As City Harvest Church celebrates its 27th anniversary, 27 cell group leaders talk about their roles in building up this spiritual family—from overcoming personal struggles to the reward of witnessing the manifold signs and wonders God has brought to the house.
The cell group model has been the building block of City Harvest Church ever since it began in 1989 with a group of 20 youth. Today, 554 cell groups (CGs) meet every week in various parts of the island for members to minister to and fellowship. City News Weekly talks to 27 cell group leaders (CGLs) about their ups, downs and what motivates them to lead, serve and shepherd.
Going Through The Valley Together
Johnson Hay, 37, HR manager and Huang Shilin, 33, teacher (E371 & N422)
Once, we told ourselves “without valleys, there would be no mountains”; we were drawn to students who were not doing well in school, youth who struggled at home; basically, people in their valley moments. One of our members, Jasmine Yen, held on to her faith, and grew from studying at ITE to now pursuing a degree in accountancy. Another member, Shirley Soon, who struggled in her early life, is happily married and now working as an educator, teaching young ones. Growing up with such members and seeing the faithfulness of God in all of our lives, is the most precious gift to a CGL.
A Vessel Of Grace For Others
Jonathan Ng, 26, financial consultant (W450)
I have struggled with low self-esteem since I was young, and that didn’t change even after I became a CGL. I constantly remind myself that my reward is in God, and not in the praises of others, or how “good” I feel about myself. By God’s grace, I have witnessed leaders arising from my CG, and members break through similar struggles I faced. Zhijie, who has been with me since day one, came to church as a secondary school kid who struggled with extremely low self-esteem and poor interpersonal skills. Now he is confident, friendly and serves in the usher ministry and in CG—none of which anyone would have expected him to do seven years ago!
Ushering In The Presence Of God
Audrey Yeo, early 30s, executive (E277)
I always try to usher in the presence of God during meetings because that is what keeps the members going, persevering for their breakthroughs and seeing their desires come to pass. Many times, I cannot be with them as they face various challenges and make hard decisions, but what I can do is to lead them to the Word, to the presence of God where they can find answers. We do not know God’s timing, but as we bring them before the Lord in our prayer closet, at the same time encouraging them through a note or a text, in due time God will surely answer.
Gerald Wong, 26, management
consultant (W537 & N520)
In 2015, I received a vision from God to challenge my CG to reach a service attendance of 30—our usual was 22—and it was to be done in just two and a half weeks. I saw how members came together to fast, pray and meet each other’s needs, and we broke through with 32! It was a reminder that indeed we can do all things through Christ. Until today, many of the people that came because of that two and a half-week period are still with us.
Tee Wai Wai, 41, Director of Sales (S64)
The most amazing thing is experiencing the manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit in CG meetings and members’ lives. Danielle Too met with a tragic accident in June 2011, and her lumbar 3 fractured, hitting her spinal cord. The doctor was unable to say if she would be able to stand up again. After the operation, she needed to be in a wheelchair for up to six months, but God miraculously sped up the healing! She could walk out of the hospital after just 16 days. One year later, she was fully healed and able to play her favorite sport—badminton!
The Word Is The Key
Moses, consultant, and Mee Mee Wong, educator, 50 something (S59)
Serving with Pastor Mike Connell on a cell group mission trip in Dec 2015 was a turning point for our CG. We were richly ministered to and many CG members were released from hurts and diseases. When we returned, we started a chronological Bible reading plan because we believe that revelation knowledge and sustainable change comes only when we habitually dig deep into God’s Word. We wanted each member to become directly dependent on God, receiving firsthand revelation from Him. Shortly after, we began to witness the Lord bringing healing, prophetic words and visions as the CG drew closer to God. It is such a privilege to see, firsthand, God’s work in people’s lives and situations. It is always amazing to see the Master at work, His perfect timing and His creative solutions for His children when they turn to Him.
Juggling Family And Ministry
Adam Tay, 33, civil servant (E420)
My biggest challenge as a CGL came when I became a father of two kids, and had to juggle between family and ministry. My members stood by me and patiently allowed me to fulfil my fatherly duties; they stayed faithful in turning up for CG meetings and service and even continued to evangelize and bring friends to church on their own accord. They are such an amazing bunch of people whom I am very grateful to the Lord for.
