Challenges often bring new opportunities. As City News looks back on 2020, one of the most challenging years in history, we see that different departments in CHC found creative ways to serve the purpose of God while working from home and keeping a safe distance. We look at how the Church Without Walls ministries and Mission Dei Harvest did it.
Ah, 2020. What an interesting year it has been. Enough has been said about how challenging it has been for many of us; the amazing thing about our God is that in the midst of every crisis, there is always room for the miraculous. In Christ, there is always hope.
Here’s a lookback at the amazing things that have happened in City Harvest Church that are certainly worth celebrating. In this first in a series of three articles, City News looks back at some ministries that continued to serve church members after the Circuit Breaker happened.
DOING CHURCH IN A NEW WAY
CHC’s Church Without Walls Ministries—namely Harvest Kidz, Dialect service, and the Jesus for All Minds (JAMs) services—were among those that found new and creative ways to reach the members they serve during COVID.
One of the biggest challenges they faced during the Circuit Breaker was that all face-to-face visitations had to cease. As all three ministries rely heavily on visitations to connect with their members, the teams were challenged to think out of the box and adapt in order to bring God into the homes of their members.
Pastor Maria Tok, who oversees the Dialect Church, shares, “This pandemic season has brought forth a change in our elderly members’ way of living, care and social protection. They face the highest risk during the pandemic, including health, economic, and social risks.”
She adds, “As such, we have to constantly develop creative ideas to connect with them and help them to strengthen their faith and hope in Jesus.”
Recently, as part of its Christmas celebration, Dialect Service produced a short film titled “家不孤单” or Home, Not Lonely. “The story is about an elderly woman who struggles with the fear of abandonment and a victimized mindset due to the losses in her life, and even though she stays with her family, she always feels insecure. Her life turns around only after she receives Christ.
Pastor Maria continues, ‘This production was done during the COVID-19 period so there were many restrictions. Nevertheless God opened ways and brought us through. This is a project accomplished entirely by our Dialect team, from the writing of the script to the directing and even the writing of two beautiful songs–it was all done by us.”
Since Circuit Breaker started, Dialect Service has been consistently uploading a pre-recorded sermon on YouTube and a radio program on City Radio titled “广多多 福气话” each week. To engage the elderly members personally, the ministry workers also held services over Zoom meetings. Because the CWW ministries serve those particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, Zoom meetings was to be the best way to reach them during this period.
REACHING THE LITTLE ONES AND THE SPECIAL ONES
Lily Yong, the pastor overseeing the JAMs service that reaches the special needs, shared, “For our JAMs members, once they are used to a routine, it is very challenging for them to break it. They are so used to coming for church service but once it all stopped, it became difficult not just for the members, but also their caregivers.”
She added, “It was also hard for our workers as they couldn’t visit during the CB period. So the only way we could reach out to them was to call them.”
A highlight for Pastor Lily was learning how to bring the JAMs service experience online. “I had to learn how to film myself preaching, working with a team to help with the audio and the video editing. So for me, it was having to learn things that I was previously not savvy with—that is the highlight of this year.”
Once the nation moved into Phase Two of the Circuit Breaker, the ministry workers could visit the members again. “The fact that our students could see their teachers and that we could resume visiting them is very precious to me,” she says.
Eileen Toh, the pastor overseeing CWW and Harvest Kidz, says, “It was a challenge for the Harvest Kidz members to have the discipline to wake up and log on to the Zoom services every week.”
Nevertheless she is thankful that the children’s ministry found a way to engage as many of their members as possible. “We have managed to bring in about 900 kids to attend our Zoom services on a regular basis,” she shares. “That is a joy in my heart.”
While big events could not carry on, Pastor Eileen and her team found that outreach could still happen. “We have a member who a little intellectually-challenged. She joined us when she was 3; she’s 26 now but she never left us as she wasn’t able to cope with the main services. I managed to visit her in Phase Two, and she teared when she saw me. We then brought her out for pizza and ice cream. The little things that we could do at this time really moved me; they were the highlight of my year.”
Glordia Goh, a Harvest Kidz pastor, also appreciated the new skills she learned this year. “I think this is a year that we are preparing and realigning ourselves to get ready for next year.”
What will 2021 hold for these ministries? “We are all aware that it is a hybrid model that we are trying to adapt to, where we are doing Zoom services and selective visitations,” explains Pastor Eileen. “Eventually, there will be a small group of kids that will come on-site. So we have to learn to balance this hybrid model—between Zoom, on-site, and visitation—so that we can meet the various needs. At the end of the day whatever we do is to meet the needs of the community.”
SERVING THE NATIONS ONLINE
COVID-19 caused Missio Dei Harvest to pivot in how it conducted missions: it gave them a chance to explore a previously untapped medium—the Internet.
Ministry leader Chua Kim Peng shares that while COVID-19 disrupted the ministry’s calendar for a few weeks, the leaders and members managed to get back on their feet quickly. The ministry felt strongly that it was in the season of darkness that the light of Jesus must shine even brighter.
It was in this spirit that the Online Mission Trips were birthed. It came from the desire to continue doing the work of sharing the gospel even in the midst of a pandemic.
In total, Missio Dei Harvest ran 34 overseas and online trips in 2020 . As 2021 dawns, they envision a dual-track ministry with a virtual arm now and in the months and years to come.
At each virtual mission trip, God continued to show up in unexpected and mighty ways.
Elizabeth Eu is a School of Theology 2020 student who could not go on a physical mission trip as part of her curriculum this year. Upon her team leader’s encouragement, she joined a virtual mission trip to Myanmar. She witnessed healings, generation curses being broken, and even salvation taking place when the pastor in the host country connected with the virtual team as he visited the homes of his members and community.
Elizabeth also shares that at each virtual mission trip, God revealed spiritual gifts to her one by one. It was through these online mission trips that she felt she grew closer to God as she was constantly seeking His face to intercede and reveal His heart for the people.
INTERCEDING IN PRAYER
Another 2020 initiative that was birthed out of the pandemic is the Prayer Watch initiative organized by MDH’s intercessory arm. This initiative first started during the Circuit Breaker lockdown: the intercessors and members would come together over Zoom twice daily to pray for their personal needs, for each other, and for the nations. They would also tarry in the presence of God through nightly devotions. The Prayer Watch eventually evolved into a fortnightly thematic prayer meeting after the lockdown.
Erlean Joseph, who heads the MDH’s Intercessory arm, shared with City News her prompting to begin the Prayer Watch initiative. She shared that the Lord showed her a vision of setting the intercessors’ hearts on fire and that He desired to set them apart to launch them out to do something for the Kingdom of God.
It was during an online cell group meeting where Erlean received the confirmation to start the Prayer Watch. A word that Bobby Chaw, CHC’s executive pastor, shared on being an intercessor to pray for other brothers and sisters who were going through a tough time resonated in Erlean’s heart. The prayer meeting was then named Prayer Watch.
Aileen Ng, an MDH member shares that she felt extremely grateful that she could soak in God’s presence every day during Prayer Watch. She found herself encountering His presence even in the busyness of her work—it became her oasis, where she felt strengthened and comforted by the Holy Spirit.
Tan Tian En, another MDH member quotes Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Even though it was not possible to meet in person during the lockdown, Tian En expressed that the twice-daily Prayer Watch revealed to him that there is no distance in the Spirit and reminded him of how the early church met in small groups and encouraged one another.
Prayer Watch has held 180 sessions with 1,695 participants to date and will continue to do so into 2021.