Dorothy Wong

A Simple Faith, a Faithful Follower and a Remarkable Helpmate

Produced by Our Stories, His Glory Team


Reading Progress:

Dorothy Wong is best identified as Mrs Wong Tien Poh, Wesley Methodist Church’s unofficial “bishop”. Yet she is very much a woman in her own right. As an active volunteer for almost 45 years at Wesley, she has taught the Kinders class at Children’s Ministry (CM),  befriended seniors in the various arms of the church’s Christian Outreach and Social Concerns (COSC) ministry, blessed others with music in the Endless Praise ministry, as well as put her administrative talents and her love of music and people to work. This, coupled with her personableness, sincerity and frankness, helped her stay her ground and bring happiness to whoever she served. Her co-labourers jointly say this of Dorothy: “She has an indomitable spirit, she’s sensitive to the needs of those around her, and we know we can rely on her totally to get the job done, promptly and with gusto!” Her very long years of service in the different ministries, including helping to prepare the communion elements (pre-Covid) for over 30 years, is testament to God’s presence in her life and her steadfastness to do His will in her life and in the lives of others.

For someone who has served so faithfully for more than 45 years at Wesley Methodist Church, Dorothy Wong’s journey of faith started at Novena Catholic Church at Thomson Road. She said: “I remember my Primary Six teacher at Balestier Primary School bringing us there to pray for good results. Eventually together with half of my classmates, we did well enough to make it to Raffles Girls’ Secondary School. I credited this to our prayers at Novena, and with our teacher’s encouragement, got baptised.” 

Dorothy has lived all her life in Singapore, having been born and bred here. She is the oldest of three girls, with one sister a devout Catholic, and the other, an Anglican. Her growing up years were carefree, with no demand from parents to excel in studies as long as she promised to do her best. She played with neighbours daily with simple homemade toys. “Don’t even think the word ‘worry’ existed in my mind,” she quipped.

When Dorothy finished school, she joined the workforce, first at Teachers’ Training College (TTC) as a junior administrative assistant. She then moved to the Ministry of Health as one of two Personal Administrative Assistants to Dr D I Pakshong, the then Senior Health Officer, Maternal and Child Health Services, Family Planning Association1, first at Outram and later at Gilstead Road. After this, she moved to the Civil Aviation Authority2 at Seletar Airport. In addition to administrative work, Dorothy also helped prepare budgets there. She retired as Executive Management Support Officer.

In the 1960s she met her husband Wong Tien Poh, then a timber grader, and started going out with him, always in a group. They attended Singapore’s first National Day parade in 1965. Dorothy found him the most suitable among all her male friends and liked him for his dependability. Her father liked Tien Poh too.

Dorothy said: “I always fancied a church wedding. As it turned out, I was delighted that we got married at Trinity Theological College (TTC) at Mount Sophia Road on 9 August 1966, the first anniversary of Singapore’s independence! Our wedding was officiated by Rev Dr Olin Stockwell, TTC’s Principal, and his wife, Esther, played the organ in accompaniment.  And, every year after our wedding, Tien Poh would take me out to a hotel or restaurant to celebrate our anniversary as the nation celebrated its National Day!”

Wedding of Dorothy and Tien Poh

Tien Poh writes of the wedding in this way {see Our Stories, His Glory, Volume 1, pg. 215}:

“In those days, the Chapel was just one of the classrooms in the college. It could seat 80 to 100 people at the most. I remember that about 80 people attended the wedding. We held a small wedding dinner for our relatives and close friends. The political situation was tense then because the country was newly independent. After the dinner, we rushed home. We did not want to linger anywhere because the streets were quite deserted.”

Dorothy remembers: “Tien Poh’s side of the family turned up at our wedding in full force, so much so that some had to stand outside the chapel, while there weren’t many relatives from my side as they were mostly non-believers. Our wedding dinner was over by about 9pm and we all beat a fast retreat home on account of the race riots. No one wanted to be out and about by then!”

