Frances Lim

Do All The Good You Can

Produced by Our Stories, His Glory Team


Reading Progress:

The life of Frances Ann Lines-Lim bears testimony to the words often attributed to John Wesley: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can”. These words have been borne out in her ministry in and out of church over the last 40 years or so. Frances’ faith has grown through the various avenues which God has brought her to serve in—whether as a leader in the Small Group Ministry for decades, or beyond church in Singapore and in other parts of the world where she has brought joy through missions trips. Of serving the church and the community, Frances said: “I have a heart for kids and for people who just don’t seem to have all the blessings I have. God has been so good to me and I want to express my gratitude by giving back. I’ve found that one doesn’t have to look for things to do. The Lord brings them to you!”

Born in 1956, the eldest of three children, Frances grew up in the southwestern English city of Bristol, which was where founder of Methodism John Wesley had spent a lot of time ministering to the surrounding villages in the 18th century. So much so that many who grew up there believed that John Wesley belonged to the Bristolians!

It is also no surprise that Frances felt that she was very much surrounded by heroes of faith, as Bristol was home to the George Muller Orphanages, named after the evangelist-missionary who offered Christian education to orphans; as well as the John Wesley New Room, the oldest Methodist building in the world.

Frances was born a year after her parents got married. Her mother Esther Kessler was Swiss-born, and her father Robert Lines had served at the front lines in Italy with the British army during World War II.  One Christmas Eve, Esther brought the children to the local Methodist Church in Filton, Bristol. Here, sitting at the back row in a very packed church, Frances’ mother decided to follow Christ Jesus. From then on, Esther became a very active and faithful church member. All three children attended Sunday School regularly too.

Frances recalls: “My very earliest memories of my mother were that she was a very caring person, well-loved by all in the community. She really is my role model. She helped tend neighbours’ gardens and shopped for their groceries, looked after the children in the church creche and even helped a wheelchair-bound man to church. Although she spoke English with a slight German accent, this never deterred her.

Life was stable and secure for Frances as she grew up. She was part of the Sunday School youth group, and given this involvement, there did not seem to be a need to acknowledge oneself as a Christian. Just belonging to this group was enough for a person to be called a Christian.

Frances(right) with a friend outside St Andrews Methodist Church, Filton, Bristol (circa 1973)

From an early age, Frances knew that God hears and answers the prayers of children and young Christians to encourage their faith. As a child, she prayed for Sammy, a little turquoise blue budgerigar, or “budgie”, a small parakeet bird. Sammy would fly out an open window during the summers, and Frances would pray fervently, promising God all kinds of things if Sammy would come back. And he did, every time, before he eventually died at age 15.

By the time she was 18, Frances was confronted with a question from her pastor at the Evangelical Free Church (EFC) which she was attending in Alton, Hampshire. “Are you ready to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour?” Frances struggled with her response. But she knew then that she needed to make the decision herself and needed to invite Jesus into her life.

She remembered praying that if Jesus were real in her life, she would hear His voice. She never quite heard His voice, but the Holy Spirit was clearly at work as her life panned out. The pastor of EFC gave her these verses: “Remember these, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I have formed you, you are My servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me. I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions. And like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.” (Isaiah 44: 21-22, NKJV)

Frances felt the sense of returning to God referenced in these verses, and decided to invite Jesus into her life. With this decision, her heart was settled spiritually. She had also set her heart on training as a nurse.

She was in fact in Alton working as a junior housemother at the Florence Treloar College, a boarding school for handicapped children, while waiting to apply for a nursing course.

Frances(seated in middle) with her charges from the Florence Treloar Boarding School for Disabled Girls (circa 1976)

Soon after, Frances applied to train at Oxford, where she was accepted in May 1976. She chose Oxford because that was where her mother’s sister Johanna had trained before becoming a missionary. After nine months at the boarding school, she was now ready for the next chapter of her life.

Oxford was much larger than Alton and presented difficulties to Frances. Her search for a church much like the one she left in Alton saw her church-hopping. She promptly joined a nurses’ Christian fellowship.

One night in April 1977, a church meeting she was supposed to attend was cancelled. So she and her friends opted to watch a movie. Ben-Hur was playing.

