Theirs is a true blue City Harvest romance: Pastor Lin Junxian and his wife Dawn Lee met in CHC, got married in CHC and now work together in CHC. In this Valentine’s Day story, they share with us their heartwarming love story.
There are some couples that enjoy an ideal romance, and Pastor Lin Junxian and his wife Dawn are one of those.
Pastor Junxian is a pastor with CHC: he preaches some weekends at the main service, he heads a pastoral zone, he is the President of the church’s community services arm, CHCSA, and he has spiritual oversight of CityWorship, CHC’s worship team of singers and musicians. Dawn is an executive secretary and personal assistant to the executive pastor, and she leads CityHomes, a Church Without Walls initiative that places children in need under the foster care of married couples in CHC.
Married 22 years now, Pastor Junxian and Dawn have two daughters, Denise and Debbie.
City News asked the couple to share the inspiring journey of their relationship individually. It’s amazing how their replies are on the same wavelength.
CN: How long have you known one another and how long have you been married?
Pastor Junxian and Dawn: We started as friends in 1994 for three years in the same zone, serving as cell group leaders. We dated for three years after that and got married in August 2001. This year, we will be celebrating our 22nd anniversary on 9 August.
Please tell us how you met. What was your first impression of one another?
D: We met when we were in the same zone, serving as cell group helpers in our respective cell groups. My first impression of him was that he was very friendly and he was a nice guy. I was quite impressed that he could play the saxophone.
JX: I thought she had a big heart—she was a very good CGL—that she was spiritual, and had an outgoing, bright personality. Both of us had similar interests as well.
When did you start feeling attracted to each other and why?
D: We were both active in campus fellowship at the National University of Singapore. Both our faculties share the same canteen and we would meet during lunch break. I can’t remember if we were saving money but I remember sharing food with him in school. (Laughs) After school, we would chat on ICQ (internet messenger). At the time there were no mobile phones yet, so ICQ was our mode of communication after school.
I thought, maybe this guy likes me since he likes to talk to me so much. On my 22nd birthday, he bought me a Swatch watch. At that time, Swatch was considered a very expensive gift. I went home and showed my dad the watch and told him, ‘Maybe this guy likes me’. But I remember Junxian was very cautious: some days he was warm, some days he felt distant. I felt that he was indecisive. So one day, I just asked him directly if he liked me. It’s a good thing he said he did! I don’t know what my reaction would have been if he had said no! (Laughs)
JX: Before Dawn, I had never been in a boy-girl relationship. She was my first and only girlfriend. We had many opportunities to spend time together. Back then, we were serving God together in the zone. At the same time, CHC started Church Without Walls and somehow we both signed up to serve in the Dialect Outreach. Both of us were studying at NUS and our faculties were next to one another. We even took common elective modules and sat in the same lectures. I think as we spent more time with one another, our friendship grew. We spent time chatting on ICQ after school. After a while, we could finish each other’s sentences, and we knew what each other was thinking. I grew fond of Dawn and thought that it might be possible that we could become life partners.
At the time you began dating, what was your situation like in school, church and at home?
D: In the past, dating in the church had very strict rules. We wouldn’t dare to go on dates without first meeting our leaders, and we would not confirm our relationship without first meeting our leaders together. Guess who we met? Pastor Yong (Te-chong)! The first question he asked us was “Is this puppy love?” His second question was “When are you getting married?” As we were both still in university, we were advised to go slow in our relationship.
At home, our families were very supportive. We were both each other’s first boyfriend and girlfriend, and the first boy and girl we brought home to meet the parents. My dad knew that I was serious and my family liked JX very much.
On our first date, JX wore a shirt and jeans. He told his mother that he was going to meet a girl, and his mom gave him a word of wisdom: “Choose wisely”. Till today, I tell my girls the same: “Choose wisely”.