Children’s Ministry (CM):Dorothy’s love of children extended beyond her own. She said: “I had to accompany my son, Choong-Liong, then just five years old, to Sunday School (SS) as he was really ‘sticky’ then. Lucy Ang, one of the Sunday School teachers teased me about this and suggested that I might as well join as a Sunday School teacher in the Children’s Ministry (CM). I accepted this challenge, and that’s how I started with teaching the Kinders level and stayed on for 45 years! I stayed on at this level, because “I love children a great deal—they are innocent, not shy, they hug you very easily, are expressive, they will tell you stories about what happened at home—some parents are embarrassed when their children do this!”

Today Dorothy remains fast friends with co-volunteers at CM, stalwarts like Rosie Tan, Julia Tham, Jackie Lynn, Lucy Ang, Doris Phua, etc. all of whom have served together for decades.  These fast friends still meet up for get-togethers all these years. Often, Dorothy runs into people on the street who remind her that she had taught them in SS years ago—this to her is her ‘reward’.

Of Dorothy, her friends and co-workers in ministry have much to say.

Once the Sunday School Superintendent who has served in the ministry for close to 40 years, Lucy Ang, shared:

“Dorothy was always ready and willing to help when called upon. She never said no. When there were things to be done, she was always actively involved. She’s the most trustworthy teacher, and I really valued her support especially when I was Superintendent.”

Mrs Glacy Tan, the then team leader, who has known Dorothy for 20 years, describes her thus:

“Aunty Dot was a committed teacher who always turned up faithfully every Sunday for her class. She worked well with her co-workers and was well loved by both teachers and students. She was also a very responsible Treasurer. She was in charge of the offering bags and she took her appointment seriously. Every week, the offering bags were collected and returned with detailed accounts. At CM meetings, Aunty Dot always spoke her mind. Her suggestions and feedback were invaluable to the smooth running of the CM.

“In CM, respect and love are earned. Her many years of faithful service are commendable. Aunty Dot may be strict in her ways, but her intentions are always for the good of the CM. I appreciate her as a person whom we can depend and rely on. When Aunty Dot agrees to a job, I know it will be well done.”

Dorothy and her team in CM

Doris Phua, herself a teacher in CM for close to 26 years and still teaching there, remarked: 

“She was in CM when I joined, so I’ve known her for around 26 years. She is very faithful in service and serves where she can. Apart from CM where she came to every single week for decades, she also helped to prepare the communion elements. I believe she was also active in other ministries.

“She is very genuine and shares her life and experiences openly. It is easy to relate to her. She is expressive and will thank others for their help and show her appreciation of them.

“She is a dependable and a very capable co-worker. I remember her also as a sincere friend.”

Dorothy is not one to talk about where and how she has served. Instead, it has been through the many affirmations and accolades from sisters-in-Christ, fellow volunteers, friends and church staff that we have a clear and beautiful appreciation of where her heart lies, and where her love and faithfulness to the Lord have been channelled to make a difference in the lives of many.

Not only does Dorothy love children, it is evident from her long and dedicated service to Wesley’s outreach ministry in the Jalan Berseh area, as well as with the Glowing Years Ministry, that tells us of her deep love for disadvantaged elderly in the community, and the seniors at Wesley Methodist Church.

Dorothy with elderly clients
Dorothy with elderly clients

The Wesley Seniors Activity Centre (WSAC) comes under the Christian Outreach and Social Concerns (COSC) ministry of the Church. Dorothy has served in this ministry that reaches out to the elderly living in the Jalan Berseh area for close to 10 years.

Ms Kwok Sian Yee, the Administrative Team Member of COSC, enthusiastically talks about Dorothy: “Dorothy is a doer. She hates to be idle and does not ‘join’ a ministry to be part of a crowd. She will ask for specific duties and is exemplary when it comes to punctuality. If she knows there are sufficient helpers, she will bow out but is always ready to step in when she has the time.

