Wesley is a multi-generational church; there are many families whose members serve faithfully, in good times and bad, because they have tasted God’s goodness and faithfulness. Here are the testimonies of one such family.
“I do it because I see you all doing it,” said 14-year-old Sophie Chan to her family. “I started helping out in the children’s ministry camps and playing in the worship team in BeTween because that is what I see my family doing. I want to serve others as they serve me and to show how much I appreciate them. Sometimes it’s not easy, because I get anxious at the thought of being in front of people. But I do calm down, and my family is supportive.” She also says, “I want to grow closer to God, and know Him more by serving others, because He has done so much for me.”
“Serving as a family is reinforcing, and it helps that we serve in the same Department,” said her father, Tracey Chan, who teaches in the 9.30 am Wesley Kids for Christ (WKFC) class. “I started teaching in 1998 when my friend asked me to help her in her class, so I joined WKFC. She left soon after, but I stayed on. I’ve friends who stopped serving because they feel it takes time away from the family. It can be hard.”
His wife, Mandy Phua, started teaching kindergarteners in Kinders in 1992 but moved on to WKFC in 2017 in response to the need for volunteers there. She had started serving because “I took the membership pledge to uphold the church by my ‘prayers, presence, gifts and service’ very literally. I had done all but was lacking in service. Being new to Wesley, I remember asking my brother to introduce me to the teachers he knew in the Children’s Ministry. I started teaching in Kinders the very Sunday of my confirmation into church membership. In my teens, as a child myself, I was trying to figure out how to relate to both the children and adults at the same time. I had not grown up in Sunday School, as my parents were not believers then. It was a steep learning curve! Learning to adapt was important, as we would do things differently through the years, keeping up with the times. I remember we used to teach from a resource book, David C Cook, where we had to go in early to tear out the relevant pages for that day. I used to tell stories using a flannel board and felt figurines from Betty Lukens. Then we started using computers more by the time I was a young working adult. We would then prepare PowerPoint slides, and now we use videos regularly in our lessons. With the pandemic, we learnt to conduct lessons over Zoom. Virtual classroom management, such as stopping Primary 1 and 2 kids from randomly drawing on the screen during a Zoom lesson, was a new challenge for me. Through the years, I have been as much the student as I am the teacher… There is always something new to learn.”
Her sister, Audrey Phua, also served in Kinders since 1997 and then moved to WKFC in 2019 together with their mother, Doris Neo. Audrey says, “It definitely helps to serve as a family because we encourage each other to persevere… and because Mum will definitely show up every Sunday. She really brings something special to the ministry and she’s good with people, both young and old!” Like Mandy, Audrey began teaching in her teens. “It started for me when I sat in at Kinders as an observer in Mandy’s class. I watched how the teachers used their talents to share God’s love and God’s Word to the children and I felt I could do the same too.”
Doris said, “I joined the children’s ministry because I love children and my family encouraged me to try out Kinders. I enjoy interacting with the children and love their hugs as much as they love mine. I have also made many friends in the other teachers, as well as parents of the children.” Mandy, who currently co-teaches a class with her mum, will attest to how natural she is with befriending others. She observes that although using technology in class can sometimes be a little daunting for the senior volunteers, they nevertheless bring a warmth and personal touch to the meetings that is so important to building community. Their calm and steadfast presence also helps to anchor the whole team and contribute to building the body of Christ.
Even 11-year-old Amy Chan, Tracey and Mandy’s younger daughter, has caught the desire to serve and bless others as she crochets items to give away during this interview. She also acts in some skits for lessons at WKFC and helps out with the younger children during WKFC picnics.
Their testimonies reflect God’s faithfulness at different levels. When Mandy came to Wesley to join her elder brother Will in church, their parents were not believers. The story of how the whole family came to believe was dramatised in an original evangelistic musical called B.C.: The True Story, at Wesley in 1998. Her father, Lou Phua, became an active and enthusiastic member of Wesley’s Christian Outreach and Social Concerns (COSC) Ministry (this writer has fond memories of his acts of generosity and kindness when she first started volunteering with the ministry). Lou also served with the family in Kinders for a period. Will and his family have since moved to Living Hope Methodist Church (LHMC) and serve there actively as well. His wife Phebe, who used to play the piano for Kinders, is now teaching in the Children’s Ministry at LHMC.
This familial support was particularly helpful during the Covid season when classes had to be conducted online. “After the last onsite lesson in 2020, and we stopped physical gatherings, we didn’t know what we would do next,” recalls Mandy. “There were so many uncertainties. But everyone pitched in to make it work on Zoom, so that lessons can continue using whatever resources we had at home. The WKFC team of volunteers also embraced the changes and turned up online faithfully to meet with their classes for two years.”
“It was important to stay connected,” adds Tracey. “We had to connect with the kids somehow, plus simple things like teaching them how to look for verses in the Bible became difficult when we had to do it online. It was also a challenge to keep their attention and to help them understand spiritual truths. We had to keep going even though we were all fatigued. It’s so much better to be back, teaching in-person, and for the kids to meet again. It’s in community that we also get to know Christ better.“
Audrey noted that some parents had switched to other churches so that their children could attend Sunday School onsite. Those who stayed online, however, expressed their appreciation for the hard work of the teachers.
As the family shared and reflected together, it was obvious that these teachers are also good students of the life lessons God is teaching them. Tracey, Mandy and Audrey are in a small group where quite a few have aged parents with health issues. Like many other Wesleyans in a similar situation, caring for them can be challenging during this season in life. Yet the group still makes time to volunteer together at COSC’s Jalan Berseh outreach events, spurring one another on toward love and good deeds.
Mandy also quotes Hebrews 10:25 and the hope that we will not neglect meeting together, encouraging one another, until Christ returns. “I hope the children will also make close friends who will walk with them in their faith journey. I know I have been blessed by the other teachers too, who have become very precious friends.”
When asked what they hope for the children, Audrey quoted a recent memory verse taught to the children:
“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:16-18, NLT)