It was a typical routine for the Foongs. Elvin and Esther would pick up their daughter Phoebe from kindergarten, and together with their older son Nathan, they would walk to a nearby mall for dinner.
That day, however, the two kids had a sudden idea that the fallen leaves and twigs they saw along the way would make a good “bouquet” for their mother, and they kept stopping to collect them.
This irritated Elvin, who was hungry and just wanted to get to the mall quickly. “They kept saying, ‘Oh, it’s so pretty, so nice’,” he recalls. “But all I wanted to do was to move along, as it was getting late. I told them, ‘It’s dirty; don’t touch your face’. But they insisted on making the bouquet for Esther.”
“We have so many ‘layers’. Our upbringing, our education, our knowledge—they all inform how we see the world. But children see the world as God created it: pure and natural.”
The incident really got Elvin thinking. He says, “I asked myself later, why did I behave this way? How did I end up so jaded? Is this how my kids will see the world one day?”
He adds: “We have so many ‘layers’. Our upbringing, our education, our knowledge—they all inform how we see the world. But children see the world as God created it: pure and natural.”
This simple but powerful insight prompted both Elvin and Esther to reflect on their perspectives of their children and of parenting, and to learn to see them through the eyes of God. It has shaped their approach to parenting in a big way, as they continue to discover what it means to be recipients and stewards of the gifts that God has given them—their children.
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Gifts to Treasure
These insights have also shaped the way the Foongs run their ministry, The Treasure Box.
Well-known by many parents in Singapore, The Treasure Box (www.thetreasurebox.sg) aims to build spiritually healthy families and support them in showing God’s love. Among other things, it produces Christian resources such as devotionals, storybooks, and activity kits, and runs workshops for parents as well as children.
Elvin and Esther had set up this ministry in 2018 after they felt called to go into full-time ministry. Esther had spent more than 10 years teaching and working in the Education Ministry, while Elvin had worked in the Defence Ministry and also served full-time as a children’s programmes coordinator in church.
While their previous careers have provided invaluable experience in running their ministry, they also regularly remind themselves not to let their knowledge and experience affect that sense of wonder and amazement that their children have.
“We also try to remind ourselves: How does God see our children? If we can catch a glimpse of how He sees our kids, maybe we can start to understand how our kids see the world,” says Elvin.
Such reflections, he adds, have resulted in three truths that have shaped their views of their roles as parents:
1. Children Matter to God
People were bringing little children to Jesus
for him to place his hands on them,
but the disciples rebuked them.
When Jesus saw this, he was indignant.
He said to them, “Let the little children come to me,
and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God
belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you,
anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God
like a little child will never enter it.”
And he took the children in his arms,
placed his hands on them and blessed them.
This account of Jesus scolding His disciples for trying to fend off the children who came to them is also reported in Matthew 19:13–15 and Luke 18:15–17.
Elvin finds this significant, for it emphasises Jesus’ view of children. “If keeping kids away from Jesus could make Him so upset that He told His disciples off, that tells us how much value they have in God’s kingdom,” he notes.
Parents have an important role to play in bringing their kids to Jesus—through prayer, teaching them the Word of God, and showing them how much He loves them.
That means, he says, that parents have an important role to play in bringing their kids to Jesus—through prayer, teaching them the Word of God, and showing them how much He loves them.
“Jesus says the kingdom of God belongs to them—so they’re an essential part of the body of Christ,” notes Elvin.
This fundamental truth can also shape the way parents see their role in bringing their kids to church. “Do we see our kids as just following us to church? Do we see them as ‘incidental’—you go to Sunday school and don’t disturb us at the main service? Or do we integrate them into the service, and see them as part of church life, as part of what God is doing? How we see them determines how we respond to kids.”
2. Children Are Powerful in the Spirit
LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name
in all the earth! You have set your glory
in the heavens. Through the praise of children
and infants you have established
a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
Over the years, Elvin and Esther have been constantly reminded not to underestimate the “power of children”.
Once, Nathan wanted to share a book that The Treasure Box had produced, Why Is Good Friday Good?—which featured illustrations by him and Phoebe—with his classmates. His parents weren’t too keen on the idea, as he did not go to a Christian school, and they worried that he might offend his classmates or the teacher.
