Postcards from St Andrew’s Church, Abu Dhabi

At St Andrew’s Church in Abu Dhabi, I met and entertained many children. I feel that “the sky lovingly smiles on the earth and her children,” quoting Sir Henry Morton Stanley.

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart Jesus cross

The present St Andrew’s Church was built in 1984 on a land generously donated by the Late H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan of the Al Nahyan ruling family. The area is known as the Churches area in Abu Dhabi.

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart

The website of the St Andrew’s Church mentioned that “somebody once described St Andrew’s church as Evangelical in the pulpit, Catholic at the altar and Charismatic in the pews”, to highlight their diversity.

It is likely that baby Ren will be interested in the St Andrew’s Playgroup (Monday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings, between 9.30am and 11.30am) with the entry fee of AED 15  per parent/carer, for children regardless of nationality or religion.

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart

In the autumn 2014, I started to study the Bible daily and have crafted prayers or made simple take-home messages. Once I complete studying the Bible, I plan to study Al Quran, as envisioned in our lifelong curriculum.

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart

♥ ♥ ♥

In the summer 2003, I almost became an angel as a mascot for inter-school games. Siew Hwey had kindly made the feathery-like cotton wings and the angel halo headband, but in the end those items were not used.

Patience is a virtue. Never lose hope. The universe will choose the right time and the right place to answer your desire. You kind, loving, inspiring desire is your prayer.

This afternoon, I became an angel – without wings, who told a Christmas story to children. I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve children – our hope for the future, and to share messages of love and hope. Yes, a messenger of everything lifeward and positive. The English word “angel” comes from the Greek angelos, which means ‘messenger’.

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart audience

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart hi angel
The little girl was excited to see an angel. 

Thanks to Dewi for firstly inviting me to contribute in the early Merry Christmas celebration, Laura for the help with the costume, the storytelling equipment (torchlight and colorful pictures) and the gifts for the courageous and lucky children who did well in the post-story Q&A session.

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart angel

According to Jerry A. Coyne PhD, 77% of Americans believe in angels. Do you believe in angels and miracles?

Upon seeing me in the angel costume, Alice (a little girl who just went to Moyenne Island, Seychelles) remarked, “she is not an angle, she is a girl.” It stroke me. Later, Alice told me that she loves the story told by the angel – me.

Perhaps, real people in angle costumes only work for toddlers. A young toddler whose name is Atara, curiously tried to touch me. She loves the pendants of my necklace too, as I realized when I carried her.

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart angels

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart angels dance

From the pamphlet, I also learned about a mnemonic of LIGHT.
L = Love (kasih)
I = Integrity (integritas)
G = Generosity (kemurahan)
H = Humility (kerendahan hati)
T = Truth (kebenaran)

♥ ♥ ♥

Here is a recap of Christmas service for the children.

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart  christmas tree

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart candles

The first song was Jingle Bells.

Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O’er the fields we go
Laughing all the way
Bells on bob tails ring
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to laugh and sing
A sleighing song tonight

Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh
Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh

A day or two ago
I thought I’d take a ride
And soon Miss Fanny Bright
Was seated by my side
The horse was lean and lank
Misfortune seemed his lot
We got into a drifted bank
And then we got upsot


I always love the classic Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Hark! The herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconcile.
Joyful all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies;
With the angelic host proclaim
‘Christ is born in Bethlehem’
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King.

Christ by highest heaven adored
Christ the everlasting Lord
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail, the incarnate deity,
Pleased as Man with Man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel!
Hark! the herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King.

Hail, the heaven-born Prince of peace!
Hail the Son of righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing sung by a children’s choir:

A way in a manger

You can listen to a story entitled “Let Your Light Shine” narrated by Jing@servicefromheart.

Happy birthday Jesus (with a link from Laura)

Happy birthday, Jesus
I’m so glad it’s Christmas
All the tinsel and lights
And the presents are nice
But the real gift is You
Happy birthday, Jesus
I’m so glad it’s Christmas
All the carols and bells
Make the holiday swell
And it’s all about You
Happy birthday, Jesus
Jesus I love You

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart cake

Silent Night

Silent Night by a children’s choir

Silent night! holy night!
All is calm all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace!
Sleep in heavenly peace
Silent night! holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia
Christ the Saviour is born
Christ the Saviour is born!

♥ ♥ ♥

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart children smiles innocent

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart

“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” ~ Denis Waitley

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart

While I greatly love to take photographs of people, they are also among the most challenging ones, especially children. There are a number of shots of mine that captured the joyful or amazed expressions of our little friends, but the photos turned out to be out of focus.

