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The Heartbeat Project is set up to "not just love in speech and word, but we love in action and in truth", say founders Ps Norman and Ps Debbie. All photos courtesy of Heartbeat Project.

Early one morning at the end of last year, Pastor Debbie Ng received a text message. It included pictures of a newborn baby. When she saw them, she wept.

“I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, she’s here!’”

Some seven months earlier, Ps Debbie had received an email through Heartbeat Project, a ministry of 3:16 Church that provides resources to help churches talk about life and abortion.

“Time is not on my side.”

The email was a plea for help from a woman who was 14 weeks pregnant and considering an abortion. Her partner had urged her to “terminate the pregnancy” and had thrown her out of the house. Homeless and about to become bankrupt, the Christian had turned to Heartbeat Project because she did not want to abort her baby.

The email ended with an urgent cry: “Time is not on my side.”

Ps Debbie told this story when asked for a highlight from the three years since she started Heartbeat Project with her husband Senior Pastor of 3:16 Church, Pastor Norman Ng.

The need to care for women with unsupported pregnancies has become even more of a talking point with the decision of the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade (June 24) in a landmark federal ruling

One baby

When Ps Debbie received the cry for help, she immediately gave the woman her contact and they were soon in touch with one another.

She had gone for an ultrasound and had seen the baby kicking.

“I kept on encouraging her, ‘You are going to be a great mum. The Lord is your strength, the Lord is your refuge.’ I kept praying for her, praying over her.”

Ps Debbie also linked her up with partners of Heartbeat Project like Safe Place, which supports women in crisis pregnancies. She found a Christian family willing to open up their home to the woman as well. Together, they rallied around her, giving her a community of help.

The woman decided to keep her baby.

In January this year, Ps Debbie finally got to hold the baby girl whose life she helped to save.

Ps Debbie Ng holding the baby girl whose mother had reached out to Heartbeat Project for help when she was considering aborting her baby.

“As I was speaking to the mum, I asked her a question, ‘What made you change your mind?’”

The woman told Ps Debbie that when she received Ps Debbie’s reply to her email, she had been crying in the office toilet because she had been so desperate. That was the first turning point. She had not thought that anyone could help her.

Said Ps Debbie: “The day before the abortion, she had gone for an ultrasound and had seen the baby kicking. She said, ‘I cannot.’

“She went for the ultrasound to say ‘goodbye’ to the baby. When she saw the baby kicking, she postponed the abortion. But she still didn’t have the courage to have the baby because who was going to help her?

“When I carried the baby, I really felt it is all worth it.”

“She already had an older child from another marriage. She knew that being a single mum was so hard.”

So, getting real help was the other turning point for the woman.

Recounted Ps Debbie: “She said, ‘All my good friends, all my best friends were not there. But suddenly, this group of Christian strangers came and helped me. They didn’t just help me for a while, they continued to help me.

“And I knew that God was real and God was sending people to actually help me in the long-run.’ That was when she decided to keep the child.”

For Ps Debbie, the baby made even more real the work that Heartbeat Project does among women who face unsupported pregnancies.

“When I carried the baby, I really felt it is all worth it. If anything, to save one baby and more to come. When we do this together, it is actual lives being saved.”

Cries of the children

The call to start a platform for real-life stories and resources for Christians to converse about life and abortion began as early as December 2017.

“I’m letting you hear the cries of the children who cannot cry.” 

That year, Ps Norman was attending the inaugural Kingdom Invasion Kids conference, an annual event by Cornerstone Community Church for children to take up the mandate to bring the Kingdom of God into the world.

“At each session, you will encounter children hungry for the Lord. And at the end of each session, they would be weeping at the altar so that, at the end of it all, you would see puddles of tears on the floor.”

On the third day of the conference, pastors were invited to the altar “to receive something”. Children came forward to pray for them, many of them weeping as they prayed.

Tear stains on the floor from the tears of children moved by God during Kingdom Invasion Kids.

