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Graduating in uncertain times


To most graduands, graduation from university is an exciting event. It signals a coming of age as well as the prospect of financial independence when one becomes gainfully employed.

For the graduating cohorts of the late 90’s to the early 2000’s, worldwide turbulence between 1997 to 2003: financial crisis from 1997 to 1998, the terrorist attacks on September 11 in 2001, SARS at the end of 2002 to 2003; placed a damper on their dreams for the future. In the midst of these crises, the stories of two people reflect hope, demonstrate the faithfulness of God and highlight the fact that He never fails.

Gideon Tan (Saturday Praise Service):

“I graduated from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in 2001 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. I decided to begin my career specializing in mechanical design. Settling for anything less was not something I had considered at all as I wanted very much to pursue my area of interest.

I knew, from the news, that the global economy was going through a challenging time. With a sense of apprehension, I stepped out of my comfort zone, meaning school, into the ‘unknown’ world. I soon found out that I had no clue how bad the situation was.

Thankfully, I did not encounter much difficulty getting my first job. It was with the company I had interned with during the third year of my course. I was able to secure the job within the first month of graduation. Many of my close friends also managed to get a job within the next few months. We knew we were not the norm and that we were very fortunate at that point in time.

Being rather independent since I was young, my parents pretty much left me to make my own decisions. At that point in my life, my support came mainly from my cell group, my sister – Carrie, and Anna of course. I was still quite a young Christian then. One of the lessons I learnt was to trust God to provide. Whenever situations were not within my control, the peace of God really helped to put my worries to rest. At any point I encountered discouragement, I would spend time alone with God, using my guitar to sing and worship Him. Somehow, those quiet times never failed to lift my spirits. The difficult situation might have remained unchanged, but my heart found renewed strength to carry on.

I was particularly grateful to God for shielding me from the harsh reality when I transitioned from being a student to a working adult. I learnt the lesson of trusting Him amidst the good times. Just like a little baby learning to take small steps, this helped me to trust God even when challenging situations arose.

In our lives, there will be times of sunshine and of rain. Let us never forget that God is always faithful and He never changes. No matter where we are, He is right there with us and no matter how hard it is, we can choose to trust Him.

One of my favourite verses is:

“I have told you these things, so that in me, you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33.””

Jessica Ewing-Chow (Saturday Praise Service):

“I had mixed feelings when I graduated from the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2002. I was apprehensive and doubtful because I was unsure of what I wanted for my career; and there was also excitement from the thought of being able to draw my own income. Instead of diving into a job search straight after graduation like most of my friends did, I took a month long backpacking trip to Europe on a shoestring budget because I wanted to ‘see the world’!

Alas, reality hit when I got back. Most of my friends had a head start in the job hunt. Armed with a General Arts and Social Science degree, I felt rather aimless in my job search. To top it off, I was not aware of the economic situation. I only knew that the process of looking for a job was tough. I began to panic.

Very soon, many of my peers were successful in their endeavours; they either landed jobs in the teaching profession or became civil servants. I was, however, more drawn to the private sector and dreamt of a creative job that was not desk-bound. Imagine my disappointment when I was asked to attend only three interviews after sending out numerous job applications.

Throughout this time, one of my key supporters was my parents. Besides providing financial support, they also encouraged me not to give up. My mum was so adorable! She would enthusiastically circle prospective job advertisements in the classified pages and slipped them under my bedroom door every day. She took the task so seriously that she could rattle the days’ classified pages.

In the midst of all that stress, God demonstrated His faithfulness. I was introduced by Kelvin Lai, one of my cell group friends, to Café Galilee. Starting off as a server and earning an hourly salary, I had the time to continue my search for something permanent. I had great bosses and colleagues, and I could also meet new people. I enjoyed working there so much that it didn’t matter that I was only a temporary staff member.

The company was expanding rapidly at that time. Soon I was promoted to support the cafe operations on a full-time basis. Even though the salary was not as high as I expected, I felt that God had placed me there for a reason. I learnt the precious lesson of God’s Providence. I was never in lack! Not only was I able to pay off my student loan in instalments, I still had enough to give my parents their allowance!

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” Zechariah 4:10 was a key guiding verse for me as I learnt this crucial lesson. In life’s journey, we may be unsure of which direction we should take. Sometimes, there may be detours along the way and sometimes, we may even go off tangent. But the key lesson is: as long as we seek God in all that we do, we can trust in Him. I was also fortunate to have my cell group “Shammah” as one of my other supports, because we were mostly the same age, we could pray and encouraged one another on.

To all who are graduating in uncertain times, I would like to encourage you to just try any jobs that may come your way. It is about lowering one's high expectations. It is about trusting God to guide us. It is about being faithful in little things so that we can be entrusted with more. You do not know how God can use you mightily.”

Gideon and Jessica feel that learning to trust God was an important lesson they learnt during those hard times. Figuratively speaking, be it walking through green pastures or riding through stormy waves, God proves Himself faithful. What may seem to be a closed door can unexpectedly become a little window of opportunity. The big question is - Do we dare to entrust God with all our what-ifs so that He has the opportunity to make everything beautiful in His time?

Serene, and hubby Lin Sian enjoy spending time with their teenage daughters – Ruth and Nat. She secretly wishes she has the superpower to freeze pockets of spare time for future use. They worship at SPS.

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