September being the month of teacher appreciation, City News invited volunteers of various ministries in City Harvest Church to share what working with their leaders has done for them.
Early this month, on Teacher’s Day, students everywhere celebrated educators for being their guiding light and cheerleaders.
In that spirit, City News shines the spotlight on the ministry leaders in City Harvest Church (CHC) and appreciate the impact that they have made in the lives of their volunteers.
CITYRADIO: BERNARD LOH
City Radio celebrates its 10th year this year, and the head of this ministry Bernard Loh has doubtlessly touched the lives of many volunteers this past decade. His influence on them stretches beyond the microphone—quite a number of CR volunteers have been inspired to pursue their diplomas in the field of Mass Communications and Media, just as Bernard did.
Volunteer Ian Tan tells City News that despite his witty and flamboyant on-stage personality, Bernard is deeply personable. During CR meetings, Bernard spends time catching up with each member and asking about their family.
Ian met Bernard when he was only 13 and looking to join a ministry. His cell group leader introduced him to Bernard. “Bern was so welcoming, he said, ‘After service, come and find me.’ He taught me the ropes and invited me to come again the next week. On the third week, he set up everything for me and left. That’s the thing with Bern: he trusts you, and he gives you a lot of room to make mistakes… and I made so many mistakes.”
Like many others, Ian was heavily influenced by Bernard and CR’s Program Editor Mervyn Lim to enrol in the Mass Communications course in Ngee Ann Polytechnic. “They drove me to the school and really encouraged me. I failed the early direct admissions, but they prayed for me and told me not to give up.” He later managed to get into the course by his own merit.
“When I had to find a place to intern, I managed to get into Class 95 after Bern encourage me. In my second month of internship, I was hired for one and a half years as a radio producer for the station,” Ian says, explaining that he intends to return to Class 95 as a radio producer after graduating from university.
Volunteer Nicole Tay, who takes her O-Levels this year, has secured a place in Singapore Polytechnic’s Diploma in Media Arts and Design through the Early Admissions Exercise (EAE).
“Joining City Radio opened my eyes to the various aspects of media and it was in CR where I discovered my love for media-related things,” she says. “CR gave me the opportunity and platform to touch other people’s lives with my voice through media and I knew that I wanted to do something similar in the future. Studying mass communications and media will give me the necessary skills and technical know-how to handle different areas in the media industry. Bernard has taught us all valuable lessons that we not only apply in our ministry but in our daily lives too. Joining CR has been and will continue to be one of the best decisions I made and I’m so thankful to be able to learn from him!”
Another volunteer Yin Chi—or Kim-Chi as she’s known in the ministry—entered Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s Mass Communications diploma course—the very course Bernard took at NP.
“Bernard told me about what kinds of experiences he had with different kinds of jobs like emceeing, hosting and such. I remember thinking, ‘I want to be like Bernard’. He told me that many City Radio DJs also came from a mass communications background—that was when I decided, ‘This is it—I’ve got learn how to be a DJ from Bernard’.”
Serving in CR has also helped shape the interest in many of them as Cherlyn Loh, an NP Mass Communications graduate, highlights. “I enjoy creating content, especially planning and executing campaigns,” she says. “Also, I’ve come to experience how powerful media can be—you never know who you might impact.”
For fellow volunteer Toh Fan Lei, Bernard has made an impact on her life more than other leaders. “He is more than a ministry leader, he is like my spiritual father, mentor and friend. He has played a lot of roles in my life.”
Fan Lei was about to go on an exchange programme to China when she went through a rough patch. Bernard, knowing how she felt she had lost her community, scheduled into his calendar a reminder to call Fan Lei regularly when she was in China. Bernard also gave her to opportunity to host “Emerge Got Talent” one year. “The first time when I stepped on stage, I was so nervous that I cried,” she recalls. “Bern told me that being nervous is okay because it reminds you that it’s not just about you. When you stand on the stage, you need to depend on God.”
Fan Lei is so grateful that Bernard is always there to provide valuable insight and wisdom through the different seasons in her life. “Because of this kind of rapport that Bern has built with us, we hold him not only as a ministry leader but as someone that can journey life with us,” she says.
PHOTOGRAPHY MINISTRY: MICHAEL CHAN
The visual image of City Harvest Church is shaped by the hands of CHC’s Photo Ministry, led by Michael Chan. Behind the uplifting photographs that capture the heart and soul of CHC is an unassuming man who is a master of photography.
