City Outlook is a Church Without Walls initiative that conducts home makeovers for less privileged families living in small spaces. They share with us how these acts of kindness bring a spark of hope to their beneficiaries.
Proverbs 24:3-4 says, “Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”
City Outlook is City Harvest Church’s outreach to those who need to create a healthy and conducive living environment at home, but have no means to do so. A new Church Without Walls initiative led by associate pastor Teo Meng How, the ministry works with volunteers from church to conduct home makeovers for less privileged families living in small spaces.
A REQUEST FOR A STUDY TABLE IN ANG MO KIO
A Harvest Kidz teacher visited the home of two young boys who attend the children’s service at CHC and noticed there was only one study table, meaning that one of the children had to do his homework on the bed.
The two boys live with their mother, who divorced her abusive husband, in a small two-room rental flat in Ang Mo Kio. Harvest Kidz made a request to City Outlook for a study desk for the family, but as it turned out, the ministry, learning of their situation, decided to make a total change to the family’s entire living environment.
With the help of 14 members from cell group N432, City Outlook conducted a total home makeover for the family: they decluttered the home, repainted the walls, changed the furniture and the lightings, and added touches to improve the aesthetics of the home.
In addition, the cell group arranged for a staycation for the family so that they could have quality time together, bonding while their home was being refurbished.
The beneficiary was deeply moved by the efforts of the City Outlook team. “I’m so happy and excited to have this ‘new home’,” she said on the day the family returned to their home. “Being a woman, I like a neat and tidy house, but I don’t know how to keep my house neat and clean. Some I’m tired, so I don’t have the energy to take care of the house. Today, everything seems to be in order. I couldn’t have dreamed this even in my wildest dreams! I’m speechless—I can only thank and appreciate everyone from CHC who has cared for our family so thoughtfully and beautifully. God bless you!”
USING THEIR TALENTS TO SERVE THE LORD
Interior designers and husband and wife Kelvin Gan, 45 and Karen Tan, 44, from N432 are two of the pioneers of City Outlook.
“In the beginning of 2021 during my devotion time, God gave me this vision to use our talents to serve,” explains Kelvin. “We are interior designers, and our talent is to make homes beautiful. So, we embarked on this journey, using profits from our company to help those that really need it. We approached Pastor Meng How and asked him how to go about this, and that’s how City Outlook began.”
Pastor Meng How, associate pastor of City Harvest Church, shares that City Outlook is not about doing a renovation work, but about changing the environment of the beneficiaries’ living spaces. As this is the vision, each volunteer contributes in his own way: the designers have their skillsets, the cell group members become the “hands, lips and even financiers” of the project.
Pastor Meng How and Karen, who has a burden for single mothers, also note that going into the environment of another individual allows one to understand their needs and see things from their point of view.
“The initial idea was to create a conducive place to study—that was the main thing,” Pastor Meng How explains. “But after Kelvin and Karen went in, they realised that there were more things they could do to help. One thing led to another: they realised that if they were to paint the house, it would not be good for the family to sleep there due to the paint fumes. That’s led them to think, ‘Maybe we can give the family a staycation?’ They never gone on a staycation before. And so, once we go into the place, we identify a problem. And then from there, we start to plan what else we can do. And the two boys now feel encouraged to study.”
HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS
The state of one’s home often reflects the state of one’s life. As Karen began speaking to the different beneficiaries, she came to realise why something seemingly simple such as cleaning one’s home could be difficult for the individual.
“There is information and details about the person’s life that we may not know from the beginning,” she explains. “So we have to understand their background before we make judgment. After all, our ministry is not about the house, it’s about the people.”
Pastor Meng How adds while everyone naturally wants to have a nice home, there are reasons why certain homes deteriorate—something the team understands more and more as they help different beneficiaries.
“For many, the state of the home is a culmination of years going through tough times. Some don’t have the energy to do anything to change their situation. Some don’t have money. Some don’t even know how to get started because they have faced this problem for three, five years, and things have accumulated to such a degree,” he describes. “I feel that we need to be more understanding as outsiders looking in. It may seem so easy to just throw away everything as you declutter, but it’s not as simple as that.”
AN EYE-OPENING EXPERIENCE
Another City Outlook project in Yishun involved six members from S72 and five members from E523 and AZ zone. They cleaned, decluttered, disposed of old furniture, moved in new furniture and provided financially for the home makeover. This makeover was extensive and took more two full weekends to complete. The team also arranged for a staycation for the family of five—the beneficiaries’ first.
It was an eye-opening experience for the members of E523 who admitted that they had never done such intensive cleaning ever, even in their own homes. The state of this Yishun home came as a bit of shock to the City Outlook team: the two-room flat housed five people, with mattresses filling up the living area, and all sorts of items and plastic bags cluttering up the floor area.
Cell group leader of S72, Lim Churn Hoe, 28 said, “When my members and I first saw the place, we never could have imagined that that there are people in Singapore living in such conditions. We are reminded we are blessed, and we must help others, even in small ways.”
Each member sacrificed in his own way: some had to overcome their fear of cockroaches, while one member who suffered from eczema helped with the cleaning while wearing protective gloves.
Churn Hoe shares that his cell group members who were mostly youths very much enjoyed the camaraderie of being involved in this project. He felt that it was great that Pastor Kong encouraged the members to take part in CWW projects because these offer the members a chance to get together in small groups, which they had not done in a long time. “In fellowship we are also serving the community,” he adds.
Linette Luo, 32, the cell group leader of E523 revealed that her members were eager to be involved. “They have been looking for opportunities to volunteer and to give back. Through City Outlook, we can actually give back to society in the little ways like cleaning.”
For this family comprising of a woman with three grown children and a grandchild, the makeover was not just a physical one. Due to certain issues, one of her daughters had not left the house for years, but she decided to venture out with her family on staycation.
It was a challenge in planning, but the team decided to push through and make it happen for this family.
“When all of them went on staycation together, I was very, very happy because we managed to get someone who has not stepped out of the house for years to actually do so. To me, that’s a breakthrough,” Pastor Meng How says.
The highlight of every home makeover is definitely the reveal, and this beneficiary “couldn’t believe her eyes”, says the pastor. “She kept thanking me because she never imagined her home could be like this. She’s very grateful for what the cell group and the designers have done for them.”
City Outlook is bringing the love of Christ to families such as these. Pastor Meng How encourages all believers to do their part, no matter how small. “That’s why we believers have this calling. God wants to use us to go in where the need is, and all we really bring is a spark. We don’t know whether after we have left the home, that spark will continue to grow, but I think our responsibility as believers is to give people hope,” he says.
“That’s what City Outlook is all about: giving people a head start, saying to them, ‘Let me help you to get started’. Then we encourage them and let them be the ones to continue to keep it up.”