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Daily telephone devotionals in six dialects are a Christian organisation's gift to the elderly who don't have Internet access. Image from Unsplash.

The idea for a daily telephone dialect devotional came to Vincent Toh, 52, when he was invited to preach at Holy Grace Presbyterian Church last year.

“I saw so many elderly people,” said Toh, who is general secretary of Christian Communications Singapore, a publishing and training organisation serving Chinese churches. “But the church told me there were even more elderly people at home which they could not reach out to.”

This sparked off the production of the company’s 30th anniversary “gift” to reach out to the elderly. They were launched on July 1. The audio files cost $38,000 to produce.

When Vincent was invited to speak at a church, he got the idea to produce daily telephone devotionals for the elderly.

Toh recruited about 50 volunteers to record two-years worth of daily devotionals in six Chinese dialects: Teochew, Hainan, Shanghai, Hakka, Foo Chow and Hing Hwa.

Telephone devotionals in Mandarin, Hokkien and Cantonese are available through other organisations (phone numbers are listed at the end of this story).

Toh had heard from the elderly that hearing their own dialect would engage them more than Mandarin. 

The telephone devotionals are free (regular phone charges apply).

All an elderly person needs to do is to call the hotline, and select their choice of dialect. The five-minute devotional, which changes everyday, will introduce them to the Gospel and teach them how to pray to the Lord. 

Toh had heard from the elderly that hearing their own dialect would engage them more than Mandarin. 

Time is not on their side to introduce the elderly to the Lord,” Toh said. “If not, we will not be able to reach out to them any longer.” 

The devotionals are for believers and non-believers. Most devotionals are from two Chinese Christian publications: Daily Devotional and Living Water.  

“We hope the elderly will come to know our Lord through this telephone devotional,” Toh said. “We hope the spirit of the Lord will touch them.”

To ensure access to the devotional at all times, Christian Communications Singapore pays a vendor to maintain ten telephone lines.

A phone call away

The telephone devotionals are targeted at the elderly who do not use a smartphone, and who are unlikely to have access to the internet. They are hard to reach as they lack the resources necessary to access their church’s online service.

 Toh relies on word-of-mouth to spread the news of the telephone devotionals. They include younger Christians who have elderly parents. Toh also works with Christian volunteers who visit the elderly who may be neglected.  

Fridge magnets with the hotline numbers are given to the elderly to remind them about the daily devotionals.

“God provided all these volunteers to help us and make this happen,” Toh said. “All we do is just coordination.”

Christian Communications Singapore has produced fridge magnets for these volunteers to give out. These magnets contain the hotline numbers to call for the devotionals.

Toh hopes that these magnets will remind the elderly to call when they are feeling lonely or neglected.

Beyond Singapore

The audio files for the devotionals are also available on Christian Communication Singapore’s website. The files are also sent via Telegram. Users are free to download and distribute these files as they wish.

“Some churches thank us for the devotionals. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many of the elderly cannot come to church.”

According to Toh, some Christians have been forwarding the files to WhatsApp groups that have elderly members.

The ministry is not just limited to Singapore. When Toh contacted dialect-speaking Christians in another Asian country to help with the recordings, he found that they also needed such materials. 

“Some churches thank us for the devotionals. They tell me that we came in at the right moment. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many of the elderly cannot come to church,” said Toh.

“This is God’s timing.” 

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The Church has moved online and the elderly are falling behind


Telephone numbers for Chinese dialect and Mandarin devotionals

  • Christian Communications Singapore

Teochew/Hainan/Shanghai: 6380 5841

Hakka/Foo Chow/Hing Hwa: 6380 5842 

For links to download the devotional audio files, click here.

  • Faith Community Baptist Church

Cantonese: 6424 9544

Hokkien: 6424 9547

Mandarin: 6424 9499

  • Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church

Hokkien: 6324 4007

 

About the author

Alex Wenxuan

Salt&Light intern, Alex, is a Year 4 undergraduate at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information. He hopes to use the new media to advance meaningful causes and has served in different non-profits during his time at university.