“Whatever you do for the least of these”: Why these seniors have never stopped serving
Christine Leow // September 14, 2020, 4:04 pm
The Lims (seated, centre) with the cell group that came from a heart to see people anchored in church. Teck Seng wrote personal letters to each of them, inviting them to the first meeting. All photos courtesy of the Lims.
The Lims – Suat Khoh, 66, and Teck Seng, 65 – have spent most of their adult life serving in the church they got married in 40 years ago. For several years, they ran the church’s annual Alpha programme. They were cell group leaders and part of their congregation’s work committee.
When this season ended, they told the church leadership they could not serve in committees anymore. But they were not “retiring” from service. Instead, it was a move towards service of a different kind.
“We were already serving in church so we thought we wanted to move into community work as well,” said Suat Khoh.
A little here, a little there
Suat Khoh, an associate professor of Mathematics and Mathematics Education at the National Institute of Education (NIE) and a Math whizz before she retired from work, has spent the better part of her career teaching teachers to teach.
After retirement, she channelled that passion for teaching into tutoring underprivileged children at a family service centre and mentoring them.
“I thought, ‘Why not?’ I have always wanted to help disadvantaged kids. I thought I could do some good to help people.
“Many of these children have problems in their homes. That’s why they are at the centre,” she said.
“At our age, we feel blessed to have the time and the health to be able to help others.”
When the children became irregular in their attendance at the centre, Suat Khoh was undeterred – she went to their homes to conduct one-on-one tuition classes.
The couple also delivers meals to the needy every week – something they did even throughout the Circuit Breaker as they were considered essential workers.
“We wanted to do our part. At our age, we feel blessed to have the time and the health to be able to help others.”
Added Suat Khoh: “You know what the Bible says about whatever you do for the least of these you are doing for Jesus? (Matthew 25:40-45) That’s what we want to do.”
Friend to the friendless
Teck Seng lives by this verse as well. The elderly have a special place in his heart. He was one of a few who reached out to a lonely old man who had turned up for the service he attended.
“These are the things I can do. A little here, a little there.”
“Some of us took it upon ourselves to take turns to take him out after service on Sundays. He was alone, estranged from his family.
“During his last months, he was in a nursing home and I did Bible Study with him there. I was the last person to see him before he passed on,” said Teck Seng.
He also befriended another elderly man in church because “no one talks to him”. For the last three years, he has been having lunch with the man every few months.
“These are the things I can do. A little here, a little there.”
Through a friend who volunteers, Suat Khoh also got involved in an adult befriending programme.
“I became a befriender to a lady in her 50s who was quite ill. We journeyed together till she passed away,” said Suat Khoh.
The Lims have also been on hand to help out in their church in ways big and small. When he first retired, Teck Seng decided to rally the people in his church who were not in cell groups.
He wrote each of them a personal letter, inviting them to join him for a cell group meeting.
“I didn’t know if anyone of them would come,” he said. “I just set a day and time.”
Five people turned up, surprising him quite a bit. That became the start of a new cell group that the Lim would lead for several years.
“We were very thankful that God blessed the effort and brought these people,” said Suat Khoh.
When their church needed people to act in an evangelistic Christmas play and approached the Lims, they readily agreed even though they had never been part of a production like that before.
“We practised a lot in order to remember the lines,” said Teck Seng.
And, as proof that you do not have to be young to be in touch with the young, Suat Khoh has been teaching in the Youth Ministry in her church for many years, putting her understanding of the Bible and her love for teaching to good use. Not only is she their teacher and mentor, she joins in all their games and camps as well.
Last year, the couple spent three months in Timor-Leste teaching the teachers and children in a school run by missionaries.
“I always felt that missions was something at the heart of what all Christians should do. But I wanted to do more than a short-term mission trip.
“The thing is, they have always asked for English teachers. Then, one day, I saw a call for a Math teacher and I thought, ‘God is telling me something’.”
Two weeks later, her church celebrated Missions Sunday and the speaker spoke about the needs in Timor-Leste including their need for teachers to train the local teachers. Training teachers was exactly Suat Khoh’s expertise.
“I prayed a lot and complained to God. But it was also the time I felt the closest to God.”
“I felt that that was the call,” said Suat Khoh.
A week-long trip to understand the needs on the ground and nine months later, the Lims were in Timor-Leste.
“I learnt that I had to pray a lot and depend a lot on God. I had all these preconceived ideas of what I was going to do there but the reality on the ground was very different,” said Suat Khoh.
When they posed Math questions to the teachers about paying a deposit for buying something, the concept drew a blank because the locals had only ever paid things in full. It was a small matter, but something that made the Lims realise the need to be flexible and adapt to local situations.
“I had to re-think the whole curriculum,” admitted Suat Khoh.
Because of the hot, dry and dusty weather, Teck Seng also fell quite sick for the better part of the trip.
“I’ve never had such a bad cough and runny nose in my life. It lasted six to seven weeks. At night, I couldn’t sleep. I had to sit up and cough.
“That was the time I prayed a lot and complained to God. But it was also the time I felt the closest to God.”
Added Suat Khoh dryly: “And of course, he passed the cough to me.”
But the Lims maintain that the trip opened their eyes to the goodness of God.
“When I finished the syllabus, there was one period left and I told them: ‘Anyone who wants me to pray for them can come to me’. When you say things like this in Singapore, not many may come.
“But the whole class came in twos and threes to be prayed for,” said Suat Khoh.
“It was very fulfilling seeing the work there,” added Teck Seng. “Every day, the students had devotions.”
“While I still can, I want to do things for God.”
“On the last day of our stay, I gave the first devotion of my life. I don’t even know how I did it, but I did.”
The trip was a humbling experience. “We usually think we are sacrificing so much, spending months on the field,” quipped Suat Khoh. “But when I see the missionary couple there, they have given up years and years.
“They devote so much to the school there. Their love for the students really touched us.”
It has been months since their return but their work is still not done. Suat Khoh has been developing assessment papers for the students in Timor-Leste tailored to their needs and level of understanding.
“To be honest, we don’t know what’s going to come in this last stage of our lives,” said Suat Khoh.
“Now, we’re still healthy. So, while I still can, I want to do things for God because there may come a day when we may not be able to.”