The Lunar New Year is a key time for Chinese families in Singapore when children are expected to show filial piety, appropriate honor and respect, to their parents. They can do this as they join in with the annual family reunion and hopefully can share about a career and lifestyle the parents can be proud of.
But at this time of the year, it can be a challenge for Chinese Singaporean missionaries who are sent out who want to honor their parents, but may not be able to make it back for the family reunion. Or their parents may not approve of their choice to be a missionary. How can missionaries show filial piety to their parents and be a good witness of Christ’s love to their parents at this time of year?
One way is that OMF Singapore, in partnership with their sending church, can represent them to their families. So every Lunar New Year, the OMF Singapore staff and volunteers fan out, armed with oranges, the traditional fruit of the festival, to visit the families. The visits, alongside special events around the year for parents, help show filial piety to missionaries’ parents.
Former OMF Singapore National Director, Kenneth Tan, shared his diary from a day of Lunar New Year visits:
This year (2008) I teamed up with OMF staff member Yong Hong and visited a number of parents over two days.
The first were the parents of a new missionary to Thailand. It helped that their church had sent out one of OMF’s first Singaporean missionary nurses to Thailand many years ago. All the same it was a sacrifice to have their unmarried son away serving in Thailand, and away during this time of family reunions. So, his mother was pleased to welcome us. She was at her daughter’s home looking after three grandsons, and we played with them. At the end of our visit we prayed for the family, and our missionary’s nephew wanted to go visiting with us!
The next visit was to the elderly widowed mother of one of our missionaries serving in Cambodia. This old auntie attends a Chinese-speaking church and was full of the joy of the Lord, and this was obvious to me even with my limited Cantonese. It was up to multi-dialect Yong Hong to engage old auntie in conversation and to pray for her at the end of our visit. We talked about her daughter in Cambodia, her siblings and the grandchildren who were studying in Singapore.
Our last visit of the day was to the mother of another new missionary to Thailand. The mother is not a Christian and we had the opportunity to talk to her about spiritual things. When we left she insisted we take some of her homemade festive goodies. Her son, his wife, and her grandchildren were away in Thailand this festive season to share the gospel with the Thais, but we prayed that she too would receive the good news that God gave his only Son and would surely with him prosper us with all things.
These Lunar New Year visits have helped OMF Singapore build good relationships with the parents of their missionaries. They also visit parents in hospital when they are ill and pray for them. As OMF Singapore has got to know the parents they have seen several come to know Jesus. OMF Singapore is really thankful for all the opportunities to get to know the families of our missionaries.
This article originally appeared in OMF Singapore’s magazine Go Asia May – August 2008. Images have been approved for public usage by featured individuals.
Kenneth Tan was previously the National Director for OMF Singapore and also served as OMF Singapore’s Ministry Consultant and Home Council Member. He is now retired.
- Give thanks for the ways OMF Singapore and missionaries’ sending churches have been able to support missionaries’ parents.
- For this year’s visits, pray for deepening of relationships, encouragement for the parents and, for those who do not know Jesus, opportunities to speak of him.
- For those parents who do know Jesus to be encouraged by the work of their children for the gospel.
- For parents who don’t know Jesus to be attracted to him through the witness of their children’s sending churches and OMF.
For missionaries serving overseas at Lunar New Year away from their family, to know God’s presence and comfort.