THE LOVE BOAT
By Valerie Lam & Ong Juat Heng
Talking about singlehood may unnerve many Christian singles who are at a marriageable age. Not for Joanne Teh though.
Like many singles, Joanne, in her 30s, has had to face the social pressure of her singlehood and the reality of her ticking female biological clock. And like them, her prospects of meeting single Christian men are confined to her church. If she is fortunate, she might meet them through work-related events. As she looked around her, the many Christians of marriageable age still not married compounds her concern.
So, when her senior pastor challenged the congregation at this year’s New Year sermon to do something different for God’s kingdom, an idea struck her – why not give single Christians from various churches a platform to meet one another? Soon came the inspiration of organising a singles get-together event. Joanne didn’t hesitate – the first Christian Singles Interactive Day was held in Klang two months later.
Organising the event was no simple affair, even with the help of her cell group members, and even though it was a simple luncheon with some ice-breaker activities. The bigger issue was breaking the mindset that such singles gatherings were for “the desperate”. Joanne admitted her fear that no one would sign up because she felt many Christian singles were shy about attending such a gathering because of the stigma attached to it, despite it being a church-type gathering. Thankfully, four brave men and eight women from eight different churches turned up and had a splendid time.
The unbalanced male-female ratio was not unexpected. “The woman participants felt that their male counterparts were too shy to sign up for such an event, whereas the men felt that the age criterion (to participate in the event) should have been below 30 years.
“Nevertheless, everyone agreed that this was a good place to meet other Christian singles from other churches,” Joanne shared.
She explained the age limit of the participants was set at between 30 and 40 years as the organising committee felt the singles in this age group were the ones actively seeking committed relationships. “But we will lower the age criterion to 28 for future events, since the feedback received after the first gathering showed that those aged 28 were already struggling in their journey to find life partners.”
To keep the momentum going and create more opportunities for Christian singles to meet and mingle, Joanne plans to hold the singles event twice a year. The next one is slated for between October and November, so help her spread the word, will you? (Contact Joanne at 016-656 0560.)
Hard to find
Do Christian singles face more obstacles in finding life partners today than previous generations? Joanne noted that many Christians are migrating to other countries, especially after their tertiary education. She is concerned that Christians are compromising their faith by settling down with non-Christians out of desperation. She encouraged Christian singles to “hold fast to God’s promises” even when the going gets tough.
At such times, the older generation can be invaluable by walking alongside the singles, she said. “The older generation can encourage Christian singles by praying for them and mentoring them, especially the men. They can also help by introducing the singles to other singles.”
Joanne also urged churches in Malaysia to give attention to the issue of singles and perhaps, collaborate by organising joint gatherings to provide plenty of opportunities for singles to meet.
Asked if she’s getting nearer to finding a life partner, she said, “Where and when will he appear?!” Perhaps she’ll meet him at the next singles event, just like what happened to Chew Sue Lee, who met Jonathan Wong at a singles event and married him some 18 months later.
Unexpected love story
In 2012, Sue Lee attended a singles event called Rocking Singles (organised by several churches in Petaling Jaya) after much persuasion from her late father. “I disliked big social gatherings and preferred to stay at home. But he figured the more people I met, the higher were my chances of meeting someone,” she recalled. So she went, just to humour him.
There, she met Jon (Jonathan Wong), whom she found to be a “little bit nerdy”. Jon was at the event to accompany his cell group members. And no, there was no spark at their first meeting. “I think that only happens on TV, but I was interested to get to know Sue Lee more after the event.”
Jon checked her out on social media and upon evaluating that she was “stable enough”, he asked her out. Sue Lee, then 31 years, shared that during the date, Jon made up for his “nerdiness” with a fair bit of chivalry, such as opening doors for her.
He quickly added that he tried to be “himself” around her but still had to put in some effort to impress her. The effort paid off; Jon, 35 then, eventually became Sue Lee’s first boyfriend. Seventeen months later, they got married.
Sue Lee, who writes for Asian Beacon, pointed out that Christian women have difficulties meeting eligible Christian men due to the higher female to male ratio in church. “People used to ask me why I wasn’t dating. I would tell them, ‘Hello, it’s not like I have a line of guys asking me out and I’m rejecting them. I’m waiting for someone to ask me out!’,” she laughed.
Empathising with men, Sue Lee said that men are more hesitant to ask women out for fear of rejection and their perception that girls have lofty ideals that they can’t attain. “It takes guts for men to ask women out.”
And with today’s women being more independent and self-sufficient, men have to tiptoe around women because of different expectations. “Some women want men to be chivalrous and open doors, but another woman might think ‘I can totally do it on my own, I don’t need you to treat me like a damsel in distress’,” Sue Lee said.
It doesn’t help that some Christian singles have misconceptions about dating. “We think dating must lead to marriage. So the guys are afraid to ask the gals out. But dating can also mean asking someone out for a drink to get to know her,” Sue Lee pointed out.
Jon emphasised that singles need to know the issues faced in marriage and to know how to love, which can be understood through the Person of Christ. All these, he said, would help clarify expectations when the couple are dating. “I also think that having a checklist for the other person is selfish and unrealistic. Instead, we should work on being the right person.”
As to how the older generation can help Christian singles, Sue Lee replied, “I think young people need better role models on how to be a good spouse. Most of us grew up seeing couples who argue a lot. The older generation need to mentor and guide the younger generation on healthy relationships.”
Back to the singles gatherings, Sue Lee advised people attending such get-togethers to be open and not rule out anyone. “It’s not shameful or embarrassing to go for these events. It’s just a platform to meet someone and it doesn’t have to be stressful. Don’t try to be someone else so as to impress the other. Just have fun! You may not meet your future life partner… or you just may find the right person, like what happened to Jon and me!”
Asian Beacon: Jul – Sep 2018 (Vol 50 #3, p28-29)