Abraham and Cheng Yu: We Invited the Homeless to Our Wedding

Written By Ng Jing Yng, Singapore

The laughter and joyous chatter streaming out of Yio Chu Kang Chapel rang through the night. It came from the hundreds of guests who were all dressed impeccably in their finest and the sumptuous food that kept everyone in high spirits. It all looked like a typical scene from a wedding banquet.

Except that it was as atypical as any wedding banquet could be.

In Singapore, where young people would chalk up thousands of dollars for their wedding, newlywed couple Abraham Yeo, 37, and Peng Cheng Yu, 24, had chosen to invite their friends from a homeless ministry which Abraham himself started with a friend—Homeless Hearts of Singapore—to be part of their celebrations.

Instead of splurging on a lavish wedding package with professional photographers and expensive gowns, the couple spent most of their money on the buffet catering and throwing a carnival for their guests.

Scenes from the wedding banquet and carnival held at Yio Chu Kang Chapel.

 

Cheng Yu explained: “We wanted the banquet to resemble a heavenly feast for our guests and to offer them a sense of abundance.”

The idea behind this “heavenly feast” came from Luke 14:12-14:

Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

The couple’s original plan was to hold their wedding in Chinatown, where most of their friends from the Homeless Heart ministry would congregate every day. The idea was to “bring the wedding to where the people are,” said Cheng Yu, but this did not materialize as the venue was already booked for the chosen date.

To emulate a community setting, the couple then decided on having long tables instead of the usual Chinese-style roundtables seating—with only their parents and close relatives sitting at four small round tables. Their 25 friends from Homeless Hearts were seated at long tables along with pre-selected befrienders, while the other guests were not assigned any seats so they could freely socialize with everyone else. The couple also meticulously included Christian hymns sang in Bahasa Melayu during the solemnization service so that their Malay-speaking friends would not feel left out.

 

Abraham and Cheng Yu with some of the guests that attended their wedding—including their friends from Homeless Hearts.

 

Experiencing God’s Provision

Indeed, for the couple, their greatest concern during the wedding preparations was their friends from Homeless Hearts feeling out of place. They recalled a particular incident as they were handing out wedding invitations, where a few homeless friends were hesitant to attend despite repeated assurances to come in whatever outfit they felt comfortable in.

“They still felt quite embarrassed, and for us who never had to experience having a lack of clothes, we will not understand how they truly feel,” said Abraham, shaking his head as he remembered how he had overlooked his friends’ feelings at that point.

However, the couple’s wedding budget was already stretched to its limits and they were at a loss over how to resolve this matter. But God answered their prayer in the form of a sister-in-Christ who offered to pay for the guests’ wedding clothes, and even went with them to shop for outfits.

Added Abraham: “It was such a sight during the wedding, the ‘uncle’ was looking all dapper and everyone was so well-dressed. You will never be able to tell one apart from the other.”

 

One of the couple’s friends from Homeless Hearts all decked out in a brand-new outfit.

 

“This is exactly how God’s kingdom would look like, no divisions and everyone coming together as one,” he said.

Throughout their wedding preparations and even on the wedding day itself, Abraham and Cheng Yu witnessed God’s kindness and providence. Their friends volunteered to double up as photographers and carnival helpers. The couple had also burst their budget as the catering was costlier than expected. However, they decided to go ahead with it to give their guests a “heavenly feast”. In turn, they received every single cent back through the red packets* gifted by their guests.

“God provided in such an amazing way,” summarized Cheng Yu. For the registered nurse, inviting friends from the Homeless Hearts ministry had always been part of the plan. She did not think much about her simple wedding dress that she got off a shopping website, or her makeup which she kept to a bare minimum.

After all, the couple noted that a wedding is intended to reflect God’s generosity and to showcase His heartbeat.

“How we spent our money is also a testimony of how we steward our resources for the Kingdom’s sake,” added Abraham, who pointed out that middle-class Christians in Singapore need to wean off the “scarcity” mindset when it comes to giving—the idea that they don’t have enough to give to others.

Instead, he hopes that the wedding will encourage others to “be generous and trust that God will always provide in abundance even if we give up the little that we have.”

The wedding was inspired by some of their friends who have invited the homeless to their own birthday parties and dinners and opened up their homes to them. “We really want our fellow Christians to consider how they can live their lives in view of eternity, and we hope and pray that our wedding can be a gentle and joyful reminder that obeying Christ is a wonderful thing to do—and that we will experience God’s abundant grace as we choose to follow Him.”