Up to the time she left Bristol, Frances had never met a Chinese person. Here in Oxford, she had befriended two fellow nurses, both Chinese—one from Sarawak and the other from Ipoh. These two girls had very kindly invited her to the Overseas Chinese Christian Fellowship (OCCF) meetings.

During the movie intermission, Frances spotted a Chinese boy seated behind her. She felt strongly prompted by the Holy Spirit to approach him, although it was very unusual in those days to approach a Chinese person of the opposite gender. With her heart pounding, she approached him, sensing his aloneness, and asked if he had heard of the OCCF. Though startled, he replied he did. They struck up an easy conversation, as they found they had mutual friends in the OCCF.

As they left the cinema after the movie, it was discovered that one of their bike lights was missing! The boy whom Frances had just met, Chuan Poh, immediately offered to loan his light, and they all walked across the road to his Balliol college accommodation. Again, God intervened as it fell on her to return the light the next evening.

Friendship grew, and soon Chuan Poh and Frances were seeing each other regularly. Chuan Poh left Oxford in 1978 to return to Singapore to start serving his eight-year government bond, while Frances completed her nursing training. In 1979 Chuan Poh came back for his bride! Chuan Poh’s parents made their first and only trip to England to attend the wedding. Frances remembers how very surprised the elder Mr Lim was to see Caucasian men digging roads and doing other menial tasks.

Frances was not quite 23 when she got married. This was another unusual thing to do then—marry before either of them had embarked on their careers. So was marrying outside race and nationality! Looking back, Frances related to the saying “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread”. But at that time, she remembered being very excited and blissfully oblivious to potential hazards. But God was with her and protected her all the way!

Frances received conflicting advice from well-wishers about marrying a Chinese. One patient went so far as to cite the experience of her own marriage to a Chinese, claiming that she still walked a few steps behind her Chinese husband! Her parents were more understanding as theirs was also a mixed, cross-cultural marriage.

The newly-weds returned to Singapore in 1979. At that time, Chuan Poh had recently come to faith at the Billy Graham crusades in 1978. Both he and Frances were baptised together in the sea by the small EFC they started attending.

While waiting for her nursing registration to be approved, Frances chanced upon an article about a Vietnamese refugee camp located in Hawkins Road, Sembawang. Refugees housed at the camp had fled their communist homeland following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.

Only refugees who had been offered asylum by the country which their ship had been registered in were allowed to stay at this camp, while waiting for their papers to be processed. Many of their fellow refugees had perished at sea as the small boats they fled in were often unseaworthy and over-crowded.

Frances and Chuan Poh came forward to help out at the refugee camp. She said: “We tried to bring love and relief to the refugees. We observed that they were allowed to move freely in and out of the camp, including going to Chong Pang Market where they bought food, and did odd jobs to earn some money, though this privilege was later withdrawn.

There was indeed a better sense of humanity in those days, as everyone was kinder to others caught in geo-political crises. Among the refugees were also young children—I remember a six-year-old boy who had been separated from his family while running away. It was heart-wrenching. I managed to connect a father-daughter pair who were headed for the United Kingdom with my mother, who true to form, took good care of them when they arrived, ensuring that they had adequate clothes for the colder weather there.

Sensing that they would need new language skills in the countries they would be settling in, I started to teach them English. Chuan Poh brought some of the youngsters for canoeing, partnering with other Singaporeans who had access to such amenities.

Even though her outreach to the refugees lasted just three to four months, Frances has fond memories of her time with them. Through social media posts, she is happy to know that many of them have made good lives for themselves and continue to remember those who had helped them on their journey to their new homeland.

It was indeed an opportunity for Frances to do all the good mentioned in John Wesley’s famed quote—she had the means—time on her hands; there was a place where people could do with all the help she could give; and she had all the enthusiasm to do so.

Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, to all the souls you can, in every place you can, at all the times you can, with all the zeal you can, as long as ever you can.

John Wesley

Once her employment papers cleared in 1980, Frances started work at Gleneagles, formerly a British community hospital. However, her work environment was not what she had envisioned. Unlike what was the norm in the UK, she worked a six-day week, including night shifts, and was paid less than her British peers. The night shifts affected her church attendance, and she felt far from God. Nonetheless, she plodded on.

