‘Finding Fulfilment Serving in Missions Together’: Jonathan and Phoebe Kong

Jonathan and Phoebe Kong will be returning to the missions field in Thailand end of July 2023 after serving as full-time staff in Wesley Methodist Church for more than four and two years, respectively. No stranger to the missions fields in Thailand, Jonathan and Phoebe had met there. They were commissioned by Wesley Methodist Church on July 9, 2023. Wesley TIDINGS caught up with them recently to share their take on their calling and what it means to serve together in the missions field.

How long have you been married? 

J: We will be married for five years in October 2023.

Jonathan and Phoebe have been married for close to five years.

Jonathan grew up in a Christian family while Phoebe is a first generation Christian

Please tell me something about your Christian journey when you were growing up.

J: I grew up in a Christian family but only came to know Christ as my personal Lord and Saviour when I was 15 during a Bible study in my secondary school. I grew up in Wesley and the Youth Ministry (YM), with our small group still in the Small Group Ministry (SGM) today. I was in a uniform group when I was in Secondary School, and then I was in the outdoor activities club later on when I was in Junior College. I have had spiritual mentors at every stage of my life since I was 15 years old. They, together with inspiration from reading biographies of missionaries, have been a tremendous spiritual influence on my life.

P: I’m a first-generation Christian. I came to know Christ much later in life during my second year of university, during my exchange programme in Hong Kong, after a persistent Christian friend invited me to church. Somehow being in a foreign land made me more open to hear the gospel. During a discussion on the meaning of love during a Sociology class, my Christian friend brought up 1 Corinthians 13:4–7 which I found very refreshing. God also sent a class acquaintance to pass me a Bible out of the blue when I was walking on campus. I knew that God was reaching out to me in unexplainable ways!

Jonathan (4th from left, front row) when he was on a one-month missions trip to Thailand in 2008

How and when did you meet?

J: We met when Phoebe was serving in Bangkok in 2016 and I was passing through the city towards the end of my time serving at Nong Bua Lam Phu (NBLP) in Isaan, in the northeastern part of Thailand. Our common friends, who are from Wesley Methodist Church, were based in Bangkok for work and attending the same international church small group as Phoebe. 

P: When Jon was in Bangkok, they invited him to the small group where we first met. It was not love at first sight. I think Jon was more drawn to the big dinner spread that evening as he was deprived of international food during his time in Nong Bua Lam Phu (NBLP). We reconnected about eight months after Jon returned to Singapore and started his studies at Singapore Bible College.

J: When I returned to Bangkok, I initiated a meet-up with Phoebe. After that meet-up, we chatted more and realised we had the same heartbeat for missions. And the rest is history.

Jonathan (in white) on a one-month missions trip to Japan in 2009

Before entering the missions fields, what were your professions?

J: I was an auditor.

P: I was a planner at the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), Singapore’s national urban planning authority. I also worked in youth engagement at World Vision Singapore.

How long and where have you served in Wesley? 

J: From June 2018 to April 2023, in Youth Ministry and subsequently in Missions.

P: From January 2021 to April 2023, in Christian Outreach Social Concerns (COSC) Ministry.

How long did you both serve in Thailand respectively? In what capacity/roles/ministry? Which parts of Thailand did you serve in?

J: I was there for a year, supporting the ministries of NBLP.

P: I served longer. I served for almost five years as a Project Manager for a Faith and Development project under World Vision Thailand to equip and support rural churches to be involved in community development as part of holistic missions. I was based in Bangkok but travelled extensively to Northern and Northeastern Thailand to support the project implementation.

Phoebe (1st from left) and colleagues facilitating a community workshop

Why Thailand? And can you speak Thai?
: Since my first missions trip to Thailand at 21 years old, God has burdened Thailand in my heart. Later, despite going on missions trips to other locations, I felt that my heart was continually drawn back to Thailand. After praying about it and speaking to my spiritual mentors for around 10 years, I took this as an affirmation of God placing Thailand in my heart instead of it being just a temporal fascination. During my one-year stint in Nong Bua Lamphu, I picked up Thai from the youths, with the pastor’s father teaching me how to read and write. However, I admit I still have much to learn about Thai.

P: God has been putting in me a heart for Southeast Asia since I was 18 years old. When I majored in Geography at the National University of Singapore (NUS), I spent one and a half months in Thailand, Laos and Myanmar for fieldwork. During that time as a new Christian, God opened my eyes to the needs of rural communities and placed a desire in me to serve them. Fast forward many years later, God eventually led me to Bangkok to take up a Masters in International Development to equip myself for the field and to serve the Thais. During my time in Thailand, He granted me many precious friendships with fellow like-minded brothers and sisters in Christ, and I look forward to co-labouring with them to witness the gospel of Christ in Thailand. I can speak basic Thai, but I can listen and read better as I was trained to do so in my job at World Vision Thailand—listening to my colleagues during meetings, listening to villagers share about their community situations and reading reports from the field.

Why did you choose to go into full-time ministry and in missions individually (before marriage) and then as a couple?

