The Bible teaches Christians to be hospitable to the strangers dwelling among them. For this reason, My Fellow Workers aims to serve the migrant workers living in Singapore.
The multi-purpose hall of a dormitory in Tuas was decorated to look just like a carnival on Nov 4. A team from City Harvest Church’s My Fellow Workers (MFW) ministry was there to celebrate Deepavali with more than 400 migrant workers.
MFW is a part of CHC’s Church Without Walls initiative. It focuses on being a blessing to the migrant workers, to befriend them and have meals with them. The Deepavali celebration saw migrant workers participating in various activities like games, magic shows, and mental health talks.
George Kuruvilla, 38, a volunteer serving as the host of the event, noted that the event was “well balanced with ample time to take a breather despite the packed schedule”.
MEANINGFUL ACTIVITIES AND GAMES
Dong Lin, 31, is a volunteer in charge of one of the game stations. He noted that the games were easy to follow and simple to understand as not all of them understood English fully.
“What struck me was, games like tic-tac-toe, a childhood game for most of us, was unfamiliar to the workers because of the culture difference. But because it was simple, they managed to pick it up quickly,” he said.
One of the most popular stations was the photo booth where the migrant workers could take instant prints of themselves with their friends. They could also write messages to their loved ones at the back of the prints and have those posted home by the church. Dong Lin was moved when he witnessed one of the workers tearing as he wrote his message.
“One of the brothers took about 10 minutes of going back and forth on his phone messenger app. He told me he has not been back home for 10 years and could hardly remember his home address. He said he wrote what he could remember and hoped he didn’t miss out any important details,” said Val Foo, 24, as she recalled the emotional moment.
“I didn’t know how to comfort him…I could only reassure him that we would do our best to mail the letter out. Thankfully, one of our volunteers, Jason, who was multilingual, spoke to him in Tamil and it was sorted out”.
Val, who was in charge of the photobooth noted that many of them liked the fact that there were props in their mother tongue instead of English. “Some even brought their roommates to take a buddy photo,” she shared.
Sebastian Neo, 49, was a part of the Engagement Team tasked to befriend the more reserved guests. He observed that the guests visibly “brightened up” at the event.
George shared the same sentiments. “At one point, I picked up the microphone and started walking around to engage the workers one by one. They were elated as they were suddenly in focus and their conversations mattered.”
Some workers streamed into the hall in the later part of the day in their work outfits and safety helmets. This meant that they were working, even on a special day like Deepavali. They were excited, however, to see the vibrant atmosphere in the hall.
“To many of us, this was just another holiday, but to the migrant workers who could only go from their dormitories to their worksites and back for the past two years, the event meant a lot to them.”
At the end of the day, the migrant workers were very grateful and happy for the Deepavali event that was specially organised for them. One of the workers thanked the volunteers saying, “Thank you, all very good, all very nice, and I am very happy.”
The migrant workers were not the only ones blessed by the event. The volunteers spent a meaningful day knowing that they were able to lift the spirits of the workers who had been feeling emotionally low due to the separation from their loved ones for the past two years.
Sebastian shares that as he spoke to a brother of another faith and got to know a little about his work and his family, he felt compelled to pray a blessing for him.
“It was an opportunity for us to minister to their needs as they are experiencing the fullness of joy. God’s seed of love had been sowed into their hearts and we prayed that this would bring them closer to God,” said Sebastian.
SHOWING GRACE AND LOVE TO THE STRANGERS OF OUR LAND
Leviticus 19:33-34 reads, “And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
For this reason, MFW wants to reach the migrant workers who are living in Singapore, apart from their family and friends. “The MFW wants to let them know that there are people who care for them,” Dong Lin shared. “Many of them have been stuck in Singapore, having not seen their families in more than a year. And they are usually forgotten for the work they have contributed to Singapore.”
“Like all the other volunteers, I was very happy to see that we brought joy to them and made their day. Most importantly, we hope to see them coming to Jesus. They’ll have even happier lives with Jesus in them,” said Sebastian.
For Val, the initiative was very fulfilling. “Indeed, love never fails. Initially, it was awkward as I was afraid the brothers could not understand me, but when we showed care and love, there was a breakthrough in the atmosphere. Many of them came back with even more friends to take photos and joined us in writing letters back to their families.”
“What really struck me was their smile—they seem unfazed by the realities of life. I know there is so much more to life when I start reaching out to those marginalized in our society,” George shared.