True enough, the teacher spotted him passing a copy to his friend.
“The teacher was a non-Christian,” recalls Elvin. “But she took the book, gathered the class, and got them to read it together! She not only read the entire book, but even asked the class, ‘Which of you are Christians?’ And that’s how Nathan found out there were a number of believers in his class. He ended up giving out 15 books to his friends!”
“If we see them as leaders of tomorrow, we might be dismissing the impact they can make today.”
Another time, they helped Phoebe write her own praise song, and sang it at church camps. To their surprise, older kids came to ask about it. “It was a very kiddy song, with actions, and was meant for preschoolers,” says Elvin. “You would have thought it wouldn’t appeal to older kids. But some Primary 6 kids came up and asked to join in.”
Such incidents remind Elvin and Esther how God can use children to bring Him glory. Psalm 8:1–2, they note, emphasises that God can use children’s and infants’ praise to defeat His enemies—which shows just how much power they have in His Spirit.
“Don’t underestimate them,” says Elvin. “Sometimes, we wait for our children to grow up before telling them to tell others about Jesus. We worry about the sensitivities. But evangelism has no limits: kids are powerful because they don’t see the world through adult lenses. If we say, ‘Wait till you grow up,’ we may be hampering what God can do through them.”
He adds: “If we see them as leaders of tomorrow, we might be dismissing the impact they can make today.”
3. Children Are Not a Liability
Children are a heritage from the Lord,
offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man whose quiver is
full of them. They will not be
put to shame when they contend
with their opponents in court.
The Bible not only describes children as a “blessing”, but also stresses that they even give a parent greater ability, “like arrows in the hands of a warrior”.
Elvin understands this to mean that in God’s eyes, children are not a “liability”, as some parents might be tempted to think. Instead, God sees them as an addition to a parent’s arsenal, for they enable him or her to achieve even more in life. They can give a greater strength of purpose in one’s work and ministry, for example, and shape a parent’s growth in many aspects of life.
Just as an archer needs years of training to handle their bows and arrows correctly, parents need to learn how to point their children at the right target.
“This is so counter-intuitive and counter-cultural,” notes Elvin. “Today, we tend to think that when we have children, our careers will take a backseat. But the Bible actually says a man with children ‘will not be put to shame’.”
This truth is further driven home by the comparison of children to arrows, from which Elvin and Esther have extracted an interesting insight: if children are the arrows, then parents are the archers. And it is the responsibility of the archers to make sure the arrows reach their targets.
“Who needs to be trained—the archers or the arrows?” points out Elvin. “It’s the parents who need training.”
Just as an archer needs years of training to handle their bows and arrows correctly, he adds, parents need to learn how to point their children at the right target. “Is it a target that God intends for them? Or a target that we pick out for them ourselves?” he asks rhetorically. “Do we know how much to pull back and how much to let go?”
With God’s Help
These three insights have helped Elvin and Esther to rethink their roles as parents, and to see that their responsibility is to bring them up in the way that God—and not themselves—intends for them to be raised.
And to do that, they add, parents need to learn to seek God and His will, understand what it means to love their children, and see them in a way that God sees them.
But both emphasise that their aim is not to “guilt-trip” parents into thinking that they have not done enough.
“We have a God who is the creator of our kids. If we have a problem, we go back to the factory—and the manufacturer has a 24/7 helpline that we can rely on!”
“This journey is not intended for us to go through it alone,” says Esther. “We are bound to fail, to give up, to run away. But we can always remember that He who has created our kids will be our source of help and strength, our source of strategies and solutions.”
She adds: “We have a God who is the creator of our kids. If we have a problem, we go back to the factory—and the manufacturer has a 24/7 helpline that we can rely on!”
When they started The Treasure Box, she says, one of their aims was to help family start the habit of regular devotions. But they soon realised that the journey depended more on parents first learning to grow closer to God themselves.
“Don’t feel that you are a lousy parent, that you have no training to do this job of stewarding your kids well,” she says. “God does not look at us that way. We are children of God ourselves, and He wants to love and enable us. Always remember you are a child in Christ first.”
This article was based on a talk, “Through the Eyes of a Child”,
given by Elvin and Esther Foong.
Elvin, Esther, Phoebe, and Nathan