For many, the novel coronavirus and changes in the DORSCON code may just mean minor inconveniences or more precautions. But for others, the growing crisis has wiped out entire incomes.
“Within two days, all our engagements for February and March were cancelled,” lamented Elvin and Esther Foong, founders of The Treasure Box (TTB), a start-up focused on helping parents build strong families in Singapore.
Having made the decision to quit their civil servant jobs and focus full-time on TTB, the young couple had already left behind a stable flow of income and the prospect of a more comfortable life for them and their two children. Their income is now mainly dependent on the “love gifts” that churches offer when they engage their workshop services.
However, as churches started to take precautionary measures by cancelling programmes, their fully booked schedule for February and March was wiped clean within the span of two days.
While the couple understood the health and safety concerns, the realities of being in an itinerant ministry without a cancellation fee quickly sank in.
CONCERNED BUT UNWORRIED
Esther began: “At first, we were rather upset. Were we so easily disregarded and disposed of? We felt very unvalued and really helpless because we had no control over the situation. As itinerants, there’s no real body that adopts you, which is scary because there’s no fallback.”
Their upcoming Kidmin Conference is still set to continue in May, though many participants are hesitating to purchase tickets out of concern for the coronavirus situation.
Elvin admitted: “This is definitely a season of worry for us, and there’s a temptation to wallow in our anxieties and respond in fear. There’s a temptation to say that this will not work out, and to give up and find jobs that offer a proper and stable salary.”
“But we wanted to kick away those emotions,” shared Esther. “We asked God instead: ‘What do You want to reveal to us in this season?’
“The concern is very real because this is our livelihood, and we’re not sure how long it will last. You could say that we’re concerned about the situation, but we’re not worried.”
GRATITUDE GETS THE BETTER OF FEAR
On one sleepless night, Esther received what felt like advice from God: “A thankful heart is a happy heart.”
“There are so many things going on now, and we can choose to do certain things or entertain certain thoughts. But the Bible said the heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) and it’s from our hearts that our thoughts and feelings can start to snowball. So that’s when I realised, what you choose to let your first thought be is very important,” she said.
A thankful heart is a happy heart.
Rather than seeing the glass as half-empty, the Foongs changed their perspective and decided to look at their situation through a lens of gratitude. “I can be thankful because we’re healthy,” said Esther. “In fact, ever since we started TTB, both our children have remained healthy.”
Another positive outcome of the coronavirus situation is that families are spending more time together at home, which can be great opportunities to learn about God’s Word together. In fact, this is precisely why their very first products were birthed – to offer a resource to parents who want to steward their children’s walk with God.
“That was our dream for TTB in the beginning. To create fun and interactive family devotionals that parents can do together with their children. All this, sent to you in a box. Hence the name of our company, ‘The Treasure Box’,” she said.
GROWING THEIR FAITH MUSCLES
As they seek God through this trial, the Foongs are reminded of a verse – the same verse they had received and held onto when they first started TTB.
“I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing” (Psalm 37:25-26)
“For me, that is the promise we hold onto,” Elvin said. “Despite what the external circumstance looks like, we can have hope because God has given us His great and special promises. We will never go hungry, and we have never gone hungry!”
Esther reaffirmed this belief: “From the beginning, TTB wasn’t supposed to be about ‘we have enough, then we’ll give’. Our faith journey may be different from others, but it will give us better faith muscles and faith stamina for the marathon. There are concerns, but God is constantly reminding us that if He has done it once before He will do it again.”
After speaking to the Foongs, my eyes were opened to the unique challenges that itinerant ministers face. Unlike church staff or pastors who are able to rely on the certainty of income, times such as these have become even more trying for them to walk in their calling.
It also made me think about how we can better care for people like the Foongs who might have fallen through the cracks during this season. Who else might have been indirectly affected by this outbreak? May the love and peace of Christ guide us as we see the needs of those around us – and step in to meet those needs wherever possible.
If you’d like to find out more about The Treasure Box or support their ministry, visit their website, Instagram account or Facebook page. Having personally experienced God’s peace despite their fears and concerns, the couple has also put together this Gift of Peace thank you card to encourage everyone to write a note to the unsung heroes who are keeping our nation going during this time. Feel free to download and print the digital template, which has been lovingly designed by their 7-year-old Phoebe!
- What are some promises of God’s provision to stand on?
- Do you know of a family, ministry or small business that’s been affected by the coronavirus situation?
- What is one way you can support them in this season?