Frances and Chuan Poh soon started a family, having four children over the next 11 years. At the start, the national campaign, “Boy or Girl, Two is Enough” was widely encouraged with slogans on television and billboards. The visuals that accompanied the campaign painted a disastrous and messy family life for those with more than two children.

By 1987, the national narrative changed to encourage three or more children, with incentives like priority for registering the third child in primary school and income tax rebates.

Frances emphasised: “Regardless, all our children were God’s gifts to me and my husband. We were too busy to plan … they just arrived”. Between the third and fourth child, Frances had a late-term miscarriage. This enabled her to better empathise with mothers who struggled with conception and pregnancy. It also brought her closer to God as she prayed for the baby and later released her to the Lord. Her youngest child was born 30 months later. She is especially close to this daughter and thanks God daily for her.

In 1994, 15 years after attending a smaller church in Singapore, Frances was led to attend Wesley Methodist Church (WMC). Here she was reminded of her Methodist background and heritage back home. 

She first brought her two oldest children—the two most compliant ones—and later the other two. Her eldest daughter chose to attend church with her at the traditional service because as she pointed out, “it was shorter”! The other three children enrolled in Sunday School.

Frances resolved to be more committed to the Church. She actively looked out for opportunities to serve after completing her Baptism and Membership class in 1995.

By then too, Frances had stopped working both part-time and full-time as a nurse. So when there was a call put out by then Family Life Pastoral Team Member (PTM) Maria Ling to start a homemakers fellowship group, Frances wasted no time signing up for it.

This fellowship continued for less than a year after Maria left to live in the United States with her husband. Soon after, one of the fellow mums in the group, Ruth Tan-Khew, urged Frances to re-start the group. Frances was also very much encouraged by the group of ladies, many of whom were in mixed marriages themselves. They included Claire Lewis-Lim, former PTM for Music and Worship; Jessie Blakely who is married to American David Blakely, PTM for Counselling; and Angelika Sihoe, an Austrian married to a Chinese. Patricia Koh and Angie Gan were the other encouraging Singaporean Christians.

Frances (carrying Esa) with Yvonne Koh (carrying baby) and Angelika Sihoe

Faith grew as Frances learnt to “gossip about God” with these ladies, sharing the things that God was doing in their lives and how real He was walking alongside them and guiding them daily.

Around February 1997, this Small Group (SG), now under the umbrella of the Church’s Small Group Ministry (SGM), started to meet in church. Study topics were related to homemaking and parenting. The mums ran a children’s programme and took turns to lead. “This group was a real gift to me that only the Lord could have put together,” said Frances.

One female mentor whom Frances very much looked up to was Cathy Houba, a dynamic, inspirational and motivational American lady who lived in Singapore for 12 years. Frances remembered attending her course More Precious Than Jewels: “Cathy really stirred up in me a burning fire, and even after she left Singapore, I would look to borrow tapes of her sermons and talks from our Church Audio Video Library. In fact, once I dreamt of sitting with a group of women and Cathy, who asked who would lead the group when she left. I asked myself if this could be me, and felt led then to step up as leader when needed, though I was much less capable than others. This was my state of mind when I was going through the pangs and excitement of being trained as a leader.

Frances’ calling to be a leader came to the fore after she signed up to attend Bible Study Fellowship (BSF). She attended the Day Women’s classes for seven years, and it was in BSF that she received really good leadership training.

She said: “That’s when I started to see myself as a leader! I was so surprised to be invited into BSF leadership as a Discussion Leader quite soon after I joined. I told my teaching leader that I would like to just be a member for a year to understand how BSF functions. Straight into my second year, I was called again and this time I stepped up! I received good training there, learning how to facilitate a ladies group, leading in the Children’s ministry and then getting some administrative experience as I served as Assistant Children’s Supervisor for the last two years.

Celebrating a birthday with children of the Homemakers Small Group (circa 2005)

What did Frances ‘gain’ in being a member of such a group in BSF? In her words, “I felt I was used by the Lord to be a role model for the young mums.” She achieved this by always chatting with the young mothers in the group about children, marriage, working through marriage, being Christian mums, working with the Lord in the marriage, among other topics close to the hearts of full-time homemakers. Her advice was always to encourage young mothers to stay in the marriage despite the difficulties, and not to be headstrong, mostly for the sake of the children who need the stability of a strong marriage.

