Time in seminary – Not what I expected!
Posted on 31 Mar 2018 by Vanessa Ong
Before I arrived in seminary, I imagined college would be: Learning Greek and Hebrew. Learning lots of content from lectures (e.g. New Testament, BT). Doing assignments to sharpen theology. Asking tough content questions. However, after looking back at my previous blog post, I realized how I imagined life in seminary would be is quite different from what I am currently experiencing. I am finding that instead of just thinking of lecture content, I am reflecting constantly and deeply on the next 10 years of life and ministry, both the church’s and mine. Some of my thoughts include:
- What does the church in Malaysia need?
- How did Sydney get here? What can I learn from the churches here?
- What can I do once I get home?
- What do I need to learn and do while I am here
Before I start updating you on recent events contributing to these important questions, let me just thank God for something that has come up in my reflections:
I want to thank God and my church for my three years of lessons, opportunities, celebrations, mistakes made and most of all, training during Church Ministry Apprenticeship (CMA) in CERC. It was challenging, stressful, but very much crucial and overall an awesome three years to stretch anyone thinking of doing ministry for the rest of your life. I have realized that I automatically do more of what I was already doing back home because of my training. The difference in being in seminary is that I now have very different opportunities and angles to do what the CMA trained me for. So, thank you God for CMA and thank you God for seminary which has helped me grow in appreciation of the training I received.
This post then, will give you an insight as to
(a) what is it that I was trained in CMA to do and what I am now doing more of; and
(b) how being in Moore College is a perfect opportunity to grow, learn and be trained further.
In seminary, I am preoccupied with thinking about “what it takes”
This is what CMA in CERC trains you to do: You learn very quickly from doing ministry about “What it takes” to do ministry – from a personal angle, from a local church angle, from a wider church angle, from a women’s ministry angle, from campus ministry angle (and the list goes on for volumes). While I am here in seminary, I am thinking about the same questions but now, thinking about it on a larger scale – I think about Sydney and then I think about the city KL and its wider surroundings, about Australia and then about Malaysia. And I ask myself – What would it take for a long-term healthy and successful gospel ministry to be realized?
Lots of people? Who?
Leaders who are theologically trained? How?
Lots of money? How?
A seminary? Other alternatives?
Role of church membership?
A great network of like-minded people?
What are the must-have trainings/aspects of ministry?
What are pitfalls to avoid?
At college, I am very grateful to have some time off doing ministry to “sit back, observe and think”. During my three years in CMA, I definitely had some opportunity for thinking of the big picture but was mostly preoccupied with running from one ministry task to another.
Being in a different country has been a great learning opportunity. I am having the great privilege to observe, learn and think through all things different. Everything from Australian culture in general to Australian church culture. It’s been less than two months but my brain has been put to work filled with questions and thoughts about Australians’ view of leadership and lifestyle, ministry ethos and practice, their conception of theology, the way Australians think of their churches in 2018 and what kind of hard work, planning and resources went into that – I am taking it all in! Some interesting things that are different:
- I thought people here would be more direct than the harmony-prizing culture of Asians. Turns out people here seem very politically correct or at least the ones I bump into ?
- People here are friendly and have a stubbornly positive outlook, it’s amazing!
Going on Mission week with the entire college also has been a great learning opportunity. (Check out all the work the entire Moore college was up to last week on mission here) I just got back from mission week on Sunday. It was helpful to learn from the leadership of different churches in Wollongong and also doing mission with them.
In seminary, I spend a lot of my time thinking about home
So, it has not been a complete time-off being here in seminary in case you were wondering! Breaking my routine of daily classes and memorizing Greek paradigms, and being on Mission Week to the Wollongong region, helped me to keep an active focus on what I am supposed to be learning in seminary, away from my church and ministry life – I need to be in seminary to learn, reflect and train.
What do all the local churches need to do back home? What are we capable of doing? What do we need?
What do I as a minister of the gospel need to do back home? What am I capable of doing? What do I need?
Please pray for the next ten years of ministry in Malaysia – for CERC, for all local churches in Malaysia, for the ministry of the Gospel Growth Fellowship (GGF), and for all local ministries in Malaysia that seek to be faithful to the gospel. Pray that God will cause the gospel to bear much fruit, for a great number of keen and committed men and women hungry to see Klang Valley churches grow big and strong, for clarity in ministry ethos, for the BEST in quality teaching of the gospel, for clarity in application of the doctrine of the church, for successful training of ministry leaders, etc. (again, the list goes on for volumes).
As I involve myself in children’s ministry training and serve in whatever capacity I can over here, my thoughts always go back to the children back home. Churches in Malaysia need healthy kids’ ministries and healthy leadership to pull it off!
Another opportunity being here is learning from the heaps (Australian for “a lot”) of inspiring people who are committed to Jesus and His ministry. It’s almost like I cannot run away from thinking about ministry here.
- I am surrounded by faculty members, college students, college chaplains – basically a great bunch of people hungry to see the gospel being preached faithfully.
- I think about ministry in the Ministry and Mission subject I am taking. (Great, now I have MORE questions!)
- I think about ministry because of the local churches and MANY ministries seeking to be faithful here.
In seminary, I am adjusting to all changes good and bad
- Doing laundry in the strong Sydney winds is not bad at all! (My clothes dry up fast!)
2. I am enjoying the learning process of nearly every subject and I never thought I would say this but even Greek and Hebrew! Please pray for me to study hard at subjects I am not that interested in!
3. We pray quite a lot! We pray at chapel, we pray before lectures! We pray as a prayer triplet, we pray at the South East Asian Prayer Group (we prayed for you too CERC! <3)
4. Ministry-minded company to talk serious/casual stuff with every meal-time if I wanted to.
- Eating salad, bread and meat (I’ve put on 4kg). Thank you God for good food that I am trying to get used to.
- A warm cosy bed I am reluctant to leave because it is super cold in the morning here. Thank you God for a great place to stay.
3. I think about eating “zhup fun” and a “Teh C” at the shop near church quite often. Guys, my daily lunch used to cost me MYR5.50 (less than AUD2) back home. If I wanted the same meal, I would need to pay more than MYR33 (AUD11)!
So, my dear blog readers, please pray for me for:
- Clear and productive thinking that will benefit ministry back home in the long-term.
- A well-paying part-time job I am still scouting for so that I can buy a return ticket home. I miss you church, family, the people and I cannot lie – the food and weather.
- Enough funds raised so that I can cover expenses in Australian Dollars here. I feel guilty spending any money here but no matter how much I save, I know I still need your help with tuition fees!
- Attitude and character shaping through all my experiences, theology, people and training that God blesses me with here.
Yes, brothers and sisters, I am writing this post to keep you updated but also so that you can “do ministry with me” by praying and supporting this work financially by contributing to the CERC Theological Fund! (50 Aussie Dollars goes a long way!)
Vanessa was one of our Church Ministers’ Apprentices. She is now studying for her Bachelor of Theology in Moore Theological College, Sydney. Her first degree was a Bachelor of Science (Psychology). Her favourite pastimes include sitting and reading at the chup fun shop near CERC Central and waiting for random people to join her.