The VUCA world is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. From the moment of birth, Ms Sherie Ng was thrust into such a world. Her fortune-telling great-grandmother predicted that this baby girl would bring misfortune to the family. When she was five years old, her mother spiked her father’s coffee so that he collapsed. She then threw herself and Sherie’s younger sister down an 8-storey block to their deaths.
The audience of some 500 women gasped in shock. They had gathered on 21 April 2018 at Toa Payoh Methodist Church for a one-day conference on “Thriving in this VUCA World” organised by Trinity Annual Conference Women’s Society of Christian Service (TRAC WSCS).
In rapt attention, they listened to the rest of Sherie’s story – how her father drowned his sorrows in gambling, leaving Sherie with his mother in a one-room flat in Bukit Merah, together with some of her other eight sons and three daughters. Sherie suffered violence, physical, and sexual abuse. The only responsible adult in that household of drunks, gamblers, and louts was a hunchbacked aunt who ran a prawn noodle stall that supported the family. Sherie would wake up at dawn to help her, as well as do the laundry and other chores. She was shunned in school because she stank of prawns. In her loneliest moments, she sought solace by talking to her dead mother.
Life brightened for Sherie when, at 15, a kind Christian woman approached her at the Outram MRT station and brought her to church. She blossomed under the friendship of Christians who also gave her free tuition. Eventually she topped her school and entered university.
However, the allures of the world in the shape of a handsome, tough-talking NS commando enticed her away. They married, and over the next several years led a wild and reckless life of drinking and gambling, chalking up a mountain of debt. Again, Christian friends came into Sherie’s life and helped re-structure and pay off their debts. Sherie likened herself to a broken cottage in disrepair that God fixed. Now, after a long and arduous period of struggles and tears, she has been built into a palace. Today, she and her husband, that same commando, and their two children, are committed believers and blessings to others.
Ms Jaime Wong’s early life was in sharp contrast to Sherie’s. Jaime was a bright student from Raffles Girls’ School and represented Singapore in tennis at the SEA Games when she was 13. At 14, she headed to the USA to further her studies and tennis.
She continued to do well, graduating as a top student and winning an award for all-round achievements. She found a good job, and soon had her own apartment, a car, friends, and money to enjoy life. Then, on a holiday in Singapore, she met and fell in love for the first time in her life – with a Christian woman.
A murmur arose from the listeners at the conference. Jaime continued her honest sharing of the turmoil that engulfed her when, after giving up everything in the US to return to Singapore, her friend rejected her proposal for a same-gender lifestyle because of her greater love for God.
Jaime was incredulous. She did not even believe that God existed, and so set out to prove this to her friend. To her consternation, the more she researched, the more she was driven to conclude that a Creator God exists, and that He, the God of Christians, forbids homosexual practice. Her passive-aggressive relationship with God led Jaime to sink into despair, illnesses, and attempted suicide. Eventually she surrendered totally to God and allowed Him to heal her mental, emotional, and physical illnesses, and break her bondage to sin. Her journey of discovery of the love and power of God brought spontaneous applause from the audience who cheered her transformation.
Jaime and Sherie, together with Ms Jael Chong who spoke on singlehood, and Ms Sharon Mah who sang her anguish to God, then formed the panel for a question-and-answer session. The probing questions showed that the speakers’ stories resonated with many in the audience.
The Rev Dr Maggie Low concluded the conference with a message that the truth for thriving in tough times lies in staying close to Jesus and recognising His voice.
Reflecting on the conference, it struck me that while we bask in Jesus’ love as His sheep, we must remember that He also wants us to be shepherds to others, as He told Peter in John 21:17.
Jaime met a Christian friend who was a strong, steadfast, and faithful shepherd, guiding her through difficult terrain – from atheist and hedonist to Christian. Sherie thrived under the love and care of many shepherds in her life to now become a shepherd herself.
In the same way, we too are to be shepherds.
Ting Hi Keng is a lawyer and worships at Ang Mo Kio Methodist Church. She and her husband, Mr James Yu, have four grown-up children.
Photos by Liew Mei Lee