Frances shares: “Our church tradition at Wesley is one of faithfulness. This is the single one strand that draws us to the Church, each other and to service. Being in a small group makes it all that more worthwhile, as it gives one a sense of belonging, faithfulness and accountability. Seeing others serve alongside me and church-wide has really inspired me, and has helped me grow personally through the years.” The Homemakers SG which Frances led then birthed the Katong Homemakers SG, which later changed its name to Kingdom Homemakers SG when it shifted from Katong to the Bukit Timah area. Today, together with the original Homemakers SG, they meet in the day-time when mothers find it more convenient.

Frances has served in the SGM since 1997. In 2007, she was invited by the church to be a Zone Leader (ZL) for the Ministry. She remains a ZL till today, caring for and overseeing 26 Small Groups in Zone 11.

Frances (back row, 2nd from right) PCZL with Zone 11 members at Small Group Conference

Frances shares this story on the tightly-knit closeness of SG members: “I remember one evening in 2018, when one of our members, Bernice called to say that she had fallen at home. The ladies responded and quickly got to her home. The flat was dark and looked empty. Connie Wong, one of the members who was fairly new to the group, had a very strong prompting from the Lord that all was not well. The next day, Connie together with another lady returned to the flat and noticed the window slightly ajar. They called the police to ask that they help them get entry into the flat. But the police needed permission from Bernice’s next-of-kin, and this was quickly secured through the church office. Finally, they got into Bernice’s flat, and indeed, she was inside. The ambulance was called to evacuate her, and Connie accompanied Bernice to the hospital.

Frances felt that a life was saved, owing to the closeness among the SG members and their response to their intuition to address the emergency. 

Being in a Small Group also gave rise to opportunities to grow outwards. In 1997/98, Frances recalls Lilibeth, a Filipino lady who joined them. Her husband Reggie was then a student with Trinity Theological College (TTC). Frances and members of her Small Group were led to bond not only with Lilibeth, but also with the wives of the other foreign students at TTC. Afternoon teas and swimming get-togethers were organised for them and their children to give them a glimpse of Singapore life beyond the TTC campus.

Patricia Koh, a founding member of the Homemaker SG, helped facilitate a partnership with the High Praise Church in Manila through their connection with Lilibeth, when WMC was seeking outreach opportunities in the Philippines.

Frances said: “We are so grateful that the Homemakers SG has had opportunities like this. We also partnered with the Christian Outreach and Social Concerns (COSC) ministry to befriend runaway maids living in a shelter. We organised a couple of events for them which meant bussing them to church, providing them a meal and a fun programme. The shelter girls loved to sing and dance so these occasions were fun-filled! Despite their problems, it was heartwarming to hear their laughter and see their joy! When we’re part of such a group, we find strength to do stuff together, work together and go on from one humanitarian cause to another.” 

Helping people—and often one person at a time—is a hallmark of Frances’ ministry. “People just come my way—the Lord knows my heart, and He sends me people,” attests Frances.

One was a nine-month child whose father was finding it very difficult to care for her. Through a fostering programmer run by one of her Small Group members, Frances took in Esa in 2009, just weeks after she lost her beloved mum in England.

Frances: “The Lord compensated me in my grief over losing my mum, and gave me a new love in my life. Esa was a godsend, and I was privileged to care for and love her till she was 19 months old. She came into our lives when she needed a mum, and I merely stood in the gap.

Esa, age one year

Frances continues to connect with Esa, who is 15 today. She brought the young girl for her first drink at Starbucks when she was just 10, her first musical at 11, a Korean barbeque when she was 12 and her first roller coaster ride at 14. Esa’s father is very grateful to Frances for her devotion to his daughter and has assured her that Esa is not likely to forget her foster mother anytime soon.

Going out of her way to help others has been a hallmark of Frances’ ministry, and this continues today. Years after she befriended a childless widow living in a one-room rental flat in Chinatown, Frances continues to visit her. She extended help especially during the time when the lady was convalescing at home from a torn meniscus.

