City Harvest Church’s ministry to children took to suburban Singapore during Church Without Walls in 1996, and transformed thousands of lives with lasting impact. Longtime members of the ministry share their memories.
In 1997, Glordia Goh had a first encounter with CHC’s Children’s Church that blew her mind. “I brought my boss to attend a service at CHC at Hollywood Theatre along Tanjong Katong Road—she owned a childcare and before-and-after school care (BASC) centre,” she relates. “I remember when I stepped into the children’s service, Pastor Eileen (Toh, the pastor in charge of the children’s ministry) was leading the children in singing ‘I love you Lord’, and I felt the presence of God, which shocked me—I had never encountered that in a children’s service before!” CHC had an arrangement back then to conduct a service at the BASC every Friday.
Her experience with CHC attracted her to joining the church. “I would help wherever I was needed. When Pastor Eileen needed help to visit children, I would go with her. I also helped in the bussing and at the service,” she remembers. CHC used to offer weekly transport by bus to children who wanted to come to the weekend services at the church at Hollywood Theatre.
Today, Glordia is a pastor in CHC’s Harvest Kidz (the updated name for Children’s Church). In her 23 years as part of the church staff she has overseen the spiritual well-being of hundreds, maybe over 1,000 children.
Pastor Glordia was deeply involved in the Church Without Walls outreach to children living in suburban areas across Singapore. The CWW movement took volunteers and staff across many housing estates, from Haig Road and Geylang to Ang Mo Kio.
“I had only eight kids to visit in Ang Mo Kio,” she recalls. “I started to knock on doors to invite children to church and to befriend them. I met this group of kids who were delinquents—they created problems in school, spewed vulgarities, vandalized walls… yet, they were very evangelistic! They brought friends to church almost every week. I spent a lot of time with them helping them with school work and hanging out with them, correcting their behaviour.”
The numbers grew as Pastor Glordia and her team faithfully visited the children who came to church, and reached out to many others to invite them to CHC. The Children’s Service would hold “Big Days”—special outreach events around Christmas, Easter and Children’s Day—that would attract huge numbers.
“During those days of revival, every Big Day we would hire three big buses, and each bus carried more than 50 children and adults in it. We saw kids coming from across Singapore: Ang Mo Kio, Toa Payoh, Bukit Batok, Commonwealth, Tampines, Jurong West, Marsiling—the buses were packed every time. I looked after an average of 60 kids who attended church regularly. Every week, it would take me six hours on foot to visit the kids in Ang Mo Kio.”
Working with children in these areas, the Harvest Kidz teams would be called upon in times of emergency. Pastor Glordia smiles as she says there are too many to list, but once, the Harvest Kidz team helped to stop a mentally unsound husband from killing his pregnant wife in front of his young children. In another case, the grandfather of one of the children in their care attempted suicide, but was helped by the team before it was too late.
In many cases, when the children receive visits from the Harvest Kidz teachers, the family get their physical and spiritual needs met too. One such case was Justin Chiang, who now works as a Dialect Service zone supervisor in CHC. “I visited Justin and his brother in Ang Mo Kio,” Pastor Glordia recalls. “His brother was reserved and aloof, but he came to church, though irregularly. One day, he suddenly became regular in his attendance. When I asked him about the change, he told me that he wanted to go swimming one time, and it was going to rain. Remembering the lesson he learned during the Sunday school service, he challenged God and said that if the rain didn’t come, he would believe in Him. Immediately, the dark clouds disappeared and the sun came out. He was shocked, and kept his promise to follow God. He became so active in church he would even follow me to visit other children!”
“Visitations are important,” Pastor Glordia points out. “We don’t only reach children, we also reach their family.” A number of the children she has pastored are now leaders in the church.
Some are long-term cases for the Harvest Kidz team. “There is this family we are still reaching out to,” she says. “We’ve known the boy since he was 5 years old. His dad had a heart issue and was often in hospital, and the poor boy would sleep under the hospital bed as there was no one to look after him. One of our leaders who lived near him took him in while his father was hospitalised. He would come to church having gastric pains as he didn’t get enough to eat. A few years later his father passed away, and he went to live with his mother who remarried. All these years, the family experiences many challenges—financial, health, teenage rebellion—we saw them through all of it. Years later, his mother was saved, and she is now fervent for Christ. The boy is in one of our youth cell groups and his step sister is in Harvest Kidz. Last Christmas we surprised them with a big bag of groceries. We have been reaching out to them for 12 years!”
