To celebrate Valentine’s Day, City News invites CHC associate pastor Lee Yi Lun and her husband Eugene Goh, a financial controller in a Fortune 500 company to share their not-so-conventional love story which began when they were in junior college. PHOTOGRAPHY: MICHAEL CHAN
Starting a romantic relationship in church can be fraught with complications, particularly when you are a teenager.
Pastor Lee Yi Lun was 18 and training to become a cell group leader in City Harvest Church when sparks began to fly between her and her junior college mate, Eugene Goh. Eugene was the chairman of the Audiovisual Club at Temasek Junior College, and Pastor Yi Lun was the secretary.
Sitting down to speak to City News, Eugene starts at the beginning of their courtship, when there was an element of chance that came to play.
“For some reason we were both voted into the [Audiovisual] committee. I was the chairman, she was the secretary, so the typical jokes about chairman-secretary becoming an item were made,” Eugene recalls with a laugh. However, they did not get together immediately. Instead they found themselves being involved in school projects together.
However, Eugene’s feelings for Yi Lun did not remain hidden for long. Pastor Yi Lun says, “I remember during one class trip a friend, who was his classmate, said to me, ‘Do you know that Eugene likes you?’ I said, ‘Wow! Sure or not?’”
“Actually the whole world knew,” Eugene chimes in. “Everybody in my class and your class knew!”
Pastor Yi Lun, being a direct person, decided that she needed to hear the truth from Eugene himself. So she asked him outright if he did like her.
“In that moment, I felt absolute panic,” Eugene recounts. “But I suggested, ‘Shall we alight at Siglap Centre and talk about it?'”
A COMPLICATED SITUATION
For some, junior college is the perfect time to get together. But they were both concerned that they had their ‘A’ Levels to contend with. Also, there was the issue that Eugene was a newcomer to City Harvest Church, and a fairly young believer, whereas Pastor Yi Lun was already rising up to be a cell group leader. Since he was “not exactly a fervent Christian”, she felt concerned for his spiritual life.
Yet a bigger concern was that Pastor Yi Lun was on a vow to remain single at that point in time.
“I’m a very logical person,” she admits. “I wanted to know the facts, so that I could pray and plan.” Recalling how she felt at that time, she says that she empathises with singles who have found someone they like who is a non-Christian, or who is less fervent in their faith. “Should we just immediately write them off?” she questions.
Pastor Yi Lun did not, because she had “good vibes” about Eugene. Her advice to singles is to pray to know the heart of the other person. She notes that, when courting someone else, the person will always be on their best behaviour, but God alone knows the hearts of all men. Therefore, singles should pray and ask God to reveal the other person’s heart and true nature.
She also notes that “a person’s title and rank does not determine his spirituality. It is the little things that will tell you more about who he really is, the way he loves people, the way he looks out for others and thinks about others. I know it sounds a bit controversial, but church or cell group attendance doesn’t translate to spirituality. The title, the position of leadership doesn’t translate to spirituality. It is the daily consistency and Christlikeness of his character.”
So finding herself in such a moment, Pastor Yi Lun made a prayer to God about Eugene: “God, You honour me that I kept myself pure. I pray that after I finish this vow, You would show me if this is the life partner I should have. And if it isn’t, then You intervene in this whole situation. You even remove that liking we have for one another.”
She also set some internal targets for Eugene, which she never revealed to him: that he would be be integrated in a cell group, join a ministry, be discipled by a zone supervisor or a pastor, finish the Victorious Living Bible study series and get baptised. All while he was still serving National Service.
Eugene knew nothing about the targets Pastor Yi Lun had set, but somehow, he completed every single one and even became a Harvest Kidz visitation leader.
If you find you are dating someone who is more spiritually mature—”more ups”, as Eugene puts it—than you, he suggests how to deal with the pressure. “It is all part of the chase, and eventually part of your commitment, You must demonstrate to her that even if you’re not at that level yet, you are willing to do all you can.”
He adds, “If you really love a person, you want to be more of what she wants you to be. You may fail, and there’s nothing wrong with failing, but it’s the effort that matters. If you’re not even willing to make the effort, what makes you think the person will want to be with you?”
This willingness to do the things that matter to the other person could even involve food. “When we first got together, I hated spicy and she hated tomato. After 20 years together, I have started to eat spicy, and she still hates tomato,” he laughs.
Their “extended” courtship put a measure of additional stress on their emotions. Pastor Yi Lun did not want Eugene to feel negatively about the church leadership; she was also unsure if the leadership would bless them since they were not on the same level spiritually, but they already had developed feelings for one another. She explains that such a situation requires a lot of faith and trust in God. “If it’s meant to be and you are meant to be together, you will; if you’re not meant to be together, you will not be together. God is in control. I really trust Him.”
Eugene, on the other hand, felt a strong sense of trust and security because of Pastor Yi Lun’s strong Christian faith. While he was in National Service, he witnessed many of his army mates experiencing “non stop breakups, but I had the understanding she is a Christian, and she wouldn’t backstab or betray me.”
Pastor Yi Lun completed her vow on her 18th birthday. She and Eugene only got together the following year on 25 August, the year they both turned 19. “Pastor (Wu Yu) Zhuang prayed for us—he saw how consistent and committed Eugene was,” she recalls.
A MARRIAGE FILLED WITH LOVE AND LAUGHTER
Today, Eugene and Pastor Yi Lun have been married 14 years and they have three children: Li’ora, Li’ron and Li’roy.
Today, some of the pressure remains. Yi Lun being a pastor, convention may have it Eugene has to “match up”, particularly being the man in the marriage and the head of their household. He sees it as part of their journey together. He shared how in a recent marriage retreat they attended together, he heard something that moved him: “it is the journey together that is part of the leading as well… the walk together is the spiritual journey. So you don’t have to feel so pressured as a man.”
Pastor Yi Lun notes with a proud smile that Eugene is “one of the most senior volunteer leaders in Harvest Kidz”.
There are three main qualities that attracted Yi Lun to Eugene: his confidence, his serving nature and his sense of humour. His most notable love language to her is acts of service. He makes it a point to charge her iPad and iPhone nightly so they are ready for her in the morning. During intense Zoom meetings he would help her correct and adjust her posture to make sure she is seated well.
Eugene applies humour to attract his wife’s attention when she is busy and caught up with ministry. It is no secret that Pastor Yi Lun holds many roles and is very dedicated in serving the church—she is a key leader in Emerge and also the pastoral oversight for the Visual Communications team. When he needs to locate his wife, Eugene would post funny updates on his Facebook, such as one that appeared the night before Pastor Yi Lun’s birthday: “If you’re holding my wife hostage, please let her come home so I can celebrate at midnight, thanks.”
He shares that it is an efficient and quick way to get in contact with her because he knows that her phone is flooded with WhatsApp messages and his would be lost. The endearing thing is that her zone members have joined in as their “comms support”, and would let her know to quickly go home as her husband is looking for her.
Having a husband who is not part of the church staff is also something Pastor Yi Lun is grateful for. She feels a deep sense of gratitude for the efforts of the volunteers, who work long hours, care for their family and yet sacrifice their weekends to be involved in church work. She shares that she gained this perspective largely because of Eugene and that “it is a key advantage that has influenced my pastoral leadership of the young adults in my zone.”
She shares that Eugene has the confidence to let her outshine him in some areas, and above all, he is willing to release her to do what God has called her to do without feeling like he will lose out. He is open to letting her spend time with her members. She also appreciates that they have space in church to grow at their own pace.
What attracted Eugene to Yi Lun was her kindness. He finds security and comfort in their connection, and in their common agreement and Christian commitment to their union.
“He was my first boyfriend, and he became my husband,” she says. “I really feel God honours you when you set yourself apart for Him. And that is the grace that I have in my life.”
Q&A WITH PASTOR YI LUN AND EUGENE
Q: Three words you’d use to describe each other.E: Kind, loving, trusting
YL: Loving, consistent, faithful
E: Not tall, dark, handsome??
Q: Who are your celebrity couple alter egos?
E: Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively. Except my wife doesn’t shoot back at me.
Q: How about Bible couple alter egos?
YL: Hannah and Elkanah’s story inspires me when I think about relationships. The way he loves her whether or not she’s perfect, whether or not she has children. He would encourage Hannah saying it doesn’t matter. He’s so secure in loving her for who she is and not what she produces.
Q: What is the purpose of marriage?
YL: The purpose of marriage is to love someone unconditionally, to demonstrate the agape love Jesus has for us. Only after I’m married did I realise I’m self-centred.
E: The purpose of marriage is finding that one person you want to spend your life with, and you’re willing to wake up to the same person every day.
Both: We may not be perfect for each other, but because we’ve made the commitment to choose each other. You choose to be committed to a person, that’s what makes the marriage perfect.