City News talks to three families who have journeyed with City Harvest Church, whose first visits in the early ‘90s turned into a lifelong commitment.
Contributed By Bernie Guan and Glynisia Yeo
|PHOTOS COURTESY OF TAN YEW MENG, LESLIE PHUA & GLORIA LEONG. PHOTO ILLUSTRATON: PHOEBE SUNG|
This weekend, City Harvest Church celebrates its 21st anniversary at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. It will be a time when the congregation, young and old, gathers to give thanks to God and to one another, and relive a myriad of memories.
After more than two decades, this community of believers continues to embrace one of the core values of the church that is central to its ministry: Loving God wholeheartedly and loving people fervently. The relationships that have been formed in this spiritual family see individuals whose lives have been intertwined with one another and who share a common faith in Jesus Christ.
Counted among the pioneers are three families who have followed the church through the years, since its early days. In the midst of a congregation full of students and young professionals, these adults stood out from everyone else. City News talks to them and uncovers one clear and obvious fact: Their love for the church runs deep.
Serving The Purposes Of God
For Leslie Phua and his wife, June Lee, a church full of young students was no deterrence. Rather it was the inconsumable zeal, passion and love for God the youth had that attracted the couple (together with their young children Tania and Timothy) back to the church after their first visit to CHC in 1992.
Moving from a family church to a thriving congregation full of young people was evidently divine. The Lord was orchestrating a new beginning for the Phua family when young Tania was first invited by her friend to join the church in 1992. Soon, her parents and brother joined her as they settled into this vibrant spiritual sanctuary called CHC.
“In that first visit, June and I were blown away by the praise and worship during the service. We were also impacted by the preaching of God’s Word and the love that the members showed to us. There and then, we decided that this was going to be our home,” recalls Phua.
Back then, Phua was working as a director and a general manager, overseeing several companies, while Lee ran a café business in Toa Payoh. They were among the first examples of City Harvesters being out in the marketplace.
When Lee’s mother passed away in 1998, the couple’s friends and their leaders in the church rallied around the family to comfort them in the mourning process. Reminisces Phua, “The leaders and cell group members came to offer us help when we didn’t ask for any. My cell group leader back then, [Yong] Te-Chong, was there for us all the time. Their presence really warmed our hearts.”
In another instance when Phua was hospitalized due to a bad case of food poisoning, cell group members visited him. The simple act touched his heart. By all accounts, Phua knew that “CHC has been and will always be built on the love of God, and love for people.”
Life was tough, juggling between work, ministry and parenting at the same time. Putting aside the demands of their daily work, both Phua and his wife were committed to applying godly principles in raising their family. In matters relating to finance, the couple emphasized to their two children the value of wise money management and faithfulness in giving their tithes and offerings to God. Today, Tania, 33, resides in Adelaide, Australia, working in real estate, while 27-year old Timothy is a facilities officer.
Said Phua, “Before we came to CHC, we had visited a few other churches, but never felt quite as at home as we did when we stepped into CHC. That’s when the Lord told us, CHC will be the church we would serve in.”
A Place To Raise Their Family
Educators Tan Yew Meng and Kwan Khuen Eoi, have three daughters whose names have the same acronym as C.H.C.—Corrie, 22, Heidi, 21 and Charis, 15. This, asserts Tan, was not the reason why the couple decided to plant themselves in the church. It was after much prayer that both Tan and Kwan felt a quiet assurance in their hearts that CHC was the best place to raise their family and their three young girls, aged 7, 6 and a newborn after they first visited the church in the early ‘90s.
Soon after taking root in the house of God, the couple joined the first adult cell group led by Shirley Yeo. A year later, the Children’s Church was started and the three girls began attending the children’s services every week. It was during those times that their daughters grew immensely in their walk with God. Today, both Corrie and Heidi are graduates from universities in the United States, and the Children’s Church still holds wonderful memories for the three girls.
When Kwan’s mother passed away suddenly in Ipoh, Malaysia, some years ago, the family was brought even closer and rooted deeper in the house of God. With Tan’s heavy work commitments, he was unable to accompany his wife back to Ipoh for the funeral. A church staff and two fellow church members packed their bags immediately to travel with her to give her moral support. This gesture assured the couple of the firm friendship and family ties within the spiritual family.
Recalling another incident, Tan shared about a time when Corrie, then 20, missed her flight and was stranded in New York City all by herself. Tan contacted CHC’s senior pastor, Kong Hee, who immediately put him in touch with KC Gan, who was in New York City at that time. Gan contacted her and offered his assistance in making travel arrangements to help her return to Singapore. To the Tans, this was more than a nice gesture; it encouraged the grateful parents to love God’s people even more.
Finding A Home
|PHOTO COURTESY OF CITY HARVEST CHURCH|
Joyce and Gloria Leong used to attend a Chinese-speaking church with their parents, but being English-educated and not understanding much of what they heard in the services, attending church was like attending a social event.
When her mom passed on, Gloria prayed to God, “Dear Lord, find me an English-speaking church that You feel is right for me.” The following week, her niece visited her and asked, “Would you like to come visit my church at the World Trade Centre?” Gloria promptly agreed and visited the church.
Says Gloria, “The preaching hit me instantly; it was practical and fully applicable for Christians. And the way the preacher spoke to the congregation, it was clear to see that this young man loved his flock.” Gloria kept coming back to the church week after week, and brought her sister, Joyce, along for a Bible study session.
Incidentally, the Leong sisters, both in their 60s today, were among the first business owners back then. Working as suit specialists in the tailoring business, the sisters had the pleasure of making Kong’s wedding suit, as well as the suits that many male members wore to services in the ‘90s.
Besides sound doctrinal teachings with practical application of the Word and prayer, the jovial pair is convinced that it was the genuine love for people by the pastors, long-time friend, Shirley Yeo, and cell group leaders such as their current leaders, Lee Kian Hong and his wife, Ong Sin Lee, that sealed their 20-year association.
These days, the sisters are busy with church activities and hosting cell group meetings in their house. When the church holds its early morning prayer meetings at 7 a.m., the two sisters will be there, rain or shine; making sure they go to bed as early as 8 p.m. in order to rise at 4:30 a.m. to prepare for the prayer meetings every day for a week.
Summing it up, Leong affirms, “Being among the oldest in a church full of young people never really mattered to Joyce and I. We were hungry for God’s Word, and we found it here at City Harvest.”