This morning, a girlfriend flying to Abu Dhabi today inquired me what things that I want her to get for me from Kuala Lumpur. At that time, I want nothing, but her safe flight.

However, after going through some of the photographs that I took at the St Andrew’s Church, how I wish I could have a light-field / plenoptic camera manufactured by Lytro, founded by Yi Ren Ng PhD. I hope that its price of US$399 will decrease so that more people can afford it. This is going to be my Christmas gift wish list!

By the way, I enjoyed Ng’s Stanford thesis and summarized it in a wordcloud.

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart Ren Ng light field camera thesis Lytro

With love,


Losing everything is not the end

In the early December 2014, one of my best friends shared with me about her worry. She learned that her parents are likely to lose a major proportion of their savings due to unfavorable investment.

She asked me to pray for her parents, I will be praying everyday! My prayer list is getting very long, but as I have lived longer, I have witnessed that some of my prayers have been answered miraculously. Thank you very much!

servicefromheart the praying hands of baby Ren never lose hope

I know her parents. They are honest and hardworking people, who started from zero and have become a hero and a heroine for their children, their past customers, their subordinates and their suppliers. My friend once shared the secret of their parents being given opportunities by their suppliers: reliability. They always pay their business loans no matter how difficult the circumstances are.

Her mother is a very frugal lady who bought only new clothes for the new year. Nevertheless, when the family went out with friends of their children, the parents would generously treat others.

Her father is in his 60s. In recent years, my friend felt that it is better for her father to enjoy the fruit of his labor and hardwork done over the past years and decades. However, a single turning point in life has changed everything. He left with much little of what he has saved a-dollar by a-dollar, if not cents by cents over years and decades.

I also empathize with my friend and feel her pressure. She belongs to a sandwich generation. She has to support not only two generations before and after her: her parents and her children, respectively, but also her younger sibling. I am proud of my friend, showing the quality of filial piety. I tried to encourage her that bearing a great responsibility is a privilege. Only the capable and the trustworthy are shouldered with such great tasks of life.

We love to and must take inspirations from the past generations who are able to turn adversity into something positive (逢凶化吉).

♥ ♥ ♥

Among many inspiring talks that I attended in Cambridge, UK, was a talk delivered by the extremely intrepid Christina Dodwell, a British explorer, travel writer, and lecturer.

She vividly described her 1975 trip to Africa with a girlfriend and two men. The men stole their jeep, leaving the women stranded with nothing. Her remark, “Losing everything is not the end,” echoes in my mind that is subconsciously searching for stories to encourage my friend. Christina and her friends then found two wild horses to ride; they survived!

♥ ♥ ♥

Another story that I first learned from Hui, is about Lim Tow Yong 林道荣 (1925-20120407), a legendary founder of Emporium Holdings that owned Oriental Emporium (英保良) retail business. Lim lived a roller-coaster life of fortune and success, yet he always show tenacity and never-say-die spirit.

With a humble beginning as a farmer’s son in Suatow (仙都乡), Jinshizhen (金石镇), Chao’An (潮安县), Chaozhou (潮州市), China, Lim ventured to Nanyang in 1940. Hardworking, visionary, charismatic, and a talented polyglot (English, Mandarin, Malay, Hokkien, Cantonese and Hainanese), Lim grew his business, spreading all over Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and Hong Kong. It was thriving until 1985.

In 1988, the 63-year-old Lim Tow Yong was declared a bankrupt by Singapore high court. Most people would have given up but not Lim Tow Yong.

In 1990s, Lim started another departmental chain in Sabah, and later Brunei and Labuan, with sheer determination and hardwork. In 1999, Lim Tow Yong was finally discharged from bankruptcy. He sold his business in mid-2000s and became a millionaire once again at 79.

Losing everything is not the end, as long as you are still alive.
Losing everything is not the end, as long as your love, hope, ideas and wisdom are alive in the heart of people whom you care.

♥ ♥ ♥

All these three stories also made me reflect on investment. I was asked by two men older than me, “if you know any safe investment with good return, please let us know.” The eldest, who is going to celebrate his 41st birthday tomorrow, aims to have USD 1million.

You don’t know about real loss, ’cause it only occurs when you’ve loved something more than you love yourself.” ~ Good Will Hunting

After thinking and reflecting, I conclude that the best investment is on yourself. Seek knowledge. Master unique skills. Use your knowledge and skills to serve others from the bottom of your heart. Be creative and productive.

