Feature Article: Caring for the Homeless Amidst Hard Times

This article was originally posted in our December 2020 Word@Work. 

 “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” — Acts 20:35 

 With the outbreak of COVID-19 and the resulting economic fallout, many have had to face unforeseen challenges. Amidst these trying times, the homeless are left especially vulnerable, as they lack the necessary resources to protect themselves. 

According to figures from the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), there are about 300-385 rough sleepers who have received help from the government each year between 2016 to 2018. SowCare complements existing government efforts to help these individuals, who have little to no resources to support themselves, especially in these unprecedented times. 

To that end, as a core partner of Hope Initiative Alliance (HIA), SowCare is supporting The Innkeeper’s Project—organised by New Hope Community Services and HIA—to show holistic care for the homeless. Through the generosity of our partners and donors—such as CDC Funds, SG Strong, and OSCAR@SG Fund—we have managed to provide various essential items such as floor mats, foldable tables and reusable masks to support the needs of almost 260 rough sleepers. 

SowCare has also collaborated with MSF to set up the Safe Sound Sleeping Places (S3P) initiative for the rough sleepers.

Our various partners in this S3P initiative conduct routine visits to S3P@Bible House. On 11 September, EcoLab and Singapore Youth for Christ visited S3P@Bible House. EcoLab donated $5,000 and 10 care packs to the rough sleepers residing at S3P@Bible House. Representatives from EcoLab were given a tour of S3P@Bible House. Mr Surachet Tanwongsval, Vice President and General Manager of EcoLab, commended SowCare’s efforts in caring for the homeless: “It was a humbling experience for me as I always thought that there’s no homelessness in Singapore. Going to SowCare showed that there’s a lot of less unfortunate Singaporeans that greatly benefit from the work they’ve done, in a short amount of time. I’d like SowCare to keep up this effort.” 

After visiting the Bible House, Ms Irene Nah, one of the staff members of EcoLab, also commented, “It was an eye-opener for me too. The organisation has it well planned, including facilities for their daily routine and necessities. They were also well prepared on the COVID-19 measures, practising safe distancing and temperature taking.” 

Aside from EcoLab, the Singapore Youth for Christ also collaborated with SowCare to organise a Mid-Autumn Celebration for the individuals residing at S3P@Bible House on 11 September. The evening’s programme consisted of dinner and an art and craft session, where each participant was given the opportunity to make their own lanterns. A mooncake and tea appreciation session was also held for volunteers to engage in a time of fellowship with them and to bring them some cheer. 

In the hope of bringing light into these dark times, on 14 and 15 October 2020, SowCare organised a special Zoom meeting with the MSF. The purpose of the meeting was to encourage churches to open their doors to the homeless. 

In line with our partnership with MSF, SowCare is working with MSF and the Singapore Land Authority to secure a suitable site for a shelter for rough sleepers.  

On behalf of the beneficiaries, we would like to thank all our supporting donors and partners for their generous donations and express our deep gratitude to our volunteers who have helped in various capacities.  

As a Body of Christ, let us continue to assist the needy in these challenging times. As Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matt 25:40). While we ponder Jesus’ words, let us remember that we are doing it for Christ and readily render help to those in need. 



Feature Article: Stories of Hope from the Bible Mission

Lives Forever Changed: Stories of Hope from the Bible Mission

This article was originally posted in our December 2020 Word@Work.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” —John 1:14

More than two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ was born on Christmas day, where he took on human form and lived amongst men for thirty three years before his death on the Cross. The insurmountable love that God has for His people is evidenced by the act of sending Jesus down to earth—knowing full well that he would die to save humanity from their sin (Romans 5:8).

As we give honour and glory to humanity’s Saviour for the precious gift that He has bestowed upon us, we are also called to give as we have received (Matthew 10:8). Burdened by the need to share the Good News, Bible Societies all around the world are working relentlessly to spread the Gospel and the love of Christ—through the provision of the Word, Bible advocacy programmes and meeting the needs of impoverished communities.

In this edition of Word In Action, we bring to you stories and testimonies from Bible Societies all over the world—individuals and communities who have been touched by the Bible Mission.