The wedding also challenged the couple’s understanding of what it looks like to bring ministry beyond the four walls of the church. For instance, a Malay friend from the Homeless Hearts ministry had come up to the church altar to offer the couple his wedding gift, in keeping with customary Malay tradition. While it was a surprise to the couple, it signified to them that this friend held them in high esteem. Both of them were pleasantly surprised as they did not recall doing much to help him except to spend time chatting with him during outreach activities.

“I realized that it is not always about the doing, but about building a relationship with others for them to see Christ in us,” said Cheng Yu.

Likewise, for Abraham, the most touching moment was seeing his guests across all ethnicities and social classes mingling and enjoying the feast together. Quoting Psalms 68:5-6a, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families”, Abraham added that he got a glimpse of the Father’s heartbeat that day for those who are fatherless, whether physically or spiritually.

 

Catching God’s Heart for the Homeless

There is also a special significance to having wedding guests from Homeless Hearts at the wedding, as the couple first met in December 2017 during the ministry’s outreach activities.

Abraham founded the ministry in 2014 after a sobering trip to Japan where he encountered God’s love for the homeless Japanese. About the same time, God laid in Cheng Yu’s heart a burden for the poor and needy, and led her to volunteer at Homeless Hearts.

Abraham candidly spoke about his years of struggle with singlehood before meeting Cheng Yu. A long-time Christian by then, he was heavily involved in mission trips and outreach activities to places like Japan. Nonetheless, he could not shake off the deep sense of loneliness he felt, especially during nights alone in a foreign land. He remembered the countless times he shook his fist at God asking “why” and “when”.

“I was very real with Him, but that’s the period when I also felt closest to God,” said Abraham, who felt that his singlehood experiences made him more sensitive to the feelings of other singles.

Miraculously, the darkest time of his life also led to the birth of Homeless Hearts in Singapore. During one particular mission trip to Japan, Abraham had encountered homeless people in the back alleys of Tokyo. He was moved to feed them but was already running low on cash, as he had only changed S$500 for the two-week trip. To his surprise, during a meeting with a Japanese pastor the next day, he was given a bag of freshly baked bread. The following day, he received a huge box of cake.

Both times, he brought the food to the back alleys and distributed them alongside other volunteers. And even with little grasp of the Japanese language and just simple bread and cake to go around, Abraham could never forget the sight of twos and threes gathering to make simple conversation in the back alleys, hidden from the glitzy streets of Tokyo.

“It debunked my idea of what church and cell group is. Right there, by giving a hand and extending friendship to the homeless, this was church,” said Abraham.

The incident stayed with him and upon returning to Singapore, he was stirred to find out what Singapore churches were doing for the homeless. When he found out that little was being done, he decided to start something himself and eventually founded the Homeless Hearts of Singapore.

Little did he know that this would lead him to meet his future bride. Cheng Yu found Abraham to be mature and a man after God’s heart. In turn, Abraham was attracted by Cheng Yu’s gentleness and love for God and people. They eventually grew closer as ministry activities provided them with opportunities to converse and learn about their shared burden to serve the needy—and decided to embark on a life together.

 

Future Plans

After the wedding, Cheng Yu and Abraham headed off to their honeymoon in Japan. Even then, God’s kingdom was never far from their minds, and their itinerary featured visits to slum areas in Osaka as well as the back alleys of Tokyo to visit the homeless.

The couple shared that Japan is a mission field that they are considering for the longer-term. But for now, Abraham and Cheng Yu are considering starting a house church for their friends from Homeless Hearts, some of whom have become Christians over time. Meanwhile Cheng Yu is also leveraging on her nursing skills to bring nursing aid to needy people in the community.

 

Abraham and Cheng Yu during their honeymoon in Japan.

 

“I do not consider what we are doing as radical as it is really going back to the Great Commission to obey Jesus’s call to love God and love His people,” said Abraham.

One of their plans include starting a social enterprise called Abba’s House, which will model what a missional community could look like—which Abraham described as a place where “everyone can walk in, rich or poor, and eat a warm family-style dinner together at a long family table”. Abraham and Cheng Yu also hope to disciple their homeless friends so they may become disciplemakers, and maybe even pastors, themselves.

As singles, the call to obey God guided Abraham and Cheng Yu’s lives. Now as a married couple, they are looking to continue holding fast to this principle to work out the next phase of their shared lives.

“We can all start by being faithful in the small things,” he added.

 

*Red packets are red-colored envelopes used by guests to hold money gifts during weddings or special occasions like birthdays and the Chinese New Year.

Lisa Anderson: A Story of Grace

At 17, Lisa found herself throwing up in her bathtub, not knowing that she was pregnant. Feeling alone and angry at God, Lisa could never have imagined what plans He had for her. Watch this poignant testimony of God’s grace at work in Lisa’s life as she learns to use her life experiences to bless others.

