Debbie Zhang. Interviewed by Tan Lay Leng.
‘Why Are These Girls Here?”
Debbie could not stop weeping as she walked from Sims Avenue to Lorong 23, Geylang. The walk was short but the tears seemed to take a long time to stop flowing. God had just spoken into her heart about the girls whose accent she had recognized to be that from her home country. When she first heard it, she could not understand what those girls were doing in this part of Singapore. In her heart she questioned, “Why are these girls here?” Then suddenly, God revealed it to her: They were in the prostitution industry.
The Seed of Compassion
That was in the year 2008.That seed of compassion and burden God had planted in Debbie’s heart has taken root and Geylang Ministry has been birthed. What a journey it has been for Debbie, encompassing stories after stories of both her heartaching and heartwarming moments.
She remembers fondly this girl who would sit outside the classroom where Debbie attended her DTS (Discipleship Training School) with YWAM (Youth With A Mission). Promptly, at 8.30 in the morning, the girl would be there. As part of a local outreach programme with DTS, the students were given an apple to ‘break the ice’ with strangers they would be striking up a conversation with. Guess who received Debbie’s apple? This girl would confide in Debbie later that the Christian songs the DTS students sang ministered to her heart and soothed her distress. She eventually brought another girl to look for Debbie (who happened not to be in school that day) and ask if there were any more apples for them.
Roadblocks and Rewards
While the initial steps to connect seemed relatively smooth, the journey with the girls has been nothing of smooth. In fact, it has been emotionally draining for Debbie and her team. The girls would be quick to accept the gospel but when realities of life hit, there would also be a quick falling off. One day the girl ‘rescued’ out of prostitution and placed in the planned DTS would make a clear cut with the ungodly relationship with an ‘uncle’, but after two weeks, she would announce her departure. The ‘uncle’ would be waiting at the YWAM base, all ready to take her away. The DTS did not happen and before Debbie knew it, the ‘uncle’ had managed to locate her contact in the mobile phone he had bought for the girl and started sending messages to ‘scold’ Debbie for pulling the girl away.
Confronted with much distress and many betrayals, Debbie has questioned many times, “Will they really change?” She would confess that without the touch of God in her heart for these girls, she would never have come this far. In fact, Debbie was quick to confess that being highly educated herself, she used to look down on girls in this trade. While she recognized that only God can break the mindsets trapping these girls, she would have given up had God not seeded in her the compassion for them.
Roadblocks are plenty but so are rewards. In the course of building relationships with the brothel owners and workers, Debbie and team made it a point to note their birth dates in order to celebrate birthdays with them. Debbie’s husband would specially print out a personal photograph, frame it beautifully, and present it as a birthday gift. At the singing of the birthday song and uttering of a prayer, very often, there would be smiles on those faces that no amount of money could buy. It might be a small gesture to some of us but it meant an incredibly lot to them. No one has ever celebrated their birthday that way.
While she moves on her kingdom assignment, Debbie would face external stresses and in the earlier days, internal strife and unhealthy competition in the team. During those discouraging times, God would often challenge her to rethink why she does what she does.
Dear Archippus …
What pains and agonies have you encountered in the course of moving on kingdom assignments? How have these affected you? Have these discouraged and disillusioned you? Have these strengthened you?
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12
Ps Henson writes in his book Alignment Check, “Our tendency is to forget that there is a spiritual battle that is still going on. The fight is not just within ourselves, or against others, but against the kingdom of darkness. The good news is that Satan and his demons have already been defeated. The not-so-good news is that they don’t play fair and they will stop at nothing to take us out of our kingdom assignment. Thankfully, this battle belongs to the Lord as we stand strong in Him and the power of His might.”
If you are presently struggling or wrestling through a difficult patch, do not be discouraged. If you are where God wants you to be and doing what He has asked you to do, stay the course and keep going. The opposition you are experiencing might well be what is needed for the kingdom to advance gloriously.
Debbie is married to Kelvin, and they have three children. She and her team in the Geylang Ministry work on building relationships and work the ground through prayer walks and intercessions.