This is a 4-part video interview with Vanessa Ong, our latest pastor-in-training. Van has just returned to Malaysia in November 2021 with a Bachelor’s of Theology after 4 years in Moore College, Sydney, and CERC is excited to welcome her back!
In this video interview series, pastor-in-training Daniel Lu and Joshua Johnson (CERC News) have a chat with Van about how seminary has helped her grow and how it has equipped her for ministry back in Malaysia.
Below is the transcript for part 4 of this interview:
Dan: What are one or two things – the main things in particular that you think in Moore College, after going through it, that’s prepared you for Malaysian ministry. So what are some, you know, besides just knowing more stuff, anything else in particular to Moore and Australia that’s prepared you for ministry here?
Van: So most definitely the things that I’ve already mentioned, growing in precision, depth, actually caring about those things. I mean honestly even before I went over, like if you mention the what’s precision and depth, I would be like, ‘ yeah I know that, that’s important’ but I only knew that in theory, right? On a very superficial level. But now that I’ve actually had to hit the books, actually take those notes, actually sit down and think whether I know any of this stuff, I am convicted in a different way. So I think that’s gonna be so important for Malaysian ministry because I think the temptation that – maybe I speak only for myself, perhaps for our church – is there’s a lot of false teaching in Malaysia, so like, as long as you preach something okay-okay then okay la. Like, you know what I mean? Just preach something without any heresy and be done with it and everyone loves you, you know, that’s all good. Or just teach them a little bit more Bible you know just be like, keep doing faithful gospel ministry and that’s all good. So I think the temptation is just like, you know, just be a little bit relaxed about things. But then, in fact after all that four years, you could say ‘disciplined’ or ‘forced march’, you know you have to do those things in order to-
Dan: You explained earlier, you wake up, you-
Van: You gotta do those things, you gotta study all of that, even though there are so many things more to put into yourself. Yeah I think because of the 4-year-experience, I’m hoping that and I think theoretically it’s true, that I am less likely to be like “cincai-la, anything la, we are trying to be Christ-centered, God-glorying, Bible people anyway”, like “no need to do so much extra stuff la, just be ‘faithful’ lor”. I’m thankful that like my experience in Moore college showed me God takes Himself very seriously, Jesus does as well. And, we don’t to just say whatever, and we don’t want to ‘do’ church, we don’t want to run a church and take care of a church in that slack manner, it doesn’t even match anything close to the apostles view point of the local church. Again, if it wasn’t for the 4 years, I think I wouldn’t conclude on this -in my opinion- mature manner, because I would yeah- “ministry is ministry la. Just like, yay, woo!” As opposed to “it’s got be a certain way, and that way is God’s way”. And even though that’s a very simple thing that you can even teach your child, taking care of God’s church needs to be God‘s way. That’s a lot of unpacking, isn’t it? There’s a lot to see and know about ‘what is God’s way?’ And I’m thinking, I’m definitely still discovering this, and going deeper in that.
Josh: Good to hear these thoughts and reflections where there is. I mean for me it’s good to have you back, a fellow sister in Christ to persevere with us in our work, especially here in Malaysia, Klang Valley. So what’s the plan for Van now since she’s back, or what are your plans, what does the church have in store for you?
Van: Ooo, a lot! Fun fun fun!
Josh: What are some of the major ministries you will be handling in CERC?
Van: Well, just some of the balls that I will be juggling, juggled, for a while were children -I’m having to refer to my iPad-
Josh: So many things to juggle right?
