This National Day, we invited City Harvest Church members from Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong and China who became Singapore citizens to write a letter to their new homeland.
WONG JING JING: “THANK YOU SINGAPORE, FOR ALL THE OPPORTUNITIES”
It’s been 21 years since I first stepped onto this island from Malaysia. I started out a “country bumpkin”, but I slowly learned to navigate this big city with its multiple local communities. Thank you for all the opportunities you have given to me. You truly uphold meritocracy—folks are not held back from advancing because of their race, religion or culture. Opportunities are there for the taking.
One of the most impressive achievements in these 56 years of nation-building was the fact that you realised earlier on that the more educated your citizens are, the more they would scrutinise policies and how things are done. Yet, you pressed on to develop the biggest resource you have: human talent.
This focus on education and meritocracy became an open door for me to come to Singapore. You did not only support Singaporean talents, but also those in the neighbouring countries. Many little things lined up to open the way for me to come to Singapore. From learning about a scholarship to study in Singapore from a small newspaper cutting my classmate showed me, to getting that fateful phone call on my 18th birthday with the good news that I had been awarded the scholarship, these small steps were not coincidences; God must have orchestrated that open door right from the first step.
Even though not everyone who came here to study managed to survive the pressure cooker environment, a number of us did. I went on to do my degree, found a job and eventually I decided to settle down here.
The decision to apply for citizenship was not an easy one. I held back until I felt that I really needed to make plans for my future. Should I settle down here, or did I plan to go back to Malaysia a few decades down the road? Many factors came into consideration: work prospects, housing, friends and community. One of the key factors was the relationships I had built in Singapore, the majority of which was the CHC community. After many prayers, and feeling the peace from the Holy Spirit, I started my application journey.
The most difficult thing in this journey was to communicate the decision to my parents, who are still in Malaysia. Back then, they were probably still harbouring hopes that their child would eventually return to her hometown for retirement. After some discussion and explanation, they eventually came to terms with my decision. Before COVID, they were also able to travel to Singapore often and stay with me at my own place. Before, they had to put up in a hotel when they came over.
I do not regret the decision. The best part about being a citizen is that I could buy a home, I can use that home to host my friends, family, and cell group meetings. Having this space that I can call my own helped me to further strengthen the ties that I have built on this little island.
Singapore, I wish that there will continue to be good governance of the nation in the future years. I also wish for greater resilience in the people, and that there will be more gratefulness, kindness and compassion in Singaporeans to always look out for one another. To continue building on the good, to strengthen the foundation and not be complacent towards the future.
Happy 56th Birthday Singapore!
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JUDY LYNN SY: WE FEEL SAFE, SECURE AND TREASURED IN SINGAPORE
In 2003, my hubby, Hansen and I decided to move to Singapore for good right after getting married. It was a big step for us to leave everything in the Philippines and start a new chapter in our lives in this city.
I remember in those early days, we hardly saw fellow Filipinos. Relocating to Singapore was challenging as we neither had friends nor fellow countrymen to we lean on—we only had each other. However, as we lived our lives together in this foreign land, things became better. We built our careers, found new friends and integrated into our new church and family—City Harvest Church.
From two, we became three, then four, then five. Having three kids in a row was life-changing and exciting! In those challenging times, we invited our parents and siblings from the Philippines to come to Singapore and help us bring up our children. They were excited to call Singapore their second home too.
We decided then to convert our citizenship from the Philippines to Singapore, because Singapore did not just give us a haven but it is where we have built many memories and lasting friendships in the community.
In 2008, we became Singapore citizens—a decision we have never regretted! It was a milestone for our family, choosing Singapore to be our permanent home—and a blessing in so many ways. We “contributed” to Singapore’s population with our three children, and received baby bonuses. As citizens, our children had priority when they registered in primary schools and their fees were subsidised. We even bought our own HDB flat. Best of all: we hold the powerful red passports that allow us to travel the world without the need to apply for visas to many countries.
Here in Singapore, we feel safe, secure, and treasured. Though it pains us to think that our kids might forget their Filipino heritage, which is heart-breaking, we believe that, when COVID is over and it is safe to travel, by regularly visiting our relatives and involving them in missions to the Philippines, they will learn where they came from.
Through the years, we are so grateful for what God has blessed us with. With these blessings that we have received here in Singapore, we make it our mission to share the Good News with other Filipinos and help them in their journey to becoming a citizen.
This is home! Thank you, Singapore, for letting us make this our home.
Our family is forever grateful to Singapore. I wish that Singapore will continue to be resilient, strong. May Singapore be blessed and be a blessing to other nations!
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ERVINA TANDEAN: “I KNEW I WOULD BE SPIRITUALLY FED IN SINGAPORE”
On Singapore’s 56th birthday, I would like to say: STAY AWESOME SINGAPORE! You are our chilli padi, small yet formidable!
I was born in Indonesia, and since I was young, I moved from city to city due to my parent’s business. At 18, I went to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to study at Taylor’s University. However, it was difficult to find a job after my graduation. Being unable to find a job in Malaysia, I finally gathered all my courage to come to Singapore to look for better opportunities.
Another draw of Singapore was City Harvest Church. I accepted Christ in at the then-City Harvest KL and attended Asia Conference when I was still in university. I knew that if I came to Singapore, I would be well-fed spiritually.
Singapore is an awesome country to live in! Safety is one of the major reasons why I chose to become a citizen. I have two young children, 5 and 1, so I want them to grow up in a safe country.
The hardest part of becoming a citizen is perhaps the uncertainty during the application process. It was challenging when I first applied to be a permanent resident but thankfully, the citizenship application was much easier.
Happy Birthday Singapore! My family and I wish for you to stay united, prosperous and always safe!
