The three days of Celebration of Hope saw Christians from all over Singapore bringing their friends and relatives to National Stadium to listen to the goodness of God.
By JOHN PAUL CABELLERO, MELISA NUGROHO, JOSELIN LIM, JATHNIEL GATCHALIAN and CAMILLE NG. COMPILED BY JATHNIEL GATCHALIAN.
Celebration of Hope is a special inter church event that gathers Christians in Singapore together to reach out to friends and relatives and share about Jesus Christ. The three-day conference, held from May 17 to 19, saw more than 100,000 people come and listen to the Good News at the Singapore National Stadium.
Jointly organized by National Council of Churches of Singapore and the Evangelical Fellowship of Singapore, the conference combined the efforts of 227 churches. Since the beginning of this year, churches had been organizing praying meetings and training sessions to equip their members to reach out to their friends. The rally was a culmination of these efforts. It was a deeply moving experience, seeing thousands of believers in one place, and listening to faith-building words from Singaporeans who are household names, such as Gurmit Singh and Evelyn Tan among many others.
FRIDAY MAY 17: THE FREEDOM OF HOPE
The event officially kicked off on Friday evening, with the theme “The Freedom of Hope”. As you entered the stadium you heard voices joining in a chorus of “Jesus, Jesus, Loves You!” sung to the tune of Queen’s “We Will Rock You”.
Chairman of Celebration of Hope and head of the Anglican Church in Singapore, Bishop Dennis Ponniah, said, “Hope is the certainty that something good is coming your way.”
Belinda Lee, who hosted the evening’s program with Pastor Raymond Sim of Lighthouse Evangelism, asserted, “There is hope in Jesus Christ. People come in with broken hearts, so much despair – I just want you to know one thing, God knows your pain.”
British evangelist Canon J John, an international evangelist and author shared the word that night. He preached that hope in the Bible is the anchor of the soul. He explained that there are people who have no hope, some with false hope, and then there are those with true hope. Humans can live for 40 days without food, eight days without water and four minutes without air, but cannot survive without hope.
He explained that Jesus Christ came to offer humankind three things. The first is forgiveness from the past.”The heart of a human problem is a problem of a human heart. What it is the heart of the problem of the world? It’s people!” Canon John explained. It is out of the heart that deception grows, which affects lives, relationships, families, communities, and country.
The Good News is that Jesus Christ came to this world and died on the Cross to pay off the debt of our salvation. He signed the cheque with His own blood saying, “Here is the cheque to so set you free from the past and to wipe you clean.”
The second thing Jesus came to offer mankind is a new life. Canon John invited the people to think of life as a car. He then said that he believed that a lot of people in that stadium had not invited Jesus into their lives yet. He then asked them if they wanted to invite Jesus into their car which is their lives.
“Where is Jesus in the car of your life?” he asked. “Who is the driver of the car of your life?” He added that sometimes it is easy to say, “I’m a follower of Jesus” but Jesus is actually not in the driver’s seat of one’s car of life.
“When you make Jesus the driver of your life then the Holy Spirit will come into your life which will produce, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control,” declared Canon John. “How much do that do you have in your life?”
He then challenged the crowd and those watching on Facebook Live to reposition Lord Jesus in the car of their life and allow Him to be the driver. “When you do that, your life will change for the better,” he said.
Finally, Canon John explained that Jesus came to give mankind a hope for the future. God does not want anyone to perish, which is why He sent Jesus to die on the Cross on their behalf. The preacher urged the congregation not to be afraid to trust God with their future. “Let your hope, not your hurts, shape your future. Jesus is offering forgiveness, freedom, friendship, fulfillment, and future.”
Right after the preaching, local singer Olivia Ong performed a song and shared her testimony. Since she was 7, she yearned for adoration. When someone offered her a singing career in Japan, she accepted it without any hesitation.
At that time, she was full of hope that she would be a superstar in the making. Instead, she experienced a lot of rejection. She became obsessed with mirroring the people she admired. “But the more I pretended, the more trapped I felt. I wore so many masks, that I just didn’t know who I was anymore. And the worst part is, I couldn’t stop myself. I don’t know how to, because who am I without this mask?”
