By Clarrise Ng
Elden and Jou Ee Pan are members of Christ Evangelical Reformed Church (CERC), where Elden has completed the Church Ministers’ Apprenticeship (CMA) programme and is looking forward to seminary at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia. We sat down with them on the 14th of March this year to hear about their latest plans for seminary and ministry amidst these challenging times during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Clarisse: Hi Elden and Jou Ee (E&J)! Thanks for sitting down to chat with us today. How have things for you and your boys been going?
E&J: Hello! We’ve been well, but ever since we found out that we can’t head over to Australia for seminary yet, it’s been a bit of a chaotic past 1 month figuring things out!
So for a bit of context, we were supposed to start seminary in February. Mark Thompson, the principal of Moore Theological College, considered allowing us to do the 1st half of the year online, and the 2nd half of the year physically, so we would not miss out on a year of studying.
But two weeks into the start of the semester, he was very kind to let us know of developments within the Australian government and that they would not be allowing any international students in just yet, due to the pandemic. So we were advised to defer the year since there was no guarantee that we’d be able to start in July. Besides, Moore College also prefers students to be on campus at all times, which is a way to ensure the quality of the students’ educational experience.
So all things considered, we’re glad we didn’t sell the car! We had even started packing some things into boxes and well, at least the house is all tidied up now. But since then, we’ve been making plans to make the most out of this year. This includes considering time devoted to ministry work with CERC, parachurch organisations, part-time jobs, and so on.
C: Wow, that’s tough news, and it’s encouraging to hear that both of you are taking it in stride and making the most out of it. It’s certainly been an intense time! So what have you been up to lately, in terms of ministry?
E: Well initially, I was trying to be a bit of an overachiever. I had already begun studying what the classes would have done for their first two weeks… you know, just in case, because I didn’t want to be left behind. I’ve also been doing my Greek.
J: He’s even started doing exams and trying to get full marks on them!
E: But since then, we’ve been kept busy with ministry! I’ve already preached about 3-4 sermons, and have been given some new ministry assignments. I’m now leading our music ministry, and helping out with the Sunday gathering’s emceeing as well. I’ve also been approached by some university students involved in ministries on their campuses to help train them in reading the Bible. So I’ve got quite a full plate!
C: Well, putting things into perspective, staying another year in Malaysia does give you more opportunities to do ministry here.
E: Yep, and in a way, there is a certain joy in being able to do so here. It can be quite a joyful thing to be in the trenches, fighting the good fight with the rest of the church in Malaysia. I do wonder if going to seminary may feel a bit like ‘taking a break’ from this, so it’s great that I get another year to further equip myself for ministry in Malaysia, while there is time.
C: What about you Jou Ee, what have you been involved in lately? Weren’t you also part of CERC’s recent Women Encouraging Women (WEW) event? Tell us more about that.
J: Well, I’m a full-time mom by day, and once the kids go to bed, that’s when I start my ‘other’ work! Yup, I was part of this year’s WEW, which just happened from the 5th to 6th of March. It was our first virtual WEW titled ‘More Than Just Emotions’ and featured about 400+ women coming together to talk about godliness and our emotions. It was very encouraging, I learned a lot from the talks and also while preparing for my own elective.
My elective was on Emotions and Persecution, specifically on women of faith and how they met persecution with faith. While reading several biographies, I was personally cut to the heart and encouraged by these womens’ lives. The elective was about encouraging women, both young and old, to view persecution positively, as framed by the Bible in calling us to expect and embrace persecution as part of following Jesus. If He is our Master and they have reviled Him, how much more us?
So understanding persecution rightly encourages us to be bold about proclaiming the gospel to our family and friends. In Malaysia, we may not always have our lives physically threatened by the gospel, but fearing man, fearing being an outsider, or just being treated differently, may cause us to refrain from preaching the truth of the gospel.
Ultimately, having the right expectation of the Christian life helps us to no longer wonder why we don’t feel joy in persecution, or feel very down about it…, but instead to recognize the value in persecution itself, the blessing of being God’s people, and reframe our emotions that way. And that’s WEW!
C: That’s definitely very encouraging. We’re excited for next year’s WEW already! Anything else you’re looking forward to for the next few months?
J: Yes, I’m involved in Sunday School, and together with Emma we are starting a social media platform for Sunday School and coming up with a website! We are in the midst of writing and vetting through it to make sure all the content is there for kids and families to benefit from.
Not to mention, Ethan and Emmannuel are my permanent ‘Sunday School’ too! As a parent who is involved in Sunday School, I get to do both ministries at the same time. I’m also in Mums Growth Group (GG), and since we’re staying back another year, Joy [Gan] has asked me to take up leading in GG more actively. I’m also involved with CERC’s membership course, helping out with some tutoring and marking for the course.
On the work front, I currently do freelance work in graphic design. But as we’re thinking of putting ourselves in a better financial position before we head to Australia, I’m planning to take up more part-time jobs in the future.
C: You both certainly have lots to do going forward! In light of all this, how should our supporters pray for you and continue to support you?
E&J: Pray that we would make the most out of this year. Besides that, pray for providence for our financial situation too. It will be a tough one, because we had planned to do a maximum of 3 years here in apprenticeship before heading off to seminary and it was what we planned for with our savings. So right now, we’re certainly running on a tight budget, which is why we need to work part-time.
On the personal front, thankfully, we still have the church’s support, including a stipend which covers Elden’s individual expenses as an apprentice. People in church have also been very generous, even helping us with the job search too. Given how we’re going to continue doing ministry in Malaysia for 2021, we’re hoping to get some part-time work to support our finances.
Beyond support from our family and friends, we also want to make sure all the fundraising we did last year goes towards the fund for seminary, and we’ve made sure to put aside those funds for seminary, and seminary only. Continued support for the theological fund will always be welcomed and necessary.
Nevertheless, we’re seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. With more ministries re-starting, and people coming back to church physically, we’ve been able to welcome people in our home once again. It feels almost like a return to normalcy in church life, and we’re praying and are hopeful for better things to come!
We’ve certainly been encouraged to see Elden and Jou Ee persevering in the face of many uncertainties and challenges, and look forward to seeing where ministry opportunities take them in the future! If you’d like to support Elden’s seminary education, do contribute to CERC’s Theological Fund here.