What is it like growing up in a family of spiritual leaders? City News finds out from four SOT graduates.
This weekend marks the graduation of the 23rd batch of students from City Harvest Church’s School of Theology. Among them is a group who grew up as children or grandchildren of pastors.
City News spoke to these international students to find out what it was being raised in a spiritually-saturated environment. The students candidly shared their struggles as Christians and explained how an intimate relationship with God remains a personal conviction and commitment.
Hatsuho Nakamura: Tearing Down the Walls of the Heart
The oldest daughter of Yoji Nakamura, founder and senior pastor of Kumamoto Harvest Church in Kumamoto, Japan, grew up in a household centered around God and the teachings of the Scripture.
“When I was 7-years-old, my father started the church,” says Nakamura, 22. “The first service we had was held in my house. In the morning, we moved all the chairs and the tables from the living room to outside the house for our church meeting.”
Nakamura fondly recounts how she used to help her father conduct and organize various church meetings from a very young age.
Living in a home that was the location for church services, Bible study sessions and prayer meetings, serving and helping out in ministry were part of Nakamura’s life.
Despite all these, she failed to develop a personal relationship with God. That caused her to question her beliefs and childhood faith during her teenage years. In those times, her past encounters in the tangible presence of God kept drawing her back to God.
However, upon graduation from university, Nakamura moved away from home, her main source of spiritual support. She went through a season of spiritual dryness and that spurred her to enrol into SOT. She wanted to develop an intimate, personal relationship with God as well as to grow in her understanding and knowledge of Scripture.
Nakamura found what she came for. At SOT for the past seven months, she experienced a personal breakthrough not just in her walk with God but also her relationship with others.
“I used to be an introvert,” she admitted. “I didn’t want to spend time with my friends as I found it troublesome. But in SOT, I tried to be close to my friends and I learned how to be more sociable. During my mission trip, I experienced holy laughter for the first time, which started my emotional deliverance!”
Yoel Adino Octafian: Obedience to God’s Calling
Yoel Adino Octafian Sianto, 21, serves actively in Bethany Malang Church in Malang, Indonesia as a youth pastor. Fuelled by his passion for Christ and his heart for the youths in his church, Octafian regularly preaches in the church founded by his father Samuel Sianto.
“I have known Jesus Christ since I was born and I was really influenced by my father’s life, his faith and what he is doing in his journey with God,” Sianto said of his motivation and passion for the Lord.
Since he was young, it has always been Sianto’s desire to chase after God’s calling for his life. This led him to enroll into SOT.
The decision to pursue God’s calling did not come without a price. Octafian had to give up pursuing his dream of becoming an actor to serve God and build His church. God is not one to shortchange His people. When Sianto chose to sacrifice his personal dreams and ambitions, God gave him newfound passion and vision for the furthering of His kingdom in Indonesia.
“I had a vision of Gideon,” says Sianto. “But this is the reverse of that story. The first thing that God wants me to do is to find the 300 warriors, to take back the other 9700 warriors. I have to find that small group of people to help me and work together with me to win others to God.”
Kenneth Imanuel Handojo: Rebel No More
Life as a pastor’s kid was not always glamorous for Kenneth Imanuel Handojo, 23. “People tend to place expectations and pressures on you, forgetting that you are a normal human being, who just happens to have pastors as family members.”
Handojo grew up in a family of pastors. His grandfather Yahya Handojo was the founder of GBI Filadelfia Blessing Family in Makassar, Indonesia. His father Dr Jusak Handojo now serves as the senior pastor of the church.
In his younger days, Handojo had many vices. But God did not give up on him. He received a touch from God on a plane that propelled him to turn back to the Lord and go into full-time ministry.
On that fateful trip, the plane Handojo was in hit severe turbulence suddenly. “During that time in the air, God revealed Himself to me and I found myself speaking in new tongues,” he testifies. Looking back, he wishes that he had been a better role model for his peers.
Today, Handojo has the vision to reach out to youths in different parts of Indonesia. He wants to build a generation of young Christian believers who live an authentic Christian lifestyle. Handojo feels that the SOT experience has fully prepared him for practical ministry.
Handojo says that the thing that drew him to SOT was CHC’s values, which closely reflect the values held dear by his church and his family. The graduate-to-be is going home with much more than he had expected. “I learned to be responsible and accountable, to lead a more authentic Christian lifestyle like so many in CHC,” says Handojo. “This is beyond my expectations of learning the skills and knowledge to be a good preacher.”
Cindy Olivia: Rest and Reset
Cindy Olivia did not grow up related to a pastor; she married one.
The 39-year-old property executive received the calling to enroll into SOT in 2008 during the inaugural Asia Conference organized by CHC. She recalls watching the SOT promotional video and standing in front of the screen pretending to receive the graduation certificate.
God spoke to Olivia during the conference and asked her to stop running wild so that she can run the course He had set for her. She started to do her research on the SOT course, arranging for an information session with a former graduate of the school.
“I wanted to graduate with a SOT certificate but I ended up getting a marriage certificate first,” she jokes.
Olivia’s journey to SOT took an unexpected detour when she met and married Raymond Fernando Arijanto, founder and senior pastor of GPdI Pillars in Christ in Jakarta, Indonesia. With their plan to start a new life together and heeding God’s call to set up the church together, her SOT plan was shelved. She found herself juggling church ministries, growing her career in property development and being a good wife—there simply was no time for SOT. However, this year, she made the decision to leave her job and enrol into SOT.
“The SOT experience is really like a spiritual screening, learning the doctrine and theology of the cross and bearing it every day to lead truly victorious lives,” Olivia says of her time in the course.
She adds, “I discovered my passion to build lives.” The impartation of faith and skills, as well as interaction and fellowship with other students, formed a purification process that brought her back to her early relationship with God. She rediscovered child-like faith in the Lord, one devoid of fleshly intentions and motives.
Matthew 6:33 reads, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”. Olivia is thankful that she obeyed God and ran His course. By doing so, she is coming out of SOT hungrier for the works of God.
Olivia sees a need in the area of education and hopes to put what she has learned to good use by developing the children’s ministry and other education-related works back in her home church.
The graduation ceremony for the 2017 School of Theology intake happens this weekend at City Harvest Church.