The Vine Press – November 2020


“LEARNING DOESN’T STOP WITH COVID-19.” – TEACHER MELISSA CHAN

Every Sunday morning, Mika, 5, eagerly takes out all her stationery and craft materials while her mother prepares her laptop to play the Sunday school video lesson. This morning, cheh-cheh Claudia and Uncle Lam Seng appear on screen, leading worship and teaching the lesson, respectively.

With mom Jessica by her side, Mika sings along and listens to the Bible lesson. Then comes craft time, and Mika pulls out her stationery and follows the given instructions. Soon, her craft takes shape. Ahh…it is a resplendent crown to remind Mika that she is God’s precious child.

Like Jessica, Chui Wen would sit with her 7-year-old son, Michah, through the video lesson to help him understand. “I truly appreciate the time and effort poured into producing these videos. Thank you, teachers, for providing an alternative platform for the children to continue learning,” said Michah’s father, Adrian.

Video vision

Since the MCO, our teachers in the baby to 8-year-old classes have been producing video lessons almost every week.

Initially, the videos for the preschoolers were a mish mash of YouTube links. Charlotte then stepped up to produce a video featuring her leading in the songs and teaching the Bible lesson and craft. This inspired and challenged the preschool teachers to produce their own content, bearing in mind “the importance of presenting accurate and impactful lessons due to the permanence of the video,” teacher Wai Yin said.

Some teachers adapted easily and were “a natural” in front of the screen. Others took a longer time to get used to talking to a screen, and some had sleepless nights thinking about how to make the video visually attractive. Tech-savvy teachers learned how to use video editing tools while others roped in their husband and children to edit their videos.

Indeed, producing the videos had become a family affair, with the teachers getting their young children involved in the singing and teaching the craft activity. Within a short time, the improvement was visible. Dr Florence, who sits through the video lessons with her three girls, noticed. “Over the weeks, I could see that the teachers have improved tremendously, trying to make the lessons as lively and interesting as possible,” she said.

Good things must be shared and the videos are now shared with friends and family in Australia, Singapore, and beyond.

Zoom in

While our preschoolers get their video lessons, the 9- to 12-year-old kids have been Zoom-ing in for their weekly Bible lesson. “The virtual class was a big learning curve for me,” teacher Joyce Lean shared. “Yes, we fumbled like any Zoom newbies initially,” teacher Melissa added, “but we’re getting there… it’s a gradual progress with fewer hiccups now.”                                                                                       

Teaching the children demands the parents’ partnership, especially in a non-physical class environment.  Teacher Foo Wei concluded, “As we honour God in ensuring our children are fed with appropriate nutrients from His Word, we equally look to parents to encourage our children in this journey of seeking Him.”

To all parents, thank you for encouraging your children. To all teachers, thank you for stepping up and for your faithfulness. Let’s press on…… 

– Juat Heng


DISCIPLISHIP – Strange Land

As we look back at 2020, a lot of what was safe and familiar – the rhythm of “normal life” – have been lost. The strange land of social-distancing and quarantine came upon us with little warning. We are trapped in a season of captivity, in a foreign land, in which we are still learning to live.

This was the dilemma of the Israelites in exile. In 587 BC, Jerusalem fell and the people of Judah were captured and taken 900 miles to Babylon, to a strange new land where they remained for many years, grieving the loss of home.

By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, where we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our lyres. For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, “sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign (strange) land? (Psalm 137: 1-4)

Can you feel the sadness in this psalm?

They sat beside the river, mourning as they shared memories of home, the “old normal.” The drooping branches of willow trees where they hung their instruments seemed to weep alongside them. The enemy taunted them with requests for joyful tunes, but the people were unable to sing because they were overwhelmed with sorrow. Heavy hearts make worship hard. They wept because of the sense of deep loss and isolation.

As we dwell in this strange land, we reflect: in what ways have I felt the deep, dark ache of loss, loneliness, and isolation? Maybe I missed physical touch, the freedom to be with family and friends?

The season of loss and isolation has been particularly difficult for some people. We think of those who have no family, those who are alone. Our minds turn to those who lost their jobs, those who have been unable to attend weddings or funerals, and especially those who have lost their beloved during this time.