In her desperation, she cried out to God. God told her, “Stop! Stop trying so hard to become someone else that you were not. I want you. This time you begin with Me.” She then realized that she had not been honest with herself for the last four years of her life. She was reminded that God’s love casts out all fear, and slowly, she took off her masks.
“All my life, I thought that adoration and affirmation had to be earned. I was always trying so hard to be like someone else. But with God, you don’t have to.”
SATURDAY MORNING, MAY 18: THE COLORS OF HOPE
The Rally for Children and Families was filled with songs and skits for the whole family, especially children. The congregation was greeted by a vibrant dance item, put together by dancers from different churches, including City Harvest Church’s dancers, The Disciples.
The highlight of the rally was the multimedia skit, which was a modern retelling of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). CHC’s children’s ministry, Harvest Kidz, were among the few churches involved in the skit.
Pastor of River Community Church, Samuel Phun, shared a message out of the story of Jairus in Mark 5. The story began when Jairus ran towards Jesus, asking Him to heal his dying daughter.
Upon reaching home, Jairus’ hope was lost as soon as he learned that his daughter had died. “Many of you would feel what Jairus felt. When someone dies, you lose hope and everything seems finished,” said the pastor. “But Jesus told him not to be afraid and just believe.
The preacher continued, “His daughter is dead, why did Jesus say she was only sleeping?” It is because Jesus believed that the daughter will raise from the dead. And whatever that Jesus believes, He confesses.
When Jesus spoke to the little girl, the power of God came upon her. She opened her eyes, stood up, and began to walk.
Pastor Phun ended his message with an altar call:“This morning, you can choose to be like Jairus, the man of status who humbled himself to come to Jesus.”
SATURDAY NIGHT, MAY 18: THE ABUNDANCE OF HOPE
The Saturday night session saw celebrities from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, as well as Singapore, sharing their stories of how God turned their lives around. This session catered to the Chinese-speaking community and the stadium was packed with almost 40,000 people.
At the start of the meeting, Malaysia singer-songwriter Eric Moo led the congregation in a time of worship. Following that, several celebrities went onstage to share their testimonies, one of which was Taiwanese music producer, Huang Guo Lun. He told the crowd that when he began his music career in 1991, none of the record companies wanted to use his songs.
“For three years, nobody wanted the songs I wrote. So I told God, ‘God, I want to write songs for you.’ That day, God gave me music from on high.” That was how he came to write the hit 我愿意 (“I’m Willing”), which megastar Faye Wong turned into one of the most famous Mando-pop songs of the 90s.
In 2000, God gave Huang the opportunity to perform at the prestigious Carnegie Hall. People were curious: where did this opportunity to perform in Carnegie Hall come from? He told the reporters this, “The world believes that they just need three Ps—practice, practice, and practice. But my three Ps are ‘pray, pray, pray’.” By God’s grace, Huang became the first Chinese to perform at Carnegie Hall. He encouraged those in the stadium to trust in God, “because God is our strength and our hope.”
Taiwanese pastor Reverend Kou Shao-En, delivered a message in Mandarin on the peace of God. Preaching from Psalm 46:1, the pastor said that as long as there is a refuge, people need not be afraid. “God is our refuge, even in the face of storms, we don’t have to be afraid,” he said.
“Many people like to say 平安无事 (“all is well”) but the truth is, when our job is well, we worry about our health. We are constantly worrying.”
Reverend Kou encouraged the congregation to live in God’s peace because, in His grace, one can find protection–he will have peace despite the storm around him.
God is not only a refuge, He is also our strength. However, the pastor said, “God will not keep us under His shelter forever. He doesn’t want us to become a flower that is so fragile that it cannot weather storms. He wants us to go into the world and face our storms. But we must know that we are not alone out there, He will be with us. He will be our help in times of need so that we will never be afraid again.”
Reverend Kou shared his personal testimony. At 28, he met a group of drug addicts and messed up his own life. “Every person that comes across drugs knows the consequences of taking them. Yet, I couldn’t stop myself. The advice that my friends gave are things I would have said to others, yet I had no more strength to pull myself out. At that moment, I didn’t need a religion, I needed strength.” His turning point came when he turned to God and cried out to him; God pulled him out of the pit of sin.
