Eka Wati (left) never thought she would be working with children, much less sharing the gospel with them. Once a domestic helper in Singapore, she is now a missionary in Sumba, Indonesia. All photos courtesy of Eka Wati.

Twelve years ago, Eka Wati came to Singapore from Indonesia to work as a domestic helper.

Her grasp of English was rudimentary at best and her cooking skills were nearly non-existent. She arrived full of fear, having heard stories of employers abusing their domestic helpers.

Today, Eka is a missionary who has returned to help her people in Indonesia. She pioneered a children’s ministry in villages, and started a pre-school as well as a Christian radio station. She is also studying to be a Christian pre-school teacher.

Eka with the children of the pre-school she set up in Sumba, Indonesia in March 2020.

She never imagined her life would turn out this way.

“I thought: Maybe there is no God.”

At the lowest point in her life, Eka was working in Jakarta, far from her hometown. She had been divorced a few years at the time, and was denied all contact with her son who lived with her ex-husband and her former in-laws.

Eka turned to the religion she grew up with. “I asked God, ‘Why, why, why? Why is my life like that? If there is a God, why is my life so difficult? Why is my family like that?’ I had bitterness and anger in my heart.

“But I didn’t get an answer. So I thought: Maybe there is no God.”

What she didn’t know was that God would show Himself to her in the most powerful way.

An unhappy union

Eka was 17 years old when her mother made her marry a neighbour six years her senior. Armed with only a middle school education then, Eka would have liked to continue studying.

Asked why the hurried nuptials, Eka, now 40, said: “It’s a very sad story.”

“If I get a divorce. I would have a very bad life in my village.”

Her mother was having an affair. Eka knew about it and did not approve. Her father worked long hours at the wet market selling vegetables and fruits, and may not have been aware of his wife’s infidelity.

“My father was very busy, only thinking of money, money, money. I was angry with my mother. Every time I saw the man asleep in the room, I would knock on the door.”

After some time, the lover convinced her mother to have Eka married off so that she would stop interfering in their relationship.

Though reluctant, Eka complied. “At the time, I didn’t know what being married was about.”

A week or so into the marriage, Eka went to her mother and asked if she could divorce her husband.

“I was very young,” said Eka.

Her mother told her that she needed to have a child with her husband before she would give Eka permission for the divorce.

“I was sad and I was angry. But I listened to my mother because I also thought: What can I do? If I get a divorce, I would have a very bad life in my village.”

“My husband’s parents also didn’t give me a chance to see the baby.”

After the baby came along, Eka felt she could not tolerate being married any longer.

Her husband refused to go to work and she often had to beg her mother for money. Sometimes her mother would give her money; other times she would get angry and refuse. Her parents-in-law were not involved at all. 

“When I asked my mother if I could get a divorce, she said, ‘It’s up to you.’”

What Eka did not expect from the divorce was that her husband would keep her son from her.

“I went to his house and begged him to let me see the baby, but he refused. My husband’s parents also didn’t give me a chance to see the baby.”

After repeated failed attempts, Eka gave up and decided to go to Jakarta to work. Her hometown in Jogjakarta held too many bitter memories.

She was only 20.

Her first challenge to God

The change of environment did nothing to change Eka’s heart. Neither did the passage of time.

Nearly seven years after she moved to Jakarta, she was still bitter about losing her son and the family she had hoped to build. In anger, she resolved to no longer to acknowledge the god she had been brought up to believe in.

“How did the Bible know I have bitterness and anger in my heart?”

“But my heart kept asking me: Do you really want to live like that? I said, ‘Yeah, I’m happy’ but the question was always in my heart.”

At home one Sunday, Eka switched on the television in her rental room and chanced upon a programme where a pastor was preaching a sermon.

“He said, ‘If you have bitterness, if you have anger in your heart, just raise your hand and I will pray for you.’

“I raised my hand. But after that, I was shocked. Why did I raise my hand?”

After that chance encounter, Eka continued to tune in to the programme, drawn by the Christian testimonies.

At the same time, she also looked to the faith in which her parents raised her, hoping that more prayers and more reading of religious material would help her overcome her bitterness and anger.

Nothing helped. “I could not sleep at night. When I closed my eyes, I remembered all the bad things.”

While looking for something to read in her room, Eka found a new Bible. One sleepless night, she picked it up and read it for nearly an hour. 