You want to transform yourself into a precious talent, such that as you grow older, you become more valuable than ever. As days pass, you become highly desirable to give positively-impactful advice to ordinary people and Fortune 500 companies. As years go, you are wanted for your unique talent and tremendous creativity. As decades change, you give your best to the world, and the world will shower you with more opportunities to make your investment grow many folds.

Invest in goodwill. Love people. Help others and do favors without expecting a favor in return. The power of the universe will do you favors especially when you need it, in unexplainable manners, in unexpected ways.

With love

easy sushi rice balls with balsamic vinegar recipe (ada Bahasa Indonesia juga)

What is sushi rice? It is vinegared rice used to make sushi. We remembered: once we were told, at an Asian restaurant that we managed to find open at a late winter night in Paris, that they were running out of steamed rice. “Would you mind if we use sushi rice instead?” Being hungry, we quickly nodded and accepted the offer. It turned out to be a very delicious meal – a meal to remember.

The choice of vinegar matters. Normally, rice vinegar is used to make sushi rice. Japanese rice vinegar normally contains ~5% acetic acid. For today’s sushi rice balls, I used balsamic vinegar of Modena (Leonardi brand) with 6% acidity.

easy sushi rice balls with balsamic vinegar recipe ServicefromHeart

Do you love adventures? Sushi that we love has probably traveled from southern China to Japan – a country symbolized by sushi, in accordance to Marc Matsumoto.

In preparing our meals in simple and easy ways, we can be adventurous too. Perhaps, sushi rice can go with other not-so-common sushi ingredients.

Recently, baby Ren‘s Godmother introduced us to Nestle Cheerios cereals. Both ouf us love them. Besides eating them as a snack, with oatmeal, how else can we enjoy them?

Soft sushi rice can go well with crunchy cereals. Serve with goldfish made of cherry tomatoes and kids will like them!

easy sushi rice balls with balsamic vinegar recipe ServicefromHeart

Serving: 2
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes (depends on your rice cooker)

♥ 1 rice cooker cup (newly harvested, if possible) rice grains
♥ 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
♥ 1 tbsp honey
♥ 1/4 tsp salt

1. Rinse and gently rub rice grains (using sieve, if possible) to remove dirt. If you have extra time, soak washed rice for 30 minutes before cooking for fluffier texture.
2. Cook rice using rice cooker using rice:water ratio of 1:1.5 (normally, I will use 1:2 ratio for steamed rice).
3. Meanwhile, mix balsamic vinegar, honey, salt in a small bowl.
4. While the cooked rice is hot, add vinegar mixture over the rice (in a wooden container, if possible). Gently toss without destroying delicate grains of rice*.
5. Make into balls. I prefer to use thoroughly washed bare hands. Wet hands can minimize sushi rice get stuck on our hands.
6. Garnish sushi rice balls with cheese, cilantro, cereals, sesame seeds (optional).

* It is okay if you break some grains, so do I. We are learning, and even great sushi chefs practice over 10,000 hours to retain the original shapes of each grain of rice.

easy sushi rice balls with balsamic vinegar recipe ServicefromHeart

Other recipes that I love:
♥ Marc Matsumoto’s sushi rice at No Recipes
♥ Namiko Chen’s sushi rice at Just One Cookbook
♥ Issendai’s how to cook Japanese rice

Check also our other #5minutemeal recipes.

easy sushi rice balls with balsamic vinegar recipe ServicefromHeart

Brief ingredients and Directions in Bahasa Indonesia:
♥ 1 gelas (ukuran rice cooker) beras baru panen
♥ 1 sdm cuka
♥ 1 sdm madu
♥ 1/4 sdt garam

1. Bilas butiran beras dengan saringan untuk menghilangkan kotoran. Jika anda memiliki waktu ekstra, rendam beras  selama 30 menit sebelum dimasak supaya teksturnya pulen.
2. Masak nasi menggunakan rice cooker dengan perbandingan beras:air 1:1,5 (biasanya, saya akan menggunakan perbandingan 1:2 untuk nasi putih).
3. Sementara itu, campur cuka, madu, garam dalam mangkuk kecil.
4. Ketika nasi masih panas, tambahkan campuran cuka ke dalam nasi (dalam wadah kayu, jika ada). Aduk secara lembut tapi cepat tanpa merusak butiran beras.
5. Buat bola nasi sushi dengan tangan bersih. Basahkan tangan sedikit supaya nasi sushi tidak lengket di telapak tangan.
6. Hias nasi sushi dengan keju, ketumbar, sereal, biji wijen.

easy sushi rice balls with balsamic vinegar recipe ServicefromHeart

With love,

How did I happily complete my homework? (age 6-12 years)

This post has been intended mainly for my young friends of 6-to-12 years old. I wrote it in 2012 before I became a mother. Now, like many caring mothers worldwide, I hope that my children would enjoy, instead of struggle with, their homework. So, I recalled my childhood memory on homework and brainstormed what can be better for our children.