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WILLIAM TSUI: BECOMING A CITIZEN MAKES ME FEEL ROOTED
Dear Singapore and fellow Singaporeans,
My name is William Tsui. I received the good news of obtaining my Singapore citizenship in 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 situation and a trying time for many businesses. As a permanent resident married to a Singaporean, I had to renew my PR status every five years, which was granted depending on whether I had a job at the time of renewal. I didn’t want to be separated from my family, so it made sense for me to apply for citizenship. After obtaining citizenship, emotionally and mentally I felt more rooted and had greater sense of belonging and acceptance in Singapore.
I came to Singapore in 1988 when I was 10 years old with my parents. My parents liked the education system in Singapore. The standard of English was higher (I think it still is) in Singapore than in Hong Kong. Also they felt that the environment here was more suitable for learning. I studied in local schools from primary to junior college and went on to earn my Architecture degree at NUS.
I faced a personal crisis when I failed my final year thesis. When I was lost, a friend from CHC reached out to me. I was saved and joined CHC in 2007. Receiving Jesus as my Lord and Saviour has been indeed the best decision in my life. God gave me a rhema that I would do well if I returned to NUS, so I went back and graduated with a Master of Architecture. All Glory to God!
At one of CHC services, I felt God told me to plant myself in CHC. I went to SOT in 2009 and served in the Usher Ministry where I met my wife. Today, I am one of the cell group leaders co-leading W115 in AZ Zone and a member of the Missio Dei Harvest, the missions arm of CHC that has a vision to fulfil the Great Commission and the Cultural Mandate.
In 2019, I took a step of faith and set up Formspace Architects, a Singapore-based architecture practice dedicated to creating meaningful and interesting spaces, buildings, objects and masterplans with a positive social impact.
Before COVID, we used to travel to Hong Kong once a year or two years to visit our relatives. I feel like a tourist when I am in Hong Kong, because when I left at 10 years old, so my memories of Hong Kong is limited to mostly my house, school and the park opposite my house. Conversely, whenever I return to Singapore from overseas, I feel more at ease and comfortable, like I am back to a safe haven.
I have been in Singapore for more than 30 years now. My wife and I have a 6-year-old son. My parents now live with us in Singapore. Here is where I found God and my calling. Here is where my family and friends dwell. I am grateful to be part of this country and to call Singapore my home. I wish for Singapore and Singaporeans to stay resilient, to never give up. We have done it before, we will do it again!
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LI CHUAN & ANGELINE LIU: WE LOVE SINGAPORE BECAUSE WE CAN FREELY WORSHIP GOD
My father always had a dream for our family to venture overseas, so in 1989, he seized the opportunity when he was sent by the Chinese government to Singapore to oversee a small machinery factory. At that time, Singapore was employing professionals from China and my father was one of them. Upon finishing his contract with the factory, he decided to stay in Singapore and he brought my mom and I over in 1992. I came over to Singapore when I was 17 years old. Singapore was the right place for us because the culture and language here were not foreign to us—we fit in quickly thanks for the Chinese culture here, even though only my dad spoke a little English. On hindsight, it must have been God who opened this door for us. My parents later became Singapore citizens and so did I, after I completed National Service.
Angeline and I knew each other through our parents. When Angeline came over to study in Singapore, my dad was her guardian. We dated for 10 years before we got married in 2008 and started our family here in Singapore. The last 20 years, I had been shuttling between China and Singapore as I had businesses in China, but in this season of my life, I felt God has called me back to Singapore and settle down with my wife and children.
Our daughter Faith is now 12 and our son Kaleb, 9, and we are very glad that they are rooted here in Singapore and also in City Harvest Church. Angeline came to church when she was still in school, and now our kids are also growing up in Harvest Kidz, planted in the house of God. This is one of the greatest blessings and reward for us when we decide to build our family here.
Another thing that we really enjoy as Singaporeans is the ability to travel freely. The Singapore passport allows us to travel to more than 20 countries worldwide without worrying about visas. This is a perk that we had never enjoyed before!
Life is difficult with the COVID-19 pandemic and movement is restricted. However, we have faith in God and in Singapore that we will all, as a nation, come through this together, stronger.
I want to wish Singapore a blessed birthday. May we march on together and emerge through the trials with victory!
My mother had the opportunity to visit Singapore in the ’90s and she liked the Singapore education system, so she felt that this was a good place for me to study and to receive bilingual education. I came to Singapore for my secondary school education in 1998 from Kunming, and I went on to junior college and university here.
When I was in junior college, my friend invited me to CHC and I received Christ here. Though I was Chinese-speaking, I stayed with my cell group in the English service. At that time, I was the only Chinese national in my pastoral zone. CHC became my spiritual home and family here in Singapore, and I became a cell group leader.
I constantly reached out to the mainland Chinese who are here in Singapore for work or study. During my university days, I would reach out to Chinese scholars studying in Singapore and invite them for CHC’s big day events and brought them to church by bus. I would hold weekly cell group meetings at NUS hotels. Today, my cell group comprises of Chinese nationals and they are rooted here like Li Chuan and I. Most of them have also become PR or Singapore citizens themselves. They have started their families here in Singapore and all our kids grow up in church together. We are a close-knit family and we are very grateful that we have found a home in Singapore, especially with CHC as our spiritual home.
Right now, I am running an online fresh food grocery store with my partner who is in the same cell group as me. One of our objectives is to reach out and to serve the mainland Chinese here in Singapore who do not know English well and who may struggle with food ordering online, hence we set up this online store via Wechat to help them.
As new Singapore citizens, we thank God for the religious freedom we have here and we are privileged to be able to worship God freely in this place. My family and I love Singapore. Happy birthday, Singapore! Thank you for accepting us as a part of this nation.
Li Chuan & Angeline’s letters are edited by Chiong Xiao Ting