“Our idea of a leader may be someone who is obvious, but Michael enjoys seeing the members being at the forefront, and he prefers to be in the background” says Michelle Toh, who has been a Photo Ministry volunteer since 2011. She adds that younger photographers usually want to capture the razzmatazz of what is happening on stage, and instead of stopping them, Michael is more than willing to let them do that while he takes pictures of the goings-on in the background.
Michael has a keen eye for detail and prefers to observe things that are different, things that others might not notice, notes Michelle. Because of that, looking at the images captured, church members gain an insight into what goes on to make each service happen the way it does.
This trait of Michael’s has been ingrained in volunteers like Michelle: to search for what goes behind the scenes and capture those moments. She explains, “Like in a drama production, people don’t see that it takes way more people to create the scene that the audience eventually sees on stage. As a photographer, you have unrestricted access to bring that to the audience.”
By documenting it down in pictures, Michael wants to give the people serving in the background evidence of what they did—it is something to help them remember. It is this quality of Michael’s that Michelle finds inspiring.
“He is very happy if he sees his young photographers do better or do more, because to him that is the point of being a leader,” says Michelle. “He wouldn’t aim to always be the best— the rest of us would have to outdo what he has already done.” In addition, Michael is always open to exchanging ideas and experimenting with new things.
Above technical know-how, one important skill that Michelle has “caught” from her ministry leader is the emotion or storytelling aspect of photography. Michael explains to City News, “We tell the crew that whatever you capture, it must touch your heart first. Photographers are like historians: we are recording what God is doing in the church. It’s an important task and we can’t do it without the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit says to do this, He will move your heart.”
Michelle has also learnt much from tagging along with Michael on shoots as he has substantial industry experience. “Even when he doesn’t explicitly explain how things happen, just by watching him work, you will be able to catch a lot of things,” she says, adding that he is like a father figure to the volunteers as he always takes care of their well-being first. Whenever she is rostered to serve on Sunday mornings, he would always check in with her and buy breakfast for the volunteers. He has even invited his volunteers to his house to fellowship and try new dishes that he comes up with.
To volunteer Albert Soh, who joined the ministry in 2009, Michael is a caring and encouraging ministry leader who is extremely patient with the volunteers. He recounts the early days when, “Our shooting standards were not there yet, but Mike would say very good, even though we had cut off the head or the shot is out of focus.”
Michael is also a leader that leads by example, says Albert. “Sometimes he sustains an injury during a shoot, but he will never mention it to anyone; he will just keep on serving.” Albert has learned to have this spirit of excellence, and he finds himself constantly pushing his limits like Michael. “There is a joy of serving in the Photo Ministry, and the life skills I have learned from Michael are ingrained into my personal life, whether in work or in self.”
AUDIO MINISTRY: WILLIAM NG & LEE SHUXIA
“At the encouragement of my cell group leader, I joined the Audio Ministry at the age of 15. I was a CG guitarist back then and always had a passion for music. So I thought to myself, I’ll just try serving in the Audio Ministry until the Music Ministry was recruiting,” recalls Daniel Lee.
“Having zero knowledge of audio, I had to do a eight-week beginner course together with 15 others to learn audio fundamentals and basic equipment operations. At the end of the eight weeks, we were given a test to assess how much we learnt, and based on the results the ministry leaders would decide which roles we were suited for. I didn’t do too well for the test; in fact I think I failed and had the lowest score in the class,” he said with a laugh.
Despite his shaky beginning, ministry leaders William and Shuxia “were very encouraging and patient with me during on-the-job trainings and fellowships. Being a secondary school student then, I would often avail myself to serve whenever possible and over time I began to form a bond with my peers and leaders in the ministry. They often gave me new opportunities to learn, take on new roles and serve in a greater capacity. And by doing that, I developed a passion for audio which led me to find my calling.” Today, Daniel works as an Audio Engineer for Channel News Asia.
“As audio engineers, we very often act as a bridge between the technical world and the creative world. And because of that, we get to work with people with very different personalities and thinking styles. Through the years serving in CHC’s audio ministry I’ve learnt many things. Apart from the technical know-how, the four most important things are to have the spirit of excellence, work well under pressure, being aware of surroundings and staying adaptable,” Daniel adds.
Fellow Audio Ministry volunteer Elvin Chng, who now heads the audio-visual department in a company, shares, “Serving under William has thought me to learn to tackle every situation with the right attitude and mentality. Most importantly, my experience has helped me to discover what my talents were, and in the end, my calling, which was to be in the Audio industry. Thank you for your patience and guidance to overcome my shortcomings, also the opportunity to polish my talents.”