Uganda

Located in Central East Africa, Uganda has a population of more than 45 million, of which 30.2% consist of children aged six to 14. In spite of their tender age, many of them have been faced with a myriad of problems, such as neglect, drug abuse, rape and hard labour. Some of them have also become victims of child trafficking. To combat these problems, the Church in Uganda has been developing programmes to bring the Word of God to these children. To increase the reach of their ministry, the Bible Society of Uganda has been working with the local Church to organise Bible advocacy activities like Bible Quizzes and Bible Recitals. Bibles are also given to these children so they may read the Word of God on their own and encounter the love of God in an intimate manner. Armed with the Book of Promises, it is hoped that these children will be better equipped to face life’s challenges.

Bangladesh

Another country that has dedicated much of its Bible Mission work to Bible distribution is Bangladesh. In a country where Christians make up only 0.4% of the population, the Bible Society of Bangladesh has been translating the Bible into languages that are understood by the different language groups. To reach the illiterate communities living in remote areas, they are also in the midst of producing audio Bibles, so that even more will be able to hear the Word of God. Thus far, their audio Bibles—available in different languages—have been able to impact about 900 individuals, which would not have been possible without the help of our generous donors and supporters.

Israel

Life is full of uncertainties but there is a certainty of hope when we cling on to the Lord and His promises (Jeremiah 29:11). A teacher from Nazareth, Israel discovered this truth through one of the programmes by the Arab-Israeli Bible Society. She was suffering from anxiety and sleeplessness due to worries about all aspects of her life, especially about her children, who were serving in the medical field in these perilous times of the COVID-19 pandemic. She was also constantly fretting about her future and the future of her children, resulting in problems in her relationships with others.

Through the invitation of a friend, she attended a workshop on anxiety conducted by the Arab-Israeli Bible Society. She said, “Participating in the session at the Arab-Israeli Bible Society Centre was beneficial for me. I received a lot of information and tools to deal with my anxiety and concerns besides immediate comfort.” One of the pastors she met at the centre encouraged her to hold on to the teaching and explained to her about God’s acceptance of us, no matter what. Inspired and encouraged, she then committed her life to the Lord. She was also given a version of the New Testament and urged to pray, read the Bible and participate in church services.

This is but one of many testimonies from Israel, the Holy Land. Despite Israel being the birth place of Jesus and the site of many miracles He performed, only two percent of Israel’s population are Christians. As such, there is still much to be done in Israel to further the Bible Mission.

As Paul said in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Staying true to our mission to make the Word of God known to all peoples, we endeavour to continue being a vessel of blessing to the nations. We would like to invite you to partner with us so that we can reach more countries in need of the Word and of practical help. Visit bible.org.sg/donate to contribute to our cause.



WORD AT WORK DECEMBER 2020



Feature Article: Reaching The Forgotten With The Word

This article was originally posted in our September 2020 Word@Work.

Reaching The Forgotten With The Word

—Interview with Bishop Philip Adhikary from Bangladesh Bible Society

 

Despite having a population of about 164 million, only 0.4% of people in Bangladesh identify as Christian. Even though Christianity is largely considered a minority religion in the country, this does not deter Bishop Philip Adhikary from dedicating his life to spread the Gospel to those around him.

Currently serving as the Chairman of the Bangladesh Bible Society and the Chairman of the Christian College of Theology in Bangladesh, he also plays the role of an evangelist and Bible distributor—the main ways in which he fulfils his calling to proclaim God’s Word in Bangladesh.

In this edition of Word In Action, we speak with Bishop Adhikary himself to find out more about Bible Mission work in Bangladesh, as well as its partnership with The Bible Society of Singapore (BSS) to translate the Word Intake for Spiritual Edification (WISE) Audio Bibles into Bengali.

As the Chairman of Bangladesh Bible Society, what are some of the challenges you face in your ministry?

“My vision is for all to come to know God’s Word,and for everyone’s salvation. That is why we’re very involved in Bible distribution—to Christians, to the community, and our neighbours in Nepal and Bhutan. However, sometimes they do not accept it when we say that God is Holy, and His Word is Holy. But we pray that God will provide good opportunities to build good partnerships with these communities so we can spread His Word.”

Could you share more details about the Bangladesh Bible Society’s partnership with The Bible Society of Singapore (BSS)?