My mother-in-law was very welcoming. She would bring me shopping. My father-in-law was a taxi driver. At that time, I was staying in Jurong and JX was staying in Bishan. After sending me home, he would take bus 157 home. Many times, my father-in-law would tell JX to wait for him to pick him up from my home. He would pick up passengers wanting to go to the West and then swing by to pick JX up. He played an instrumental role during our dating days. (Laughs)
JX: Before we officially became a couple, we prayed and sought the counsel of our pastors and made ourselves accountable to our spiritual leaders. We spoke to our zone supervisor and he gave us his blessings. Next, we met Reverend Yong, who was one of the senior leaders of our church. He got straight to the point! His first question was, when did I plan to marry Dawn! (laughs) I am thankful for Pastor Yong. He is someone I can share my heart with freely with, up till today. Looking back, I think he wanted us to know that getting attached is not child’s play. It’s a serious matter and he wanted to know that we were getting together with marriage as the end goal.
On the school and church front, I think our friends around us were not terribly surprised. In NUS, I think they would have seen us having lunch together in the canteen or attending lectures together. As for the church friends around us, some were a little surprised because they knew we had completely opposite personalities. Some concerned friends wondered if we would survive the relationship!
At home, my mom was quite anxious for me because I had never had a girlfriend before. My mother was very nice to Dawn. She treated her like a daughter and brought her out on shopping trips without me! I think she was very taken with Dawn.
I remember sending Dawn home back after our first date. It was the first time I met my father-in-law and Dawn’s grandmother. I was a bundle of nerves. Having heard much of Dawn’s father being the strict disciplinarian, I was a little intimidated. Over time, I grew close to my father-in-law. We shared many great life conversations, and I loved and respected my him a lot. I think we enjoyed a close and healthy father-in-law and son-in-law relationship till he passed away in 2008. I remember I was right next to him at the hospice when he breathed his last and went home to be with the Lord.
As for Dawn’s mom, she always says she is very proud to have me as her son-in-law. I was very happy that Dawn’s family took me in so readily. Both of us have an older sister, and we enjoy good relationships with each other’s siblings.
Did you face any challenges or objections regarding your relationship in the early days?
D: I found out later that some of his church friends were concerned that I might be too domineering for him and my character would be too strong for him. However, he went against their advice and decided to go ahead with our relationship. Wise choice. (Laughs)
When did you know that he/she was the one for you?
D: During those times in church, you didn’t start dating if you were not sure. (Smiles) It’s like Pastor Yong asking us, “when do you want to get married” during our first meeting with him. If you are not serious, then don’t start.
I remember we had a fight on the day he received his first paycheck. But he still went and bought the proposal ring that day. Even when he was upset with me, he still wanted to marry me. That was very assuring.
JX: I prayed and thought through our relationship a lot. We entered into the relationship based on our friendship and not just romance. I knew that my feelings for her were genuine. When we were angry with one another, the funny thing was that we would still be thinking of how each other was doing and want the best for each other in any given situation.
What part did God play in your relationship?
JX: I think every decision we make in life is a step of faith. Both Dawn and I felt peace as we entered into this relationship. Personally, I think I have prayed my best and sought the counsel of leaders, my family and friends who love me and whom I trust. As the Bible says, in the multitude of counselors… Though we were head over heels in love with one another during that season of dating, we found ourselves loving and serving God as we did before.
How did you prepare for marriage?
D: After dating for three years, and when both of us had graduated and were in our first year of working, we discussed marriage in late 2000. He proposed in February 2001. We registered our marriage on 20 April 2001 and bought our flat. Then we held our Holy Matrimony on 9 August 2001. We didn’t go through any specific counseling or marriage prep. The whole process took only six months.
JX: I don’t think there was any Happily Ever After (HEA) or special marriage counseling back then. However, Pastor Kong and Sun would share the principles of marriage and their own marriage experience with us as a church over the weekend sermons. That gave us a lot of insight and wisdom in reconciling our differences. It took us six months from proposal to getting a flat, to getting married! It was a raw step of faith and it was crazy! God is good! We experienced many provision miracles during the period leading up to our marriage.
