Finding Faith Through Job Loss

According to data released by the Ministry of Manpower this year, the slowing economy has hit job seekers hard. The struggle to find new jobs was even harder for older workers, degree holders and PMETs (professional, managers, executives and technicians).
Two families came forward to share their stories with Margaret Leong and Tee Hun Ching, hoping to encourage and support fellow families to soldier on, knowing that God has a plan for them amidst the difficulties.


Refusing to give up on their marriage gave Jason and Jenny the chance to reconnect with each other again.

Jason and Jenny first met at a friend’s birthday party in their hometown of Malacca. He was 21 years old, searching for direction in life. She was 16 years old, fresh-faced and full of zest for life. This was the start of their bittersweet life together, one which is now unfolding with Christ.

Being young and full of dreams, Jason and Jenny moved to Singapore and worked hard at their jobs hoping to carve out a wonderful life together. Jason was a highly skilled machinist in a multinational company dealing with Oil Tools. Jenny was an accountant and also in a multinational company. They took frequent holidays together and ate out regularly in restaurants. To their families, Jason and Jenny seemed like the perfect couple living the perfect dream.

However the crisis at work began to unravel the empty married life they were living for the past 10 years. In their pursuit of making money, they forgot each other.

“Even though we were living in the same house, our conversations had become very superficial.” recalled Jenny. “We didn’t know what the other person was doing or what was happening in each other’s life.”

Jenny pulled long hours at work and even took on additional jobs to make more money. On the other hand, Jason’s shift was from 7am to 4pm. When he left for work early in the morning, Jenny would still be asleep. When Jenny returned from work at midnight, Jason was already fast asleep. The only time they spent together in the week was attending Sunday Mass.

As the economy started to slow down, manpower changes were made in the company Jason had worked in for the past 18 years. Cheaper foreign labour was brought in and Jason found it increasingly difficult to communicate and work with his co-workers. Frustration and worry mounted as he thought of his financial commitments to the family.

Meanwhile, Jenny faced her own set of problems at work. A massive restructuring exercise at her company saw Jenny given a bigger portfolio without pay compensation. The 14 hours of work she was putting in daily was leading her to depression.

Each struggled with their work problems in their own silos. Eventually Jason was given the pink slip in June last year while Jenny decided to call it quits in September the same year. Initially both felt relieved that they no longer had to face the oppressive work environment. But relief soon turned into worry as they saw their bank accounts decrease and bills increase.

Growing up in a family with deep faith, Jenny turned to God for strength. After a few months of recuperating, she decided to take the leap into direct sales which offered her flexible working hours and an opportunity to better lives through the products she sold. Because of her bubbly personality, she was able to grow her network of business associates and customers quickly and had to travel often for overseas conferences.

Jason, on the other hand, struggled to find a stable job. He lowered his salary requirements and tried working in different industries but still nothing worked out. Frustrated and lonely, he eventually turned to a common female friend for solace.

The final blow came when Jenny invited Jason to join her on a trip to Guangzhou and found out that he had planned an overseas trip with this female friend they both knew. Jenny’s world collapsed. In the midst of the pain, both had the grace to desire to salvage their marriage.

“I never thought of giving up. It never crossed my mind.” Jason said. “We had to beg Fr Bruno for a space in the Marriage Encounter Weekend,” added Jenny as tears flooded her eyes. During the retreat, they pleaded with God to heal their wounded marriage and help them start afresh. They remembered their beginnings and saw how work had overtaken their relationship. It took a crisis to unravel the empty married life they had been living.

Now, Jason has a full-time job. Even though this job doesn’t pay as much and they have to make drastic changes to their lifestyle, Jason and Jenny are thankful. On top of attending Sunday Mass together, they begin each day renewing their commitment to each other in prayer with God.

“We are still learning, still recovering and growing in our marriage. Our dream now is to be financially stable so that we can serve in church together.” says Jason as they looked at each other.

Held Up by Faith


Through all the distress, Alex preserved with the unwavering support of his wife, Ann.

For 12 years, Alex Budiman enjoyed a successful career with a company that developed and produced medical devices.

When its chief executive was replaced unexpectedly last October, there was some unease. Then, for the first time in his adult life, Alex, 50, found himself out of a job last December, in a company he had invested in.

“I thought I was safe as part of the management staff. I was looking forward to the challenging and exciting times in making a successful acquisition for the company and a potentially lucrative return on my personal investment,” recalled Alex, a vice-president with the firm.

