“Cancer did not take her. I have taken her home,” God whispered to a grieving mother, who would go on to fight for the next generation
by Janice Tai // March 11, 2022, 1:46 pm
Pastor Sharon Chong praying for the children at Kingdom Invasion (KI) Kids conference in 2012. All photos courtesy of Pastor Sharon Chong.
In 2002, Sharon Chong, 29, had just quit her business development job to obey God’s leading to sign up as a volunteer at Cornerstone Community Church.
One day, her pastor tasked her with asking a church member this question: “What’s your decision?”
Dutifully, Sharon conveyed the question and eventually received the response that the member would not be taking up the position.
By now, Sharon had figured out that her pastor had invited the woman to consider overseeing the children’s ministry, as the ministry did not have a formal leader then.
That night as Sharon was doing her Quiet Time before bedtime, she had a vision. She saw little hands stretching out from the ground and they were asking for help. Then the Lord turned to her and asked: “Would you help? Would you step up and volunteer yourself?”
In response, Sharon cried out to God: “Why would anyone not want to help these children? But I have no experience …”
As she was doing her Quiet Time, she had a vision of little hands stretching out from the ground and they were asking for help.
“All I need is your availability,” came the reply.
It was then that she knew God was calling her to take up the children’s ministry position that she had been the messenger for earlier that day. God, if You really want me to do it, You need to orchestrate the necessary circumstances, she said with trepidation.
Lo and behold, the same pastor came running up to her the next day, and hesitantly asked her: “Sharon, I know you are likely to say no, but would you consider overseeing the Children’s Ministry? Maybe just step in as its coordinator or the point person for now?”
At that time, Sharon had no prior experience with the children’s ministry. She was just a young mother then, having given birth to a daughter a few months ago.
So the pastor was pleasantly surprised when Sharon immediately said “yes” to her request. She did not know that God had already spoken to Sharon the day before.
From being the “messenger”, Sharon would go on to serve as the pastor for Cornerstone Children’s Church for the next 18 years.
Pastor Sharon, now 49, strengthened the foundations of the ministry by aligning its curriculum content to follow monthly themes and outlines, and revamped the classrooms to build an atmosphere of learning and worship. Much loved by children and volunteers alike, she would go on to grow its staff and volunteer teams.
Her love for the next generation grew as she travelled along her own motherhood journey to four daughters.
But it would be a painful period of grief that would grow Sharon’s urgency to empower the next generation.
Her firstborn daughter, Jordanna, died in 2010.
She first noticed something was amiss with Jordanna, then seven, during a holiday to Hong Kong Disneyland. Her left eye seemed droopy and unable to focus. The doctor fitted her with an eye patch for what he believed was lazy eye or a muscle tone issue.
When her eye did not get better, they sought the second opinion of an eye specialist. The specialist did an MRI scan and immediately sent them to a neurosurgeon.
Grief and loss
The scan showed spots in Jordanna’s brain. A subsequent biopsy found that she had brain stem glioma, a childhood cancer which sees tumours growing in the child’s brain stem.
“Though there were hardly any symptoms, we were told that the cancer was already at Stage 3 and she would not have much time left,” said Pastor Sharon.
Jordanna, who had just started Primary 1 that year, did not quite comprehend the severity of her condition.
Her mother, however, blanked out. For a day or two, she lingered in the hope that what was happening could be a mistake or a dream. She could not believe the news, the “death sentence”, that the doctor had pronounced. They had just returned from a holiday and Jordanna had seemed fine other than her droopy eye.
Though she put up a strong and positive front for Jordanna, she was scared. She found herself trembling every morning as she hid in her bathroom alone. Once she stepped out, she forced herself to snap out of her stupor. Her three young daughters needed her.
“When the news finally sank in, I composed myself. I did not blame God or ask why. I knew it was a race against time and began reading up and arming myself with all the information and resources to support Jordanna,” said Pastor Sharon.
“I felt the Holy Spirit say to me, ‘Sharon, pray and contend for an overcoming generation.'”
Jordanna was treated with radiotherapy and chemotherapy. She lost her hair and became weaker by the day. She began losing her motor skills and needed to wear diapers and use a wheelchair.
The family continued to keep the faith and contend for healing.
In October 2010 when Jordanna was hospitalised for pneumonia, Pastor Sharon felt God’s prompting to hold a prayer watch for three nights.
“On the last night, I felt the Holy Spirit say to me, ‘Sharon, pray and contend for an overcoming generation’,” recalled Pastor Sharon.
“It had to be from God because, at that time, all I was thinking and praying for was Jordanna. I would not have my mind on interceding for other things.”
Just at that moment, Jordanna opened her eyes and indicated that she was thirsty and needed water.
Taking it as a sign that her daughter would be all right, Pastor Sharon shared God’s instructions with the handful of intercessors who were praying overnight with her. The group changed their focus and began praying for the next generation.