“We are working to adapt the material from the WISE Audio Bibles for use in Bangladesh. Audio Bibles are very important because some aren’t interested in reading, some people—especially the elderly—are unable to read, and some are unable to see. But with Audio Bibles, they can listen to the Word, and they can still grow spiritually.”

This year, BSS has pledged $40,000 to support Bible Mission work in Bangladesh, where the Bangladesh Bible Society intends to run Bible Listening Programmes for the illiterate, as well as the poor and needy. The long-term goal of this programme is to create a lasting impact in the lives of the participants—which will not only equip them to read the Word of God but also empower them with vital skills that could create more employment opportunities for those in need. Aside from ministering to the local communities with Scripture engagement, there will also be a distribution of daily essentials and supplies to the poor and needy in order to provide them with holistic care.

Apart from partnering with BSS to reach the nations with the Living Word, Bishop Adhikary will also be working with SowCare and the Alliance of Guest Workers Outreach (AGWO) to show care for the Bangladeshi guest workers in Singapore.

Caring for the Nations Amidst COVID-19

The sudden outbreak of COVID-19 this year has resulted in many families struggling to feed themselves all over the world. As of the time of writing, Bangladesh has seen more than 300,000 confirmed cases. To respond to the needs of the local communities, the Bangladesh Bible Society has begun an emergency food assistance programme to help 3,000 families living in remote villages. Some of the items distributed to these families include rice, onions, potatoes and cooking oil. Hygiene kits will also be given to these families. The cost of these supplies—which will help to sustain a family for 2 weeks—is $20. In addition, plans have also been made to start a Scripture and Audio Bible distribution exercise, with a target of 5,000 Bibles. Each Bible costs a mere $9, taking into account production and delivery fees.

Due to the ripple effect of the COVID-19, many other countries are also in dire need of help. In Mongolia—a country where 28.4% of the population lives in poverty—many are rendered helpless as they have lost their jobs as a result of the virus. The loss of all income for these communities means that putting food on the table has become a nearly impossible task.

A similar situation is seen in Peru, where 45% of the urban population live in shanty towns. As of the time of writing, the country has seen almost 613,000 cases of COVID-19, which has had a devastating impact on the population in terms of their safety and economic security.

In these difficult times, the Bible Societies in these countries have stepped up to provide for the needs of these struggling communities, through the provision of food and Scripture—to meet both the physical and spiritual needs of these people.

Ms Dina Katanacho, Director of the Arab-Israeli Bible Society, shared that COVID-19 caused many families to struggle with a mixture of feelings—fear, anxiety, stress, and anger. Many of them were also struggling with maintaining their faith during quarantine. To respond to these new needs, the Arab-Israeli Bible Society organised a series of online workshops to equip parents with skills to bond with their children and encourage them to persevere in the faith.

Although some steps have been taken to mitigate the struggles and problems of these people groups, there is still much to be done in order to effectively minister to them and transform theirlives. BSS hopes to be a beacon of light to these people during these dark times; we hope that you will join us in making a difference today!


Make An Impact

There are many ways you can help sow the Word and be a part of the Bible mission.
Come make a Difference. Join us in the Bible Mission!



疫情过后新加坡卫理公会面对的挑战

“我们传扬他,是用诸般的智慧……”—歌罗西书1:28

 

我们已经进入了解封期的第二阶段,期待很快就可以进入第二阶段后期并且逐步到第三期至完全恢复正常生活状态。政府从阻断期开始就一直提醒我们,不要期望疫情过后能完全回到疫情前的生活方式,国人要调整心态接受新常态的生活方式,因为即或是有了抗毒的疫苗注射,冠状病毒也不会从人间消失。

为这缘故,社会上各层面的机构和团体,都已经预备了如何迎接新常态的生活方式,如居家办公与实体在办公室上班的调整,善用电讯和视频的会面和会议,机器或遥控取代全人操控的时代提早来临,餐饮业外卖、限制堂食用餐人数的冲击,团体聚会精简化,实体培训课堂已经被网上教学取代。无论是艺术表演、宗教活动,通过影视呈现跟现场实体呈现没有太大的差别。大型聚会空间被远程及隔间化整为零,也在这次对抗疫情的过程中具体而确实地实行。这一切肯定给过去传统生活方式带来极大冲击。

