Faces of Poverty

by Alan Yeo . March 11, 2010


“I believe that the great tragedy of the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor, but that they do not know the poor…” (Shane Claiborne)



We had the privilege of visiting various homes of the poor and needy in our Yishun Community to share with them during this Chinese New Year season. Unlike the previous two years where families would step into church to collect free rice and vouchers, we decided to step outside the four walls of our church to personally visit their homes and present each needy household an “ang pow” containing $50 NTUC vouchers that they could use to purchase household necessities from the supermarket.


The pastoral and office staff had a head start on Wednesday, 17 February, after returning from our Chinese New Year break. We visited the homes of the kids from our Free Tuition Programme and also the homes of those who had previously walked into our premises during our 2008 and 2009 “Give Back” events to request for the free rice that we were distributing.


We visited one Malay family and the grandfather’s eyes lit up with a big smile on his face when we mentioned that we are from the church. He had walked in to ask for the free rice last year and was pleasantly surprised that we remembered him. In another home of an Indian lady, tears just welled up in her eyes when we presented the “ang pow” to her together with two tangerines and our well-wishes. We also learned that the breadwinner of another Indian household had suffered a stroke recently, and his wife and son were full of gratitude to receive the “ang pow”. The families of our tuition kids were also pleasantly surprised when we came knocking on their doors. One of them even exclaimed, “our kids not only get free tuition, but we also get free vouchers.”


We had a fantastic turn out on Thursday, 18 February as 360 enthusiastic Evangelites came together as a community to participate in this “Give Back” project to our needy neighbours that evening. They were our extended hands to distribute the “ang pows” and tangerines to the remaining blocks that included some 501 households who had registered with the Nee Soon East Grassroots Organisation. Our goal was to “give back” to some 700 needy households.


We were also privileged to have Associate Professor Ho Peng Kee, our MP for Nee Soon East, as our guest of honour who together with his team of grassroots leaders availed their time in partnership with our church to visit 12 households, who welcomed us into their homes with open arms. Unassuming, unhurried and with a compassionate heart, Prof. Ho listened attentively to the individuals as they shared their personal stories. We came face to face with lonely individuals trying to make ends meet, a family who was harassed by loan sharks, an individual who makes a living from wild birds that he captured and trained for competitions. We were also moved by the hospitality of a Malay family whose generosity extended to adopt and care for a neighbour’s kid, and we got the kid and another boy enrolled into our free tuition programme. These were just some snapshots of the families we encountered, full of gratitude for the “ang pow” and tangerines that we presented. 


Reflecting on these visits, I am reminded of this inspiring insight from Henri Nouwen; “a Christian community is… a healing community not because wounds are cured and pains are alleviated, but because wounds and pains become openings or occasions for a new vision.”