In the month of September, we celebrate some of the most important people in our lives—educators. This Teachers’ Day, we shine the spotlight on teachers in various ministries of City Harvest Church. In the first of a 4-part series, we feature Wendy Wong, a pastoral supervisor in Harvest Kidz, and her journey as a children’s church teacher.
Wendy Wong is a familiar face to the children and those who have grown up in Harvest Kidz in City Harvest Church. For the parents, she is the teacher who graduates the Primary Six children leaving Harvest Kidz. For the members who grew up in Harvest Kidz, remember her as Teacher Wendy when they return to serve in the children’s ministry.
Wendy has been serving in the children’s ministry since 1997 when she was just 17.
“I joined CHC in 1996. After settling down in a cell group, my cell group leader encouraged me to join a ministry,” she shared. Even though Harvest Kidz was not her first choice of ministry, her cell group leader eventually signed her up for it.
As she continued to serve the children and their parents, she started to understand and appreciate the value of being a teacher in the children’s church. She eventually joined CHC as a full-time worker in 2001 and has been serving as a pastoral supervisor till today.
She also met her husband Paul Chong in Harvest Kidz. “He was driving the church bus and I was the bus teacher, picking up the children for church. We got married in 2001, the same year I went into full-time ministry,” she shared. “We decided to settle down early so that both of us could serve God and give more ourselves as full-time workers.”
“IT IS IN THE LITTLE THINGS”
Her first task in the ministry was to bus the children down to Hollywood Theatre—where CHC used to hold its services—for the Harvest Kidz service. “Interestingly, the bus got into an accident after we picked up the first kid. The bus drove into the road divider,” she recounted.
Someone else might have been too traumatized to return to the ministry, but Wendy felt that the accident did not happen by chance. “I felt God’s presence there protecting us and that became a very meaningful experience to me. I knew that God was calling me into the ministry, so I decided to keep serving,” she said.
That accident was a foreshadow of what Wendy would encounter in her ministry in the years to come. Since that fateful day, Wendy went on to witness many other things that one would not usually see in a children’s ministry.
“I’ve seen a number of children pass away in my years of ministry,” she said. “It is never right for a child to pass on at such a young age—it is against nature. But things happen the way they do and it’s really very sad.” Yet these tragic moments taught Wendy not to take her work as a teacher lightly. “It showed me that what we’re doing really has eternal value and we don’t really know when is the very last time we might touch a child’s life by talking to him or her or even sharing the gospel.”
She shared a recent incident where a child under her care passed away suddenly after falling sick. She was an autistic child who took the Harvest Kidz bus to service every Saturday. Her parents are non-Christians, but open to the faith.
“Her parents contacted us and said they wanted a Christian funeral for her because she was a believer of Jesus. At the funeral, we sang her favourite song, ‘Superhero’ and her Dad told us that the Saturday before she passed away, she came home from church singing that song,” Wendy recounted.
“That really touched me deeply. Every week, we may be doing the same thing—leading praise and worship or teaching the Bible. Maybe your job is just to stand at the door and say ‘hi’ to the kids. But you don’t know that it might be the last chance you have to impact the children.”
Another incident that left a deep impression and changed the course of her ministry happened back in the 2000s. A young girl, who was a twin, was born with a weak heart. She fell unconscious one day and was rushed to the hospital. Her mother contacted Wendy, who was her visitation teacher, and Wendy rushed down to the emergency room. She watched the doctors try to resuscitate the girl and failed. The child eventually passed away.
“Her twin who lived on kept thinking that her sister’s death was her fault, when of course, it had nothing to do with her. But she lived with this guilt, and I felt very sad that I did not know how to counsel her,” she said.
That incident prompted Wendy to take a Master’s in counselling in 2010, majoring in family therapy. “This is my burden. Before I graduated, I spoke to Sun about starting a mental health clinic for the children in church, but it’s not easy because there are many considerations,” she says. Sun Ho is CHC’s executive pastor.
In February this year—ten years after her graduation—Wendy started Kids In Total Embrace (KITE), a new project under the CHC’s Church Without Walls initiative. KITE aims to reach out to children from dysfunctional families who are going through loss and grief.
THE HEART OF A TEACHER
One thing that Wendy loves about being a Harvest Kidz teacher is reaching out to children and their families. “I especially love bringing new people to church!” she said. If she sees children’s shoes outside of homes she passes by on her visitations, she will knock on their door and invite them to church.
She strongly believes in home visitations. “It’s through these visitations that we build relationships with the children and their parents. Why do non-Christian parents allow their kids to go to church with us? It’s because we have built a very close relationship with them. When we visit them at home, they see us face-to-face and sense our genuine love and care for their children,” she shares.
At times, Wendy would observe the family situation of the children, and try to rope in other departments in church to help them. One example is a Vietnamese single mother with two young boys. Wendy enrolled the boys into Harvest Kidz’s tuition classes and got CityOutlook (another project in CWW) to give their house a makeover, giving the boys a conducive space to study at home.
“They are now attending services regularly. The boys used to be so angry but now, one of them has been made a prefect in school. He has changed so much in just one year because he felt accepted in church,” she said.
On the weekends, Wendy oversees the classes for the 11 and 12-year-olds. “At this age, they are growing up and starting to have a mind of their own. The way that we speak to them, and our relationship with them is very different from the younger age groups. We have to be a friend, and at the same time, be a teacher and a mentor to them,” she shared.
She admits that it takes a lot of patience and understanding to build that relationship. “It is no longer about just giving instructions, but it’s also empowering them to think for themselves and choose between right and wrong. Sometimes I tell them that they can choose not to follow certain instructions, but they need to know that there will be consequences to bear.”
As a pastoral supervisor, Wendy also leads a team of volunteer teachers. “The new volunteers are always interested to know why and how I can do the same thing for so long. I tell them that our hearts can never come to a place where everything is the same and it becomes hardened. Our hearts must always be sensitive and burning with passion to serve the Lord and the children.”
One thing she would always tell her team is that they must practice what they preach. “We cannot give what we do not have, so we must love God, love His Word. We cannot be a teacher of God’s Word if we don’t have the love for it.”