One of the ministries that birthed out of the Church Without Walls vision is Jesus For All Minds (JAMs). Long-time volunteers in the ministry share why they continue to serve.
“It was 1996: Pastor Kong called for Church Without Walls, and I was very moved. We started following Pastor Eileen (Toh, pastor overseeing three of the CWW ministries) to orphanages and old folks’ homes. Later on, we also started visiting those with special needs at Ubi Hostel,” volunteer Zoe Yue, 46, recounts.
Church Without Walls is a vision birthed out of a revelation that Kong Hee, senior pastor of City Harvest Church received in 1996. Members began heading beyond the walls of the church to bring the love of Christ to the lost and to those in need. As each outreach grew, they splintered into branches—one of them is the ministry for the intellectually-challenged, Jesus for All Minds (JAMs).
Zoe is a pioneer in the JAMs Service. In the early years of the ministry, she, together with other volunteers, conducted weekday lessons for the residents of Ubi Hostel (now Touch Ubi Hostel) who were adults with mild special needs.
“They didn’t always listen, and sometimes, when you talked about the sky, they would talk about the moon,” she recalls with a good-natured laugh. On weekends, the team would bring some of these residents to Hollywood Theatre—CHC’s church premises then—for worship services.
“I remember that at Hollywood Theatre, we would have to climb three floors up to the small room where we held our service. In those days, we had one guitarist, one preacher, and only three members,” Zoe recalls.
BUILDING THE SPECIAL NEEDS MINISTRY
Each Sunday back then, the volunteers would head to Ubi Hostel to fetch those who were open to the gospel on public transport to church—all for a one-hour worship service.
“One day, there was only one member who was willing to come to service with me,” Zoe shares. “I was very disappointed, but I told God that even if it’s only one person, I would still bring her. That person became a faithful member of JAMs—she is still in CHC today.”
Slowly, the JAMs volunteers started to reach out to more special needs institutions, even children on the street. “When we saw these special kids, we would feel excited and try to reach out to them. We would tell their parents that we had this programme, and ask if they are interested to join us,” Zoe says, smiling at the memory.
Zoe admits she was not always this receptive to children with special needs. “In the beginning, we were a bit hesitant to reach out to them because they look different,” she says. But her discomfort did not stop her from answering God’s call and before long, she grew to love her members in JAMs.
As JAMs ministry grew, the church started hiring buses to bring the members down to the church. During the week, volunteers would visit the members at home to connect with them and their families.
GOING THE EXTRA MILE
See Lay Tin, 64, has vivid memories of her visitation days with JAMs. “Every Saturday, we would try to visit every single family on our list,” she recalls. At times, her list would contain 10 families spread out across Geylang, Geylang Bahru, and Bendemeer.
Visitations were planned according to the bussing zone and “there were very few buses back then” Lay Tin explains. She remembers one time where her partner’s slippers broke after all that walking. “She had to buy another pair of slippers!”
The volunteers often went the extra mile for each of their members and their efforts were not in vain. Their visits were often the highlight of the week or month for their members. It was also through these regular visits that the volunteers could reach out to their members’ families.
“Sometimes we would connect with the member’s siblings, and they would follow them to church,” Lay Tin shares. “Once, I prayed with a member’s mother—she was a very elderly lady—and she said the Sinner’s Prayer together with me.”
Julie Han, 46, a special needs educator, recalls one of the families she visited. “Almost 10 years ago, we had a member who passed on from leukaemia. She was maybe 12 or 13, and she had Down Syndrome—children with Down Syndrome are more prone to the illness,” she explains.
“Pastor Lily (Yong, who oversees JAMs service) was very heavily pregnant at that time. Still, she went with us to the hospital to see our member and be with her family,” Julie recalls, adding that the member came from a single parent home and had a brother.
Sensing the family’s grief, Pastor Lily took it upon herself to organise the funeral. Julie says, “I saw Pastor Lily’s sacrifice and from her, I learned what it means to serve and to reach out to others with the love of Christ.”
The JAMs team befriended the member’s brother, and “my friend brought him to the main service, and he received Christ,” Julie shares.
THEIR MOTIVATION TO SERVE
Lay Tin started serving in JAMs because she felt the presence of God the first time she attended their service. She initially felt a little uneasy around the members when she first started serving, but she soon got used to them.
“The joy in them is so full,” she says. “When I serve them, I can feel that God is doing something in their lives. This joy that they have, no one can give it to them except God. Sometimes we think that we are teaching them, but through encounters we have with them, we learn something too. This is especially so when we hear stories from our members’ parents during our home visits.”
For Zoe, serving in JAMs helped her to learn things at each stage of her life. “When I was down, I found encouragement through serving. I learned to be bold and to hold on firmly to my faith. When bad things happen, I know that it is not the end of the world because I see that there are poorer people out there. Through my serving in JAMs, God was strengthening my mind,” she says.
“The angels (what JAMs staff and volunteers call their members) can be very sweet. Their faith in God is simple and childlike. When they pray, they pray with the simplicity of a child—and God loves children. This is something that we need to consistently remind ourselves.”
Julie shares Zoe’s sentiments. “We see that they are very simple, not very ambitious and they reciprocate our love for them. I see the simple, childlike faith that Jesus always talked about. Sometimes as adults and neurotypicals (people without disabilities), we have so much to learn from them,” she says.
Julie was a trainee in special needs education when she first joined JAMs. Yet she admits that it took her a while to be comfortable around the JAMs members. “I tell myself that God created them and He loves them—they are the apple of His eye. I want to love them just the way my Lord loves them,” she says.
Most of the volunteers in JAMs have no prior experience with special needs and simply learn on the job. “Initially, we tried to teach the special needs kids the same way one teaches normal kids,” Zoe says of the initial days of JAMs. “After a while, some special education teachers came to join us as volunteers, and we learned from them. We also learned by trial and error—how to speak to them to catch their attention. We developed shorter and simpler programmes for them. Now, our Bible lessons are all created to meet their needs.”
“You don’t need to be trained to serve in JAMs, you just need to have a passion for these people and to want to reach out to them,” Julie affirms. “When new volunteers come on board, they will receive some basic training on how to deal with those with special needs.”
If you’re interested to serve in the JAMs ministry, you can contact your cell group leader or sign up via www.chc.org.sg/cww.