For the last 20 years, CHC’s Church Without Walls program has been fulfilling its vision of helping those beyond the walls of the church and bringing the Gospel to them.
In 1996, when she was 7, her world was turned upside down when her parents decide to get a divorce. With her two younger sisters, Kong Yunrui, now 27, was uprooted from her home and had to stay with her paternal grandmother and an uncle.
“I felt rejected by my parents,” Kong shared. “Soon, it affected my school results.”
Kong was a top student when she was in primary one, but by primary two, she began to sleep through her classes and exhibit a bad attitude towards her teachers.
In 1996, Kong started attending City Harvest Church with the children of a family friend. While she did not remember much of what happened in church, she could not forget the love that the children’s church teachers showed her when they visited her home weekly.
“They would spend time with us, eating and telling us Bible stories,” she recalls. “There were buses that would come and fetch the three of us to church, so it was very convenient. The bus rides were also something I looked forward to.”
Things started to get better when Kong reached primary three: her results improved and she started assuming leadership roles in school.
“Without the teachers from church, my life would have turned out very differently,” says Kong. “They celebrated our successes, hugged us when we were feeling down and encouraged us to do well in school. They were like parents to us, and that was very precious to me. When I grew older, pastor Glordia (Goh, a pastor in the children’s ministry) taught me to love and serve people. This shaped my values, and today I enjoy serving the members in my cell group.”
Kong is now a senior educational therapist who helps children with learning disabilities. She is also a cell group leader in CHC, helping others in unfortunate situations.
CHURCH WITHOUT WALLS: THEN AND NOW
Over the past two decades, Church Without Walls has resulted in church members helping many people outside the four walls of the church. Members also brought the Gospel to those who would otherwise not step into church.
It all began when the founder of CHC, Kong Hee received a word from God directing him to the first two Commandments. “Loving God wholeheartedly, loving people fervently” became the mantra that CHC members live by up to today. To bring the love of God outside the four walls of the church means, in practical terms, to help those who are needy and marginalized in society. Out of the efforts of those early days, ministries like Chinese Church, Dialect Church, Harvest Kidz and JAMs (Jesus for All Minds) Church—serving the elderly, children, at-risk youth and the intellectually disabled—were birthed. The church also collaborated with its charity arm, City Harvest Church Community Services Association, to serve the wider community.
SERVING THE SENIORS
CHC’s Dialect Church, founded in 1996, reaches out to elderly people through home visits. “Logistically, it is very hard for us to have cell group meetings for elderly members,” says Maria Tok, the pastor who oversees the Dialect Church. “That is why we do one-to-one visitations.”
Many of those they reach out to live alone in low-cost housing. Some are barely able to care for their own basic needs. Through genuine and consistent care, coupled with practical aid, the ministry began to see great impact and increase over time. Today, the Dialect Church visits 290 elderly members weekly.
“During our visits, our volunteers would pray for the elderly, spend time getting to know their life and to build a relationship with them. We also help them with simple tasks like cleaning up the house and reading letters.”
In recent years, the Dialect Church started conducting programs for the elderly across senior recreational centers and family service centers in Singapore, such as Care Corner, Fei Yue and Sunlove Neighborhood Link.
“It all started when a senior daycare center invited our team to share the Christmas story back in 2005,” Tok recalls. “Subsequently, one of the volunteers who works in a center for elderly invited us to do singing sessions every fortnight. We would also share about life issues with Biblical values, but not preach the Bible directly. This organization has a few centers and word started to get around. Soon, all the other centers became interested and invited us to help with their events. We also started sending out invitations to church to the centers when we hold our big day events. That is how we built relationships with the centers and invited their clients to our church.”
The Dialect Church now conducts programs in over 20 centers in Singapore.
SERVING THOSE WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
Another ministry birthed out of Church Without Walls is Jesus for All Minds, or JAMs Church. Headed by pastor Lily Yong, JAMs looks after those who are intellectually-disabled. It started with Yong looking after four members with special needs. Today, JAMs Church has 31 buses ferrying members to three worship services weekly. They also have cell group meetings and personal Bible study sessions.
“Our sermons are very simple messages teaching on God’s love using simple props,” says Yong. “Now our members have grown in spiritual depth, we can teach on topics such as the armor of God, the purpose of the church and the heroes of the Bible. They are also able to memorize Scriptures and speak in tongues. We use a variety of creative means such as role-playing, multimedia presentations and science experiments to engage them.”
JAMs also gives the members a chance to go on stage to pray during corporate prayer meetings and preach during preaching competitions. They would also lay hands on one another to pray. These seemingly easy tasks may be challenging for people with special needs.
“Our members have also learned to be cheerful givers over the years. They have made and given hampers out to the needy.”
Each week, the volunteers at JAMs make over 100 visits to members’ homes. During visits, they would connect with the members and their families, and at the same time assess the needs of the family.
“Over the years, we have become stronger in connecting with our members and their families through outings like family trips to Johor Bahru and Legoland in Malaysia; family lunches in church, prayer gatherings for parents and workshops.”
JAMs Church has also started sharing its experience. Yong says, “We organized two local conferences on different issues faced by family members of those with special needs. We also conducted workshops in Indonesian churches to teach them how to do worship services for people with special needs.”