This article was first published in the June 2016 issue of Methodist Message, the official monthly publication of The Methodist Church in Singapore. Used with permission. Source: http://message.methodist.org.sg/
(Above left): Robin and Linda together with their own children and grandchildren. (Above right): Robin and Linda at a recent tea sharing session.
(FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE SOLID ROCK MAGAZINE, 2008)
Of Such Is The Kingdom Of Heaven
It’s August 2008. Robin and Linda Lim, aged 56 and 52 respectively, share their five-room HDB flat with their three natural children and four foster children*: Terence (aged nine), Joshua (26 months old), Moses (20 months old) and Rebecca (15 months old). And there’s Oscar — a Siberian husky who started out as a temporary boarder and somehow ended up becoming part of the family as well. Take a peep into their extraordinarily ordinary lives.
Love Means Choosing To Sacrifice
Over the past five years, nine “special needs” children, ranging from newborns to teenagers, have been a part of the Lims’ family for between four months and five years. And though packed with four cots (one in the living room) and a double-decker bed, the Lims’ home is surprisingly uncluttered. Some of these children, Linda shared, have experienced neglect, abuse or abandonment. The results of such emotional traumas vary from fearfulness and insecurity to an inability to trust people.
Caring for these kids takes a lot of patience and perseverance, which isn’t easy — the younger ones need practically 24-hour care and supervision, and older children may seem depressed, moody or rebellious because they don’t know how else to express their feelings.
The time and effort that Robin and Linda put into caring for their foster children has resulted in several sacrifices. Outings, even short ones, are rare because of the logistics involved in bringing along three toddlers and a nine-year-old — the Lims aren’t comfortable with leaving their charges in the care of babysitters. This means that Robin and Linda have to miss out on most of their family members’ and friends’ gatherings and celebrations. Even family dinners at home require extensive planning, not least because of the wide range of dietary needs and preferences. And since at least one of them has to be at home at all times, they hardly get to spend time alone together.
Despite all this, Linda laughingly insisted that hers and Robin’s stress levels are minimal. In her opinion, being stretched isn’t always negative, and you don’t have to fall apart from being under pressure. To be sure, the journey hasn’t been easy, but Robin asserted that this is because the Lord has called them to minister to these children, and that whoever God calls, He also equips. “God is holding everything together,” he shared. “He graces us to carry out these tasks.
Over time, we’ve learnt to rely on His strength, and to ask Him for wisdom and discretion.” And it certainly helps that the Lims’ natural children are supportive of what their parents do. One big reason is the age difference. Audrey is 26, Angeline is 25 and Alex is 21, so there aren’t competing needs. And while they aren’t really involved in their foster siblings’ day-to-day care, they do spend time playing and bonding with them. Audrey, a flight stewardess, frequently brings gifts for them from her trips abroad.
“Here Am I, Lord”
The Lims’ labour of love began in 2003, when they read a newspaper article on the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports’ (MCYS) annual Family Day for those involved in its Fostering Scheme. In particular, an interview with a foster parent caught their attention.
As Robin remembers, “After reading that article, my wife and I both felt that we could do something to help these kids. So we prayed about it, and as we felt peace in our hearts, we called the hotline. After that, we just left it to God and His favour. We knew that if it was meant for us, the whole process (the background checks and approval processes take about six months) would happen smoothly.”
The application was approved, and soon Robin and Linda had charge of a 14-year-old boy. Being a teenager, he was more or less able to take care of himself, and the Lims’ contribution to his well-being was mainly to provide him with shelter and some counselling.
That and subsequent cases went so well that MCYS began entrusting them with more children, which did not take the Lims by surprise. The way they see it, God had already started preparing them for this ministry a long time ago. Linda had been interested in counselling and involved in community service and volunteer work in her youth. Robin had always loved children, and from his adolescence, he had carried in his heart a desire to be used by God.
Today, the Lims’ passion and dedication are and have been evident in the way they welcome each new foster child with open arms. They do this despite the fact that there is a practical side to their decision-making process — and they are extra-cautious about taking in handicapped children. As far as Robin and Linda are concerned, each child deserves the best possible care and if they feel that they do not have the training or the ability to handle a particular case, they will voice their concerns.
At the end of the day, however, the couple believes that divine favour is instrumental in the opening or closing of opportunities and that an open door is a go-ahead from Him. Said Linda, “God has His reasons for letting each particular child come to us, so we never say ‘no’ to any of them.”
Seedtime And Harvest
In January 2005, Robin quit his job as an associate director in a real estate company and launched Coach, Shuttle & Tour Planners (CST), a tour organising company. Working from home, he would be the main caregiver to their foster children, who now included a baby. Initially, MCYS expressed concern about this arrangement, but Linda’s confidence in his abilities and the fact that he had had extensive experience in bringing up their own children won out.
Some months later, as the number of babies entrusted to them increased, Linda left her job as a sales manager in an established tour company to help run CST and chip in with the children. The move took faith, but the Lims believed that the miracles and divine favour that had birthed CST were proof that God was in their midst. As long as they continued seeing the children as His ministry, the rewards would surely outweigh the costs.