For a brief background, I received my primary schooling in Jakarta, Indonesia, in the 1990s. When I reflect back on my early schooling days, I remember happiness.

Our world is evolving and today children have more things to learn
and more homework to do than during my primary schooling period. To prepare children for a bright future, parents can be demanding. Homework time can be stressful for children. Nevertheless, let’s believe that there are ways for our children to enjoy and happily complete their homework.

Prepare for tomorrow

After half-day only school (today school hours can be longer), I would first have my lunch. My parents did not give me
any pocket money, yet they allowed me to pack some biscuits from home.

The next thing I would do after lunch is to clear my bag.

Since I was in primary one, I packed myself the books that I would need for the next day according to my timetable and the book that listed our assignments (buku tugas in Indonesian). I ensured that I had all the books I need because I did not want to be punished for forgetting to bring any required book.

A study area and a homework kit

I dreamed of a study table, but while I did not have such a solely-purposed table, I used Mum’s dressing table – her wedding gift. My parents’ engagement photo was my motivation because they worked very hard everyday and they always look very beautiful and happy in the photo.

Ideally, a study area with a table, a chair and good lighting is great for learning. The height of the table and chair needs to be constantly adjusted according to the height of children because children are always growing taller. Lighting matters too! I personally prefer fluorescence lighting to tungsten lighting, because the former makes me alert and the latter is more suitable for entertaining reading like bedtime story books.

Since I could not concentrate on my homework when the TV was on, it seems that there are some truths in the words of Roderick MacKinnon (a 2013 Chemistry Nobel Prize winner for his work on the structure and mechanism of ion channels): “TV is bad for your“. Viewing too much TV can also hamper linguistic skills. On the other hand, TV can also bring us plenty of ideas, inspirations, and information.

I had TV time. My parents were not at home and they did not set up any rule about the TV. I loved the American movies like MacGyver, Knight Ryders, Superman, Wonder Woman, Little Kingdom (小人国).

But when it was time for homework, I would not turn on the TV. At that time, there were no many TV programs in Indonesia and no internet. Today children face more temptations.

Though internet can bring distractions (if one is not disciplined), I would have internet because it opens us many doors to gain wide and deep
knowledge. If you need to do research for your homework, first gather all resources online, then disconnect while you focus on your homework. In brief, alternate periods of connections and disconnections.


Playing is the basic right of every child.
Playing is our reward for doing homework.

After finishing my homework, I would leave it open at the page where I wanted my mother to help me check. Then, I would go to the nearest park to play or to my friends’ home. They always seemed to have many toys. Sometimes, I collected fallen leaves or flowers and imagined them as ingredients for cooking. No recipe required, just curiosity and courage to try! Sometimes, kind carpenters gave me pieces of
woods that I assembled to build doll houses or castles like using LEGO pieces.

Other parents’ & teachers’ tips that I appreciate:
♥ Maureen Devlin’s on the homework buffet
♥ Carol Tuttle’s how to motivate different types of children to do their homework
♥ Leigh Langston (Dangerous Lee)’s how to make children do their homework at Simply Senia

Almost Famous Amos crunchy chocolate cookies recipe by LukSunshine

Lunar New Year 2014 is approaching. Today, I am craving for chocolate cookies! This recipe was shared by my sister. Delicious food and sweet treats can always happily remind us on our loved ones who have made them or something similar for us.

Preparation time: 30 minutes + 2 hours for mixture
Cooking time: 30 minutes

For mixture to incubate for at least 2 hours:
♥ 1 large egg
♥ vanilla extract
♥ 1/2 teaspoon coffee oil / coffee extract
♥ 226 gr (1 cup) unsalted butter
♥ 200 gr (1 cup) light brown sugar
♥ ½ cup (65 gr) ground almond
♥ ½ cup (45 gr) quick oats
♥ 275 gr (2¾ cup) all purpose flour
♥ 1 teaspoon baking powder
♥ 2 tablespoon (10 gr) cocoa powder
♥ Pinch of salt
♥ ½ cup of nuts of your choice
♥ ¾ cup chocolate chips/ chocolate chunks


Draw My Life Map : Indonesia – Malaysia – Singapore – world

This mini video of Draw My Life Map (URL: is inspired by an exercise for a course of storytelling by Novoed.