Van: Yeah cause sometimes I forget! -Oh yeah, right right, I’m responsible for this, whoops- So, I gotta keep it there in my face, so it’s my wallpaper. Um, I’m glad that CERC is a church that’s looking outward and wanting to be involved in the wider church and so very soon we are having you know, we’ll get to go together to conference, Fellow Workers Conference by Gospel Growth Fellowship, preparing the materials together with Jerome for that. I’m excited, a little nervous because it’s not- you know, every time before an event, I’m obviously nervous, but also very excited, because there is this good opportunity to talk about things long overdue with regards to generation XYZ. If you don’t know about that hopefully you can find out a bit more. Gospel Growth Fellowship is going to try to do some virtual version of what we normally do every year. I love this conference because it really puts me in my place, it’s God‘s way of helping me think “what do you really want to do with your few years in your life, Vanessa Ong” and it really is one of those things where I have to think like “wow there is so much going on and there is so many little things going on.” When I say little, I mean so little good things, important things in Klang Valley that’s not happening, and yet so much difficulty, in terms of how we should view truth, culture, spirituality and I could just go on and on. So anyway, back to your question, I get to be involved in parachurch work, and that’s exciting. I can’t wait, and then there’s SOLIDD online. There’s this thing I’ve never been, it will be my first time, and my first time there I’ll be preaching already.
Josh: That’s part of CERC’s ministry to university students, right?
Van: Yes so it’s a university ministry and I’m hearing some interesting updates. So I feel familiar with it as well as new. And so we’re gonna be discovering what it means when God speaks to His people for 11 weeks. 11 weeks! How cool is that? it is not every university ministry that would actually give that amount of time to devote themselves to learning about such an important topic. So although, you know, I’m gonna be working out how to do that curriculum and squeeze it all into 11 weeks cause you know for example, John Frame, he writes like these massive fat volumes. I don’t know how I’m gonna squeeze it all into 11 but I’ll try. So I’m so grateful, impressed by the commitment the students have to keep going with such a ministry. It’s difficult to do something like this, virtually and also giving people the good stuff – stuff they need to know. So that’s SOLIDD online, there’s parachurch ministries, there’s children – have I talked about Look See Look See? I get to do evangelism! My church allows me to do evangelism!
Josh: That’s an online virtual evangelistic session also, right?
Van: Yeah, I’ve actually done it one round, and that was actually the most fun I had for a couple of months.
Josh: That was while you were in Australia still, right?
Van: Yeah, yeah guess what? I talked to these Buddhist/Taoist women about Jesus from the book of Hebrews! So fun! Like, I mean it’s been a long time, actually doing Bible study with non-Christian friends has got to be the most exciting -very exciting- experiences. If you have never done it before you are totally missing out on life, like, really it is very exhilarating because its like my non-Christian friend is reading God’s holy Word with me, and answering questions that I’ve said, and we get to talk about anything and everything. They will ask me all sorts of interesting questions that I never think about like, “Vanessa why do Christians say grace before they eat?” I’m like, okay, that’s the 1st question you ask?
Josh: Or like, why do you need to say “Amen”.
Van: Yeah, and they ask all sorts of questions, and I’m just thinking in my mind, how do I like, answer the question, without answering the question, as in I would like to evangelize them as I answer the question, you know, all that fun stuff. So ‘Look See Look See’ is an evangelistic thing that everyone gets to do, not just me, but people in church. So that’s how awesome- yay CERC, awesome!
Josh: What about in terms of the women’s side of things what would you do?
Van: Thanks for reminding me, so Women Encourging Women is only for girls and we’re doing a topic called ‘Mean Girls’, oh my.
Josh: So this is a 2-day conference, right?
Van: Is it 2 days? Yeah I think so.
Josh: Yeah, I remember it being 2 days last year, unless it’s physical then it may be a 1-day event.
Van: Yes I think we are trying to do something a bit longer this time, we are doing something in the start of March. Beginning of March the girls are going to get together and talk about something very uncomfortable. I mean, Mean Girls, that’s the movie, the thought life, the behavior, the attitudes of mean girls, which is all of us, really. So that’s going to be quite uncomfortable but necessary and hopefully lots of sisters will benefit from that. So I’ll be writing a talk for that. I’ll be doing that together with another female apprentice so that should be fun and interesting and serious all at once.
Josh: So children, you mention parachurch, you mention univerisity, you mention evangelism, you mention women’s ministry, I guess-
Van: I should mention obviously Sunway SOLIDD and Monash, so the university ministry among the other things.
