What is it like stepping out of one’s comfort zone to be part of a Church Without Walls initiative? Our writer volunteered with My Fellow Workers at its Sports Festival and came away learning something about migrant workers in Singapore and about himself.
It began like any other Sunday on 4 December. I woke up and made my way down to Suntec Convention Centre for Sunday service. The only difference was that right after service ended, instead of hanging out with my cell group, I drove for 40 minutes before I arrived at Tuas South Recreation Centre for the Sports Festival hosted by City Harvest Church’s My Fellow Workers (MFW) ministry.
MFW is an initiative under CHC’s Church Without Walls, set up to be a blessing to migrant workers in Singapore, befriending them and having meals with them. The sports festival is just one of many events MFW organises.
Upon reaching the location, I discovered many other volunteers there setting up the area, busy getting ready the game booths, redemption booths and the stage before the doors opened. As a part of the engagement team, I was paired up with a fellow volunteer Luke Ng. Our job was simple: we were to usher the participants to the various stations and, of course, to engage with them.
SPORTS: A COMMON LANGUAGE
3.30pm came and doors were opened. A handful of participants entered, some of them lost and unsure of what to do. I spoke with them, but most of them only seemed to speak a little English. That did make communicating rather hard, but as far as directing them to the various booths, that wasn’t impossible. Most of them greeted me with warm smiles, and some even approached us knowing that we were part of the organising team.
It surprised me that most of the migrant workers were rather shy. While I was making the rounds, I saw a group of participants who looked really young. Despite the language barrier, I managed to ask them a few questions. They were only 20 years old and had been here in Singapore for the last five months.
A few hours in, the crowd grew. Many of the participants had come straight after work, some still clad in neon jumpsuits and vests. The queues soon became overwhelming, with hundreds flocking to the venue.
One of the highlights of the afternoon portion was the mass game held right at the centre of the venue: a cricket game. The participants would form groups of five and do a simple game of cricket. The winning teams were called back to play against other winning teams, and there were even medals awarded to the top three teams.
As a sports festival, the games were all centred around sports. A soccer station game would require participants to dribble the ball past cones under a specified time. The badminton station would need them to land the shuttlecock within a zone to score points. And at the end, once the participants have completed all the games, they could head over to the redemption booths to claim their prizes. Depending on their scores for each station, they could be exchanged for prizes ranging from snacks to blenders and standing fans—mostly donated by CHC members.
The afternoon ended with some games on stage and the winning cricket teams were announced. There was also a “Blessing Draw” where every participant had a chance to win prizes like wireless earbuds, a new smartphone, and up to $200 cash.
In the evening, the sports festival continued, and Captain’s Ball was the arena game. The crowd had grown so big by then that we ran out of the game cards to give out to the participants! There were long queues at every station, and my next assignment was to direct participants to the stations that were less crowded.
Dinner time came and all the volunteers were given a short respite as Tommy the magician took to the stage. Judging from the cheers and shouts of excitement from the crowd, he must have put up a stellar performance. We volunteers couldn’t tell, because we were huddled up in the rest area behind the stage having our dinner!
HEARING THE GOOD NEWS
After the station games, the participants were encouraged to join in a special service. The worship leaders, who had prepared for weeks leading up to this event, led praise and worship in Tamil. Ian Chong, a pastoral supervisor from CHC shared his testimony on how he came to trust God for his worries and troubles before giving an altar call for those who wanted to accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. Hundreds of hands went up, and he led them in prayer.
The service came to a close with the lighting of candles, a CHC Christmas tradition. The flame was passed on from the front, candle by candle, until the whole venue was lit up with hundreds of lights. Pastoral supervisor Johann Sim asked the participants if they needed prayer, and many raised their hands. At this, the volunteers jumped into action and went about praying for the individuals. I had the chance to pray for a worker who was anxious for his family back home. Another worker came up to me telling me he had financial problems and I prayed for him too.
When the day had come to an end, I spoke to Luke, who works in construction. In his line of work, he interacts with foreign workers on a daily basis and this led him to want to serve this community. Many others shared the same sentiment: due to the pandemic, these workers were stuck here in Singapore unable to visit their families.
Another volunteer Shelly Paul shared that she had a deep burden when she saw Covid-19 cases hitting the migrant workers in large numbers. This was around the time the church had just launched the My Fellow Workers initiative. So far, she has participated in all four of the events set up for migrant workers.
Being far from home, these workers who come here to build our homes and offices face their own struggles and hardships. It is easy for the rest of society to overlook their predicament simply because we don’t speak the same language. But during this event, even though we could only converse with them in short sentences, it felt like we gave them a voice—and the only thing I needed to do was to be willing to listen.