It’s been eight years since Samuel Nee changed the course of his five-minute Singaporean life, but the 36-year-old is sure that he has found a life more abundant than the one he would have drifted into.
“Once you’ve tasted something good, you won’t go back right?” Sam quipped. “How to say, ah? It’s like you’ve eaten the best chicken rice – Boon Tong Kee or whatever, or maybe it’s your mother’s chicken rice. You just wouldn’t go back to a normal chicken rice.”
A five-minute Singaporean life?
When Samuel and his wife, Marianne, were newly married, they had no children, house, car, or loans. Their paths had not been too different from their peers: They had gone to junior college, then on to university, had decent jobs and were middle-income earners.
“We were going down this typical Singaporean route,” Samuel remembered. “In two years, we would get a promotion, have a car and buy a house. Maybe we would have a kid and get another promotion. And then, our kid would grow up and go to primary school…”
In other words, the five-minute Singaporean life: in just five minutes, he could sum up his entire life journey.
Although Samuel had been a Christian for as long as he could remember, at that point in his life, he felt like something was still missing. He confessed, “One of the things that really scared me was that you could go through life so distracted and not discover this abundant life that Jesus was talking about.”
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10 (NIV)
Convinced that he had to find out what this abundant life could look like for him, Samuel decided to begin his search before his five-minute life started.
Launching into the unknown
Leaving their jobs with the blessing of their parents, Samuel and Marianne took a step of faith in 2013. Spending time in Central Asia as part of the outreach phase during Youth With A Mission’s (YWAM) Discipleship Training School, it was there that their hearts were captured for missions.
While staying in a hostel, Samuel and his teammates got to know the hostel manager and told him about Jesus. That was the first time that Samuel saw, with his own eyes, how someone could be so joyful after hearing the good news.
The trip also opened his eyes to many different people groups whom he didn’t even know existed. Samuel couldn’t believe that the hostel operator was so ready to receive the message of salvation, but no one had told him about it before.
“He was just so full of joy,” he recounted, somewhat at a loss for words. “Like, it’s bright!”
Describing the joy as incomparable to anything he had ever seen, the experience must have been really something – especially coming from someone who went on to win a bronze team medal for hockey at the Southeast Asian Games in 2017.
As the Lord directs
In 2015, around two years after they went in search of the abundant life, the couple were blessed with their first child. They decided to stay in Singapore to have their little girl and explore opportunities to serve locally, and long the way, their family grew.
Samuel interned at his church for two years before joining OM in Singapore as a Partnership Development Coordinator in 2017. “I help to forge friendships and partnerships in the Kingdom so that the work and the people doing the work are adequately resourced,” he said, adding that his role is to mobilise churches and individuals, specifically in the area of financial giving.
One meaningful project Samuel and a global OM team were involved in helped scores of displaced refugees who fled to South Asia in 2017 by providing them with food, hygiene and shelter materials to help rebuild their lives.
Samuel also loves to engage with youth and young adults for missions, speaking at workshops in various churches. His role at OM only takes up half of his time. Concurrently managing his own golf business, Samuel explained that he sees synergies between his two jobs.
“As a tent-maker, I’m getting a lot of experience in the business side of things. And I still maintain a lot of marketplace currency, which helps me when I connect with individuals and churches,” he elaborated. Samuel added that the other benefit of running his own business is that he’s learning to apply biblical principles in the workplace.
A friend of migrant workers
Based in Singapore, Samuel firmly believes that cross-cultural missions is not only done overseas.
“You’re already given friends or even strangers that you come across daily. Surely you must know somebody in need,” he said. Living out these convictions, Samuel shared how he unwittingly became known as “the friend of migrant workers.”
When he first met his migrant friend, whom he referred to as Baya (“brother” in Bengali), Baya was washing the floor outside his house. Samuel invited him in for a drink.
“No, no, no. I’m too dirty,” Baya said. Nonetheless, Samuel continued to see him around the neighbourhood and noticed that Baya enjoyed talking to his children.
After a series of encounters, their friendship grew and Samuel tried to invite Baya over for nasi biryani, telling him he could bring some friends too. A month or two later, Baya returned the favour and gave Samuel a pot of Bangladeshi biryani he had cooked.
“That’s just the story of my good friend, who’s now probably married in Bangladesh,” he recounted. “For me, it felt very natural, but when people saw the picture we took together, they made such a hoo-ha about it.”
Explaining that his intention was simply to be someone whom his migrant friends could share their problems with or turn to for help, Samuel said, “I don’t recall a time that I ever shared the gospel with them, but we had a space where they could come and eat, drink, rest and feel comfortable. And we would leave them with a prayer and bless them.”
Sharing that it was not difficult to strike up a conversation with the migrant workers they meet, Samuel pointed out that “kids are just a wonderful ice-breaker.” Whenever you see a migrant worker who shows interest in your child, try asking, “Do you have a son or a daughter?” And many times, they do. That’s why they are drawn towards kids, observed Samuel. That’s when you can ask, “How’s your son or daughter? How old are they?”
“Try to minimise the gap or distance, and really treat them not as a migrant worker but as a migrant friend.”
When asked whether he had any advice for young people considering mission, Sam half-jokingly said, “Stop wasting time – just go out there and do something. What’s the worst that could happen?”
“The worst that could happen is that you are labelled a weirdo. But we’re all weird in some way, so why not be a weirdo for Christ?”