Knowing too that one of her small group members, a single mother with three children, was struggling with bringing them up, Frances took the eldest child under her wing as her godson. She mentored him, gave him pocket money and encouraged him in his educational journey from ITE to Polytechnic. This young man is persevering in making good choices and serves the Lord in another Church.

Frances: “It is the Lord who has enabled me to do what I do. He has given me a great love for people, including children. I now not only have four children of my own, but I also have a godson, a goddaughter-in-law in the making and my foster daughter.

Frances’ heart for the disadvantaged extends to those who do not know Christ yet. This has led her to undertake missions trips over the past 14 years, except during the Covid-19 outbreak. She said: “At Wesley we are so privileged to be able to go on church-sanctioned mission trips and these were a highlight for my ministry.

On a missions trip to Santa Maria, Philippines (circa 2018)

Her inaugural mission trip was in 2009 with the church’s Prayer and Praise team to nearby Batam in the Indonesian Riau Islands, just a ferry ride away. Subsequently she went with a group of young doctors to Senggarang on the Riau island of Bintan, for a medical mission trip called TOSS for short, or The Other Side of Senggarang. In total, Frances went on four trips to Senggarang. By 2015, this small, rustic village had their own village doctor, and there was no further need for these trips.

Conducting a class in a primary school in Manila (circa 2016)

Frances recalls: “Senggarang was eye-opening for me–it was like stepping back in time to a different era although it is so close to Singapore. It was fun to go with the young doctors, and I had the opportunity too to put some of my nursing knowledge and skills to good use. The villagers were really friendly, and always gathered around us to get a closer look!

Going on these medical missions trips gave Frances more confidence to go much further afield, all the way to Nepal in 2018 and 2019. She affirms: “There is an amazing bonding that takes place on mission trips.  Friends made there and experiences garnered will never be forgotten. We go to bless others and end up being the ones most blessed!

Meeting Nepali children (2019)

A mission outreach that Frances feels most called to is the High Praise Church in Manila. Through the Homemakers SG which Frances led in the 1990s, WMC had partnered with this church in their outreach to the Philippines. Together with her very good friend Patricia Koh who had helped to facilitate this partnership, Frances returned to visit the church. They met up again with Lilibeth, whom they had befriended in Homemakers, and her husband, Pastor Reggie Nebalasca, who had trained at Trinity Theological College while in Singapore. 

Frances said: “Lilibeth is a dear and cherished friend, and I’m in fact godmother to her daughter who was born in Singapore. Visiting them in Manila was a great way to reconnect and support them meaningfully. The Nebalascas really toil relentlessly for the kingdom of God, as they depend entirely on prayer for the resources they need.

Today, Frances is grandmother to seven grandchildren, five of whom are in Singapore. In spite of her busy schedule, she makes time for them—caring for them in the afternoons, bringing them on nature trails, showing them how plants grow and how to identify birds. She says: “Taking time to be close to my grandchildren is a worthwhile sacrifice and meaningful experience as I’m able to speak into the next generation. It is all worthwhile, although I’ve had to forgo recreational activities close to my heart, like doing the Camino spiritual walk in Spain.

So how does she take it all—the crises in her life, her struggles, continuing work in ministry? She holds to Philippians 4:4–8 dearly:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:4–8 (NIV)

These words are so wise and I often remind myself not to be anxious for anything!” says Frances. “It’s easy to worry and as I get older, I feel less confident and more anxious. This Scripture verse also reminds me that God is always near. He is just a prayer away so instead of being worried, I should turn my worry to prayer. I crave the peace of God and this verse reminds me that this peace is supernatural and unexplainable, guarding both my heart and mind. And what divine good advice to fill our hearts with gratitude and seeing the best in everyone and everywhere, expecting the best and trusting that it will be so!

I pray that my own family will one by one come to the Lord like my in-laws have done. I saw my own father start going to church at around 84 so I am hopeful! I know I need to pray for them all and trust God to do the rest! I have experienced God’s great faithfulness and His goodness to me so I dare to trust Him for even this!

May God continue to shower Frances with the means, show her ways, bring her to more places to do more good, grant her all the time in the continuing seasons of her life and bring her more people to care for and love. Amen!

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