Happenings, News

Building together for the Lord is fun!

Paya Lebar Chinese Methodist Mission raising funds to build Multi-Purpose Hall

MR STEPHEN LIM of Paya Lebar Chinese Methodist Church (PLCMC) found himself doing a very strange thing for the Lord – eating tomatoes. Lots of them.

In the face of what he called “very tough competition”, he emerged the winner of a tomato-eating contest that was held as part of PLCMC’s annual Family Day on April 26, 2008.

As in previous years, this year’s Family Day featured stalls selling everything from food to old violins to aquarium fish, as well as games and competitions for the congregation. There was also a guest performance by local singer Laverne, a member of one of PLCMC’s Mandarin congregations. But what made this year’s event extra-special was that the money raised will go towards the church’s Multi-Purpose Hall building project at Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School (Primary) (PLMGSP). Coincidentally, Mr Lim the champion tomato-eater also happens to be the Chairman of the Board of Finance that is aiming to raise $500,000 for the building project.

Sounds like the start of a good story? It is. Since 2004, Paya Lebar Chinese Methodist Mission has been using PLMGSP for its Sunday activities. The Methodist Mission is a preaching point ministry started by members of PLCMC nine years ago, with a mission of reaching out to serve the Lorong Ah Soo community.

In addition to running a Mandarin worship service, the Methodist Mission also provides free tuition to the children and youth in the neighbourhood which is packaged together with its children’s church and youth fellowship. Step into PLMGSP on a Sunday, and you will find the place abuzz with activity – small-group or one-on-one tuition lessons and Bible-study sessions are conducted in the school canteen, while upstairs in the school hall, the lively children’s church or youth fellowship is conducted in the morning followed by the afternoon worship service.

Building the new Multi-Purpose Hall, with a seating capacity of more than 200, is the Methodist Mission’s way of strengthening its partnership with and blessing PLMGSP. The school’s provision of its facilities for the Methodist Mission’s use on Sundays has been instrumental in helping the ministry to grow to its present size.

Currently, the congregation numbers about 120 people, while the youth and children’s ministries are each about 60- strong. In addition, the Methodist Mission now also has its own shophouse office at Blk 124 of Hougang Ave 1, affectionately called New Heart Land (to echo the Heartland Mall in the vicinity). Officially opened by Member of Parliament Mdm Cynthia Phua and the CAC President, the Rev Khoo Cheng Hoot, in November 2006, it serves as a ministry base for the pastoral team and the staff to reach out to the residents in the area throughout the week.

It does seem that the Lord has blessed this ministry since its humble beginnings in 1999, when a small group of 20 people from the English congregation in PLCMC responded to the Lord’s call to do something for the community in the vicinity of the church.

Meeting needs of community a top priority of Paya Lebar Chinese Methodist Mission

There was much praying before the actual commencement of the outreach to the residents.

Ms Grace Yeo, one of the original team members, recalled the challenges faced by the English-speaking team in communicating with the mostly Mandarin and dialect-speaking neighbourhood. “We learned how to step out in faith – it’s amazing how God can stretch your vocabulary when you ask Him to,” she said.

Serving the community, building relationships and meeting heartfelt needs have since been the top priorities of the Methodist Mission. Its current pastoral team, comprising the Rev Louis Chai, Pastor Yong Fui Fui and the Rev Esther Ding, helps to address the various needs and problems faced by the residents with the love of Christ and the power of His Gospel. Their ministries include prayer, Bible study, visitation, counselling, remedial tuition and life-skills coaching.

As the Rev Chai put it, “Serving the community is the Methodist Mission’s way of realising what John Wesley called social holiness.”

Participating in this sort of project takes time – observed youth leader Lim Hai Chong. “It is not just a matter of planning and administering programmes. What is more important is building relationships with people so that they feel cared for.”

The results so far have been encouraging. Parents of the children who attend the tuition lessons and children’s church have reported improvements in their children’s grades and behaviour. The Lord has also used the ministry to reach out to some of the parents and older folk who are struggling with illness and loneliness.

Looking ahead, the Rev Chai hopes that the new Multi-Purpose Hall at PLMGSP will be yet another milestone in the Methodist Mission’s onward journey, increasing its impact both in the neighbourhood as well as the school.

Yet the pastoral team, lay leadership, and the congregation are all deeply aware that “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain” (Psalm 127:1), and it is this knowledge of our total dependence on God’s provision at all times that undergirds everything that the Methodist Mission does. May God alone be glorified through the Methodist Mission!

Zhang Ruihe is a member of Paya Lebar Chinese Methodist Church.