This weekend, City Harvest’s School of Theology will be graduating its 2023 cohort. Our SOT correspondent files her final story: an interview with five young people in this year’s SOT batch who are children of pastors and church staffers.
This year School of Theology is special for so many reasons, one of them being that we have a number who are children of CHC pastors and staffers, and the children of pastors in The Harvest Network. We also have two long-time church staffers who (finally) took a step of faith to attend Bible school—yours truly being one.
I talked to this group to find out what their last six months in SOT have been like:
Gaby Seragih, daughter of Johnny Seragih, senior pastor of Indonesia Harvest Church
Tommy Tiong, 25, son of George Tiong, senior pastor of City Harvest Church Kuching
Ryan Chaw, 21, son of Bobby Chaw, Principal of SOT and Cindy Ng, SOT manager
Denise Lim, 20, daughter of Lin Junxian, pastor of CHC and Dawn Lee, executive secretary at CHC
Jeri Goh, 22, daughter of CHC’s design manager Nicholas Goh and Connie Yong, HarvestKidz teacher who is also in SOT2023
Why did you decide to enrol into SOT this year and what was the year like for you?
Gaby: Since 2022, I’ve had a longing to study at SOT. I had a desire to gain a deeper understanding of theology. At the same time, I was feeling tired and burnt out in ministry, and felt a need to step away for a season. At SOT, I gained many things: new knowledge, new friendships, inspiration from listening to my batchmates’ life stories… During this journey, I truly experienced God working in my life. I began to realise that I was trying to run away from situations that had happened because I had relied solely on my own strength. As I learned and understood God’s purpose and plan, I began to comprehend and embrace God’s calling upon my life.
Denise: I decided to enrol into SOT this year because I wanted to practise obedience by listening to God’s plan for me. I had never considered going to SOT because I didn’t enjoy the idea of my faith getting tested by assignments. But God obviously knew better. During my short stint working as an intern in the church office in 2021, God revealed areas of my life that I wasn’t aware of and needed to work on. God spoke to me about obedience and sacrifice through the weekend sermons. I felt the call to enrol into SOT and I am so glad I did. Learning more about God, discovering my calling in life, meeting different people from all walks of life and being a part of something great has truly changed my life. I never understood why SOT promotion videos always used the phrase “School Of Transformation” but now that I have been part of the school, I can finally understand and confirm that it truly is the “School of Transformation”.
Tommy: I decided to enrol into SOT is to study more about God and be equipped with Bible knowledge, to build my own home church. It has been a superb experience! I can’t really describe my feeling, but I am feeling so full with spiritual food and also physical food! Haha! [Writer’s comment: It’s true! Tommy’s team always had good food during breaks!]
Ryan: Since I was young, I had wanted to enrol into SOT, because I always saw how involved my parents are involved in SOT and heard many stories from people who have graduated. It’s been great being in SOT: I made many new friends and learnt so much more about the word of God.
Jeri: I wanted to know God more and have a greater understanding of His word. I have the desire to become a cell group leader in the future too, so I thought SOT would be a great place to learn the practical things of cell group ministry. Looking back, the experience has been really life-changing— the encounters with God, getting to know myself better, the fellowship with my teammates and the friendships that I’ve formed—my year in SOT is something I’ll always treasure.
Share with us the most memorable part of your SOT journey.
Gaby: Every part of the SOT journey leaves a deep impression. However, if I had to choose one, it would be the journey of healing that God brought me through in my self-image, relationships, and thought patterns—it really blessed me. I feel valued and loved by God. Additionally, praising and praying together with fellow students created an incredibly memorable experience. When everyone comes together with one heart to experience God’s extraordinary presence, it is truly remarkable.
Denise: The most memorable part of my SOT journey was getting to make new friends with the same fire for God. I am an introvert and I often would find myself struggling to make conversation with people, especially in a new environment. Before SOT started, I prayed to God asking for new friends. One such friend that God brought into my life is Effie. She kept pressing into my life and encouraging me in many ways. I am so grateful to God for her. Hers is just one of the many meaningful friendships I have forged in SOT. I am thankful that God remembered my prayer and helped me expand my connections. I am grateful for all the friends that I have met throughout my SOT journey whether from CHC, local other churches or international students. Each friendship means a lot to me and I hold each of them close to my heart. Special mention to Jeri and Timothy Chew for being my support system. I love both of them so, so much. I am thankful that I got to hear each and every one’s story. I pray that as we return to our lives, we will never forget how God has worked in us and that we are never alone. I know these friendships will continue to last even after SOT ends, till the day we meet again.