Many church communities have lost their rhythms of meeting and worshipping together face to face. In many ways, we are grieving the loss of what we called home. We wonder what it means to sing the Lord’s song in this strange land. Is it possible that this season of captivity could become a birthplace of new, unexpected freedom?

Heavenly Father, 2020 has been hard. Right now, I am tired, and I feel like I need to sit down. I might even cry a bit, and I am grateful that you are OK with that. I surrender it all to you. I accept where I am right now, and how I am feeling – thank you that you for accepting me for who I am and how I feel.

Let us sing by faith, for we know the power of the songs of Zion, reminding us of the promise that God will never leave us nor forsake us, that nothing can separate us from the love of God, and the world is still in God’s hands.

God of all time and space, enable us to sing from our hearts no matter where we are, because we know you are with us, even in this strange land. Today, I am grateful for the promise found in Psalm 23 that like a shepherd, You Lord, will lead me beside still waters and there You will restore my soul. You promise to guide me, and to be with me and comfort me, in the path of dark valleys.

– Pastor Jeremy Lim


STRECHER-BEARER – SUICIDE

“My soul is sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” Matthew 26:38

Suicide is a topic that most of us avoid. We’d rather not talk about suicide unless it is within an impersonal context. In our discussion, we most probably find ourselves deliberating on the possible cause(s), the moral legitimacy and the repercussions on people who died by suicide. Although such discussions can be helpful in understanding suicide, they can also contribute to a stereotypical view of suicide. Many believe that suicide is selfish, irrational, weak, and wrong. These misconceptions can appear true if we don’t go beyond the WHY of suicide to get to know the WHO. Suicide is about the unbearable agony of loneliness, hopelessness, and abandonment. Suicide is about a PERSON; it is not merely an ACT. Suicide is complex because no two persons are the same. While there are biological, psychological, and social risk factors for suicide, these multifactorial risks are person-specific.

As a Church, we are called to be a community where we live life together. The Church is not meant to be a social club where we engage in activities we mutually enjoy e.g. worship, pray and learn from the Scripture. Rather, the Church is called to rejoice with one another AND to bear one another’s burden. How could we do this if we don’t venture beyond cordial exchanges? How could we do this if vulnerability has no place in the Church? If Jesus can be open with his disciples regarding his depth of struggle and his need for their presence, what is hindering us to be vulnerable and to permit vulnerability?

The most effective way to reduce suicide is to talk about it. Want to know more? Join us in this month’s Stretcher Bearer Dialogue Sessions  http://tiny.cc/sb-2020 

– Hera Lukman       


A Journey Made Much Gentler by God

THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD

Battling an illness is a journey no one wants to go on.

There were days when I was in despair and asked the Lord, “Why?” and “How?”, but the only constant whisper I heard was, “Rest, I will take care of everything.” Indeed, He never failed to provide. He showered me with blessings after blessings: He gave me the pathology report that every cancer patient hoped for; overwhelming practical help, support and prayers from my family members, CG members, friends, and neighbours. My children rose up to the occasion, becoming so independent overnight and taking turns to cook daily; while He enabled my husband to calm me whenever I was in distress – the list goes on.

Indeed, His mercy never ends. In my weakness, the Lord strengthened and comforted me. It was during this time that I truly comprehended what King David meant in Psalm 23, “…even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.”

Yes, indeed the Lord is my shepherd, He guides me through with His rod and staff, while He makes me lie down on green pastures and refreshes my soul.

I am most grateful that this chapter is now behind me, my heart leaps for joy, and I praise Him. He hears my cry for mercy, and He helps me. I can’t imagine how I could journey on without my Abba Father.

I also want to thank the church leaders for faithfully covering me with prayer, especially Pastor Alexa who never makes me feel like I’m a patient, but cheers me up with interesting anecdotes and encouraging words each time she visits.

To those who are on this journey, there is HOPE in Jesus. Run to Him, and He will be your Rock and your Refuge, just like He is to me.

– By Ru Chyi


SUNDAY SERMON
(CHURCH MATTERS)

01 NOV Leadership in God’s church – Elder Tham Kong Wen
08 NOV Faithfulness in God’s church – Pastor Jeremy Lim
15 NOV Purity in God’s church – Elder Choong Yee Fong
22 NOV Godliness in God’s church – Pastor Melissa Chan
29 NOV Advent Sermon – Pastor Victor G.


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