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Standing Watch

Ashley Bravely Communicates the Gospel In Singapore

  • Author: By Katie Berglee
  • Credits: Photos by Guy Gerrard
  • Published: September 5, 2013
  • Location: Singapore

Standing inside one of Singapore’s westbound trains, Ashley silently peers at her iPhone screen through trendy Ray-Ban glasses.

Familiar landmarks flash by the large window behind her: high-fashion shopping malls, statuesque temples and numerous high-rise flats. Ashley’s home nation of 5.1 million people is a densely populated, multi-racial, urban island. Every day, spiritual symbols and worldviews infused from India, China, Malaysia and Western cultures swirl around her in the architecture, clothing styles and aromas of Singapore.

In contrast, the 24-year-old appears silent, even aloof. But looks can be deceiving.

To the commuters wearing business suits, hijabs, T-shirts or saris, this young woman with blunt-cut bangs and shoulder-length hair might appear to be a typical college student on her way to university. Anything but aloof, Ashley

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is a bold proclaimer to college students that Jesus is who He claimed to be: the way, the truth and the life. “I believe He has called me to come into full-time ministry for a purpose,” she says. Her voice, typically whisper-thin, grows strong when she speaks about Jesus or the truths in God’s Word.

She works with Cru Singapore and is motivated to see college students come to know the one true God. And as Ashley reaches out to college students, they reach out to others.

Shifting her petite frame with the train’s irregular rhythm, Ashley swings the leather strap of her bag over her shoulder. When the high-speed train stops, she silently exits onto the platform at Pioneer station. Tucking a wisp of hair behind her left ear, she moves toward the National Institute of Education, one of two college campuses where Ashley regularly meets with students.

Here, Ashley is not silent.

It wasn’t always that way. An emphasis on evangelism caused Ashley to avoid Cru Singapore as a young college student. “The whole idea was scary because I didn’t know how to evangelize,” she explains, “but once I learned how, it wasn’t so scary anymore. I began to see there is joy in talking about my faith with others.”

Ashley graduated from that university with a conviction that Jesus Christ changes lives and following Him is worth whatever risk.

That was three years ago. Ashley, now a Cru Singapore staff member, meets with Christian student leaders to pray for continued evangelistic opportunities on their campuses. Today, a dozen NIE students trickle into a circular third-floor room lined with glass walls and green-carpeted stairs.

They gather here weekly to pray.

The staff member sits cross-legged on the carpet. A student strums a guitar, and the participants turn their thoughts toward heaven, offering praise to the God who hears. At a lull between prayer and song, Ashley opens her pink Bible. Her voice becomes full and clear as she reads a passage from the Book of Isaiah and then prays out loud: “Father, we want to respond to Your call to be watchmen of our generation. You have given us a special privilege for interceding for our school and for our country, Lord.”

Ashley prays with three students.

Like sentries on an ancient city wall, these students and staff members are committed and alert, praying and watching for opportunities to build God’s kingdom in Singapore.

Chantel, a second-year English major and a faith-filled watchman for NIE, sits beside Ashley on the carpet. For the past two years, Chantel has prayed for her mother to soften to God’s love. Over the last year, Chantel has sent her a daily text with a Bible verse or an encouraging truth from Scripture. “I thought she was untouchable,” Chantel confessed to Ashley.

But today, Chantel is rejoicing: Three days ago, her mother asked if she could come with her to church. Chantel agreed and, during the altar call, Chantel’s mom made a decision to follow Christ. “I was crying as I went down with her,” the young woman explains with a wide grin stretching across her face.

Ashley regularly meets with 14 coeds like Chantel for Bible study, evangelism and prayer. She models a faith in Christ that is central to every decision and belief, a worldview that is both personal yet freely offered to others. She encourages them to be watchmen.

Yvonne, a first-generation Christian from a long line of Buddhists, attends one of Ashley’s weekly discipleship groups. Every year, Yvonne’s family returns to Malaysia to pay respect to her deceased aunt, grandmother and brother. Their deaths initially prompted the sociology major to begin an intense search for spiritual answers about the afterlife. Her studies led her to Jesus Christ, whom she now openly worships and obeys.

Ashley returns to her campus to explain the truth about Jesus to students.

“It was hard being the youngest and making a radical decision to choose a path that no one else would even consider,” Yvonne says. “Before I prayed and received Christ, I asked myself, Is it worth all of this chaos in the family? Is it worth making a mess of things? But Jesus is the Son of God, the One who is able to save. He is God in human form. I just imagine the day when the things in [the Book of] Revelation come true.”

As the youngest in her family, Yvonne stands as a watchman over her family, praying for the day they will come to faith in Jesus.

Puvana, another watchman in training, also meets with Ashley weekly. Though she grew up in a Hindu home, Puvana was introduced to Jesus Christ by her uncle when she was a child. But without ongoing support, Puvana’s young faith never grew. “It was hard to comprehend that there is a God who loves me,” she explains.

In her third year at Nanyang Technological University, Puvana befriended a young woman who was attending Ashley’s Bible study on NTU’s campus. She invited Puvana to join. “My parents’ main fear was that I would no longer take part in family activities, now that I was a Christian,” Puvana says. “They have been surprisingly supportive, and I see God working in my parents’ lives. My mother has been asking a lot about who God is, and she is very open when I share about Christianity now.” Most recently, on a four-week mission trip to Mongolia, Puvana stretched her faith even further, alongside Ashley, her friend and mentor.

These women stand together, clinging to Jesus, their anchor in the storm of worldviews and pluralism. Together, they’re following His commands to talk with others about His love.

Ashley frequently thanks God for the women He has provided to stand alongside her on campus. They are quick to pray and eager to initiate conversations about God’s love and forgiveness. Ashley leads by example, often bringing students with her to initiate spiritual conversations on campus.
Just three weeks ago, Ashley was with one of the young women when they met a third-year student studying psychology. The stranger explained that she followed Cao Dai, a religion that originated in Vietnam and worships gods from all religions equally. “It’s the epitome of postmodernism,” Ashley says. “It’s a syncretic religion—a combination of everything. They worship them all as good and . . . [believe that] they are not conflicting.”
Ashley is filled with compassion for people who have not yet discovered the forgiveness and love of Christ. As a disciple of the one true God, Ashley and her fellow watchmen live out these truths most deeply in times of choice and difficulty. They move toward the people around them from a position of confidence in the character of a living and holy God who sent His Son to redeem rebellious people from their sins. He is worth the sacrifices, and one day they will live with Him.

“The demands of discipleship are great,” Ashley confesses. “Without the conviction that God is really good and that God has given so much, it would be hard to get through some of these difficulties.”

Ashley is wholeheartedly convinced. She loves the people of Singapore. She loves Jesus. And as a watchman for her country, she will not be silent.

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