Together as an online community, we had honest conversations on relationships, addiction, sickness and loss in 2019. We said farewell to brothers of the faith, talked about church life, shared our stories of hope…
Many of these testimonies were written by you – our contributors – and we love getting to do this as one resounding voice that glorifies God in the digital realm.
Here are our top 15 most-read stories, which we’ve divided into 5 big types of content.
We tackled some hard questions this year within the body of Christ. Discourse on mental health was louder and more robust than ever in the latter months of 2019, but it was concerns on cancer, porn and even infertility that surfaced in our most widely read stories of the year.
#14 “HOW IS GOD STILL GOOD IF I HAVE BREAST CANCER AT 26?”
(Contributed by Chan See Ting)
Diagnosed with Stage 3 triple-negative breast cancer just 5 months after her father passed away, See Ting is no stranger to seemingly unjust suffering. At barely 20 years old, she made news when she publicly shared about her alopecia, a condition that caused all her hair to fall out. For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, she wrote about her latest faith stretch and her revelations from this new valley.
#12 “WILL I EVER BE A DAD?”
(Contributed by Darren Kuek)
Married in their mid-20s, Pastor Darren Kuek from Bethesda Bedok-Tampines Church and his wife Lijia faced more than a decade of unexplained infertility – one that spanned 3 failed IVF attempts and 3 miscarriages. In a bittersweet recollection on his very first Father’s Day, Pastor Kwek contributed his account of their harrowing journey of tears, fears and resurrected hope.
#6 “SINGAPORE, WE HAVE A PORN PROBLEM”
As the second most Internet-addicted people in the world, our country faces a porn epidemic larger than we can imagine, and the Church is not spared. Renowned author and speaker Josh McDowell headlined this year’s Set Free and Breaking Free conferences, targeted at dealing with pornography and other sexual struggles as Christians.
During the Celebration of Hope rallies in May, local celebrities boldly stepped forward with their testimonies of coming to faith and overcoming personal struggles through God’s transformative work in their lives. These were warmly received by our readers.
#15 “I WANTED TO END IT ALL: AH BOYS TO MEN ACTOR CHARLIE GOH”
The unassuming nice guy brought fun and laughter to the screen through his role in the Ah Boys to Men movie series, but behind the scenes, Charlie admits to his less-than-stellar behaviour at home and how he chose to step up to the call of repentance and reconciliation with his family.
#7 “I TRIED SO HARD, BUT I WAS STILL CALLED A BLANK PIECE OF PAPER: SINGER OLIVIA ONG ON HER IDENTITY CRISIS”
Best known for singing the theme song of popular Chinese drama The Little Nyonya and our 2012 National Day song, Olivia talked about growing up in the public eye and the difficulty of being accepted for who she was – quiet in nature, but still wanting to sing for the masses.
#2 “GOD HAS HEALED: CHEW CHOR MENG ON OVERCOMING MUSCULAR ATROPHY”
Our nation’s well-loved TV personality opened up about his journey with Christ and decade-long experience with muscular atrophy, a condition that was supposed to have taken his life within a few months after he was first diagnosed in 2008.
Thoughts and reflections on church life went deeper this year, moving away from wider issues like changing church towards a focus on intra-church roles and relationships. Our top local church stories discussed how we treat each other as the Body – from attitudes towards cell group and ministry, to building healthy relationships within the Church.
#10 “WE CAN’T PICK OUR CELL GROUPS LIKE WE’RE BUYING CAI FAN”
Inspired by one of Singapore’s most iconic dishes, we considered the tendency to select cell groups based on our own preferences. Left to our own devices, it’s easy to herd with people just like ourselves, instead of allowing God to mould us into His likeness, in His chosen way, through the cell family He places us in.