“After I read the Bible until 1am or 2am, I could sleep. I had peace in my heart. I don’t know why.”

“Jesus, if You are really alive, please help me.” 

After that night, Eka would return again and again to the Bible. On the third night, she felt a conviction in her heart.

“The Bible verse taught me that to judge people in my heart was wrong and prompted me to forgive people. I thought: How did the Bible know I have bitterness and anger in my heart?”

Instead of heeding the prompting, Eka got angry with the Bible. She refused to continue reading it. She turned to praying more. But the harder she prayed, the more the memories haunted her.

“I remembered my mother sleeping with her boyfriend, my ex-husband always scolding me. I remembered everything and I got more angry.”

In frustration, Eka uttered a challenge that would change her life: “Jesus, if You are really alive, please help me. God, if You are real, just help me. If You help me, I will believe in You.”

Give me a passport

After that prayer, Eka suddenly felt a desire to own a passport. Until then, she had not thought of a future beyond working as a busser in a restaurant in Jakarta.

“I saw people on television with passports and thought it would be very nice to have my own.

“But I never thought of working in Singapore. I was afraid because I saw on television that people who worked in Singapore, they always have bad employers. I only wanted a passport.”

Everyone told her how lucky she was, but Eka knew that it was not luck at all.

That desire dropped into her heart in 2009. Two years later, it burned even stronger, strong enough for her to dismiss her fears of working abroad. She went to an agent to help her secure a job in Singapore.

At the agent’s, she prayed to God once more. Told that a passport would take two months to process, Eka said to God: “If in two weeks, I have the passport and a job to go to Singapore, then that is from You.

“If not, I won’t believe in any god.”

Within two weeks, she not only received her passport, she got a job in Singapore.

“I was shocked and happy, but also scared. I did know anything – I didn’t know how to cook and my English was not good.”

Everyone told her how lucky she was, but Eka knew that it was not ‘luck’ at all.

Teach me to make pasta

In Singapore, Eka went to work for Veronica Ng and her husband Nam Sin, caring for their three teenage children and two dogs. She liked the family.

Eka with Veronica (left) and Nam Sin (right). When Eka eventually became a Christian, she learnt how to act in Christian love by watching how Veronica was gentle and kind to all those around her.

“My ma’am was very nice to me. I was surprised because my ma’am never got angry with me.”

Despite the kindness she received, Eka did not seem happy. 

Veronica noticed. “It was about three to four months after she came. I thought she might be lonely. The kids go to school and her English wasn’t good so we couldn’t communicate so well.”

Veronica invited Eka to her church’s Indonesian Fellowship so she could make friends with fellow Indonesians. Eka refused, giving the excuse that she suffered from car sickness. Veronica persisted till Eka finally gave in.

It was the Indonesian Fellowship at Covenant Evangelical Free Church that brought Eka to Christ and now supports her as a missionary in Indonesia.

Just as Veronica promised, Eka made many friends. She had attended the Indonesian Fellowship for a year when the leader of the fellowship asked if she would like to be baptised. She demurred, afraid that her parents would disapprove.

“Jesus, please help me. If I give him the food and he finishes it, I will know You are alive.”

That Christmas in 2013 during the sermon, the pastor said: “If you want to know Jesus, just pray and ask Him to come to you.”

Eka went home and said the prayer, not quite believing how easy it was. Then God showed up for her in a way that she could best understand.

Veronica had asked Eka to cook a pasta dish for her youngest child.

“I didn’t know how to make spaghetti,” said Eka. “So I prayed, ‘Jesus, please help me. If I give him the food and he finishes it, I will know You are alive.’”

Eka remembers well how she made the dish: a can of mushroom soup poured over cooked spaghetti.

She recalled: “I didn’t even put bacon in it. When I tasted it, it was not nice.”

But Veronica’s son finished every bit of it. When Eka next made an ‘improved’ version of the dish, believing it to taste better, the boy didn’t touch the meal at all.

Eka said: “I will always remember that incident.”

Make my bapak say “yes”

Eka had one more request of God.

“I prayed, ‘Jesus, I know my father won’t want me to be a Christian. He will be angry and I may not be able to go back home. Help me.’”

“I knew that this is from Jesus.”

