should be, the by-products of work usurp and become our goal. In the history of ideas there have only been two categories of answer on offer about life’s purpose: Either the chief good is material, or the chief good is moral. Which should we regard as ultimate? With demanding jobs, families to provide for, mortgages to pay, we know very well how easy it can be to focus just on the material. It’s because the material is so tangible – material goals and rewards are right there – and God can seem so far away. But to find our #purpose, we must ask: What we are really here for? Jesus Christ came into this world so that one category of answers about life’s purpose could find its full and proper meaning in the higher one. What was interesting about Jesus was His insistence that the true purpose for humanity was moral: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness all the rest will be added on to you.” (Matthew 6:33) “Righteousness” means being right with God and in relationship with Him. This is the moral account of the chief good at the heart of the second category of answers about human purpose. The idea started by Jesus was that we should take relationship with God and moral standing with Him as the primary aim in life and the rest would work itself out in hierarchy under that. The chief good for humanity was not material but moral. The Son of God took on flesh so that the material could be redeemed by the moral – and so that through Him, we are able to have the right standing before God we were made for and thereby find that with the chief good back in its place, life takes on a new and better meaning. In a world where it is hard at times to know what is worth living for, we see the love of God in Christ deeming us worth dying for. Are you trusting Him with your life today?
After the Lausanne Movement's Global Workplace Forum (GWF) in Manila this year, the Singaporean delegates, ranging from corporate leaders to a housewife, came together to share their experience attending the conference. Reuben Ang, the managing director of catering business Hesed and Emet, and the youngest delegate from Singapore, called the forum a “homecoming”. “Business as missions always felt like a minority here,” he said. But inside the halls of Greenhills Christian Fellowship, where the forum was held, “everybody was on the same page.” Another delegate, Shirley Ho, was asked to share her responsibilities as a homemaker, a role often overlooked by man but not God. She was timid at first, given many of the women at the conference were corporate and ministry honchos, she said. But after her speech, people came up to offer gratitude, and men told her they felt even more appreciative of their wives after hearing what she said. Instead of just focusing on the typical workplace or on entrepreneurship, the forum included discussions on domestic unpaid work, dangerous jobs and modern-day slavery. “We wanted to understand how the theology of work and the Bible applies to this context of workplaces who are typically not involved in any workplace forums,” said Liu, whose day job is CEO of Dover Park Hospice. The discussion turned to how to help pastors accept a new Church model, where its activities are democratised. What would happen if people stopped attending their weekend church services because everyone saw themselves as ministers and sermons were given and discussed over lunchtime, the group mused. Timothy Wong, a banker with DBS Bank, posed this question aloud: “If tomorrow, Singapore’s Christian population went from 20% to 40%, because of the sovereign move of God … will we be ready?” Liu responded by likening the evolving Church structure to the marketing concept of a product life cycle. Those who are involved in cultivating marketplace ministries should reach out to pastors who are “early adopters” and build prototypes that would reassure full-time ministry leaders that the Church can flourish outside of the sanctuary.
“Our work is a platform for our ministry – our work puts us in touch with people that we otherwise would not meet, and takes us to places we otherwise may not go,”says Pastor Benny Ho, senior pastor of Faith Community Church in Perth. “Our work is really an act of worship unto God.” Here’s how professionals Salt&Light has spoken to honour God with their work: 1. FAITHFUL IN LITTLE THINGS 2. SHOW GRACE 3. PUT AWAY BITTERNESS 4. SET A CULTURE OF GRACE 5. LET YOUR VALUES SPEAK
All responsibility can be summed up as the call to love, said best-selling author Philip Yancey, at the closing session of the three-day 2019 Eagles Leadership Conference in July. Attended by 1,300 leaders and pastors, the biennial conference drew to a close with a talk by Yancey entitled The Future of Leadership. Yancey described a loving leader as one who “has a lot more time for you than anybody else, somebody who listens to you, somebody who cares about all of your life, not just what happens in the eight hours at the workplace”. According to a study done by UC Berkeley, people are 23% more productive at work when they are recognised for their work, and 43% more productive when they feel cared for. Loving is important because a leader’s main job isn’t to be “a star”, but to motivate and transform those who are doing the work. It is especially meaningful to acknowledge and value those at the bottom and behind-the-scenes, he said. These are the people who are indispensable and keep the show running. While companies only care about the bottomline, God cares for our mind, soul and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23). What’s good for us is our wholeness and integrity. “A true leader works as hard on legacy virtues as résumé virtues,” he said, adding that at funerals, eulogies aren’t made up of career summaries, but how loving the person was. Successful people may be riddled with self-doubt and anxiety, but those who give themselves away find fulfilment. Service to others is one way of truly making an impact (Matthew 10:42). Showing grace to others is another way. “Leadership is about managing people who are very different than you are, some of whom are going to oppose you and be hostile. And the true test of leadership is how you handle those people.”