“There was this strong indignation within me when I sensed that lawlessness and great darkness are coming, and we cannot let sicknesses rob our children of their lives,” said Pastor Sharon.
The next day, however, Jordanna’s condition took a turn for the worse. In the afternoon, she died.
“Cancer did not take her. I have taken her home,” she heard the Holy Spirit whisper to her.
A peace that surpassed all understanding (Philippians 4:7) enveloped her, giving her the strength to proceed with funeral arrangements.
“On earth, mummy would be busy taking care of me. But if I go, I leave a hole in her heart that keeps her praying for what is to come.”
When all that had been done and dusted, the fatigued pastor leaned back and asked God: “Is it over?”
“It isn’t over,” came the reply. “This is not about you, Sharon. But all about Me.”
Show me what is happening, the bereft and puzzled mother pleaded.
Instantly, a vision of Jordanna appeared. The little girl was deep in conversation with Jesus, who gently asked: “Would you like to remain on earth or return to heaven?”
Jordanna pointed to heaven. “On earth, mummy would be busy taking care of me. But if I go, I leave a hole in her heart that keeps her praying for what is to come.”
Pastor Sharon wept. Jordanna had always been a child who put her mummy first. Even when she was sick, she would not eat until she made sure her mother had eaten first.
“I didn’t know what ‘contending for what is to come’ specifically meant, but I got the gist of it. In facing the dark pain of heartache and despair, and experiencing a hurt that pierces so deeply that I am left gasping, it is a reckoning that convicts me to live and fight for something more,” said Pastor Sharon.
She took a break from Children’s Church for a while but, shortly after, continued serving faithfully year after year.
Hijacked by God
Seven years later, Pastor Sharon again received a similar charge from God but, this time, with specific details.
In 2017, she attended the Kingdom Invasion (KI) conference at the Singapore Expo, where the speaker reminded the audience that it was the 40th year since Billy Graham is said to have released the prophetic word of Singapore being an Antioch of Asia.
As Pastor Sharon responded to the altar call, the Lord met her.
“Experiencing a hurt that pierces so deeply that I am left gasping is a reckoning that convicts me to live and fight for something more.”
“Do you believe in the next generation?” He asked Sharon.
“Of course, Lord,” she replied. By then she had overseen the Children’s Church for 15 years.
“Then train and equip the next generation. Do KI Kids,” the instruction came swiftly.
In obedience, Pastor Sharon organised the first Kingdom Invasion (KI) Kids conference held at Cornerstone Community Church that very same year.
The inaugural KI Kids conference in 2017 started off differently from other conferences.
During the early morning team prayer session held just before the conference, God told Pastor Sharon: “I am going to hijack the conference. If the team is willing to lay down your schedule, you will experience more of Me.”
She shared the word she received with the other leaders, and cautioned them that she did not know what was going to happen but the session may not end as planned. Lunch may have had to be delayed or even be skipped, as they waited on the Holy Spirit to move.
Some of the leaders were hesitant as they knew some parents and children were very particular about sticking to meal times. With the programme timings kept fluid, questions were raised on what would happen to the afternoon workshops and what to do with the food when it arrived.
The Kingdom of children
Bemused, Pastor Sharon assured them that, while she did not know what would transpire, God would guide them when the time came.
God said: “I am going to hijack the conference. If the team is willing to lay down your schedule, you will experience more of Me.”
At about 11.30am, the message had been preached and many children were already at the front, responding to the altar call. It was time for Pastor Sharon to decide whether to dismiss the kids for lunch as planned, or go with God’s prompting to linger and wait on Him.
She decided to give the children both options: Those who wanted to press on for a greater move of the Holy Spirit could stay, while the rest could be dismissed, group by group, to go to another hall for lunch.
She saw a few shuffling their feet; most of the children stayed put.
She thought they misunderstood her instruction and repeated the announcement that they were free to leave for lunch if they were hungry.
“I was surprised that most of them chose to forgo lunch. They waited upon God with such expectancy,” she said with wonder.
It was during that window of time that the Holy Spirit visited the children in a powerful way. Many of them saw visions, and they responded with deep weeping.
“Later we learnt that it was quite synchronised. God revealed to each of them an interpretation of heaven, whether it was seeing heaven or angels, or seeing a scene in the book of Revelation,” said Pastor Sharon.
Following the first successful run of KI Kids conference, Pastor Sharon would go on to organise three more of such yearly conferences that were open to children from churches all over Singapore.
And the children laid hands
During the third run of the KI Kids conference in 2019, God used the children themselves to minister to her, re-affirming His call on her life to groom the next generation.
When Pastor Sharon was looking out for kids to pray with during the altar call, she noticed a boy weeping intensely and muttering loudly: “Help me, Jesus, help me.”