When she finally plucked up the courage to call her father, he told her: “You already know what is good for you. If you choose to become a Christian, you cannot return to our religion.

“If one day you should want to marry a man of another religion and forsake Christianity, I will be angry with you.”

Eka was shocked. She almost never talked to her father. He was always busy working till late at night. For him to say this in their first meaningful conversation touched her deeply.

“I knew that this is from Jesus,” she said.

She had asked for three things: A passport, favour for her pasta dish and her father’s approval. Each of her prayers were answered.

Eka got baptised the next year, in 2014.

Eka at her baptism.

Back home to Indonesia

A year later, the Indonesian Fellowship leader issued her another challenge. “She asked me, ‘What talent do you have?’”

Eka sought God about this in prayer and then she had a vision.

“God told me, ‘Go back to Indonesia to study for two to three years.’”

She recounted: “In the vision, I was staying in a place under a big tree and I had a lot of children with me. I didn’t like the place so I knew it was Indonesia.”

After praying about the vision, Eka took up her leader’s offer to study theology in Indonesia.

“I said I didn’t want to be a pastor. She said I could be a Christian leader instead. So I went.”

She had worked with Veronica for seven years by then. Eka resigned and attended the Discipleship Training School of the University of Nations Bali (UofN) under Youth With A Mission (YWAM) Indonesia.

As she neared the end of her six-month studies, she spent a month in Chiangmai, Thailand, serving in a ministry for children born in prison.

That was her first taste of caring for children, a ministry to which God would soon lead her.

Eka (left) worked with children in the prison ministry of Chiangmai, Thailand for a month.

Before she returned to Bali, Eka prayed about her future.

“God told me, ‘Go back to Indonesia to study for two to three years.’ When I met my pastor in Bandung, he said the same thing. But I didn’t know learn what or go where.”

Her Indonesian Fellowship leader back in Singapore suggested that she go to Sumba, an island in Eastern Indonesia, to serve with the Christian community there. Eka has been there for the past four years.

Sovereign in Sumba

In Sumba, Eka completed her high school education. She is currently enrolled in a Christian college, training to be pre-school teacher. She attends lessons online and has two more years to graduation.

True to the vision God gave her, Eka’s work in the community involves children. She started a children’s ministry in October 2019.

A few days every week, she travels to the villages in Sumba. First, she offers to teach the children there to read and write. When they are more familiar and open to her, she would share the gospel with them and their families. 

Eka (left) goes to the villages in Sumba to teach the children to read and write, as well as to share the Gospel.

For those who are interested, she conducts Bible study classes as well. She has reached out to six villages so far and her ministry impacts more than 100 children.

“I never thought my life would turn out like this. God has been very good to me.”

Through her work in the villages, Eka has seen God’s hand move mightily.

There was a family who was always uninterested in the gospel. The head of their household was ill with what Eka believes to the result of a stroke.  

She said: “He couldn’t walk. He could only just lie down in the house. So we went to pray for him, and the bapak suddenly got healed!”

“They didn’t think he would ever be healed because he had been ill for so long. After that, the whole family received Jesus, all nine of them.”

In the years since her ministry began, there have been around 60 children and 100 adults who have converted to Christianity.

During Covid, when everyone was house-bound, Eka started a radio station broadcasting sermons and playing Christian music from 6am to 11pm.

The station continues to bless the community today. Sometimes Eka preaches, other times she shares testimonies. She and a friend take turns to run the station.

Eka records her sermons and testimonies, uploads them onto her computer to be broadcast to the villagers in Sumba.

“The people in the villages have no Internet, no television. At least with the radio, they can hear the gospel.”

In March 2020, Eka also started a pre-school. Today 26 children are enrolled.

The Eka now is a very different person from the 20-something running away from an unhappy marriage and an unhappy home.

“There is no more bitterness in my heart. Last time, I didn’t know how to talk to people, to children. Now I can talk to them and share with them the Gospel.

“I never thought my life would turn out like this. God has been very good to me.

“So I always talk to God, ‘How can I share God’s love to other people?’ I don’t want to just teach. I want to love other people as God loves me.”


“You will work in My household”: From domestic helper to a servant in a church

Cheated of money, cheated in love, yet this foreign domestic helper chose to forgive

“God gave me the love I was craving”: Former foreign domestic worker now married to a Singaporean

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.