#9 “SERVING IN 6 MINISTRIES SIMULTANEOUSLY, I WAS THE ‘CELEBRITY LEADER’ IN CHURCH”
(Contributed by Jonavan Lee)
Convicted that his passion for God could not be fuelled by his multiple church roles, Jonavan made the difficult decision to step away from the limelight and back into solitude. But even from the pews, he discovered the deeper issue within – our inherent need to strive, prove and stay busy. Through these revelations in the silence of ministry, a song was birthed, together with this story.
#8 “HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS IN CHURCH”
(Contributed by JH Kwek)
Written in the wake of a painful episode with a fellow churchmate, JH (not his real name) contemplated the importance of respect and Christlike love in our interactions with the opposite gender. Are we stirring up affections with no desire to be accountable for them? A call to both girls and guys alike, he encouraged us to guard each other’s hearts in purity as brothers and sisters in Christ.
The global Church saw its fair share of big news in 2019, which sadly revolved around death and departure. While we celebrated the welcoming of new (if not unexpected) brothers into the Kingdom, we also mourned the loss of brothers who left the faith or succumbed to mental illness.
#13 “DID JOSHUA HARRIS JUST KISS MARRIAGE GOODBYE?”
The writer of dating bestseller I Kissed Dating Goodbye suddenly announced his split from the faith and his wife of 19 years in July, catching the attention of all who had ever read his book, which he had previously apologised for in 2017. Many of us had grown up with his teaching on courtship and marriage, and the global fallout preceded other great shocks to come.
#11 “THERE ARE MORE LIKE JARRID: WHY I’M BREAKING THE SILENCE AT 30”
Barely a year after fellow Californian Pastor Andrew Stoecklein died by suicide, Pastor Jarrid Wilson took his life in September, leaving behind two young sons and his wife. Both men were only 30 at their passing. Amid the shock that rippled across the global Church, our Creative Producer, who had also just turned 30, reflected on her own wrestle with mental health.
#4 “WHEN SONS LEAVE HOME: FORMER HILLSONG WRITER MARTY SAMPSON IS LOSING HIS FAITH”
Most of us grew up listening to Hillsong’s worship music, and whether we realised it or not, songwriter Marty Sampson’s compositions such as “Tell the world” and “Came to my rescue”. His public departure from the faith in August and subsequent social media meltdowns that followed rocked the Christian world, just a month after Joshua Harris’ own decision.
The stories you loved the most, however, came from our nation’s shores. Just a few weeks after the death of 32-year-old Andrew Hui in late August, news started spreading of another young Singaporean, 25-year-old Elliot Soh, who was also in his final days of cancer. Both their accounts greatly touched our hearts and stirred our faith, and continue to do so after their passing.
#3 “DEAR ANDREW, YOU’RE FINALLY HOME”
After Andrew first shared about his year-long battle with lymphoma with YMI, the story was quickly picked up by local news outlets such as Mothership and Millennials of Singapore. Although we attempted to speak to him ourselves, his condition quickly deteriorated and he passed away within days from our scheduled interview – this is our piece that honoured his life.
#5 “REMEMBERING MY BABY BROTHER, ELLIOT”
When Elliot passed away just nine months after a Stage 4 sarcoma diagnosis, within a month of Andrew, those onlooking grappled with the deaths of these young Christian men. Elliot’s sister, Ruth, shared about her brother’s last days and her fondest memories of their lives together.
#1 “25-YEAR-OLD ELLIOT SOH: ‘GOODBYE… YOU KNOW WHERE TO FIND ME'”
As his final goodbye, Elliot penned a farewell message on Facebook just a few days before he went home to be with the Lord. A moving manifesto of his Christian faith, which we have shared here, he encouraged all those who survived him to pursue God wholeheartedly and discover His reality and goodness. It was our top story for the year.
Anddddd… that’s our year in review. From the entire Thir.st team, a huge THANK YOU to all our contributing writers and those who have trusted us to tell their stories. We welcome anyone with a faith story to send in your testimonies, revelations and life lessons to [email protected]. If you know someone whom we should interview or speak to, do link us up as well. Let’s continue to feed the multitudes together in the coming year!