The Greatest Thing
Angeline Liu, 33, manager (E474)
I became a CGL in 2007. It has always been amazing to see how God works in the members’ life from the very first day they step into church. I remember everyone from the very beginning, how God moved them to tears and won their hearts with His unconditional love, how they learned to lean on Jesus when life got challenging. I love the fact that as their CGL, you get to pray, cry, laugh with them and hold on to God with them when times are tough. And best of all, you get to walk through the journey of life together and grow old with them. It is indeed the greatest thing, to have found friendship and family here in the CG.
Building A Great House For God
Lee Kiam Hiong, 63, business owner and Ong Sin Lee, 62, home-maker (E349, E382, E450 & N392)
Throughout these 18 years, we know this—that we are His “building stones for the construction of a sanctuary vibrant with life, in which we’ll serve as holy priests offering Christ-approved lives up to Him.” (1 Pet 2:5 MSG) We have been very blessed by the leadership of Pastor Kong, Sun and all the pastors and staff of CHC. We appreciate every faithful leader and member as living stones of the church. Our CGs comprise members who are in their 40s to 70s. Their presence in church and at CG meetings inspire and encourage us a great deal. On this anniversary, do pray with us that collectively, we will build a great house for God, holy and vibrant with the life of the Spirit.
Peace In The Waiting
Helen Malabanan, 36, accountant (W252)
I lead an all-Filipino CG made up of foreign talents in Singapore. We share the same challenges: adjusting to working in a foreign land, pressure in getting jobs, homesickness. Over the years we have become the dearest of friends: we study the Scriptures together, pray for each other, cry and laugh together. Last year, one of my members lost his job and he was given 30 days to get a new job or else he would have to return to the Philippines. In the midst of this crisis, his spiritual family was there to pray, encourage and provide assistance for him. He learned to completely put his trust in God and be at peace while waiting. Now he is enjoying his new job with a much bigger compensation package.
Mark Louis Yong, 25, investment analyst (N327)
While growth in our CG was not exponential in the last five years, it was natural. We did not have to push members to reach out, but friends would come. My long-time friend and member Chun Feng would constantly reach out to his army mates. Because of his heart for God’s Kingdom, I saw him blessed with sponsorships for his school fees. Seeing members blessed and walking in the will of God makes it all worth it.
Deliverance in Unity
Athalia Soon, 31, assistant sales manager (W531)
My greatest reward as a CGL to see my members stay, grow stronger and closer with each other. What motivates me to continue serving are our church leaders. Despite their personal challenges, I see them loving God with pure motives, and loving people the best they can. Joel 2:2-7 says, “The army of God rise up during the Days of trouble. They run like mighty men…every one marches in formation, And they do not break ranks.” Deliverance is in the unity of His people. I am called to bring His people together and win more souls.
Never Giving Up
Raymond Low, 29, manager (N426)
What motivates me to serve despite the challenging past few years: I love the members whom God has placed under my care. The greatest gift I can give to them is to be committed and faithful to them. I was inspired to become a CGL because my own CGL was patient with my weaknesses and went the extra mile for me. Just as how Jesus never gave up on His sheep, neither will I give up on my sheep.
Character Above Comfort
Jasmine Kon, early 30s, Emerge and zone secretary (E541)
I struggled greatly with feelings of inadequacy; because of this, I worked very hard so as to “not let God down”. But God is so good—He cares more about our character than our comfort. It was during Pastor Mike Connell’s session at the School of Theology where I received a breakthrough and a renewal in my mindset. Walking in the privilege and honor to shepherd, disciple and raise up the next generation in the ways of the Lord, I have witnessed many of my members rising up to leadership, actively living out Luke 4:18-19 by being carriers of revival wherever they go!