At the end of the service, Reverend Kou read from Hebrews 4:16, adding, “God is not only a God on the Sundays, but He is also always with you. God is not a God who resides in the church, He is right by your side when you come to the end of yourself.”
SUNDAY MORNING, MAY 19: THE JOY OF HOPE
Sunday morning’s rally, hosted by Gurmit Singh, was conducted in English and Tagalog, was mostly attended by enthusiastic Filipinos. Some even flew all the way from the Philippines just to participate in the event.
The rally started with praise and worship and a performance by JTG Crew and the Coro Cantabile Choir. As the second set of praise and worship ended, Mellanny Stamatelaky stood on the stage to share her powerful testimony.
In December 2015, Mellanny was diagnosed with Stage Two breast cancer and the doctor told her she could not be cured. “At that moment, I was so hopeless and lost my joy. My family needed me,” she shared. She appealed to those in the stadium who were hopeless, not knowing their purpose—she assured them it was not by accident that they came today, because God had a purpose for them.
In her most hopeless moment, she felt the Spirit of God reveal a word from Isaiah 40:31, “But those who wait upon the Lord will find their strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. The will walk and not faint.” This word strengthened her. “Now I am completely healed, I am free of cancer, God healed me! With people, we may lose hope, but with God there is hope!” she exclaimed with conviction as she encouraged the people.
Canon J John returned with a second message that morning, on knowing one’s identity in Christ. “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at, change,” he encouraged, going on to share some things that he felt God wanted to say to everyone in the stadium.
“You are loveable”. Canon John shared a story of a mother and a little girl. One stormy night, the girl suddenly went to the window and smiled. When her mom worriedly asked her what she was doing, the girl replied, “God is taking a photo of me”. Sometimes, the preacher pointed out, children can understand the love of God better than adults.
“Jesus came to this world to show His love for each one of us!” Canon John exclaimed. “Many people think God will love us if we change, but the truth is God will change us because He loves us. Faith in God’s love deals with fear in the future.” The joy of hope is knowing that you are loved by God.
“You are valuable”. In Luke 12, Jesus said that even the ravens who do not store food are being fed by God. If God would feed these birds, what more His children? “You are far more valuable than the birds,” the preacher reminded the people.
He pulled out a crisp 20-pound bill and asked the crowd if he gave it to them, would they accept it? Then he asked if he stepped on it and crumpled it, would they still accept it? The money never loses its value no matter how much it was stepped on or crumpled.
“It doesn’t matter how dirty or crumpled you are, because no matter how, you are still valuable to God,” he said.
“You are forgivable”. God doesn’t just forgive some osins but He is able to forgive all sins. And all people have sinned. The only way to deal with every sin is to dissolve it with the blood of Jesus. “Jesus is our ultimate blood donor,” said Canon John. “Every one of us needs the blood of Jesus to cleanse us, set us free and experience His forgiveness.”
“You are capable”. “God has created every single one of us with incredible assets,” said Canon John. A koi grows according to the size of its habitat: the larger its habitat, the more it can grow. “Sometimes, we could be restricted, we could be limited, but God wants to free us and be able to reach our God-given potential!” he declared.
He went on to read Revelations 3:20. “Have you heard Jesus knocking?” he challenged. “When the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, our assets will be unleashed and we will know that we are loveable, capable, forgivable, and valuable.”
Before the morning session ended, Canon John challenged the people to seek God and come and understand their identity in Christ.
SUNDAY EVENING, MAY 19: THE REALITY OF HOPE
The finale rally began with a hilarious game featuring local artists Noah Yap, and Charlie Goh came onstage. With YouTube personality Annette Lee as host, the duo answered questions pertaining to Singapore. The trivia game ended with Charlie as the winner. “Loser” Noah Yap paid the penalty of being dunked in cold water.
The service began with powerful testimonies, including those from Li Nanxing and Noah Yap.
Li Nanxing, veteran MediaCorp actor shared his tremendous testimony of how God restored his life. His acting and business career began 33 years ago. The first 10 years were successful, but when his business failed, he lost everything. He started gambling and his situation went from bad to worse. He became desperate and visited several fengshui masters. However, nothing helped.