“Because I have had the privilege to serve with Dorothy over the years, I am certainly inspired by her and encouraged to use my own time to serve as well. So she is a fantastic role-model and together with several other senior persons at Wesley MC and COSC ministries, I do believe my actions and choices have been shaped by Dorothy and those in her generation. Dorothy is faithful to service as she is honest with her words. She calls a spade a spade, but she will try her best to use words that are honest but not hurtful.

“The beneficiaries we serve often ask why Dorothy visits so faithfully—clearly it’s evident to others that she’s been so steadfast in her duties!”

Dorothy had been diligently visiting the elderly residents of Block 25 once a week, starting from the 16th floor down, with her COSC partner and co-volunteer Ng Poh Gee. She helps them with applying for financial assistance, reminds them of their medical appointments, helps them to book taxis and invites them to join COSC activities at the void deck, which include exercises and karaoke. 

Dorothy says: “I feel blessed in being able to help these seniors. And, as I love music and singing too, karaoke is also right up my street. Occasionally, we accompany the seniors on excursions to different Singapore attractions, like Gardens by the Bay, Bird Park, Zoo and to the cinema too to catch a movie. And the bonus is, I really enjoy their company too!”

Indeed, Dorothy sings very well too. She was part of Endless Praise3 , a ministry started and led by the late Jusuf Kam, Wesley’s Pastoral Team Member for Worship and Music, where members learnt to sing in Mandarin and dialect. Another long-time church friend Tang Lee Lee said: “I discovered Dorothy sings beautifully. As part of the Endless Praise ministry, we would bless the residents in their homes or in hospitals. But although Dorothy is more than capable to do so, she would never sing solo as she is too humble and shy to do so!”

Endless Praise giving a performance

The Wesley Seniors Fellowship (WSF) was one ministry which Dorothy was also drawn to. In 2018, it was renamed the Wesley Glowing Years Ministry or WesleyGYM for short. Today it has about 200 members, who participate in one or more of its nine sub-ministries that include ukulele playing, craft-making, visitations, bereavements, harmonica playing, “Walk4Health” outings, Bible study, missions and its always popular monthly Happy Hour.

Through GYM, seniors are brought together in friendship, fellowship and to be channels of love and blessings to the community.

Dorothy served on WesleyGYM as Committee member and used her administrative experience to good order through taking meeting minutes and ordering food for the meetings. She confesses: “I actually prefer ad-hoc work, rather than being a committee member. But, I’m always ready to help out when needed.”

Lee Lee, who is still serving in the ministry adds: “Doing the right thing is very important to Dorothy. On one hand, while Dorothy always ensures that WesleyGYM Happy Hour attendees have their refreshments, she’s also very strict in ensuring that no one ‘tar pau’ (Cantonese for take away) extra food to take home, as it’s usually reserved for the service staff. Only Dorothy has been brave enough to enforce this unwritten rule! But of course, there’s also the softer side of Dorothy. She hand-writes greeting cards to friends and shut-ins, and always reciprocates with a gift to those who’ve assisted her.”

Her late husband Wong Tien Poh was Dorothy’s biggest and most inspiring role model. During their early courtship days 60-odd years ago, Dorothy looked at Tien Poh as a “churchy man”. Later, when she married him, she saw how committed he was in serving the church. She said of him: “He would serve anytime, anywhere and anyone. Even when critics slammed him for decisions he went by and carried out, he would still forge ahead and not mind the criticisms.”

When Dorothy told him he should rebut and put down his critics, Tien Poh would tell her to let them be.

Dorothy added: “Tien Poh taught me to live and let live, and not assert my rights, or give the naysayers a piece of my mind. I began to observe how Tien Poh used this strategy with great skill and was never fazed by things that I considered were unfair to him. I learnt to become calmer when facing challenges and never sought to retaliate.

“Tien Poh served sacrificially, and without counting the cost. He focused on pleasing God, not man, and was a shining testimony of what it meant to walk the talk. Every year, he never failed to be present as an usher at our Watchnight Service on 31 December, as it was always hectic. However, this also clashed with my father’s birthday that fell on the same day—while my father never took Tien Poh’s absence to heart, some family members did. In the end, my father asked Tien Poh to pray for him in his last days, and even asked him to organise his funeral.

