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  • Alicia Tan

Never On Sunday ‘Ponteng’ Church

Updated: Feb 6, 2023

by Phyllis Wong

The invasion of the virus brought massive changes into our lives. Not all of them are bad. There are lessons to be learnt. And, choices to be made, including to go to church onsite or ‘attend’ at home.

Prior to the suspension of in-person worship on 24 March 2020, physical attendance was the default. Despite the lifting of most Safe Management Measures, many of us for varied reasons continue to hesitate.

When the congregation was allowed to return, albeit with size cap, each Saturday, I asked myself “Shall I go to church tomorrow?” This question resurfaced on the last day of 2020. Unless overseas, going for the Watchnight Services has been my ritual. But I had sold my car, not expecting Covid-19 to morph into a pandemic. I didn’t feel safe to return past midnight by public transport after worshipping at my 老地方 ‘lao di fang’.

And so, I plodded up the slope. That night marked my first steps into Covenant Community Methodist Church.

Fear, anxiety and self-preservation are instinctual. But I had a lesson etched after an escape from drowning at sea. This life-threatening event which happened over 50 years ago, taught me ‘Never On Sunday Pontang Church.’

I was on a fishing trip with friends when water-clogged clouds broke their bladders. Though the boat had a canopy, winds pelted us with rain. Thankfully, we were near a kelong. My classmate’s father and his friend decided to drop anchor to get us to shelter.

I stood on the edge of the bobbing boat to wait for the right moment to climb up the wooden planks. I took one step with my left foot. My hands were not large enough to grasp the round timber poles of the ladder. The boat shifted. I fell into the sea. It was a harrowing experience to get back into the vessel pulled hither thither by angry currents. I was wearing a life jacket. But I don’t know how to swim. My classmate’s father stayed on board to grip my arms. His friend jumped into the sea to hold on to me. I tried to heave my heavier-in-water body without success.

After what seemed like forever, I was pushed and pulled onto the deck. I resumed my climb for shelter. My mind was stayed on one thought, “God help me. Don’t let the waves take me.” The fishing trips were from dawn to dusk with the family of my Pre-University classmate. After I’d recovered from the trauma, I called my friend, “No more fishing on Sunday.”

I am grateful to my fellow travellers who hung on to me. Above all, I thank our Heavenly Father. He had never left me since the day I met Jesus in Primary One of MGS. Troubles have turned up along life’s journey. They do not last. Neither will the pandemic be forever. These minute intruders will stay for as long as there is a place for them to stay.

God the Almighty, promised, “Fear not. I am always with you.”

“Please find me faithful, never pontang church on Sunday,” is my prayer.

I write these to you that you may know our God is faithful. Always.

Blessings in the name of our Lord Jesus. See you this Sunday.


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