在过去这几个月,国民先后都实实在在经历了欢庆各族的新年和宗教节庆,也许过得有点七零八乱,但也没有活不下去:没有圣周,没有最后晚餐圣餐,没有受难节,没有复活节、没有圣餐也没有洗礼,没有卫塞节,没有开斋节,仅有迷你型国庆检阅但没有国庆群众大会,没有歌台,没得参加毕业典礼……

有人认真地问我说,卫理公会教会要如何面对新常态、新挑战?让我提出一些想法,希望大家在不同的场合讨论和回应。

主日礼拜模式的改变:

过去半年里,我们已经渐渐熟练于制作线上崇拜的视频,给教会的崇拜方式多了一个选择,对我们多数的会众来说,相较于参加实体崇拜,线上崇拜更加便利。除了可以选择最适合或最方便的时间在家参与崇拜,也可以在网上挑选心仪的讲员听其讲道。高水准的录制技术与教会传统的实体崇拜方式并不对立,我们应该把它看成是新的外展领域和新的开拓事工。把教会的礼拜带进信徒家里,这是一个新现象。总有一些人是不愿意到教堂去的,把崇拜实况带到家里的电视机前成了新常态,就是服事这对象群。你将发现每个主日参与实体崇拜的人数和线上崇拜的总和远远超过传统的崇拜人数。

会议和培训教学的方式改变:

许多在教会参与各项活动的会友,经年累月被一件怕得要命的事缠累,就是经常要出席大会小会,而且许多的会议是在主日礼拜后留下来开会,要不就是周日晚上开会。加上许多的培训班、课程班也在周日晚上举行,信徒一个星期难得有时间在家与家人好好用餐,好好在家交谈。这次疫情的阻断期,教堂和居家都不准有外人到访相聚,逼得所有大小会议、培训课程、小组、研经查经班、诗班都必须在线上举行。这么一来,人人都可留在家中参与,不仅出席率超高,也大大提高彼此的互动交流。这些平时常为教会事务很少留在家里的活跃基督徒,如今因为可以善用网上会议线上培训,大大减少不在家的次数,带给家人更多的相聚时间。这不仅吸引更多人参与培训听课,也提高参与聚会或会议的效率。更值得注意的是,线上教学可以不受地域距离、优秀的师资授课讲解的限制。

认真学习什么是教会的信仰:

当新加坡确诊病例居高不下时,政府必须用阻断措施遏制病毒扩散。所有宗教场所都关闭,平时把到教堂参加主日礼拜习以为常的信徒,这回从4月初至今都只能在家参与线上崇拜,不仅不能实体参加崇拜,举行圣餐与洗礼,就算是事前录制线上崇拜也有诸多限制,如不鼓励有多过两个人现场录制唱歌或有乐队,政府也不鼓励有冗长的讲道。于是来自不同背景和不同教会传统立场,对教会体制、线上礼拜、举行圣餐、洗礼、远程线上注册结婚等不同的说法,充斥在市面上,信徒们一时无所适从,不知听谁的。就连同属一个教会传统的圈子里也有不听指示还坚持各自主张的。这让我们认识到,教导会友对自家教会的体制、信仰、礼拜仪式要有认识才不至于人云亦云,毫无辨识对错的能力。

发现需要更关心的群体:客工、留宿在外者、社会里的边缘群体、年长者

疫情爆发让我们的社会凸显出客工和社会边缘人的生活条件长期被忽略和关爱不足。政府带头承认对这方面的疏忽并且承诺将致力改善的行动,感染民间团体和宗教团体,尤其一向强调爱上帝和爱邻舍如同自己的卫理宗教会,更感到要迎头改善,积极弥补对异乡客工、对社会边缘人的忽视。其实,关爱工作也要包括这次疫情不断提及的脆弱、易受伤害的群体——年老者。教会需要全盘检讨对这些群体的关爱和重视。

总结:卫理教会如何面对新挑战?