As the sole breadwinner, his biggest concern was naturally the family’s financial security. He received a good severance package but, as he put it, the money “was certainly not enough to retire in Singapore”.

With two of his four children living overseas, Alex and his wife, Ann, quickly drew up a budget and trimmed their spending even as Alex poured his time and energy into hunting for a new job.

“We quickly realised that we might have to sell our house if I couldn’t land a job within a year. We gave ourselves six months before we would seriously consider downsizing.” Their children were supportive and understanding, but their concern added to his mental load.

Another challenge the couple faced during this rough period was adjusting to what he termed “the extensive face-time”. Ann recalled, “There were times when we fussed over little things around the house. Looking back, I think Alex was stressed and not as patient as he normally is.”

The couple, who have been married for 23 years, credit their faith for pulling them through. “I kept thinking that God has a plan for us and no matter what, we were going to be fine,” said Ann.

Meanwhile, Alex grappled with the uncertainty of what the future held. “The what ifs kept coming to mind. I remember asking myself: what if God’s plan was for me to do something else?”

Friends also provided much support and encouragement. “We saw God’s love manifested in our friends and community during this difficult time,” said Alex.

But it was Ann, with her unwavering belief, who became his rock. So strong was her conviction that Alex even wondered if she truly grasped how the loss of income would affect their lives.

As he kept reminding himself that God was in control, he came across Proverbs 3:5-6, which became his motto: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”

Around this time, his parish priest, Rev Fr Kenny Tan of the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, spoke to him about nominating him to chair the Parish Pastoral Council Executive Committee. Alex wondered if that was the sign to dedicate his time to church work. But upon learning that he had been laid off, Fr Kenny promptly told him to focus on finding a job.

“God spoke through Fr Kenny,” said Alex.

God also answered his prayers. After receiving three offers from four job interviews, he began working at a reputable multinational company in March, taking on a similar role as that in his previous firm.

The brief spell of unemployment has reminded the couple not to take anything for granted and to review their spending.

It has also pulled them closer together.

In May this year, they attended the Marriage Encounter Weekend, 10 years after their first ME retreat. “We needed the booster jab. Our perspective, family situation and priorities have changed,” he said. “We returned home with a renewed sense of intimacy and appreciation for each other.”

Most importantly, the trial has bolstered their faith. “The experience affirmed our belief that we need to stay firm in our faith to God and surrender. He is in charge and will take care of us,” said Ann.

amoris


Photo by CTS Books

It is clear from the very first pages of the Bible that work is an essential part of human dignity; there we read that ‘the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it’ (Gen 2:15). Man is presented as a labourer who works the earth, harnesses the forces of nature and produces ‘the bread of anxious toil’ (Ps 127:2), in addition to cultivating his own gifts and talents … ‘Economic constraints prohibit a family’s access to education, cultural activities and involvement in the life of society. In many ways, the present-day economic situation is keeping people from participating in society. Families, in particular, suffer from problems related to work, where young people have few possibilities and job offers are very selective and insecure. Workdays are long and oftentimes made more burdensome by extended periods away from home. This situation does not help family members to gather together or parents to be with their children in such a way as to nurture their relationships each day’ (Relatio Finalis 2015, 14).” – Amoris Laetitia, 23, 44

An excerpt from Amoris laetitia (Latin: The Joy of Love) a post-synodal apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis released in April 2016.

Connecting Catholics At Work

The Catholic Business Network Singapore (CBN Singapore) is a non-profit organization that has been set up by a group of professionals and businessmen with the aim of bringing fellow Catholics closer together in the marketplace. The mission of CBN is threefold:

- To provide a network of Catholic fellowship for members
- To support the advancement of Catholic morality, values and ethics in the workplace and business practices
- To encourage members to live their faith more fully in the workplace and to serve the community through their work efforts

Community Employability Day & Resume Writing Workshop

CBN partners with the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) in organizing a Community Employability Day each year.
Through this job fair, CBN aims to help rank and file workers find employment. A resume writing workshop, where job seekers receive tips on how to write resumes that help them stand out, is typically held in conjunction with the job fair.

Career Counselling

Recently, CBN also launched a career counselling programme for PMETs and tertiary graduates entering the workforce, in collaboration with a group of volunteers.
The career counsellors, who include full-time HR practitioners, lecturers and senior executives, hold a Specialist Diploma in Career Counselling and provide the service at no charge.

Visit www.cbn.sg, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 68017491 to find out more.

Share this post

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter