Drawing inspiration from the City Harvest mission to “find a need and meet it; find a hurt and heal it,” this cell group came together to make over a member’s home.
Contributed By Lucia Ku
In May this year when John Lam, Tee Wai Wai, and Collin Lim first visited Priscilla Chen in her home, they were struck by the decrepit and stifling condition of the three-room HDB flat. Lam, 43, is a member of City Harvest Church and oversees the cell group BBG-TM 105. Tee and Lim are connect group leaders in the cell group. The trio decided something had to be done for Chen.
The fifth storey walk-up flat was dilapidated—due to years of abuse and neglect. Just past the entrance was an overcrowded living area where piles of books, boxes and everyday items had been stacked haphazardly. The clutter left only a narrow pathway to the equally disorganized and dirty kitchen. The once-white walls were stained with yellow and gray marks, and speckled with crayon doodles left over from the children’s toddler years. Lighting was dim throughout the house, and clothes were strewn all over the floor of the two bedrooms, because there wasn’t sufficient storage space.
Life has not been easy on 43-year-old Chen, a working mother with three children: Jie Min, 9, Siobhan, 11, and Yong Wen, 13. Chen is employed as a team assistant in a company, which requires her to work overtime every now and then. Aside from her hectic work schedule, this mother takes time to help her children with their homework. By her own admittance, the mess in her home started to accumulate due to lack of both time and support. Chen shared her concerns about her children’s academic and social development with her cell group. She wanted to but didn’t know how she could improve the lives of her growing children.
Noting that the children barely had space to move amid the mess—much less to study—the trio shared Chen’s predicament with their cell group members, who readily decided to contribute their time, skills, money, and physical labor to give Chen’s home a fix-up. Fifty individuals promptly pooled a total amount of S$11,000. A key committee was formed to plan, lead and implement the project, which spanned three consecutive Sundays. The group referred to this as the “Choose Love” makeover project, inspired by City Harvest Church’s motto this season.
Work began on June 4. The first team—made up of professionals and business people in their 30s and 40s—arrived to survey the space and spatial requirements of the family, and to begin the first phase of packing and cleaning.
The second Sunday saw a group of 15 volunteers cramming into the tiny flat with the aim of getting rid of all that was too old, unusable and unnecessary. While the women sorted and packed, the men went up and down five flights of stairs multiple times to dispose of a total of 50 large rubbish bags, plus some bulky furniture. The group had decided that the S$200 fee required by trash collectors could be better spent on meaningful purchases for the family. It was quite a sight to witness middle-aged businessmen, designers, senior managers and even chief financial executives hard at work for hours on end, toting bag after bag of trash.
When the professional painters and contractors came to install the kitchen cabinets, repaint the walls and assemble new furniture from IKEA like dining tables, study desks and a sofa, Chen and her family were safely ensconced at the YWCA for three nights—a fully-paid stay courtesy of the cell group.
The grand finale of this meaningful endeavor happened on the third Sunday, on June 18. The final group of volunteers came to the flat to unpack boxes and re-organize the space. By 3:30 p.m., the home had been completely transformed into a brightly-lit home with proper living spaces, and a place for each child to study. Where three people once found difficulty sitting in their home, it now accommodated more than 20 people at its housewarming party.
At the end of the party, the cell group members gathered together for a prayer session to dedicate the house to God. Moved, Chen shed tears of gratitude. She said that the makeover meant a lot to her because it heralded a new beginning. “Because BBG-TM 115 chose love, my family can have love.”
Cell group leader Lam said, “Most of us tend to take a helicopter view of ministry. But ministry and making a difference are very much about touching the individual heart, just as Jesus went about touching the lives of individuals.”