Written By Eunice Lin, Singapore
I was trained as a social worker and worked for seven years in a government agency. I loved that my job entailed advocating for change at a systemic level and thrived at work. It also enabled me to live out my faith intentionally, which shaped the ways I interacted and worked with those around me.
But at a deeper level, I was increasingly dissatisfied. I felt far too removed from the voiceless and powerless whom I really wanted to serve.
Eventually, God challenged me to leave what had become too comfortable a job. As I stepped out in faith, He gave me two burdens: to love the Church, and to pursue mercy and justice. Since my church had no mercy and justice ministry, I assumed that I would have to explore that aspect outside my church. And so I did.
Through a friend, I was introduced to a ministry that reaches out to offer help, healing, and hope to prostitutes in Geylang, Singapore’s red-light district. Since then, God has been showing me what His expression of mercy and justice looks like—and doesn’t look like.
It is not self-righteous
The moment I met with the co-founders of this ministry and heard their vision and burden for the work, I knew this was where I wanted to serve.
Whenever I spent time at this ministry, I was blown away. I would hear about something miraculous God had done in the lives of the women. I would see how God brought people from different churches, backgrounds, and expertise to pour themselves into meeting the needs (often unspoken and not yet made known!) of the women and the ministry. It felt like I was living in the Gospels and Acts as I saw Jesus’ modern-day followers healing and setting the ladies free from their bondage, and generously sharing what they had with those in need!
I was excited, energized, and eager to be a part of this work. After all, this was where the action was. But God had some major re-working to do in my heart, starting with how unknowingly self-righteous I was.
I vividly remember my first prayer walk in Geylang. I was extremely put off by the men on the streets and how they looked at every female—those of us reaching out to the prostitutes and the prostitutes alike. I thought to myself, “These men are such scum. They’re the reason these women are being sold on the streets.”
As soon as that thought formed, the Holy Spirit convicted me, and it felt like a punch in my stomach. What right did I have to despise these men as filthy and deplorable? God opened my eyes to see that I’ve been saved by grace alone, and the only difference between me and them is that Christ’s blood covers me—and that same blood was also shed for them too. It hit me that God loves them as much as He loves me.
God had to first (and continually) refine me and break me that I might be used in His hands for His work. I could not do justice without loving-kindness and walking humbly with God (Micah 6:8). This justice God wanted me to learn to pursue was one that is grace-fueled, not done out of self-righteousness.
It is unconditional
Some time later, there was a request to purchase something for one of the former prostitutes whom we had been journeying with. To me, the item requested was definitely not a necessity. In fact, I even felt that it would be irresponsible to purchase this item for her because it would not require her to make the least effort to change.
Yet, I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to give her the money.
I balked at that thought and immediately came up with more reasons why I would not, and why no one else should have to either. But He impressed on me that I had just made that sum of money today only because of a job opening He gave me—and now He wanted me to give it away.
I conceded that I would give the money away, but only for something worthier. Until I was struck by this: “The Father gave you His Son while you were unworthy. Imagine if He were as conditional as you.”
I was convicted that God was calling for this act of kindness and generosity not because the person was worthy, but because the One who calls me is. The unspeakable mercy I have received is the same mercy I am to show others. He calls us to show radical generosity, mercy, and loving-kindness as the outworking of our faith, as our response of love and obedience to a God who first loved us.
It is simple
After some years of serving in Geylang, God began to deal with another area of my heart—that I was far more drawn to doing what is novel and “out there,” rather than what was right in front of me. I had resisted serving in my church’s local outreach ministry because it just didn’t excite me. It was too. . . mundane.
After all, we had been in this neighborhood for the past 20 years, and the local outreach ministry had never been a fraction as exciting as what was happening in Geylang. But these questions dropped in my heart, “Who around you remains overlooked and has yet to experience the gospel? Who is the neighbor God wants you to love? Are you willing to return and serve your church with all that you’ve learned?”
And so, I yielded to His prompting to love my neighbors and lead my church’s local outreach ministry. In this new season as I encourage our church to partner our church’s non-profit agency to seek the flourishing of those in our neighborhood, God is showing me how faithful, consistent presence is needed for the long haul. And I have had much to learn in being patient and humble as I rallied and equipped my church to respond and rely on Him to lead the way.
God moved in the hearts of the church leaders to open up our church to those beyond our walls. I challenged them that we would have to open our lives to our neighbors too. And so they did. We began throwing Community Dinners where we invite families served by our church’s non-profit agency to come share a meal with us. These include the working poor, lonely seniors, isolated foreigners, people of different backgrounds and beliefs from us, and those with health or mental health issues.
When we started 15 months ago, no one was sure if these families would come and stick around. Today, we have about 100 people from the church and our neighborhood fill up our fellowship hall with chatter, laughter, music, warm lights, and food at every dinner. Many shared that while they have walked past our church countless times, they had never stepped in prior to these dinners. Some said they never knew they could, others felt it was not their place, and others simply did not want to have anything to do with Christians.
As we made every effort to reach out and build bridges with our neighbors over the dining table, our friends from the community opened up their hearts and let us into their lives, often humbling us with the trust they accord us. We have found ourselves astounded by the hardships and injustice they have endured over the course of their lives. Yet, they do not come back week after week because they want us to fix their problems. Instead, they simply come to where they know they are heard, loved, and accepted. I also believe they keep coming back because they see a hope, joy, peace and something in us that they do not have, but are drawn to.
I’m learning that God can use something as simple as sharing a meal to draw the lost to Himself. Nothing fancy or novel. Instead, we find ourselves going back to an ancient practice Jesus used with His disciples, a practice that the Church Fathers developed to reach and disciple believers across the ancient world—sharing the gospel over a meal.
God—who calls us and has prepared in advance the good works we are to do—is so committed to our perfection in Christ that He will refine us. He reveals our self-righteousness, pride, and all that stands in opposition to who God is. Doing justice, loving-kindness and walking humbly with God is an inward discipleship process that makes me more like Jesus and helps me live and love as He does. Thankfully, all things (including living out Micah 6:8) are from Him, through Him, and to His glory.