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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 outreach 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 Homeless Hearts 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 a brother skilled in fashion styling 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 Homeless Hearts 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 Homeless Hearts 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 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.

If God Is Real, Why Doesn’t He End Our Suffering?

Max Jeganathan is the Asia-Pacific Regional Director of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. Born in Sri Lanka, Max’s family moved to Australia as refugees in the mid-1980s. He has worked as a lawyer and as a political adviser in the Australian national parliament. His research interests relate to the relationships between faith, politics, public policy, economics, and moral reasoning. Max lives in Singapore with his wife and their two young children.

“If God really is who they say He is—all-loving, all-powerful, and all-good—He would end the suffering. Therefore, because there is suffering there can be no God.”

So says the age-old critique. Many of us let words like this wash over us without thinking critically about them. However, to blindly accept this statement is at best, reckless and at worst, wrong-headed. As is so often the case with truth and reality, there is much more to the story.

The reality of suffering is one that everyone of us—Christians, atheists and adherents of other faiths—have to deal with. No one can escape from it. Whether it’s anxiety, depression, illness, a lost loved one, political or economic turmoil, suffering is an unavoidable reality.

Therefore, for any worldview to be taken seriously, it needs to provide a response to this reality of suffering that is intellectually coherent, emotionally satisfying, and existentially compelling.

We Christians are certainly not strangers to suffering. One of the biggest myths about Christianity is that Christians suffer less, a claim that is as ridiculous as it is baseless. There is absolutely no evidence either in the Bible or in the world, to back up this claim. By contrast, Jesus is very honest about the costs of being a Christian (Matthew 16:21-28).

Putting this to one side, we Christians still find ourselves—as we should be—called on to explain how this loving God we worship can allow so much suffering. There is much more to be said than can be conveyed in a short article. However, here are some thoughts that reveal the Christian diagnosis and response to suffering to be both unique and compelling.

 

A God of Love

It might seem strange to begin with God’s character as an explanation for suffering. However, when we look a little deeper, things become a lot clearer. God is not just a loving God (John 3:16), but He “is” the essential embodiment of love itself (1 John 4:8). The only way that love is authentically manifest in reality is in relationship. Therefore, this God of love is also a God of relationship.

This takes us right back to the beginning of the Christian story, when God created humankind— primarily—for relationship; for loving relationship with Him and with each other (Mark 12:30-31). For a relationship to be real, the parties to that relationship must be—at least in some sense—free to choose whether or not to enter the relationship. Imagine having a friend who was forced to spend time with you under the threat of violence. It would certainly not be an authentic friendship. By robbing your “friend” of the freedom to choose you, you have undermined the concept of love and relationship.

So it is with God and us. For the relationship between God and people, and between people to be authentic, both love and freedom have to be real. When freedom to love was given to us, a necessary condition of that freedom is of course, the freedom not to love. This is the freedom we see exercised all too often on the battlefields of war, where we see fraud, crime, assault, poverty, and hatred.

The sad reality of our condition is that it is people acting freely who cause more suffering for each other than any other single cause. In the 20th century alone, we killed more of each other than in all preceding 19 centuries combined. However, any world other than the one we’re in now, would be one where both love and relationship would not be possible. God wanted a universe in which love and relationship were both real and possible. Suffering is a necessarily unavoidable part of that.

 

A God Who Knows

There are still aspects of suffering that don’t seem to fit with God’s power or His character. What about kids with cancer? What about natural disasters? What about innocent people who suffer for no good reason?

This all comes back to two things: Our information and God’s trustworthiness. When it comes to suffering, we humans are playing with limited information. We know less than there is to know. Therefore, we’re not in a position to pass moral judgments, let alone pass them against God. Put simply, He knows more than us and is smarter than us (Isaiah 55 and Ephesians 3).

Strangely, we don’t evaluate other truth claims just because of a lack of information. It’s likely that if you’re reading this, then you—like me—don’t know what the capital city of Chad is, what the average weight of a Bengal tiger is, or what the circumference of the Earth is. However, we don’t assume—just because we don’t know—that there are no answers to these questions.