Tell us about your wedding day!
D: We got married on National Day: 9 August 2001. I was 26 and JX was 25 (he is 10 months younger than me). Our wedding ceremony was held at Hollywood Theatre, CHC’s former worship premise along Tanjong Katong Road. In fact, we were the last couple to hold our wedding in Hollywood before CHC moved to Jurong West.
Our banquet was held at Top of the Plaza, a Chinese restaurant on the top floor of UOB Plaza. We chose that place so that our guests could watch the National Day fireworks from the restaurant!
One of my aunts blessed us with a hotel stay at Fullerton Hotel. As our banquet was held at a Chinese restaurant and not a hotel, her blessing was timely! After dinner, we walked along the Singapore River from UOB Plaza back to Fullerton Hotel.
JX: It was a great night of celebration with family and friends!
Starting married life isn’t easy. What were the difficulties you each faced? What was the best part of those early days?
D: As we had just started working, we didn’t have savings. With the government grant (from the Marriage and Parenthood package), we managed to buy an HDB flat in Jurong. We were required to place $5,000 as OTP (option to purchase) deposit. However, we only had $1,000. Thank God, the seller was willing to accept our offer. We took a bank loan for renovations but we had no money to furnish the house.
After our wedding, we moved into a newly renovated place with just a bed, a fridge and a washing machine. These are the three basic items you need to start building a home! (Smiles) The following month, my mother-in-law bought us a TV. But we had to place it on the floor because we had no TV console (laughs). However, the exciting part of that journey was seeing how God blessed us and how our house was eventually filled.
One of God’s blessings was JX taking part in Singapore’s edition of the game show Wheel Of Fortune. He went on to the final round and won a $5,000 Harvey Norman voucher! That was exactly what we needed to buy furniture and appliances for our new, empty house. We bought bookshelves, a dining table and bedding.
It was a journey of faith to marry early but it was also an opportunity for God to provide and showed Himself faithful.
JX: Starting out as a young professional, financially we were tight. I was working in a start-up and the pay was quite low. But God provided for us along the way. Other than our housing and renovation loan, we did not have any other debts. Both of us worked out a budget together. We were faithful in our tithes and our offerings. Back then, there was still the church building fund every year, but we were never in lack. In fact, God prospered us through the years and we were able to witness His provision and goodness in our lives.
Many young couples face trouble within the first six months to three years of their married life. From your experience, what advice can you give couples entering into marriage so that they can better prepare themselves?
JX: Being newly married also means we have to adapt and learn how to live with one another, seeing each other 24/7. The saying, “Love is blind. Marriage is an eye opener” is true in every sense. There were many moments our habits and personality would clash. My advice is, don’t lose the fun of the friend-relationship when you first started dating. I can’t say that Dawn and I have everything under control or totally resolved. But I would say that commitment is the bedrock of every marriage. I love what Ruth Graham (the wife of Billy Graham for 70 years) says about marriage: “Marriage is not just a union of two good lovers, but two good forgivers.”
Can you share one instance where you both got into conflict, and how you resolved it?
D: I grew up in a family where my dad was away for work most of the time. When he came home, he would have constant disagreements and fights with my mom. Early in our own marriage, in the first or second year before we had Denise, we had a huge fight over something so minute that I cannot even recall what it is now. I lost control of myself and started shouting at JX in a rage. I even locked myself in the bedroom.
That incident shocked both of us! I didn’t realize that there was such deep anger inside me and I found myself patterning the way my parents argued. JX was very shocked because he had never seen me so out of control before and he didn’t know how to respond.
After both of us calmed down, we had a good talk. We set out rules like no locking of the door after a fight because it makes the other party feels shut out, no returning to our parents’ place, and if we needed time and space to cool off, we could go out but we had to return home at the end of the day.
These rules did not prevent us from further fights, but they certainly minimized the hurt we could have caused each other during conflicts.