AS GAMEMASTER, HE MADE THE KIDS CLEAN THE HALL
The suburban outreach that began with CWW caused great growth in the children’s service and expanded its congregation rapidly. Chew Eng Hock, better known as Teacher Yongfu, has been serving the children’s ministry since around 1994, when CHC’s services were held at Westin Hotel.
A “gang leader and fearsome businessman” during his university days, he was invited to CHC by a tall girl who stayed in the same residential hall. Unimpressed throughout the service, even though he was surprised by the friendliness of the church members, Yongfu found himself responding to Pastor Kong Hee’s altar call. “I only remember this part: he said, ‘Some of you are looking for friends who love you, and know how you feel… He knows who you are, and He understands you.’ Suddenly, tears just start flowing down. I was very embarrassed. When Pastor Kong said, ‘If you are the one, please come out… and I will pray for you and you will know Him.” Automatically, I stood up and and walked to the front. That was the day I started my journey with Jesus.” Incidentally, he married the tall girl, Janavy, who also serves in Harvest Kidz.
Though mightily saved, Yongfu did not experience the drama 180-degree change in his life that he had heard so much about. “I was determined to change, to do something for God. So I volunteered to help out in Children’s Church,” he explains. “My first ‘glorious’ job was to clear rubbish bin after the children church service ended. I was promoted after six months… to arrange and keep the chairs before and after service!”
One day, one of the teachers was sick and asked Yongfu to help her conduct games with the children. “That was my opportunity,” he remembers. “So I made up a game where the kids had to go around the hall and find all the rubbish to fill the bin, and the one who picked up the most rubbish was the winner. The whole idea was for me to not have to pick up rubbish after service! To my surprise, the game worked like a charm. The kids were so excited, and the teachers were happy, and I didn’t need to pick up rubbish that day!” That was the first time Yongfu was officially a games master in the children’s service. “Till today at Harvest Kidz, I’m still serving as one of the games masters during main service,” he says.
Now a Harvest Kidz tradition, the Big Day was a great unknown the first time they tried it out, but one of Yongfu’s most enduring memories.
“I dressed Uncle Flabo, the clown,” recalls Yongfu. “It was a big event—we fasted two weeks, practised dry runs more than 10 times, and for two months, we did street outreach to get children to come. We rented buses to bring the kids, and bought over 500 presents for them. The night before the Big Day, we rehearsed till very late, and slept only two hours. Then came the real thing—man! The number of kids was overwhelming! Their praise and worship was so loud, our hearts melted. We didn’t have enough presents so we had to drive out and buy more presents! The kids swarmed all around Pastor Kong and Sun when they gave out the presents.
“The presence of God was indescribable. At the end, with our exhausted bodies, we cried and prayed after the Big Day service. And that’s how the Big Day was started.”
Apart from serving on weekends, Yongfu, along with other volunteers would pay weekly visits to the children at Chen Su Lan Methodist Home, which housed kids whose parents were incarcerated. “Paul Chong and I would conduct a small children’s service for them every Friday, and each time we reached, they would run towards us and jump up to hug us,” he relates. “People think we bless them, but I think Paul would agree with me when I say it was the other way round: we felt blessed. We will never forget that feeling of unconditional love.”
Today, Yongfu, now 51, and his wife continue to serve Harvest Kidz. Their daughter Carman was among the first babies to be dedicated in CHC; she is now 22 and serving in JAMs ministry. He has seen the children who used to be in his care as kids grow up and become leaders in the house of God, such as Kelvin Tan and Leila Tan, both pastoral supervisors now, and Jackie Tan, a Harvest Kidz staffer. He has seen whole families saved through the consistent outreach of the staff and volunteers of Harvest Kidz.
“The greatest rewards knowing ‘my kids’ have grown up to have a family of their own and their own kids, like Lalani Gunawan and (worship leader) Regina Kam,” he says. “I hope that all of them still remember Teacher Yongfu and know that I love them a lot.”
HELPING CHILDREN FIND GOD
Michael Choy was in the church service where Pastor Kong told CHC about CWW. “
I remember being involved in numerous overnight prayer meetings, crying out for the lives of the children and elderly as we pushed forward with the first wave of CWW. We also caught the anointing and the compassion for the lost and needy when Pastor Bill Wilson came to CHC to share his work on helping children living in slum areas.”
Pastor Bill Wilson is the founder and senior pastor of Metro World Child. His outreach to the children living in New York’s poorest areas became the model for Harvest Kidz, and for many years he visited Pastor Eileen and the children’s team at CHC, inspiring outreach methods such as driving or hiring buses to bring children in poor areas to church and send them home.