In the same way, there may well be reasons for suffering that exist but that we don’t see. It seems a little arrogant to assume that for something to be true, I must know what it is.

By contrast, God does know all things (Psalm 147:5). This certainly provide us with some reassurance, but in itself that’s not enough. For someone to prove themselves trustworthy, they need to do more than demonstrate possession of information. It is on the question of God’s trustworthiness that we now turn, and what we see is nothing short of life-changing.

 

A God Who Cares

The responses to suffering out there are weird and wide-ranging, depending on your worldview. Some say that God is real but He can will whatever suffering He wants and we’re not allowed to question Him. Another group may say that we are the cause of our own suffering (because of things that we have done in our lives, either this one or a previous one). Yet others say that the cause of suffering is desire, so the answer is to meditate ourselves out of all desire. Finally, the atheists—when being honest—say that all suffering is meaningless. As many of the New Atheists have written: we are just molecules, so who cares about suffering! Without going into more detail, it’s pretty clear that all of these responses fail. They break down intellectually, emotionally, and existentially.

Then we turn to the Cross of Jesus Christ. What we see is a God who is not removed from suffering, not immune to it, not asking us to ignore it or think our way out of it. No. This is a God who loves us so much that He literally stepped down into our suffering. He suffered for us, as one of us. He defeated suffering on a Cross. He made a way for us to be with Him and for us to be free from suffering into eternity. And in the meantime, He promises to take our hand (if we’re willing to give it to Him) and to give us the strength to go through the temporary suffering of our broken world (1 Peter 1:6-9, Romans 8:18).

In my years as a lawyer and then a political adviser, there was no shortage of emotional, existential and professional turbulence, much of which caused suffering. At those times, it was the assurance of a sovereign, loving and redemptive God with whom I was in and up close and personal relationship, that got me through.

The Cross of Jesus Christ is quite simply unparalleled as a response to human suffering. It shows a God of love, a God who knows, and a God who cares, taking on suffering for those He loves, through a verifiable event in human history. God’s response to suffering is neither abstract nor is it philosophical. It is intellectually coherent, yes. But it is gritty. It is practical. It is tangible. It is life-changing. And it is the only response on the market where perfect love comes together with perfect mercy through God Himself, to offer humankind a way of out of our own brokenness and our world’s brokenness.

Whatever it is you may be going through, please know that there is a God with His hands and heart open and waiting for you—a God who suffered for you and who is reaching out to take your hand, so you can conquer through the suffering.

 

 

How Do I Love God When I Can’t Understand His Actions?

Written By Andrew Purchase, South Africa

Andrew Purchase hails from South Africa, but has lived in Singapore since 2009. He has experience as a litigation lawyer, has a love of calligraphy, is terrible at choosing restaurants, has too much sugar in his coffee and adores T. S. Eliot. He is married with two daughters and works as a pastor at Redemption Hill Church.

How do I love God when I can’t understand His actions?

This was a question I asked myself some years ago. I was in the middle of a crisis. I had to close down a church that I had planted. I felt like I had been obedient to God. Yet, I felt like I had failed.

It felt like God had called me. Yet it felt like God had abandoned me in some way.

Many people face their own version of the same question: How do I love God when life is tough and God is not providing me with answers?

I discovered that this is a question with a surprising answer. Part of the answer is flipping the question.

While I was in my dark place—confused by God’s actions and asking how I was to love Him—it felt as if God had flipped the question on me. It felt like He was asking:

When you don’t understand what I am doing, why don’t you ask whether you can experience My love in those moments?”

O happy day, what an answer that brought!

Love can occur even in the absence of complete understanding. One of love’s greatest virtues is that it can transcend our understanding of our problems.

The Bible is emphatic on this point. We can experience God’s love even in situations where we don’t have complete knowledge or understanding:

. . . 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. (Ephesians 3:17-19, emphasis added)

Christ’s love surpasses knowledge. It’s bigger than human understanding. Love supersedes knowledge.

