OCYA Light-up Geylang outreach
By Emanuele Huan
Growing up, whenever I misbehaved, I was told by adults that I had better watch out, or the “Bangla worker” will catch me. Whenever our classroom was untidy, it would be referred to by our teachers as a “foreign worker dormitory”. Among Chinese, there was a divide between the “Cheena” and the Singaporeans, one talked in a “funny” way and the other spoke “normally”. Despite my Christian faith and upbringing, I, too, would often make such disparaging remarks without a second thought. Perhaps it was the feeling that if I failed to fit in, I too would be “The Other”. Eventually, the jokes became less frequent, but our indifference grew. Migrants became invisible; even though they are right next to us, their struggles and stories are distant.
We tend to create groups to identify ourselves to, and those we distinguish ourselves from. In doing so, we create “The Other” and start to distance ourselves from them, perhaps even see them as less than human. Our sinful and selfish nature prevents us from seeing them as they are: God’s beloved children, fearfully and wonderfully made in his image – just as we are.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:38
I thank the Lord for showing great mercy by providing an avenue for hardened hearts to be softened, and for our minds to be renewed to be more Christlike through Light Up Geylang.
The main focus of CCMC’s One Community and Young Adult’s (OCYA) participation in Light Up Geylang organised by Youth With A Mission from 20-26 December 2021 was to collaborate with staff of schools in the neighbourhood to reach out to the migrant brothers. When the OCYA team first discussed the scale of the event, we were unsure of the responsiveness of the church community. Uncle Leslie Wong, Chairman of Outreach & Social Concerns in CCMC, told us that since the Covid-19 pandemic kicked in, his usual “antennae” no longer had the same reach. The Covid guidelines made it harder to gather and share information when the attendance of weekly church services necessarily declined. We also had to plan according to safe management measures so that the outreach would not have the unintended outcome of spreading the virus rather than the Word.
After much deliberation, we decided to commit these three goals to the Lord
1. Film a virtual choir video
2. Purchase and distribute 400 gift packs
3. Run a clothing donation drive
What transpired was something that touched our hearts dearly.
Since COVID-19 struck, the church could not sing aloud together in Sunday services. As we yearn for the day we can sing together again, the Light Up Geylang outreach presented an opportunity to create a virtual choir. “This not only a way to express anew our unity as a church, but it also was a means to bless the marginalised in our society with the proclamation of the gospel truth through the song 'His Name is Wonderful'”, said Alysson Lam of OC. The team was deeply encouraged to see small groups from the 9 am service, life groups from OCYA and individuals from the various music ministries step forward to be a part of this virtual choir.
Gift Packs and Clothings
The gift packs we put together contained what we felt were meaningful yet practical. There were face masks, muscle relief patches, snacks and electronic candles. Through these items, we wished to share God’s care and concern so that they could feel his love. The $4000 dollars we had set as a donation target for the gift packs was exceeded to the point that we had to ask donors to reduce the amounts they intended to give. We also collected over 30 kg worth of donated men’s clothing such as shirts, trousers and loungewear.
I saw the Lord move us as a church when we gathered as one body to bless others.
It didn't matter who we were. From the young, to those experienced in organising activities, we saw families join in. Church staff and congregation members alike offered their time and simply had the common heart to unite and bless others
During the discussion after our survey of the streets Geylang, Cheryl Giam, CCMC’s newest staff and in-house counsellor, shared about honouring the migrant brothers in our actions. It starts from having our hearts moved by their situations, and having the desire to share the true spirit of Christmas with them.
Every item of the care pack was packed by hand, ensuring that each brother will receive them in a good and presentable condition. As we went to Geylang to distribute the packs, we went knowing that Christ gave his life for each and every one of them. So we could say, “Brother, I loved you before I knew you, and God loves you so deeply even before you know him”.
“If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”
1 Corinthians 12:26
Unity within the church also comes from this same honour. It is easy to clash when we all have different hearts and gifts, and have different visions for the direction of the church. We must acknowledge the other party’s set of gifts and ideas as God-given and unique, and their membership in the Church is part of God’s tapestry which weaves our lives together. They have been through their own special journey to reach this point of their lives, as we have also. To honour them, is to honour God too. When we realise this, we can then come together as one body, acknowledging we are weak and faillible and need others. We are unable to walk this journey as a single person and do require the support of others. Above all, we submit ourselves to the Lord.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8
I pray that in the year ahead, we will grow stronger in community, and once again make the conscious effort to gather as one body. It is also my hope that we can extend our hearts and hands to those around, to include them in the Body of Christ. Let us take the first step in acknowledging each and every person as a precious child of God, and think about how God wants us to love them. Through these daily encounters with his people, may we search his heart such that we know God deeply, and make him known widely.