Four children laid hands on Ps Norman to pray for him. But they did not cry.

“I asked the Lord, ‘Why?’ I felt the Holy Spirit impress on my heart, ‘I’m letting you hear the cries of the children who cannot cry, these are the children who get aborted.’”

Ps Norman Ng being prayed for by children during which time God spoke to him about starting Heartbeat Project.

That was the start of Ps Norman’s burden to be the “voice for the voiceless”. As the couple prayed about it, God “really stirred our hearts”.

Bomb shelter

Earlier that year, Ps Debbie and Ps Norman had travelled with their church to Israel.

“As I looked inside, I kept on crying and crying.”

Their tour guide brought them to see a bomb shelter that had been recently built in a neighbourhood. In that area was a house.

“The moment I stepped into that space, just past the gates of the house, I knew the Lord was meeting me there because I just started to tear the moment I stepped in.

“The Holy Spirit just came on me and I started getting quite emotional. I’m not usually emotional.”

While everyone went to the bomb shelter below, Ps Debbie walked the grounds instead to “see what the Lord was speaking to me”. When she looked inside the house, she realised that it was a kindergarten.

“As I looked inside, I kept on crying and crying. The tears just wouldn’t stop.”

The playground of the kindergarten in Israel where God first moved Ps Debbie to think about starting a ministry to help those with unsupported pregnancies.

The fact that a school, which should be a safe place, would require a bomb shelter meant that it was at risk of being attacked. The thought broke Ps Debbie’s heart.

“Normally, I don’t think that information would affect me much but the Lord was trying to tell me something. The phrase that the Lord gave me when I was looking at the children was, ‘How can a place so safe be so dangerous?’

“I couldn’t make any sense of it. But I just knew that something had birthed in my heart at that space.”

The safest place

Back in Singapore, Ps Debbie continued to ponder over what happened in Israel. She was doing branding for a multinational company then.

“I thought God wanted me to be a childcare teacher.”

“I was just broken when I got that revelation. But I know nothing about abortion and life.”

For a year, even as Ps Debbie explored this possibility, she “struggled with the Lord” because she did not feel it was something she could do.

Then, in June 2018, Ps Debbie had her third child.

One night during her maternity leave, as she was putting her baby to bed, God asked her if she remembered His revelation to her in Israel.

“I said I remembered and articulated the phrase back to Him. And then, I felt the Lord ask me, ‘Where is that place?’

“I said, ‘I don’t know where is the safest place. Somewhere in Israel?’

“That’s when the Lord said to me, ‘No, it is the mother’s womb. That is where I have created life to be safe.

‘This is yours. Start the work that He has put in your heart.”

“’But that is where it has become the most dangerous place where a baby can be taken away and the life can be snuffed out without anything the baby can do.’

“I was just broken when I got that revelation. But I know nothing about abortion and life. This is not my area of expertise.”

Ps Debbie decided to extend her maternity leave by another six weeks to seek God about what exactly it was that He wanted them to do.

In that time, God sent them sign after sign that they should start a platform to support life and help mothers with unsupported pregnancies. A stranger gave them seed money to fund the initiative.

“She told us, ‘This is yours. The Lord spoke before I met you. The money is for you start the work that He has put in your heart,” recalled Ps Debbie.

The woman had been looking into the issue of suicide but God impressed on her to look into abortion “where the spirit of death was allowed to enter”.

A sobering survey

What sealed their conviction that addressing the issue of abortion in the Church was paramount were the results of a national survey by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) released in 2019.

The paper examined the views of 1,800 respondents on issues relating to religious beliefs and practices, and the role of religion in the public sphere.

“The discipleship of the church is important when it comes to the issue of life.”

In it, the perceptions, attitudes and beliefs of Christians towards abortion were revealed. Of those aged 18 to 35, a third said that abortion was acceptable if the family has very low income. Another one third said that abortion was not wrong at all and not wrong most times.

Said Ps Norman: “What it is saying here is that two out of three young Christians in Singapore said that abortion is acceptable.