Michael was a trainee teacher when he first joined the children’s ministry—it made sense to him since he was going to be a teacher. “I was involved as a transportation helper together with Teacher Paul [Chong], who drove our minibus to bring the children to ad from church, and to move chairs and other sorts of equipment for CHC,” he recalls. “I helped to organise the bussing ministry together with a few other ‘bussing heads’ (leaders in that ministry]. Together with Pastor Eileen, we worked out the roles and responsibilities of the bus leaders and helpers. We also provided resources, such as a handbook for the leaders and helpers, and some training sessions to ensure safety was maintained. There was also a push to organise games and sing Praise songs on board the buses so that we got the kids excited and spiritually warmed up before they reached church. That was fun!”
One of his favourite memories was the “Praise song fight” that would take place on these bus journeys. “The children on the left side of the bus would try to out-sing the children on the right,” he describes. “Back then, some of the buses were not air-conditioned so you can imagine the attention we generated as the bus coursed through the various estates [picking up kids]! We sang so loudly as we passed by the Kentucky Fried Chicken next to church that the customers would look up at this bus with kids singing ‘I love You Jesus deep down in my heart’ at the top of their voices at 9 a.m. on Sunday mornings! They—most were CHC members, probably—looked like they were impressed with the kids’ singing!”
Reaching out to children across the island was both uplifting and challenging. Michael was also a visitation helper in the teams that reached out to children living in Ghim Moh estate. He has many stories but one that he shares is about a 12 year old boy with autism. “He was quite tall and strong, and he would sit next to a curtained wall on the second level of Hollywood Theatre where service was held. I would sit next to him to calm him down or help him along when he got too excited. He would secrete mucus and spit from his nose and mouth quite frequently. He typically used a handkerchief but often, he used the wall curtains to wipe his mucus! I would try to stop him but if he was in a bad mood, he would push back. Once, he threw a tantrum and wiped all his mucus on my clothes and face. I was totally grossed out but maintained my composure and held him firmly in case he injured himself. I only got to wash up after he calmed down, which took some time. What was encouraging was that he would try to clap along during Praise and listen to parts of the lesson when he could. I knew deep inside that the service was making a difference to him. For me, it was a meaningful time of engaging and helping him and the rest of the children find God and themselves.”
As the Bible says, he who waters is himself watered. Today, Michael runs his company Tech Tree, which develops online courses for corporations, educational institutions and government bodies. “We have teams in Manila, Ho Chi Minh City and Singapore. We also partner UNESCO and sponsors to produce free chatbots for learning to educate children in Myanmar, Thailand and regional countries about digital literacy and English literacy. I also speak at local and regional conferences and am a mentor for adult educators in Singapore.”
He and his wife have three children aged 12, 10 and 5, and they have dedicated Harvest Kidz teachers— Teacher Wendy and Teacher Winnie—who have been supervising and visiting them for more than 10 years. “We’re thankful for the spiritual and social support that our kids have received, especially during this pandemic season,” says Michael. “Indeed, the Bible is true: God will not forget the work of our hands. We reap what we sow, together.”
WHAT WILL CWW 2.0 LOOK LIKE?
“I think God will do new work through CWW 2.0,” says Michael. “I also sense that this time, it will be different from the first CWW and we need to be mindful of how the Spirit of God will lead us. It should not be new wine in old wine skin. The manner in which we reach out to the children, elderly and needy will vary although their needs may remain the same. I also feel that the real needs are in the regional countries where people are starving and children are not going to school.”
Pastor Glordia, on the other hand, is mindful of the challenges. “I would say it was easier to do outreach 20 years ago,” she laughs. “Fewer churches conducted outreaches to their communities back then, and also, today, we have more restrictions for what we can or cannot do.”
She adds, “But certainly, we still can reach out to children! I believe these cases would very much be based on referral and relationship. Jesus said the poor we always have. There are still people who are hurt and have needs—we just need to sniff them out!”
Yongfu believes that the basic rules to CWW outreach that applied 25 years ago still apply today. “Our motive is always the same: to get children to know Jesus and to let them experience His love through us. But methods are always changing: kids in the past and kids today are different, they have different interests. The door is always there, but using the right key to open the door is important. The key is their parents: the parents must trust you.”
At the right time, he adds, it will bear fruit. “God always has His plan. Just like a wise farmer, He will always harvest in the right season. If you know God’s season, you will know when to harvest. Be humbled by God’s power and His commandment. Love Him fervently, love one another wholeheartedly.”