Reunion in the red-light district

The celebration of Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year (CNY), starts with a ‘reunion dinner,’ where every family member returns home to share the final meal of the year together. However, OM in Singapore has some friends who are unable to do so — they work in the red-light district, and many are estranged from their families. This year the OM team invited these friends for reunion meals with them.

Across Asia and other parts of the world, Lunar New Year is a special and important time as families gather together and exchange blessings for the new year. In Singapore, the occasion is also known as Chinese New Year (CNY), as it is celebrated mainly by those of Chinese descent in the country. The festivities start with dinner the evening before the new year begins, the date of which changes every year based on the lunar calendar.

This dinner is called the ‘reunion dinner,’ where every family member returns home to share the final meal of the year together and then cross into the new year as a family.

However, there are those who do not practise this custom, such as some friends of OM in Singapore’s local outreach programme. These friends have complicated relationships with their families and thus either live alone or live where they work — in Geylang, Singapore’s red-light district.

Within this district lies legalised brothels managed by locals, while the sex workers themselves primarily come from nearby countries like Thailand and Vietnam.

Over the years, OM in Singapore has gradually built budding friendships with some of the pimps and brothel operators. It was during the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular, when the OM team got to hear and understand them in a deeper manner.

This year, OM in Singapore invited these friends for reunion meals — a significant occasion for many who have not shared a meal with their own families in a long time.

The first reunion meal was shared with two uncles — a term commonly used to address older men in Singapore. “We had two uncles over at our ministry space for a CNY meal. They were touched by the preparation we had put in for this meaningful meal,” Siew, a member of the OM team, said. The team had prepared two quintessential items for a CNY meal — steamboat, also known as hotpot, as well as Lo Hei, a dish of raw fish slices, vegetables, spices and condiments that is tossed communally while uttering auspicious phrases.

Over the 15-day celebration period of CNY, the team will continue to meet with other friends working in the red-light district over a meal, building on the friendships that have developed over many years.

“[These friends] have not made the decision to follow Jesus but they do not reject reflecting on His Word. We pray and hope that our continuing friendship will lead them to friendship with Jesus,” shared Siew.

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