How three outreach ministries in AMKTMC grew

How three outreach ministries in AMKTMC grew
(left) Tamil tuition ministry for primary school children (middle) Courses are run by FIB (right) A time of prayer during an FIS meeting

For churches in the Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference, the Tamil-speaking congregations are well-placed to reach out to different segments of society. One significant segment is that comprising migrant workers, both male and female. This was the objective of Ang Mo Kio Tamil Methodist Church’s (AMKTMC) Fellowship of Indian Brothers (FIB) and Fellowship of Indian Sisters (FIS). In addition, the church also offers Tamil language tuition classes for primary school children, drawing the Tamil-speaking families from the neighbourhood and beyond.

Courses conducted by FIB are free

Providing free classes and a listening ear
Fellowship of Indian Brothers

When FIB started in 2007, it reached out to migrant workers by visiting the dormitories. But after AMKTMC moved to its new church building in 2012, the migrant workers were invited to the church premises instead, where free classes in Spoken English, Basic Computer Skills and AutoCAD software were conducted. At first the migrant workers were reluctant to come to church as they thought they would be asked to convert to Christianity. One of the reasons for their scepticism was the fact that classes were free. “What’s in it for you, why is it free?” they would ask.

Today, approximately 40-50 dedicated students actively participate in the classes which run on a weekly basis. An estimated 1,000 migrant workers have attended the classes in the last 10 years. According to Alfred Jayaprakash Sugunaraj, who oversees the FIB, some of the participants have included Bangladeshis and Myanmarese even though the classes were publicised to be conducted in the Tamil language. “We don’t get to choose who comes for the classes, so we just go with the Designer’s plan,” Alfred said.

Beyond running classes, the ministry focuses on befriending the workers taking the time to hear their problems. “We are not trained counsellors, but we can provide a listening ear and prayer. Most of the time, the brothers just need someone to lean on, not so much a solution,” said Alfred. “But it would be great if we could find someone who can provide Christian counselling and is conversant in Tamil,” he added.

Over the years, some of the brothers have been baptised at AMKTMC. However, many accept Christ in secret because of the stigma that it carries, especially in the Hindu culture, as the brothers do not want to face rejection from their families.

One of the participants, Kannathasan, who works in the construction industry and has been a part of the FIB for the past four years, serves as a testament to the programme’s positive impact.

He shared, “My initial steps into this community began with the Spoken English classes. These sessions not only enhanced my communication skills but also facilitated better interaction with my colleagues at work. Moreover, the Computer Skills and AutoCAD teachings have been instrumental in expanding my professional horizons.”

Likewise, Natarajan, who also works in the construction industry and attends the sessions regularly, expressed his gratitude for the programme. “I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to enhance my skills without bearing a financial burden.”

They once met at the park thinking non-Christians did not want to be in a church
Fellowship of Indian Sisters

The FIS began in 2017 with the objective of reaching out to Indian sisters who had come to Singapore for work, often without any friends in a foreign country. Many of the sisters are migrant domestic workers (MDWs), nurses or working in the IT field.

The ministry was born out of a collaboration between then WSCS President, Dr Amutha Chinnadurai and the Evangelism Chairperson, Therese Thenmozhi. The first task was to decide how to publicise the ministry. “But God told us, ‘Your job is to make the ministry available, I will bring the sisters’,” shared Dr Amutha.

The first meeting was held under the shade of a large tree at Ang Mo Kio- Bishan Park with just a handful of sisters. “We had decided to hold it outside of church, so as not to intimidate the non- Christians,” Dr Amutha, a paediatrician, recalled. The time would be spent enjoying home-cooked food and Indian old-school games. The leaders would weave in “Character Education” lessons with no particular reference to the Bible. This was followed by prayer, which was “not compulsory”—so as not to turn anyone off. “Amazingly, we found that they actually wanted the prayer!”

When Christmas rolled around, the meeting was held at AMKTMC’s newly renovated church building so that the Seniors Ministry could join in.

“We had tiptoed around the idea of meeting in church, but our assumptions that the non-Christians wouldn’t want to be in the church building were proven untrue! In fact, they enjoyed being around older people, as it reminded them of home,” Dr Amutha said.

Currently, there are a total of 22 sisters in the group. As each one of them has different off-days, an average of 7-10 sisters attend each session. Over the years, an estimated 60 foreign workers have participated in FIS. Two formally accepted Christ, while several are already from Christian backgrounds.

The meetings are held once a month and the content shared cover topics relevant to the sisters, for example, mental health and managing finances. In 2024, there are plans to start weekly classes, imparting skills like sewing so that the sisters might use these skills to start small businesses when they return home.

How three outreach ministries in AMKTMC grew2
(left) FIS meeting (right) Children's Day event held for the Tamil tuition students and their families

Sharing the faith with students’ families
Tamil Tuition Ministry

The Tamil Tuition Ministry began in 2017 with five primary school students. Today it has 15 students, the majority of whom come from non-Christian families. Most of the students stay through their whole primary school journey. “Some will visit us again when they are in secondary school!” said Prem Kumar, who has served in this ministry since it started and says AMKTMC is likely the only ETAC church that offers Tamil tuition classes.

The free classes are promoted via their TRAC sister church on the same premises—Ang Mo Kio Methodist Church—which runs English and Math tuition classes. Ang Mo Kio Methodist Preschool, which is also co-located on the same premises, promotes the Tamil tuition classes to their K2 students from Tamil families. The classes run every Friday, from 7.30 p.m. to 9.00 p.m.

“All our teachers are church members who are able to read and write in Tamil but they are not specially trained. We have 10 tutors on rotation, and we divide the students into three classes—Primary 1-2, Primary 3-4 and Primary 5-6—with one teacher assigned to each class,” explained Prem.

Beyond tuition, the ministry organises family activities. “We celebrate Children’s Day and go for an outing once a year. Recently, we conducted a ‘faith-sharing’ meeting with parents of the students and about 15 adults attended,” Prem said.

Lianne Ong is the Editor of Methodist Message. / Photos courtesy of Ang Mo Kio Tamil Methodist Church