The stories at Thir.st go by so fast — there’s an article or video every single day — that it’s often hard to take it all in.
Which is why I’m glad we’re at the end of December, when there’s a short respite from the breakneck pace we operate at, to look over the year we’ve had.
So I thought I’d slap together a list
because our managing editor told me that rounds up nicely the most significant stories we’ve done in 2021.
With that, let’s jump right in!
Nightbirde: The true story behind America’s Got Talent Golden Buzzer winner
In June, Nightbirde’s viral audition at America’s Got Talent attracted plenty of attention across the world not just for her outstanding vocals, but also the difficult story behind Jane Marczewski’s song.
As someone who lives with pain, I was personally encouraged by much of what Marczewski wrote in her blog.
While Marczewski eventually pulled out of AGT due to health concerns, she recently shared she has been getting “a little better” through her cancer treatment.
That’s what we expect from the woman who wasn’t afraid of being given a 2% chance of survival! We’re rooting for you, Jane!
Team Singapore, what is wrong with us?
Another story that did super well on our site involved a national hero who didn’t quite live up to the legendary standard he had set some four years ago at the previous Olympics.
In the wake of Joseph Schooling’s failure to qualify at Tokyo 2020, harsh, ugly and often unfair criticisms were levied at the 100m butterfly Olympic champion. I was one of those voices.
“Fun” fact: I went to bathe after I watched Schooling pull in last in the heats, and I just felt so discomforted by the joke I had made (as well as other similar comments I would soon see online) that I rushed out of the shower to start putting my thoughts down into words.
The words must have come from God because the story flowed out super easily and was published within the hour.
We saw one more local sportsman become legend this year: Loh Kean Yew was crowned badminton world champion in December, after winning the men’s singles title at the BWF World Championships.
All is fine and good in high moments like these, but how will we respond if and when Loh someday falls short? Personally, I hope I will support him regardless of how he performs on the court and be a fan who demonstrates grace!
Director Jack Neo releases first Christian short film, The Promise
I love 《小孩不笨》(I Not Stupid) as much as the next guy, but no offence — I was kind of surprised this story made the top 20.
See, jokes aside, we do peep analytics and read the numbers every now and then, and we all raised an eyebrow when we saw how this story was really making the rounds on the Interweb.
I guess Singaporeans really do love this legendary local filmmaker who’s brought us many laughs over the years.
In any case, you should check out the short film featured in the article, The Promise — just have some tissues at the ready!
River Valley High School death: Making sense of a painful loss
Our most-read story this year was one that shook Singapore when a Secondary 1 student was murdered by a Secondary 4 senior on school grounds in July.
News of the River Valley High School tragedy highlighted the need for a greater focus on mental health in our local education system, with lessons to be introduced starting from the primary school level over the next two years.
It also prompted reflections on from people, especially parents, who tried to make sense of the senseless.
“God, have mercy on us all”: Lessons from Ravi Zacharias’ fall
Early in 2021, we saw stunning revelations surface regarding the surreptitious misdeeds of the late apologist Ravi Zacharias who was found to have engaged in sexual misconduct.
In the wake of the scandal, the eponymous Ravi Zacharias International Ministries announced a name change and a shift away from a focus on apologetics.
Its international branches also weighed up whether to change their names, or separate and establish independent entities.
To his organisation, Zacharias had become a man too big to fail, someone above reproach. That’s a dangerous path any church leader would do well to stay well clear of.
This was a painful and costly lesson of why purity in our private lives must come before public ministry.
How can we pray for Afghanistan?
I remember taking a long time to write about this event. I had just seen horrific images of people falling from planes in the sky on Twitter, and couldn’t quite find the words to convey the desperation millions of Afghans on the ground must have been feeling.
In August, the world cast its eye on Afghanistan, as Taliban forces seized control of the whole country following the pull-out of American forces.
How are things few months on? Apprehension and anxiety seem to characterise local and foreign attitudes and thinking towards the Taliban. Amnesty International‘s latest December report on the situation is also less than positive.
Sure sounds like folks there could use all the practical help and prayers we can give.
On Jethro: We have no answers, only hope
The sudden death of student Jethro Puah after an accident during a high-element activity reminded us of the brevity of life and an uncomfortable truth — bad things do happen to good people in this world.
But we were moved by the sharings of family members at the 15-year-old’s funeral; all accounts of Jethro’s life pointed to a boy who sought to love well, study hard and do good.
“He lived such an impactful and fruitful life,” wrote his family. “Short as it may be, more importantly, it was very purposeful and completed.”
Jethro’s life served as an example that it is not the amount of years in your life that truly matters — but how much life you have in your years.
A father’s love: All his 3 children have a rare genetic disorder
This year, we also got the chance to interview 63-year-old David Lang for Father’s Day.
David, who is a Lecturer and Associate Professor at Singapore Bible College, is also the breadwinner of his family and caregiver to his adult children who have Niemann-Pick Disease Type C.
Despite these challenges and having lost a son, Timothy, 17 years ago, David has never lost his joy and hope.
“When I see them happy, I also feel happy,” he said in the interview.
“While it is challenging to take care of them, I realised that it can be joyful, and that it is a privilege to care for my children.”
Honestly, it’s hard to do David’s story justice with this little summary. If you only have time for one full story in this entire list, I’d probably suggest that one.
Squid Game: How much are our lives worth?
If you go on Google right now, you’ll see that one of the most popular search terms related to “Thir.st” is surprisingly “Squid Game”.
My hopeful thinking is that people want to read what we’ve been putting out when it comes to media and entertainment.
I say that, because, in my view, 2021 was a year marked with consistent, concerted and greater effort by our team in covering popular culture — especially games, TV series and movies.
So it’s nice to imagine readers are searching our website up in the hopes they’ll find something we’ve written on their favourite film or show.
Anyway, I’ll conclude this paragraph with a controversial opinion because I can: Squid Game is overrated; Alice in Borderland is better.
#SpillTheTeh: 3 couples reveal what romance with a big age gap is like
The #SpillTheTeh series is one of my favourite additions to our video line-up this year.
I’ve enjoyed the varied focuses on lesser-known issues in society or topics that aren’t talked about much in church.
And as someone with a pathetic attention span, I really dig that each video has its own issue along with a different set of people to get to know.
So, who knew we’d strike gold with Episode 3 on couples with a wide age gap?
We were all pleasantly surprised as we watched the video go viral (four months on, people are still commenting on the post and it’s gotten more than 700 shares on Facebook alone).
Apparently it’s something that seems to have gone somewhat under the radar in society, which is perhaps why it made for such interesting conversations from the cast.
With that, I’m landing the plane and calling it a day for this year’s round-up!
Just remember: Our articles and videos are only as good as the stories you have.
So whether you have a testimony to tell, an amazing profile you know or an awesome idea at the top of your mind, we’d be privileged to come alongside you and share it with the world together.
For the glory of God. For a generation transformed in the image of Christ.
One story at a time.