Helping Others Experience The Same Grace
Catherine Tey, 42, housewife/interpreter/mother of five girls (S57)
Coming from a dysfunctional family, I was powerfully delivered from demons, depression and insecurity in CHC. I wanted to help others experience God the same way, and as the youngest person in my CG at the time, I remember telling them at the first meeting, “I am younger than most of you, I am single, and I have no children, but I have known God a little longer and I am confident I can lead you closer to Him. If you face marriage or parenting problems, we will find wisdom and answers from the Bible together.”
Sowing Into Eternity
Edwin Ong, 31, marketing communications manager, and Rae Lee, 31, regional HR assistant vice president (W453)
All of us start out ignorant of our identity and potential in Christ; we slowly learn, taking small steps of faith to trust in His plans for us. Among the various ones in our CG that God has greatly transformed is Asher, who dropped out of school, but by the grace and love of God, picked himself up and graduated from Republic Polytechnic last year as valedictorian. He was also inducted into the Director’s Roll of Honor for four semesters and received two scholarships. Knowing that we are sowing into eternity by bringing God’s love and hope to others, and that we will eventually reap, is our greatest reward.
Channeling The Compassion of Christ
Chua Xiu Wen, 29, tutor/part-time church translator (S68)
In 2011, I was asked to take over two CGs. It was really challenging at the start. At the first meeting, only five out of 30 members turned up! I felt like I was trying so hard but to no avail. One day, when I was reading the Bible, I read about how Jesus had compassion on the multitude because they were like sheep without a shepherd. I was determined to continue to do my best for my group. In 2013, we multiplied the CG. Looking back, I realized my group consisted of people from 10 CGs, with different backgrounds. Yet, we manage to be united. I am so thankful because this is truly a work of God.
Just Being There
Matthias Yeo, 38, chief technology officer (N244)
It’s an honor that my members entrust their deepest fears and worries to me, knowing that I will be there for them to support them and pray through with them for their breakthrough. When I first started, my worry was always whether will I ever be good enough to lead my CG. Among other things, I was not a good preacher when I began, but later I realized all these were secondary; the most important thing is to love them, listen to them, and care for them. Sometimes they don’t need answers as much as someone to be there for them.
Charting Life’s Milestones Together
Bernard Loh, 37, producer presenter (N321)
Wondering if I could lead and gain the respect of the members—that was my fear. How did I overcome this? It was a journey. Through time, we built a friendship on trust. It’s a joy growing old with them, witnessing every milestone with them, from their graduation to their first paycheck after praying so hard for that open door, to their first, second, third breakup…and eventually seeing them walk down the aisle. It’s like a father watching his child grow up.
Planted And Rooted
Dennis Cheok, 27, marketing executive (E510)
During an altar call at the Christmas weekend service in 2014, my potential CGL Clarissa Loo prayed for a walk-in visitor who was looking for a cell group. I was feeling quite heavy-hearted that day because we hadn’t managed to invite more people. After two years, this new member became committed, rooted and is grounded in church. Jeraine Chong is now serving in the dance ministry and is a connect group leader in our CG.
Martin Ong, 43, business owner (E550)
I attended church every Sunday for two years but it was only after I joined a CG that my life started to change and my marriage was restored. It was the one-on-one discipleship from my CGL that influenced the change, and I decided that I could help others by stepping up as a leader too. Over the last 16 years as a CGL, I have seen families rebuilt, businesses revived, members healed of cancer, and one marriage was restored at the last minute, just before they signed the divorce papers!
A Fire for The Youth
See Toh Wai Yin, 31, teacher (E556)
My greatest desire is to see my members’ lives change and to see them grow up loving and serving God, slowly evolving into God-fearing youths, committed, no foul language, no running to the toilet during service, teacheable and hungry…that is the greatest reward I get as a leader. Today, they are walking toward being a disciple for Christ…walking in line with God’s purpose is the best thing anyone can ask for! I love what I do.
Each One A Prayer Warrior
Joshua Koh, 41, realtor (W288)
I want to thank God for all my members…when one of us has a need and posts it in the CG whatsapp chat, the rest will pray and stand together and believe God for a miracle. Recently, Richard Tham had an X-ray and the doctor found a gall stone near his bladder that needed to be removed. In the operating theatre the surgeon couldn’t find the stone!