Tommy: The mission trip of our team was the most memorable part of the journey for me. We not only ministered to the people at the church, but all of us were also blessed by them. We were touched by the great move of the Holy Spirit. The mission trip not only drew us closer to God but also to one another.
Ryan: For me, the most memorable experience of SOT is serving with Team 7 and with the worship team. I really enjoyed all the fun we had practising for all our tests and mission trip, and all the music practices with the musos.
Jeri: I will remember SOT for the friends that I made these 6 months! I’m so thankful to God for the friendships forged in the cohort, especially in Team 7. They’ve been a huge blessing to me and have made this journey an enjoyable one.
How do you feel your parents have influenced you in your spiritual journey?
Gaby: The influence of my parents on my spiritual journey has been significant. From a young age, they taught me how to live for God and serve Him. Even to this day, my parents actively demonstrate how to continue living for God and experience His faithfulness when we fully surrender our lives to Him. Their role-modelling in my spiritual journey is evident through their full support of my involvement in ministry and their encouragement for me to attend SOT.
Denise: One memorable part of my SOT journey is getting a glimpse of my father’s ministry as a lecturer in the school. This year, my dad is the Resident Lecturer of SOT. Since young, I would always hear stories about my father. Members would constantly share with me stories of how he has changed their lives, how loved they feel when they are around him and what a great person he is. It always makes me feel proud to be his daughter. However, it was in SOT that I saw and experienced firsthand what people have been telling me about my father. It makes me feel even more humbled. Not only does my dad work hard in SOT but he also makes an effort to talk to every student. Even when he is not teaching, he will take time to fellowship with them and check in on them. His heart for the people inspires me to be more loving and compassionate to those around me.
Although my mother has different responsibilities in the church, she is the most important and strongest woman figure in my life. She inspires me to remain hardworking and to always strive for the best. It amazes me that she can juggle all her work responsibilities while making sure the house doesn’t turn into a mess. Her capacity to handle so much assures me that I will be able to fulfil what God had called me to do while raising my future family.
Tommy: My parents have been the role models of how strong, Spirit-filled, loving and God-fearing Christians should be. They never give up on praying for me.
Ryan: My parents have always been very supportive of me when it comes to my spiritual journey. They always encourage me to love God. Seeing how they live their lives to serve God in full time ministry is amazing. I think that has played a part in bringing me to where I am today, serving in the band and my cell group.
Jeri: My parents have been a great support in my spiritual journey. Seeing them work and being able to make time for God and for the family reminds me of how I need to have balance in my spiritual life and be a good steward of what God has given me.
What are your plans after graduation?
Gaby: I have several plans after graduation. Therefore, I pray and ask that God’s will be done as I also share these plans with my parents. Firstly, I plan to return to my church and assist my parents in ministry, to help them develop the existing services, work in the family business, and participate in outreach organisations to serve rural communities. Secondly, I aim to find work aligned with my interests and engage in service-oriented organisations.
Denise: I plan to enter the university to further my studies. As university begins next year for me, I hope to travel with my family while working part-time jobs before my “real life” begins. I look forward to graduating from SOT because I know that this is only the beginning. I don’t know what I am called to do specifically but I believe that SOT has built a foundation for my spiritual journey, and it is my responsibility to fan the fire within me.
Tommy: I will go back to my church in Kuching and serve full-time on staff.
Ryan: I’m going to university right after graduation. I will also continue to serve as a keyboardist in church. I’m looking forward to the next stage of life God is bringing me into.
Jeri: I am graduating from university this year as well. So after SOT, I will need to look for a job! I’m not exactly sure where I’ll end up, but I know that God has a great plan and future for me as I take a step of faith and trust in Him!
CONNIE YONG: BACK TO SCHOOL
“Teacher Connie” as she is popularly known among the children of CHC’s HarvestKidz ministry will be graduating from SOT 2023 tomorrow with her daughter Jeri.
How long have you been on staff and why did you decide to come to SOT this year?
I’ve worked full-time in CHC for more than 30 years and I turn 50 on graduation day (20 Aug), so it’s like a “fleece sign” for me to attend SOT. What has made this experience more special was attending it with my daughter, Jeri.
What was it like juggling SOT and full-time work?
Challenging yet fulfilling. Having to deal with rising early, daily commuting, preaching tests, the non-stop reading, assignments, exams, mission trip and work was tough. My mind was hardly at rest but my heart was always full.
What would be the one thing you will miss the most after graduation?
My friends, the body-life.
As a long-time believer, would you recommend other believers like yourself to enrol into SOT too? Would it still be beneficial to them?
Of course. As Professor Doug Petersen told us, “Good theology, good life.”
What’s next after SOT?
I am considering the Associate of Arts Degree in Theology that’s being offered to SOT alumni.