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.
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
“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.