In the final instalment of a four-part series celebrating teachers, CHC’s pastoral supervisor Catherine Lee tells us how she switched from teaching little children to adults and why both bring her joy.
When it comes to teaching, most teachers tend stick to one discipline, serving one group of learners. Catherine Lee, however, had the opportunity to move from teaching little children how to read and write, to teaching youths and adults the truth of the Bible.
After graduating with a diploma in architectural interior design, Catherine stumbled into the role of a pre-school teacher while she was attending the School of Theology.
“I was supposed to teach a one-week holiday programme, but when I met with the director of Pat’s Schoolhouse (now known as The School House), she asked if I would like to be a preschool teacher,” she recounts. “It was really the grace of God.”
Catherine’s mother had instilled in her the idea that being a teacher is a well-respected and stable job. She wanted Catherine to sign up as a mainstream schoolteacher upon her Polytechnic graduation, but Catherine enrolled herself into SOT instead. God, however, knew what Catherine was good at and she went on to do an early childhood course, sponsored by the school.
She soon fell in love with the little children that she taught. “I love to draw; I love anything to do with art and craft. I like to act, so I love to dramatise the stories during story-telling time, and I like to sing too! I guess I love to work with kids because what they like, I like too,” she smiles.
She later left Pat’s Schoolhouse to join Little Big Preschool.
Even though she enjoyed her time as a preschool teacher, Catherine had another dream. “Since my Poly days, I’d always wanted to be a cell group leader and eventually a member of the pastoral staff. That has always been my dream, my desire and my calling,” she says.
But like any dream worth pursuing, Catherine met with bumps along the way.
“Once, Pastor Audrey called me to her office and asked if I wanted to be a ‘ZS’ under her,” Catherine recalls. “I was very excited, very happy and I said ‘yes’!” Audrey Ng was the pastor in charge of the pastoral zone Catherine was in. At the time, pastoral supervisors were called zone supervisors, thus “ZS” could mean zone supervisor or zone secretary.
“Her idea of ZS and mine were very different,” Catherine smiles in recollection. “When I realised that she wanted me to be her zone secretary (and not a zone supervisor), my countenance changed right before her.” She did not take up Pastor Audrey’s offer.
After that incident, Catherine watched her friends enter full-time ministry one by one and she felt like she was being left behind. “I told myself, ‘It’s okay, I will just stay faithful in whatever I’m doing. And that’s why I did my best working in the preschool.”
God must have seen her faithfulness because one day, Catherine received the phone call that she had been waiting for. “Pastor Audrey said there was an opening for me to be a zone supervisor and was I keen to take it up? I was so happy that I cried over the phone—God finally opened that door for me,” she shares.
Today, Catherine is a pastoral supervisor at City Harvest Church, providing pastoral care and spiritual discipleship to her members as well as training leaders. Part of her job has been to give Bible Study lessons to members.
Even though she has moved from teaching children to teaching youths and adults, her love for imparting knowledge to others has never changed. “I really find teaching enjoyable,” she says. Apart from giving her members one-on-one Bible study lessons, Catherine has also taught churchwide Bible study classes.
While lessons follow a certain structure, Catherine has found that during the Bible study classes she has room to share about her personal encounters with God. Her most memorable experience was teaching Bible study on a mission trip to Malang, Indonesia. “I was out of my comfort zone over there. I had to teach a group of people who were different from me culturally. I got to see how the same Word of God could be applied in different environments, a different culture,” she remembers.
“The people’s hearts were so open and after the Bible study, I was able to move in the gifts of the Holy Spirit and minister to them. It was really awesome.”
Catherine also leads a personal cell group with her husband. “We call it ‘Ohana Cell Group’ because ohana means family in Hawaiian and this is a family cell group with many kids,” she explains. She has three children of her own. “I would often tell them stories, and I enjoy doing that,” she said. Seeing people learn—especially the little ones—brings her much joy.
Having taught in secular schools and now in the house of God, Catherine knows for certain where her passion lies. “Even if the opportunity arises, I don’t think I’d go back to teaching in a secular school. However, I don’t mind teaching in HarvestKidz, which is what I’m doing in my Ohana cell group,” she said. “Instead of teaching them academic stuff, I want to teach them about God. I think that’s such a fun and meaningful thing to do!”
To her, it is vital for a good teacher to develop the fruits of the Holy Spirit. “You need to have love joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness—all of that. Above everything else, a good teacher must be a loving person, because we face different students all the time. When I was a preschool teacher, my students were little kids but when I became a pastoral supervisor, my student can be a 43-year-old working adult—and I must love them all.”
She adds, “I always ask myself, what do I want to impart to this person? What you teach may be different from person to person, but the way you do it has to be the same—it must be done out of love.”