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From Sunday Chore to Life Together

The faithfulness of one led him to a community of many. Tan Yee Kiat reflects on the importance of God’s family.

Yee Kiat header image

When asked to write a reflection on my own attitude towards church, I can best describe it with the title above.

It’s worth revisiting how I even came to be part of a church. I did not come from a church-going family. It started with a neighbouring family, the Poh family. Poh Teck Hwa, who I knew as Uncle Poh, was attending a church called First Baptist Church in Kuching, Malaysia. He had invited my family to a Christmas evangelistic event. Prior to this, my own aunt had given me a Children’s Bible to read which I did, but I was not going to any church. I was around 9 or 10 at this time.

After this evangelistic event, Uncle Poh sought permission from my parents to bring me to church.

And so it began.

Going to church meant waking up early on Sundays, something that I was still struggling to get used to. A word here must be put in for the faithfulness of this Uncle Poh. Even when their family moved out of the neighbourhood, he still arrived promptly on Sunday mornings to pick me up. Some days his journey was ‘futile’ because I woke up and told him, I don’t feel like going today.

This carried on all the way until secondary school. In church, I was mostly on my own and I didn’t really participate in the life of the community. As soon as church ended, I would meet my parents and we would go for lunch together.

When I came to Singapore at 15, I took the liberty to be free from church for one year. I did actually go to Grace Baptist Church (Chinese congregation) for one week in January, because my roommate Moses Han attended the Chinese congregation here. Moses is now studying for his Masters of Divinity in Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida.

But 2002 was also a harsh lesson of trying to live in Singapore, without God. Some things were happening in my own family, and my mother started attending a church near our home in Kuching. When I went home that holiday, my mom signed me up for a baptism class. Once a week, for 13 weeks straight – which was the duration of my entire holiday – I strove to understand what the Christian faith meant. After all those years of church-going, I finally understood why Jesus had to die.

I came back to Singapore and spent one year in Grace Assembly of God. When junior college started, I came to Grace Baptist Church.

I would say there has always been a disjoint because my primary community was never the people of God at this point.

Things began to change when my primary community began to comprise less of friends from school, fellow Malaysians studying in Singapore, hostel friends and so on. It started to become more and more of the church community. I slowly began to understand our need to grow together as people of God.

By participating in life together, there is also a growing awareness that I participate in the highs and the lows of our life together. The Bible exhorts us to “rejoice with those who rejoice, [and] weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15, ESV).

There are many things that wouldn’t be in my world – PSLEs (Primary School Leaving Examinations), Parkinson’s, cancer, newborn babies, marriages, bereavements – and so on, if I choose to look only at my own life.

The most important thing for me is to know that this community, unlike others which are transitory and short-lived, is prepared for an eternal weight of glory that awaits all of us. Every word spoken to exhort, encourage and spur one another towards Christlikeness is not futile. I once used the phrase ‘Community for Eternity’ to describe us and I stick to this description of who we are – thanks to all that God has done for us.

The verdict at the end of the day is that Uncle Poh’s efforts were not futile and ours will not be either.

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Read the full issue of Grace News on Relationships and Community here.