At the age of 20, I became one of the youngest leaders in Singapore nominated to sit on the Local Church Executive Committee (LCEC), the decision-making board that governs each Methodist church.

I was probably also the last person most people in my church expected to become head of our youth ministry.

Just a year ago, I was backsliding into a lifestyle of heavy drinking, furiously working out at the gym and riding on a wave of popularity at school. My youth ministry was a mess. Our leaders were smoking and sleeping around and the rest of us were losing trust and respect for them.

As a second-generation Christian, I was so tired of the tension between the “holy” Christian life marketed at the pulpit and how real life was quickly and effortlessly turning out for the rest of us young adult Christians. At first I thought it was the church I was attending – I even tried to convince several friends to leave for a “better” church with me.

But one day I told myself I was done. The Christianity I was somehow still holding on to wasn’t satisfying me. The lifestyle I was leading wasn’t satisfying me either. I told God I’d give Him one last chance and if that didn’t work, I was walking away. Maybe become Buddhist or something. It was a Saturday.

The next day, when I was in church, I opened my Bible and happened to read Isaiah 55. The words shook me hard and I knew that God knew what I was searching for.

Come, those who thirst. Why spend on and labour for things that do not satisfy? Come to the waters. (Isaiah 55:1-2)

It was as if He’d heard me. It was time to go back to Him.


I started developing a heart for the other young people in my church, who were as jaded as I had been. I really wanted to tell them about the meaning I’d found in the midst of the meaninglessness of pursuing everything other than God. So I reconnected with my mentor,who was leading the youth ministry and told him about this new burden I had. We prayed together and he gave me an unexpected challenge that would shake me a second time.

Would I take over the youth ministry from him so that he could step down?

The words of Isaiah 55 resurfaced in my mind. I couldn’t believe it. Was God really calling me – the 19-year-old Prodigal Son who’d only just returned to Him – to be a leader and commander for the people (Isaiah 55:4)? That was the first indicator that something greater than I could imagine was at hand. I was greatly humbled, but suddenly filled with a strange courage. I replied that if no one else wanted to do it, I would.

Over the next 3 months, God gave me two more clear signs. Rebuilding my youth ministry was worse than starting from Ground Zero – it felt more like a -10 than a zero. And I didn’t have an idea of what to do if I were to even take up the task. But one Sunday morning at 6am, I woke up and was unable to fall back asleep. There was a strong prompting in my heart that God had something to say to me.

As a second-generation Christian, I was so tired of the tension between the “holy” Christian life marketed at the pulpit and real life.

So I found myself in church earlier than usual, kneeling in my youth hall with a Bible in my hand. The stirring inside me came again, and although we aren’t encouraged to do this, I randomly flipped the Bible open and stopped short at this verse in Zechariah 4:6: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.

This was a word to Zerubbabel, who led the first group of Jews back to Israel after years of Babylonian captivity and also laid the foundation of the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem soon after.

The passage went on to read: Not even a mighty mountain will stand in Zerubbabel’s way, it will become a level plain before him. Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin (Zechariah 4:7).

The connection to my waning youth ministry and the challenge that stood before me was undeniable. It was a mountain I could not move on my own. It would be a very small beginning for a youth congregation that had dwindled to barely 15 people. I knew this was God’s message for me.

The final word came in the prayer of Solomon, who also built the temple. He came into power around the age of 20, when his father, the legendary King David, passed away.

Although he was very young and inexperienced, he asked God for a discerning heart above all else, for he was just a “little child” who did not know his way (1 Kings 3:7). God honoured that prayer, because Solomon had not asked for long-life or riches or victory over his enemies, and He gave him surpassing wisdom incomparable to those before or after him (1 Kings 3:12).

I had just turned 20 at this time. The call was ringing louder than ever before. I finally agreed to take over the leadership of the youth ministry and entered the church board before the minimum age of 21.


People were understandably sceptical when I was made the head of our youth ministry. Sure, I was an influential guy – but a bad influence. I was the guy who was encouraging people to leave the church with him just a year ago! It took extensive efforts to rebuild that trust people had in me and the leadership in general. Previous leaders had disappointed the youth. I had disappointed people. People were asking why I was leading them.

Winning back trust started with the small things. I appeared at services, gatherings and meetings on time. I was always present at youth-related sessions and events, even those I didn’t really have to be at, just to keep in the loop of things. I did this over and over again, over a very long time – to show that I wasn’t there for show. I was there for the long run.

God showed me how to rebuild the ministry on 4 pillars, based on 2 Chronicles 7:14: Humbling ourselves, praying, seeking God’s face and turning from our sinful ways. And that’s what we did as a youth ministry, starting with the newly-appointed leaders, most of whom were only 17 or 18 years old.

Out of church, I walked with them to clean up their lives. In church, on Sundays, I valiantly preached the message of 2 Chronicles 7:14 for more than a year.

Suddenly, the adults were looking to us to lead. God had heard our prayers. He had healed our land.

All this while, I was in full-time National Service. And in my quest to return to God with all I had, I was juggling ministry commitments and a discipleship course together with my NS obligations.

The people in my camp were confounded. Why was I doing Bible homework every night? Why didn’t I swear? They made fun of me for a while, but soon the atmosphere started to change. I was exhausted but could not deny that the hand of God was with me. People started coming to me for advice and counselling. My supervisors were kind and even told me to go home to rest.

Within two years, I saw the youth ministry grow more than five-fold. At a youth camp aptly named Revival, there were young people breaking down and surrendering their lives to Jesus, even washing each other’s feet. Non-believers who were invited to join us came to Christ.

Suddenly, the adults were looking to us to lead. God had heard our prayers. He had healed our land.


Through my experience in leading my youth ministry over the years, I realised that I had a heart for guiding people to build their lives accurately, with strong foundations based on a correct understanding of God. I want to see people walking in their destinies.

Today, this calling has led me into the marketplace – a story for another day – but the words of Isaiah 55, the very first passage that called me back to pursuing God at the age of 19, continues to be a key verse for my life and ministry. 

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters. Come to me; hear, that your soul may live.