J: After several years in audit and several missions trips, I wanted to know what life in long-term missions is like compared to short-term trips. So, I left my work in audit and took a year stint in Thailand. Going through life as a missionary for one year affirmed God’s call for my life to missions. Finding a partner who also embraced missions was another confirmation from God for me to serve full-time as a missionary.

P: I was hoping to take a short break and volunteer at a non-governmental organisation (NGO). But somehow, God opened the door for me to work there instead. That began my journey into full-time missions. God continued to set my path in serving Him this way, and there has been no turning back since. Now, I look forward to finding fulfilment serving in missions together with my husband.

What are some more memorable moments of your ministry as a couple overseas and in Singapore?

J: During our vision trip to Thailand at the end of 2022, we managed to see different ministries and talked to many missionaries that have helped us understand God’s mission in Thailand and the world. We also had the opportunity to host Thai teams coming to Singapore in 2022 at Wesley. This helped us to see how God is using our skills and has deepened our hearts for Thailand and God.

P: To add on to Jon, serving in Wesley as a staff together prepared us as a couple for future cross-cultural ministry. When we go to the missions field, we will face similar issues, e.g., balancing family and ministry time, praying and discerning ministry directions, and being discipled ourselves while discipling others.

What is your long-term or middle-term plan?

J: We plan to live incarnationally among the people among them in a community, having them as our neighbours and sharing fellowship with them. Besides that, we also hope that we can bless our community and for them to see us as a blessing. This may involve community development projects to improve life in the community or livelihood projects to provide jobs and income. But it is through this that we can witness Christ and show that Christ not only impacts our lives spiritually on Sundays but in every aspect of our lives every day of the week. 

Phoebe (facing camera) briefing the community before a sports activity

What led you to commit to the mission field, particularly Thailand?

J: It was during my first missions trip to Thailand with Cru. What I thought was a one-time trip started a journey of God calling me to missions. During that trip, we did outreach at a university every day. I learned that while it takes a moment for a Thai to say that they believe in Christ, it takes a lifetime of discipleship for a Thai to know what it means to live like Christ. During that trip, I witnessed the Thai culture and found it beautiful. This started my journey to commit to missions.

P: God spoke to me through Matthew 25:31–40 several times in October 2012. I sensed it was a call to feed the poor, quench the thirst and clothe the naked. On two occasions—once when I was awakened at 1.00am and another time during a personal retreat—the Lord spoke to me through Jeremiah 31, which is a beautiful picture of God gathering and restoring His people back to Himself, regardless of whether they are young or old, men or women, strong or weak (Jeremiah 31:8 and 13). To me, it was a call to serve the poor and to point them towards God. God will turn turning their mourning into joy, comfort them and give them gladness for sorrow (Jeremiah 13). As I look back, it has become clearer to me how the Lord directs me on this journey.

After attending an OMF Missions Conference in August 2012, I sensed that God wanted me to be involved in regional work—He did not want me to be bound by national boundaries. After attending the conference, God opened my eyes to the possibility of serving in the Mekong region because it covers the countries I have a heart for— Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos. The Mekong area is also not new to me as I have studied about it during my university days and visited the region as part of a field studies module. God’s direction was made clearer after I was accepted into a Masters Programme at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok (Thailand), and eventually led to serving at World Vision Thailand. There, I contributed to enhancing the Christian identity of the organisation and widened the scope of the local Thai churches’ ministry to be more focused on their immediate community.

While I was serving in Thailand, God further affirmed His calling for me to serve in the Mekong region—I frequently travelled to northern Thailand (Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phayao, Lampang) and northeast Thailand (Khonkaen, Sisaket, Ubon) which are areas bordered by the river. Through these work trips, I gained many insights into ministry and caught a glimpse of what God is doing through His people in this region.

Having a life partner with a missions calling and a heart for Thailand further affirmed God’s direction for me to commit my life to long-term missions work. I am looking forward to working together as a team with my husband in the missions field.

Jonathan (2nd from right) and Phoebe (3rd from right) celebrating Songkran 2023 at a Thai church

Any practical advice for those who are considering going into missions?

J: First and foremost, the person must take missions trips as part of your discernment process. Speak to godly mentors who can discern alongside you. And most importantly, be open to what God wants to do with you and your life. Missions are not the ultimate aim; God is. So be open to wherever and whatever God desires you to do.

P: I agree with Jon. We can find opportunities to speak to missionaries and understand their lives, joys and challenges. These conversations are very helpful as they help to shape my outlook towards missions, usually in very practical ways. There are real and practical concerns when committing our lives to missions, but take that step of faith, ask God and He will guide you.

Thank you so much, Jonathan and Phoebe, for sharing with us. May God watch over your comings and goings, and we look forward to you coming back to visit us.

J: Of course, as much as we are very excited to go to the next place which God is leading us, we know we will also look forward to coming back to Wesley too to see all our friends, former co-workers and pastors. Wesley will always be our home.

If you wish to connect further with Jonathan and Phoebe, please email thetomyumkongs@gmail.com to receive regular updates. The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. There is a great need for workers in the missions fields to partner with local churches or Christian groups for evangelising and discipleship. For more information on how you can partner with or support Wesley Missions, please email missions@wesleymc.org

Read also: A Trip Filled with Fun, Friendships, and an Awakening of Faith

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