In a special gathering held by City Harvest Church’s parents group City Parents, a group of women gathered to share their stories and minister to one another.
It was the first of its kind, a meeting meant for the parents of City Harvest Church to come together and share stories of their struggles and triumphs, to encourage and strengthen one another in the Lord.
Helmed by City Harvest Church pastor Lynn Tan, who oversees City Parents, the event on Sep 30 was an intimate affair featuring the testimonies of members of CHC. These women are featured in a new book by CHC member Lilian Ong, titled Women Of Courage, having overcome problems and issues ranging from body image and depression to illness. The meeting was attended by a small number of parents in the church, mostly mothers, as well as the nursery coordinator Shirley Yeo, or Aunty Shirley, as she is fondly referred to by everyone in church. Aunty Shirley has an effective ministry in the Nursery department, reaching out to parents of infants and toddlers. Also in attendance was Pastor Tan Yah Lan, who oversees Enabling Single Parents Network, a group that supports single parents.
After a time of praise and worship, a panel of women comprising Dawn Lee, executive secretary at CHC; Ann Chong, a widowed mother of two with a special needs child, Yenni Wu, whose husband took their child back to Hong Kong, leaving her in Singapore; Evelyn Neo, who suffered complications during pregnancy that threatened her baby; and Lilian Ong, who went through depression.
Kicking off the session was Lu Jiahui, an executive secretary with CHC, wife to Pastor Edmund Tay and a mother of three. Jiahui shared openly about the health challenges of her youngest child, and the journey of discovery and how the family copes through the grace of God.
With the door to honest sharing open by Jiahui’s moving testimony, the panel of women, facilitated by breast cancer survivor Theresa Tan, began telling their stories. Theresa herself shared about how, in June 2010, breast cancer struck suddenly, but an early diagnosis and swift action following the prompting of the Holy Spirit led her to recover fully. She has been cancer-free for eight years.
Dawn shared about her struggle with being motivated to be healthy after the birth of her two daughters—an issue common to many mothers. But as she approached the age of 40 she decided it was time to regain her physical strength and vitality. She started with cycling, then running, and then taking part in triathlons!
Evelyn spoke honestly about the difficulties she had during her first pregnancy. She was diagnosed with preterm premature rupture of membranes or PPROM at 21 and a half weeks, a very dangerous condition that could cause her baby to die or to be born with severe disabilities. Though she was advised to abort her baby, Evelyn courageously chose to carry on her pregnancy, believing God for the best. Her son was born at 29 weeks, and there were still complications. But because of her unwavering faith, today, her son is a healthy 8-year-old, and she went on to have a second child.
Native Taiwanese Yenni moved to Singapore at a time when her marriage was failing and she was undergoing depression. In addition, her son was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. She hit her lowest point when her husband took her son back to Taiwan, and Yenni found herself divorced and separated from her child. But she found friends in CHC and gathered the strength to pick herself up and carry on. Today, she visits her son in Taiwan regularly and he comes to visit her here.
Ann’s second child Sijun was born with Down Syndrome and a heart disorder. While she was caring for him, her husband was diagnosed with leukaemia and passed away. Ann had to juggle her grief with looking after Sijun, who needed a major heart surgery. She never gave up: she kept on carrying on, moving from Malaysia to Singapore to make sure her sons had good education, and taking on a job that she had no experience in. When things got tough, Ann held on to her faith. Today Sijun is a healthy, cheerful teenager who has an exceptional talent in art—his works were exhibited and sold at the Garden Of Joy exhibition held by CHC last year.
Lilian capped the sharing session by telling her story of how, after the birth of her second child, she went into a deep postpartum depression and gained a lot of weight. She was depressive and suffered from fear—she would dream of getting into bad car accidents, and one day she did. Through faith and courage, Lilian fought to be her best self—she began to take care of her body, losing weight and gaining fitness; she faced her fears head on and conquered them. Today, Lilian is filled with a passion to help other women overcome their challenges and live their best lives, something she does through her business Class Living and projects like this book.
Many hearts were touched during the sharing session—one mother shared the deep pain she endured when her baby was stillborn. Pastor Lynn shared about her personal experience when her first child was suspected of having issues while in her womb. Like Evelyn, the option to abort was available, but knowing God never makes a mistake, she carried her baby to full term. These touching testimonies struck such a chord with everyone that there was not a dry eye in the room.
Pastor Lynn led the group in a worship song, after which there was a time of ministry—as the women prayed for each other, the Holy Spirit did a work, bringing healing and touching hearts and minds.
WOMEN OF COURAGE: 22 STORIES ABOUT OVERCOMING
The book Women Of Courage features the stories of 22 women who have conquered their situations and are now living better lives. We pick out eight lessons from the book.
“Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the acting in spite of it.”
This familiar quote from Mark Twain explains how people encounter adversities and come out a better person. Yes, facing life with courage almost always produces a better person.
City Harvest Church member Lilian Ong is one such overcomer—in this book she shares the many fears and obstacles she has gone through. Not only that, but she has taken things a step further by gathering stories of other women who have conquered a range of often devastating problems. Women of Courage is a little book that contains a wealth of experience.
Here are eight lessons we drew from reading the book.
#1 Never Succumb To Your Fears
When it comes to fear, few things beat the news of a loved one dying. Two mothers, Jeanelle and Evelyn, came close to losing their unborn babies. In spite of their fears, they kept believing and refused to terminate their pregnancies. It was a good thing they didn’t because their babies grew up healthy and strong.
#2 Don’t Give Up The Fight
Ann’s life was a tough journey. Her second child was diagnosed with a congenital heart condition and Down Syndrome at birth. Just a little more than a year later, her husband died of Leukemia. But when the going got tough, Ann got tougher. She faced the reality and challenges of being a single working mother heads on and even had the courage to follow God’s call to leave her homeland and move to Singapore for the sake of her sons. Her journey has made her a stronger woman and encourages the reader: Hope can vanquish every challenge.
#3 Remember The Good In Life
The way to walk out of the darkness is to let your light shine through. So it seems to Celine, Madam Hanny, and Theresa, three ladies who survived cancer. “During her treatment, she kept a thankful attitude, and instead of feeling sorry for herself, she decided to encourage someone every day,” the book describes Celine. Madam Hanny grew from a negative person to one who is grateful to live. She taught herself to enjoy moments in life and not compare herself to others. Theresa Tan too learned from her battle with cancer. She learned to prioritize and appreciate her family, as well as live a healthy lifestyle.
#4 Dare To Be Real
Yenni suffered from depression and had to deal with self-doubt and fear. She often put on a facade of looking happy to hide her troubles. Her life fell apart when her husband left her and took their son back to Hong Kong. Her turning point came when she attended a self-discovery program and learned that the image she created was not helping her. She had the courage to get out of that façade and started living an authentic life.
#5 Ask For Help When You Need It
Living in a constantly abusive environment is terrifying. Mabel found herself in such a situation after she got married. Afraid of the uncertainty if she left, Mabel accepted the abuse. But she found the courage to leave when she came home one day to see her son’s hands bleeding. Her need to protect her children gave her the courage to stop pretending things were fine and to ask for help. Lilian herself found that she needed help when she discovers a disc bulge between her lumbar four and five. She was determined to shed the stubborn fats and put her health back in order. Lilian went through a weight management and coaching program and lost 10kg. Her visceral fat went down to a healthy level of 3.0 and she regained her health.
#6 Be Willing To Change Your Mindset
Sometimes all it takes is to look at a situation from another perspective and things will look a lot cheerier. During puberty, Cheryl put on a considerable amount of weight and had to endure teasing by her classmates. Throughout her adolescence, her weight fluctuated and the constant teasing took a toll on her self-esteem. Even when she lost weight—a result of excessive running and starving herself—she did not feel good about herself. Her perspective about body image changed when she was introduced to weightlifting. She engaged a personal instructor and did exercises to tone her body. Cheryl began to accept her body and exercise became a hobby instead of a chore.
#7 Pick Yourself Up And Try Again
Failure is not fatal. This is the lesson Aarti learned after she pulled herself out of self-pity and self-doubt. Aarti came from a highly educated family in India. Mathematics was a tough subject for her and it often pulled down her overall grade. While the poor score delayed her university admission, it gave her the determination to redeem herself. She managed to pick herself up the next year and she later went on to graduate with distinction. Her education journey did not stop there: she was presented with The Best Outgoing Student Award in college and The Best Management Student Award when she was pursuing her MBA. Looking back, she realized that she achieved all these because she never gave up.
#8 Share Your Experience
When life throws you lemons and you’ve turned all of them into lemonade, the best thing to do next is to share your recipe. Elim Chew and Pastor Susan Dunn are two female mentors mentioned in Lillian’s book. Elim is one of the most prominent entrepreneurs in Singapore and a mentor to many aspiring entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs. Pastor Susan Dunn was a high flyer in the financial world but she got into debt by living beyond her means. She realized she needed God to put her life and her finances in order so she started going to church. After she cleared her debts, she kept seeking God and helping others. She is now a spiritual leader and a mentor in business for many other women. Married to Pastor Derek Dunn, founder of City Harvest Church, US, Pastor Susan provides support to many, helping them find their distinct gifts and realize their dreams.
Women Of Courage is available at Lilian’s website https://womenofcourage.asia/