Online concerts streamed from large arenas with no physical audience, workplaces with fewer staff, physical church services with no intermingling allowed – these are but some of the new situations we have to get used to today. Social distancing measures, both within Singapore and globally, have prevented contact that would usually been easily achieved. Usual routines have been disrupted and the people we interact with on a daily basis may have changed.
The call to share the Gospel remains
Despite increased social distancing restrictions, there remain opportunities to reach out to others. Creative ways of overseas missions outreach were forged in the midst of the pandemic. In 2020, Cru Singapore sent out 21 digital missions teams on online mission trips to seven countries. Cru Singapore also brought its English Speaking Clubs online which, pre-Covid, were conducted in-person by Cru’s missionaries within their base country. These English Speaking Clubs provide opportunities for overseas students to learn and practise English.
Having volunteered recently at one of the online English Speaking Clubs, I realise the opportunities for missions do not cease even in the midst of physical social distancing restrictions. Our call to share the Gospel and minister to the community remains, perhaps just in a different form.
Uncovering new needs closer to home
The phrase “missionary work begins at home” has never rang truer—we do not have to look far for needs to meet. Gladys Han was led to bring God’s love to the community around her during Covid-19. As part of her church’s ministry to reach out to the migrant community in Joo Chiat, she found an existing need within the community just before Singapore’s Circuit Breaker* measures began.
“We were quite close to a Vietnamese family who ran a shop in Joo Chiat. I decided that since Circuit Breaker was going to kick in soon, I would visit them while I still could, buy them some milk powder and fruits, and see how they are keeping,” shared Gladys.
“As I was leaving their shop, I saw some older Vietnamese women whom we had met before. They sell tissue paper for a living. I asked why they had not gone back to Vietnam since Singapore was having its Circuit Breaker soon, and I was told that Vietnam’s borders were closed. These ladies were stuck in Singapore and had to continue to pay for rent as well as their meals. However, they did not have anyone to sell tissues to anymore as people were required to stay at home during Circuit Breaker.”
“I thought, “What was going to happen to them?” As I left I felt a heavy burden on my heart. If the Lord allowed me to see this situation, I believe He wanted me to do something.”
*Circuit Breaker was the period of heightened safe distancing measures in Singapore
As the burden became heavier, Gladys thought of buying supermarket vouchers for the migrant worker community in Joo Chiat. She rallied her church community to raise funds and, in less than 24 hours, a total of $4,000 was raised to purchase vouchers for the migrant workers. The vouchers were distributed to 200 members of the Vietnamese, Indian and Bangladeshi migrant communities in Joo Chiat before the Circuit Breaker.
(Pictured: Supermarket vouchers were distributed to 200 migrant workers in Joo Chiat)
Reaching out to the Homeless
As Covid-19 became more serious in 2020, more “hidden” communities were brought to light, including the homeless. Rough sleepers were even more vulnerable during the pandemic as they did not have safe shelter. When Gladys initially received an e-mail calling churches within the Chinese Annual Conference to help provide shelter for the homeless, she did not think much of it. However, she felt a prompting to relook at the e-mail a couple of hours after reading it.
As she read the e-mail, God reminded her of one of her church’s buildings that was vacant at the time due to a redevelopment project. “I asked God what was the pre-requisite to qualify as a place suitable for housing the homeless. No specifics were included in the e-mail, so how would I know if we qualified?” shared Gladys.
“God told me to speak to the person who sent the e-mail,” she said with a laugh.
Preparing the church premises for Project Samaria
Within the next few hours she was linked up with the relevant government personnel. That evening she also chanced upon a friend’s post on Facebook sharing that his church had been approved by the government as a ‘Safe, Sound, Sleeping Place’ for the homeless. Convinced that God was leading her to start this project for the homeless, Gladys prayed for a team of people to come on board and, after much discussion and preparation, Project Samaria to house the homeless for seven weeks at Charis Methodist Church came to being.
“God taught us how to carry out the ministry. It was quite an adventure and very exciting,” said Gladys.
The project was not without its challenges, but there have been encouraging moments where church members were able to befriend and pray with the rough sleepers staying in the church. “I was brought to this verse, Acts 1:8, which says “be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria”. Apart from witnessing to family and friends, we are also called to witness to strangers,” shared Gladys on the inspiration behind the name Project Samaria.
Gladys (third from left) together with volunteers at Project Samaria
Who is God calling you to reach?
Being sensitive and obedient to the call of God led Gladys and other fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to meet the needs of the community as Covid-19 ran its course in Singapore.
In a time of social distancing, instead of becoming isolated, we can continue to be connected to the needs of the community around us, and be witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Who is God calling you to reach today?
A season marked by prayer, fasting and giving, Lent is often described as a time to go deeper with God. Take this opportunity to pray and seek God for who He might want you to reach today!Find out more about Lent
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