我们要检讨以近千万元购置仅有30年的使用地,再以近千万元建筑教堂的策略是不是扩展福音事工的唯一方法。有识之士可以寻找其他方法处理和解决发展福音事工需要场地和空间的难题,如利用比这地价和建筑费更低廉的费用,充分使用线上视频等科技媒体,在有限的空间好好发挥聚会活动,而不必人人需要实体在场参与。

这也包括进行办公或行政空间的改革。这次疫情期间全国禁止员工到工作场所办公,他们可以留守在家办公,这证明居家处理行政和办公是可行的,将来教堂或许不一定都能腾出有限和昂贵的空间提供给教牧或行政同工传统的工作场所了,这似乎已经不那么先要。反而优先考虑的是提供更多空间给会友及社区邻里活动和聚会。

各地方教会另一个要考虑注入更多预算的事工是录制和拍摄现场崇拜或聚会讲座的视频。我们一些大型的教会已经备有这些器材,或许各堂会、各年会可以进一步探讨如何共用资源,让资源比较有限的堂会可以得到协助。总议会或许也可以考虑扩大资讯部门或设立拍摄录影录像部门,发展媒体视频的事工。

 

 

张振忠会督(博士)

新加坡卫理公会会督

 

 



Feature Article: Appreciating Community Efforts Amidst Adversity

This article was originally posted in our September 2020 Word@Work.

Appreciating Community Efforts Amidst Adversity

Although the outbreak of COVID-19 has resulted in the cessation of many of our ministry activities, The Bible Society of Singapore (BSS) has been keeping up with our efforts to sow God’s Word though various digital platforms and initiatives, and sow care to the needy, just as Jesus has commanded us to love our neighbours—especially those who have been badly affected by the virus.

SowCare—the charity arm of BSS—has partnered with the Alliance of Guest Workers Outreach (AGWO), a movement of Hope Initiative Alliance to initiate a Care Meals distribution exercise to bless guest workersliving in factory-converted dormitories (FCDs). We have distributed a total of 1,027,505 Care Meals and more than 1.2 million essential items (hygiene packs, medical supplies and other foodstuffs) to around 500,000 guest workers in more than 300 dormitories. Beyond this, we are also continuing to work with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) in providing meals to guest workers who are facing repatriation. This could not have been done without our dedicated partners, donors and volunteers.

The meal distribution exercise was initially planned as a one-day exercise on Good Friday, 10 April, to bless the guest workers. However, due to the overwhelming demand, it continued throughout the circuit breaker, and even beyond phase one. We would like to show our heartfelt appreciation towards the Ministry of Manpower and Migrant Workers’ Centre for having us as their core community partner in serving the guest workers and meeting their needs amidst this unprecedented global crisis.

There were also additional distribution exercises on various occasions. On 18 April, a mask distribution exercise was organised upon the request of MOM. In total, over 110 volunteer drivers were mobilised to deliver reusable masks to 192 FCDs. On 7 May, over 300 volunteers came together to help pack and distribute Festive Care packs to over 12,000 guest workers in 260 FCDs. This distribution effort also saw the participation of many community leaders, such as—Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Ms Joan Pereira, Ms Denise Phua and many others.

On 9 May, another special distribution exercise was conducted in partnership with MOM, which provided 3,000 prayer mats to guest workers in 66 dormitories. Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Manpower and Ministry of Defence, also visited the dorms during this distribution exercise. Additionally, on 23 and 24 May, the guest workers received an extra pack of foodstuffs, as well as enhanced meals. This initiative provided meals for 7,000 guest workers in over 110 FCDs.

As part of efforts to engage the wider community in order to serve even more guest workers, the ‘Adopt- A-Dorm’ initiative was launched on 20 April, where 32 organisations formally committed to care for the guest workers in a sustainable manner.

One of our volunteers, Mr Joshua Eswaran, was emotional as he remembers the unforgettable experience he had with the guest workers on the ground. “A Bangladeshi guy called me, asking for help and he said he needed food. He and his friends had not eaten for three days. It was very hard for me because I never expected that we would have such a case. I think it should never happen to anyone.”

SowCare would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to our volunteers who have participated in this joint national effort to care for the guest workers amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We are thankful to each and every individual who has sacrificed their time and resources, and shared what they have to make a difference in the lives of these guest workers.

We are thankful for our many partners, donors and volunteers who have encapsulated the ‘kampung spirit’ by coming together during these unprecedented times to lend a helping hand to our fellow brothers.

As the nation slowly gears itself for an uncertain future, may we not forget our Heavenly Father’s call to love our neighbours amidst adversity.

 


Make An Impact

There are many ways you can help sow the Word and be a part of the Bible mission.
Come make a Difference. Join us in the Bible Mission!



Word at Work September 2020