Glimpses of the Kingdom - Singapore
Glimpses of the Kingdom - Singapore
Despite the affluence of the city-state of Singapore, there remain social issues of concern, particularly for the non-resident population. This population of around one million people (out of a total population of 5.6 million) includes migrant workers, foreign nurses, domestic employees, etc.
Compared to citizens and the permanent resident population, this group of people do not share the same degree of support from public services institutions and volunteer welfare organisations. Due to the nature of the issues relating to the migrant workers and domestic employees, this area of work currently falls under the ambit of the social justice umbrella of The Salvation Army.
This specific population struggles with a wide variety of issues ranging from wage disputes, family separation, the stress of adapting to a different culture to the pain of working to recoup debt or obligations that may have accumulated in order to secure employment in Singapore. Given the lack of a social and financial safety net provided by public services, The Salvation Army in Singapore considers this sizeable group of people to be the most vulnerable within the country. It is for this reason that The Salvation Army seeks to adopt a holistic approach in reaching out to them – whether through the provision of material necessities, offering English language or computer classes, to the sharing of the Gospel.
The Bible is explicit with regards to the compassion the Lord has for the foreigner. The Israelites were commanded the following: “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name” (Deuteronomy 10:18-20).
Antioch of Asia
There is also a widespread conviction among the churches in Singapore that the city has been raised up to be the ‘Antioch of Asia’. This vision and description of the city was first mooted by the late Reverend Billy Graham during his first Singapore crusade in 1978. A feature of Antioch is a city that launches missions into neighbouring regions. This year marks the completion of 40 years since the proclamation of that vision and the churches in Singapore believe that this year will be a celebration of hope where a spiritual harvest is within reach.
The Salvation Army in Singapore has two social centres that minister to the migrant community. One is the Sojourn Program – a dedicated ministry that works with the male migrant community – and another is Carehaven, a program catered to domestic employees that are caught in difficult circumstances (including that of being abused or neglected by their employers) pending police investigation and court processes and are required to be sheltered indefinitely.
While Carehaven focuses on the provision of care to 120 sheltered domestic employees, the Sojourn Program reaches out to thousands of migrant workers housed in purpose-built dormitory townships across the island state. The outreach work of Sojourn since the start of this year has resulted in more than 700 men making bold decisions to accept the Lord Jesus Christ. All glory goes to God in this harvest.
The work of attempting to reach out to a million migrant workers is daunting and it is not possible for The Salvation Army to take this burden entirely upon itself. True to the nature of being a movement, the Sojourn Program, for instance, has reached out to multiple individuals and institutional partners to join its cause of improving the well-being of the migrant workers. These partners include a local bank, multiple Christian ministries and churches, government agencies and merchant associations. Even within The Salvation Army family, a ‘whole-of-Army’ approach is applied whereby several corps, the Red Shield Industries and Territorial Headquarters departments are involved in the cause.
The ground teams working with the migrant workers and domestic employees are aware that there are Salvationists who have arrived in Singapore for work but have yet to check-in with their Singaporean comrades. We urge them to come forward and to help anchor mini congregations (be they Mizo, Burmese, Tagalog, Bahasa, Bengali, Singhalese, Tamil or others) with the hope that missionaries, evangelists and community leaders will be raised through such efforts to minister to their respective cultural group.
Marcus Moo is the Director of Social and Community Services (Singapore) and Social Justice Coordinator in the Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar Territory, shares a few of his glimpses of the Kingdom.