“In the years when our children were all grown up, I used to get upset that I cried to the Lord for help as I was left alone at home, an empty nest, as Tien Poh faithfully helped the church with visitations and attended wakes, regardless of whether he knew the deceased or not. One day, the Lord impressed on my heart: ‘Why don’t you accompany him?’ My eyes were open when I did. I saw first-hand a lady with tears flowing down her face come up to Tien Poh to say: ‘Thank you, Mr Wong, for coming and showing support from Wesley. I am the only Christian in my family, all of whom have been unkind and unaccepting of my faith. I am very grateful.’

“It was only then I understood the depth of service and comfort that my husband provided to hurting people. That night I prayed to the Lord for forgiveness, with much guilt and embarrassment. After that I joined Tien Poh in his wake visits and have never looked back.”

Dorothy is still awed by the many pies Tien Poh had his fingers in, and the many roles he played in his almost 60 years of ministry: communion steward, Head usher, LCEC member, Lay Leader, etc., his official duties as well as the unofficial ones like greeter, church representative at wakes and funerals and on CARIM (Confirmation and Reception into Membership) Sundays.

Tien Poh at Wesley Methodist Church where he served for more than 50 years. He passed on in 2016

On her own journey of faith, Dorothy shares: “My journey of faith would also not have been possible without the encouragement and support of brothers and sisters-in-Christ who were dear friends, and my fellow sojourners. They encouraged and spurred me on to serve. They included Mrs Ee Chin Kwok and dear friends of 50 years, GD Balakrishnan and his wife Helen who extended their hospitality to both Tien Poh and I.”

Mrs Ee Chin Kwok4 had approached Dorothy in the 1980s, when she was still actively employed in the workforce. Mrs Ee was serving then with the Wesley Financial Assistance ministry of COSC: “Mrs Ee asked me if I could help deliver the monthly allowance to a Mr Neo, someone who had been cured of leprosy. I literally froze, and I would be lying to say that I was not frightened. But how could I decline? By then Tien Poh was an elder in the church and had been serving faithfully. How could I not serve, and serve with any less fervour?

“I met Mr Neo once a month at first, and after that, I visited every week. He became a personal friend, and upon his request, I gifted him with a radio and portable TV set. When he passed on some time later, I went to his wake to present a monetary gift from the church and myself, and there, his sister remarked: ‘Your church is really caring. My brother has had no visitors except Mrs Ee and yourself. Please thank your church on behalf of my family.’ That really touched me immensely.”

Of her dear friends, the Balakrishnans, Dorothy shared: “We were frequent guests at their home. They inspired us as they were a very loving couple who stood by each other in their love in spite of objections to their inter-racial marriage from their respective families. They showed us what loyal friends were like. There was an occasion when my son had a major lung operation. The Balas visited often and Helen would stay [and] keep me company the entire day as I monitored my son’s progress by his bedside.”

⁠⁠Dorothy and Tien Poh with the Balas and the Chens

Of the pastors, co-workers and church staff with whom she interacted and served with, Dorothy recounts: “In the days when Rev Dr Isaac Lim was serving Wesley and my late husband was serving closely with him in various ministries, he taught me how to focus my life on how the Lord wanted me to live like Him. In a marriage counselling camp in Malaysia, he advised us couples on how a spouse should learn how to see the faults in oneself and try to improve on those before trying to harp on the mistakes of the partner. This will lead to stronger marriages. Personally, I have witnessed his deep concern for the members of Wesley. No matter how late it was, if he was informed that a member was critically ill, he would stop by the hospital to pray for that person. The most sterling example he showed me was his very strong conviction that Christ was there for him as he had given his life to serve Him. Never once had he shown that there was space to doubt God’s love. It was Rev Dr Isaac Lim who conducted Tien Poh’s funeral.

⁠⁠Dorothy and Tien Poh with the Balas, and Isaac and Shirley Lim

There were others who travelled the faith journey with Dorothy too.

