Char siew rice and the Gospel

by Tan Huey Ying // September 26, 2018, 7:04 pm


Five years of monthly char siew rice lunches finally led to an opportunity to share the Gospel. Photo by Tan Huey Ying.

Their friendship started with a request to tag along for some char siew rice. 

One lunch followed another. Five years of monthly lunches and 10 years of annual gatherings later, the opportunity to share the Gospel finally arose.

There was nothing coincidental about it.

God, I will go

Back in 2003, Sharon Fong felt a clear prompting from God to leave her job as an accountant in one of the big four firms. She was thriving in her job and due for a promotion soon, but the call was clear.

In obedience, Fong left. Her only request: “God, I will go, but give me a prayer group.”

sharon fong char siew ministry

Pastor Sharon Fong (third from right), with her current colleagues at Covenant Evangelical Free Church. Photo courtesy of Sharon Fong.

God answered her prayer.

Soon after she joined, a more senior colleague, who was also a fellow church member, reached out – it turns out that Fong was the answer to a long-awaited prayer!

They started weekly prayer meetings that soon grew in size, and together, they prayed for the office and their colleagues.

An invitation to lunch

Fong was then a young finance executive in a large organisation.

The work was stressful and fast-paced. She was in charge of ensuring the factory’s cost-competitiveness – a report on the latest figures was required every two weeks.

Doing so meant coordinating with many people across various departments before making production-line decisions. There was a constant pressure to reduce costs.

“I had to meet the numbers,” Fong recalled. “But it was like I was fighting fires every day.”

Because of the nature of their responsibilities, Fong’s teammates had little time nor energy for bonding. During the lunch break, hardly anyone would go out for lunch because of time constraints.  

But Fong was clear about her role in this company – it was a place that God had specifically called her to. She was on the alert, watching for opportunities to be a blessing to someone.

Fong herself was task-oriented and sun-avoidant.

Inviting colleagues out to lunch was a simple and intentional step to reach out.

She preferred short and quick lunches in the factory’s cafeteria so that she could get back to her work. She did not enjoy walking under the hot sun just to eat!

Inviting colleagues out to lunch ran contrary to her nature, but it was a simple – and intentional – step that Fong took in a bid to bond and fellowship with her colleagues.

But there was one colleague who was different.

Shereen Han*, though closer to her mother’s age, had a friendly disposition and would cheerfully accept Fong’s invitation to lunch. Han’s favourite meal was the char siew rice at a coffeeshop near the factory.

So, once a month, Fong and Han would walk out to have lunch together.

An unlikely friendship

Despite Han’s openness, they had little in common. Han was a long-time administrative staff in her 50s while Fong was the new hire in her mid-20s.

Fong shared that, at the start, their conversations centred around Han’s children and grandchildren.

“People think that reaching out to someone is easy, but it never is. It is about investing your time and energy.”

But as they continued to meet, a friendship was built – and when Fong left the company five years later, the pair kept in touch through annual team gatherings that Fong organised and hosted together with another Christian colleague in the team.

It took effort and prayer. Fong said: “People think that reaching out to someone is easy, but it never is. It is about investing your time and energy.

“When you say, ‘Can I share something close to my heart?’ Then, and only then, will people listen to you – you have to earn the right to share Christ.”

A heavenly banquet

That friendship was put to the test in 2015 when Fong found out that Han had aggressive, end-stage cancer. By then, 10 years had passed since Fong left the company. They had met annually at gatherings which Fong hosted sometimes, but the relationship was not as strong as it was before.

Not many ex-colleagues knew about Han’s condition and Fong prayed that she would be given an opportunity to visit her.

“You have to earn the right to share Christ.”

Eventually, she did – and Fong took the opportunity to share the love of Christ with Han. 

That very day, Han accepted Christ.

Despite being too weak to attend church, Han would listen to online sermons at home before she passed on in 2015.

In a world where relationships are becoming increasingly transactional, Fong determined to practise the ministry of presence to those around her. 

For Han, this ministry lasted 15 years. But for others around Fong, it still continues today.

Their friendship started with an innocuous plate of char siew rice. But in time to come, they will both share the joy of the King’s banquet – for eternity.


*Name has been changed for privacy.

Blessing with hospitality

Fong shared her story on reaching out to Han in this video. Her testimony was re-enacted in the hope that it would encourage others to actively bless those around them.

Fong’s home church, Covenant Evangelical Free Church (CEFC), implemented the B.L.E.S.S. strategy and created a series of videos as part of her church’s outreach efforts. 

The B.L.E.S.S strategy, developed by Dave Ferguson, is a discipleship tool aimed at helping Christians live out a missional life wherever they are. It is a practical, theologically-grounded, 5-step acronym that anyone can use.

The end goal: To live out the Great Commission and, thus, reach the world for Christ.

B.L.E.S.S. is evangelism at its most basic:

  • Begin with prayer
    Rev Canon Terry Wong put it simply: “Without a prayer life, we may end up doing atheistic work while imagining we are serving Him. We end up doing the work in our name, not His.”
  • Listen to a friend
    In the book, Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said this: “It is God’s love for us that He not only gives us His Word but also lends us His ear. So it is His work that we do for our brother when we learn to listen to Him … Many people are looking for an ear that will listen.” So listen often, and listen well.  
  • Eat with a friend
    Dr Leslie Tay, the famous food blogger behind ieatishootipost, said this: “The Gospel paints Jesus as a person who loved to go and hang out with people. He’s always eating with people, and using that occasion to connect with people. So the meal is a vision of friendship, of camaraderie, of fellowship when we can get together for a meal.”
  • Serve a friend
    Dr Goh Wei Leong, founder of Healthserve, was selected for Singaporean of the Year, 2018, for his work because of his service. But he is a man whose far-reaching efforts “flows directly from his desire to love God and neighbour as a follower of Jesus,” says Rev Dr Tan Soo Inn. “The Christian faith is not predicated on famous people doing spectacular things but regular people doing the right things.”
  • Share your story
    Finally, speak. By first practising the ministry of presence in a world where relationships are increasingly transactional in nature, we eventually earn the right to speak the words of Life. And be heard.

Fong shared with Salt&Light that the love of Christ compels her to B.L.E.S.S., but she understands that reaching out to others takes time. Now 39 and a pastor, she says: “Reaching out can be as simple as offering to buy someone a coffee. The world is generally a self-centred one. Doing things like this, you will stand out – people will know that you are different.”

The disconnect between the theory and the reality of faith at work – or in any aspect of life, for that matter – doesn’t have to be so. Bring Jesus with you – everywhere you go.

About the author

Tan Huey Ying

Huey Ying is now an Assignments Editor at Salt&Light, having worked in finance, events management and aquatics industries. She usually has more questions than answers but is always happiest in the water, where she's learning what it means to "be still".