In my state of confusion, it was as if I had heard an authoritative whisper say, “Let Me love you first; and answer your questions second.

What’s better? Knowing the details of God’s sovereign workings; or knowing and experiencing the full dimensions of His love?

I decided that knowing God’s love was the superior choice. Focusing on receiving God’s love, as opposed to making total sense of hard topics—was one of the best decisions I ever made.

It’s hard to describe what God’s love feels like. For me—at that time—it was the knowledge that no matter what, God was going to look after me (Hebrews 13:6).

God’s love was also this: Even in my heap of failure, God did not love me any less than when I was ostensibly a success. I realized that His love is greatest when I need it most (Psalm 73:26).

At my lowest, I felt His love go deeper than my low. How far I had tumbled. Yet how much further down His love extended. To find me, it had to go there (Psalm 139:8).

And down there, I had an experience of God. It was the experience of a lifetime. I learned to enjoy God’s company, just for His company’s sake. I learned His friendship. I learned that to worship at a deep level is to worship at a high level. I learned that His presence is ever near—even in the toughest of times. I learned to be conscious that He is close.

And now—years later, when all is well—I have answers.

One of my best answers is that difficulties are great times to experience God’s love and to know Him more intimately.

Thus, when we are tempted to ask, “How do I love God when life is tough and God is not providing me with answers to my questions?” we need to take a step back. We need to remember that when it comes to God and love, God is the First Mover. He loves first. It is His pattern, His way.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. . . And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.” (1 John 4:10, 16, emphasis added)

He loves first. When we can’t love Him, He loves first. When we lack understanding, we can at least understand that He loves us.

So when we are confused about life and God’s actions, and have mailed a list of 100 questions to God (but feel like we got no reply)—what can we do?

The answer is deceptively simple. The answer is God Himself. He is not just an Answerer; He is the Answer. And His answer is to be with us to love us.

The truth about Christianity is that Jesus has made it possible for us to be with God now, to know Him, and to feel the warmth of His face now. Jesus is Immanuel—God with us. He has promised to always be with us. We have the Holy Spirit.

Some questions are illogical and have no answer (“Lord, can a square ever be round?”).

Some questions God does not answer yet as a matter of timing.

Some questions God does not answer because they distract us from asking a better question.

But there is one question God always answers: “Lord, can you be with me now with your love and peace?”

It is a question He doesn’t necessarily answer with words, but He answers it with His own presence and His love.

As C. S. Lewis famously put it: “I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?” (from Till We Have Faces).

In moments of confusion and frustration, the best way to love God is often to simply be loved by Him.

From God’s Heart To Yours

Title: From God’s Heart To Yours
Artwork by: Estelle Quek (@morethanworks)
Description: 
It’s Valentine’s Day! We all know it’s d-day where we celebrate love, whether you are attached or single. It’s a day we associate with giddy feelings, chocolates and balloons, and of course, love letters!  

At some point in our lives, we’ve probably written a love letter to a loved one before (and you might even be writing one now). There’s something deeply personal and meaningful about receiving a love letter—especially when it comes from our Creator Himself. Here’s a few of them, just for you.

God’s love is eternal. He will always be with us through this life and beyond. It doesn’t matter what challenges life might throw our way, we can be sure that He will be there to walk us through it.

Deuteronomy 31:6 : “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

 

We might attempt to fill our lives with love through relationships, things, or experiences–but only God’s love can complete and satisfy us.

1 John 4:16 :  So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

 

God’s love is sacrificial. We were bought at a price—one that cost His life. Through His death, we’ve been redeemed and made right with God, so we can now put aside the things of the past and live lives of purity and holiness.

Romans 5:8 : but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 

Sometimes it can feel like we’re far away from God when we’re in the thick of trials and troubles. But His Word assures us that nothing in this world can ever separate us from His love. Cling on to this truth and let it comfort and strengthen us through tough times.

Romans 8:38-39 : For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

When we receive Christ into our lives, He gives us His Holy Spirit so that we are able to fully experience His love for us, understand His ways–and fill the lives of those around us with His love.

Romans 5:5 : And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.