“God cares through His people”: Churches rising up to bless cleaners, neighbours and migrant workers
Gracia Lee // February 27, 2020, 3:01 pm
Nurses from Changi General Hospital's accident and emergency department and a healthcare attendant enjoying a cup of Udders ice cream sponsored by Christ Methodist Church. In the background is a poster of well wishes and words of appreciation penned by church members. Photo courtesy of Changi General Hospital.
With COVID-19 hitting seven congregations to date, churches have been under pressure to make difficult decisions and adjustments to services and ministries, all the while ensuring that there are sufficient infection control measures to protect their members.
Yet at a time when self-preservation seems to be top priority, many are rising up and looking outwards to show care and appreciation for the community, including cleaners, neighbours and migrant workers.
Blessing our migrant workers
There are migrant workers from China whose landlords have turned them away during their quarantine period for fear of getting infected.
When Pastor Norman Ng from 3:16 Church heard about such a case from his relative, he decided to open his old home, which he has just moved out of, to the man.
“We have an empty flat that was still in the process of being rented out. We thought it could come in timely as a temporary shelter for this worker during his two-week quarantine. It’s the least we could do,” he said, adding that his motivation comes from Matthew 25:38-40.
“We, as Christ followers, should rise forth to love our neighbours, care for the sick, serve the needy and bless the community with God’s love.”
He hopes that others with empty flats or apartments can do the same for foreign workers who have been turned away by their landlords.
With five confirmed COVID-19 cases linked to the Seletar Aerospace Heights construction site, other migrant workers are also becoming increasingly worried about the risk of infection.
Many of them live in dormitories where there is close and constant contact with others, making them more vulnerable to the virus.
This has prompted some cell groups at Yio Chu Kang Chapel to respond to calls by organisations like Migrant X Me, a social enterprise that looks out for the migrant worker community in Singapore, for donations and volunteers to pack care packages.
The church’s lead pastor, Pastor Rick Toh, said: “We are called to be salt and light in this world. In this difficult season, we as Christ followers should rise forth to love our neighbours, care for the sick, serve the needy and bless the community with God’s love.”
Thanking our cleaners
With hygiene standards being stepped up, many cleaners are now also working doubly hard to keep places clean and sanitised.
“If not from our cleaners, we wouldn’t be able to keep the place clean, so we just wanted to bless them.”
As a result, staff members at Faith Methodist Church banded together to give their church’s six cleaners and two maintenance staff each a wellness package containing Vitamin C tablets, hand cream, snacks, Sheng Siong vouchers and a card of appreciation.
Jimaia Wong, 44, a pastoral team member who suggested the initiative with another colleague, said: “Their workload has really upped as they go around cleaning and disinfecting places so much more often. If not for them, we wouldn’t be able to keep the place clean, so we just wanted to bless them.”
The church’s pastor-in-charge, Rev Raymond Fong, even took the effort to present the packages to them in a little ceremony to thank them personally for their work.
Appreciating our healthcare workers
When Christ Methodist Church asked healthcare workers at Changi General Hospital (CGH) what they would like to receive, there was a “resounding scream for ice cream”, said Rev Dianna Khoo, whose church then sponsored them some 2,000 cups of Udders ice cream.
“Our healthcare workers have been in the forefront of battle against this virus and it has been a long hard battle. We wanted to do something tangible to show our appreciation, concern and support for each one of them in what manner we could,” said Rev Khoo, who oversees the Christian outreach and social concern initiatives at the church.
As the initiative at CGH was well-received, CMC will be doing the same at Tan Tock Seng Hospital and the National Centre for Infectious Diseases in the coming weeks.
“May each mouthful of ice cream remind them that there are people who care about them and are standing with them to fight this virus,” Rev Khoo said.
“Such kind gestures are strong and useful forms of encouragement to counter anxiety and fatigue, both mental and physical.”
Dr Steven Lim, chief and senior consultant at CGH’s A&E department, told Salt&Light the outpouring of support from the community is important in fuelling the continual efforts of healthcare providers.
“Such kind gestures and show of compassion like this … are strong and useful forms of encouragement to counter anxiety and fatigue, both mental and physical. It’s great that people come out to bless us in this way.”
A few cell groups from Yio Chu Kang Chapel have “adopted” nurse teams from intensive care unit departments to pray for them and give them special treats like hampers, Polar cakes and energy bars, said Pastor Rick Toh, the church’s lead pastor.
Like Bethesda Bedok-Tampines Church, which is holding a blood donation drive on March 7, Yio Chu Kang Chapel is also exploring a partnership with Red Cross for a similar drive in their compound as they respond to an appeal by the Health Sciences Authority for more blood donations.
“The love of God compels us,” said Ps Rick. “All in all, we are trying to encourage our members and small groups to look out, love others and not become self-absorbed about self-preservation in this COVID-19 season.”
“They work very hard behind the scenes putting in long hours, but most folks aren’t aware of what they do.”
At hospitals, it is not just the doctors and nurses who are working harder during this season.
Darius Chua, 50, a member of Bedok Methodist Church, said a friend alerted him to a lesser known group of workers – those in the Material Management Department (MMD), who support frontline professionals by delivering non-medical materials to them.
“The MMD folks are never in the limelight and usually forgotten. They work very hard behind the scenes putting in long hours, but they are not in the public eye so most folks aren’t aware of what they do,” said Chua.
He decided to rally his cell group to buy and give 25 of these workers from Tan Tock Seng Hospital each a care package containing wet wipes, Vitamin C tablets, hand cream, lozenges and a personalised card of appreciation and encouragement.
“Our expression of appreciation demonstrates recognition of their importance in the battle against COVID-19. They might be in the background but they are a part of a vital team,” said Chua.
Remembering our neighbours
Sometimes we just need to look next door to see if there are any needs we can meet.
“People wonder: Does God care? The truth is that He does, and one of the ways He cares is through the Church.”
When the government announced earlier this month that it was going to distribute free masks to every household, 24 members from 3:16 Church, Kingdom Community Church, Grace Baptist Church and Bartley Christian Church volunteered to do so over four days to the residents in Macpherson.
Bethesda Bedok-Tampines Church also went door to door to deliver some 2,000 surgical masks to 300 households in the Bedok North estate, while members of Agape Baptist Church fanned out to distribute 1,100 bottles of hand soap to their neighbours in the Pek Kio community, which they have been reaching out to for the past 23 years.
Back in 2003, the church had also gone door to door to give out hand sanitisers during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) period.
Agape’s senior pastor, Pastor Wong Guoliang, said: “Sometimes, during dark seasons, people wonder: does God really care? The truth is that He does, and one of the ways He cares is through the Church which represents Him. That’s why we seek to bless the Pek Kio residents this way, to show them that God truly cares for them.”
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