Two single mothers share their journeys of not just overcoming the trauma of a broken marriage, but regaining their strength and forming a network of support for other single parents.
Loh Yu Tee first got to know about City Harvest Church when a young lady named Joyce knocked on her door 10 years ago to invite her daughter, then aged seven, to CHC’s children’s church, Harvest Kidz. A bus would come to pick Loh’s daughter up every Saturday for service. During the week, without fail, Teacher Joyce would visit mother and daughter at their home in Choa Chu Kang although the teacher lived in Pasir Ris.
It was a timely intervention, as things were not going well at home. An office administrator, Loh was the breadwinner of the family, working not just to support her two children but pay off her husband’s gambling debts, which amounted to several thousands of dollars each time. Things came to a head when she discovered his extra-marital affair.
Reeling from the end of a 20-year marriage, Loh soon decided to visit CHC for herself in 2011. She had converted to Christianity when she married, but it was within her new cell group that she encountered the love of God in the form of fellowship and support extended to her during the darkest period of her life. Through the weekly preaching of the Word by CHC’s senior pastor Kong Hee, she learned to forgive her ex-husband and to let go of the past.
One day, she received a call from a pastoral leader, Marie Skogvard, asking how she was doing. In time, she found the courage to open up to Skogvard, who prayed with her and walked her through a process of deep emotional healing. “It felt like several tons of weight was lifted from me and I experienced complete freedom in my heart. Looking at me now, you would not believe what a timid person I was, with zero sense of identity and confidence,” recalls Loh.
Today, Loh’s friends tell her that when they see her doing well, it gives them hope that they can also find peace and happiness again.
Loh also took a step of faith with her finances. As the sole breadwinner without any child support from her ex-husband, it had always been a challenge for her to tithe. After hearing a sermon preached by John Avanzini, a preacher known for his teachings on Biblical economics, at service one weekend, she made a commitment to start tithing out of obedience to God.
Last Christmas, Loh was given the news that she would be retrenched from the company she had been with for over 20 years. Not only did she receive a six-digit layoff package, enabling her to pay off her housing loan, she was offered a new job shortly.
“Be it in material provision or otherwise, God has never failed to provide for me,” says Loh. “Church is not some place where you come just to listen to a feel-good message and are asked to give money. For what we gave, we have received in return blessings that cannot be bought.”
She adds, “How is it that someone, with no relation to you, can freely give of their time and attention to care for you? When I had to go to the police station at midnight to report harassment from loan sharks, my cell group members came with me. When my children’s father was not around for their birthdays, those Harvest Kidz teachers were there for them with presents…and we know it’s not about the presents, but their hearts.”
Her children, Valerie, now 17, and Xavier, 13, have graduated from Harvest Kidz, but Loh is forever grateful for how the teachers there shared the burden of single parenting with her. She remembers Teacher Kenneth, who would come over to help her son with his homework and Teachers Joyce and Kelly, who provided a safe environment for the children as they walked through childhood into their teenage years.
“Sometimes, they don’t share all their struggles with me because they don’t want their mom to worry,” says Loh. “But they talk to their teachers, and I can trust that their teachers will lead them in God’s way.”
Now, Loh strives to help other single mothers just as she was helped in her time of need. She is currently a member of ESPN (Empowering Single Parents Network), a ministry at CHC which was started in 2010 and gathers once every month for prayer, fellowship and mutual support. Pastor-in-charge Tan Yah Lan says, “They want prayers, they want direction, but they also want to talk to someone who has gone through what they are going through.”
LIFE AFTER ABUSE AND TRAUMA
For another single mother-of-two, Mabel Yap, the sense of solidarity that ESPN provides has helped her in reaching out to others. “When I look back, every experience I had was a building block for what I am doing now as I preach the gospel of love and acceptance to others. When I pray for them, I can sense their deep hurt,” she says.
Unsurprisingly, many who come to ESPN battle depression and suicidal thoughts, not just from the trauma of a divorce but from years of horrific domestic abuse. “When a single parent comes to us for help, they are saving not just their own lives but their children’s,” says Tan.
Just two years ago, Yap and her children had fled to a women’s shelter to escape from her husband, who had been physically and verbally abusive toward the family even when the children were just babies.
Yap had received Christ when she was in Secondary 2, but when her father, whom she was extremely close to, passed away suddenly due to two heart attacks in a single day, she became disillusioned and turned away with God.
At 22, she got married to her first boyfriend, but the marriage started deteriorating soon after that. “I was wondering in the wilderness, but now, looking back, I know that God never left me,” says Yap.
It seemed to be a case of divine intervention when Yap met a lady one afternoon—both of them had been trying to sell products to each other. At the time, Yap was a part-time financial planner.
The lady was Teresa Tan, who would later become her cell group leader. “There was something in her that I wanted…it was the joy of the Lord, the aroma of Christ in her that I wanted so much,” describes Yap.
When Tan invited her to church, Yap said yes without hesitation. During the altar call, she went down and rededicated her life to Jesus again. “I’ve never looked back since,” she says.
From then on, she drew strength from the Word preached every week at church, which helped her overcome suicidal thoughts, and from the fellowship of friends around her, including Loh—especially during and after the process of divorce from her husband.
“God’s thoughts toward us are always good, and knowing this about God helped me rid myself of negative thoughts,” says Yap. “When you seek Him, you will find Him. He’s a loving Father. And when you have that relationship with Him, you will know that He is more than enough for you. In God, you will find your purpose, in the little things you do and in the big things. Our Father has greater things planned for us than we can ever imagine.”
A chance encounter with an Italian chef at a bus-stop turned into a job offer to work at a new restaurant in a business development and operations capacity. It was a role she had no prior experience in, but she put in her best efforts. In under one year, the restaurant clinched awards from Singapore Tatler and the Italian Chamber of Commerce. Yap says,“If you ask me how I have come this far, the answer is God.”
As a single parent whose day is packed with appointments in her line of work in the food and beverage sector, how does Yap balance a workload that is oftentimes challenging, if not overwhelming, while being involved in her children’s lives and finding time for God?
“I do get really tired physically. Sometimes I only have five minutes, but it’s okay. Do whatever it takes to connect with God. He is not regimental. I can be walking on the street and be thankful in my heart. I’ll just sing in the Spirit, and I will feel the presence of God. When I cannot be with my children, I will pray, ‘God just envelope them with Your love, let them know that their mommy loves them, but more than that, that their heavenly Father loves them. Help me take care of their body, mind, soul and spirit,’” says Yap.
She also shares about the importance of being present. “God’s Word is the manual for our lives, to life full and abundant lives. I no longer feel guilty when I love myself and take care of myself, because I am God’s priority. Without me, I cannot carry on God’s work. I cannot take care of my children and work productively. And when I spend time with my children, I don’t feel guilty about work.”
To other single parents, Yap says, “Don’t keep it to yourself. Always speak to someone. You need to find a way to heal. You deserve to be happy. You will find that when you take a step out to ask for help, you’ll find a community of women (or men) who will stand with you.”
As Yap moves into fresh beginnings, she knows that God is restoring her family, inside and out. She says, “I know that bit by bit and step by step, God is healing us. I have the faith that we will emerge as a family together and bring Him greater glory.”
If you are a single parent who needs help or support, or know of somebody who may need it, or have further enquiries on ESPN, please email Pastor Tan Yah Lan at email@example.com or call the ESPN hotline at 65-67376266.