“Rev Philip Lim was always ready to pray with and listen to me. I also very much admired Shirley Koo, who chaired WesleyGYM for many years till she stepped down recently, for her love of the elderly. I also got to know and appreciate Jusuf Kam, whom Tien Poh was very close to. While Jusuf planned the weekly liturgy for Sunday services, Tien Poh, as head usher, would work closely with him drawing up the usher and communion steward rosters, including finding replacements for last-minute pull-outs.”

Jusuf at choir practice

The one person whom Dorothy greatly admires is Kwok Sian Yee. “I have been very much inspired by Sian Yee. She has influenced me immensely in my Christian walk and service. As a volunteer befriender at Jalan Berseh, I saw first-hand her great empathy, love and concern for the seniors. She was a very capable leader and ran the WSAC5 very efficiently. She was always ready to hold our hands and guide us along, though strict in how we should carry out our work as volunteers, including understanding our limitations and not to overstep our boundaries. Every few months, she also took the trouble to update us on the cases we were caring for.”

Dorothy’s favourite Scripture verses are found in Psalm 16. These verses have touched and inspired her intensely till today. “There was an occasion when I was feeling very down because my father, who was the best father one could ever ask for, was stricken with advanced stage lung cancer. I was so downcast at the thought of losing him. As a young Christian then and in my untold pain, I turned to the Bible and it opened up at Psalm 16. After reading it, I was really comforted knowing that though my earthly father will inevitably leave me, my Heavenly Father will not. He will always be by my side to give me the assurance of His comfort, peace, strength and most important of all, His everlasting love which will see me through the ups and downs of my life. Verse 11 told me: ‘You show me the path of life; In your presence there is fullness of joy; In your right hand are pleasures forevermore (NKJV)’.” 

Keeping her eyes focussed on Jesus, it is not surprising then, that Dorothy’s favourite hymn is O Love, That Will Not Let Me Go, believing that Jesus has been and will always be there for her, never letting her go through the ups and downs of life. Dorothy’s favourite author is Bishop Emeritus Dr Robert Solomon. She says of his works: “I can relate well to what he writes, as he talks about subjects applicable to daily living, articulated in an easy writing style which is easy to read and comprehend.”

For preachers, Dorothy is especially drawn to those who boldly preach profound messages and are inspiring and edifying to complement her simple faith. After she was persuaded by Tien Poh to step into Wesley Methodist Church, Dorothy confesses that “many sermons have impacted and influenced her, helping her to become a Methodist.

Looking forward, Dorothy is determined that she would carry on serving as best as she can physically. “I’d like to also continue my own personal ministry of writing cards to shut-ins who, through the years, have become friends. I’d also like to keep up with participating in the events for seniors at Church, connecting with friends and making new ones. For my family, including my grandchildren, I hope that how I have lived my life will be an example of my Christian faith, and that through this, they may be influenced and encouraged to love the Lord as much as I, as their grandfather did, and by our example, to have them serve the Lord in any way they are able to through their young years, all the way to adulthood.”

May our good Lord grant Dorothy this fond prayer and be with her as she continues to serve her best in this season of her life.

Dorothy and granddaughters Nadine(left) and Annette at celebration of Tien Poh’s 84th birthday just before his demise

End notes:

1 The Family Planning Association operated until 1966 when the government took over the responsibility of providing family-related services to the people with the establishment of the Singapore Family Planning and Population Board

2 This was renamed Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore in 1984

3 Endless Praise is a singing group whose aim is to share the message of God’s love to non-English speaking audiences through dialect and Mandarin songs. They reach out to non-Christians outside of the Wesley church environment.

4 Read Mrs Ee’s story in Our Stories, His Glory, Volume 1, pp. 147-154

5 Wesley Seniors Activity Centre (WSAC) was renamed Wesley Active Ageing Centre (WAAC) in 2023, an initiative by MOH to align all centres providing spaces for seniors 60 and above to age in place (this latter phrase means to keep the elderly living in their familiar space as independently as possible)

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