Ever wondered what our church workers do when they conduct a home visit? City News shadows Dialect Church worker Emily Loo for an evening to find out.
It is 7pm on a dusky Thursday evening, and the roads are bustling with rush-hour traffic. For Emily Loo, who has been serving the City Harvest Dialect Church for eight years, first as a volunteer and then as a full-time pastoral staff member, the night is early yet.
She makes her way out of MacPherson MRT to the Circuit Road HDB estate, and heads to Uncle Soo Chair Gee’s flat, the first of about a dozen stops this evening.
Uncle Soo receives Loo with the cheery nonchalance one greets an old friend. She steps into the flat and asks about his day, lightly admonishing him when he makes an unnecessary comment about certain individuals. In between light-hearted banter, she shares Bible verses on single-mindedness, kindness and generosity. Before leaving to visit the next member, she prays—in Cantonese—for healing in his sore leg, and then encourages him to attend service that weekend.
It’s this level of personal connection that has helped the Dialect Church grow from 20 to 340 members since it started in 1996. While the youth and working adults of CHC are encouraged to join a cell group, other ministries such as the Harvest Kidz Children’s Church, the JAMs (Jesus for All Minds) Church and the Dialect Church predominantly adopt a home visitation model in order to ensure each member gets ministered to on a personal level.
Loo’s next stop is a home whose owners are the very picture of “cute old couple.” Both are sitting in the living room when she arrives. Madam Loh Siew Lan had suffered a bad fall recently, which causes her to groan intermittently. Loo asks if she is in pain, but she says no. The church worker then asks if she has been reading her Bible; Madam Loo replies no, prompting Loo to read her a Bible passage and pray with her. In the background, her husband, Uncle Lai Fatt Shem, all ruddy-cheeked and toothless, claps and sings in dialect, occasionally proclaiming “Jesus is alive!” in English. He is almost blind, but the joy he exudes is undeniable, unbridled, reminiscent of a young child’s.
The next visit takes place along the corridor of Aunty Yong Ah Lan’s flat. She has so many children that her youngest son is the same age as one of her grandsons. She is also a master Hakka cook who has taken part in several cooking competitions during the Dialect Church’s carnivals. Loo encourages her to exercise regularly, and after a few more minutes, bids goodbye.
Many of those Loo visits this evening are long-time church members, faithfully attending every weekend service through the Church’s bussing program which picks up members from multiple estates across the island. Dialect Church members range in age from their 30s to their 90s.
Each visit lasts an average of about 15 minutes; asked how she makes each one count, Loo replies that the bittersweet sense of loss she feels when a member passes away motivates her to reach out and encourage, to the fullest, those who are still alive.
She recounts the memory of a woman who had been a regular church attendee at one point, but stopped going after she moved to a nursing home. She did not leave her new contact details, and Loo lost touch with her.
Two years passed, and one day Loo received a call from one of her children. Apparently, the children were reminded about their mother’s connections from church after she kept showing them her cross pendant. Shortly after, she died, and Loo helped to conduct her funeral service.
“Sometimes we look at them during service, and we are not really sure if they understand what is being preached or even if they can hear the preaching properly. But we never know how they encounter God,” says Loo.
NEVER TOO YOUNG TO JOIN DIALECT CHURCH AS A VOLUNTEER!
The Dialect Church is currently recruiting volunteers to serve in various roles; besides doing visitations, volunteers can help with operations, busing members to church or set up the premises before services. To find out more, call 91995440 or drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
This young man is Jonas, 9, and he recently accompanied Pastor Maria Tok, head of the Dialect Church, to visit some of her members.