The Kingdom of Heaven...
IT IS THE SMALLEST OF ALL SEEDS, BUT WHEN IT HAS GROWN IT IS THE BIGGEST OF SHRUBS AND BECOMES A TREE, SO THAT THE BIRDS OF THE AIR CAN COME AND SHELTER IN ITS BRANCHES.
By Esther Chia, Executive Director, ACMI
Since back in 2005, I have felt some sort of calling to serve in Church ministries. With tons of excuses to God (and I’m sure He knows when He called me), I have delayed until one day in 2008, He decided that I needed to learn to trust and depend on Him. I did learn to finally surrender to God - my life, my being and family to finally listen to Him. And I joined the Catechetical Ministry.
When I was offered a position with ACMI, I doubted my capabilities because I was still a child needing “milk” from the Father to grow. That’s when I decided to let go and let God.
I find it so ironic that I am put to service the migrants and itinerants of Singapore. I was many times over a migrant and itinerant in other countries and continents. It helped me understand what the individuals are going through when they gave up their lives in their home town to come over to a foreign land to work and live.
Over the months, I learned to evangelize in different ways – through the programs which ACMI is running, sharing my experiences, strengthening myself as an individual so that I can minister and help others grow together with me, enjoying God’s grace, mercy and love. Being able to touch lives through my actions gives me the greatest joy and that keeps me going.
Today, I know I’m growing more spiritually each day. With God putting people from different walks of life into my hands, it has increased my faith learning to love and show mercy to those around me unconditionally through the grace of God.
Don't we sometimes feel unworthy when we fail in some situations? However, God is always there to pick me up and carry me through those times.
I always joked that I’ve never been so prayerful in my life before. Looking back, it’s not true. I have always been prayerful because I know that God is always been there for me. The difference now, is that I learn to surrender to Him and allow Him to work through me.
It’s going to be a long journey, and if I open my heart, mind and soul to Him, I know I will be a better person as I lead and live the life that He wants.
Someone once said to me - Is this a calling or vocation? It didn’t matter – it’s His summon to me to do His will, and my willing heart to follow Him.
"WHEN GOD PLANTS THE SEED, GOD ALSO REMOVES THE OBSTACLE." Jenny & Bernard - married couple and volunteer trainers
Going to church every Sunday does not make us a Christian. As a Christian, we are called to live our lives for others, just as Christ did.
It was sometime in 2015 when one of us started talking about taking on another ministry, doing some volunteer work, doing some corporal work of mercy. What! When? During the weekdays, my mind is preoccupied with work… weekends are my time, for me to just chill out and not do anything except maybe laze around, do some exercise, watch television!! After all, we are already helping out in a few church ministries. Isn’t that enough?
As Christians, we always say we love God. But St John calls us liars if we claim to love God who we cannot see and yet not love our neighbours who we can see (1 John 4:20).
Now that one of us is making a suggestion, perhaps it is time again to look at what our lives mean. Eventually, what motivated us both is that we are always open to offer our help to people around us. We need to nudge and encourage each other from time to time, to extend beyond ourselves and our comfort zones.
“I was a stranger and you welcomed me…” (Matthew 25:35)
We have been aware of the work that ACMI had been doing – the skills training courses that they provide for foreign workers. But the ACMI training centre was in Hougang, way over in the East of Singapore, and we are staying all the way in the West of Singapore! It would take us at least 4 hours travelling time both ways by public transport.
When God plants the seed, God also removes the obstacle. ACMI was to be relocated to Toa Payoh It is much easier and cuts the travelling time by half. And so there is now no excuse not to volunteer.
We started volunteering at ACMI by helping out during their graduation ceremony in Dec 2015 and since then, we have been helping out in the computer training courses.
At the end of 2016 we celebrate together with Agape Village our one year anniversary volunteering with ACMI. During the course of the year, we got to know the domestic helpers and heard some of their stories. It is heartening to hear how some of them enjoy and have a good relationship with their employers. There are also wonderful employers out there who genuinely want their domestic helpers to learn some skills and improve themselves in life.
