Describing himself as a “typical Singaporean guy”, Sherwin Lee recalled how he was more into sports as a youth.
A competitive rock climber during his secondary school days, he shared how he never had any serious interest in classical music, although many friends used to comment that he was pretty good at it.
However, all that changed at age 15 when Sherwin performed badly during a piano exam.
“I’m quite a go-getter, so when I didn’t do well on that one exam, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it,” he said.
“I worked very hard to do well in the next exam. Through that process, my interest in classical music grew.”
When he was 17, a retired concert pianist in Singapore decided to take him under his tutelage. His teacher inspired him to go further with his music, and opened his eyes to the possibilities of pursuing classical music performance as a career.
“Since then, I knew that I wanted to use music to do something – I just didn’t know how to do it,” he shared.
At 17 years old, Sherwin had another life-changing experience.
Juggling both his studies as a junior college student and a very packed schedule outside of school, he found himself in a very challenging season.
“I was preparing for recitals and working on my own album, so I was constantly busy and didn’t spend a lot of time with my peers. Most of my time was spent practising.”
“I was also going through an existential crisis,” said Sherwin, revealing that he started to question the meaning of life.
Coming from a mission school, he had an idea of who God was, but never gave it much thought. However, that difficult period prompted Sherwin to call out to “this supreme being”. His cry was met with help.
“I felt this very deep assurance that God was with me and everything would be fine. I just had to trust in Him. At that point of time, I knew that it could have only been God,” he recounted.
That started a journey of going to church to find out more about the One who had given him such peace.
But it was only during university that Sherwin grew substantially in his faith.
Due to his involvement in campus ministry, he came to know God personally and understood what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
In addition, he learnt about the concept of missions, and how different skills and talents can be used to impact lives.
Although for years Sherwin desired to be a musician, the road ahead seemed like a big question mark until then.
“Knowing Jesus helped me to crystallise and further understand precisely what that calling is,” he explained.
After a two-year stint in finance, Sherwin finally decided to step out in faith to pursue a full-time career in music.
And some two years after he entered the music industry, Sherwin decided to look for a place where he could specifically use his creative talents to minister to others.
That brought him to Operation Mobilisation (OM) Singapore, where he signed up for Sound of Easter, a short-term mission trip to Europe in 2018.
“We went to Austria during the Easter week, and we used music as a form of outreach. God revealed a lot of things to me through that,” said Sherwin.
“I really saw how music could be used as a bridge to share God’s love with people.”
Over 10 days, Sherwin, along with an international team of more than 20 people, visited homes for the elderly and a residence for the homeless in Vienna, among other places.
“The team was made up of a myriad of people. There were professional and amateurs musicians and non-musicians who simply had a heart to serving God through evangelism. We had at least nine countries represented — only two of us were from Singapore,” he recounted.
Describing how they were always purposeful in their planning, Sherwin said that they would prepare 45-minute programmes, which featured specially chosen pieces of music interspersed with the sharing of personal stories.
“We could rehearse over 20 pieces, but at the end of the day, we’d only choose a few out of the ones we’ve rehearsed to best suit the location we were going to,” he elaborated.
“I saw how music brings down certain barriers that people may have,” Sherwin pointed out, sharing how it was through a performance that he was able to connect on a deeper level with an older man who was residing at a centre for homeless people.
“He was using one of the computers in the dining area, and so I decided to initiate a conversation with him. He was very friendly, though a little guarded. When I asked him what he was doing, he only mentioned that he was applying for a job online,” said Sherwin.
“After the whole music programme, the same guy and I started chatting again, and he was significantly more open to sharing his whole entire life story with me. I didn’t even have to prompt him.”
Sharing about his own life and a word of encouragement from the Bible (Matthew 6:33), Sherwin told the man – a former drug addict who managed to kick his habit through art therapy – that God would provide for him.
“To my surprise, he told me that because of what I shared, he felt encouraged to continue finding a job,” exclaimed Sherwin. What’s more, the man also decided to accept Jesus into his life!
Pointing out that our role as Christians is simply to avail ourselves as a conduit through which God can work, he said: “I believe the music we played was like a seed being sown in the hearts of those who heard it.
“In other places like the old folks’ home, the elderly shared how they were visibly touched by the music that was played.”
Having seen how God could use music to touch lives, Sherwin was tasked to pioneer a new music ensemble in his church after returning from Austria.
“(My experience in Austria) helped me to see how music can be used as a platform and bridge to share the Gospel. It also helped me to see how the arts in general could be leveraged more to really impact people’s lives,” he said.
Moved by this conviction, it is why he takes his current role as a music educator seriously.
“I want to say very broadly to all artists – musicians, visual artists, dancers, writers, poets, etc – that as a creative, we are able to direct someone’s thoughts to a greater beyond. Our works can have a profound impact on people,” he said.
As for Christian creatives, Sherwin also had this to share.
“Everything that you do has a dimension of God’s redemption in it, whether you teach, create or draw,” he said.
“If you feel that God has gifted you in the arts, then do something about it. Don’t be afraid to take the step of faith.
“The more we exercise our gifts and talents, the more the calling that God has given to us becomes clearer. Find an avenue to exercise your gifts and talents – give it a shot, God will be with you throughout that whole journey.”
This story is part of a special series produced in collaboration with OM Singapore, which is celebrating 40 years of God’s faithfulness in missions this year.
Do you have a skill in music, theatre, dance, visual arts or curation you’d like to use for God’s purposes? Check out Inspiro Arts Alliance, an OM ministry that helps artists to grow in their faith and effectively engage communities in the Gospel through the arts.
To commemorate their 40th year, OM Singapore has also published a book, Unchanging: On Mission With a Faithful God, capturing 40 stories of Singaporeans who love God and His mission in many parts of the world. You can purchase the book here: www.sg.om.org/book
- What gifts has God given you that you could use to bless others?
- What are some creative ways of sharing the gospel that you’ve tried or would be willing to try?
- How can you bring God’s story of redemption into the work that you do?