Daniel adds, “William and Shuxia’s leadership and guidance for more than half my life has left a huge impact in my life and shaped me into the person I am today. For that I am eternally grateful and can never thank them enough! Thank you both for not giving up on me, but for taking time and effort to work out our differences and explore ways on how we could bring the ministry forward collectively. Your leadership and friendship has truly been a great blessing to my family and many others.”
HOSPITALITY MINISTRY: PASTOR YONG TE-CHONG
One “undercover” ministry in CHC is the Hospitality Ministry, which ensures that our guest ministers are well taken care of. Not surprisingly, this job requires a tremendous eye for detail and a spirit of excellence, qualities exemplified in the head of the ministry, Pastor Yong Te-Chong.
Volunteer Jason Jiang, who is a category manager in a food distribution company, credits his time in the Hospitality Ministry to his thriving career.
Jason used to serve full-time on staff at CHC, and he says that communication is the most important thing that he learnt from Pastor Yong. “When I was on staff, I was often hosting and communicating with guests and visitors from many different countries. That experience helped me a lot in my current role as I handle suppliers from many different countries now,” he explains. “I am able to present myself well and speak with confidence because of Hospitality Ministry.”
Another volunteer, Raymond Than, a lead steward with an airline, uses what he has learnt under Pastor Yong to train the people under him.
“Pastor Yong’s influence is very subtle,” he describes. “Many things are not taught but rather, caught. “
Recounting one experience, he says, “There was once when we had to dash from one location to the next, but Pastor Yong said we should not run as we would look undignified. Instead, he taught me how to walk really fast. The ‘walk’ was as fast as running when done properly. Since then, if I need to show a new volunteer how to move fast in a dignified manner, I share Pastor Yong’s technique.”
But more than these useful tips and tricks, it is the relationship Pastor Yong has with his volunteers that has touched and changed their lives.
“Pastor Yong is my spiritual father,” says Jason. “My dad passed away during my teenage years and so Pastor Yong has really been a father-figure to me. Throughout the years we have known each other, I have shared with him many of my life’s struggles and victories.”
He adds, “He helped me through a failed relationship, picked me up and guided me back on track. He saw me through the time when I was studying part time while taking on two jobs to pay for my school fees. He was there for me for my wedding, throughout milestones in my career—more times than I can recall! I love Pastor Yong, and I look forward to journeying through life with him and his family in the years to come!”
Raymond also recalls Pastor Yong’s presence during his wedding. “Pastor Yong gave me great advice that I am now giving to other, new couples,” he says. “He told us this: ‘Marriage is a life time, your wedding day is just a day; don’t overspend until you need three to six months to pay off your dream wedding.’ When it came to our guest list, he told us: ‘When you invite a guest, invite them without expecting anything in return; budget in a way such that even if that person doesn’t give you anything, you’ll be able to cover the wedding cost.”
He adds, “Words are insufficient to express my gratitude to him for all these years he has been my pastor and friend. Thank you, Pastor Yong, from the bottom of my heart and that I truly, truly appreciate you.”
DRAMA MINISTRY: SANDY YEO & JASLYNN KHOO
CHC’s Drama Ministry is possibly the most well-known one after CityWorship, its music ministry. Before COVID-19, the “Big Day Drama” was a twice-yearly tradition long beloved.
Helmed by Sandy Yeo and Jaslynn Khoo, the Drama Ministry (DM) really functions like a family. Actor and host Michael Kwah reveals that Sandy and Jaslynn—whom all DM volunteers refer to as “The Bosses”—have been pivotal in him pursuing a full-time career in acting.
“When I first came to church in 2009, I never expected to go into acting full-time. However, I was so blown away by the Christmas 2009 drama; it was amazing!” he shared. “I was already doing a little bit of acting but I was still holding on to a full-time job. Back then I was with an airline as an steward and I didn’t dare to go into acting full time. Sandy and Jaslynn were the ones who inspired me to believe that I could use my talents to do creative arts for God. They started me on my first acting classes and training, and in 2010, I took part in my first production with the Drama Ministry, The Centurion.
“Our rehearsals then used to go past midnight,” he recalls. “It was gruelling but I saw the perseverance and patience that Sandy and Jaslynn had to make the entire production work—we are all volunteer actors. Through all the drama performances over the years that I’ve been involved in, I managed to overcome my stage fright and low self-esteem.” Michael is now seen frequently on locally produced dramas and in advertisements.