He was depressed and all his so-called friends left him. One day, a friend called him and invited him to church. He was deep in debt and was not interested in church. He told his friend that if God can give him winning lottery numbers, then he would follow God.
Li had a near-death experience when he almost fell off a building while talking on his mobile phone. Someone grabbed hold of him and turned him around. His Christian friend called again and Li was angry because the previous phone call almost got him killed. The friend shared that during a prayer meeting, a pastor whom Li didn’t know said, “Li Nanxing will be in trouble, but God is with Him.”
Following this incident, Li decided to go to church because he wanted to thank God for saving his life. He began to attend church services occasionally. In 2003, he gave his life to Jesus. Today, with God in his life, he is no longer living in fear. Li is now enjoying the enriching life that God has given to him. As he ended his testimony, he described hope as an invisible hand of God that lifted him up.
Noah Yap’s career as an actor began in 2012 when he was called to be part of the popular movie franchise Ah Boys To Men. To Noah, it was a miracle as he had always wanted to become an actor. He was happy and thankful for such an opportunity.
But when Noah was serving National Service, he was caught for the consumption of drugs and was sentenced to nine months in the detention barracks. Because he was a public figure, people recognized him and gave him a hard time in the barracks.
“I was put in a place where there was absolutely no hope at all,” he said. Noah started attending prison chapel and there, he met two pastors, Pastor Norman Ng and Pastor Jeremy Lee of 3:16 Church. As they prayed for him, Noah broke down and cried because he finally found hope.
On the day of his release, he was touched to see his parents, as well as the cast from Ah Boys To Men waiting for him outside. But after his release, he could not find a job for three months. Noah was reminded of God and he prayed for a breakthrough. Three weeks later, he was given a second chance: he received a call from Jack Neo who wanted to cast him for Ah Boys To Men 4. Irene Ang from FLY Entertainment also contacted him for hosting duties and soon Noah was back on stage.
In closing, Noah said, “God’s love can come in many forms. For me, it came in the form of my family, my boys, my pastors, my bosses, every single one who supported me until now. We are here today for a divine calling.”
Canon John began his final message noting that many people’s understanding of Christianity is really a misunderstanding. When the first Russian astronaut returned from space, his first interview question was “Did you see God?” He replied, “No, I did not”. The Soviet Union held this as proof that God did not exist.
When the first American astronaut returned from space, he was also asked, “Did you see God?” Unlike the Russian astronaut, he said, “I would’ve seen God had I stepped out of my spacesuit.” Both astronauts had completely different understanding of Who God is.
Canon John shared that in order to really understand God, a person must come humbly before Him. “We do not prove God; we experience God!”
He went on to share five ways one can find the reality of hope.
Look up to God. Psalm 121:1-2, says that a person’s help does not come from the mountain, but the God who made the mountain. “When we look up to God, we discover reality and hope.”
Look in with God. This means to examine one’s heart through God’s perspective. Reading 1 Samuel 16:7, the pastor asked, “If God were to look into our hearts now, what will He see?” he asked, “What happens if we were to go through God’s X-ray machine?”
He went on to recite the 10 Commandments and asked how many “yellow cards” or “red cards” one would have received. “We have all broken the commandments of God and we need someone to purchase our breakages to set us free,” he said, reminding the people of the Good News: that Jesus had paid the full price for the sins of mankind.
Look back. “Jesus Christ, established 2000 years ago, has billions of satisfied ‘customers’,” he said. The whole world was created by Jesus, and Jesus revealed Himself 2000 years ago.
Look around. True Christians look around, the pastor said. Not only do they believe in God, they also honor Him, care about their neighbors and pay taxes. They live a different kind of lifestyle, giving generosity and helping others. “We look around, then share with others what God has given us.”
Look forward. “Jesus is coming back! Jesus wants us to look up, look in, look back and look around. Jesus is giving us an opportunity to get right with God,” the preacher said. Christians look forward to Jesus’s coming, so as to enter into His glorious presence. “Be more focused on getting our names onto God’s ‘Faith Book’ than Facebook!”
As Canon John closed his message, he said, “Life without Christ is a hopeless end, but life with Christ is an endless hope.” In an altar call, he invited those who want to receive Jesus to come down to the pitch. Thousands of people responded and made their way down to the pitch.