Cornerstone Cares offers hope and care in place of fear and need
by Geraldine Tan // March 4, 2020, 4:09 pm
“We have been presented with the kairos opportunity to reach out and bring hope and care to the community in a time of need and fear,” says Ps Lim Lip Yong of Cornerstone Community Church, pictured here giving a lunch box to taxi drivers, whose livelihoods have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. All photos from Cornerstone Community Church.
While the natural instinct might be self-preservation in this COVID-19 season, “we felt this isn’t the time for us as a church to hunker down and simply take care of our own”, said the executive pastor of Cornerstone Community Church (CSCC), Lim Lip Yong.
“Instead, we are presented with a kairos opportunity to reach out and bring hope and care to the community in a time of need and fear.”
“Because Jesus loves and cares for the world, so do we.”
This was what prompted the church to start Cornerstone Cares two weeks ago, as part of church efforts to care for the community.
After identifying gaps that could be filled, the church decided to focus on four key groups: Frontline workers, migrant workers, taxi drivers and neighbours.
This has seen members of the church going into the highways and byways. (Luke 14:23)
Lunch boxes for taxi drivers
Taxi and private hire drivers have been hit hard. According to a February 7 Straits Times report, earnings have tanked as much as 30% as tourist arrivals fall and more residents telecommute or stay home to avoid crowds.
Some cabbies have told Ps Lim, 47, that “the average waiting time at the airport terminals has gone up from around 30 minutes to as long as three hours”.
“Business is so bad that instead of driving around burning fuel, I choose to wait in this queue at Changi Airport for three hours. Got more chance,” one taxi driver said.
To show care towards taxi drivers, Cornerstone Community Services teamed up with the National Taxi Association, Changi Airport and CSCC to distribute 1,000 lunch boxes to those at Changi Airport on February 27 and 28.
Supporting local businesses
Businesses have also been adversely affected by the virus outbreak. Businesses in Chinatown have seen an 80% plunge in sales, according to a Channel NewsAsia report. This was what led a cell group from CSCC to head to Chinatown to distribute care packs to those working in the area.
Cell groups had gotten together earlier to pack more than 1,200 of these packages, containing food items, hand sanitisers and wipes, health supplements and a personally written card for the recipients. These were to be distributed to those in the service industry, from hawkers and cleaners to residents.
“The distribution was really an exercise of stepping out in faith to share the love of God by our actions. The people we reached out to seemed so surprised to even have people stop by for a chat with them, let alone show them appreciation. We were so blessed seeing the smiles on their faces!” said Abigail Tang, 27, a lawyer.
The church is also looking for ways to support local businesses that are affected, including food caterers who have had multiple cancellations for large-scale events.
The catered lunch boxes for taxi drivers and dinner packs for a migrant worker dormitory were ordered by the church as “we heard caterers were going through a hard time as business had dropped drastically”, said Ps Lim. While the volume they ordered was not huge, he hopes it will contribute to efforts to keep caterers’ businesses afloat.
Allaying fears of migrant workers
Through conversations with church members who befriend migrant workers, the church discovered that many are worried about the added financial burden they would have to bear should they fall ill.
But a decision to quit and go home comes at a hefty cost.
Many migrant workers undertake huge loans in order to come to Singapore to work – oftentimes the equivalent of months of their pay here. To go back prematurely would add to their debt.
“We started asking around to see if there was anything we could do for them, and that was when a local company heard our appeal and opened a door for us to go into one of the dormitories,” revealed Ps Lim.
The church organised a simple appreciation dinner on February 23 for more than 400 migrant workers, where a medical doctor also volunteered to give a health talk specific to COVID-19.
“There are a lot of concerns among the migrant workers. When we asked if they received a lot of phone calls asking them to go home, quite a number of them raised their hands that night,” said Dr Ng Liling, 36.
She took the opportunity to update the migrant workers on the situation, dispel fake news and encourage good personal hygiene.
That visit to the migrant workers’ dormitory was especially meaningful for father-and-son pair, Daniel and Zenon Tang.
“My family has only heard me talking about migrant workers and what they are going through, but had never interacted with them,” said Daniel, 44, a workplace safety officer at a construction site.
“Through this event, my son was able to witness for himself who these unsung heroes are and how they have very real fears. I guess this is a very practical way for us to extend God’s love to the workers.”
“I’ve learnt that even small gestures like talking to them and showing them that we care helps them feel valued and loved. Seeing their smiles as we spent those two hours or so with them and serving them food warmed my heart,” said 17-year-old student Zenon.
“Be attentive, and be available where the needs are and offer ourselves as hands and feet.”
He continued: “I want to tell everyone, especially those of my age, that giving even just a little of your time to volunteer for such events, is really worthwhile and will definitely impact lives.”
Following the success of that evening, CSCC has been invited to host another similar event in another dormitory. “Several construction companies have also gotten wind of what we’re doing and are asking us to do the same for their workers. We’re working with them to see how we can help,” added Ps Lim.
To thank and encourage those in the frontlines, children from CSCC’s children’s church, aged seven to 12, also wrote notes of appreciation that will be sent to Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s National Centre for Infectious Diseases, Singapore Civil Defence Force and national leaders over the next few weeks.
We hope these small gestures bring across “a message of solidarity that we are standing with them”, said Ps Lim.
He added: “Churches don’t exist in silos. We’re part of the Singapore ecosystem and where there are needs, it’s important that we do what we can, within our means, to help.
“In this time and season, the commandment to ‘love your neighbour’ can take many forms. All we need to do is be attentive and be available where the needs are, and offer ourselves as hands and feet. Jesus loves and cares for them, and because He does, so do we!”