 

Andrew Hui: I’m 32 and I’m Dying

Editor’s Note: Andrew passed away peacefully at 11:25 p.m. (Singapore time) on 31 August 2019. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.

 

Images By Andrew Hui
Written By Janice Tai, Singapore 

At 32, Andrew Hui now has an estimated two to three months left to live.

His latest treatment option of radiation was ceased a month ago after it was deemed no longer effective in controlling the spread of the cancer cells in his body. Since then, the tumor has been growing rapidly, and the lymphoma has spread to almost every critical organ and is pressing against important blood vessels.

Despite having just a month or so left where he would still be conscious and lucid, Andrew enthusiastically made time for this interview  at the hospital before being discharged back home to be made comfortable on palliative care as death looms.

“I want to encourage people to trust in God during the darkest points of their lives,” he said.

 

A Shocking Discovery

Andrew hadn’t always viewed his condition this way. It took months of wrestling before he was able to reach this stage of peace and acceptance towards his prognosis—which came as a bolt from the blue last June.

Doctors had found out about the cancer in his body during a visit Andrew had made to the hospital’s emergency department one night because he was running a high fever. X-ray tests showed signs of a tumor growth in the upper part of his chest. Further biopsy tests identified it as Stage 1 Aggressive Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Yet, doctors were confident that his was not a complicated case and had even told him that 90 per cent of people who had this cancer at this stage have been cured.

So Andrew put his hope in probability and medical science, presuming that his treatment would be like a few months of “holiday”, and confident that he would recover soon enough.

But he was in the 10 per cent.

Undergoing six rounds of R-EPOCH therapy, a form of chemotherapy, did not help him.

So doctors gunned for a stronger form of chemo—RICE therapy. This time, they said, some 70 to 80 per cent would successfully have their cancer treated by it.

Again, he went for four rounds of treatment but was found to be in the 20 to 30 per cent of people for whom this treatment did not work.

He was next put on immunotherapy which was deemed to be suitable for 99 per cent of patients.

Andrew, however, once again found himself in the one per cent deemed unsuitable for the treatment due to the severe side effects that emerged.

“This is as straightforward a message you could get from God, don’t you think so?” Andrew said matter-of-factly, with a laugh and a glint in his eye.

“I had placed my faith in medical science and when that failed, He has shown me I need to drastically change my perspective and fall back on Him totally,” he added.

 

A Time of Questioning

Despite being a believer from young and one who actively served in church as a musician and leader, Andrew wrestled with God over his sickness earlier this year.

Why me? 

Andrew was not one who was careless with his diet or lifestyle.

The young banker did not drink or smoke. Instead, he would have salads for lunch five days a week and frequently head to the gym after work.

Why now?

His questions to God piled up thick and fast. “I have barely fulfilled 10 per cent of my dreams and I thought You would be able to use me to a greater extent. I have been serving in church for 20 years and this is the way I am to go? This is how You tell the world that you care for Your servant?”

In his anger and disappointment with God, Andrew also lashed out at other Christians.

“They proclaimed or declared healing on me as they believed that by His stripes, God has carried our pain and bore it all (Isaiah 53:5). But I can’t reconcile it with the fact that I am not only not healed but also getting worse. It gave me false hope. So I scolded them and shut them out,” said Andrew.

“The way I see it, if He chooses to heal me, then his task for me on earth is not done. If I am not healed, then it is time for me to go home, so either way it is a win-win situation.”

Part of Andrew’s struggle and despair also stemmed from the fact that he was in a lot of pain.

He had to deal with nausea, lethargy, and hair loss, and many a time he would throw up so violently that his stomach contents would hit the wall.

Bad coughing fits would leave him curling up into a ball on his bed and his heart would shatter whenever he saw his mother crying by his bedside.

 

Andrew with his mum in Jeju in December 2018. This was his last overseas holiday. 

Andrew with his family members, including his niece Naomi, in April 2019.

 

A Turning Point

However, a profound sense of peace and acceptance of death came when Andrew’s view  of God shifted.

“I have always viewed His sovereignty over my life as something that can’t be questioned. He can do as He likes and pleases, and we have no right to ask for, say favor, unless He gives it. I saw His sovereignty as judicious and high and mighty,” said Andrew.

“But later I realized that the way He expresses His sovereignty is through love. What is happening to me may not be good but He is good and His sovereignty is seen in how He carries me through the storms in life,” he added.

One of the verses that has helped Andrew arrive at this understanding is Ephesians 3:17-18, which says, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”

His trust in God’s love and sovereignty has cast out any fear he used to have in facing his mortality.

“I have zero fear of death now. When I close my eyes for the last time, I am more certain about being with Him than I can have in boarding a plane and being assured of reaching my destination,” said Andrew, who worships at St. Matthew’s church.

