Andreas and Marie Skogvard, a Swedish couple who moved to Singapore, help run CHC’s Expat Fellowship.
Relocating to another country for work can be a stressful experience. The acculturating individual, together with his or her family, have many personal, social and psychological issues to address, especially if the country they move to has vastly different cultural backgrounds. Integrating into a different culture therefore requires one to familiarize with the new country as much as possible to help lower the emotional impact of change.
In City Harvest Church, a small and vibrant community of expatriates gathers every few months for fellowship and study of the Word. Known as the Expat Fellowship, it is a niche group that caters specifically to the needs of those who are residing in Singapore for a season, and who come from as far as America, France, the U.K., Germany, India, Japan, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and Australia. The fellowship also aims to provide a warm and inviting place where these individuals and their families can build healthy friendships within the church.
Activities vary each time the group meets, from Bible studies to casual outings. The most recent event was a barbecue at East Coast Park which saw 25 people. It was a great time of bonding as everyone enjoyed catching up with old friends and getting to know new ones. On other occasions, the group meets at CHC’s corporate office at 7:30 a.m. for an hour of prayer and sharing of the Word before heading to work.
One of the leaders overseeing this fellowship is Andreas Skogvard. He moved from Sweden to Singapore in 2003 with his wife Marie to study at CHC’s School Of Theology. Upon graduation, they felt called to the pastoral ministry and chose to remain in Singapore.
Headed For Singapore
Andreas’ journey to Singapore, and ultimately to CHC, was a God-moment for him and Marie. He shares, “Back in Sweden, I was working for a company specializing in office solutions and Marie was a social worker. After we were married, we wanted to equip ourselves in the Word and decided to set aside one year to study. We began searching for a suitable Bible college but could not find one in America or Europe that we liked.”
Then one of the elders from their previous church gave them a VHS tape of the Europe Conference and the couple heard CHC’s senior pastor, Kong Hee, preaching for the first time. They were blessed and immediately wanted to find out more about his ministry and realized that his church had a Bible college. They applied for the 2003 intake, were accepted, and prepared themselves for a new challenge in Asia.
For Marie, she was excited about taking this step into the unknown. “To come to a totally new environment and culture was something I really looked forward to; a new adventure.” Even though it was a big step to take, Marie has never regretted her decision to relocate to Singapore. She added, “When you feel the call of God to go, you know everything is going to be alright.”
The past seven years have been fruitful for the Skogvards and they have nicely settled into their new “home” in Singapore. As pastoral zone supervisors in CHC, they oversee about 450 members in their zone. Both are involved in visitations, conducting home cell group meetings, counseling members and giving Bible studies on a weekly basis.
|CN PHOTOS: Lim Chai Seng|
Building Confidence And Love
For Andreas, helping to lead the Expat Fellowship is a different experience from leading a local group, which is usually made up of Singaporeans. “Most expats like to be part of a discussion and most of the time, we prefer to express our opinions more and are not afraid of speaking up or asking questions,” he noted.
Andreas enjoys meeting other expats in the fellowship and through his interactions with them, his personal confidence has grown. He explains, “Talking to one another requires one to be more confident, especially when the floor is open for anyone to speak. There are times when you have to correct or bring the topic back to the Word of God. In so doing, you cannot afford to be afraid of being questioned (about what is preached) and you have to be confident in what you know.”
To Marie, starting all over in a new country, experiencing a new culture, meeting new people, and even getting used to a warmer climate, has been an enriching experience for her overall. She shares, “What we have learned here, from Pastor Kong, CHC and through our daily lives and circumstances, is that we need to keep loving God and live by faith no matter how things turn out in life.”
It was in CHC that Marie experienced, firsthand, the Caring System at work. The Caring System operates on the mantra of “finding a hurt and healing it; finding a need and meeting it.” As such, CHC members are encouraged to share the love of God to people around them in practical ways.
Back in 2003 when she was studying in SOT, Marie was hospitalized midway through and had to stop attending classes for a season. Being in a foreign land, the only people she knew were her friends in CHC. Marie was deeply touched by her cell group members who visited her daily and prayed for her recovery.
She shares, “I saw firsthand the Caring System at work in a very practical way. It was through my members’ encouragement and my husband’s support that I saw the real purpose of the church; that is to show genuine love and care to those in need.”
The Next Step
Andreas is excited about the prospects of the Expat Fellowship and wants to develop it as a place for Christian expatriates to come and fellowship with others of the same faith. “We hope to develop a strong group that will be able to accommodate those who are visiting the church or are staying in Singapore for a few years, and who may not fit in with a regular CHC cell group,” he said.
“Even though these expats may be in Singapore for only a season, we still want to influence them and build them up in their faith and spiritual life and in doing so, give them something that they can bring back to their home country when they return.”
The Expat Fellowship is definitely helping to bridge the gaps that foreigners face upon encountering a new culture. Meeting people from diverse cultures, backgrounds or races, is a feature of this unique ministry. As such, together with the rest of the pastoral department in CHC, the Skogvards look forward to welcome new faces from around the world.
For more information on the Expat Fellowship, please email email@example.com.