What did the Filipino Ministry of City Harvest Church do when a pandemic situation derailed the full Bible school experience for students from the Philippines? They stepped up to plug the gaps and much more.
“It has been a challenging season for us but it is all worth it!”
“We don’t have any regrets in going to SOT this year—the learning we received from Pastor Bobby and all the teachers was priceless!”
These were common statements made by Filipino students who enrolled in CHC’s School of Theology this year. Each had come with a suitcase full of dreams for an enriching seven-month experience at SOT, but when COVID-19 arrived early in the year, it meant that the student cohort had to spend most of their school year online instead of in action.
For many years, City Harvest Church’s Filipino Ministry has been hosting numerous international students from the Philippines, actively engaging them in discipleship and supporting them financially.
True to CHC’s motto to “find a need and meet it”, this year, the Filipino Ministry stepped up and created opportunities for the Filipino SOT students to gain as enriching a Bible school journey as all the restrictions would allow.
ROPING THEM IN FOR FILIPINO SERVICE
After a hiatus, CHC’s Filipino Service recommenced online on Sunday, June 14, in celebration of the Philippine Independence Day. Just a month later, the Filipino Ministry, led by Pastor Kenneth Sim, roped in the 26 SOT Filipino students to take on the hosting of the services, starting on July 19.
At each of the fortnightly service, the students were given the chance to lead the different segments of the service: Opening Prayer, Praise and Worship, Welcome, Offering, Testimony Sharing and Preaching of the Word, all under the guidance of Pastor Kenneth and the Filipino Ministry cell group leaders.
Pastor Kenneth told City News, “Due to the pandemic, our SOT students this year were not able to do ministries in our church. I believe that by allowing them to take the segments in Filipino Services, we provided them an avenue and opportunity to serve and minister to the Filipino community in Singapore. The outcome was good! The Filipino congregation was blessed by their testimonies and revelations.”
TALKING FROM THE HEART
During some Filipino church services, before the preaching of the Word, there would be short, seven-minute “talkshow” video segments recorded by the SOT students to share their hearts with the Filipino congregation.
The students showed off their efforts and creativity in three such episodes: the “SOT Circuit Breaker”, “Online Classes Experience” and “Time of Thanksgiving”. Many Filipinos in Singapore were blessed to hear the testimonies of how the students persevered in spite of emotional turmoil caused by their families’ challenging situations back in the Philippines.
Pastor Rey Bellisario from Caloocan City shared, “At first, I thought of just going home so that I could be there for my family and protect them. COVID cases were increasing in Manila and I got worried for my kids. But, one day, as I was listening to Pastor Bobby, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart. He assured me that He will take care of my family. Since then I had peace in my heart and enjoyed every moment in SOT.”
“When I heard that my parents lost their jobs because of the community lock-down in Bacolod City, I cried the whole night,” shared Mayalle Silvestre from Bacolod City. “How could I survive here in Singapore without financial support from them? I was more worried for my family. I had resigned from my job to go to SOT. Guilt started to surface. However, our daily worship and revelations from the Word of God changed my perspective to look at our situation from a different light. I surrendered everything to God. As a result, the Lord provided for my needs through the love of my cell group family. Not only that, my family had been receiving help from our church too. Hallelujah!”
Lilia Colay-an, originally from Baguio City, touched many with her story. “I am a domestic helper here in Singapore. I’m grateful that my employer allowed me to go for SOT. However, when Circuit Breaker started, things became hard for me. My employers were working from home which means I had to serve them the whole day. There were days that I had to miss some of the lessons. But God is good! He strengthened me when I was about to give up. My team and cell group family were also so encouraging. I finished strong by the grace of God!”
THE GRADUATION TRIBUTE
After months of serving and learning, the Filipino students were celebrated at a special graduation tribute on September 20. The Zoom event saw a total of 121 virtual attendees. The 26 SOT students gathered separately in six different households, each hosted by a cell group leader. There were six parties—complete with refreshments and gifts—across the island simultaneously, joined by Zoom.
The programme began at 3pm with the Filipino Church Service, hosted by the 26 SOT Filipino students—two of them preached short sermons (“The Call of Fire” and “Peace from God”), and four of them hosted a “talkshow” expressing the cohort’s collective gratitude to Pastor Kenneth, the cell group leaders and the Filipino Ministry in CHC.
The service concluded with a surprise tribute segment. Many of the SOT students shared their personal challenges and struggles during their SOT journeys, especially in the area of finances and health—that of their families in the Philippines and of themselves in Singapore—and how God carried them through and provided for them supernaturally. Pastor Kenneth and the cell group leaders also shared heartwarming messages, parting words and well wishes with the SOT students, and spent time praying for them.
Finally, there was a special awards segment, which drew much excitement. Names were called out as various students were awarded the Bold Preacher of the Year Award, the Courage Award, the Generous Award, the Leadership Award and others. Congratulations were offered all around to the graduating SOT 2020 cohort, and the service ended on a celebratory note.
BLESSED TO BE A BLESSING
Hosting this year’s SOT students in my cell group has been a great privilege for me. While many have said how they have been blessed by my mentorship and our cell group’s support, I have in turn been blessed to know these men and women of God who responded to serve God in full-time ministry.
Some of them are only in their 20s, but they are so on fire, ready to give their lives to serve God. I was inspired by students who are already serving as senior pastors in their churches in the Philippines, yet humbly acknowledging their need to be trained and to learn more in SOT. There are also young engineers, architects, and teachers who are active in campus ministries and already serving as pastors as well.
As a result of this ongoing tradition of supporting the Filipino SOT students year after year, many of our alumni maintain good relationships with their Singapore cell groups, and continue to deepen their relationship with them. CHC’s cell group leaders and Filipino congregation have lent support and strength to the work of God in the Philippines by participating in organised conferences, Bible study sessions and mission works, all for the glory of God.
~ Edited by Rosa Lee
Helen Gianchand is a member of CHC’s staff, and also a Filipino Ministry cell group leader.