“That was one of the bigger stats to move our hearts to say that something needs to be done about this matter and that the discipleship of the church is important when it comes to the issue of life.

“That either reinforced or accelerated a lot of what we were thinking of doing.”

In January 2019, Ps Debbie quit her job and started Heartbeat Project with Ps Norman.

In churches too   

In these three years, Heartbeat Project has sought to raise awareness and spark conversations about abortion one story and one speaking engagement at a time.

When they first started, Ps Debbie wondered how she would ever get anyone to tell their stories, given that abortion is so shrouded in shame.

“At our very first Heartbeat speaking engagement, someone came up to me and asked me to lunch. There, she shared her abortion story with me. That’s how we got Grace’s story, our first video story.

“When the altar call was made for those who had abortion, we saw hundreds of people come forward.”

“The Lord was just showing me, ‘Don’t worry, it will come.’ And somehow, the stories have just flown in.”

As they engaged churches about abortion, Ps Norman and Ps Debbie have discovered that there are a few key messages that need to be conveyed.

One, the church is not immune. In August 2019, as part of Day of His Power, the topic of life and abortion was one of the key topics.

“The Lord led us to call for the post abortive. When the altar call was made for those who had abortion, we saw hundreds of people come forward. They are in the church. This is happening in the church.  

“And it was not just young women. There were men, women, young, the middle-aged and seniors.”

As they came forward, the thousands of believers in the hall sang over them as a sign of acceptance and assurance that there was no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1)

“We need to disciple what the Word is really saying.”

Added Ps Debbie: “Some people may say this is a political issue; some people may say this is societal issue.

“From our point of view, this is a discipleship issue. We need to disciple what the Word is really saying. We see ourselves as being called to disciple the Church.”

The other message that bears repeating is that the Church is wrong to assume that teaching sexual purity alone is enough to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Said Ps Debbie: “It’s important to teach both youths and adults on the sanctity of life. Pastors shouldn’t assume that their congregation takes on a biblical worldview to life and abortion.

“After having many conversations with youths from different churches, we have found that many do feel abortion is acceptable in different circumstances.”

Pro-life, not just pro-birth  

But it does not stop at conversations and education. Heartbeat Project also forms a bridge between beneficiaries and organisations that help women with unsupported pregnancies, from places like Safe Place to fostering agencies.

Explained Ps Norman: “It is a ministry by the church and for the church. Heartbeat Project is a discipleship platform with three main pillars: Stories, sharing and support.

“Stories to move the heart, sharing to equip the head and support to offer our hands. That we don’t just love in speech and word, but we love in action and in truth.”

Explaining how Heartbeat Project is about being pro-birth, not merely pro-life, Ps Debbie added: “Keep the baby. But we need to also say, ‘Hey, we are there for you, too.”

“We tell the church we can all be a support structure.”

A few months ago, the woman who had decided to keep her baby texted Ps Debbie for help. Her child had been ill for a week and could not be dropped off at infant care. She needed someone to mind her baby, would Ps Debbie be able to help?

“I said, ‘Sure drop her off for a week. I’m more than happy to take care of her.’ In the end, she didn’t. But just knowing she could contact me was something that was available to her.

“That’s exactly what we’re trying to tell the church. If we can all be a support structure.”

For a holistic approach, the ministry has been reaching out to three groups of people: Those considering or are impacted by abortion, children in need who require fostering, and children from the special needs community.

Said Ps Norman: “Whether or not Heartbeat Project is effective depends on whether we are reaching these three groups.”


Roe v Wade reversed in landmark US decision

“The heart of the Gospel is about life”: Heartbeat Project

“If the Church wants to see a nation without abortions, the Church must provide answers”: Pastor Norman Ng

About the author

Christine Leow

Christine believes there is always a story waiting to be told, which led to a career in MediaCorp News. Her idea of a perfect day involves a big mug of tea, a bigger muffin and a good book.