Leaving a lasting impression
Republic of Singapore Air Force 2nd Warrant Officer Chris Chua and his wife Rachel will leave Clovis to go home to Singapore, but not without memories of the people, religion, and nature. CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth
Republic of Singapore Air Force 2nd Warrant Officer Chris Chua and his wife, Rachel, have served their two-year tour of duty at Cannon Air Force Base and are headed back home to Singapore.
But not without making a deep impression on the lives of people in their church, Central Baptist Church of Clovis, because of their faith, their spirit of volunteerism and their work ethic.
“The name, Rachel, to me will always be different because of her,” said Helen Gonser, library director at Central Baptist, where Rachel Chua often volunteered to help. “She was the smartest thing. She always wanted to do more. She had the greatest disposition. She was always happy — she always had a grin. To give her up just makes me sad. She’s been a sheer delight for all of us to work with.”
“I know Rachel better than Chris,” said Lucy Harrison, library assistant at the church. “I am very impressed with them as a couple. When they came here from Singapore, they joined our church. She’s so intelligent and talented with the computer. She finished up her bachelor’s degree and then her master’s in business administration while she was here. We can hardly talk about (their leaving) without tears.”
During Rachel’s stint working in the church library, church leaders decided to computerize library holdings, Harrison said.
“We have not been on the computer, and we just got the computer program,” she said. “We didn’t know anything about it, but Rachel knew it all.”
The Chuas came to Cannon in September 2001, just after Sept. 11.
“We were wondering if we would get to come because the security was so tight,” Rachel said.
When the Chua family — including their sons, Enoch, 15, Eden, 13, and Eoin, 9 — came to the Clovis-Portales area, they began looking for a faith community in which to serve and worship.
“We were already Christians in Singapore,” Rachel said. “We found Central Baptist, and we felt at home there. They teach the Bible.”
In addition to helping in the church library, Rachel Chua also volunteered with the church’s benevolent food program.
“On Thursdays, the church would distribute groceries to those in need,” she said. “America is very rich in many ways, but there are still people in need. There’s a lot people can do by serving through the church.”
The Chuas said they’re grateful for the role America has played in sending missionaries to other parts of the world, but the nation is losing its Christian distinctiveness.
“There are a lot of Americans who are not really Christian,” Rachel said. “It may be a tradition for them to go to church on Easter or Christmas, but it doesn’t mean anything to them. A lot of missionaries have come from America, which is good. And I like the Christian radio programs here. We’ll miss that because we don’t have anything like that back home.”
In Singapore, Christians are not supposed to evangelize, Rachel said.
“They have a religious harmony law,” she said. “You can participate in your own religion, but you can’t influence others. People here need to continue to study the Bible and to do the mission work. I leaned a lot from the older Christians here — they serve as role models for us.”
Chris agreed. “It’s good for America to send out missionaries to the world. We need to reach out to the Asian world. We hope Singapore can reach out to the world around it.”
One of the facets of life here in the American Southwest that Chris enjoyed was the space and the land.
“Singapore is like Los Angeles — it’s a concrete jungle,” he said. “I have enjoyed nature, growing plants, sightseeing and the peace here. Our main objective is to rest and refresh ourselves. In Singapore, it’s a very rushed society. We’re going back to the real world now. Singapore has about 4 million people on a small little island.”
“My husband was so happy because he could do gardening here,” Rachel said. “In Singapore, you have high-rise apartments with no land. Land is very expensive.”
“I enjoy gardening — that’s my stress relief,” said the aircraft engine specialist.
Lucy Harrison took Rachel and a group of fellow Singaporeans to visit an apple orchard owned by Harrison’s son.
“They were so gracious,” Harrison said. “They really enjoyed being out and seeing the fields. They were so appreciative. Rachel wanted to give me a check to give to my son for letting them pick some apples, but that wasn’t the deal. The children were so well-behaved. It was very pleasant being with them.”
Rachel said she was grateful for the courtesy extended to them.
“Singapore is so small,” she said. “We don’t have land for any farms. Most of us have not seen farms. Here you can see land in any direction. I love the space. It’s been a good experience. I have enjoyed my stay here. It’s a different pace, so much more relaxing. People are more patient. If you drive slow in Singapore, people will honk and yell at you. You can appreciate nature more here.”