WhatsApp Image 2024-06-04 at 5.58.54 AM

Pastor Bill Wilson travels to preach and connect with churches and supporters. Yenni arranges his schedule and serves as his Mandarin interpreter. They are in Singapore 9 to 20 July. Pastor Bill will be preaching at Bethesda Bedok-Tampines Church and City Harvest Church. All photos courtesy of Yenni Wu.

Come and sleep one night in a cemetery and experience how some children in the Philippines live.

That was the highly unusual invitation issued to ministry partners last year by Pastor Bill Wilson, founder of Metro World Child.

“Normal” for these children is sleeping on top of a coffin, and being around human remains and bones.

Metro World Child is a Christian humanitarian organisation dedicated to serving at-risk children in urban centers like New York City, as well as rural communities around the world.

Yenni Wu, a full-time staff member of Metro and Ps Bill’s personal assistant, was there in the Manila North Cemetery to serve the visitors she personally invited. 

“When I tell people there are kids living in garbage and in cemeteries, they ask, ‘What does that look like?’ It is so foreign to any Singaporean,” she said to Salt&Light in an interview.

Ps Bill invites partners to Manila annually, but last year, for the first time, the invitation to spend a night among tombstones was extended. 

“That’s the only way people can imagine what we are talking about,” Yenni explained. 

The children from North Cemetery enjoying Sidewalk Sunday School with Metro World Child. The children have never known a world beyond their reality of sleeping in the graveyard, but the ministry brings the hope of Christ to them and meets their daily needs.

Not surprisingly, that night, not many could sleep. 

Such an experience is likely to leave an indelible mark on someone, but Yenni also pointed out that visitors have the ability to leave after that experience. 

To Ps Bill, and to every person who chooses to work with him, every child matters.

“We can leave, but for these kids, this ‘scary experience’ is their daily life. That’s all they know. They were born in the cemetery, raised in the cemetery, that’s their normal. 

“Their normal is sleeping on top of a coffin, and being around human remains and bones.”

That night, Yenni stayed with a family whose children came to Metro’s Manila Sunday School at the cemetery. “Two little kids, me and another staff member slept on a twin-size mattress that they had put over a coffin,” she described.

One pastor from Malaysia was so moved by what he saw, he wrote a song titled In Search Of Jesus.

“The song says, ‘If Jesus is alive today, where can you find Him? Would you find Him in the city or would you find Him in a cemetery? Would you find Him in the garbage dump?’”

Pastor GT Lim (bottom left) was so moved when he slept in the graveyard that he wrote a song about it. The Metro team also conducted medical missions that trip.

Metro brings the good news to the children in desperate need and finds sponsors to support them.

Yenni’s own journey with Metro began when, in 2018, she visited the ministry’s Sunday School in a garbage dump in Manila. It moved her much, she gave up her life in Singapore and became a missionary in Brooklyn, New York.

God’s unusual open door 

Manila is not the only place that this ministry brings hope to. Metro has Sunday schools in over 20 countries globally, from Manila to Kenya, South Africa to Colombia, reaching over 600,000 children weekly. This number is expected to cross one million by next year. 

“Ps Bill sees that one child, because he was that one.”

Last year, Metro “only” served 300,000 children through its Sunday school programme. In just one year, that number has doubled.

“It’s a very unique time: God has opened the door wide in African countries for Metro,” Ps Bill told his team and partners.

Today, it is not only church people who invite Metro to start Sunday schools.

“Governments are inviting the ministry to their countries, because they need help and they don’t know what to do,” explained Yenni.

Yenni went on a tour of Africa in 2022 with Ps Bill. The fruit of that was setting up Sunday Schools for 300,000 kids. That number has grown to over 600,000 now, and Ps Bill is believing for one million children to be reached next year.

Metro started its Sunday school programme in Zambia last September. Just a few weeks ago, the country’s department of education issued Metro a permit to go into every public school to conduct Sunday school.

Every child matters

Metro was founded in 1980 by Ps Bill to reach out to at-risk children in New York’s inner city and share Jesus with them. 

The ministry’s bright yellow Sunday school trucks and buses have been plying the poorer areas of NYC for the last 44 years. 

“It’s a very unique time: God has opened the door wide in African countries for Metro World Child.”

Without fail, Metro’s Sunday school teachers like Yenni pick up the kids on Saturdays and conduct the Sunday school programme.

“Sidewalk Sunday School”, as it is called, is held on the sidewalk, not in a building. And despite its name, Sidewalk Sunday School is held every day of the week except Mondays.

The day before Sunday school, teachers like Yenni do house visits and get to know the children’s families.

To Ps Bill, and to every person who chooses to work with him, every child matters. Because once upon a time, he mattered to someone.

Yenni said, “Ps Bill does this ministry because as a 12-year-old, he was abandoned at a bus stop by his own mother, who was an alcoholic. 

“For three days and three nights, with no food and no water, he waited for his mother to come back. Until an ordinary Christian man stopped and helped him.

“This man, Dave Rudenis, sponsored him to attend a Sunday school camp, and there, Ps Bill met God, and his life changed. Then he lived in the church, and the church took care of him. 

Yenni with “Dona” (not her real name), the little girl from North Cemetery in Manila whom she sponsors.

“That’s how he understands what it’s like to be a child who has been abandoned without hope. For many people, this kid is just a number, just one of thousands living in a garbage dump.

“But Ps Bill sees that one, because he was that one.”

Onlookers were curious about this Asian lady who was so close to the black family: “I’m their Sunday School teacher.”

The Sunday school teachers like Yenni have caught Ps Bill’s spirit of covering every single child with that Christlike, unconditional love, a love that extends to the child’s family. 

“There was a black family of three kids that lived in the projects (New York’s public housing buildings),” she recalled. “One day I visited them and they told me that their dad had been diagnosed with cancer.

“After six months in and out of the hospital, their dad was sent home. I went to visit. He had been such a tall man who was so strong, but now he was so skinny, wearing a diaper, staying in the living room waiting to die. 

“I prayed for him, and a week later he passed away, right before Christmas. When I told Ps Bill, he said, ‘Make sure you send flowers to his funeral.’ And he said ‘Send a big one, because that may the only flowers they receive.”

The pastor was spot on. When Yenni turned up at the funeral service, the flowers she sent were the only ones there. She was also the only non-black person in the room.

Onlookers were curious about this Asian lady who was close to the children, who sat the five-year-old in her lap and comforted the family. When someone finally asked her who she was, she replied, “I’m their Sunday school teacher.”

Knowing their Christmas was going to be a tough one, and that the family could not afford a tree, Yenni brought them to the Metro office and took photos with the Christmas tree there, printed out and framed these pictures to bring some cheer to the family.

“When it was time to close the coffin, I was the only one besides the kids and their mom to have the honour. I asked myself, ‘Who am I to have such privilege to be part of that moment with this family?’”

Would you sponsor a child? 

Not everyone is called to serve the children like Yenni, but she points out that most people can sponsor one or a few children from Metro’s Sunday schools.

The sponsored kids eat a portion of their daily hot meal and saves the rest for their siblings and family. 

“You know, SGD45 gets a child in Kenya a hot meal a day for a month,” she said. “You may think a hot meal is nothing right? Let me tell you this story.

“When I went to Kenya last year, I visited our Sunday school and scooped food for the sponsored kids. I was so happy to see the kids come: Yes, their clothes are torn and they’re very dirty but they get to eat after the Sunday school that day.

“Then I noticed they would eat a little bit, then they would stop eating and pack the rest away. I asked them ‘What’s happening? I thought you were hungry?’

“They explained they were saving this hot meal for their siblings at home who are not sponsored. So that hot meal every day became the saving grace for the whole family.”

A happy sponsored Kenyan child who just received her hot meal for the day. One hot meal feeds a whole family, says Yenni, and it only costs SGD45 to provide this hot meal to one child for a month.