Did you plan for your children? What sort of family planning did you do?
D: We planned for both the girls. Thank God we didn’t have to wait very long. Both times, within months of trying, I was pregnant. Two years after getting married, we felt that we were ready to bring our marriage to the next level. Initially, we were happy with one child. But both of us had one other sibling and we thought we should give Denise a sibling too. Four years later, we had Debbie. It was the best decision we made because I cannot imagine life without Debbie—both of them are growing so well together.
JX: Yes, we planned for our kids. I think both of us wanted children to complete the family. What we couldn’t quite agree on was the number of children. I wanted three while Dawn was happy to stop at two (smiles). I think we planned the best we could, but honestly, no one can totally plan for a new life. We trusted God to provide and guide us as we embarked on our parenting journey.
How did having Denise and Debbie change your relationship?
D: When they were young, our lives evolved around them. I must say we did not make much time for each other as we were also starting out in our careers and ministry.
We were very hands-on parents. We do not stay with our parents, and we did not have a maid until Debbie came along, and only for six years. So we did almost everything together and planned our schedule around the girls. Holidays were always family holidays. As we were also actively serving God as cell group leaders, we always brought the girls to cell group meetings with us. So our members have seen our girls grow up.
Now that they are older, God, church and ministry are a norm to them. I know it’s hard for children with both parents serving in full-time ministry because that can be very demanding. We sacrifice family time for night meetings or urgent pastoral matters. However, I know our children are also proud of us, knowing that our careers and ministry are kingdom-centered.
How do you keep the romance going? Did you ever find it difficult to do so?
D: I think we can do better in this area. Some days we can be so busy that we only see each other in the morning and late at night, and don’t talk to each other at all during the day. Now that the girls are older we try to make time for ourselves. Our best conversations are had in the car, when we go to the office together or when JX drives me. A few years back, Pastor Gary Heyes (visiting pastor to CHC) gave us a word that “we were like ships that passed each other by night”. That was a wake-up call for both of us. Now we make time to do things together. We have quite a few common interests: we both like sports. We watch NBA games together and we support the same team. Even though I don’t understand the game of rugby and soccer, but I will watch the game with him. Every year we catch the Singapore Rugby Sevens.
JX: More time and focus was spent on the kids than on ourselves in the earlier years. But I think by the grace of God, we were able to pull through the difficult seasons with constant forbearance and counsel from our leaders and friends that love us! We keep the flame burning by spending time enjoying what the other enjoys.
What is the most romantic thing your spouse has done for you, and why did it mean so much to you?
D: It’s the little things he does for me that warm my heart, like buying me my favorite snacks such as curry puffs. I used to like to read women’s magazines like Her World, CLEO, Simply Her etc, but I felt buying them was a waste of money. JX would buy them and place them on my study table. He notices the things I like and buys them for me because I don’t buy them for myself.
JX: I’m not a very romantic person. I don’t know how she will answer this question (laughs). I think what is romantic is the little everyday things she does for me.
You’ve been married for 22 years. Can you describe in one paragraph what that adventure has been like for you?
D: Our marriage is really like a roller-coaster ride. There are ups and downs. Some parts you scream, and some parts you laugh. The ride starts and ends with the same person sitting beside you.
JX: A journey of faith, hope and love. And love is the greatest.
Pastor Junxian’s 5 Secrets To A Long & Happy Marriage
- Having Christ – His love, grace and forgiveness – in the centre of our marriage.
- Honesty and trust
- Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!
- Have lots fun!
Dawn’s 5 Secrets To A Long & Happy Marriage:
- Choose wisely. Choose one tree and give up the entire forest.
- Be accountable. Find a married couple more mature and spiritual than you whom you both can be accountable to.
- Agree to disagree. You are a team. When one spouses loses, both lose.
- Spouse comes before children. Before the children came, it was the two of you. After the children are grown up and leave the house, it will be just then two of you again.
- Communicate! Use words, texts, actions, feelings, letters, songs…