Being a children’s book author is no easy task, especially when you are an introvert, terrible at networking, and extremely shy when it comes to sales of any sort. So I never expected to write and publish stories for children—much less find myself caught in a media hullabaloo.
It all started when, as part of my Urban Studies course in the seminary, we interviewed organisations working with foreign domestic workers, migrant workers, and others. Hearing all the stories about unfair treatment, abuse, depression, and other struggles kept me awake at night.
A migrant worker being sent home because of a long-term injury.
A bus driver trying to provide for his family.
A domestic worker with a huge responsibility to bear.
That’s how the stories that would form The Invisible People series came to be.
At first, it was our work group that proposed writing them down as stories for children, to showcase a unique way of addressing the needs we saw. Then, a professor chanced upon one of my drafts and persuaded me to write some more.
And so, I had to explain to my curious three-year-old, who would accompany me on some of these trips, why Mummy was going around construction sites to interview ‘uncles’. And as her questions increased, my stories developed.
The Platform I Never Wanted
The book launch came and went as quietly as the project began, with only a few close friends and family present. We worked with a few pre-schools and private schools, but never sought a bigger audience on our own initiative, trusting the Lord would bring them our way in His time.
Then, Covid-19 hit and suddenly the migrant worker situation exploded. All the injustices they faced were brought to the forefront. Their cramped living conditions and lack of medical treatment were blown up on every media platform.
I was suddenly asked via several different media platforms to share my view of the situation, which I was completely unprepared for, and so declined more than half a dozen times. The first came from a former student of mine, and one voice in the wind led to another.
It horrified me to even think that my views mattered, but more importantly, how could I speak on their behalf? These were intelligent, educated, and important individuals. I did not want to give my view, because I did not want to misrepresent them, knowing how diverse and complex the migrant worker scene was.
Yet one thing led to another, and eventually I was labelled as “entitled, arrogant and aloof”. Our hopes of getting the books featured were also dashed.
Oh, how I cried out to the Lord during that painful time to vindicate me—to punish those who wrongfully accused me and to prove that I did nothing wrong. Their claims about me were completely unfair. I was misunderstood and maligned. How I wallowed in self-pity and self-centred grief for the injustice I faced.
“Who Will Vindicate the People I Love?”
Three months after this incident, we began preparations for the next three books in The Invisible People series. Even though I was personally discouraged by what had happened with the press, it did not impact my writing and our desire for the Invisible People to be seen and heard. More people were interviewed. Security guards, newspaper delivery men, door-to-door (Vitagen) aunties, hawker cleaners, the list went on.
Before drafting out the new stories, I went into my prayer closet, as was my usual practice. And again, I asked that the Lord would vindicate me. But this time, His reply shook me to the core –
I sensed Him say, “What does it matter that you are misunderstood by a few? Who will vindicate the people I love and give them justice?”
Tears of shame and relief poured out as I learnt an important lesson that day: Our God is loving and compassionate, but He is also a just and jealous God. He does not only care for the well-being of believers, but that mercy and justice will arise for all His people.
I felt ashamed when I realised I had wasted so much time on myself over a misunderstanding that hardly mattered. But I was also relieved because God showed me that the stories I wrote were not my own. Instead, it was His way of allowing me to be one of the voices for the marginalised, whom He loved.
This encounter with God brought me back to the most humbling point of this journey—looking for a publisher for the books. Picture an unknown author going from company to company, begging that someone, anyone, would read these stories. It brought me to my knees, realising that to be appointed “storyteller” by the greatest Storyteller of all was my privilege. It shook the little pride I had in the meagre book sales I achieved. Every time a book gets sold meant someone would be thinking of these people on God’s heart, and with that, renewed joy filled my heart.
Helping the Invisible People Become Visible
The book project began with the intention of educating children. But as I visit schools and speak to young readers about these stories, I find that I am the one being educated. One Primary Three boy shared about how he took pride in knowing the cleaners in his estate by name and how they were his friends. Another five-year-old shared how her mum goes around on weekends to different work sites, giving migrant workers free haircuts.
After a whole lesson package was done on “Uncles at Work”, a school responded by having children make relief-packages for workers stuck in the dorms. Mums continue to send me videos of their children waving, smiling and saying “thank you” to these Invisible People.
We have so much to learn from these children, for in bearing the image of Christ wherever they go, they make these invisible people invisible no more.
A year later, God has placed on our hearts another group of invisible people—children with special needs. Research and interviews have only just begun. In preparing for this new series, I am positioning myself as student rather than teacher, knowing that the Lord will open my eyes to His work through a posture of humility.
I do not know how many books will sell or how long I will be able to keep on writing, but I do know this—He is the God who has commanded us to walk humbly, love mercy, and act justly (Micah 6:8). And that call to vindicate His beloved, I must obey.