The Recollections of Early FES Staff Work
My time as a student in VCF was one of much learning and spiritual growth. While a good deal of that growth and mutual learning came through interaction with my peers in VCF, FES staffworkers at the time, Thomas John and Chng Guat Eng, greatly influenced me as well. It was in my time in student ministry that I felt the call of the Lord to serve him in missions, and VCF helped me see the mission field among students. I joined FES in order to work with students, and Serene Wee, Charlie Lee and myself emerged as the second generation of staffworkers.
The three of us were somewhat of the trailblazers for staff work as the work was fairly new. We were still figuring out what staff work entailed and the best way to go about it. John Stott’s explication of salt and light greatly influenced the way I understood the task of student ministry. We hoped students who had gone through the ministry would impact society by being authentic salt and light in the working world as well as in their personal circles. My desire was for our work to produce graduates who were mature in the Lord and prepared for a lifetime of service and devotion to Him and the work of His kingdom.
Subsequently, the way CFs were run was distinctively student-led. The students would lead committees, organise functions, and plan conferences, while the staffworkers would be the supporters, sounding boards, and the ones who would rein in decisions which were less than judicious. We would counsel when student leaders were challenged or disappointed, exercise discipline or reprimand on occasion, and taught as needed. Through such opportunities for student leadership and responsibility, many students came to clearer and firmer convictions, and greater spiritual maturity.
Another key focus at the time was to develop the Christian mind. One aspect of this was building a rational foundation for faith among the students. We drew on and encouraged the reading of robust books by notable Christian thinkers, as it was important that the students were able to give a reasoned answer for their faith. We were also interested in developing a Christian perspective on a variety of issues in life – of work, leisure, immigration, gospel proclamation in relation to doing humanitarian work, abortion, and faith in light of our Asian heritage. This emphasis on the transformation of the mind was also expressed in the choice of speakers for campus mission weeks as well (which resembled the church revival services of that day) – we invited respected Christian intellectuals and experts in various disciplines.
Although my time as a staffworker is long past, I continue to remember my time of service with great fondness. I grew in self-understanding and humility: self-understanding as I gradually saw more clearly the areas of ministry I was gifted in, and humility in recognising that no one staffworker (or ministry worker) can be all things to all people, and that God had bestowed different gifts upon me and my colleagues. I also treasured the way in which we supported each other. We learnt from each other, prayed for each other, and demonstrated a willingness to allow our gifts for ministry to be expressed differently. As for my students, it was not merely that I served and gave of myself for them, but they also gave me energy and vision in turn. Even after I left FES, this experience laid the groundwork for my later work in International Student Ministry in the United States.
I believe that the work of student ministry was and continues to be vitally important. In Singapore, the work of student ministry at the post-secondary level has allowed for Christian values and ideals to be expressed in various levels of our society, and the work done now will continue to be important for the shape of Singapore’s society in the future as well.
Pamela Lau joined FES after graduating from NUS and was a staffworker from 1977 to 1980. She worked largely with VCF. She went on to do doctoral work in philosophy in the United States and was actively involved in International Student Ministry for many years.