From Malaysia to Newcastle
When they originally moved to Australia to study, neither Peter Woon nor Jay Chung saw working in full-time ministry in their future. In 2016 Peter moved from Malaysia to Newcastle to finish his degree in Nutrition and Dietetics at Newcastle University, and in 2018 Jay did the same. Now both Peter and Jay are MTS Apprentices at Hunter Bible Church.
Turning to Christ
Both Peter and Jay became Christians in Malaysia through the influence of people inviting them to hear the gospel.
Peter shares, “at about the age of 17, my friend invited me to a conference. It was about the cross and how Jesus died for us.” At this conference in 2010, Peter was struck by how Jesus’ death paid it all, for everyone. He says. “I decided I needed to actually investigate who is this Jesus? And then eventually I decided – I want to follow this Jesus.”
Although Jay’s family were Buddhists, she attended a Christian school in Brunei, where she was exposed to the teachings of the bible from a young age. She became a Christian through the witness of her sister. “One of the turning points was my sister, she became a Christian first in my family. There was a change in her and our relationship and I was very curious to know, how knowing Christ made her change so much.”
Jay then went to the International Medical University in Malaysia and began her study in Nutrition and Dietetics. There she attended the Christian Fellowship group and met friends who brought her along to church. After some time, Jay says, “I had a moment [where I understood] I was so undeserving of grace…and I can just say yes – you be my Lord and Saviour!” This was in 2016.
The choice and challenge of MTS
With the family pressure to excel at university and build a successful career, neither Peter nor Jay seriously considered an apprenticeship like MTS before coming to Australia.
Peter shares, “coming to Australia, my first impression was [it was best to] get a job and then maybe a house or a car. [I knew] there was MTS at church, but [I thought] that is for the crazy people that are so devoted, they know everything.”
However, after attending the MTS Mission Minded conference in 2020, Peter realised it wasn’t all about what he knew (or didn’t know). He says he realised “you don’t need to know everything to [do MTS]. You need to be faithful in your character and your conviction.” Peter continued to grapple with whether or not ministry was for him, and after Hunter Bible Church said they would sponsor his visa, he applied and was accepted to start as an MTS apprentice in 2021. Peter is trained by Andrew Horsfield.
For Jay, she was encouraged by her leaders at HBC Josh and Jo Clarke to do MTS. Although they had tapped her on the shoulder for the role, Jay says she thought, “I’m so inadequate. I don’t think that I could do it. I was like, I feel like there’ll be so many people better than me.” Eventually, the apprehension about her abilities, how her parents would react and how her life would change was not enough.
Jay shares, “honestly, I think I ran out of excuses at some point … I’m at a church in Australia where it is so rich in theology and knowing the Bible. And they’re so equipped to train people to get sent off for ministry.” She could see the need to be trained and mentored to grow in Christian maturity, whether she stayed in Australia or went back to Malaysia. In 2022, Jay started her first year as an MTS apprentice, her trainer is Isabella Harrison and her coach is Scott Curtis.
Being from an Asian culture, where honouring your parents is something of the utmost importance, the choice to do MTS is more complex for apprentices like Peter and Jay than many apprentices. Peter says, “doing MTS can be seen as a huge dishonour to parents. [They might think] you’re not doing the things they have paid you to do.”
Jay recalls she was nervous about telling her parents about MTS. She shares, “my parents know Peter and Jason (the other HBC International apprentice) really well because I have been dropping hints about them for the past year. So, when I finally went, I’m considering this, they were like, you’ve been talking about Peter and Jason doing full-time ministry we figured you’re going to tell us.”
The importance and intentionality of international student ministry
Hunter Bible Church began AllNations in 2013 as a ministry to help international students reach other international students. AllNations is international students learning about Jesus at Unichurch. Their big hope is that students from all nations will partner with Unichurch in living for Jesus.
Both Peter and Jay are heavily involved in Unichurch and the AllNations ministry. AllNations works to make becoming a Christian, and growing in faith, more accessible to international students. This doesn’t mean compromising on the gospel in any way, but rather being aware of language barriers and cultural experience. Peter says, “recently we ran a lantern festival because we acknowledged there are a lot of Chinese International students in Australia, and this would help us reach more of them.”
Jay says that building relationships is a big part of her ministry. She says, “We’re all pretty much feeling a bit homesick. We’re all trying to create a new family and friendship in a different country altogether. [So with AllNations] we are going to the people who are lost and don’t know Christ yet and saying this is what we stand for.”
More than growing relationships with one another, Jay is eager to see the students at AllNations grow in their relationship with Christ. She shares, “I have one girl in my growth group this year who has been around for a little bit but she’s been struggling. [I asked her], do you want to meet with me this year? And she said yes!”
Being able to continue to nurture that relationship and help this person grow is what Jay loves about MTS. Jay says, “[This girl also said] I want to consider serving this year. I’m just excited to see her grow and see her think about what her priorities in life are.”
The challenge for university students
When it comes to international student ministry at universities, Peter and Jay both speak about the importance of connecting with people across groups. Peter says, “It’s easy to see there’s a segregation between [International ministry] and then Australian ministry…but we are all in the same body.”
Speaking to other university students Jay says, “I would challenge you to just say hi to the international student in your class, get to know them…the best thing that [they could learn] from being in Australia is that they know Christ.”
You can learn more about Hunter Bible College and AllNations here.