A teenager from Bandung, Indonesia recalls how she found a family in Singapore when she first arrived three years ago.
At 14, I decided to continue my education in Singapore. I left Indonesia, my home country and came to this sunny island all by myself. Being away from my biological family was not an easy feat. Moreover, I had to get used to living in a foreign country on my own. Thankfully, I found my cell group and the members became my family. I couldn’t be more thankful to God.
When I first arrived in Singapore three years ago, it was the first time I lived alone without any adult supervision. I flew from Indonesia on my own and my father only came to settle me in five days later.
At the start, I found it hard to adjust to the fast-paced lifestyle in Singapore. A week after my arrival, I embarked on my studies at a private school and was informed that I had to sit for the GCE ‘O’ Level examinations that October. I had less than a year to learn what most Singaporean students normally take two to three years to learn. I had no idea what I was getting myself into and soon enough, I learned what stress really was!
I was brought up in a Christian home and my parents wanted to make sure I had a church community in Singapore. Their friends brought me to a church but I found it hard to connect with the people there. I prayed to God to place me in a church and to give me a group of people that I could do life with.
But soon, I found myself starting to disconnect from the outside world. I had no family and no friends here; my schoolmates were mostly from China and they couldn’t converse with me due to the language barrier. I had no one to talk freely to other than my best friend and family, who were miles away from me. My mother started to get worried and asked me to get out more.
MEETING MY CELL GROUP
One day, my mother remembered and told me about a young lady who had come to minister at our church in Bandung, Indonesia as part of her Bible school practicum. I instantly scrolled through Instagram and contacted her. That was how I came to be in Joycelin Loke’s cell group. We met up that weekend and I stepped into City Harvest Church for the first time.
Hours before church, I was anxious. I started to ask God, “What if this isn’t the church for me?” and “Please Father, I need a community”. However, the moment I entered CHC, I could feel the presence of God upon me. I was brought to sit with Joy’s cell group, N327. All of them welcomed me with great warmth and we got along very well, even though most of them were older than me.
I remember Pastor Kong Hee, senior pastor of CHC, was preaching that weekend and he delivered a message titled, “The Kingdom Of God”. God opened my eyes and I saw a different perspective of the Kingdom, one that I have never learned or even heard of.
Since that first visit, I started attending church almost every weekend. Now, I’m serving actively in my cell group, as well as in the Usher and Media Communication ministries. My cell group leader, Mark Yong, has always been there for me. He would always say, “Even though I’m busy, know that I’m always available if you ever need me.”
My fellow cell group members became my family and they helped me to get over my stress in school. Many of them gave me their notes from their own ‘O’ Level days and they would pray for me before every exam. Some of us would study together on the weekends and fellowship after that. School was a depressing zone but church was where I could rest and feel like I’m home.
I found comfort and love in my cell group. Just when I thought I would be disconnected from society, my cell group took me in and helped me to adjust to Singapore. They are literally there for the big and small things. For instance, whenever I need a guardian’s signature for school, I would have Mark sign on behalf of my parents. My cell group friends also taught me cultural things to observe. They showed me around, brought me to the best hawker centers around my apartment, and taught me tips and tricks such as leaving a packet of tissue to reserve a seat at a food court. I had no idea this was even a thing and before, I often got scolded by people whenever I sat at a table that had tissue packets on it! I just thought that Singaporean like to leave tissue packs around at food courts.
In cell group, we do life together. I learned to open up to people and ask for help when I need, instead of carrying all the weight on my own. God has shown me a different kind of love– one that feels like family outside my biological family. It is here at CHC and in cell group that I finally understand what Proverbs 18:24 (NIV) means: “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
I’m thankful towards God to have sent me the right people at the right time for me. He truly knows every need of His children, even to the smallest detail.