This Christmas, CHC’s Chinese Service partners with the Prison Fellowship of Singapore to deliver letters written by prisoners to their families.
Jeremy Sim, 58, understands the feeling of being behind bars, away from his loved ones. Just a little more than 10 years ago, he too was in and out of prison, unable to shake himself free from drug addiction.
“When the church started sharing about the Angel Tree Project, I was moved in my heart to participate because I had been in the same situation,” he tells City News in Mandarin. “I really wanted to reach out to the prisoners’ families and help them understand how we prisoners really feel.”
It was only when he met Jesus at a halfway house did his life turn around for good. Jeremy is now a member of City Harvest’s Chinese Service. “The Bible teaches us that after our lives are changed by God, we must look out for our fellow brothers,” Jeremy shares. “Since I’ve changed from my old ways, and my life is transformed, I’m very glad that I have a chance to visit the family members of other inmates.”
Jeremy is one of the 90 volunteers who visited 34 families under the Angel Tree Project. The Angel Tree Project, launched in 2005, is an initiative by the Prison Fellowship of Singapore to connect prison inmates with their families in the spirit of Christmas. This year, City Harvest’s Chinese Service partnered with them to deliver reconciliatory letters and gifts from the inmates to their families. It is a project under CHC’s Prison Care Ministry, which was birthed as part of the church’s Church Without Walls initiatives.
Together with two other teammates, Jeremy visited an elderly couple whose son is in prison. “That day, I shared with the inmate’s parents my testimony and asked them to give their son another chance. I shared with them my experience of how I tried many times before I could finally get back on my feet.”
PARTNERING WITH GOD ON A MISSION
Andy Mah, 44, an IT specialist, was pleasantly surprised by the hospitality of the elderly lady he visited. As a foreigner in Singapore, Andy understands how it feels to be away from family, especially in this festive season. His wife, a Chinese national, shares his sentiments and encouraged him to do his part in reaching out to those in need.
“I don’t usually have an opportunity to reach the needy and connect with them in my everyday life or even in my ministry,” Andy shares in Mandarin. “This project gave me a chance to visit the elderly. As I am far away my own parents, it moves me to be able to connect and bless someone else’s parents.”
Andy was teamed up with two fellow Cantonese-speaking Malaysians to visit an elderly Cantonese-speaking woman. After receiving the name and contact number from Eliora Chiam, the pastoral secretary in charge of the Angel Tree project, Andy said a prayer before making that first point of contact. “I prayed for the Holy Spirit to give me wisdom and the right words to say,” he says. “I spoke to her in Cantonese, the language that she is the most familiar with.”
To his surprise, the elderly lady who picked up the phone was friendly and very open to him. The team was even more surprised when they found the elderly lady eagerly awaiting their arrival, with her daughter at her side that Sunday afternoon.
She was delighted to see Andy and his team and received them with warmth. She chatted with them for almost two hours. “We realised that she has a lot of emotional needs and our team prayed for her in Cantonese before we left.”
Through this visitation, Andy saw how open the hearts of the non-believers are. “She was very open to us even though she is not a believer,” he recounts. “She is so interested in Jesus and how He cares for people with needs.”
This gave Andy and his team a revelation. “Most of the time, we think that there will be a lot of resistance when we share the gospel with others. But when we start to do it, we’ll realise that those who do not know Jesus are far more open to Him than we think.”
He gave the illustration of Jesus sending the 70 disciples out in twos. “He told them not to worry about anything, but to simply bring the gospel to the lost. If they welcome you, they are blessed. But if they don’t welcome you, don’t worry about that too,” he shares.
“When we start doing what God tells us to do, we realise that God is opening the door for us. Maybe some Christians have not had a good experience sharing the gospel; but thankfully, we met someone who is so open to us at our first try. It actually shows us that this is not just the work of man, it’s really a chance to partner with God.
SHOWING OTHERS THE LOVE OF CHRIST
For Jeremy Tan, 37, doing visitation was his way of doing missions locally. “I’ve always had a heart for missions,” he says in Mandarin. “In the past, I’ve served in orphanages and churches in Malaysia and Indonesia with my cell group members.” The COVID-19 restrictions changed all that.
“When Pastor Bobby Chaw (the pastor who oversees the Chinese Service) first shared this idea of the Angel Tree project, I felt that it was very meaningful. Helping prisoners bring a message to their family is like building a bridge for them to reconcile—we are messengers bringing their love to their family,” Jeremy Tan says.
Jeremy Tan and his team brought the letter and gift to the parents of a prisoner. They stood at the gate to chat with the couple, in their 70s and listened to them share about their son.
“I feel that through this visitation, we can show the family members, who are mostly non-believers, the love of Christ. For them to have a family member in prison, they are bound to feel that something is missing,” Jeremy shares. “I hope that our small gesture can help mend their relationship.”