“That is the certainty I cling on to. Without that, if God or Jesus didn’t exist, I would have committed suicide because then all my hope is gone and there is no point or meaning to life,” he added.

He is also immensely grateful for having a church family who fasted, prayed, and cried with him throughout his period of illness. Many volunteered to buy food for him or to drive him to and from his home and the hospital.

 

Andrew with his accapella group, reaching out to grassroots organizations during one of their carolling sessions.

 

A Dying to Self

Though Andrew was born into a Christian family and grew up in church, he only truly “came to faith” or owned his faith when he was 16.

He was in a Boys’ Brigade service in chapel one day and the lyrics of the song “So You Would Come” touched him immensely:

Nothing you can do
Could make Him love you more
And nothing that you’ve done
Could make Him close the door

These words pierced Andrew’s heart as he used to throw himself into doing good works or serving in church to try to atone for his sins.

The lyrics of the song gave Andrew a sense of freedom as he began to realize that God loves him and that he did not need to do anything to earn it. It also gave him the hope that despite his sins, God will never close the door on him.

But the journey since then hadn’t always been smooth-sailing.

Though he majored in communications and media studies, he joined the banking sector after graduation as it was more financially lucrative.

The number-crunching did not interest or excite him, but he had put money above fulfilment then as he loved to travel to experience different cultures and food. He also wanted to support the church by funding its missions work.

So Andrew worked long hours to climb up the corporate ladder and 12-hour workdays were the norm. His last position was as a manager in private banking.

But what he learned at the age of 16 never completely left him. The peace that comes with being convicted of God’s full acceptance and love for him, said Andrew, is the same peace that guards his heart now that he faces a larger battle of faith in confronting death.

Andrew and friends helping to plant a children’s shelter in Banchang, Thailand.

 

A Blessing Through Faith

Besides having the assurance of peace and knowing that he will meet Jesus in heaven after he dies, Andrew said his faith also makes a difference in mitigating his present pain.

“When I call out to him for help at night because of the pain, I find that the pain lessens when I focus on God and I will fall into deep sleep after that,” said Andrew.

Andrew’s faith has also enabled him to see the blessings that have arisen out of his illness, such as being able to know when he is going to die, and to be able to die without pain.

“This is so that I can prepare for death and say what I need to say and do what I need to do.

The pain medication and palliative care also enables me to be comfortable and die with a smile on my face,” he said.

Lately he has been able to talk to his parents about topics such as what they would be doing when he is gone and what they would use his room for.

“It is a blessing to be able to have such conversations because then there will be closure for them as well,” said Andrew, who is preparing a “death box” that contains all his farewell messages to his loved ones and friends.

“I don’t believe in having sad funerals. I want mine to be happy and I also want to have a gathering now when I am around to thank and affirm people who are important to me and enjoy good food together,” said Andrew, who enjoys cooking, and used to cook anything from kaya to sambal to mooncakes for church fundraisers.

These days, he finds himself not really thinking about death, but about “short-term” things such as his craving for tulang, or bone marrow soup.

One unrealized dream he has is to set up a soup kitchen with his two close friends for migrant workers or anyone who needs a meal.

“If I were to live my life again, I think the only part I would change is perhaps going into social service because that may bring more of a difference to the lives of others. But then again, I don’t know. I am who I am today because of all the moments in the past that shaped me,” said Andrew, who has a father with polio.

 

A Final Wish

His greatest wish now is to reconnect with people in his life, such as his primary and secondary school friends whom he has lost touch with.

When asked why he prioritizes his precious time with people he is not close to, Andrew said his heart is for them to come to know the peace that they can have through Christ.

“Whether they are busy working adults or battling their own problems, I want to share this peace that I have with them. So that when they come to the end of their lives, which may happen any time, they would know of a peace that money or toil or relationships or health or wealth cannot bring,” said Andrew.

“I want them to not hear of me as just someone who died, but a person who is waiting to welcome them in heaven and who desires to see them again in heaven.”

 

Screenshot of Andrew’s Facebook status on 16 August 2019

Want to let Andrew’s family know how his story has impacted you? Leave a comment below with a prayer or word of encouragement!

Tom Nearing: Into the Light

Tom Nearing knows what life looks like holding on to a secret. When Tom had a revelation at 18 years old about a childhood trauma, this new knowledge only added to the shame and disconnection from God that he was already experiencing. This would eventually lead Tom to a breaking point where he found himself at the end of himself: almost homeless and living a purposeless life.

And yet despite this, Tom also knows what life looks like with the realization of God’s overwhelming love, forgiveness and acceptance.

Watch Tom’s journey from shame and secrets to forgiveness and acceptance through relationship with a loving God.