Time has proven God faithful. Today, the Lims are the exception among MCYS’ volunteers, having charge of four children even though the usual limit is three. And the Lord has been faithful to their trust that He would not deprive them of “a strong source of income to make sure the children had quality care” — in four years of business, not once have they lost money. They’ve never even needed to incur advertising costs!
CST’s success is God-sent, because while foster parents are given a monthly allowance of about $650 to $700 per child (with a separate allowance for education costs), that amount doesn’t fully cover what the Lims spend on each child, as well as their round-the-clock labour costs. “It can be quite physically tiring,” said Robin. “But because we see it as God’s ministry, the rewards outweigh the costs.” Linda added emphatically, “God has a heart for children. He will ensure that our provision is more than adequate!” Both Robin and Linda also find joy in seeing their young charges responding to their love and improving and developing under their care. “They start returning our love for them in their own small ways — sometimes they will hug or kiss us, just hold on to our legs,” Linda shared.
With Signs And Wonders Following
There is one story that the Lims never tire of telling — Joshua’s. He is their miracle child. Joshua was about 13 months old when he first came to Robin and Linda, deaf in his left ear and unable to sit or even raise his head because his spine was so malformed. He was also unresponsive to stimuli and would stare blankly even when being patted. Specialists from KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital and MCYS officers thought that the best place for Joshua was a special school for handicapped children, but the Lims disagreed.
Robin said, “We told the board, ‘We don’t believe he cannot be healed. We have faith that in our care, he can turn around. God can heal him.’” Linda added, “I kept saying, ‘Don’t worry. We’ve prayed over him. God will definitely do something!’” Refusing to give in to the bad reports, Robin and Linda went ahead to give Joshua the same love and care they gave all their foster children, complete with nightly prayers for supernatural healing.
And God intervened in a mighty way. Linda’s excitement was tangible as she recalled, “Then the miracles started. His left ear opened! And now he can not only sit, walk and talk — he’s running around, and he tells me, ‘Mama, I love you.’” Robin and Linda have also taught Joshua to pray, and as Linda shared with affectionate pride, he’s now a regular prayer warrior.
“Sometimes when he falls down, or when one of the other children is not feeling well, he will lay hands and say, ‘Amen! Amen! Be healed!’” And believe it or not, the miracles happened in less than a year — for which Robin and Linda gladly give all glory to God. These days, Joshua also enjoys attending Rock Kidz whenever the Lims bring him to church.
Learning To Let Go And Let God
The secret to their success, Robin shared, is in learning to flow in God’s gifts and callings, and resting in Him. He and Linda are convinced that trying to do things that they are not called or gifted to do will result in disappointment, if not failure. They have learnt that making use of the talents that He has given them brings the greatest rewards when it’s done with the intent to glorify Him.
The Lims are quick to confirm that God’s hand of favour is also evident upon their natural children. Robin laughed as he shared about how Audrey, Angeline and Alex had all experienced problems in their studies before, but are now doing very well by the grace of God. Alex had quit school when he was only in Secondary 3 and “freaked out” both his parents. But after the initial shock had worn off, the matter was placed in the Lord’s hands, aside from further discussion.
Today, he is working in a bank and earning a salary that’s more than comfortable. The Lims take a similar approach when their foster children return to their natural families or are adopted by other families. Although it’s hard to let go, especially after they have spent so much time together, they’re comforted by the knowledge that God is in the picture and that He has a special purpose for each child.
Said Robin, “God first planted His unconditional love in us, so we are just the instruments of His plan — our part is just to give that love away.” The initial pain of separation is tempered by the knowledge that “their” children have found a permanent home, and that they have played an important role in each young life.
“Our part is to love, care for and provide for them while they are with us. One must have faith that God is taking care of everything,” Linda said earnestly. “To me, the most important thing is that the new family must love the child, and be committed to loving him or her.”
It’s uncertain if there will be changes in the future — partly because of the publicity they’ve enjoyed, the Lims have been asked by various individuals and organisations to help start orphanages or expand the scope of their work. But until God gives them clear direction, they will keep on taking in the children that MCYS sends their way.
And it doesn’t matter whether they remain in the limelight because they see it as their ministry, Robin said. “Pastor Prince has taught us to let go and let God — which doesn’t mean sitting around and doing nothing! It’s about being practical while awaiting direction. We’ll just keep faithfully doing what we’re called to do. It may be mundane, but we know that we’re impacting lives. There’s no need to go out and try to change the world. God knows how to place His people and He knows when we’ll be ready for larger things. When He tells us to move, we’ll answer His call.”
After pausing to share a smile with Linda, who had been bouncing Rebecca on her lap for this last part of the interview, Robin continued, “We have to take the right place and perspective, and not be misled into taking the credit or setting our own pace! It’s His ministry and even though we believe that God is planning greater things, why should we be in a hurry?”
The Lims believe that fostering, when carried out by passionate, faith-filled believers, can be powerful, and they hope to see more like-minded couples embarking on similar journeys. As they jointly put it: “Imagine the impact of praying foster parents — praying foster parents who are sold out on God’s grace!”  *Names have been changed to protect the children’s privacy.