Starting a Home that Champions Women and Life
Jennifer Heng gives insight on her life’s work of building a safe place for those in need
Tell us a little more about your story and how you became an advocate for women and children.
My journey started from my own experience as a young person facing challenges with relationships with my family, and with the opposite sex. I was very broken, seeking love and acceptance. These are not uncommon struggles, I know, but the decisions I made were rather self-destructive. The turning point came when I became pregnant at age 17 and then again at 19 – I decided to abort both times. I felt that made me a bad person and therefore there wasn’t a need for me to live well after that – I just didn’t care.
It wasn’t until I was in my mid-20’s, when I attended Discipleship Training School with Youth With A Mission, that I experienced the love and forgiveness of God in a very real way. That was my turning point. I had thought I was condemned, but now I realized I didn’t have to live in condemnation. God had set me free. Grace is not cheap, but I realized that I had been forgiven. My sin was so great, and I had felt that no one could possibly forgive me, but God’s mercy changed my life.
Before this experience, I had been a Christian in name for 10 years, but my faith wasn’t that deep. After my experience at DTS, I began to ask myself questions like, “How do I help others?”
“I learned that abortion was not just an unwed mother issue, nor only a teenage issue. In Singapore, it affected mostly married women, and women across all ages – the ministry was needed for women everywhere.”
I had the privilege of experiencing healing from God. I wanted to tell people of the hope and support they can get, that they don’t have to go through things by themselves. It clarified that I wanted to be an advocate for women, for children, and for life.
So you had the burden and desire – how did you actually get started with your ministry?
Since 2002, I had a burden to do something to help unsupported pregnant women, but I didn’t know what to do. I heard the Lord tell me, “Start a home for unwed moms.”
I had no clue how to do this, but that was the first thing I heard. I was working as a pastor during that time. I read books on abortion, wanting to find if there were other ministries dealing with this issue in Singapore.
In 2012, I published my book, “Walking Out of Secret Shame” – this told my own story. I was surprised by how people responded to my story. A lot of people said they could relate, not just with my abortion, but they could relate with other aspects of my story.
The greater thing was that people were surprised that there is this relatively young Singaporean woman, who is a pastor, confessing she had had abortions in the past. It was very unusual. People started to notice the story. I was interviewed in newspapers, on TV, there was a lot of interest.
I came to be connected with other people who were passionate about the same issues as I was. This reminded me of my desire back in 2002 for setting up a home for unwed moms. I knew I needed to be serious in obeying what the Lord said to me.
I learned that abortion was not just an unwed mother issue, nor only a teenage issue. In Singapore, it affected mostly married women, and women across all ages – the ministry was needed for women everywhere.
During that time, I was pastoring a new church plant and experienced chronic burnout and depression – I wanted to step down from my role as a pastor. I felt that my life was ruined and I was a failure – I wasn’t able to do anything and my dreams had died.
It was during this darkest period of my life that Dayspring New Life Centre was born. Many people believed in the vision and helped flesh it out. We opened in 2014, and it was amazing. I was the founder, but I didn’t do much because I was deeply depressed at that time.
This is a highlight of my life because I know that it wasn’t done in my own strength. Physically I was really unable to continue, but God was the one who made it happen. It’s really important that this was God’s work – with or without me. He did it because He loves the people in need. It used to be so easy for me to take credit for my accomplishments, but now I can’t. I know it wasn’t me.
And did this lead to the founding of Safe Place?
Two years after we started Dayspring New Life Centre, we wound it up. It was very painful, but it could not continue because there were challenges that affected the core mission of the work. Again, I came back to square one, asking myself and God, “What next?” I told the Lord, “If You still want me to continue with this work, You’ll have to connect me with the right people.”
Three months later, He connected me with a father’s movement, and a place called Lakeside Family Services. They really believed in the vision and asked me, “What can we do to support you?” After a few months of negotiations, we came to an agreement and started Safe Place.
Safe Place has the same mission as Dayspring New Life Centre, just under a different name. This was started in February 2018. Since then, we have helped more than 126 women and families.
“I hope to see more champions for the culture of life. I want more people to speak up and who will do the work – people who walk the talk.”
I thought I’d already tried and failed in my work, so it would never happen again. But the Lord said, “No, you have to keep doing this.” I know it’s His heart because He loves the people and wants them to get help – families, women, and children. It’s been going very well. I’m so blessed, and the work is so amazing.
What do you hope to achieve in the next 5 years?
I hope that there will be more people who celebrate children as a blessing rather than a burden. That’s something which I’m working towards in whatever I do – celebrating children. I don’t think it’s fully achievable in 5 years, but in 5 years we can see a lot happen.
I also hope to see more champions for the culture of life.I want more people to speak up and who will do the work – more people who walk the talk. Then instead of one voice, there will be many voices speaking for life everywhere.
When Jennifer Heng became pregnant as a teenager, she experienced the fear, loneliness and desperation of having what was called a “crisis pregnancy”. She walked in the painful consequences of her choices for many years, but found hope and healing much later in her life through her faith, family and loved ones.
She is now the Director of Safe Place in Singapore, aimed at empowering women and families with unsupported pregnancies to make life-giving choices.
This article has been adapted from the publication Champions (Vol. III). Come back next week for part two of our conversation.