She assumed he was reliving a traumatic memory and went over to put her on his shoulder, reassuring him that they were there for him and that he was not alone. Then, she walked away to pray for others.
When she returned, he grabbed on to her pants and would not let go. He was still sobbing. As she sat down beside him, she asked the Lord what He wanted to show her about the boy’s situation.
She saw a vision of children’s hands being raised up and the children crying out: “If only you would believe in me … if only you would believe in us.”
“I realised then that the help the boy was crying out for wasn’t for himself. It was a cry from the children asking for the world to believe in them and in what they can do, to see their potential and call them out into their destiny.”
Pastor Sharon started crying with the boy as she repented for her generation’s disbelief in the next. As she started interceding for the next generation, she felt the power of God slay her and she fell on the floor.
What happened next surprised her completely. When she opened her eyes while lying on the floor, she saw faces of the children hovering above her. They were praying and prophesying over her.
“I could feel their hearts and mine being one in spirit. It was like I know them and they know me,” said Pastor Sharon, her voice cracking with emotion.
“It pained me that when they reached their teenage years, they wrestled with self-doubt and even suicidal thoughts.”
She would go on to organise one last KI Kids conference the next year before deciding to step down from being the Children’s Church pastor after 18 years in 2021.
“It wasn’t due to ministry burnout, fatigue, finances or frustration. I sensed the Lord leading me to a season of transition but I wasn’t able to articulate what’s next yet.”
When the pandemic struck the world in 2020, she noticed that many children were struggling with their mental health.
“These are children who have been touched by God and have seen His power. It pained me that when they reached their teenage years and faced all these uncertainties in the world, they wrestled with self-doubt and even suicidal thoughts,” she said.
“So, they had spiritual weapons but what they needed was not only weapons, but the building tools and life skills to not only survive but thrive in life,” she added.
As she shared these reflections with a friend, her friend volunteered her two children for Pastor Sharon to test her ideas on, in formulating the building tools that would help build resilience in the children and equip them with the skills needed to be ready for future challenges.
“How well we respond to external battles depends on our ability to fight the internal war of lies, doubt and condemnation. My late daughter reminded me of this truth by living it out in her five-month battle with cancer,” said Pastor Sharon.
She incorporated some of the life lessons that her late daughter taught her in the coaching content that she tried out on the two children.
Taking control of our thoughts and the words we use is one of the tools Sharon advocates. Our inner world impacts and shapes our behaviour and responses in the outer world.
When chemotherapy and radiotherapy were not working for Jordanna, her parents included her in the decision-making process for her treatment.
When one of Jordanna’s younger sisters had asked her what was the point of praying for healing when Jordanna was still unable to walk, Jordanna had replied: “I am not able to walk yet but I will get there one day.”
Pastor Sharon said: “Being able to use words like ‘yet’ gave her the vocabulary to know that it’s okay to be still in the process, in the journey, and not to give up.”
Another tool that she has found to be especially empowering for children is to inculcate a sense of belonging in them by communicating effectively with them.
When it was clear that chemotherapy and radiotherapy were not working for Jordanna, her parents included her in the decision-making process for her treatment. They asked her if she would like to go for alternative treatment and respected her choice when she chose not to.
These empowering tools worked so well on the two children Sharon was coaching that more friends urged her to start a company.
Taking a leap of faith, Pastor Sharon got herself certified as a kids life coach. In November last year, she started a kids coaching company called GenBrave, with the aim of raising a generation of brave ones who know that they are here for “such a time as this”.
Her kids’ coaching model integrates her pastoral experience with science, childhood psychology and spiritual principles to coach and equip children. Her desire is to reach out to the next generation beyond the church walls.
So far, more than a hundred children have received her coaching through bootcamps and one-on-one consultation sessions.
“It all started with Him asking me: Are you willing? All I need is your availability.”
Said Kelly, 37, a mother who sent her eight-year-old son for coaching at GenBrave: “When the pandemic started, my son would become anxious whenever I left the house. He would call me every five minutes to ask me when I was coming home.”
“After working through his anxieties and thought patterns with Pastor Sharon, he no longer does that. He is also more confident and speaks more positively now,” she added.
Another mother of four children, Edna Low, 49, sent her daughter to GenBrave after her PSLE exams.
“I wanted her to have a space to reflect on the next stage of her life. Unlike a tuition class, coaching helps because it is not just academics that our children need guidance for but being guided in the way they think, feel and act that will help them not only in their studies but in enjoying the lives they have now,” she said.
Looking back, Pastor Sharon counts all the divine revelations and life experiences she had been through, including the loss of her firstborn, as the ultimate coaching from the Lord that guided a young church volunteer, who had no experience nor burden for children, into a lifelong calling.
“It all started with Him asking me: Are you willing? All I need is your availability.”
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