Yenni’s joy turned to sadness when she looked up from scooping food and saw the many children not in the queue who did not have sponsored food.

It has hence become her personal mission to get as many people as possible to sponsor a Metro child. 

“That’s why I talk to everybody,” she said. “Just $45 a month to save one child. Not only will they have food, they can hear the Word of God and they can live.”

There are donors who have followed the ministry for decades and who continue to give, Yenni added. 

Metro started with 300,000 children in its Sunday school programme. In one year, that number has doubled.

“Every Christmas we make phone calls to thank our sponsors and those who support us, wish them Merry Christmas and pray for them,” she described.

“A couple of years ago, I called this man. He was in his 70s and had been supporting Metro for many years, possibly even from the beginning.

“He said, ‘I’m so sorry. This month, I don’t have extra money to send you. But next month, I will have some tax returns. I will send you a check next month.”

Yenni couldn’t stop crying with the tears of gratitude after that phone call.

“We have a lot of small donors. They don’t have a lot — there is one grandma who sends us a one dollar bill every month,” she described the sacrificial giving the ministry experiences.

“We have big donors too, and we appreciate them because the ministry requires resources. But this kind of donors are so special, they are so faithful for so many years.”

(Find out more about the window of opportunity for more children to be reached for Jesus through Metro’s work in this video below.)

The boy and the piece of turkey 

The work isn’t always easy or feel-good. Yenni, like her co-workers, faces difficult, sometimes risky situations.

“Ps Bill always said that he built a room without a door. There is no way out, the only way is forward.”

Not all children are the same, or react the same way, either.

“There was a 12-year-old kid on my first bus route, a tough kid,” she remembered. “He didn’t used to come often, so I spent time at his home, talking to his mom to understand their situation.

“On the bus he would get into fights with other kids. Where they come from, they curse, they swear, they fight, because that’s all they see every day at home and in their neighborhood.

“So he fought with another boy, and he was suspended for a week. But then he came back. I didn’t want him to fight again so I sat next to him on the bus.

“I started tickling him, and he giggled just like a little boy. That made me wonder, when was the last time an adult made him laugh?

The tough little boy on Yenni’s first bus route showed his love to his teacher with a piece of turkey from his own plate. Moments like these have a special place in her heart.

Over time, Yenni built trust with the boy. “That Thanksgiving, we had prepared meals for all the kids and parents that came. The teachers were busy from early morning running multiple sessions, and we could only eat after 5pm, because we were so busy.”

To her amazement, the boy realised she had not eaten, and offered her his food.

“He just used his hand and picked up a piece of turkey and gave it to me!” She said. “You know, these kids don’t often have enough food, but he gave it to me, ‘This is for you, Miss Yenni.’”

When Yenni tried to refuse, the boy insisted. 

“So I took it, and I said thank you,” she smiled. “My heart was so full.”

On her first mission trip to Manila, which changed her whole life, Ps Bill asked Yenni: “What do you want to be doing for the rest of your life?” 

She chose Metro and the children. “God has put me here. God has given me a bigger vision. I never thought I would be doing what I am doing today.

“Ps Bill always said that he built a room without a door. That’s how he has never given up. It has been very, very difficult for him. But if there is no back door and no way out, the only way is forward.”

If you wish to support the ministry or sponsor a Metro child, find out more here.

Ps Bill Wilson's Singapore tour

The theme for Metro World Child in 2024 is “The Fire of the Footprint (Deuteronomy 11:24). Founder Pastor Bill Wilson will be in Singapore to preach from 9 to 20 July. Catch him at Bethesda (Bedok-Tampines) Church on Saturday, July 13 at 5pm and Sunday, July 14 at 8.30am and 11am. Alternatively, register here for his session at City Harvest Church on July 20, 9am.


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About the author

Theresa Tan

God gave Theresa one talent: the ability to write. Today, she uses that one gift to share His goodness as far and wide as she can. When she's not working with words, this mother of three is looking for TikTok baking trends to try, watching Korean drama and making fun of her cats.