Fellow volunteer and freelance actor Foo Chay Yeow, who counts Ah Boys To Men 4 among his acting credits, shares how different being in DM is. “In DM, we have the luxury of multiple rehearsals and a lot of guidance, not just from the bosses but also veterans and peers,” he describes. “This helps you get way more ready and feel way more confident about your role.”
He continues, “In screen and external stage acting, the rehearsals are minimal and you can’t really practice your lines much with anyone. I’m thankful for the general skills in acting I picked up in DM. They have helped me avoid any serious performance issues in my work.”
Sandy and Jaslynn also help their volunteers navigate their spiritual walk. When he was in the School of Theology (SOT), Chay Yeow went through a tough time. He recalls how Sandy essentially kept him in church.
“Towards the end of SOT, I was actually on the verge of taking a break from church. Sandy asked what my plans were following graduation, and when I told her about taking a break, I expected her to guilt-trip me,” he reveals. “But she didn’t. She just said, ‘Can just promise me you won’t make a decision on this yet? Can at least allow me to meet you up, to understand what you’re going through, to see what I can do for you?’ She talked to me like a friend. I’ll never forget that. I felt so much love from her—she really is like a spiritual mother to me.”
“I love and cherish having Sandy and Jaslynn in my spiritual and ministerial journey, as well as my personal life,” says Chay Yeow. “They are amazing mentors who have helped me honed my craft, bosses who lead by example and care so much for their disciples, ever-present spiritual mothers in my servanthood and Christian journey, my trusted confidantes and very close friends. If I haven’t said it enough, I love them dearly.”
CITY NEWS: THERESA TAN
Last but certainly not least, we appreciate Theresa, who heads the City News Ministry, without which you wouldn’t be reading this article.
Volunteer Megan Khaw, a social media specialist at Bandlab Technologies, shares on how she started with City News and how being in the ministry helped her land her current job.
“I came to City News a few years back wanting to use my writing to serve God,” she recalls. “It helped to cultivate my reporting and writing skills as there were certain situations where I had to step out of my comfort zone to interview fellow church members for stories.”
Megan was exposed to the technical aspects of writing as she volunteered. “As we had a style guide to follow, I also learnt to adapt my writing to suit different audiences and platforms,” she describes. “This allowed me to expand my portfolio as a freelance writer—I could adapt to any writing assignment that I was given, in church and in the marketplace.”
Kudos also to Dawn Seow, who works with Theresa to run the ministry and who oversees the social media platforms for City News. Megan had the opportunity to be part of the team that runs the City News Instagram page. “When we first started out, we planned content and thought about what kind of content members would like to see or read about,” she shares.
“Although I studied Communications in both polytechnic and university, there was little emphasis on social media as it wasn’t as big a media giant as it is now. City News’ social media was the first time I did any sort of social media content planning so we were just going at it with different ideas and methods. This actually made me think of different ways we could engage with our followers, while being a channel of blessing to them as well through the feed. And this opportunity eventually fuelled my passion for social media and has led me to where I am today.”
Megan, who attended SOT the same year as her ministry leader, explains that the leadership of Theresa is what really makes the engine run. “When she faces bumps in the road, she is rock solid and always looks for a solution to it. I have never seen her be domineering or pushy towards her volunteers, but always very understanding and relatable towards us. When there was a story that needed to be written, she would first ask if I was free to write it instead of just asking me to do it. It’s little things like that that I appreciate. I saw her thoughtfulness and compassion towards the City News volunteers during the Circuit Breaker period last year where she and Dawn sent us all care packages amid the doom and gloom of COVID-19.
“She’s really good at making connections and I feel like I can share anything about myself with her—I don’t feel embarrassed or shy, because I know Theresa won’t judge me; she would understand. She is also a praying leader. She always keeps the people under her in her prayers, and would always say a quick prayer for me when I would tell her about the hardships I faced at work or in my personal life. I would say she takes great care of the people around her, if it’s not praying for them, it’s making bread and other yummy treats and feeding them to let her know she’s thinking about them,” Megan adds.
Breaking every reporting rule as a non-opinion piece, I would personally say, as a volunteer of City News as well, that I have experienced every aspect of Theresa’s leadership in the ministry. She is very much like a mother to all of us. ~ Mervyn Lim