BY JESSICA EWING-CHOW
All of our COR families have been affected one way or another by COVID-19. The circuit-breaker, the various measures to contain the virus and the economic fallout have changed the way we live. However, we are thankful that many have witnessed positive outcomes in this crisis, especially in the way they have reconnected with their family members and changed their pace of life. Here are some of their stories. Introducing….
The Woons (Saturday Praise Service, SPS)
Woon Ta-Chuang (TC) and Elizabeth
Joel (17 years old) and Joshua (16 years old) are in junior college and secondary school respectively.
The Tans (Sunday Worship Service, SWS)
Vincent and Sally Tan
Naomi (12 years old) and Abram (10 years old) are in primary school.
The Mohs (Saturday Praise Service, SPS)
Jonathan and Sarah Moh
Natasha (5 years old), Joel (2 years old) and Pinky the Maltipoo (1 year old), their beloved furry family member.
Life before COVID-19
Woons: Our life revolved mainly around school/work, church, cell group and serving in SPS ministries. Our family enjoyed eating out on weekends. Saturday afternoons were spent in church and the evenings were for fellowship with church members over dinner. Life before COVID-19 was busy because everyone had their own schedules to fulfil. Adults were working and children were attending school and their various activities.
Tans: We enjoyed having family time together on Saturday nights by watching a movie on Netflix and munching on chips. On Sundays, besides going to church, we would hang out with cell members for lunch or lunch out as a family and also do our weekly grocery shopping. We also looked forward to our cell group gathering every fortnight.
Mohs: We loved meeting up with friends and family. As Natasha attended kindergarten for only three hours a day, we had lots of time after school to explore museums and play areas with her friends. We also had regular playdates with our neighbour’s kids. On the weekends, we usually met up with the extended family for the kids to bond with their cousins.
During Circuit-Breaker (CB) - 1 April to 1 June 2020
Woons: During CB, as we were home the whole day, eating together for all meals became a norm. When I (Elizabeth) ran out of ideas on what to cook, TC would take over and whip up something delicious for the boys, which we appreciated greatly (the boys had a break from mum’s standard fare and I got a break from cooking).
As teachers, both TC and I had to teach through Home-Based Learning (HBL) and track students’ well-being daily through phone messages. Joel and Joshua had to adapt to lessons online, which were quite boring most of the time. As we are used to moving around in schools, sitting down to work in front of the computer every morning took some getting used to.
CB gave us time to catch up on our Bible reading. It was also a good time to listen to some sermons that we had been wanting to listen to but didn’t have the time to do so before. And I (Elizabeth) appreciated the rare afternoon naps. The boys enjoyed playing computer games which they did not get to do as much on normal school days. They even formed a group with some friends and chatted everyday with each other while playing online together. That took the boredom off staying at home, HBL, homework and being away from friends.
Tans: There were positive and negative effects felt by our family from the CB measures. The positive things were that we got to see our children all day. As working parents, prior to CB, we only got to see them in the mornings when sending them to school and in the evenings after we returned home. During CB, we spent time on our hobbies and learnt new skills. Sally and Naomi enjoyed baking. The children became more proficient with technology. Abram is now able to do his own gaming videos and even uploaded them to YouTube. We were also able to rest more and slow down our daily pace. Our family relationship got more intimate because of the time spent with each other.
The negative aspects were that the children became bored once the activities were done, and they turned to gaming and watching TV. HBL requires parents’ hands-on supervision, such as helping to print, scan and do online submission. It was all rather time-consuming.
Naomi had to learn virtually from school and her tuition centre. As she will be taking her PSLE this year, we are naturally concerned with her progress. Vincent is in the telecommunication industry, and his work is considered an essential service. Therefore, he needs to go onsite at times, which could put him at risk of contracting COVID-19. Sally works from home and having to take care of the children's needs at the same time can be overwhelming too.
Mohs: During CB, the children missed simple things like going to the playground. It was also challenging to hear our neighbours and yet be unable to play together. We improvised by getting the children to design their own paper telephone and connected it across our corridor. The children also slipped drawings, letters and gifts through the door for each other. I (Sarah) shared in cell during our yearly resolution that I would like to take a break from my freelance work to be more purposeful in spending time with the children. CB was a nice, unhurried, confined space & time to connect with the children. We spent so much time doing sensory play, reading, throwing random family parties and movie nights. It was also precious for Jon to be home. The children and him really bonded during CB. They will miss him when he goes back to the office. Church Closure
Woons: Church closure meant that Saturdays suddenly became very free. It felt odd, like something was missing. Saturdays do not feel like Saturdays anymore. We miss the fellowship that we get when meeting face-to-face. Although our cell group meets online, it is not the same. We miss worshipping together as a church family.
Tans: It was unusual in the beginning to be attending church service virtually, since we have never done it before in COR. There was no Sunday School for the children, so we did not know what to do for them while the main service was happening online. Thankfully, we were introduced to this website, The Treasure Box, and our children attend their programme on Sundays. We miss being in the Lord’s presence with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our children no doubt miss seeing their church friends.
Mohs: We really miss the fellowship with our cell group, Epainos (especially the regular cell group BBQs). Cell meetings over Zoom have been a challenge for us. Our cell has been wonderful in doing a kids’ Zoom programme but unfortunately that didn’t work for Natasha and Joel. Hence, either Jon or myself has to attend to the children while the other attends the meetings. It also feels different singing worship songs by ourselves in a virtual church service compared to singing together with the larger church community.
Family Devotional Time
Tans: This season, God has given us new insight as parents to understand our children more (since we are with them 24/7) and has taught us how to be involved with them. We learnt as a family to always be thankful, especially during challenging times, to be kind and to love one another.
Mohs: Schedules were more fluid during CB. It didn’t matter that much if the children had a later bedtime. We were able to have longer family devotional times whenever the children wanted more. However, I (Sarah) found it hard to catch up with my personal devotion as I was so exhausted taking care of the family. I usually fell asleep together with the children while putting them to bed.
The Days Ahead
Woons: During this time, being away from the church community can sometimes make us feel quite isolated, so it is even more important for us to build our foundation in Jesus as individuals and as a family unit. Although we are still unable to meet physically, we can encourage one another through messages and virtual meetings. Perhaps the greatest takeaway from this situation is that it gives my family and other families a chance to be together, away from our business, away from all the activities that we normally fill our time with, and to simply spend time together.
Tans: We encourage everyone to love and cherish the family members that God has blessed us with. For families with children, recognise that they are God’s love gift for us, and that they are a heritage from Him. We are learning to love and respect our children, to embrace their uniqueness, and bring them up in the way they should go so that they will not depart from the Lord. We thank God that we have a great counsellor in Him, one whom we can approach in our parenting journey.
Mohs: Our biggest worry with schools reopening is whether pre-schoolers will understand the concept of social distancing. They will want to connect and play with one another. We hesitated in sending Natasha to school initially. However, after seeing how much Natasha enjoys school, we learnt to let go of our insecurities and to trust God to protect our children against the virus. God is able to supply whatever we lack and meet us where we are.
Jessica worships at SPS with her husband and 2 daughters. She is a part-time floorball coach and looks forward to the day when her students can play a full court game just like before.