Joscelin Yeo will always be remembered as one of Singapore’s golden girls – winning a record 40 gold medals at regional meets. But for Yeo, her competition days are mostly water under the bridge now. “Achievements come and go, they don’t make up who I am.” At age 11, she was the fastest breaststroker and made the national team. Thus began a career of 17 years as a national #swimmer. But lurking beneath the surface of the bemedalled young athlete was a troubled teen. A self-confessed introvert, she couldn't handle the media attention piled on her. “I ended up turning to partying, smoking, drinking as a way of escape ... I did every kind of vice that you can probably think of and spiralled into depression.” Her life turned around as a young adult when, to spend time with her brother, she went along with him to church. “This is where it’s so beautiful because the Lord had already provided a way out for me. I had actually been getting calls from coaches in the States offering me full scholarships to go over there to swim … it provided me a way out, a fresh start, a new beginning. “There’s no way it could be so coincidental that everything came together at that point. It really had to be the Lord.” Today, at 40, the glow comes from within, from a life surrendered. For the last 12 years, Yeo has been on staff with @nccsg. Even though she has put her swimming days behind her, Yeo admits that competitive training has provided her with lessons of perseverance. “But without God all that couldn’t have come into play, because after a while, you just get tired and emotions always get the better of you. “That resilience is also about hunkering down and saying, ‘God’s Word says this so I’m going to hold on, stand firm, until I see that truth come to pass in my life.’” This became especially real when she miscarried her first pregnancy. “I just held on to God’s Word and His promise that children are my inheritance (Psalms 127:3) … An inheritance is something you don’t earn. It’s something that you’re given. Today, she is the proud mother of 4. “Resilience with faith, coupled together, helped me.”
After the massive tsunami struck the east coast of Japan in 2011, missionaries went up to Miyagi prefecture to do their part for the afflicted people. Some of them relocated permanently, impelled by the pressing needs of the communities, particularly in providing jobs now that businesses were razed. From there, two social enterprises sprung up, @nozomiproject and @megumi_project, which offer women from these towns a sustainable income and community. Their founders say there were few expectations when they first started, but since then, they have gotten customers from all over the world, even Japan’s very own First Lady. Having a place to share with other women and learn how to deal with issues of family, school and children, is her favourite part of the job, said Chieko, one of Nozomi’s jewellery makers. For Sue Plumb Takamoto, the founder of Nozomi, the past seven years have been a testament to 2 Corinthians 5:7 – walking by faith and not by sight – given that she did not come with any corporate experience. Her journey started with a gentle nudge from God: “It didn’t feel like a push as much as it felt like an invitation: If you are willing to join me, I have some really cool plans.” Both Takamoto and Lorna Gilbert, the founder of Megumi, have found that businesses are an effective way of sharing the Gospel. As colleagues, the missionaries get to spend most of the week interacting with the women and modelling Christianity to them. Staff, most of them non-Christians, have approached them for prayer, often for a sick child or parent. To see two faith communities through the ruins of a disaster has provided a divine opportunity to reflect the nature of God’s Church (1 Corinthians 12:25), Takamoto said. “God can do good work through one person or team, but He can do a much better work through the collaboration of different churches and Christians.”