What amazes us most is how talented the domestic helpers are in their field as trainers themselves. After having enrolled and learnt some skills, they extend themselves and want to train and empower their fellow migrant workers. The element of passing it forward – what they have learnt, they want to share. This is something that we can learn from them. Whatever talents God has given us, we are called to grow and let them multiple, not to bury the talents and return them to God unused in mint condition (Matthew 25:25).
For those who are thinking of volunteering, we strongly encourage you to go for it!
By Liz Tan
People whom I have come across during my past 15 years at ACMI probably know that I have always been more comfortable simply being in the Church environment. After a change in my career, when I was working on a catering event at Blessed Sacrament Church, I somehow knew from the peace I felt that I would long to work for the church. In 2000, after my mum’s passing, I was at a crossroad.
I was thankful to God for healing the hurts in my relationship with my mother, but I found myself lost – not knowing what to do next. Deep down I knew I had a desire to serve in the Catholic community, and with full faith that God knew my strengths and weaknesses, I prayed and asked Him to light the way.
My answer came almost immediately – a true testament to God’s faithful hand in my life! As I left the chapel after mass one day, I met an acquaintance who was then involved in the migrant ministry. She asked if I was available and willing to come on board ACMI as they had just been allocated an office space and required volunteers to run the office. Amazed by God’s timeliness and faithfulness, I accepted the invitation without any sense of fear in my heart despite knowing close to nothing about ministering to migrants.
The journey wasn’t one without its fair share of challenges. Within the first four to five months in ACMI, I struggled with the amount of things that there was to learn, as well as working with new people and adapting to their working styles. With the temptation to leave, I turned to God in prayer and He responded with this: “If it is of God it’s not easy, if it’s easy it is not of God”. Further prayer and reflection also revealed that this mere four to five months was insufficient for God’s will to unfold and for me to see its fruits, and that I needed to wait on the Lord with patience and faith – so I stayed.
After a couple of years of service, I faced the next challenge of taking up leadership in ACMI – I had little faith in myself, but with five different people inviting me to take this step, I went ahead in faith. The journey since then has been trying and challenging but so fulfilling. Looking back, I realize it was not until I took a step forward in faith that I realized the gifts that God had blessed me with. I was never alone in this journey – in times of uncertainty, He never failed to provide assurance and strength. So to all who feel this call to serve in God’s kingdom, please do not let fear or unworthiness stop you from God’s work.
“God calls the willing, not the able.”
Fifteen years ago, Lynie Porras Silao arrived in Singapore, excited and anxious about her new life working here. "Like many Filipinos," she explained, "when you are a bit scared, the first place you go to is Church. I was also excited, but don't know what to expect also." Fortunate to have wonderful employers, she has seen their children then aged three plus and the other still in the womb, grow up and is ever devoted to the family's well-being. "I found out that I liked baking, when I did the course for the first time at ACMI, which I found from the website. And when I baked, the children really liked it, and that made me feel more confident," she added.
She eventually continued volunteering with ACMI and cultivated a richer appreciation for baking, resulting in her now being a trainer now for other domestic helpers. "I have my mentors to thank for that... It makes me happy to see how other people are benefiting from the course, and it is not just my confidence which has increased." Lynie early on had liked the way life was in Singapore, and grew to appreciate the culture and people more. She recounts having to hug many other elderly neighbours who greet her near the estate, and she genuinely feels at home as well. When she does return to the Philippines, she still treasures life there much, of course, acknowledging the difference can only make you appreciate other more. Lynie feels that coming down on her off days on weekends to volunteer at ACMI as a baking coach has been very rewarding and gratifying: "When I saw that ACMI accepted not just Catholics but all sorts from other religions, I thought, oh this is very nice. It meant they didn't look down on people. Then I found that whatever I learnt from ACMI, I could share and I love to share. The most rewarding experience when I teach baking is when the students come up and hug me and tell me, 'thank you, teacher, my boss will like it... my boss' children like it, and ask me, Auntie, can you bake some more, bake cookies or some cupcakes?' That makes me feel so good." Lynie notes that there are some days which simply aren't as good: "But I keep reminding myself that I am here to volunteer to help other ladies like me... because I understand, and that I must be a good example to them."