Amid the usual scene in Singapore of families meeting the frenzied expectations of school, work, financial obligations—the Low family has chosen the road much less trodden.
Married couple of 23 years, Patrick (Global Outreach Representative for Asia & FamilyLife Singapore Team Leader) and Estella Low (Global Outreach Representative for Asia & FamilyLife Singapore Senior Mentor), have dedicated their lives to fulltime ministry since 1993 and 1996 respectively.
Involved with Cru since their schooling years, they knew the call to come on staff in a missional organisation can be challenging. “I remember before I started,” Estella shared. “I had a good paying job and felt financially secure. My job was my “iron rice bowl”1, and it was scary to have to give that up2. But I kept feeling nudged towards fulltime ministry. Finally, God spoke to me through the parable of the rich fool, which gave me peace to quit my job.”
“Living by faith like this is really an ongoing adventure with God. Trusting that He will provide along the way, not too much but sufficiently for us.”
1"Iron rice bowl" generally refers to an occupation with guaranteed job security as well as steady income and benefits.
2Cru Singapore is a faith-based missions organisation. All staff members are fully responsible for raising their own finances to cover their salaries, benefits and ministry expenses. Find out more here.
Patrick and Estella (top right) running an Art of Marriage Connect (Small Group Session)
Even when the labourers seem few and far between sometimes in ministry, God has continued to provide. Estella described this encounter, “Three years ago we had been journeying with this couple—Hansel and Krystin. One day to our surprise, Hansel suddenly came to us and said he wanted to come on fulltime with Cru as well!”
“As long as we can be faithfully following God's leading, He will lead us to the people that He wants us to minister to, that may in turn even impact us,” she smiled.
Patrick added, “In ministry, it’s 24/7 and many things are beyond our control. But the fact that we’re directly involved in people’s lives, leading them spiritually, emotionally—I think it’s exciting to be part of what God is doing in someone’s life.”
Continuing, he said, “In our ministry, we have different marriage events. During these events, everybody's smiling, enjoying themselves—you never know the story behind those faces. But slowly, as you start interacting more with them, sharing stories, just journeying with them—you can make such an impact in their lives.”
The Low family in Japan, 2006
The choice to be a different kind of family
Contrary to the high-pressure academic system Singapore is known for, with parents sending their children for several tuitions outside school and a big emphasis on grades and achievements, Patrick and Estella took a different approach.
“We realised that academic achievement is not everything. Since they were young, we have encouraged our kids to pursue what is on their hearts, pursue their interests. We also recognise that their character is much more precious. The question isn’t what marks our children scored in school, but what do we want them to grow to become?” Patrick said.
The Low family in America, 2011
Their missionary journey as a family began in 2002, when the Lows were first sent to Japan. With Elisha (now 22 years old) and Megumi (now 20 years old) in tow, they settled down there till 2011. During their season in Japan, Hitoshi (17 years old), their youngest son, was born.
“We left Japan for the United States for another six years. Finally, in 2016, we came back to Singapore. This was based on the decision we had made even before leaving for our first mission overseas—that we would come back when Elisha had to serve NS,” Patrick shared.
Coming back to Singapore though, Patrick and Estella were initially concerned because of the difficulties known to face ‘Third-culture Kids’3. “We have heard and seen so many missionary families who have come back and suffered—because their children have had such a rough time adjusting back to Singapore.”
3Third-culture Kids are children that grow up in between two worlds, and thus form their own (third) culture.
The Low family in Singapore, 2020
Estella continued, “It’s really because of the support our family, our children received, that we are able to be where we are today. Without our ministry partners, we will not be where we are now and able to do what we do. I’m really grateful and thankful for each and every one of them.”
Adding on, Patrick said, “We are so grateful for their love for us and how they love our children. When some people came to us and say, "You must have parented well, that the kids are turning out well," I know it's because of this community of faith that has shown us all such love. It made life transiting back to Singapore much better, and we are just grateful.”
Through this, they also realised, “Our kids are also very resilient. I think they have achieved a lot over the years, much more than what we could have done. We are proud of the three of them and just grateful for who they are today.”
The Lows with one of their many faithful supporters/family friends on vacation in Hokkaido, 2010
Provision through the body of Christ
“We love our ministry partners and we have so many stories over the years of how God has used them to minister to us—whether in the mission field, during the transition or even now back in Singapore,” Patrick began.
Estella continued, “There was this one unforgettable experience for us though—when our ministry partner actually gave us a blank cheque! It really surprised us.”
“We went back to the person and asked her if she forgot to write down the number, but she actually said ‘No. God spoke to me and I had to give you this cheque. Write whatever amount you feel comfortable with.’—but of course, we were not comfortable. So up till today, we have left the cheque blank. But it’s such a good reminder to us of God's faithfulness,” Patrick chuckled.
“This has been, and continues to be an adventure with God, a faith adventure. We don’t know what will come next or what will happen, but it’s definitely a journey to see how God’s going to work in and through us,” Estella ended off.
As she breathed her last, Mandy’s mother told her, “Don’t cry for me.” So Mandy did just that. Growing up, Mandy was taught that “It’s a weakness to show emotions; we should thank God in every circumstance.” As she battled to suppress her grief, things took a toll on her.
We are now seeing more mid-career people join as full-time staff. This shift creates a wider pool of experience and perspectives among the staff family, which is helpful in propelling our work toward new, fresh directions to be more effective in changing times.
While our name was changed in 2013 to Cru Singapore, reaching the next generation remains a key focus of our work. What has changed though, is that our target audience has grown beyond campus.
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