I used mouse (using digitized pen will be better) to draw in SpeedyPainter (, which is freely available. For editing, I used Movie Maker.

Hello friends
I am going to share with you my little life map.
Sit back and relax.

I spent my early months of life in a little farm in Sumatera, Indonesia – a beautiful emerald of equator. Before I turned 1 year old, Daddy and Mommy moved to Jakarta for a better life.The capital was entirely different from the rural area of Sumatera where we came from.

At age three, I had a lovely baby brother.
His short stay with us reminds me forever on the precious yet vulnerable life.
I dearly miss him!
Several years later, I had a sister and another much younger brother, whom I love very much!

My childhood was simple and happy, with schools, friends, books and TVs.
I enjoyed riding a bicycle, watching MacGyver and SeaQuest episodes on local TV channel, relying heavily on the subtitles. Not many people spoke English in Jakarta at that time.
My favorite books include the translated versions of The Famous Five novels by British author Enid Blyton.
After completing my homework, I eagerly looked forward to join the adventures and picnics of Julian, Dick, Anne, George and her dog Timmy. Timmy would do anything for her, such a great loyalty!
I dreamed that when I was reaching their ages, I would go for such adventures with my dear friends like The Famous Five did.
Many years later, a part of the dream was realized in my young adulthood, when I occasionally helped my housemate to walk his playful golden retriever that loves to chase tennis balls, ducks and ducklings, swimming at the River Cam.

Back to my childhood.
A riot happened in Jakarta. That event severely affected many people.
They lost everything, including their loved ones.
The event also changed the course of my simple and peaceful life with my family.
Daddy and Mommy were determined to work harder so that they could afford to send me to a safer place.

It was the first time I applied for a passport and flied with a single-way ticket to a neighboring country: Malaysia.
At the beginning, living far far away from Daddy, Mommy, my sister and brother, I often felt sad and worried about my family.
It was tough, r-e-a-l-l-y tough!

Fortunately in Malaysia, I was blessed with kind friends and encouraging teachers. Thanks to them, I looked forward going to school, to learn, to chat everyday. I am forever grateful to them. For the first time of my life, I learned Chinese Mandarin at school. I found the Chinese letters beautiful, every stroke can carry feelings, emotions and aspirations.
Somehow, some of these beautiful letters and words transpire over five-thousand-years of wisdom.
I fell in love with many idioms and quotes, especially those related to happiness, nature and people.
Let me share one of my favorite:
笑口常开 / Xiao4Kou3Chang2Kai1.
It means “Smile & Laugh Often”.
I wish you, my dear friends, 笑口常开!

During our high school days, we wanted so much to go to a university, so that we could train in our chosen disciplines, pursue our dream careers, earn a decent living to take care of our ageing parents and future children.
My friends and I worked hard in our study.
Learning by heart is rewarding, generous people have allowed me to come to Singapore with a scholarship for my undergraduate study. It means a lot for me.
Thank you from my deepest heart.

So I come to Singapore – the Little Red Dot of Southeast Asia.
On Yunnan Campus, I made many friends, learned from my professors and peers, further developed deeper passions for life and learning, worked part-time, volunteered in several activities, including a mentorship program organized by the Welfare Service Club. We also performed song signings for Christmas!

Since then, my passions have brought me to many places worldwide, learning from and sharing with people who have become dear friends.
Places shape people, and people shape places too.

Fast forward to now, I am very grateful with my life, my experiences (bad and good), and most importantly, the people who have walked with me, have loved me and whom I love.
Although everyday I face new challenges, I choose to see them as opportunities to learn, to be creative, and to grow in our lives.
There are many people whose lives are far from the acceptable and their ideals.
What can we do for them?
How is about choosing to be happy and grateful?
Being grateful creates simple happiness.
When we are happy, our minds relax and we can conceive meaningful ideas and solutions.
When we are happy, we can spread our joy.
“Happiness is contagious”.
I tell myself to make at least three people smile everyday.
It’s not that difficult, I am sure you can do much better than me.
Being alive is a miracle.
Being happy is a choice.