By: W. Yue Ying

It was a quiet afternoon in Yishun when Mae-Ann spotted the two boys by a toy capsule vending machine. They had worn-out clothes and looked rather lost. Feeling that something was wrong, she stopped to ask them what they were doing.

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It all started with a toy capsule vending machine

The boys turned out to be brothers, and they had an older 6-year-old brother too. The older boy said they had no money to get a gift for their brother. Their father was at work and they were simply wandering about.

Coincidentally, they lived right next to the centre where our church ran weekday children’s programmes. Concerned for the safety of the little boys as their father was at work, Mae-Ann invited them to join her and the other children at the centre. After seeking their father’s consent, the three boys joined our children’s programme and would continue to do so week after week for post-school activities.

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Mae-Ann, Head of our Children’s Church, at a weekday children’s programme

“We’re moving out…”

Things took a turn for the worse when the boys and their father were told they could no longer stay in their rental flat in Yishun. Overnight, they became homeless. The boys would spend the next few weeks sleeping in their father’s taxi. To shower, they used the toilets at the neighbourhood swimming pool.

With few options left, the boys’ father planned to leave them in the Children’s Home… When our Senior Pastors, Pastor Tan Seow How and Pastor Cecilia Chan, heard about this, they were concerned and wanted to make sure the boys had a roof over their heads.

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The cot and clothes prepared for the boys

“It was very urgent. If we did not do something, they would have no other alternative than to be placed in the Children’s Home… as a church, we wanted to do something to help them,” Mae-Ann said.

Over the months they’ve become regular attendees at our children’s programmes. Our Children’s Church teachers cared for the boys and wanted to do something to support them in their time of need.

Another Children’s Church teacher, Xiao Yu agrees. “In church we learn that we are blessed to be a blessing. We all just wanted to be a blessing to them!”

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One of the brothers, reading before bedtime

The church immediately opened up our premises for the boys to stay in. Staff and volunteers prepared the place—toothbrushes, mattresses and other necessities were brought in. The boys would have a place to call home until their father could get back on his feet.

Taking what little belongings they had, the boys arrived in church. After weeks of living in a taxi, and being at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, they would finally have a proper shelter over their heads.

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One of the young boys, playing with his new bedtime buddy

Living in a taxi over the past few weeks took an emotional toll on the boys. On the first night, one of the boys could not sleep well. He woke up, shivering in cold sweat.

“He was very scared. He felt like everything in his life was crumbling away,” Mae-Ann recounted. To comfort and assure them, children’s church teachers volunteered to accompany the boys every night over the next few weeks.

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Mae-Ann tidying up the room the boys call home

One incident that Mae-Ann vividly recalled was the time two of the younger boys came to church with pink plastic Barbie doll watches on their wrists. The boys proudly showed off their new possessions to everyone they met. However, the truth was heart-breaking–the boys had dug out those watches from a rubbish dump. Pastor Lia had heard about it and on that very same day, bought them brand new watches. The boys were surprised to receive new watches in place of the ones they picked from the bin that morning.

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The youngest brother, only 4 years old then, in a game of basketball with our volunteers

The teachers also brought them out for movies and to indoor playgrounds. When the adult members in the church heard about the boys’ situation, they too wanted to help. Many of them cooked and delivered meals to church, while others brought them clothes, new school bags, even bicycles! It felt like the whole church had adopted the three boys.

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A snippet of the gifts our church members showered the boys with

Soon, a new year was starting and the oldest boy needed to enrol in Primary School. Mae-Ann together with the teachers, visited a few schools to check for vacancies. Eventually, she helped to enrol the boy, put him on a pocket money fund and made sure he could get textbooks and uniforms. Each day after school, the boys travelled to our children’s programme site where volunteers had lunch with them and helped them with their homework.

“It was a joy,” Mae-Ann shared, recalling the times spent with them. Since then, the family had found a new place to rent. The boys have since grown up and are doing better.

While it has been a few years, Mae-Ann will never forget the fulfilment in her heart as she witnessed church members, young and old, rallying together to support the three young boys. They welcomed the boys into their homes and into their hearts. And that made all the difference.

Writer’s note: Highest salute to the people who give their best to the most important people in our church—the children. Children’s church teachers, you are our unsung heroes. This Children’s Day, let’s continue to carry a heart for young people.

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