A retrenchment unleashed a series of events, leading to an unexpected friendship with an injured Chinese migrant worker, resulting in the salvation of the worker and his brother. To say an unfortunate event turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Jeffrey Chua would be an understatement.
Jeffrey was retrenched in 2009, at the height of the financial crisis from his previous job as an IT manager in a semiconductor firm. At the suggestion of a friend, he spent three months volunteering at Project Khmer HOPE, set up by St Andrew’s Cathedral to help Cambodian children and youth break out of the poverty cycle.
During this time, he felt very strongly the call of God into missions. One day, he woke up in the middle of the night, feeling overwhelmed by the plight of a particular student, started crying. “I just felt so burdened, I wanted to go and help this people,” the 50-year-old told Chorus.
In 2011 — after a project management job that felt like a wrong fit, a two-week cross cultural missions course at the Trinity Theological College and a three-month diploma in teaching English — Jeffrey joined Healthserve, a non-profit organisation in Singapore for helping migrant workers, as a full time staff. He helped with fund-raising initiatives, and also worked with other institutions and NGOs to develop partnerships.
“I got to know and understand the struggles that many of these workers faced, especially when they got injured and were not familiar with the laws that were supposed to protect them.” Soon, he became more involved with many Chinese workers, and has in the past two to three years started bringing them to his former church for service and Bible study.
One particular worker, Chen Qiang Shi, stood out for him. Severely injured by a workplace incident, he had become paralysed in his lower body. Jeffrey was asked to counsel him.
During the first visit, he brought along two other Chinese workers hoping that they would be able to help comfort or encourage him. Though they had agreed beforehand not to talk about the faith with him, since they did not know how open he was, one of them however got carried away and told Qiang Shi he must have faith to believe that he would get well.
The conversation turned to Christianity, and Qiang Shi, so agitated and out of breath, had to be taken away by a nurse.
Nevertheless, Jeffrey managed to keep in touch with him. In the months that followed, he then simply tried to be a friend to Qiang Shi, even visiting him in hospital on the first day of the Chinese New Year.
Qiang Shi eventually accepted Christ, and also requested for Jeffrey to be the one to accompany him on his trip back to China. When his brother later visited Singapore, he, too, got to know Christ.
“We often shy away from them, even looking at them with disdain, worried about what they might do to our children or us,” said Jeffrey. “In reality, they are people just like us: created and loved by God, yet forgotten and misunderstood, and deemed unworthy of the gospel.”