Josh: So you just haven’t covered and now I’m gonna ask and you’re gonna say “Oh yeah!”. So you haven’t covered youth, you haven’t covered TGG. So you will be involve in youth also right?
Van: Yeah, I don’t know how we are supposed to-
Josh: No worries-
Van: I’m still thinking, I’m still working out how I exist every week. I’m still trying to work that out, how do I in my finite-ness, in my finitude, work out how to move around in a way that is strategic and helpful for everyone and not be a bother to people. So yeah I am- it’s on the list! I’ve just not mentioned it because I feel like I don’t deserve to say it, because I’m still fresh off the boat, kind of thing.
Josh: So you also mentioned TGG 1, so you are doing-
Van: Yeah, I’m pretty excited about TGG1!
Josh: That’s leading tertiary growth group for the 1st year students right? TGG 1.
Van: Yeah, that’s always cool. You know, fresh faces, people who, they have learned a couple of things on campus but still, there’s a lot more to go on in terms of learning the important stuff right? Biblical theology, systematic theology, and so on. So I guess getting, well ‘finding’, rather – finding time to work out a curriculum that is accessible for students as well as you know, one way to say it is, having a fun time being confronted by God’s word, how about that? Having a fun time being confronted by God’s truth, learning together. It sounds like hard work though. It sounds like a lot of hard work.
Josh: Definitely sounds like hard work.
Van: Sounds like a lot of hard work, but it’s necessary, right? It’s something really important because we are learning our first steps, I would say we learn so much in our university time. I remember learning so much about everything when I was in university. Like, everything. From atonement all the way to ministry and what certain aspects of pastoral care have to do with anything. Um, yeah. I remember having that time and energy and space in my brain to just swallow it all up in university. Now when I think back I’m like, “goodness gracious, did I really drag myself through all of that?” So we got a ticket, right? You’re only 19 once.
Josh: Yeah, so many things, Van. No complains, thankful for God’s grace and mercy to sustain you as a ministry worker. I’m sure Dan is like, ‘yay, Van is back! We can share some of the loads.’ And there’s so much work that we can do as fellow workers in CERC. So I’m very thankful that we have 3 seminarians that have come back who are willing to work hard at making sure the church is well. So thankful to people like you and Jerome and Robin and many more along the way also. Van, how can we pray for you? So people who are with you, people who are out there in the world, how can we actually pray for you? What can we pray for you?
Van: Yeah, I mean this sounds like a very boring prayer point but genuinely this is at the top of my list of prayer request, which is please pray that as I listen to the weekly preaching of God’s word on Sundays, and when I’m at GG, when I’m reading the Bible by myself – I’m currently going through Hosea at the moment because we are starting that really soon at church. Hosea, I’m excited for an Old Testament text! Just pray that God would continue to help me love Him more, make me love Him more, and actually care about His business, which is what I’m doing, right? I’m doing God’s business. That would help so much too – that God will grow me in His likeness and you know, we can’t do that by ourselves can we? We need God to grow us up. So please pray for that, and also, secondly, please pray for my energy levels? I actually think there’s a genuine difference, I feel it. And people have said that, they’ve remarked you know, during some Zoom conversations, “Vanessa I miss your energy!” And I’m like, “I’m giving all of it, I’m giving my all right now, and I’m sorry I can’t give you more because this is the fourth Zoom conversation that I’ve had today!” So just pray for energy, I am swimming every week once a week but even though that was enough in Australia, for me, this lifestyle is different. I think once a week is already the most that I can go in terms of the schedule. So sorry for rambling. Too much information, isn’t it? Just pray for energy levels, health, I guess is one thing? But the first thing is the main thing- is that okay?
Josh: Yep yep, good good. We will all be praying for you, Van. Thank you so much for sharing your heart with us and for yeah- it’s good to have you back here in Malaysia to do ministry.
Van: So good to be back!
Josh: Thank you God for Vanessa, completing her 4 years and she has got back to Malaysia.